Revd Donna Leigh.
Revd Simon Leigh.
Sermon and Au revoir! From our Superintendent Minister Rev Simon Leigh
Psalm 103: 15-17
' As for mortals their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower in the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone.. but the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.'
'When we return to normal'. How many times have I heard that said in the last few months and particularly by church folk? I suppose eventually things will come to resemble what has gone on before, but there is a real hope in me that it won't.
There is so much in this world which isn't fair, isn't right and isn't proper. It needs changing. So too in the life of our Methodist Church I pray we don't return to normal, for normal hasn't been working for years and now is the time to take a good long look at our Church and over a period of time to reflect, pray, repent and reform.
If the Church has the humility to do this then the Spirit will lead the Church and refresh its mission. This is good and of God and follows the example of Christ, who through a cross turns apparent failure into the glory of Resurrection. The Church is the living manifestation of Resurrection hope and this is good news!
The Psalmist tells us of our human condition, but likewise grants us hope in our hearts that we live through God's love and grace. God's steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting; it does not tire, it does not admit defeat, it endures, and it overcomes. This is the power of love and is seen for us in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church in Christ has the power to endure and to overcome. This good news should sustain and comfort us and grant us the ability to overcome.
When I came to Plymouth I had these words firmly implanted in me 'Behold, I am making all things new'(Revelations 21:5). The Church is being changed, new things are happening in the life of our churches, but we must be watchful that our agendas do not inhibit the work of God's Spirit and that we allow God to be God of the Church. In the years to come, I pray that in our circuit and its churches new and exciting things will happen to the glory of God. This may mean, as John Wesley so clearly understood, that the words of the Covenant Service are not dead but inspire us in our Christian pilgrimage:
I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing,
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
This is the commitment of a Church that does not want things to backslide into the old normal, but it is the commitment of a Church where the impossibilities of this world are made possible by the God of everlasting love. The secret, I suspect, is to put everything into God's care, knowing his compassion and mercy. Methodism began as a movement and a movement at that which sought a disciplined spiritual journey into the life of being holy. To be holy, therefore, is our challenge and our commitment to where we are and where we serve. If Methodism has something to offer, it is, as it always has been, the renewal of faith through a disciplined spirituality in pursuit of holiness and not the fads and obsessions of the current age, which are a distraction from our real focus.
I wish to extend my thanks to all of you in the Plymouth and Devonport Circuit for your kindness, friendship and willingness to share the journey. I have been accompanied by some lovely folk over the years and I would wish to make special mention of the circuit stewards since 2008; they have served the circuit well. It is now time to let the Revd Andy Chislett-Macdonald share the journey with you for a time and may that time be a period of blessing and fruitfulness, filled with the everlasting love of God. Every blessing, Simon