SHECHEM WEEKEND, 29 AUGUST TO 1 SEPTEMBER 2019
As we were unable to go to the House of the Open Door in the Cotswolds, this year was a DIY weekend at the home of Michael and Sonia in Shropshire. Many thanks to them for accommodating us. We were not doing the decorating but did have a great time together, sharing, catching up and learning from God’s word. Some stayed in the house, some camped in the garden (in tents, campervans or caravan) and some stayed in local B&Bs. Everyone pitched in with the chores but special thanks to the 3 cooks who kept us extremely well fed. We all enjoyed the beautiful scenery, peace and fresh air and ambience of the local village.
The theme for the weekend was Living Out The Sermon and our speaker Jonathan Mortimer, vicar of All Saints parish church in Peckham, took us through various parts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Otherwise, the weekend followed a familiar pattern with highlights undoubtedly being Joe and Matt’s fiendish quiz on Friday evening, the all-comer’s cricket match on Saturday afternoon and of course the Shechem AGM. On Sunday morning many of us went to Hopesay parish church where Sonia led the service and others of us gave dramatic help.
In his talks Jonathan pointed out that we are all different and have different gifts but, just as playing cards need a game to have a purpose, so we need a purpose and the Sermon on the Mount is where Jesus explains the purpose he has for us. That purpose is different to most people who focus on their circumstances, worshipping created things rather than the creator. Jesus wants us to engage with him in a partnership where he can use our individual gifts and skills for the fruitfulness of his kingdom. Jesus takes the lead in this partnership but wants us to seek his outlook and open our situations to allow him to work in them.
Jesus talked about money. Jonathan explained that money can bring good things but a love of money can be like a weed preventing us from being fruitful for God. There is much thinking about money in the world but that can easily lead to stress, anger and jealousy. Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and to ask, seek or knock for things that we need. Worrying is wasted energy and indeed unworthy – we are made to do better, trust him and count our blessings.
Jesus also talked about attitudes, especially in the Beatitudes. After inviting us to consider what made us angry, Jonathan pointed out that some anger may be justifiable and God may be suggesting we do something about an issue. On the other hand, much anger can be petty or selfish and is really something we should try to let go. Jesus was going beyond outward anger and saying that motives and attitudes were key too. The outside should reflect the inside and to do otherwise is just acting. Jesus suggested practical action to resolve anger and the Bible contains other examples especially in the Psalms where the psalmist vents his anger and gives it to God. The peace that Jesus can give is deep and wide, encompassing wholeness in mind, body and spirit and freedom from fear and anxiety.
All agreed that, as ever, there was much to learn from what Jesus said and everyone took home useful things to help them on their personal journey of faith.
We returned home on Sunday afternoon having had a good time and refreshed physically and spiritually. Looking forward to next year, the venue would depend on whether HoD was able to take us and we were asked to consider and report back possible alternatives. Members were also asked to express their preference for dates.