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Having the courage to leave “The Shires” « Stour Valley Vineyard
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Some quick thoughts by our senior pastor, Andrew Stewart-Darling (Reproduced from Community News magazine)

How do you start a New Year? I mean beyond the obvious alcohol detox and rash gym membership purchase, how are you looking to approach 2014?


The king’s advice to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book is a good place to start as any: “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end.”

I like that pragmatic approach. We all like a party on New Year’s Eve, but beyond the Hokey Cokey it is just a way of seeing the end as a beginning. Nothing changes at midnight, apart from the date. Yet, 2014 could be the year that everything changes.

You may be aware that part two of Peter Jackson’s film of The Hobbit is now out. Recently I watched the first one again to put me in the mood.

The world of the hobbit is a very safe and confortable place where nothing extraordinary ever happens, not least to Bilbo Baggins.

However, his life changes when a grey wizard by the name of Gandalf comes visiting: “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’

The response by the hobbit is sniffy: “I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

Yet Gandalf, and the company of dwarfs, cause him to assess his cosy, predictable life, leading to unexpected feelings being stirred up from within. We see him catch up with the departing dwarfs. Albeit unprepared and without a clean pocket handkerchief.

Change can be good or bad, but one thing is for sure, change is here to stay. Nothing stays the same, whether we are hobbit or human.

Gandalf disrupted Bilbo’s life to recruit him for a greater cause – to serve the needs of others and put himself last. This is not dissimilar to Jesus’ call upon a Christian’s life

For those of us who have decided to put our faith in Jesus we have committed ourselves to an adventure bigger than ourselves. And an exciting one it is too! It is why we have as our church’s slogan “For a life less ordinary.”

Part of that journey at Stour Valley Vineyard Church has seen the start of Storehouse Foodbank in Sudbury, which has now seen a number of other groups and churches join us.

We have taken up the invitation to put our faith in Jesus. That has meant, in short, leaving the safety of “The Shires”.

We have seen many lives wonderfully transformed, along with new beginnings. It is a spiritual journey that changes us forever.

Bilbo Baggins saw himself as nothing out of the ordinary. We may feel the same. But to God we are special and most definitely loved. Furthermore, we shouldn’t underestimate our own worth.

As Gandalf said, “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.”




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