It is starting to feel like Spring is in the air, and by the time that you read this you may feel that it has arrived. Although our February break was a bit wet, everything in Devon was beginning to come back to life. Daffodils and primroses were out and now it’s the same here. Most people are glad to see the first signs that winter is drawing to a close (I say most people, I’m not sure how the Winter sports enthusiasts feel!). Of course it was a bit windy coming back, and we arrived home about 30 minutes after a 60-foot poplar had landed in our back garden! It’s a great way to bond with the neighbours though.
Spring is a season when we look forward to the warmer weather; to being able to spend time outdoors and to all the beauty that Summer promises. I had intended at this point to put in a nice poetic section about all that we have to look forward to in the months ahead, but I can’t go any further without addressing the thing that is on my heart, and the hearts of most of us as I write this. Spring doesn’t look so hopeful in Ukraine, where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Ukrainians and Russians have died already. I pray that this war will be all over before we even publish this magazine, but conflicts are usually harder to finish than they are to start. We have church members connected with Ukraine and Russia of course, so our prayers are with them for the safety of their families and friends.
We live in a world that is constantly in conflict: nation versus nation, one group against another, family members against each other. The temptation is simply to throw up our hands in despair and helplessness. Yet there is another vision of what life will be like, and we find it in Isaiah 2:4:
‘He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.’
It is this vision of the kingdom of God that we must fix in our minds now. It is a vision not just of a distant future where everything is reset and renewed in justice, righteousness, love and peace. It is a vision for today and tomorrow. It is a vision that should focus our thinking in the days and weeks ahead. In the famous passage in John 10, Jesus speaks of coming to call people to himself, of opening up the way to eternal life, of laying down his life for his sheep. He speaks of life in all its fulness. This is the life that we have entered into. As CS Lewis once remarked we live in two worlds. We are intensely present in this world but also part of the kingdom of God.
We have long believed that our calling as a church is to show people Jesus – to show what it means to be part of his kingdom. Our biblical values often differ from those of the world. While this can lead us to debate and discussion, our world needs to see what God is doing in their midst.
Demonstrating the presence of the kingdom in our generation is at the heart of our vision for The Bridge and soon we will have that facility available. The Bridge is a meeting place and, in many ways, our prayer is that we will meet people there and that they will meet Jesus. But The Bridge is not a miraculous place that will instantaneously transport people to God’s presence. It is a place where we can live out our faith. All those ideas now need to be translated into actions, and everyone needs to know what they can give to this.
As a prelude to that, and leading up to Easter, we have Passion for Life. After two tough years this is a way of reminding ourselves just how we can connect with those that do not yet know Jesus. I commend the training to you as well as the activities that Jamie and his team have planned. The best way to access the training is to be part of a Life Group. Why not think of joining one if you are not already a member?
All this will lead us to Easter and the joy that we celebrate together that Jesus died for us so that we can be forgiven and have new life, and rose from the dead that we might follow him into eternal life.
There are exciting times ahead but you will only really know that excitement if you are part of it. Whether in prayer, as a volunteer, or in inviting your friends to be part of something that we are doing – please get involved!
May the Lord bless you,