Don’t Knock It Until You Have Tried It
A couple of weeks ago I had to do one of the hardest things I have ever had to do; conduct the funeral for a close friend’s two year old son. This wasn’t something that was happening locally, these friends were not part of the church, nor were they known to anyone in the church. Despite the lack of connection, what I discovered through the few days around this event was the incredible way in which the church works when it is called into action.
I have been around the church long enough to see its faults, they are sometimes numerous and occasionally pretty big, but when crisis hits, I am almost always completely amazed by the way in which the church functions; as Jesus promised, like a body!
When in real need of stability and support, when struggling to cope with practical arrangements, when I didn’t have the words or the wisdom, here was a community of people who are willing to fill the gap. We needed childcare, we needed audio visual equipment, we needed advice & more than all of that we needed to know that we weren’t alone; every one of those needs was amply met by the church. Friends who were willing to go out of their way to drop things off and to have our children for a sleepover, and friends who were praying.
Prayer was happening in regional leaders’ meetings, prayer in conference planning groups, prayer in local small groups, messages via text, phone, e-mail, twitter & facebook from those who were praying with us & for us. As I drove, on my own, between the place we were staying and our friends’ house on the morning of the funeral I was suddenly overwhelmed, not as you might expect by a sense of isolation, but by the incredible sense of inclusion.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, this is what God always planned his church to be like; but it’s still great to be a part of. It makes me think that, for those who are quick to criticise the church (& sometimes rightly), that you still shouldn’t knock until you’ve tried it! You never know you might just find that same incredible sense of inclusion that you’ve been looking for.
“He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”
Ephesians 1:21-22 taken from the Message
Fancy telling her to sing!
This morning in our Community Church Moreton-in-Marsh meeting we looked at the passage in Isaiah 54, where the prophet Isaiah speaks to the nation through the metaphor of a woman who has been widowed and has no children.
Variously described in these verses as barren, desolate, fearful, shamed, disgraced, humiliated, reproached and widowed. It seems a bit rich for God, through the prophet to make this demand of her; that she should sing! She is probably pretty depressed, feeling afflicted, even forsaken by God so why should she burst into song? Fancy telling her that.
Not only that, He goes on to tell her that despite her circumstances she should start to invest in enlarging her tent; deconstructing in order to reconstruct and make it larger when the circumstances give her no clear indication that anything has changed. Imagine the look on her neighbours’ faces when then the lady in the tent next door, who has no husband let alone any children, starts to make her tent bigger to accommodate a bit family; putting in extra rooms, pulling her ropes out longer, making the stakes stronger. The gossip would soon have started, talking behind her back, wondering why she is doing that.
Despite all of this God also tells her that she has nothing to fear! Well she might at least be worried about looking silly.
What God is getting at is that the immediate circumstances often tell us so little about the reality. The lack of a husband or children is of little significance for this woman in relation to the promise of God. If we will receive the promise and start to live out of it; risking embarrassment, risking wasted investment, risking failure, then will we see his incredible supply. His generosity, his compassion, his love, his power poured out into our lives and circumstances – these circumstances no longer dictating to us how the future will be shaped, but themselves being shaped by the power of our incredible God!
Let us not be a church that hears the outrageous promise of God and responds “Fancy telling us that.” Rather, hear the word of God, and whatever the circumstances tell you resolve that you will sing!
[see Isaiah 54, verses 1-10]
Why A Growing Town Needs A Growing Church
Moreton-in-Marsh is set to expand in the next few years, quite dramatically! There are various development plans being put forward that could ultimately see another 600 or more houses added to the town; which could increase the population by nearly 50%.
So what does that mean for the Christian witness in the town? I guess it means there is a lot more work to do to reach out those who are coming in. It could be easy in a beautiful little town like Moreton to see such a change as negative; spoiling the landscape and the fantastic close-knit community feel, but it is also a great opportunity. An opportunity to share all that is best with the town, but also to help create a sense of community for those who will come from all directions to make a new home and fresh start here.
When the apostle Paul was wondering through the ancient city of Athens, he talked with those gathered at a council meeting at the Areopagus and talked about how God isn't far off and unknown. He goes on to talk about how God has chosen where each and every one of us will settle:
"He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." Acts 17:26-27
Paul understood that wherever people settle, wherever they choose to live is not a mystery to God. It may just be that God has brought them to where they are, right here, right now, because he wants them to find him, and we might just be the instruments he chooses to use to point people to Jesus.
As the town grows there will be many more people here, not by accident, but because it is their opportunity to find a fantastic community, a community of faith, of people who are willing to show love and compassion and that is why a growing town needs a church who that is growing.