(Becoming like Jesus together)
All communities have values and things they hold dear. As a part of helping you to take your place in the church family here we have tried to summarise ours. Here at St Mary’s we seek to be a community that reflects the character and nature of Jesus Christ to our wider community. We strive not only to ‘follow Jesus’ but to ‘become more like Jesus’ day by day.
Our values are based on the ‘Beatitudes’ found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5: 3)
The best translation of the first beatitude is the one that says ‘Happy are those who know their need of God.’ It may be less poetic than the original, but it captures the meaning well. Jesus is saying ‘Blessed are those who know their need of God. They are in the right place.’
Here at St Mary’s our starting point is to acknowledge both as individuals and as a church our need of God. Rather than being self-sufficient and full of our own goodness and achievements, we have a deep awareness of our need of God’s love. Our prayer is that St Mary’s is a church that is humble before God. We hope this may be reflected in our prayer lives, in our meetings and our planning and in our attitudes to those around us. We are to remind ourselves often that we are a church of spiritual seekers and not a community of ‘perfect’ people who have already arrived.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ (Matthew 5: 4)
As we read the accounts of Jesus’ life we read of him having wept on more than one occasion. He wept for Lazarus his friend and for the great city of Jerusalem destined for suffering. His guts are twisted in compassion for each sick and dying person he encounters, for the bereaved and for those cast out of human society.
As a church we seek to be a people of compassion that does not close it eyes to the suffering and pain that is a part of our world. The pace of modern life often means that the cries of those who suffer are not heard. As a Christian community we strive to live slowly enough and care-fully enough to weep with those who weep. At St Mary’s we seek to be a church that stands alongside and share the suffering of others. To be a compassionate people. To be found quietly but purposefully working and ministering to those in need. The sick, the bereaved, the lonely, and with those who are struggling.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ (Matthew 5: 5)
It is often the insecure person who talks the most or the loudest at any gathering and seeks to draw attention in their direction. As a church, we can often feel the need to call attention to ourselves– to demonstrate our worth, our wisdom, our relevance. At a time when some are hostile towards the church it is tempting to become more strident and defensive in outlook but that does not seem to be the way of Christ in the Gospels.
At St Mary’s we seek to be a church that seeks to serve rather than be served. To be a church that is meek in our conversations with others, open to the wisdom that other church traditions have to share, willing to listen carefully to and engage with those of other faiths and worldviews to ours. Meekness does not however mean weakness but rather having a gentle confidence in what we believe. We try to ensure that humility proceeds, accompanies and follows every good work we do.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’ (Matthew 5: 6)
Just as Christ had a hunger and thirst for righteousness, so must we at St Mary’s. If you hunger and thirst for something then you cannot help but work to bring it about. Here at St Mary’s we are to hunger and thirst for righteousness at a number of levels:
At a personal level we are to hunger for a closer and more righteous relationship with God. It is our desire to grow daily in our relationship with Jesus. But, righteousness is, of course, much broader. To become a Christian is not simply about being set right with God individually, receiving the gift of eternal life and then waiting for heaven. It’s about devoting ourselves, with a real sense of passion and commitment, to the service of others and working for a just and wholesome society.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.’ (Matthew 5: 7)
Mercy is one of the names in the Bible used for defining the quality of love and in particular the love that we do not deserve and have not earned. It is mercy that characterises the life and ministry of Jesus and is to characterise the life of his church.
At St Mary’s we believe that God loves us long before we ever begin to love him. He loves us regardless of whether or not we return his love. His love for us is constant through rain or shine, through times when we return it and times when we do not. The wonderful truth is that we do not earn God’s love –we simply receive it.
At St Mary’s we believe that Jesus calls us in our turn to show this kind of love ourselves to other people inside the Christian community and outside it. We are not only to be fair in our attitudes and dealings with one another and others but to go beyond that and to be generous beyond deserving. Too often, churches are communities that love to pass judgements. Here at St Mary’s we seek to be a community that welcomes and befriends without judgement. We seek to be a church where we can find friends rather than merely friendliness.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.’ (Matthew 5: 8)
We most readily think, perhaps, of seeing God in the future when we pass through death and encounter the risen Christ in a new way. But we do not have to wait until we die to see God. It can begin here.
At St Mary’s we believe that we can discern the presence of God in our lives when we are caught up in worship, as we receive Holy Communion, as we meet together in fellowship with other Christians and as we dedicate ourselves to read the scriptures.
At St Mary’s we are called to pursue holiness. We do not however believe that we become pure in heart by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps or by keeping sets of rules, but by living in, and being transformed by, God’s grace and God’s Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that works gently within us to transform our lives to become more Christ like.
Here at St Mary’s, we believe we have a responsibility to commit ourselves to God by placing a high emphasis on coming to church on a regular basis, by making time to grow in our relationship with Jesus by studying his word and by talking to him in prayer.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ (Matthew 5: 9)
Please note that Jesus does not say: ‘Blessed are those who avoid conflict, for they will be called children of God.’ He says: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ Conflict is an inevitable part of sharing our lives together and is normal. However, whilst conflict is to be understood to be a normal part of life that cannot be avoided and should not be swept under the carpet, we are called upon to foster the skills and tools of peacemaking.
Here at St Mary’s we commit ourselves to handle disputes in the most constructive way we can by listening attentively, by speaking gently but honestly, and by being willing to compromise and forgive.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5: 10)
Finally, we reach the last beatitude. This final beatitude serves as a reminder to us that the call to be a Christian is a demanding and costly one. On a simple level we are called to offer God and his church our time, our gifts and our money. As Christians God calls us to support the work of the church with our money. Likewise, God has given us all gifts and abilities which we need to use to worship him.
Here at St Mary’s we believe that everybody of whatever age and maturity has a part to play, gifts to offer, service to give.
At a deeper level we believe we are as a church and as individual Christians called upon to be a distinctive Christian community and to be prepared to sometimes stand against the tide of our culture and society. As a church we are to be intentionally different from the society in which we are set, to march to a different drum which is the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and to recognise the fact that this will sometimes be uncomfortable and costly.
We seek to share our faith with others by praying for them, talking to them and showing God’s love in our actions. As a community it is to be our desire to tell others of the wonderful love of Jesus. We are to offer our whole selves to God, to one another and in service to our community and world. In this way we seek to both build up the church and change our world.