At the conference that Pauline and I attended last week, we were challenged to consider what our values are – in other words, what do we place most value on in life and ministry?
For some people, the answer might be something like ‘friendship’ or ‘family’. For others it might be health and strength – the ability to play sport, or to get out and enjoy God’s creation. For still others it might be peace – the opportunity to think and reflect, or to enjoy freedom from conflict.
All of those – and many more – are good things, and help to shape who we are, to form our identity and to help us understand who we are called to be, either individually or as a church.
Jesus told several stories, or parables, to illustrate that in his view the Kingdom of Heaven (or the Kingdom of God) is what he values above all, and that it should therefore be what we value most highly too. In Matthew 13, he likens it to ‘…treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…’ and to ‘…a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.’ (Matt 13:44-46) In other words, God’s kingdom, which Jesus came to establish, is worth more than everything we own, everyone we love, and everything we enjoy. It is our highest value.
The Bishop of Reading alluded to this in his address at last Monday evening’s induction service for Nigel Richards, the new vicar at All Saints Church. He reminded us all that, although we may appoint people to serve us; and although we rightly have plans to grow our churches and do wonderful things in our community, ultimately God is still in charge. It’s his kingdom, and we’re his Church – whichever church (small ‘c’) we belong to. That means that our highest value is to seek God’s kingdom. It’s an attitude which Jesus promises will be rewarded: – ‘…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matt 6:33)
As the writer and Baptist minister Roger Sutton puts it, we need to develop and nurture an outward-looking kingdom mentality rather than an inward-looking empire mentality. When God’s kingdom becomes our highest value, all other aspects of who God calls us to be and what he calls us to do will fall into place.
With my love and prayers