Ian Parkinson, of New Wine north and vicar of All Saints Marple, Stockport, came to spend the day with students at St John's. A guy with real passion and an amazing awareness of the power of the holy spirit. I remember some of the things he said, which I've recorded below.
He spoke in the evening on Matthew 25:
"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. "Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' "But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
We are spiritual people so don't attend to where you are but where you're going. Have an eschatological perspective on life. What is God doing in his unfolding of his end-time plan? Matthew 25 is all about being cognisant of the times unfolding in this great truth. We are waiting for the final culmination of history. Of course, the longer, it is delayed, the less expectant we become and we lose our sharpness. We need to live in the expectation of his second coming. This does essentially mean really living in the present, doesn't it? It's about making our present moment a moment that would testify to God's glory whatever that might mean for us in all the highly specific, individualised moments of our lives. Here is the bridegroom motif for the messiah. There is a definite ambivalence about who he is for those in his day and for those who choose not to recognise him but we are called to recognise the time it is. We have the spirit, we have the word, we have the fore-tastes - the future has broken into the present and we're not called to settle into our age. We're called to live in the Kingdom and for that we live appropriately and carry enough oil - we need to be stewards of our lives. our energy and our resources. they are not limitless and so we need to be judicious about how we devote our energies. There are implications to living this way. There are implications to do with morality in that we ask ourselves constantly 'Am I living in the right way?' We come face to face with the reality of what we have done, asking ourselves can we stand confidently before him. In this way we never have a need to be ashamed if we live in the light without delaying putting things right. We become living signs of a future reality as Christ transforms us more into his likeness. Col. 3 We put to death our earthly natures. Lesley Newbiggin described how by living in the light of the future we broadcast the truth. We must give the truth away to others. We contribute to that future.
It has implications, mentally, living this way. We develop an eschatological mind-set. We live on the cusp of eternity. We invest in that future - that eternal future. We don't set up memorials to ourselves or to the past.
We live missionally because time is pregnant with meaning and we exhort ourselves and others to be prepared- Christ is the bridegroom. Jesus brought this aroma with him, where ever he went. We are called to do this too. We are on the advance and not on the retreat. John Stott talked of 'contamination holiness syndrome'. Be wary. It is the righteousness that is infectious not the opposite. We should not withdraw from the world, fearing contamination, we should carry the aroma of Christ into every situation we find ourselves. The gift of the spirit has been poured out and we have the down-payments - we are energised and equipped - there is no need for fear and we can be sure that we will release signs of kingdom activity where ever we go. And so we encourage one another with words and we feast together. The church has a future tilt to it; it should not be some sort of memorial to the past. I love this, I feel this - I'm so grateful that it has been articulated this way. I know we draw from the church's wisdom and inheritance from the ages gone but we are a movement of people in expectation of Christ's return; we are a kingdom building for a glorious future. We look to the now and the next-day. This is about community - being a people of God on the move. Foster this mind-set; this counter-cultural mind-set. How can we live faithfully? By telling the time to one-another!