Did you hear of the following notice which was supposedly displayed in a local Employment Office. It read:
Wanted – person to work on nuclear fissionable isotype molecular reactive counters and three-phase cyclotronic uranium photo-synthesisers. No experience necessary.
It is probably just as well because I don’t think they would be swamped with applications. We may well smile, but it does raise an important issue for us. Sometimes there can be a real disconnect between the language we use and our experience, and I’m not simply referring to the jobs market.
By the time you read this many of you will have attended an annual Methodist Covenant service either in your own local Methodist church or at another somewhere else. The language we use in the rededication of our lives to God is really quite profound. It is not surprising that the Methodist Covenant service has been embraced more openly in recent years by our ecumenical friends. I remember when Rev. Dr Rowan Williams was being consecrated as the Archbishop of Canterbury some words from the Methodist Covenant Service were included in the service. It is a rich part of our heritage and a gift we can offer to others.
But picking up on that word experience. We often say, do we not, that it is experience which counts. We encourage young people to get out into the big wide world and gain experience in all kinds of different fields, to broaden their horizons. It strikes me that many young people today are far more ready to do this than I ever was. Experience is a word which is important to Methodists, too. John Wesley saw that Christian conversion and faith was something that was to be experienced in the daily life of a believer, and with that came an assurance of God’s abiding presence.
We can simply look back upon the words of the Covenant service, words which we are invited to repeat once a year as something Methodist do, and leave it at that, or we can endeavour to carry them forward into this year ahead and allow them to become an integral part of our experience. Those words which begin “Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will……” are very challenging indeed, but they are also about transformation and renewal. May there be no disconnect between our words and our experience in living out the gospel in our daily lives.