In a fortnight's time, if the Indian Embassy sees fit to grant me a visa, I should be flying off to Bangalore as one of the leaders of this year's diocesan youth trip to our partners in the Church of South India.
This is very exciting for all sorts of reasons – and just 2 weeks ago the whole group of teenagers & leaders met together for a final briefing.
It was then that we were given The Kit List.
It's several pages long and VERY detailed.
We've been told not only what injections we need and what to wear, and what medicines to take but also which electrical items may prove too much for the Bangalore grid and a host of other things beside. There's a definite feeling abroad that we need to be prepared for all eventualities – and as I'll be responsible for 8 other people's daughters, I'm quite glad of that.
However, when I was 1st in India 6 years ago, I couldn't help but contrast the meticulous planning of our trip with the lot of the earlier missionaries who set out with no clear idea of where they were heading...no language courses...no immunisations...with very little but their love of God and a determination to share the gospel with brothers and sisters whose lives were immeasurably different from their own.
They might, I imagine, have taken some quinine with them in their medicine chests– but not alot besides...and they died, by the dozen, and are buried far from home in a land that perhaps they could never fully understand.
And before them, of course, was St Thomas.
The mists of time hide all the details of his arrival in Kerala...though legend is very insistent that arrive there he did...and surely, as one of the 12, he must have set out as Jesus had told him to...empty handed...no bag, purse or sandals...armed only with his mission to
And from that beginning came thousands and thousands of Indian Christians...
The kingdom of God has come near to you.
The kingdom of God has come near to US.
Can we see the signs?
Because, you see, that's part of the work of the Church today.
Yes, we are called to BE signs of the Kingdom – places of healing, of transformation and good news...but we are also called to spot and celebrate the Kingdom in all its joyous variety as it unfolds in our own communities.
Isn't that wonderful?
We are to go about our daily lives expecting to see God at work and celebrating whenever we do só.
We are to act as signposts, só that others too may begin to recognise the signs, glinting like precious gems amid the mundane, broken reality of our world.
Sometimes those signs will be big and obvious – last weekend's ordinations & Clare's 1st Mass spring to mind – or a pet service in another place where an Archdeacon spent hours lovingly blessing each and every pet and their owner – reminding them by her infinite care that each of them is infinitely precious to God.
Sometimes they will be easy to overlook...things that might seem too small and insignificant to be worth celebrating.
The Kingdom of God has come near to us.....see.....
Someone who has been a beneficiary of the Food bank arrives there with a small bag of groceries to help another family on the edge...
Sweet peas transform an urban landscape with their pastel beauty and heavenly scent.
Laughter erupts between those see eye to eye on nothing much EXCEPT that joke...
A small child smiles and waves at the lonely old man who sits on the park bench
The Kingdom of God has come near to us
Signs of the Kingdom are signs of hope...evidence that God is at work each and every day in Uplands and Slad, in Stroud and Cainscross....and further afield, in every corner of the world God loves so much.
And we don't need special equipment or special training to equip us to notice or to celebrate.
All we need is a longing to be PART of the Kingdom in all its transforming joy and an openness to the God who will give us all that we need and more, if we can only bring ourselves to trust him.