Well the summer is behind us and a new Methodist Year is in full swing. For me, this is my second year at Epsom - the first felt like a warm up as I got used to the ways of the church and discovered all the events that happen during the year. It felt a bit like being in the local athletics squad. It’s great to welcome Nik to the squad and to have her on the team with Hazel and Ernest; indeed we could have our own four by one hundred relay team. In fact that’s a good description of ministry, as the people of God are always passing the baton on to the next person in the chain. I wonder if we see our role in that way. After all, the Christian faith is only ever one generation away from extinction and yet for over two thousand years it has survived.
So what does that mean for us? We need to be ready to train and to run the race ahead of us. Are you on your Marks?
Running the race is a good theme as we head towards the 2012 Olympics and it’s a theme that The London District has picked up in it’s theme, Medal 2012 - which is all about delivering Leaders for the Church and in particular Lay Leaders. As a Circuit we have been looking at ways of developing our people to be leaders and there will be news on that shortly, in the meantime talk to Kan Yu and find out about Medal 2012. Kan is a member of our church and was asked to be part of the team putting Medal 2012 together. On the subject of Lay Leaders I am delighted to announce that Sandra Oborski, another member at Epsom, has been appointed as the District Safeguarding Co-ordinator – as a Circuit we are delighted that one of our members has taken on this important role in the life of the church.
Of course it’s very easy to let a few people do the work, to run the race, but God calls all of us to join in. The word “mark” has a number of different meanings. It can mean a mark as in a stain, a blot - something we are ashamed of. This year we are going to be on our mark’s as we study “The Gospel According to St Mark.” At the heart of the gospel message is God’s love for us. Mark explains how much God loves us and that God wants to wash away the marks and the stains of our life of which we are ashamed.
Sometimes we talk of marking time. A sense in which we stay where we are we don’t move forward and we don’t move back. Often we feel the church should be that place of stability.
Mark’s Gospel reminds us that, as a Christian, there is no marking time, you are invited to run the race and press on towards the things that God has in store for you. Perhaps some of us have become comfortable and sat down where we are. The Gospel of Mark will, I hope, encourage us to move on to discover new challenges that God wants to set before us as we travel through Mark’s Gospel this year.
Mark can also be used to mean the mark you get for a piece of work – is the mark good enough, is it a pass or fail?. Often we try to measure our performance in terms of human success. We try to please people by achieving the right grade. God does not grade us – he loves us as we are and we are called to love others as he loves us. In that sense we are called by God, not to mark anybody in terms of ability or capability, but rather to accept everyone. Our Methodist heritage cries out the words “All Are Welcome”. As we explore Mark’s Gospel may we discover what it has to say about the welcome of the people of God and may we learn to live it out in our life as the community of God.
Most importantly, on your marks offers the picture of being in the blocks ready to run the race ahead. I hope that we will all settle into the blocks and be prepared to run the race God calls us to run. It starts as we read the book of Mark together.