Let go of the familiar and try the new
by Jade Zerk, Minister, Hope Baptist Church, Highbridge
Hello all, Another great issue of Outlook ahead for you,.
In Matthew 25 we read several different parables, but have you ever noticed that there is one that is repeated? The parables of the sheep and the goats, often used with the focus
that we are either a sheep or goat, but this parable also contains the beautiful poignant call and reminder that we are to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger and that ‘whatever you do to the least, you do to me’ (25:40). We shouldn’t when reading this parable focus on separation but rather see it as a reminder to welcome difference.
How good are we at welcoming people who are different into our lives, sitting with people who are not like ourselves? It is a question worth asking ourselves regularly.
We live in an age when charities are establishing more listening services because people are not being heard. We live in an age when people listen ready to respond rather than truly listen. We’ve switched off after we’ve formulated our response, rather than just listen to the opposing opinion. Jesus’ Ministry was listening to people, asking questions, hearing stories, even ones he already knew yet he had the grace to listen anyway. These stories were also worth recording in scripture.
I have been really encouraged in the last six months at Hope as we are celebrating with four people in recovery from addiction, one celebrating days, another weeks, a third months and the fourth years. Each one an encouragement gin which we give thanks to God in the process. We’ve also welcomed back some of the folks from Somerset Court, as well as some of the residents of the Lodge and their carers. We’ve had folk join us on a Sunday who were passing on their way to the YMCA, previously homeless now settling down and hoping to find a job and home.
The people gathering to worship here have a variety of life experience, each one as welcome as the other.
We start our services with Questions, questions that allow the room to share what they are thankful for, and in doing so we worship God. It can be a risk asking questions, particularly with different faces every Sunday and some folk without a filter but I trust the presence of the Holy Spirit with those who gather and in the priesthood of all believers.
We were also really encouraged by a guy who came in and at the start of the service asked ‘do you really believe in God?’ he was then the first to offer to read Isaiah 40 out loud, it was one of those moments where I wasn’t sure which way it would go and hoped someone else might have jumped in, but the Word of God did what only the Word can do and spoke to the man, as well as the room. It was one of those moments when the entire room felt the presence of the Holy Spirit powerfully. He read each verse with intrigue and with passion, ending the reading with ‘fair enough that makes sense’ not something we’d all associate with reading Isaiah.
There is something incredibly freeing about recognising that God’s got it, God knows what is going on, we are each called to do our part, but we can trust God with the big things. It’s ok to let go of the familiar and try the new, to welcome the stranger and listen to those we don’t understand.