The Listening Balance
Rev Alison Tomlin
When I received my Bible as a fully accredited local preacher I opened it with excitement to read the label by which the Methodist Church affirmed my calling. The quotation was from 2 Timothy, chapter 4 verse 5, which in that translation in those days said “Do the work of an evangelist”. I said “But that’s not my job” and my husband Dave said “Then what is?”!
So during the next weeks and months I tried to hear what God might be saying in answer to that question – and eventually offered for ordained ministry. Only in my first appointment was I to hear clearly what for my particular call is the answering scripture to be found in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 10 and verse 6, “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.
Why do I share this with you? Because if we are to be nurtured disciples engaged in God’s mission we need to listen ever more carefully to what God is saying. We need to recognise that God’s word is alive and active and brings an ever new message for our changing world. Sometimes a word we have heard before is ablaze with the light of God’s presence now, but sometimes the word is one we have not heard before and God waits for us to let it light up our lives.
We have so many new and exciting ventures, whether we label them FX, Pioneer, Messy, Godly, or something else. All of them need careful prayer and planning and commitment of resources of every sort. All the new things we are doing have been our response to God’s call and challenge and have, for many of our people, been costly. But at every step of the way, as we rejoice at what God is doing, we need to be sure we don’t get trapped by our plans and lose sight of God’s next step. We need to make space to keep on listening in the midst of the hard work.
In addition we need to recognise that not everyone is called to the same aspect of God’s work. What use is my call to encourage and challenge the people of God without the call to go out and proclaim by word and deed? What use is the feeding at the Lord’s Table without the “Go out….to live and work to God’s praise and glory”? And what use is the call to evangelise if there are no growing and nurturing communities where new disciples are welcomed and can belong?
This is a partnership where all need each other - an exciting, life giving journey, hand in hand with God - where each is supported and strengthened in their calling, whatever their questions and doubts and struggles; where each one is able to learn and grow and become renewed again and again in God’s image; where by each one, and by all, the work of God is done.
Methodism is called by God to show to the world both halves of the circle of eternity – Worship and Service. We need to get both of them right. We need to be prepared – in praise and thanksgiving, in prayer for ourselves, in prayer for others, in prayer for all the world in our listening and our living. We need to search out where God’s spirit is already at work in the midst of need, injury, oppression and pain. We need to follow God’s call and be led into the active service God desires. We need to be prepared to work with others, whoever they are.
God has not finished with the people called Methodist and God is leading us on.
Rev Alison Tomlin is President of the Methodist Conference 2010-11
MET Connexion spring 2011 p.9