Summary: A short talk given at the 20th anniversary service for Anvil House - a home for adults with learning disabilities in Billericay
(Note to the reader: If you can sing this to the tune of a 1960’s hit that will help get the talk off to a good start)
Shape me, transform me however you require me, I know you love me so that’s all right. Shape me, transform me, however you require me, He’s got the power to turn on His light! OK so it was originally a song written about a man’s love for the woman he loves; but it could just as easily be a prayer from me to God; between you and God: Shape me, transform me however you require me, I know you love me so that’s all right. Shape me, transform me, however you require me, He’s got the power to turn on His light!
I thank God that 20 years ago God was shaping people in Billericay with a passion for men and women with learning difficulties. I thank God that 20 years ago the lights were turned on in the lives of a group of people with a God-given vision; but I wonder to what degree have we, have I been shaped into a caring, concerned people, accepting those with a disability as equal members of God’s family. I guess we are all still a work in progress.
My eldest son Stephen recently bought himself a T-shirt, which is not an easy thing for him to do now that he’s 6 foot four! The logo on the T-shirt simply says ‘Perfect Man’. Underneath, in smaller writing and in brackets it says ‘under construction’; a Perfect man under construction.
I am a work in progress. You are a work in progress. None of us is yet the finished article by any means. For myself, I know that my faith, my words and my deeds, the way I live my life needs to be further shaped by God’s priorities.
In our Bible reading St Paul was writing to a church, a group of Christian believers who were by no means the finished article. They were a work in progress. They loved God, they believed in Jesus, they were on the road of faith, they were perfect people under construction, and St Paul had words of advice and instruction for them, to shape and change them.
St Paul’s words to the Philippian church are relevant to us today in our different circumstances. To you and me God says, “Rejoice” (4:4). Let your gentleness be evident to all (4:5). Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything … with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (4:6). Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable … think about such things (4:8).
When my son Stephen bought the perfect man T-shirt I bought myself a special bag, and I think it’s so special that every Vicar should have one. My bag is special because it helps me to think about the change and transformation that God has already brought about in my life, and the shaping and changing that he wants to do in me now and in the future.
I wonder what changing and shaping God will do in your life if you let him.
Let’s take a few examples of people that God is working on right now. Okay they are all cartoon characters but perhaps you can relate to some of them. We will put each of them into my special bag and as we do so we will pray that God will do his work of shaping and transforming in your life. We will then take them out of my special bag and see what has happened.
(Note to the reader: I put some drawings or clipart pictures of people into my ‘changing’ bag. They enter the bag unhappy, grumpy, anxious, confused, self-centred etc but re-emerge joyful, peaceful, clear minded, outward looking, compassionate etc.)
Shape me, transform me however you require me, I know you love me so that’s all right. Shape me, transform me, however you require me, He’s got the power to turn on His light! Amen.