Tuesday, 6 December 2016

What was that!

One of those days which promised so much on the diary and delivered something completely different when the doorbell rang!

Expected travel and ended up staying at home - a day of encounter nonetheless but it was varied and yet somehow frustrating. Feeling myself to be totally at the hands of other people's folly, forgetfulness and general shortcomings and yet in the dock; the missed targets of others lying at my feet!

There are often two tensions in life. The first is caused by the words of Jesus which call us to treat others as we would have them treat us. The second come from the lips of St Thumper of Bambi in that, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all!" I try to express myself honestly and to .make my yes be yes and my no be no' - Not always a popular move. Try the other tack and say nothing and this is taken as assent, which I don't want to give. I'm happy, at times, to say that I'm not sure but will let it go it life cannot be lived by abstentions; it requires courage, honesty and decision!

So I stand by and see things split so people get to do their own thing - it's not mine and has little to do with me and the proletariat cheer in the streets because they're doing stuff. The rulers of the kingdoms are happy because stuff is getting done. But shouldn't we all be doing it in one name and as one people?

Discipleship calls us to make our way through this world making Jesus, the Christ, known and we do it as family (that is Church). All I have ever sought in Church is unity and dialogue and working for each other to do the stuff and yet my experience has been isolated endeavour with division always a hand's breadth away. I love it when I can celebrate the triumph of others and relish the opportunity to engage with and support what others are doing. But I experience that so rarely - is this my misfortune or am I just getting what so many others are getting?

Church is about people, and I love people. It's about Jesus, and I love Jesus. But it seems we are too busy; wound up in our plans and structures and outcomes and demands to get more in the plate and more bums on the pews.
Is this strangling the Church?

Shouldn't we be a party rather than that which we are making Church?

Where are the people who are passionate and on fire?

Are they missing because we, the clergy, are not setting them alight with a zeal for the Lord?

Have we made Jesus everything He isn't and find ourselves looking for commitment where joy and zeal should be?

Have we stopped looking to see new creations in Christ and born again being something exciting and life-giving?

All these questions to be answered and the fear that the problem might be me - am I doing too much, or too little, or doing it in the the wrong place, or doing the wrong thing? Colleagues tell me to do less, thinking I work hard (am driven) because of some desire to prove myself, and yet the reality is that the tide is rising and the time to get people to the safety of the high ground is short. I think of the words that speak of those in Noah's time partying and getting married and having a good time just a few ticks away from the flood and see us not about to be in the same boat. I look at the cross and the salvation that is at hand and, seeing my life changed, want that for others.

That's the role I've taken. That's the role I was given. All I have is Jesus, in and out of season. I'm a bond slave, chosen to have my ear pierced and to be the property of my master even though I am a free man, and in this become the freest man of all.

I write this journal here so others may dialogue with me should they wish. I do it to,be as privately honest and I am publicly assumed to be. This is not about posturing or looking good, for I fear for many I rarely do - and yet isn't this the 'fool for Christ' bit?

I visit people in their homes, and in the care homes, and communicate them and communicate with them. I cry at their losses (where no one sees lest I usurp their grief) and I celebrate their joys. The richness of this wonderful ministerial life I live.

My over-zealousness, my oft misunderstood attempts at honesty and the hope for dialogue which is so often dashed to the ground, expectations unexpectedly dismissed yet again. Where I find like minds and passionate defence in unapologetic ways I rejoice for we are not out to build our piddling kingdoms but one triumphant Kingdom with the Christ on the throne.

Lord, may I have done that in some small way today. May the things in me that distract become less and the things in me that look and smell like Jesus to the world be made greater.

I am left with the words of Wynne Lewis, amazingly used and confusingly gifted - I'm sure he should shave sold used cars: "Victor, you often look like the world to the righteous people in Church and yet you look and smell like Jesus to the world outside our doors. Never let that gift slip from your hands!"

If that is mine and Christ is with (and within) me,  who or what can stand against me and the Gospel of Christ? I love my life; my Lord, my family, my friends and those who I call brothers and sisters. Help me to serve them as Christ came to serve us.


UKViewer said...

I suspect that Paul and his disciples might have felt much as you do in this post.

Offering in service and a passionate humility (thanks Stephen Cherry) the word of God, by living it out day to day, but often being met with hostility, indifference or with joy and interest. Such is your life as a Priest set apart for God's purposes, yet, still part of his people, living among and alongside the community you serve.

I remember when I first came into the Church and the discernment process, I had to learn a whole new language. I came from 43 years of Army service, where oblique talk wasn't the style and we respected authority in most things, although, I can't honestly say that my humility was on the upper part of my horizon.

I commanded people, military and civilian, and while treating them well, expected things to be done well and with priorities - just as my CO expected of me. In the Church the ability to speak the language and to use persuasion is much more to the fore than in the Army. Yes you asked for Volunteers, but in the end, you could always order people to do things.

The church doesn't order anyone to do anything, but it offers opportunities, which it hopes that people of will recognise as suitable for them, perhaps matching their skills, abilities and experience and who offer to do so in humility and the spirit of service for the greater good (which in a way, was how I managed those I commanded), but if nobody steps forward, any initiative from you or others, can seem fruitless or frustration.

We all need humility, and hope for the same from others, in the spirit of hope that God will prompt people to come forward, with our encouragement and join in with the work that God calls us all to - but sometimes it seems impossible.

However, signs of God's action can hit you in the face. Recently, our Christmas Beazaar asked for assistance in providing cakes for the Cake stall. The lady who runs it, normally did the majority of the baking herself, but was unable to do so this time. People stepped forward in droves. On the day, so many cakes arrived, they were nearly over whelmed, but peoples generosity didn't finish there. All the cakes were sold and raised several hundred pounds to go towards the mission and ministry in our place - we give thanks to God that people can and do respond - just not as often as we would like.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Thanks Ernie