Monday, 16 July 2018

We shall go out with joy.


Amos 7: 7-15. The vision of the plumb line means that God is going to set a standard for behaviour and will no longer be indifferent to how his people live. His prophesy that the Northern kingdom will be destroyed happened between 734 - 721 B.C. when the Assyrians invaded and wiped the kingdom out. 
Ephesians 1: 3-14. The famous Westminster catechism states that the chief end of human life is "to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever" and Ephesians certainly packs copious thanks and praise into the first 3 chapters of the letter. The words stress our total dependence on God. God destines, wills, reveals, and accomplishes his plan which is also incidentally an assault on our western sense of independence and autonomy. The words also stress that the only response desired, proper or needful to God acting on our behalf is praise. Again to the average westerner this is hardly any proper response at all, but we are in God's debt and totally incapable of paying back anything else so let us give thanks and praise to God. 
Mark 6: 14-29. The beheading of John the Baptist provides a remarkably similar set of circumstances to the demise of Jesus. Both innocently suffer at the hands of political figures (Herod and Pilate) who both see good in the accused men and left to themselves would let them go. Yet both are weak and let themselves become trapped by external circumstances and permit a violent death. 


The famous Westminster catechism states that the chief end of human life is "to glorify God and fully to enjoy him forever"
That could stand as a precis of that lovely piece from Ephesians we heard today, which oozes with gratitude and praise for God and what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.
God has made known to us the mystery of his will in and through his son Jesus Christ, so that we might live for the praise of his glory (as it says in verse 12.)
The underlying disposition of us who have set our hope on Christ is one of Joy.
A joy that is not fleeting, a joy that is not dependent on what happens to be occurring in our life at that moment.
Joy is the permanent possession of the Christian for all those reasons that Paul outlines in Ephesians.
We have heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. That is why Christians can rejoice even in the direst of circumstances.
And as John’s gospel states, “the truth shall set you free.”
A real freedom, because we are not hemmed in or imprisoned by circumstances. We have a higher allegiance, for God has a claim on our life, and serving God’s will and purpose.
Prisoners who become Christians will tell you that even though they are held behind physical bars, the most pernicious spiritual bars; the bars over their hearts and minds and souls have been removed and they have spiritual freedom.
Herod was certainly imprisoned by circumstance – his pride – and not wanting to lose faith in front of his guests.
After agreeing to fulfil any request that Herodias asked, not wanting to lose face outweighed doing the decent thing and letting John go.
Herod didn’t want to kill John. He secretly admired him and loved to listen to his preaching and I’m sure his conscience plagued him for the rest of his life. It must have been a mental torture to see the severed head of the man he was so intrigued by, resting on that platter.
This piece about the beheading of John the Baptist is the longest piece in the gospels not directly about Jesus so its inclusion must have a point and the point seems to be the similarities between the death of John and the death of Jesus, both at the hands of weak men, who capitulated to outside forces that controlled them.
Re-setting our priorities from pleasing ourselves and our selfish concerns, to following God’s will and God’s concerns has always been central to the Biblical revelation.
You could say that conversion is the process of making the shift from self-centredness to God-centredness.
Where we move towards is represented by the plumb line that Amos sees in a vision in the Old Testament. The standard of behaviour is represented by that plumb line and was given in the Jewish law; the word - and later enfleshed in Jesus Christ himself, the word made flesh.
Jesus is our Christian plumb line amidst a broken and flawed society, which is no less flawed than in the time of Amos, because while we have made advances in every field known to man, morally we are just as flawed as we ever were.
So I’ll end where we started, in Ephesians. Our Gold standard is Jesus. He is God’s plumb-line set amidst this world.
He is a revelation of God’s will and mercy, of God’s love and service; revealed most fully in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Paul writes that Jesus has revealed to us God’s plan for the fulness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.
And our response to that revelation is to give thanks and praise to God. Our response is one of Joy, where we can say Praise the Lord. Which as I’m sure you know in Hebrew is Hallelujah!

Monday, 9 July 2018

All Change!


Ezekiel 2: 1-5. Ezekiel is addressed as "Mortal" (literal Hebrew: "Son of man"). Yet this mere human being is being commissioned to carry the words of the living God, whose glory Ezekiel has just glimpsed. He will convey them to an impudent and stubborn people whose rebellion against God is never ending. The message is that God never gives up on his people and continues to call them to repentance  despite their rejection of Him.
2 Corinthians 12: 2-10. A powerful piece of writing in which St. Paul recounts his powerful "road to Damascus" experience that turned his life around 180 degrees. Paul says the cause of, and the proper understanding of it is down to God alone. Most powerfully, he is being forced to defend his ministry by boasting about great visions and performing great wonders but he boasts only of his weakness, and his famous "thorn in the flesh" which despite praying intensely for its relief three times, he learns (or is told) that God's grace is sufficient for him; a hard lesson for anyone at any time
Mark 6: 1-13. There are two distinct sections to this gospel offering this morning. Verses 1 to 6 deal with the rejection of Jesus by the people he grew up with. Their expectations and preconceived notions of who Jesus is "the carpenter" whose family they know well, preclude them accepting that Jesus can be anything but a home town boy putting on airs and graces.
The section that follows is the sending out of disciples to the villages to bring people to repentance. All disciples, then and now, are called and commissioned by Jesus Christ himself. The reality of rejection is real and has to be acknowledged. It will be like casting pearls before swine. The disciples are schooled to travel light in order to simplify their mission - a lesson currently being learnt by the church of England in our reduced circumstances!

All three readings this morning deal with the necessity for change. And I don’t mean a few tweaks here and there, I mean a fundamental about turn in our state of mind, body, and soul.
The kind of change that would transform Saul, an active persecutor of  Christ’s followers, who presided over the stoning to death of Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, who was on his way to Damascus to drag back in chains anyone who followed this renegade Jesus;
To change that man into the humblest and greatest protagonist for the Christian faith there has ever been; a man who travelled the known world, despite all opposition, trials and tribulations, to spread the good news of Jesus.
An extraordinary 180 degree turn around. When we use the terms repent and repentance in the church, this is what is meant; not merely being sorry for our sins although that is a small part of it.
This is kind of change that is meant. Called “conversion”, it is a spiritual event that transforms every aspect of our lives.
For Paul and for others it is a cataclysmic event, like the one he describes in 2 Corinthians this morning. I know many Christians who experienced a life changing incident where all of a sudden everything changed, but I know an awful lot more Christians, for whom this spiritual awakening is far more gradual, like a slow dawning like the sun rising in the morning, slowly but surely suffusing everything with light.
For such people, the overwhelming majority of Christians I suggest, repentance is a growing and progressive change in outlook and demeanour.
What I want to stress is that whether it happens as a sudden “road to Damascus” experience or a gradual dawning over a lifetime, the desired result, the endpoint, is the same.
In the Old Testament, God commissioned and sent his prophets to bring people to that moment when a change could be provoked, cajoled, out of people. Prophets speak the word of God into any given situation and one of the roles of the ordained person is to be prophetic. To bring not his or her word, but the word of God to people’s ears.
In modern times, this is why adherence to the Bible, God’s revealed truth is so important and why I keep to the text as my source of everything I say.
God’s revealed and inspired word is our authority for bringing to anyone who is ready to listen, God’s truth – not my truth – not my opinions – God’s truth and God’s ways.
It is no coincidence that the churches that are growing in this country and around the world are churches that emphasise the word and the Spirit.
But not everyone is ready to receive the truth.
As we have heard this morning, they weren’t in Ezekiel’s day, they weren’t in Jesus’ day, they weren’t in Paul’s time and they aren’t in our day.
This is to be expected. The parable of the sower is not just a nice little story – it is true. Some will fall on rocky ground, some will fall amongst thorns and be choked, some will have shallow roots, but some will fall on good soil and flourish.
But for that to happen, the good news has to be preached. People need to hear it in a way they can relate to and understand.
In our modern culture there is a huge gap between the churches message and the culture we inhabit but that is another sermon for another time.
In Jesus’ time he commissioned his followers to go out into the villages and take the good news to them.
How that translates to our situation in the RMC is what we need to ponder and pray about.
What needs more emphasis? What can we change? What do we promote and what do we need to lay to one side? We need to connect with our culture and we do so in many different ways I am so pleased to see here in the RMC from “Open the book” in the schools, to providing meals for people on their own,  to cultural engagement via things like the music festival, the scarecrow festival, flower festivals – all brilliant and worthwhile.
But alongside presence, and all three churches have a great presence in our communities, there also needs to be proclamation. Why do we do these things?
Is the underlying reason for all this social action getting through?
Are people in our communities aware of why we are doing anything at all, aware of why we exist? Other than “those people from the church are very nice: I’m glad they’re there.”
This is the challenge: to become more aware of  proclamation, and the person we proclaim is Jesus. He is the only reason we as a Mission community exist.
Our mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives and to challenge other people to make that same leap. But we do so in a way that people can relate to. Banging people over the head and saying “Jesus is the answer” doesn’t work, but sensitive, intelligent engagement and being able to give a reason for your own personal faith is the best evangelistic tool we have.
All the social engagement is brilliant. But if someone were to ask you;
Why do you go to church?
Why do you believe in Jesus?
Why do you believe in God?
Are we sure what we would say?
Jesus sent people out in pairs. We are not alone – we need support and we need a little more confidence in who we are and who we represent.
Collective prayer, to build up our self-confidence as a mission community, to ask for God’s Spirit to anoint us and give us the words to say is what is needful to build us into a strong body; an attractive and confident body, to be able to evangelise with a smile on our faces, with peace and love in our hearts, effortlessly and confidently.
Confident that we have something that will enhance the other person’s life.
I’ll end this sermon with one of the simplest and most effective prayer that any church needs; Pray this prayer for yourself.
Come Holy Spirit
Lord, I pray you would move the Spirit more boldly in my life and in the collective life of our church. Help me grow in the fruit of the Spirit and so walk closer with Yourself. I pray for guidance from your Spirit to let your will and promises always be a meditation of my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Monday, 2 July 2018

On this rock I will build my church


St. Peter’s Patronal festival – 1st July

Ezekiel 3: 22-end
1 Peter 2: 19-end
Matthew 16: 13-19

Today we celebrate Saint Peter after whom this church takes its name.
But which Saint Peter? The one who denied Christ three times, the disciple Jesus called Satan for trying, however well intentioned, to shield Jesus from the path laid down by God or Peter who in a flash of insight recognised who Jesus really was when in a flash of insight he said.

“You are the Christ, the son of the living God”    

We celebrate every facet of Peter, the intensely human Peter, the flawed and leaden footed, sometimes cowardly sometimes brave Peter, the sometimes dense and the sometimes insightful Peter.

We celebrate the whole person because he is just like us. We too are flawed, sometimes leaden footed, sometimes obtuse, sometimes cowardly.
Sometimes we can be guilty of getting in the way of God’s plan rather than helping it along.

But we should also celebrate the inspired Peter and try to emulate him.

For the rock that Jesus refers to, the solid rock of faith, is the same rock on which this church was built.

More to the point it is the rock on which the future of this church is being built right now.

We together as a community are all the present and the future of this church and however flawed we might be, just like Peter, this rock of faith is the only solid foundation that we have.

If we build on that rock, we have nothing to fear.

That rock of faith unlocks the gates of heaven. The keys to the kingdom belong to all of us who have faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, son of the living God.

If we can say along with Peter…”You are the Christ, the son of the living God”, no matter how much we get things wrong, and we often will; if we keep that belief at the forefront of our hearts and minds, that is our foundation.

If we can build our personal lives on that belief, we are secure because churches are just collections of individuals. Our collective strength relies on us going forward in the same direction based on that common belief.

But the edifice will fall if our foundations are not strong.

Jesus said “On this rock I will build my church”

When we talk about the church let’s be clear what and who we are talking about.

The church is not primarily this building even though that is what we colloquially mean when we refer to the church. This building houses the church. The church, ecclesia, actually means a collection of people.

We are the church. We are built together on the rock of faith in Jesus Christ.

This was the faith of Peter who wrote in his first letter this inspiring piece about us, and I want to end with Peter’s words. Have in mind that when Peter was writing this, he was thinking of each one of you.

1 Peter 2:4-6 
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Amen

More than flesh and blood


5th after Trinity – proper 8

The Wisdom of Solomon 1: 13 -15; 2:23-24. (This reading is taken from the Apocrypha and so many of you won't find it in a modern western Bible. I'll explain why a little further on in this email) This set piece should have verse 12 added to it to make sense. The death referred to here is spiritual death, a life lived in opposition to life-giving wisdom. Life and death in this passage mean more than bare physical existence. In the second extract from chapter two it says that humanity, despite the reality of physical death, was endowed with a spiritual eternity in fellowship with God.
2 Corinthians 8: 7-15. Paul is raising money for the impoverished church in Jerusalem and he appeals to the Corinthians by saying that the authenticity of their faith is as stake here. It should be noted that he doesn't ask for sacrificial giving here (as Jesus sometimes did), more a redistribution of wealth.
Mark 5: 24-43. The two healings that take place here; the woman from her hemorrhage and the little girl from death are casting Jesus as the ultimate healer, even from mortality.  These kind of events, divorced from the gospel, could cause nothing but fear and amazement, which is possibly a reason why Jesus orders people to keep quiet about the miracles.

In Mark’s gospel chapter 8: 35-36  Jesus says;
35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

There in Jesus’ own words we see what the writer of “The wisdom of Solomon” is talking about. There is far more to a human being than just our bare physical existence.

Our Death can be more than a physical death, there is our spiritual death also.

Jesus in an incident reported in Matthew and Luke tells a young man who wants to follow Jesus but wants to bury his father first says to him,

“Let the dead bury their own dead”

These people were very much physically alive but Jesus refers to them as dead already – spiritually dead.

In that small exchange, Jesus locates himself as the source of spiritual life.

Christians can talk about “being alive in Christ”, meaning that we already have eternal life as a gift, a life that transcends mortal existence.

In Jesus’ life and ministry we get copious foretastes of the fact that Jesus is the Lord of life, a fact made plain by his resurrection and the giving of the Spirit.
And in our gospel reading this morning we have two signs of that fact.

Christians talk about being saved, by a saviour don’t we?

Note that the root of the word salvation is “salve” to heal. All the healing miracles or “signs” as John’s gospel calls them point towards that great healing that is the salvation of the world and potentially everyone in it if they repent and believe the gospel.

The healing of the woman with the haemorrhage and even more startling, the raising to life of a little girl who had died back to physical life again are the signs of the divine in Jesus, which was crowned eventually by God raising Jesus himself to eternal life.

God was working with and through Jesus to accomplish these things and if we place our faith in this man and bind our life to his through the means of the Holy Spirit we have the privilege to know eternal life as well.

Eternal life manifests itself as a quality of life because knowing that our life is not bound by our physical birth and physical death but writ large against an infinite horizon gives us an eternal perspective.

It is in seeing the world through Jesus tinted glasses, seeing everything painted on a much bigger canvas that frees us to be rather more open and generous than we might be, especially  to our fellow Christians when they hit hard times.  

This is what essentially Paul is appealing to when he is appealing for money to support the impoverished church in Jerusalem from the Corinthian church.

Paul says “he is testing the genuineness of your love”. There are consequences to having a Christian faith and Paul wants to see some of its outworking in the actions of the Corinthian Church.
We are saved by faith in God’s grace not by works, but the genuineness of our faith is evidenced by our works – what we do and how we treat each other.

Jesus told us to go and bear fruit in accordance with the Spirit.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Consider the Lillies....


Reflection on Matthew 6: 25-30
The words of Jesus are profound and are as relevant today as they have always been.
But we must be sure just what Jesus is telling us.
It is not ordinary, prudent forsight and planning that Jesus has an issue with – for that is essential and necessary for life.
It is worry that He has an issue with. The care-worn worried fear that robs life of all its joy.
First of all he says, trust God. After all, God gave each of us the gift of life, a gift that far exceeds our often petty worries about the material aspects of life.
Then He makes a comparison between ourselves and other parts of God’s creation.
He first speaks about the birds. They have no worry in their lives, and make no attempt to pile up goods for an unseen and unforeseeable future; yet their lives go on.
The point that Jesus is making is not that birds don’t work; no-one works harder than the average sparrow to make a living; it is that they don’t worry.
Humans have a tendency to worry and strain and to seek a security that is ultimately illusory, for God is in control of your ultimate destiny.
Then he tries to tell us that worry is in any event useless because it achieves nothing. It won’t add a second to your life anyway – what it does do is robs your present of its joy and peace and serenity.
And then Jesus talks about the flowers, which is most pertinent for us tonight.
They enjoy a brief lifespan, yet in that brief life they are clothed with a beauty that surpasses the robes of Kings.
If God clothes such a short-lived flower with a beauty that is beyond man’s power to imitate, how much more will he care for humanity which is the crown of creation.
Then Jesus prescribes some ways of defending oneself against life’s worries.
We sing a hymn “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”. Concentrating on doing of and the acceptance of God’s will is the way to defeat worry.
The second way is living in the present moment. Handle the demands of each day as it comes.
Mindfulness is all the rage at the moment in the West now, taken originally from the Buddhist tradition.
But here we have Jesus advocating the same thing. We spend too much time worrying about an unforeseeable future or stuck in the past going over things that we cannot change because they are gone.
Live and love more in the present and really appreciate your life.
Consider the lillies. Look at the beautiful flowers around you. Really look at them, enjoy them. Let them enhance your day.
Use them to appreciate their maker and yours and to give Him praise.

Calming the storms of life.


Job 38: 1-11; We all suffer and sometimes rail against the injustices of life. This is part of the human experience. The message of this book is that while human questioning is not to be discouraged we are nevertheless so small and insignificant and powerless in comparison to God that our speculations have no chance of understanding the mysteries of life. The only proper response to the omnipotence of God is submission and faith. There is no automatic connection between spirituality and health and prosperity. The only option is to believe that God has a good plan for our lives. 
2 Corinthians 6: 1-13; God's plan for Paul's Christian ministry has resulted in plenty of hardships, misunderstandings and opposition but as this mirrors the ministry of Christ, Paul is accepting of it and in a way sees it as a validation. The opening verse is interesting "As we work together with Christ" Paul sees Christian ministry as collaborating with Christ and every believer as caught up in God's work of salvation. 
Mark 4: 35-41; The very first report of the content of Jesus' preaching is in Mark chapter 1 and is "The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel". Today's offering provides an example of what that means. The calming of the storm has a deep spiritual meaning so it matters not one jot whether the incident itself can be convincingly explained or not. Jesus' sleep is key. In the depth of the storm Jesus enjoys perfect calm and peace. The waters (as elsewhere in the Bible) double as a metaphor for chaos and disorder and Jesus has mastery over it. The disciples are rescued from the chaos and fear of life.    

Is there anyone in this church who has never suffered, or who life has dealt a body blow, which left you reeling; or someone who has been conned, belittled, seen disreputable people prosper and good people go to the wall and has been left wondering what on earth is going on and wondering whether there really is a guiding hand in the universe that we can say is “good”?
I suggest we have all experiences like that and therefore the book of Job is for all of us.
It is part of our human nature to try and understand what is going on but in the end we fail miserably. We have to admit defeat and succumb to the fact that as it says in Isaiah; 
Isaiah 55:8-9 New King James Version (NKJV)
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
We have to submit to the sovereignty of God. There is no direct connection between having faith and worldly success, health or good fortune.
If you need convincing look at the life of Jesus, any of the apostles or especially Paul here today.
He has endured “afflictions, hardships, calamaties, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger” all for doing God’s work. And it is God’s work.
This passage today starts “As we work together with Christ”. The risen Christ is living and active and as Christians we work together with him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Being at one with God and doing his will, will not win you many friends or plaudits in this world but what you will gain is the inner peace and joy that comes from knowing that you are at one with God and his people.
This kind of serenity, deep inner peace is shown in the acted parable of the stilling of the storm.
Now I could spend ages trying to convince you that this incident actually happened, or conversely I could spend ages convincing you that it didn’t, and neither makes any difference to the spiritual truth that is being conveyed by this acted parable.
This storm was so great, that the boat was already being swamped and the disciples were terrified.
It is no accident that Jesus was asleep, totally at peace amidst the storms and chaos of life.
We must understand that in Biblical Hebrew thought, the sea, water in general stood for chaos and disorder. In Genesis 1, in the creation story, God created the world by parting the waters. In creation God’s Spirit brought order out of chaos.
In calming the storm, Jesus displays that same divine mastery over the waters, and through him the disciples are rescued from the chaos and fear of life.
This is one of the gifts of faith in God and his gospel of salvation. Whatever is going on in this world, whatever is happening to us, however much injustice and opposition there is from our unbelieving and fallen world, we have a faith and hope that can never be taken away from us.
It is that gift of faith and hope in the future that is the ground on which our faith stands. It is that peace, which is God’s gift that we wish to impart to others.
It rests on the identity of that man Jesus Christ. When the storm was stilled, it says they were filled with great awe and said to one another “Then who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
He is the person who revealed God’s character and will to us. The man who died for us. Jesus Christ, the son of God. 



Monday, 18 June 2018

Seeing through God's eyes


Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5: 6-17; Mark 4: 26-34.
The central theme of our readings today is the contrast between outward appearances and God’s strange hidden design.
It is the theme of the mustard seed and more pertinently for us as Christians it forms the basis of what Paul was telling the Corinthians that there is a difference between how things appear to Christians and how they appear to non-Christians. 
Paul himself initially saw the death of Jesus from a merely human perspective – perhaps as a common criminal or a fool. It was only later, after the dramatic road to Damascus encounter with the risen Christ that Paul learned to see Jesus and his death through the eyes of faith and hope….through God’s eyes.
Paul explains the change in perception of Jesus’ death with the phrase “one has died for all”.
However one unpacks that short statement, it certainly means that we are all, as believers, bound up in Jesus’ death, not just as a historical fact but a living present reality.
As believers, our lives are bound to Jesus Christ.
We say in our liturgies don’t we….”We have died with Christ” because we share in that death; but dying with Christ is only half the story of course.
Because we died with Christ we will also share in his resurrection, not just as a future hope – pie in the sky when you die – but as a present reality.
That is how Paul can write that” if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation, everything old has passed away, see everything is new”
This is part of the joy of the gospel : knowing our personal connection to Christ : which we describe using words and phrases, like being saved; healed; or as Jesus described it -  “born again of the Spirit”.
This is the good news, the gospel – the only reason that this church or any other church is here. We are bearers and purveyors of that life changing  gospel. As this is my first sermon in the Raleigh Mission Community there may be people wanting to know what kind of Christian I am.
So I ‘m going to tell you. The terms I am going to use to describe myself have been appropriated and emphasised by various groups and parties within the church and turned into nouns as in I am an evangelical, or I am a Catholic or I am a charismatic but what I want to say is that these terms are not nouns but adjectives and they are normative for all Christians; We have taken purely normative descriptive terms for all Christians and perversely use them to divide us into warring factions.
So I am not “an evangelical”, I am an evangelical Christian. What does that mean? That means that I believe in the truth of the gospel “the good news” that Jesus lived, died and rose again for us all as Paul states in our reading today. I believe in salvation by faith in God’s grace. It is fundamental and normative to being a Christian. You cannot call yourself a Christian unless you believe in the gospel, so all Christians have to be Evangelical.
I am not “a charismatic” (noun) I am a Charismatic (adjective) Christian. What does that mean? That means that you believe that Jesus asked the Father to pour out his Spirit on all who believe and that the point of that is as Jesus said “To go and bear fruit in accordance with the Spirit”. To seek the guidance of the Spirit in all things, in our lives, through other people, in the Bible and to open oneself to growing the fruits and gifts (the charisms) of the Spirit because Christianity is a transformative, distinctive force and again is normative for being a Christian. You are a charismatic Christian if you believe you have access to God’s Holy Spirit. Christians believe that God is with us now, that we have access to God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is normative for being a Christian to be charismatic.
I am a born again Christian. Jesus said that you can’t see the kingdom of God unless you are born again. You are born again as John’s gospel says in his gospel when you acknowledge God as Father. Everyone who prays “Our Father who art in heaven” and means it in their heart is born again.
I am a catholic Christian. I believe that the worldwide church in all its various denominations is one! Why? Because we are bound together by one God and one Spirit  and in John 17 Jesus prays that we would be one. He wasn’t taking about ecumenism because there wasn’t even a church then let alone the thousands of different sub-sections of it we have today. He was talking about something far more fundamental – the Unity between God and his children bound together by the Spirit. This again is normative. This describes you if you believe in one God, one church, one baptism. You are a catholic Christian.
I am Orthodox. I believe in having right beliefs or right opinions when it comes to faith. In religious terms it means conforming to the truths declared especially in the creed of the ecumenical council at Nicaea. Yes it has been adulterated by Rome since then and has thus split the Western church off from the East (and we can argue about that) but apart from that clause we accept the Nicene creed as a fundamental statement of belief.
A Christian is necessarily a born again, evangelical, charismatic, catholic, Orthodox Christian. This is me and this is you. This is us. This is the substance of our faith.
Things like high church or low church, kneeling or waving your hands in the air, robes or casual,  incense, bells, are all just man-made traditions. They are just human forms, not the substance of our faith I have been describing.
Those forms are simply means to an end – the end is the substance of our faith. Manmade forms divide the churches. We have three slightly different traditions within the Raleigh Mission Community itself but I have never heard it said that the others aren’t Christians because they don’t do things like we have always done it.
Let’s not fall into the trap laid bare for us in the Bible today. Don’t discern just by outward appearances. Look at the heart. Look at the substance, not at the outward form. That’s what Jesus did.
Amen