My daughter recently came home from school with a piece of homework asking her to find Anglo-Saxon, or Old English words still in use today. As usual, and a little ironically, it was that most modern world of words and other things, the internet, that helped her to find the answer – or rather many answers, as according to this we still use a great deal of the same language as our long dead ancestors did to communicate with each other in our day to day lives: fair, feather, dead, deer and queen to name but a few. Yet as impressive as this length of use no doubt is for these and other words, there is of course one word that has been around for much, much longer in the history of the world, indeed that has been there from before all this began according to the start of St John’s Gospel – the Word, Jesus Christ.
I recently went on a preparation day for Talking Jesus: Northern Bishops in Mission which is an event taking place across Durham Diocese from the 2nd to the 5th of March next year, 2017. This event, that some of you may have heard about, involves each parish inviting people from our communities to come and join us at a special themed social occasion, and as part of this listen to a Bishop talk [about] Jesus. The aim is Mission and Outreach: the desire to help “bring people into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit”, as the accompanying words from our own Bishop of Durham states.
Yet the preparation session I attended made clear that this talking of Jesus is not the sole job of Bishops, nor indeed is it simply the role of those others who wear dog collars as well – vicars, chaplains and curates (both in post and retired) – but it is instead a thing that each and every person who follows Jesus can and perhaps should be doing. That is simply talking Jesus, about Jesus with those that we meet. Thankfully the session highlighted the truth that for many of us (yes even sometimes those who wear the dog collars) this can be a difficult thing to do, with both those who we know very well and those who we are meeting for the first time. The session also acknowledged that this difficulty can be for a huge number of possible reasons: shyness, busyness, confusion, fear of getting tongue tied, fear of not knowing enough to do the job “right”, fear of how people will respond, fear of rejection. Any and all of these things can and do stop us from sharing our faith with those around us in conversation, and in particular saying the Word at the centre of our worlds: Jesus.
I have huge sympathy with this, not least as for many years I worked in an environment that saw faith and religion dismissed as insignificant and only for those with little understanding of how the world really works (I used to be a scientist around the time Richard Dawkins seemed to be read by every colleague I had); and yet what I did feel that I could do was show that faith, show that Word at the centre of my life, through how I lived and worked alongside these people. And for me this Talking Jesus initiative offers us a chance to do both these kinds of talking about Jesus to others. It allows us to not only talk about Jesus, and who He is and what He means in our lives literally in words, but also allows us through such as our generous, hospitality at the event that we will hold to open wide our arms and say, welcome to what Jesus means in our lives, without having to say a word. “Actions speak louder than words” goes the phrase – here they can both speak as loudly as each other when it comes to presenting our lives of faith to those who we live alongside.
So look out for news of what St James Church has planned for these special few days in March, and perhaps even come and join in with Talking Jesus as we plan, prepare and actually hold our particular event. But – who knows perhaps there may be someone who you may want to talk Jesus to right now?
As usual this event is offered to God in prayer – and one has been written specifically for this. Please feel free to use it over the coming weeks and months.
O God our Father,
we thank you for your great love shown to us in Jesus, and that you have called us into the fellowship of your church: as we prepare for mission with our bishops, open our eyes to your wonderful possibilities; lead us to those whose hearts you are touching, that we may bring them to Jesus and learn together to follow him; for you are our hope and our eternal salvation, and in his name we pray.
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze