September 2016 letter to the Parish from
Fr. Darren Collins our new Team Rector
from 27th September
None of you, except perhaps the Men’s Breakfast, will have heard me say this before, but I really was a horrible child! One of those children that you are really glad are not yours! Just horrible.
I bet that most of you would have some sympathy with my parents. Let’s face it they both deserved a medal for putting up with my high jinks and antics through my adolescent years.
Even though I was a horrible child, you may find it hard to believe that I still knew where the boundaries were; the problem was that quite often I not only put a toe over them, I hurdled them with feet to spare.
If I did this at home, I would probably get a clip around the ear, a chewing off, then start all over again. But woe betide me if I took to hurdling boundaries in public or at a relative’s house when mum was present. It was then that you got the worst retribution possible; the stare, followed by the immortal words ‘wait till I get you home!’ Words that left more of a lasting impression on me then a smack or a clout ever could.
This meant trouble, and could be guaranteed to bring you back into line quickly, and a sudden onset of a repentant spirit.
For me, it was having to wait to be told off that was the worst; for my mind would run away with itself, and create forms of punishment that in reality would never come to pass. I would sit and think of all the things that I had done, but being a teenager, forget to remind myself not to do them again.
In reality, the punishment which I worried about, very seldom came to pass, because mum knew that the time I sat worrying was a punishment in itself.
St Matthew reminds us of the very start of Jesus ministry, of the voice of one crying out in the wilderness ‘repent for the kingdom of god is at hand’. A voice that proclaims to God’s children ‘Its time to take stock of your lives; stop acting like spoilt brats, turn away from your old ways, and make a fresh start’.
Here we meet John the Baptist for the first time; a man called by God to prepare the way for his beloved child, his son. A man called to remind the people of Israel, and the nations over the Jordan, that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, so repent, turn back, and get ready.
The problem is that John was not one of the normal religious figures of the day; of any day! He was strange, the sort of person that the average individual would cross the road to avoid. He wasn’t clean, well groomed, dressed in nice religious garments, trained to proclaim the scriptures, to draw followers into the faith of the nation. He was dressed in camel’s hair, a home to countless insects that lived in its fur. He ate honey and locusts, and lived on his own, with only the creatures of the desert and his clothes for company.
If he walked into the any of the churches in the Bishop’s Hatfield Team during a service, I can guarantee that he would have a whole row of pews, or perhaps even several rows of chairs to lie out and relax on. We would all want to avoid his smell and especially his words.
But even though he was strange and outspoken, people in first century Judea still came to listen to what he had to say. They were still willing to travel for miles to listen to the words that he spoke; words that would challenge, hold insight and give them hope that their long awaited Messiah would soon be here.
And why did they do this; because what he said was authentic, prophetic, and carried meaning, and came from the lips that had been inspired by God. People can tell when someone is the real deal, and John the Baptist was.
Each one of us is called to be a proclaimer of the gospel of Christ; to challenge ourselves and others to see their lives through the eyes of our saviour. To be the real deal. This can seem daunting, but it is the way that we all grow closer to God.
Over the coming years as your Rector and Team Rector, I hope that we will explore together ways of growing closer to God, and then proclaiming that love to others. I hope that we will become a people known for their authenticity, their love and their welcome of all.
None of us know what God has in store for us over the coming years, but I do encourage each of you to explore that path together.
Blessings to you all, Darren.