"What you need is a meeting!"
Well that's what so many who call themselves Church seem to think!
In fact, it seems to me, on reading the Bible, that's exactly what He never said. We don't blow God's socks off by having all those business meetings and it seems that we don't ring his bell with all the Church services we put on either. It's odd that so many of the people I meet think that the way to a successful church lies in business meetings and more church services: "If we create a Gantt chart, He must come" (He'd be rude not to after all that planning, wouldn't He?)
I thought of Isaiah 1 and How God did a 'Vic' as He got stuck in:
"Oi, you lot. Stop it with all those sacrifices— they mean nothing to me. I'm up to here with them- pack it in!
And your offerings - they're just stuff - and you think you make a pleasant smell in my nostrils? Stop the stink, it's worse than the Arsenal on Boxing Day with the awful aftershaves and cheap cigars!
All those services - I hate with all my being - they're not a blessing, they're a burden to me;
I am sick and tired of them. And when you pray: I have to stick my fingers in my ears and sing Ed Sheeran to avoid listening I'm so sick of it all!"
It was at this point that I was drawn back to the day I'd had yesterday. God seemed to be shouting at me so much last night (how rude some might say) and I was getting excited (quietly, so as not to distract from the decisions and discussions). What a super day: Got to, and through, Birmingham in record time such that we were forty-five minutes early for the first appointment and managed to fit in an extra hospital visit elsewhere for my passenger and return home before the Archers (gave up listening a few years back!) contaminated Radio Four again. This was what we are called to be: engaged and taking His light and life into the world. This is where we are called to be (no, not Birmingham, please try to keep up Clarence (thank you Joyce Grenfell) - rejoicing I. The presence of others i the presence of a God. Celebrating God made visible in the person before you and in the love of the mega-visible God that is Jesus, the Christ.
Back home there was time for beans on toast before the telephone rang and I found myself off to enjoy an encounter with madness. I'm beginning to think that there must be a leak in the local factory as there's so much of it around at the moment - will, it makes a change from the chaos that occurs when the hormone factory has the same problem I guess!
Madness comes in many shapes and sizes and (band excepted) it's never pleasant. Sometimes it comes out of the blue and we as Church need to step up and provide care, protection and the sort of Prayer God loves to listen to as we stand in the gap and offer protection and love. Sometimes, when the corners are laid out and the image before you starts to take shape, you realise that there is something quite damaging emerging and this is where the tension begins.
Sometime we see something which, if we act, cause people to think we might be a bit bonkers ourselves and this is usually enough to cause us to hold back. BUT, when that issue manifests itself as something difficult (or even tragic) later on, everyone asks the question, "Why didn't you do something about it?" Too often I have faced the problem of being a time waster when challenging things only to be told (occasionally at the funeral) how right I was.
My job is to seek healing for the mentally ill and protection for those who encounter it in others. This is the business of Church God is interested in and unstop His ears, focuses His eyes and speaks His healing into. As we bandy around the 1:4 mental health statistic and talk of how 'everyone' has, or will be, affected by the fallout from mental health issues, God calls us to be aware but look to the one person before us and be Church to them.
And then came kid's club and it was a mixed feast: Clashes, fed-up kids as school and them clash and pronouncements are made over them, chocolate cake, pool, chess and some food conversations. This is such a blessing - amazed we don't have to turn volunteers away.
Then, almost immediately following on we had the PCC meeting. Some good stuff done and a chance to look at the end of year figures and stuff in preparation for the annual meeting. But I've done this bit to death and so look to the important stuff.
We love numbers and planning meetings and name badges and titles and stuff. God loves people and engaging with them and having names that speak of what He is and does. Tonight I look to Jehovah Jireh, the God who 'sees to it' and pray for the intervention of Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.
Lord, we are poor and weak and fragile. Our knees grow weak at times and our minds become places of chaos and despair. We see what has never been and fear what will never be. Touch those broken in heart, mind and spirit. Bring Your healing and Your presence to bind up the broken-hearted and make Church the family it should be.
For paperwork signed tonight and for wrongs righted and hope made ours in Jesus, I praise You. Give us rest that we might rise tomorrow and engage the enemy once again in spirit and in truth.
Praise Your holy and life-giving name.