Potholes

Walking home from dropping my wee fella at school I was struck today by the image of potholes.  Those of you who are car drivers, especially in residential areas of South Lanarkshire, will have a love/hate relationship with potholes.  As a general rule the council simply fill in these holes rather than take up the road and start again.  Now before this becomes a rant about potholes I want us to consider whether the church is as guilty of filling in potholes instead of doing a proper job of re-laying the road.

The road between my house and the main road is so rutted that there are more potholes than road.  In the few years that I have been here the holes have continued to appear, more each time and the council faithfully pour in some tar, squash it down and then go on to the next one.  It has got so bad I actually feel sorry for the men doing the work.  The road condition has continued to deteriorate and each time they return they fill in the same holes as last time plus new ones.

Has the church over the generations followed a similar practice?  Have we kept filling in the potholes with more programmes, with more worship, with fancy screens and praise bands, even Alpha and Billy Graham live links.  Have we ever taken the time to look at what is causing the potholes?  It is easy to fill in the potholes and for a wee while we do see growth but before long the holes appear again.

It is argued by the Council that it is cheaper to fill in the potholes than repair the road.  Yet my road is now verging on unsuitable for vehicles as it is so rutted, unless you have really good suspension.

The Church cannot afford to continue to fill in the potholes.  Nobody wants to drive on a road that is full of potholes, and people don’t want to belong to churches that don’t know who or what they are about.  Do we need to strip right back to the base of the road and re-lay a smooth road?

The thing is when the council do come to fix my road (apparently in 2013 according to some rumours) they won’t change the route of the road.  They will strip the road down to a reasonable level and put in a new road smooth and a joy to drive.

The church is not being asked to become something else or even go in a different direction. But I do believe that we need to strip the church back to its original purpose.  Primarily to fulfil the Greatest Commandment and in turn the Great Commission. And in doing so perhaps we will move away from church being a building and church being a way of life.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as you love yourself.  And go and make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I (Jesus) have taught you.

The challenge is that we have got so used to filling potholes the church is struggling to break the habit.  At Forth St Paul’s we are developing a discipleship model and even in 9 months we are seeing breakthroughs, and the machines are gathering to tear up the road.  When the new road is laid we will be so pleased but this in between stage when preparations are happening for the road to be closed and torn up is the most frustrating.

This is a time for prayer and preparation, hope and expectation.

All rather appropriate for Lent.

God bless,

Love Sarah

Comments welcome.  

Learning from biblical pessimists

Tonight I took part in a fascinating conversation about positive and negative attitudes with the Forth Youth Fellowship otherwise own as the FYF. Do you see the glass as half full or half empty? The young people were frank and challenging in their thoughts and very gracious with what could have been a difficult subject.

Being a YF we turned to Scripture and looked at some biblical “half-empty” people and what came of them.  We started with Jonah – he saw the glass half empty and legged it in the others direction.  He wasn’t for getting involved with those Ninevah folks.  And when eventually he does he is gutted because they change their ways and there is no mass destruction.  And no amount of pleading from God was changing his mind.

Then we moved to that fabulous tale of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 where he has lost the will to live. He is the last prophet left standing and he hears the queen of hearts yell “off with his head” – or words to that effect.  He too legs it but God is rather more gentle with him for it is fear rather than self interest that motivates his behaviour. God feeds him and allows him time to rest and heal. Then after a journey away from Jezebel and her minions he meets with God at the cave. There he experiences God’s power over nature and God comes gently once again. He sends Elijah to meet with the 7000 who believe as well as bringing him to Elisha, the one he will disciple. Elijah as we all know becomes one of the most highly revered prophets in the Jewish and Christian faith. Yet even he has bad days.

We finished with a look at Exodus chapter 3 and the infamous story of the burning bush. Here Moses argues with God – repeatedly telling God that he can’t do what He asks. No matter what God does or says, or “tricks” he shows Moses – Moses still says he can’t do it.  If anything Moses is pretty gutsy telling God he can’t do it but finally God wins with the help of brother Aaron.  Read on though and Moses becomes the one who changes the course of history for the Israelites and is right up there at the top of the faith tree. Moses even remains faithful when Aaron does not.

Being a glass half empty person doesn’t mean that good things won’t happen.  However Moses needed support and Elijah needed strength and with it, through God achieved amazing things. Jonah on the other hand refused God’s help and his story ends with him dejected and angry on a hillside.

Are you a Moses? Convinced that you can’t do it? With God all things are possible and there are folk who will support you until you find the way.

Are you Elijah? Hurt, broken, worn out, weary, stressed to the max? God brings you healing and strength for the road ahead.  He will provide people to share the load. He promises to never leave you nor abandon you.

Or are you Jonah? I pray not!

May you find God is faithful to you no matter your circumstances.

And I will do a blog on the optimists of the Bible soon – those who see the glass as half full.

God bless

Love Sarah

Carrying the right burdens?

 

Matthew 11:25-30

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

 

The Father Revealed in the Son

 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

   27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

   28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 It is in knowing Jesus we find our rest.

Faith isn’t all about doing (eg going to every available Christian event) nor is it just about Sundays.  Somewhere, somehow we need to strike a balance between feeding ourselves and feeding others in a spiritual sense of the term feeding.  We need to be fit and healthy mentally, physically and spiritually in order to feed others, and that involves resting but it also means thinking about the burdens we carry.

The RevTopsy Posse are using LifeShapes in their discipleship. The triangle model has an up, in and out dimension.  (If I figure it out I will try and put a diagram up!)

 

UP – the importance of resting in God.  We have to get to know God which we do through the son Jesus. We often read the verse about resting without reading what goes before.  We can only rest when we are comfortable with the company…hence the term comfortable silence.  Resting in God, even resting with God means that we need to be comfortable with him.  One other thing I encourage you to notice – Jesus offers rest first, partnership second and burden third.  How often do we flip it round and rarely ever make it to rest?  

·         How do we rest in God?  Suggestions – prayer, retreats, bible study, reading spiritual books, practising spiritual disciplines, Sunday worship, Christian community fellowship.

IN – looking to ourselves – what burdens have we accepted?  Have we accepted God’s burden or have we collected a few others along the way?  This is not to say that the other things we do in God’s name are not valuable or important but have we collected more burdens than we should.  In our language burden might make more sense if we used the word “responsibility”.  

·         Jesus said our burden would be light yet most of us carry huge burdens.

·         Notice that Jesus only mentions one burden…

OUT – once we have a handle on our burden then we can start to live it out.  The image of the yoke suggests that we work in partnership with another.  In partnership with Jesus and in partnership with each other.  A problem shared is a problem halved. A burden carried by two is lighter than when it is carried by one.

So what about you?

 

UP – how do you rest in God?

IN – what burdens are you carrying and for whom?  Do you need to let go of some of your burdens and trust God to pass on your burdens to the right people?  Do you need to accept the burden God actually has for you? 

OUT – Perhaps you recognise your burden but you need to work on it.  Who has God called to be yoked to you?  We all have a role to play in the great commission and this is just the beginning of our adventures.

In a world where we are told to keep doing – for example you show your deep faith through how much work you do, your loyalty by how many hours you put in, and your skills by how many things you can do at once, it is great to be told to lay your burdens down and rest in God.  

Can I encourage you to reflect on your burdens (responsibilities)?  How many have you acquired?  What do you need to stop doing in order to start doing what you should be doing? Do you ever stop and rest in God?

I have been forced to rest because of ill health (winter bugs) and I find it frustrating!  But the more you practise rest (as opposed to laziness) the more you realise its value.

God bless, and I will be back soon!

Love Sarah