Archdeacon’s Visitation Charge to Churchwardens
Searching through my bedside cabinet I came across an old birthday card from my parents – the last one I received that they had both signed.It said “To Tina with love, as ever, Mum & Dad” and suddenly there I was, back in Swansea, growing up with my parents, my older brother and younger sister.
‘Tina’ was my father’s name for me.It was my brother’s until he died.It’s the name my nephews and nieces use for me.Whenever I am called ‘Tina’, I know it is my family who are calling me, no longer Archdeacon, wife or mother, but little girl again.
I wonder how Mary Magdalene felt that first Easter morning, when Jesus called her name.She sees a man she does not recognise, and it is only when he calls her name “Mary” that she realises it is Jesus speaking to her.Perhaps there was something about the way he spoke her name that must have reminded her of Jesus’ call upon her life, when she anointed his feet.
Someone who heard God call his name is Stephen Cotterell – he is the Bishop of Chelmsford and he spoke at our Diocesan conference recently. This is a clip from his talk. To set the scene, he told us that he was at Paddington Station buying a coffee before getting on the train:
God’s call to Bishop Stephen led him to becoming a Christian, a priest and then a bishop – and to that conversation about God with a young woman on Paddington Station.God’s call to Mary Magdalene led her to be an apostle, the bearer of the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples. When God calls, the impossible becomes possible!
I wonder, have you heard God call your name?Take a moment and think about that.
I wonder if you have heard the story that is told that when the early American settlers began to be reconciled with the Native American Indians, the Indian tribes offered back to the white settlers the children they had kidnapped when they raided their settlements. Many desperate parents turned up anxious to identify their long lost children, but so many years on, it was impossible for the children to identify which family they belonged to.It was only as the parents went amongst the children, calling their names, that one by one the children stepped forward and were re-united with their natural parents.It seemed that where adult recognition was impossible, the children’s memories of their names being called, stored in the forgotten corners of their minds, had been revived.
I believe Jesus calls people by name today but sometimes we aren’t listening or we just choose not to hear. We ignore that feeling that won’t go away: that little mental nudge; that word someone speaks to us that hits right home. These are all ways in which people describe how God has spoken to them.God can be hammering on the door of our heart, but it is up to us if we let him in. But when we do….Just listen to this clip of how Jesus has transformed some peoples’ lives in churches across our Diocese:
I heard God call my name when I was 24 and being prepared for confirmation prior to getting married. I wanted to be married in the same parish church where my parents had been married in 1941. The vicar agreed to marrying us if I agreed to being confirmed first.I ignored God’s call and went through the motions of confirmation without taking on board the promises I was making. It was a means to an end.It was some15 years later that I decided to take God’s call seriously – it led to me becoming a Christian.A disciple, called to serve others and to share the Good News of God’s love.
I believe that there are people here tonight whom God is calling:people who need to say “Yes” and not “No” to taking those next steps in the faith journey, no matter how challenging that might be.People who need to recognise that when Jesus calls us, he has a plan and a purpose for our lives that he wants to bring about, if only we would let him – much like this young teacher in this video clip:
That young teacher said “Yes” to God when he called her name.She, like all those in our other video clips, like so many across our diocese, are called like you and me, to be disciples of Jesus Christ.Inspired by his love and grace to make a difference in the local communities where we worship and serve.Sharing God’s love and grace with a world in need.
As Bishop Stephen said to that young woman at Paddington “God is not an interesting set of ideas – he is real!”Our world is in a mess and it needs a heart transplant – if you had the heart of Jesus, if you and I had the heart of Jesus, the world would be changed!
And so a question for you:
Is your faith a hobby – something you do on a Sunday much like others who go shopping or play sport?
Is your faith something you embrace so tightly that you frighten people away – a bit like the young man who wore a T-shirt saying “Ask me about Jesus” and found that no one would sit next to him on the Tube?
The local church really is the hope of the world, but only when blessed by disciples who have obeyed God’s call, who speak and act winsomely for Christ. Wherever you are on your journey of faith, at the starting point or nearing the finishing line, it is never too late to say “Yes” to God.And if we do, he can use even us to build his Kingdom here on earth: to bless peoples’ lives and to heal our broken world. But ONLY if we answer when he calls. The question is, WILL WE?
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may have a longing to follow where you lead, to speak of your love, to bless your people.When you call our names, help us to hear your still small voice, to become more like you, disciples of the true and living God who alone has the power to transform our world.For we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The Ven Christine Froude, Archdeacon of Malmesbury and Acting Archdeacon of Bristol, May 2018