Empty is life giving

Emptiness does not usually thrill us. An empty fridge for that late night snack frustrates, getting in the car and finding it running on empty is annoying.  We like life to be full, and we  comment with satisfaction when our days are busy with activity; as a society we are quickly bored if there is seemingly nothing to do to keep us amused or busy. Full is good, especially in my opinion, when it comes to an english breakfast. Jesus himself, commented that he had come to bring life in all its fullness. Empty is bad and boring, fullness is good and satisfying.

The resurrection though gives us a another view –  a full tomb is a bit of a disaster! Empty is liberating and life giving, Jesus is risen, the tomb is empty, death has lost its sting, sin and satan are defeated. God has had the last laugh.

When thinking of the resurrection I think of Psalm 18:19; “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me”. Jesus is risen, the tomb is empty, life is to be lived in that spacious place, and we to are to leave our “tombs”, to leave them empty, and move into the spacious place that our generous God has won for us in the resurrected Jesus. It does take courage and a fair amount of trust. Our tombs whatever they may be, come with all sorts of names, unforgiveness and bitterness, fear, feeling useless just to mention a few.. We live in these tombs they become our home, they are familiar, and disturbingly comfortable. Scargill is about “lives shared, lives transformed” and hopefully with Jesus right at the centre he will loving lead us out of our caves that we have uncomfortably conformed to live in.

The challenge is to leave our tombs, and move into that spacious place, and breath in that resurrection air.

A blessed Easter to you all.

 

 

Called to bless, called to give life


This week Phil Stone gives us a challenge to bless, to say good things..

We have just finished our Palm Sunday service here in the Chapel at Scargill. Many a sermon has been given on this significant day in Jesus’ life. What struck me afresh is the adulation that welcomed Jesus from the crowd as he entered Jerusalem, and then in a few days time the same crowd will be shouting insults and wanting him dead. The crowd move from blessing to cursing with unnerving ease. Henri Nouwen says that to bless is to simply says good things about another. How crucial this is as we live in a world that gives out curses so liberally. If we bless one another our understanding of who we are in God grows and deepens. Curses destroy, blessings give life.

How important it is to bless, never more so than in Community which is full of relational challenges! There is nothing like living and working together to realise the need to bless when at times there is a deep desire to curse. Our community promises speak about building community for which we will need to be ‘consistently, transparently, constructively, unsentimentally loving’. People making their promises say, “We can learn and improve in our efforts to strengthen the bonds of love in this community. Sometimes we will get very cross with people and find it difficult to love them. Sometimes they will feel the same about us. We will not say anything about others that we would not say to them directly if love and wisdom required it. With God’s help, and with encouragement and guidance from the brothers and sisters who share this pathway, we promise to try our very best to follow the example of Jesus.”

As we begin to understand that we are called ‘beloved’, what a joy it is to enable others to find that truth for themselves. Henri Nouwen goes on to say that there are many ways that we can bless people:

“Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs. Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.”

So may Jesus Christ richly bless you as you journey with him this Holy Week.

Seeds That Die Are Seeds That Live

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Sadly the towering trees which used to line the long driveway up to Scargill House have had to be cut down. At this melancholy time Scargill’s Director Phil Stone reflects on community, culture shock and how sometimes seeds need to die if they are going to live…

This last week has been sad and significant for Scargill. Our treasured avenue of horse chestnuts, which has been part of the landscape for the last 50 years and more, have become diseased and dangerous and have had come to down. Interesting and surprisingly what has been left is a new vista where the surrounding hills look even more inviting and attractive.

We are gradually becoming aware that the rhythm of life involves some small and some significant deaths so that God can bring new life and new beginnings. The rhythm of cross and resurrection are central to our lives. Scargill itself was resurrected, but not before it had to go through a death in 2008. The whole estate was up for sale and the long ministry of Scargill had finished. The place was dead. God though had not wiped the slate with either the place or the ministry.

When Di and I came to Scargill to grow and develop the ministry at the beginning of 2010, we were excited about the new adventure, but after a while I was wondering what we had done. From being a vicar in a large inner city parish, an area dean with responsibilities, I had come to Scargill where there was just a handful of us and 10,000 sheep. However lovely those sheep are, they are not great conversationalists, and regarded me as a sort of mint sauce threat (probably rightly so). After a couple of months of this I was feeling diminished, and well out of my depth. I went to see a wise friend who listened and shared a verse from John 12: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”

Something had to die in me, for something new to come alive – never easy, often painful, but necessary. We can never jump to resurrection until we go through our own cross. Three years on Scargill is alive and thriving. The place is beginning to bear much fruit, but what is most significant is that I have deepened my understanding that I am loved by God, that I am called “his beloved”. Sometimes God has to strip away old securities so he can help us find again our true identity.

This week we begin Passiontide, with the invitation to journey with Jesus through Palm Sunday next Sunday, onto the Cross, and then onto the joy of Easter Sunday. As we journey with Jesus may we also know that he journeys with us as we face our crosses We need to ask him for courage.

This week new trees will be planted down our avenue at Scargill.

Our resurrection life continues.

The community at Scargill is always warmly welcoming new members and wishing a fond farewell to others as each person’s contract is staggered so that as we grow and change we can maintain consistency. If you are interested in spending some time as part of our community or know someone who might be interested then click here (especially if you/they have professional catering experience!). Feel free to use the contact information in the link to get in touch and start a conversation going to work out if Scargill is the right place for you to explore more about life, community and God.

Sent From Coventry

This week Phil Stone Director of the Scargill Movement discusses conflict.

Last week I was down at Coventry Cathedral attending a conference entitled Faith in Conflict. It was full of quite important influential people, I had to behave like a grown up! One of the things that we discovered (which isn’t rocket science) is that conflict is normal. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief and I know that from my experience here at Scargill we have had to work through quite a bit of conflict over the last few years. Just because we are followers of Jesus doesn’t mean we are going to get on all the time.

What is really important is how we deal with conflict. Often we are either confrontational and shout with a ‘come on if you think you’re hard enough’ attitude or the other equally unhelpful attitude is to go into silence and avoid confrontation at all costs. But what we are encouraged to do and the way forward – is to speak and to listen. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow says, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

Of course living in community this is essential if we are going to grow and become a place of reconciliation. The quality of our relationships is an authentic witness of God’s love. This is the heart of the Gospel. In fact one of the speakers at conference said that reconciliation is not the warm up act to hearing the Gospel – it is the Gospel.

Whenever we are reach out (and I’m not talking about with a fist!) to somebody we are in conflict with we are doing the Gospel. St Paul reminds us in 2nd Corinthians 5 that Jesus has reconciled us with God, our relationship with Him has been put right. We are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation.

It’s not an optional extra.

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