It has been one of those weeks, incredibly busy and very challenging, a week where I have felt overwhelmed and inadequate, and yet a week where I have been given fresh glimpses of God that have surprised and challenged me. Last night after a long day on a course I returned home to find phone calls regarding a member who needed immediate attention for a very real issue. When I got home again I decided that putting together a powerpoint was the last thing I needed to be doing so I went to bed early and we ran without video projection in the service this morning! It struck me as I thought of how to explain the problem that it is easy to put emphasis on the wrong things, to get our priorities in a muddle and to miss God in doing so because we are so busy trying to prove something.
I was pondering the churches collective desire to appear to be strong and capable as I
prepared to preach this week, I was pondering the text of Luke 21, Jesus speaking about the destruction of the temple and pointing towards the signs to come, of wars, disasters and persecution, it is a fearful picture and it is easy to miss the underlying invitation to trust in God that is woven through the text. His encouragement to us is not to focus the problems but to trust in him, to let go of the whys and wherefores and to listen for the voice of the Spirit. I am learning more and more that God comes to us and speaks to us in surprising ways when we are open to the possibility of his presence.
I have found that to be true this week for God has spoken to me through surprising encounters and in surprising places. My heart was touched as I watched a teacher from the Philippines speaking about the devastation that had hit his country, as he spoke he pleaded for help, and although he was trying to hold himself together his voice broke, in that break I heard the heart of God, the God who was calling me to respond, speaking to my heart "these are my people and I love them." It was as if Jesus stood in front of me and showed me the wounds in his hands, and asked me to take hold of them, to be one with him.
The second awakening was to a deeper appreciation of the depth of vulnerability of what incarnation means, it came through Artrue a lovely Polish man who comes to our Comfort Zone drop in. He comes almost every week and is friendly and often chatty, this week he came in and fell asleep, at the end of the session the volunteers were unable to wake him, and when I arrived at church after another meeting he had been carried into the church where cushions and blankets had been found. The Paramedic who had been called out told us he was simply exhausted and that the hospital would be unlikely to help. My wonderful volunteers looked after him and finally after a bit of a fight and an initial refusal (echoes of Bethlehem) we got him into a shelter for the night.
Artrue came among us in total vulnerability, and as he slept on the floor he opened our eyes to the depth of the plight he and others like him are in, the local council has tightened up the criteria that provides funding for an overnight stay in a shelter. As a church we have prayed for people, and God has brought them among us, and again he comes to us in them and reveals himself and asks us to open our hearts to receive him. God came among us and slept on our floor, and we feel completely inadequate to respond, and yet in the wonderful mystery that is God he calls us to let go of our excuses and questions and to trust him.
Finally I came across a picture posted onto facebook and it stirred my heart, the picture was of Jesus embracing a prostitute, a young girl caught in a vicious sextrade, as he held her they wept together. I asked God for a word about that picture, and the word that was given was "wanted", God wants and cherishes all of the broken and hurting ones, and his call to us is to not only do the same but to recognise that he receives us in our weaknessess and vulnerabilities, in the bits of ourselves that we would rather hide, and the tears he sheds are for us too, and somehow they become a healing stream if we dare to enter into it and listen to what is on his heart.
The truth is that we are not strong or capable, the truth is that we don't have all of the answers, but when we let the walls down and let God in almost anything is possible!
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11)