A few short weeks ago I was preparing to leave home and the UK for a Diocesan visit to Tanzania. As Chair of the Morogoro Partnership Group I had the responsibility of overseeing all the arrangements for the visit and agreeing a programme for our time away. I would be travelling with nine others and, as the time drew nearer for our departure, a sense of excitement was combined with an element of trepidation! Would everything go to plan and would the ten of us get on well and make a good team? I am sure that this is a very human emotion and I expect that many of you will have experienced something very similar at some point in your life.
Well, one day in early July the ten of us flew out of Birmingham Airport on route for Tanzania and the adventure began. We had a wonderful time and the ten of us became a great team. Some of us had been to Tanzania before and were full of expectancy and others had never been to Africa and experienced some initial trepidation. However, as time went on we grew closer together as we shared the welcome and experienced the joy of being with our friends in the Diocese of Morogoro. The joy and exuberance of their faith in Jesus and their willingness to share it with us became transformative for me as for the others in our team. I can still hear the singing and sense the presence of the crowds who surrounded our vehicles as we arrived at different churches and various Christian communities. The ten of us had become lost in the wonder of sharing in this faith in the Jesus who meets and greets each one of us as we let go of our reserve and live in His love.
As I now look back on my time in the ministry I remember other such moments of intense sharing. Times spent in the Holy Land and with undergraduates on Holy Island in Northumberland who were linked to the Chaplaincy at Newcastle University and, again, with curates visiting Northern Ireland after the open conflict had ceased.
Sharing together in Christ’s name gives us the strength to cope with taking risks or putting ourselves out of our comfort zone, facing the cynicism of others and sometimes even with open conflict. In today’s gospel reading we can see Jesus being ‘got at’ by others as was so often the case. The challenge of his love for others and his openness to care even when religious protocols were being broken made him a real challenge for many in the Jewish hierarchy of his day.
We all face moments of challenge and when we are fearful of going out of our depth. We stick to the ground fearful of letting go or of taking a risk. It is at such times that we need the love and the faith of others to sustain us and hold us. The force of this was most keenly felt by me in the days leading up to my ordination. I began to wonder what I was doing! Was I going crazy or losing my mind following this man called Jesus! I know that others thought that I was losing my sense of judgement and throwing away a life with a good career, more money and excellent prospects. However, the love and support of others held and sustained me as has been the case over a lifetime of adventures in ministry! Over and over again in one situation or another taking risks in following in the footsteps of Christ has filled my life with blessings and with relationships which have been life transforming.
Remember that Jesus says that when two or three are gathered together in his name there will He be in the midst of us to sustain and hold us. In Tanzania we all experienced the joy of crowds of worshippers singing and shouting welcome as they surrounded our transport with their love. May this love surround you today and always.
- Are you being held back from doing something really life changing through the fear of taking a risk?
- Who might you share your fears with ?