COSTA Church

On Tuesday I went to Edinburgh as I am taking a Clergy Course in Spiritual Accompaniment.  And being me, I hadn’t done all my reading.  Shocking I know.  So I parked up early and went into Costa Coffee in the Tescos right next to my course location.  The Costa is tucked away in the back corner of this Tescos and I took my seat and started my reading.  As I read though I felt God interrupting me, and making me look around.  As I did I saw a metaphor for how the church has become…

Despite being buried in the back corner of the supermarket, the surroundings were instantaneously Costa.  The comfy seats, the layout of the coffee bar and the decor.  Looking out from my safe seat I could watch people shopping and working whilst I enjoyed my Rich Hazelnut Latte (lovely) and read, surrounded by a few individuals doing the same.  We had all sat a respectful distance apart so as not to get in the way of each other, united by our common purpose of coffee and reading, but that was as far as it went.

It got me thinking about safe havens but then I saw a metaphor for the church.  Here I sit in my “comfy, recognisable, safe” surroundings doing my own thing with a bunch of relative strangers who are all doing their own thing, united by one thing, yet not interacting unless necessary, watching or ignoring the busy world only yards away.

The Church is in the world but a bit like Costa she sits on the fringes, watching or ignoring, but not getting involved.  It has become an US and THEM situation and if we are truly honest, we would rather be drinking coffee than in the midst of the chaos that is Tescos.  We would rather be in church looking after ourselves than out there getting our hands dirty.  Or we talk about getting out there but we are afraid of what might happen…

The Discipleship movement that is going on in Forth St Paul’s is about leaving the coffee shop and entering the supermarket and working with people where they are, rather than expecting the people to come into our coffee shop.  The coffee shop, the Church will always exist because we all need a coffee break now and again, and we need the planners looking out seeing what needs to be done.  But the supermarket was busier than the coffee shop and the real work was being done there.  No matter how plush the surroundings or how lovely the coffee – unless people have time or know that they need God they won’t come into our church.

Where do you find yourself?  Always drinking coffee but never out on the shop floor?  Do you want to get out?  Do you feel God inviting you to join him on the shop floor but you are struggling to figure it all out?  Don’t worry – when God invites you he will also give you purpose and identity.

Do not be fooled: You cannot cheat God.  People only harvest what they plant.  If they plant to satisfy their sinful selves, their sinful selves will bring them ruin.  But if they plant to please the Spirit, they will receive eternal life from the Spirit.  We must not become tired of doing good.  We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time if we do not give up. Galatians 6: 7-9 (NCV)

Let’s not give up and let’s escape the coffee shop and get down to the real work, knowing that the regular coffee breaks  we will share will be all the more special, and eventually the hard work will be rewarded.

God bless you this day and always, especially when you are working in his mission fields.

Love SarahCosta at Tescos

Sola Scriptura

By scripture alone- the question I am pondering is which version?

Now before you think this is an argument about doctrine or how we interpret Scripture especially in relation to contentious issues that drive wedges into our relationships with each other and with God – it isn’t.  You are safe and can read on, though you might still totally disagree with me by the end…

If you raid your book shelves how many Bibles will you find and how many different versions?  As a minister you would expect me to have a few – I have the Good News Version(2), the New International Version (3), New American Standardised Version, the Dramatised Bible, The Message (only NT and Psalms version), King James Version (Christening Bible), New Revised Standard, New Century Version (Children’s Bible, Youth Bible and Mom’s Bible). And now I have modern technology I have an electronic one that can access around 30 versions.

At the weekend I saw a copy of the Masonic Bible (KJV) and I am sorry to say it made me chuckle.  I know, deeply irreverent of me and I am sorry.  The language for me was so archaic though and I tripped over a verse about mighty mischief which brought a smile, given the company I was in.  And then on Sunday night I was speaking with a Catholic friend at Alpha and we were talking about how each ‘religion’ is perceived by the other at times.  I told her that I didn’t even know the Catholics had their own Bible with that section called the Apocrypha until I went to University and I had to go find out what the Apocrypha is.  It wasn’t that I was brought up in a sectarian setting – in fact I am lucky that I have a great ecumenical background (which is why I struggle with the barriers that are so easily erected but that is for another day!).

However having said all that I struggle with all these versions of Scripture that come full of distractions.  There I have said it.  Shocking isn’t it?  I recently got myself a copy of the NCV Mom’s bible.  I needed a new one because my one had fallen apart with use (and yes it is in the bin).  When I read it the other day I found it hard to follow the actual Scripture because of all the inserts telling me as a mom how to interpret the passages.  And mom isn’t a typo. But at other times I know they will be very helpful because Scripture isn’t always easy to get into it.  My young people enjoy the Youth Bible because it gives some answers and challenges.

But dare I wonder if we are curtailing the richness of Scripture by trying too hard to speak for Scripture?  I find so many people want to put an interpretation on in – whether from our theological backgrounds, from culture,  from the sermons that do stick(!), or these wee inserts – that sometimes God struggles to break through the clutter.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for people engaging with Scripture – reading commentaries or thoughts for the day or whatever – in fact I encourage it.  But I want to suggest that before you drown a text in study, that you spend time with it, reading, re-reading and asking God to speak to you through the text.  Be prepared for surprises because when we stop putting our interpretation on it, God can speak to our hearts more deeply.  Sometimes he encourages us, sometimes he disciplines us, sometimes he calls us out, sometimes he invites us just to worship Him and we remember that we are his children.   And then when you read around the text, God can reinforce his message.

No matter which version of Scripture you read, whether it comes with inserts or is the KJV – as long as you can meet God through his Word – that is all that really matters.  For Christians Scripture must be the source we return to again and again because its message is what will sustain us during these days of upheaval and uncertainty, as long as we believe that God is ever present in it and uses it as a tool for communication and relationship building with us.

I believe it was Karl Barth who said (and this is about all the theology I remember!):

The Bible is not holy whilst it is upon the shelf gathering dust.  

It is only becomes holy when it is lifted down and read. 

 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Luke 21:33 (NIV)

May God bless your reading today and speak to your hearts, regardless of version.

Love Sarah