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Strange, scary places!

January 23, 2016

School sports days can be strange, scary places! They are supposed to be lots of light hearted competition and fun. Tell that to some parents (and some of the teachers too)! For some you would think that the world depended upon their little darling winning their race. I close my eyes and imagine gladiators in the Forum in Rome – that’s how fierce some parents seem. I look into their eyes and know they’re baying for blood, not just an egg-and-spoon race.

It’s great to be there to support your child, but some go way over the top. You can see their little one wilting with embarrassment at all the shouting and screaming from the sideline. I’ve even seen parents escorted off school grounds for swearing at the staff and children when their child failed to perform as expected.

Thankfully, most love just seeing the children race, win or lose. I too love to see and cheer them all. I particularly love the three legged race. Two children (or even better staff) tied together by one of their legs trying desperately to race down the track. To do it well is probably harder than any of the other races, but generally everyone just takes it as a bit of fun.

The three legged race is a bit of fun but it does show just how hard it is to run when you don’t have full control of both your legs. It also favours the pairs who are willing to work together as a unit, as one body.

All of these observations made me think of Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 12, especially verses 12 & 13: “The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptised each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit.” (CEV)

It should be obvious that all the children are running for their house or school, not just for themselves, but it isn’t. So it should be obvious that the church isn’t about individuals doing their thing, but it isn’t. The Christians in Corinth were having trouble with this and so is the church today, at least the church that I see. Perhaps there is a corner somewhere that is running as it should but if you know where that perfect church is, don’t tell me, I’ll just spoil it!

Like school sports days, churches can be strange, scary places. Like any body, for a church to work well each part needs to do what it’s intended to do. My temptation is to do the things other members of the body should be doing. I think it’s a failing of most ministers but it’s still very real, and so easy to slip into: “after all it’s easier just to do it myself”; so seductive, so simple, so poisonous!

I’ve seen others desperately trying to do jobs that they are not equipped to do. Preachers who cannot preach, organisers who send volunteers running for the hills and many more: Ministers who desperately want a ministry different from the one given (a bigger church, more authority (an archdeacon or bishop)) – that is particularly sad to see, but so easy to slip into.

I have fallen for all of these temptations at sometime or other and they just made me feel depressed and useless. God felt distant too. In fact I’ve found that the sense of God blessing what I’m doing is often (but not always) a sign that I’m on the right track.

From all of this it is clear to me just how important it is for all of God’s children to work together well: how important it is for all of us to do the things that God wants us to do. But how do I know, I mean really know, what I am supposed to do (what part of the Christ’s body I am – am I an eye or a foot, or a kidney)? After all, it is only natural to want to do more, to speak, or preach, or lead, to be recognised for what God is doing in me, but what is right?

It is times like this when I wish I knew the Father’s direct dial number . Then I could ask, everyone could ask, what job I’m supposed to be doing in the church, and I’d get a simple answer back. But sadly, I’ve never found that number and I don’t know anyone who has. So we have to use what we have been given, the Holy Spirit. Together, we need to ask what each of us is supposed to be doing, and then listen, watch and then do it!

I spend time asking the Spirit to show me what I should or should not be doing. I also spend time asking what others should be doing. I know that the Spirit is pouring gifts into his people, all of his people. Some have musical gifts to share, some have gifts of administration, or communication, or teaching, or prayer, or leadership. Some are given the gift of encouragement to lift up those around them. Some the Spirit uses to speak through in prophecy. Some the Spirit works through for healing. The Spirit gives gifts to us all, with the intention of all of us working together and using these gifts for the good of us all.

It sounds so easy, but I find it so hard. We not only have to figure out what we are supposed to do but then we’re to work smoothly together for the good of all, for the good of Christ. I pray every day for that perfect church here where I minister, and each day we fall short. Sadly, 1 Corinthians 12 ends before the Paul gives the key ingredient that can make at least a little of this harmony possible. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul tells us about the greatest gift of the Spirit, the one that is greater than all the others, the only one that can bind these all together, the gift of Love.

So I pray for discernment, I pray that we all discover our gifts, but most of all I pray that we have the love for each other because without love we are nothing.

  1. Verona McWhinney permalink

    Excellent blog as usual, the number I use is Jerimiah 33 v 3

    • “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known”. As with the rest of that message given to Jeremiah, perhaps it is not the quality of the connection to God that is the problem; perhaps the problem is not wanting to hear the message? Food for thought, thank you.

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