What is the most important thing I will be doing today?
What is the most important thing I will be doing today? A key question for each of us. How we answer determines where we will be investing our energy, making our preparations and simply doing our best. Writing this blog has to be a candidate. I never cease to be surprised who reads it or where it finishes up. At the very least, it has potential. Another contender could be going to Goodison Park this evening to cheer on EFC. Those of you who support Crystal Palace will be delighted – for whenever I go to support Everton, they invariably lose. (Ken Park once offered to ask the Board to make me a cash settlement to stay away). Otherwise just a usual day of parish ministry, no special services, the standard routines. With the ParkRun tomorrow, not a running day. Of course, there is always the possibility that I will not even notice the most important thing I will be doing today. Arthur Conan Doyle suggested “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” He has a point there. For as Christians we answer the question from God’s perspective and in his Kingdom the values of this world are reversed. So what happens when Jesus stands before Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea? By any standards an important conversation with a most prestigious person. Most of us would have been in awe. Jesus was hardly fazed. “Herod peppered him with questions. Jesus didn’t answer—not one word.” (Luke 23:9) In total contrast we have many instances of Jesus investing his time and energy with unimportant people at the bottom of the pile. As ever he subverts our scale of values: he shows what is important and what is not. And it is more important to give than to receive. So in the culmination of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats the righteous answer “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” (Matthew 25:44) Clearly how we relate to other people is key, especially those who the world considers of little worth. So Pope John Paul II gives his view: “I hope to have communion with the people, that is the most important thing.” But is there one thing which can claim to be the most important thing I will be doing today? One event? As it happens, it is about to happen. And so now I will have to pause my blog in order to do it. I’ll be back in 20 minutes. So just stay there. I'm back. Way back in 1975 I did a three week placement at St Stephen’s East Twickenham. It was hugely formative. In fact, if there is one person I model my ministry on is has to be their vicar, Martin Peppiatt. (Older readers may recognise the name - his father used to sign our banknotes.) A busy parish with lots happening; it still is. I found it all bewildering until Martin explained what the most important thing he did every day: to say the Lord’s prayer at the beginning of the day. Nothing would eclipse this. This is the very heart of his ministry. And so it is for me. To kneel each morning in the vicar’s stall and pray the Lord’s prayer defines not just the day ahead, not just the ministry I offer, it defines me. As it happens (again), my reading from the BRF Guidelines this morning was Luke 11:1-13, which includes Jesus teaching the Lord’s prayer. The commentator suggests that praying this prayer is the heart of discipleship. And the core of the prayer itself? “The answer is, I suggest, the relationship of Jesus with his God, into which he invites all his followers.” Nothing in the whole of creation can be more important than that. Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial. (Luke 11:2-4).