A well-attended Bangor and Holywood Circuit service on Sunday 12th January was inspired by an address from our President, Rev. Dr Heather Morris. Bringing greetings from the Methodist connexion, Heather moulded her address around the idea of journeys and in particular the decisions and choices we have to make on them. She took Joshua 24 as her text and the assembly of the tribes of Israel and the decision they had to make:
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” challenges Joshua. But he makes no bones about what he will do: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Heather pointed out how easy it is to start a journey bright-eyed and bushy tailed but as the journey goes on we need a definite determination to keep going, especially when we differ from each other. The journey is tiring, we wonder are we on the right path? We think we are the only ones who really know the way. We fall out with our companions, thinking we know best….
The Methodist Church in Ireland is walking out with God on mission. We are not contented to be a Club. We are asking God: Where do you want us to serve so that the world may know Jesus Christ is Lord? But the challenges of keeping going are immense. God is asking us to build His Kingdom but we have to give over things that cost us. Not just time, money, gifts, talents but of ourselves.
Heather told us the story of attending the 13th anniversary of the Friendship Club in Galway and of one Methodist, Heather Smith, who was honest enough to say she had watched all the refugees and immigrants arriving in Galway and kept saying: “Someone needs to do something to help these people.” One day she realized she was the one God wanted to do it!
A Nigerian woman at the anniversary told of how she had arrived in Ireland and spent all of the little money she had on buying her children warm clothes. “You gave me my first coat!” she told Heather. Another spoke of how lonely he had been until he came to the Club… The helpers at the Club had had the courage to say ‘Yes’ when it would have been easier to say ‘No’ and stay at home, where they had plenty of friends and things to do. YES costs!
In Joshua 24:19 Joshua challenges the bright-eyed decision of the people to choose the Lord: “You are not able to serve the Lord! He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, He will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you.” God, giving us the wonderful power of His spirit, asks much of us. Then act on it! says Joshua.
God is at work in Ireland, asserted Heather and she urged us as a Circuit to continue to think and pray about our mission but she encouraged us to act too. To listen for God’s voice in the midst of our prayerful discernment. Knowing that the choices we make will have consequences for us. It requires a heart for God and a depth of relationship with each other. God requires a commitment, with a deep love for Him and an understanding that to choose this God will be uncomfortable, but which still chooses to say YES.
Let us not forget that God has chosen to love us first. We see it so truly on the cross of Christ. We quake in our boots for a commitment like that! The Creator of the Earth waits tonight for our YES!
Article by Elizabeth Porter, Methodist Presidents visit to Bangor