Instead of a ‘letter’ this month, I want to offer you a postcard. As a child, holidays included the sending of what always seemed like dozens of postcards as a message from a sun-drenched – or just rain-drenched – holiday destination. Holiday postcards usually give a picture of interest on one side – a highlight of the holiday or a montage of local scenes – while giving space on the other side to write a few words of greeting. No opportunity for a lengthy description, but chance to say something pithy and to the point, sharing something of the holiday experience.
When I went away this year I didn’t send a single postcard. Electronic communication such as email, social media and text messages means that my pithy highlights were available instantaneously around the world. An image that I had taken was then accompanied by a comment or observation. The postcard seemingly replaced with the most personal of commentary in real time. But there is something quite pleasing about receiving a card through the door. When we receive a postcard we are given both the message and the visual image that someone wanted to send. In a few words we are given a message and shown what it looks like.
During the early years of the Church, a number of letters were sent between Church leaders and known followers. Pertinent letters were collated over the early centuries of the Church and compiled into the Bible and we have them today to read what these early followers wanted to say to other followers elsewhere. These Epistles are informative for us because they share with us nearly 20 centuries later what these leaders felt important to say about the faith that they followed. They weren’t everything that could be said, but they did try to give an image of what being a follower in the early Church might look like.
I wonder what their postcards would look like in 2016? What would ours say? What would we want to say about what the Church holds as important? How do we as followers at St Andrew’s want the world around to see the Church and our faith? What image would we want to pick to show our experience of being followers of Jesus in Monkseaton today?
Of course, to send a postcard has a cost. For some of those early Church leaders (and even for a number through history) there’s been a sacrificial cost to sharing the message of the Kingdom and the story of Jesus. We need to recognise that if we’re going to share our postcard with the world outside there will be a cost — whether that is about changing how we see ourselves or using new words to talk about our faith or even finding new ways of following Jesus.
As we think about what our message might be to the community outside, perhaps we can do worse than think about what our postcard to the world would look like. Any thoughts, put them on a postcard and let us see them.