Welcome to all who are joining or rejoining St Aldates this October, and welcome to all students.
As we start a new academic year, I am writing to communicate some autumn vision for this ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, as the poet Keats put it. In fact, Oxford has got a bit colder lately, but I pray your life will still be filled with mellow fruitfulness. Jesus said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (Jn 15:16). It is a great thing to look back on a term and say: “That was really fruitful!”, conversely, it is decidedly dull to look back and think “That was a fruitless exercise.” Much of what we give our time and energy to ends up being fruitless but I believe God is beckoning to our community to say: “I love you; and I have chosen you to be fruitful”. Let us respond and take steps towards that fruitfulness.
In the Bible fruitfulness can be about character and it can also refer to people being influenced in spiritual and physical ways by our life; friends, colleagues or even children. The Bible says our destiny is to ‘Be fruitful and multiply’. I believe the following are keys to fruitful living.
First, keep close to Christ. Jesus puts it like this: “Abide in me...Apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:4,5) I recommend prayer and Bible reading daily, practicing the presence of God, and regular attendance at weekly worship services where together we connect with heaven.
Second, keep close to Christians. Getting stuck in to a Pastorate, Just Postgrads or a Student cell are all great ways to learn character. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control are sometimes only learnt as we ‘put up with people’! Your goal in life may be to get ahead and you may feel other slow you down, but God wants fruit that will last forever – and that fruit is the spread of loving relationships. Success and growth without love is, in truth, empty and barren. So let us be a Church where you can ‘feel the love’: a prophetic sign in a world where too often love grows cold.
Third, keep on loving unbelievers. Jesus was the marvellously winsome friend of sinners. Clever people like Einstein have loved Him, saying: “I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene...No-one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word...” In this season, we can be fruitful as we connect with those who are not yet Christians, listening, loving and maybe inviting people to consider Christ at events like the Alpha Course.
Fourth, let us entertain strangers and see the fruit of loving hospitality. Here is one opportunity: we would like to ask you to consider accommodating one or more visitors from Europe for 1-3 nights so that they can attend the European Prayer Days on Fri 6 and Sat 7 Nov. We are trying to make this affordable for those from mainland Europe. If you can put someone up in your home, please contact John Tranter at email@example.com.
Well, beloved St Aldates: have a fruitful multiplying term and may God bless you.
With our love in Christ,
Charlie and Anita Cleverly