Happy New Year!

September marks for us the beginning of the Methodist New Year, we have a sense of a fresh start. Last year did not turn out as expected or planned. We as a church, like the nation are slowly re-emerging.

To begin our new year thinking I would like us to consider the familiar reading from Mark’s gospel where he tells us about the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on the water. The account can be found in Mark Chapter 6 verses 30 – 56. Jesus gives his disciples 4 commands and asks 1 question. I believe these instructions will help us in the days to come.

Command number 1 comes in verse 31 where Jesus says “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” I don’t think anyone can argue with the need for rest and recuperation as an integral part of our lifestyle. I suppose it comes down to have we got the balance right. It is a bit like Goldilocks and the 3 bears syndrome – I know many workaholics who find it almost impossible to relax, they feel guilty if they sit down even for a minute. Some of us find it no problem to relax and chill out, and some people get the balance just right. Where are you on the scale of rest and recuperation?

Command number 2 comes in verse 37, the disciples try to take control of the situation and suggest Jesus should send the people on their way because it is late and they do not have the resources to feed them (even a government scheme of paying half would not suffice). Jesus says “You give them something to eat” The disciples reply by suggesting it is impossible and Jesus replies by offering the advice that maybe they should find out exactly what resources they have before deciding it’s impossible, he asks them “How many loaves do you have?”

Then he gave command number 3 to them “Go and see”. After they had found something they didn’t realise they had – although I am sure they were convinced it was not enough. Have you ever seen a problem that you wanted to solve but felt you didn’t have the resources to be able to affect the outcome. In this Methodist new year we may well be facing difficulties that seem insurmountable. Let’s look at what we do have and hand it over to God.

Command number 4 came in verse in verse 50, after the mind-blowing experience of seeing a miracle that defied all human logic and understanding, the disciples were doing what Jesus had told them and were in the boat on the lake. As they were straining to keep the boat on course, they were suddenly confronted with a misunderstanding that made them terrified. Jesus gave them his 4th recorded command “Take courage! it is I. Don’t be afraid”

There seems to be a logical progression that can be applied to our individual and corporate lives in the church.

  1. It is paramount that we take time in our busy schedules to allocate time to be spent with God where he can influence our perspective and direction and focus.

  2. It is not God’s plan that he does everything for us, we have a part to play. In faith we must attempt to be involved and not just sit back and expect God to sort it all out for us.

  3. It is vital that we clearly know the blessings that we do have. Situations and pressure can lead us to think that we are overwhelmed and helpless when the reality is that God has provided all that we need to be successful in living a ‘successful’ Christian life.

  4. In all circumstance we need to try and cultivate an atmosphere where we find our courage in God and our fear is overtaken by trusting in him who promises in his provision for us, to protect us from harm, provide for our needs, and purify our hearts and minds.

I recently spent a day at Flambards with my grandchildren. A lot of the rides frightened me but Jason and Bella did not seem so worried and they enjoyed experiences I would not embrace because of my fear. As we approach a Methodist new year could I suggest although we cannot sing together we should be singing individually ‘Trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey’

Happy New Year! and God Bless