The final service of the Romsey Methodist Circuit before it merged with the Winchester & Eastleigh Circuit gave us the chance to reflect on how we received the Good News and how crucial it is that we will pass it on.
Jesus calls us to risk trusting him for an unknown future and St Paul’s message to the Corinthian Christians continues to resound: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3, NIV).
1 Hold firmly to the Word (1 Cor 15:2)
We celebrate the life of the circuit over more than 130 years but we are not looking at an ending. We continue our witness and to use an Olympic image it’s like passing on a baton, but this time in a marathon relay. Now there’s a thought!
Paul reminds the Corinthians they stand in a line of people who have received the Good News and that their task is to receive it, hold it carefully and pass it on.
The photographs, cuttings and plans in our memorabilia exhibition remind us where we have come from: that Primitive Methodist tradition rooted in the Word of God, which needs to be passed on.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared …
1 Corinthians 15:3-5, NIV
… and then reminds his listeners that the very worst things they can do is deny the truth of the resurrection by refusing to let that story grow. Do not be false witnesses, he says. Like a relay: hold firmly to the Word but don’t let the Word stick in your grasp otherwise you let the whole team down.
2 Because you say so, I will (Luke 5: 5)
In Luke’s account of the forming of Jesus’ disciples we see the team of disciples start to develop as an ordinary day becomes extra-ordinary when Jesus walks into it. He borrows Peter’s boat as a floating pulpit before becoming the beach-side equivalent of the character who tells you that you’ve “missed a bit” when you’re painting the outside of your house.
We know this was an ordinary morning because of Luke’s lovely details that the disciples were washing their nets – a morning task to clear out the debris from the night’s fishing. The classic Jesus/Peter encounter sets the scene for much of what is to follow in the gospel as Jesus challenges the experienced fisherman to let down his nets.
It shouldn’t have worked because you fish at night – not in the day. The fishermen knew that. Jesus shouldn’t have known what to do but he did. As Peter said: Because you say so, I will …
It was ordinary, but it really wasn’t.
The circuit’s history is full of people who have heard Jesus call them to service: preachers who would have walked miles to their appointments; stewards who served for years because their chapel needed caring for; women and men who heard the call to ordination. Moments when an ordinary day became extraordinary after Jesus walked into it.
I suspect even on this final day of the Romsey Circuit, Jesus is saying to someone “put out into deep water” – go for it! That ministry idea is not going away; that call to service is of God. The response is Because you say so, I will …
… and the outcome of that always has been …
3 From now on, you will … (Luke 5: 10)
Lots of our contemporary TV is about celebrating the ordinary becoming extra-ordinary – programmes like X-Factor and Bake-Off show people reaching beyond themselves and their surroundings while others look on in awe and think “that could have been me”. The winners inevitably wonder how “an ordinary someone like me” could become a star.
In one of the Iona communion liturgies there is a prayer, just before the bread and wine are shared, with a line about: “The ordinary things of the world which Christ will make special”.
The truth of Peter’s encounter with Jesus is that God in Jesus is in the business of making all ordinary lives special.
In our epistle, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we heard:
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time … 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:3-6, 22, NIV
It’s a Gospel for the whole of humanity made concrete in our story from Luke as Peter encounters Jesus through the miraculous catch of fish. Interestingly, Peter the fisherman doesn’t waste time on puzzling out why he’d failed to see the fish – he is too busy dealing with Jesus’ authority and power and his own unworthiness.
Then comes the call that still comes down the ages to the Romsey Circuit as we prepare to work with friends from the Winchester & Eastleigh Circuit in our new identity.
From now on, you will … not “fish for people” as the NIV puts it, but “catch people” as the proper translation of the Greek has it.
At that call the disciples left and begin a new life with Jesus. What will you leave in order to respond to Jesus’s call and become faithful to what God in Christ has asked of you?