Five years ago, when I first came to Sheffield, I travelled round the Diocese meeting people at a series of Deanery events. People asked me lots of questions. The most frequent one was this: “What’s your vision for the Church in this diocese?”
The answer I gave was always the same. At the heart of my vision for the Church is that we should become more like Jesus: we are called to be Jesus’ People and to become a more Christ like church. That phrase is at the heart of our Diocesan vision.
But what does that mean? Five years ago, I explored the theme of being a Christ-like church through the lens of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5.1-10). If we are to be a Christ-like church we must learn to be poor in spirit, mourning for the needs of the world, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and willing to be persecuted for righteousness sake.
In the second half of our Centenary year, I want us to return to the core of our vision to be a Christ-like church. This time, I want to invite you to explore this theme through a different lens: the great “I am” sayings of St. John’s Gospel.
There are seven great sayings and we will explore them at the different centenary events, beginning with the Cathedral service on 8th June. According to John, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the door for the sheep”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the resurrection and the life”, “I am the way the truth and the life”, and “I am the vine”.
These are enormous claims made in bold, striking images, rich in allusions to the Old Testament scriptures. No-one else has made such claims in the entire history of the world.
As the Church in this Diocese we are called to bear witness to this Christ in the 21st Century, just as those who went before us were called to bear witness in the 20th Century in these same communities but in very different times. At the heart of our witness, as theirs, is the call to proclaim Jesus Christ and to be like him together.
Please do come and join us at the different centenary events. I am excited at what we will learn together about Jesus and what it means to be a Christ-like Church as we look back and as we look forward. I’m hoping to produce a short study guide for Churches to use in the autumn to explore the same themes together.
As one old translation of Psalm 95 puts it:
“Come let us sing for joy to the LORD, let us shout aloud to Jesus our Rock”.