sequencing

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Finally it feels as if we are getting on top of the box-emptying and unpacking that has dominated our life for the last week. I am now sitting at my (unpacked) desk in a room that temporarily will serve as my study. I have my (unpacked) books on the bookshelves that just about fit in this temporary room.

But there are still things in the wrong rooms. One of the bedrooms is still a temporary resting place for the things (unpacked) that haven’t yet got homes. And don’t, whatever you do, try to go into our garage! It is (literally) packed floor to ceiling.

You see it’s all waiting for two events. Tomorrow we have a garden shed being delivered and that will enable us to take out of the garage a number of garden-related items that don’t belong there. Once the garage is emptier the plan is that it will be converted into an office for me. Once the office is created the (unpacked) contents of my temporary study will have to be taken back downstairs and set up in the new space along with items that are currently in our dining room that don’t fit in the current study but belong there. That will free up a bedroom to be a bedroom again and then the (unpacked) items that are still in the other bedroom will be able to be moved to what is currently my study… still with me?

All of these things have to happen in the right order. There’s no point at all in us having the garage conversion done until we have somewhere for the current (packed) contents of the garage to go, and the items that will go in the current study can’t go in there until the current contents are in the garage once it has been converted after the shed has been erected to take the current contents of the garage.

Getting everything and everyone in the proper sequence has not been easy. But it’s happening. Most of the people who are involved in the process are unaware of the crucial part they are playing in the whole process. They only know about the work they are doing. It’s only we as a family who will know the whole story.

And that’s true of the journey of faith too. Most people don’t know the significance of the part they have played in someone else’s faith journey. Most of us are unaware of the influence that others have had on someone before we have been involved with them. Only the person who is on that particular journey really knows it for his or her self.

Because Christians have Good News (that’s what Gospel means) they are very keen for others to share it and receive it. And we are sometimes overzealous in that (sorry). No, actually I am not sorry for the zealousness (if the Christian message is true then it’s impossible to be overzealous about sharing it!), but I am sorry for the insensitivity, manipulation and (sadly) spiritual abuse that can take place in the name of sharing the Good News. The keenness and desire for others to have what we have means that sometimes we are disappointed when we don’t realise that people are moving on their journey of faith. And it also sometimes manifests itself as guilt because we feel we have failed the person and Jesus.

So let’s relax for a moment and recognise that Jesus invites us all to play a part in someone’s journey of faith. But it’s THEIR journey, not ours. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to help them express their faith, not ours. All we are asked to do is be faithful, vocal, visible witnesses of what we have experienced and believe.

We may never know the part we played. We may never know the whole story. But I like to think that beyond death we will be delighted and surprised at who’s with us and we are enabled to know the part we have played in them being there.

witnessing

This morning I gladly witnessed some signatures for some friends in our church. It’s something I do on a regular basis. I was chatting with my friends as I signed to verify their signatures and recalled that I have verified peoples’ identity for their passport applications, countersigned visa and residency applications, signed wedding certificates, witnessed wills, and supported applications for children who are part of our church to be admitted to church schools.

I am very happy to do this, not merely because it is helping someone out but also because it is a tiny way of reaffirming the status of clergy in our society. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a saint (just ask my wife). I am not looking to be put on a pedestal (it’s way too easy to fall off them) and I am not looking to be revered (even though I am a Reverend). The reason I am glad to reaffirm the status of clergy in our society is that our reputation and thus the reputation of the church and therefore the reputation of Jesus has been somewhat tarnished. Sadly the public falls from grace of a few have sullied the reputation of many.

There is an ancient story of a small boy who came back from Sunday School and was asked what they had talked about.

“Sin.”

“What did they say about sin?”

“I’m not sure. But I think they were against it.”

Yes. Absolutely. We are against sin. But (and regularly bloggites here will know this of me) I am always acutely conscious that Jesus told his followers not to judge others. He warned against hypocrisy (and reserved his harshest words to condemn religious leaders who were hypocritical). He told us not to attempt to sort out a minor defect in someone else’s life while we require major surgery in ours. When I feel my fingers tighten around a stone in my hand I remember a man drawing in the sand and asking me if I am without sin.

So, yes I am against sin. First and foremost I am against it in my own life. I regularly need to ask for God’s grace and forgiveness for the times when I allow his reputation and my life to be tarnished. I need to ask for fresh starts on a daily basis. I need a fresh infilling of his companion-Spirit to help me.

But also I pray that those who don’t mind throwing stones at churches will recognise that we are also places of grace, forgiveness, healing and fresh starts. We are all striving to be more like the people God created us to be, but we are not perfect. Forgive us if we ever project a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Please God may we project a ‘just like you, but forgiven’ attitude instead.

Perhaps if we are tempted to condemn someone we should fill our mouths with humble pie instead?

Be blessed, be a blessing.