Thursday, 28 February 2013

Paisley Cross

When I was twelve and a half we moved house.  My father was a minister and our family, like all manse families, moved as God’s call took my dad to new places – though it always seemed to me that God’s call came at the most inconvenient of times.  At the point of that particular move I was just six months in to secondary school and I really didn’t want to change schools again.  I had just done it – but, needless to say, I didn’t have a choice.  We had been living in Greenock and we moved to Paisley.  It was only twenty miles, but it could have been five hundred so far as I was concerned – and I was to go to Paisley Grammar School.  We lived about a mile and a half from the school, so within what was deemed to be walking distance. 
I don’t remember clearly, but I think I was taken and collected the first few days.  But early on I was walking home for the first time.  I walked up from the school along Glasgow Road and got to the big junction that is Paisley Cross.  All the instructions I had been given disappeared from my mind.  I have never been good at finding my way.  I am so grateful for SatNav technology.  I am not sure that I could have done my present job before we had SatNavs.
Anyhow, there I was at Paisley Cross, with three choices.  I knew I didn’t want to go back the way I had come – but should I go straight on, turn right or turn left.  I can’t remember whether I went straight on or turned right – but I didn’t turn left, which was what I should have done.  And so, eventually, I retraced my footsteps, found a phone box, and had to be rescued by my dad.  It is a long way from being the last time that I have been lost, but possibly one of the most scary for me at the time.
But why tell that story?  Well, I am telling it because I want you to come with me to Paisley Cross – and stand there, as I did, thinking which way should I go?  What is the right direction?  And actually it is a bit more complicated than I have made it be so far.  The way I had learned was to turn left and that is what I should have done.  But actually I later discovered that probably the slightly shorter – and quicker – way was to go straight.  It was a different route, and I didn’t know it at that point, but it was certainly an equally good, if not better, way to get me to my destination of home.
Would that it were always easy to know which way to go! 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Different Missions

I have spent today visiting four churches that are currently linked in a pastorate.  There are struggles and joys.  There are opportunities and disappointments.  That was so in each place.  Three of the churches are very small by any standard.  The other is larger but not large.  It was a busy day talking to four sets of elders, but I have come home with a real sense of hope and realisation that things are happening on the ground wherever God's people are seeking to shine as the light.

One church is a venue for all sorts of community activities.  If you want a children's party, that is somewhere you can go.  Another attracts people from the community to a weekly coffee morning and, once a month, offers worship at the end of the morning - and it is not just church people who stay.  A third were party to a community survey as to what is needed locally and responded to the desire for a local cafe.  For the moment the community are proving slow to respond to the provision, but it is early days.  The fourth runs Holiday Clubs for children, Holiday at Home for older people, a quarterly Messy Church, a Rambling Club etc. 

There are so many ways in which we can be the Body of Christ to those whom we encounter.  Let's get on with it!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Standing in God's Presence

As part of my Lent thinking I have been reading Terry Hinks' book "God's Embrace" (Darton, Longman & Todd, 2012) in which he offers a series of forty reflections on Luke's Gospel.  Although it has seemed a bit like Advent, to begin with, as he starts at the beginning of Luke, it is a good reflective process.  The second of these reflections particularly focusses on Luke 1:19 - "The angel replied, 'I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.'"

That got me thinking about what it is like to be standing in the presence of God.  The name we have for that is prayer - and it is worth considering what our prayers should be like.  As Hinks reminds us (p. 46) - "Prayer isn't about bombarding God with our wish lists or demands, our successes or failings.  Prayer at its truest is waiting on God and discovering the deep silent music of God's grace stirring in our hearts."

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Go - and Be the Church

I have recently been reading Tom Arthur's book The Year of the Lord's Favour  Tom was, at one time, one of my colleagues when we were both ministering in Birmingham.  The book he has just written takes us on a fascinating journey through Luke's year in the lectionary and Tom has lots of interesting things to say.  I was particularly struck by one of his comments which reminds us of the crucial importance of going out and being the church.  We often spend so much time trying to gather people together.  Tom reminds us that the scattering is the bit that really matters.  He writes: "Our only purpose for gathering is to be scattered.  Once the church becomes an end in itself, domesticated, seek its self-preservation and stability, it starts to fester.  The job of the Church is to live out the life of Christ, the life for others.  Church can become too much like home.  So leaving church, like leaving home, is what the Church is all about."  In other words, we need to stop looking inwards, and start looking out.  We don't need to go to church.  We need to go and be the church.