Bury St Edmunds Town Pastors: a talk on their 5th birthday

You are heroes.

I shadowed Jo and Chris, Luke and Hazel on their rounds a week last Friday.

It was a quiet night (I think 'peaceful' is the correct word), but it was an eye-opener. I hadn't quite realised what being a pastor involves. For those who don't know, they begin about 9:30, go on to 4:30 and work what is almost a full night shift for some, but as volunteers who have a day job. I have to confess that I gave up and went home at 2:15

I also saw just how much the pastors are appreciated
- by the door staff: who feel a lot happier about chucking someone who is drunk out because the town pastors are around!
- by the club owners: who don't want trouble, because they don’t want to lose their licence! 

- by local residents
- by people who are out for the night on the town (and some of them are very young). They love the Freddos, the water and the banter; but they also do appreciate that there are people who don’t have an axe to grind, who are keeping a watchful eye over them so that if they do get in trouble they know there is someone who they can turn to.
- by the police: we’ve heard that. I should also say how much the police and their support is very appreciated by the town pastors.

But the heroes are not just the pastors on the streets.
The heroes are also those who pray.

Those of you on the streets are the hands of town pastors. 
Those of you who pray are the heart beat of town pastors

Because this really is a work of faith.

I would love to take those who are aggressively against the Christian faith and show them the work of the town pastors. I want to say to them, 'Why are you getting so worked up about it? Since you consider it is not true, you have nothing to worry about. And look what it does for people who do believe that it is true. Look what it makes them do'

A living faith in Jesus Christ moves people away from the centre to the edge, to love and to serve those on the edge.

Jesus tells a story about how, on judgement day, God separates the sheep and the goats. He commends the sheep because they gave drink to the thirsty, cared for the sick, welcomed the stranger, they clothed the naked (or the nearly naked), gave shelter to the homeless and visited those in prison. With the exception of the last, and you may even do that, you do all of those things.

A Christian is someone who should never become comfortable with who we are. I am not speaking about those who have a restless need to move on, who think that the only way to solve a problem is to run away from it. Rather I am speaking about a peace-driven conviction that whoever we are there is something more. God wants you and me to become bigger people, more loving and more holy. And we become bigger people when we to take new steps of faith. Faith is spelt RISK.

And when we take steps of faith, then we need to rely on God.

The passage in Ephesians talks about putting on the armour of God.

- the belt of truth:
Without that awareness of the truth of the love of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we are stuffed. Good intentions will take a person so far, but when it is mid February, minus 3, and you’ve just sat for the last hour with someone being sick, then you need more than toast and peanut butter and good intentions to keep you going.

- the suit of righteousness: that gift of the coat of Jesus' right-ness that is for those who put their faith in him.
When one of you puts on your big town pastors coat (it is almost worth signing up to wear one of them), you cease to be just yourself. You are now a town pastor.

And when a person becomes a believer in Jesus, we put on the jacket of Jesus' right-ness. We cease to be just ourselves. Of course, underneath we are weak, we are inadequate, we are sinful, but when by faith we put on that jacket, we become Jesus.

- the shoes of the readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace.
You are not on the streets to preach, but there are opportunities to speak of your faith. And we have to rely on God to give us the right words to speak.

- and we do need to rely on the shield of faith (that minute by minute dependence on him), the helmet of salvation (of knowing that we belong to him), and the sword of the spirit, the word of God - which is ultimately the only thing that is able to change the heart and minds of men and women.

People love the town pastors: they see you doing a good work.
I also suspect that they think you are a bit foolish.

But you are dynamite: You are dynamite because of what you do, and because you, by your prayer and your action, are demonstrating a completely alternative way of living.

If you want to really live life to the full, then the answer is not to get as hammered as you can; to try and pull as many people as you can, to treat them as notches on your bedpost; it is not to 'eat, drink and be merry and to hell with tomorrow'; it is not to live your life trying to prove that you are more gorgeous or more witty or tougher than your mates; it is certainly not to use human weakness to your benefit.

You are demonstrating a very different way to live.
In my alternative dictionary the word 'life' begins with the letter G. G for God.

It is about putting God first.

And it is not about what you can get, but what you can give.

It is not about being served, but about serving others.
It is not about screwing other people, but it is about sacrificing yourself for the sake of other people.

Next Sunday is Pentecost - it is the official birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit came, and the disciples were sent out in power to love and to serve.

May I congratulate you on your 5th birthday, and may that same Holy Spirit continue to send you out in power to love and to serve.


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