Last night I was invited by a friend in the church to attend a football match.
Free of charge.
With free parking.
In an executive box.
It was a prize that he had won for himself and nine friends.
It was a Colchester United match.
We were excited and animated as we entered the box and looked out on the pitch from a wonderful vantage-point.
In the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Did you sense the rise and fall of emotions there? In the best tradition of patronising clergy ‘children’s talks’ I will say the obvious… “Life’s like that isn’t it, girls and boys?” But not just life in general; church life is like that.
We have a wonderful service on a Sunday morning where God speaks to a number of people who were there and then hear of someone who’s experiencing a personal tragedy in their life that brings us back down to earth with a bump.
We celebrate and rejoice as someone professes their faith in Jesus and is baptised and then have a difficult (and lengthy) discussion about the colour of the new carpet in the church toilets.
We hear encouraging news from mission agencies and missionaries that we support and then have to consider a difficult financial budget that may mean we have to cut our support.
We gladly welcome new members into the church at a Church Meeting and then listen to a report that our Church roof will need replacing.
Does it ever seem like we are taking two steps forwards only to find that we have to take two steps back again? We should not be surprised. The evil within the world always wants to undermine and destroy what God is doing and I think the most effective way he does that is by distracting us. Very easily we can find ourselves distracted from what God is up to by issues and problems and we forget the positives and blessings.
I am not saying that the problems and difficulties are not important. Not at all. They almost always need addressing wisely and pastorally sensitive responses. But don’t allow them to distract you from the positive things that God is doing. One of the things I was advised to do when I was training as a Minister was to have a file of letters and cards that I receive that are encouragements in ministry. Just knowing it exists is a blessing – I very rarely open it to read it, although I do add to it from time to time.
But I don’t always get letters and cards to put in the file. So I am starting to pause and reflect. In the brilliant TV sitcom Amanda one of the characters regularly picks up a cut out of Heather Small, the singer, and sings, “What have you done today to make you feel proud?”.
I don’t do that, but I consciously try to ask myself, “What has God done today to make me rejoice?” Keeping those things in mind helps keep the distractions in their right perspective. They are important, but they are not as important as God and what he is doing.
A while ago I wrote a sketch for the Baptist Union of Great Britain based loosely on Monty Python’s Life of Brian where the rebels ask “What have the Romans ever done for us?” and then proceed to list all the many benefits of the Roman occupation. The sketch was set in the fictional Upson Downs Baptist Church, in a Church Meeting where a member asked, “What has Home Mission* ever done for us?” Other members then answered that question themselves as they reflected. As I wrote the sketch I was impressed by how much was done with limited resources – God was at work in significant ways and we took them for granted.
What has God done today to make you rejoice? Have you taken those things for granted?
Fred called a church and asked to speak to the Head Hog of the Trough.
Secretary: “How rude! I’ll have you know we would NEVER EVER refer to our pastor as a hog.”
Fred: “Okay, then just take a message. Tell him I’ve come into a bit of money so I was calling to give your church £10,000.”
Secretary: “Well hold the phone! I think I see that big fat pig coming down the hall right now.”
*Home Mission is the generic name given to the funding of mission through BUGB.