Being salt is not a pain-free option
“And the most attractive quality of a speaker,” writes Rick Warren, “is authenticity.” He continues: “Credibility is a preacher’s most important asset.” This Wednesday Christ Church was filled by the wardens, sides people and PCC members of the Ormskirk Deanery to be formally admitted to office during the annual Visitation service. This year rather than the usual archdeacon we had the Chancellor (i.e. chief legal officer) of the Diocese, Sir Mark Hedley – but without his wig. Sir Mark preached on Jesus’ challenge on being salt of the earth (Matthew 5:1). He pointed out that the main use of salt was being a preservative which would mean that disciples of Jesus would often find themselves in difficult places as a very small minority. But because God no less is at work, the positive influence would turn out to be considerable. The Hon Mr Justice Hedley has his own Wikipedia page, which is more than you can say for most of us. He retired from his role as judge at the Court of Protection last year. You can read all about him just by looking at this URL from the Independent, without even reading the article! http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/sir-mark-hedley-the-judge-who-opened-the-doors-to-britains-most-secretive-court-8661037.html Following the service I was able to chat to Mark (I’m sure he won’t mind if I simply use his Christian, oops – his forename.) Bill Evans captured the moment for our church Facebook page. The remarkable fact about Mark is where he lives and why he lives there. He was telling me that as a young man he was drawn to Everton through the local vicar who he happened to know so that he could start a free legal advice centre. And he has stayed there ever since.
Such is his commitment to his church, St Peter’s, Mark with his wife together with their four children have made Everton their home. I don’t imagine there are many professional people now living in Everton, despite its illustrious name. The fact of the matter is that as soon as people can afford to move, they move. Just a few weeks ago I had a meaningful discussion with a young couple who live near us and about to move house. The question is where do they live if they are to continue to be members of their church in Bootle? It was David Sheppard – even before he became Bishop of Liverpool – who urged urban Christians not to move out to the suburbs but to stay for the sake of the Gospel. This is very much the vision of the Eden network, Christians intentionally moving into tough urban areas. It’s not easy when you have children. We discovered this as we moved with four young daughters to Rochdale, which according to the Daily Telegraph league table had the worst schools in the country. Even the young electrician, working on the vicarage as we moved in, was paying for his child to have private education. Mark told me that his children were blessed with good secondary schools – at Archbishop Blanch and St Margaret’s. He went on to explain that they have thrived in their careers, with the bonus of being street-wise (my word, not his). But it’s not easy. The advice given to me by the Bishop of Middleton was that our children should not pay the price for their parents’ principles. How God supported us in this is a story in itself – and I am sure that they benefited from the experience. (They will now probably email me with tales of being bullied at our church school and to begin with my mother-in-law wasn’t happy). But mission costs. Just look at the cross. And to be salt is not a pain-free option but like it or not, it is what we are if we are disciples of Jesus. So the goal of the Eden project is to live for Christ where no one else chooses to live. “We want to be a people who move into the neighbourhood and bring life and light, attracting others to Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit space to work miracles.” For mission to work it has to be incarnational – that is, as the Word was made flesh and lived among us, we continue his ministry as disciples of Jesus. How this translates into our own lives and contexts only we can discover. That's the key word – discover, rather than decide.