the parable of the wall

Outside the church is a wall. It separates the church from the street. It’s a low wall, just the right height for sitting on. It’s a convenient wall. Passers-by will sit on the wall in order to make a phone call, to eat an ice cream (in the summer) and to wait for someone. And the nearby traders use it as somewhere to sit when they take a cigarette break.

The Minister of the church doesn’t approve of smoking. It’s unhealthy. The smoke is unpleasant for those around. It’s not the right image the church wants to project to the community. And even though there is a rubbish bin nearby, the traders tend to flick their cigarette butts into the flowerbeds behind the wall, which irritates the Minister.

people-sitting-on-a-quay-amst-1562809 (2)

One day the Minister was passing by the wall and saw one of the traders sitting on the wall, smoking, as usual. The trader finished her cigarette, stubbed it out on the wall and flicked the butt into the flowerbed…

Scenario 1

The Minister was incensed: didn’t they have any respect?

“Excuse me,” said the Minister as the trader made her way back to her shop, “Is our wall comfortable?”

The trader sensed possible sarcasm and wasn’t sure what to say. The Minister took her silence as an admission of guilt.

“I noticed that you were sitting on our church wall while you smoked your cigarette and then flicked the cigarette butt into our flowerbed,” the Minister continued. “We don’t approve of smoking – it’s unhealthy and the smoke is off-putting so in future please don’t sit on our wall, smoking, and please don’t flick your cigarette butts into our garden.”

The trader mumbled an apology and went back to her shop. The Minister went into the church feeling pleased at having made a point, and ordered a ‘no smoking’ sign to be attached to the wall. It wasn’t long before no traders sat on the wall, no cigarette butts were flicked into the flowerbeds and the Minister felt vindicated.

Scenario 2

The Minister was incensed: didn’t they have any respect?

“Excuse me,” said the Minister as the trader made her way back to her shop, “Is our wall comfortable?”

The trader sensed possible sarcasm and wasn’t sure what to say. The Minister continued: “It’s just that I have noticed that you sit on our wall a lot and I was hoping it was comfortable.”

The trader grinned. “It’s a wall innit?” she said. “I aint expectin’ cushions!”

It wasn’t long before the Minister started joining the traders on the wall for a chat from time to time. The Minister still didn’t like the smoke, and cigarette butts were still flicked into the flowerbeds but the traders felt welcome.

Questions to inspire you:

This parable is based on real events – one of the scenarios happened.

What are the ‘walls’ and ‘cigarettes’ for you and your church?

How could you respond in missional ways?

What might we need to lay aside in order to take the opportunities that God might be giving us?

What small changes in attitude could make a big difference to the people you meet?

Be blessed, be a blessing

An ant called Declan

antDeclan was a busy ant, as were all his friends. He spent his day scampering around the countryside looking for food to forage for the rest of the ant colony.

One day Declan crawled across a picnic table and came across a jam sandwich. A child had dropped it on the ground and although the child had been quite willing to eat it, earth and all, their mother had told them to leave it and left it on the table top. Declan was drawn to the sticky, sweet jam and thought to himself how the sandwich would feed the whole colony for days.

He rushed back to the nest and told the foreman, who sounded the alarm. The message went out to all of the foraging ants, who all came back to the nest. The foreman told them that Declan had found a jam sandwich and the rest of the ants cheered.

Declan felt very proud as he led the ants in a long line back along his route and up onto the picnic table top to the sandwich. When they got there the rest of the ants swarmed over it excitedly.

Then one of the ants said what most of them were thinking: “It’s a big sandwich, isn’t it?”

“I can carry fifty times my own body weight,” said another, “but I could never lift that on my own.” Lots of the stronger ants agreed with him.

“How would we fit it down the hole into the nest?” another asked. Some of the practical ants had been wondering that themselves.

“It’s very sticky jam,” objected another. “I don’t want to get covered in jam.”

The mood changed from excitement to despondency. It had been a lovely idea. Slowly but surely the ants decided that it was too difficult a task to carry the sandwich back to the nest and went back to what they had been doing beforehand.

The foreman looked at Declan. “Sorry, Dec,” he said, “It is a brilliant sandwich, but it was too much for us to manage.”

Sadly Declan agreed with him and left the sandwich. But he couldn’t help, wondering what might have been possible if they had thought about working together.

What might God be saying through this parable?

Be blessed, be a blessing

Christmas has officially started

Even though I say so myself, last night’s Carols by Candlelight was brilliant! The church was pretty full, the choir sang beautifully, the readers read wonderfully, the technical side of things worked seamlessly, the refreshments afterwards (with Get in The Picture too) were excellent (hall packed) and we all left with a wonderfully warm, Christmassy glow. For me it was the moment when Christmas really started. It was fantastic!

The morning service was pretty awesome too. This was led by our children and young people, who showed wonderful talents, confidence and faith in what they shared with us. Brilliant! My favourite moment in the service was the acting by Daisy as Mary in the nativity (by ages 3-5) when the angel appeared to her. Daisy was surprise personified! I loved it!

For all of the different, innovative, exciting, clever, fun ways that we can conceive and use to communicate the truth about Christmas it seems that the best are the traditional ones – simply telling it as it is through nativities and carol services and letting the good news speak for itself.

I get very excited about new mission opportunities. But I need to make sure that I am not always rushing to the new and neglecting what God wants to do through what is already happening. He is at work through all of the different activities that take place on our premises, and he is at work in the lives of each one of us among the people he has called us to serve in the workplace, the home, the neighbourhood, the wider community. He may not be asking us to do something new and spectacular… he may be asking us to use his age old method of us being free samples of Jesus for those around us.

A joke for all those using air travel at Christmas:

It was a few days before Christmas. The trip went reasonably well, and he was ready to go back home. The airport on the other end had turned a tacky red and green, and loudspeakers blared annoying elevator renditions of cherished Christmas carols.

Being someone who took Christmas very seriously, and being slightly tired, he was not in a particularly good mood. (Almost a scrooge) Going to check in his luggage at the airport he saw some mistletoe hanging at the check in desk. Not real mistletoe, but very cheap plastic with red paint on some of the rounder parts and green paint on some of the flatter and pointer parts, that could be taken for mistletoe only in a very Picasso sort of way.

With a considerable degree of irritation and nowhere else to vent it, he said to the attendant, “Even if we were married, I would not want to kiss you under such a ghastly mockery of mistletoe.”

“Sir, look more closely at where the mistletoe is.”

“Ok, I see that it’s above the luggage scale which is the place you’d have to step forward for a kiss.”

“That’s not why it’s there.”

“Ok, I give up. Why is it there?”

“It’s there so you can kiss your luggage good-bye.”