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Stepwise (March 2020)

Dear Friends

This Newsletter comes out at the beginning of Lent, when we remember the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness before his ministry began.

He had just been baptised by John in the Jordan. He had ‘heard’ a voice from heaven saying, ‘You are my Son...’  He ‘saw’ the Spirit of God descending on him ‘like a dove.’  But what did it all mean?  That voice – did it really speak to him, or was he just hearing things?  That Spirit from heaven - did he simply imagine it? 

It was in the wilderness that Jesus faced these questions – questions about his identity and his vocation; about who he really was and what he was meant to do.  For there was another voice speaking to him: ‘If you are the Son of God...’ do something to prove it.  Turn stones into bread, use your supernatural power, grasp God’s world for him – isn’t that what you’re meant to do – if you really are the Son of God!

And the questions never left him.  They were there when the religious leaders began to turn against him, when the crowds began to fall away, when the disciples forsook him and fled.  And when he was dying in agony on the cross, there was that voice again: ‘If you really are the Son of God, save yourself, and come down...’  If... if... if... Questions about his identity and his vocation.

So, in Lent, as we remember Jesus and reflect on his experience, we are given this season to reflect on ours - our identity and our vocation, as people of God and followers of Christ.  In a wilderness world of hunger, a world struggling with the use and abuse of power – political power, economic power, technological power – a world of conflicting interests and ideologies, how shall we fulfil our vocation to be a church in mission and ministry?

A year or two ago our General Assembly called us to renew our focus on life-long Christian discipleship and mission under the headline, ‘Walking the Way’, remembering that the first Christians were called ‘People of the Way’ (Acts 9 v.2) as they sought to follow the one who said  ‘I am the Way...’

To help us in ‘Walking the Way’ the URC has launched a programme called ‘Stepwise’.  Stepwise is for everyone, young and old.  It’s designed to help us reflect on, and develop our Christian faith, to give us confidence in reaching out to the community, to deepen our worship, and to equip us to share God’s love for the world in mission and ministry. 

Stepwise is already making a difference as groups of people in churches up and down the country begin their Stepwise journey.  Maybe some of us could set out too.  Lent would be a good time to find out more and take the first steps.                                                                          

A Prayer for Lent:

Spirit led Christ,
who has shown us the way, the truth, the life of God on earth,
as we bring you our hearts and minds and lives
in worship and service, in ministry and mission,
walk alongside us we pray in the wilderness places
of our time and experience.
Help us to hear and recognize your invitation again,
and find faith to follow you by way of the cross
into God’s kingdom of justice and peace.  Amen.

John Salsbury