On the 21st of July we shared together in a memorable service when the Memorial Community Church was full to bursting. Thank you for your love and kindness, generosity and affection. Patricia and I are leaving West Ham with so many good memories and we were grateful that so many people from across the years returned to share in the thanksgiving for the journey we have shared together.
I leave you with an extract of my final preaching.
At the heart of my vision for the Memorial Community Church is the vision embodied in Psalm 87 that the people of God become a community of many nations and become their spiritual home.
In 1 Corinthians 13 includes Paul’s beautiful and compelling description of love. It’s challenging to our pride and the way we can use the status and privilege of ministry to buttress our ego’s. Paul says you can be absolutely brilliant, a celebrity among your friends, incredibly generous and even martyr yourself but without love its worth nothing in God’s eyes. By contrast we have a Saviour who wraps a towel around his waist and washes the feet of his reluctant disciples as he shows them the full extent of his love.
When Jesus was challenged by someone who wanted to know what the greatest commands are he he said.
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all you strength and the second command is like it; Love your neighbour as your self.’
He also told his disciples ‘by the love you have for one another everyone will know you are my disciples.’The measure of their discipleship wasn’t how much they were doing it was love.
I remember some Quaker words that spoke to me ‘Attend to what love requires which may not be great busyness.’ I like that. Make no mistake I like being busy too but its more important that I can give my attention to the person in front of me.
When Jo Cox the M.P. for Batley and Spen was killed there was a vigil in Trafalgar square and I was there with moment with thousands of people. It was a surprisingly hopeful occasion and the placards that were being distributed said ‘Love like Jo.’ In her maiden speech she said that ‘We have more in common than that which divides us.’
As we love our neighbours lets beware of the fear and suspicion that seeks to divide us from our neighbours. Lets be vigilant about our freedom and be willing to champion the freedom of others. Lets be willing to offer our truth, confident in the transforming power of the gospel and lets do that with humility, remembering that we are saved by Grace.
In Matthew 28 vs 16-20 Jesus gives his disciples their marching orders. We are called to make disciples, inviting people to follow Jesus because there is no greater thing. Let’s go and do that, creatively, intelligently, that reflect the goodness and glory of God.
St Francis of Assisi said preach the gospel in all ways, use words where necessary. There is so much truth in that but I also wonder. Words are unavoidable, words are necessary, words are useful, words are helpful love words. The ABC of Canterbury Justin Welby has said Grace is the most beautiful word in the language of God, it means love that is given freely without expectation of return. Grace is the most beautiful word in the language of God. Grace.
And that Grace is embodied in Jesus Christ the word made flesh.
So if we want to make disciples, we need to be discipling communities where the Grace is found, so that our lives make sense of the words we speak for people will know this love is genuine by the lives we are living and the welcome we give. In other words love will be at the heart of all we are and all we do.
Let it be so.
Your friend and Pastor