“No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”.
I was on a coach tour of Bulgaria once and to pass the time on a long drive the local courier sent a clipboard around asking if we had questions about the Bulgarian culture and so on. Eventually, it was returned to her and she announced she would now answer the questions. “And the first question is this…”, she said, “…Are we nearly there yet?”. Of course the whole coachload of Brits erupted in laughter and someone had to explain why.
But it’s a good question. It’s a good question for the start of Advent and it’s a good question for us as a church. Advent, of course, heralds much more than a time to prepare for Christmas. It also looks forward to the second coming of Jesus at the end of time, a time when the long-hoped-for kingdom of God will come in all its fulness. And there are three things we learn from our gospel reading.
First, we don’t know when it will happen, secondly, life will go on as normal right up to the last minute just as it did before Noah’s flood, and thirdly, it will divide people, with some being lost just as they might have been if they were swept away in the flood.
So the answer to ‘Are we nearly there yet’ is simply ‘We don’t know, but we live in hope’. So in the meantime, and this is Jesus’ point, we need to be ready. We need to be praying, reading and studying the bible, celebrating the Eucharist together, making changes to our behaviour, helping the world around us to change, building the kingdom. Essentially, that is the calling of the whole church.
And for this particular church community, there’s another layer. For we also don’t know the day or the hour when our new vicar will come. We don’t know if we are nearly there yet, but we live in hope! now I want to explore how ready we are – are we keeping watch?
Over the Summer, as part of our work during the vacancy, we invited you all to provide some feedback on our state of readiness as a church community. We asked for comments on four questions:
So first, the things we think we do well….
Improvements to make…
How we could make a bigger difference in Wycombe…
Barriers to doing these…
Overall, there’s lots that is great about All Saints, and we’re already trying to address some of the points raised. Before we can advertise for a new priest we need to prepare our Parish Profile, which tells potential applicants what we’re all about, and this feedback will be included as an honest sharing of our situation. So, practically, we are planning for our new vicar, and spiritually, as a church, we are on a journey in Advent as we look in hope towards Jesus’ return in glory and toward our celebration of his nativity at Christmas.
But are we nearly there yet? We don’t know – but it may just be that the Second Coming happens before the New Vicar. So let’s make sure we’re watching for that and are ready!
Let’s pray our vacancy prayer:
Generous and loving God, in this time of vacancy we thank you for our blessings, and for all who build up this community and work with others for the common good.
By your Holy Spirit inspire our vision, and give us patience and courage as we await the new priest you are calling to High Wycombe. Though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Derek Lancaster, LLM