Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Putting things on hold... is it Christmas yet?

Dear all... forgive the disappearance of this blog over the past two months... like Pop's Daewoo Matiz I'm afraid I rather fell into a rut pressed into the crawler lane of life by the heavy wheels of work and have been looking for a ladder ever since.

To be fair, there has also been a slightly existential flavour in the Môme's home outage...

Yes - I am on a diet.... but that's not what I'm talking about...

My problem is more spiritual.

I'll explain.

On the 4th July, shortly after I stopped posting (ostensibly to give me time to prepare), I preached in church... again. The subject... Ephesians 4 and 5, and the Church as the living "manifold wisdom of God" and the need to live out examples of that in how we talk, relate and live with each other...

I was very clear in what I said... "Relationships are the key to demonstrating the Kingdom" I remember saying "Nothing should get in the way of unity... we can either find unity through Buddhist-type abandon or through investment to the extent that the differences fade in love... Church is a place for investment. Nothing should get in the way of this... if it does, then we're really saying that God is a fool... that his plan to save the world and to exemplify this in the church is less important than our own concerns... "

The sermon was well received... Certainly better than the first time I preached which led to letters of complaint and a visit from the church leadership... seriously.

All good? Well, mostly...You see there was one problem - I've said before that I'm someone who struggles with the idea of living life in different boxes... suddenly, I found that I'd painted myself into a corner. Because despite the fact that I'm passionate about God, and about the Church and I really do believe that we are examplars of God's plan for the salvation of the world... I had to ask whether I make that same investment that I was calling others to make?

Based on my life since the 4th July... I don't... not really. At least not in any particularly apparent sense. I mean, sure... I've been to church on Sundays, and visited people, and talked - sometimes even about some very difficult things - and helped The Wife provide food for picnics and met up with people and played music with them, and helped some out... But have I actually invested anything more than I would normally have done? Probably not.

... and that bothers me.

I know that's all Church...

But I still feel like there's something more that I should be being, or doing...

... and not just writing a blog about what Church might look like (hence the pause in service while I thought about it), or preach about it... or even meet up with Church leaders to talk about it. However good those ideas are, they are just ideas... I want to actually do Church more... be Church more...

Now, I'm not suggesting that I've suddenly found myself in some existential crisis that makes me want to give up my current life and do the Christian equivalent of wearing an orange dress or playing very tiny cymbals ... I've been around enough Christians with a poverty mentality to know that I don't believe in an austerity gospel...  I love our house... our attic bedroom (that's now dry from the storm that flipped up the Velux windows and rained all night on the carpet)... I've loved the redecorating (although I do resent plastic paint that tears at the edges even after I've taped everything)... and I definitely like the new sofa and the TV that we bought (it is a VERY nice sofa, and a VERY nice TV) and the evenings of luxury that they promise... I love the plans for the garden... and the week off I have booked... I love my life...

And I've also been around Christians with such a strong sense of 'calling' that they neglect their families to know that I'm not going to do that either... I love The Wife (including her ability to buy one sofa and then upholster it so that it becomes another sofa)... and I love Moo (even when she has a cold and can't breathe at night)... and I love our friends (particularly the ones that turn up at the door with cake... and - when The Wife locked herself in the porch - came and spent 20 minutes talking to her through the letterbox until I got home with a key)...

I love all of that... and yet, I can't help but wonder if there's another way to be... that would be just as good... better even and that would be more Church.

But how? and be what? ... without being false... in a way that I find natural and that flows from who I am... without giving up the few precious hours that I have with my family... in a way that also fits with others and who they are and what they want.

... or am I wanting too much...

I don't have an answer. But I have come up with a thought - which is that despite the fact that I love my life... it doesn't appear to be particularly conducive to the kind of exciting, community-focused, generous, madcap, risky, all-involving, dangerous life that I imagine Church might be... and since the Church is designed to be the firstfruits of God's plan to save the world... it's got to be pretty darn exciting...

... and I don't really even know where to start, except to think about Christmas... or indeed, any time of the year when the normal rules of social engagement are put aside and are replaced by one that is much more single-mindedly simple and clear-cut... where everything goes on hold... and family comes first (even if you end up wanting to stab them and roast them with the turkey).

Perhaps that's where the fundamental tension lies... between the need to live life, and the need to put things on hold to live Church. Is it possible for both to continue and coexist as they are? Or does one have to give... and if it's Church that is giving at the moment, what will the rest of my life look like if I shift the balance?

... and if I need to do that... how do I do it the right way so as to honour God, and my family?

I feel free from the rut now... and ready to set sail once again on the high seas of blogdom...

... and I have no more answers than before...

... prepare to be boarded ;)


  1. Firstly - glad to have you back!

    Secondly you have basically summed up a lot of my thinking far more eloquently than I ever could have, thanks for your honestly and sharing your journey, hopefully a bit more regularly now you skiver.

  2. Welcome back Chief.

    Good thinking, your mind's been busy.

    Firstly, “Pop’s Daewoo Matiz” doesn’t exist. I may be fond of some things Korean, but this does not extend to their pre-eminent small hatchback. Mainly because I aim to 1, take my cars well over 120,000 miles (or write them off!), and 2, am fond of doors that clunk. The Matiz, I am reliably informed, fails in both, as well as in the key area of actually fitting human beings inside.

    Secondly, I think life and church have to co-exist. The only vow I ever made before God was in respect of my wife at our wedding, and therefore by proxy, my family.

    Consequently unless I hear the clear direction of God to put church stuff first, the default will always be my family. They are God's gift to me and I have a responsibility to care for them as Christ cares for the church (yeah – like follow that!).

    Thirdly, you state "and since the Church is designed to be the firstfruits of God's plan to save the world... it's got to be pretty darn exciting... ".

    I think the plan on paper is exciting. And I’m sure Jesus thought the same right up until the point where the rubber hit the road and He entered the world on the bottom rung.

    The days spent hungry in the desert. The nights spent cold in prayer. The loneliness from being around people who didn’t see what he saw.

    Some people are called to live a specific calling for God. It seems to me like the rest of us are called to live life. To build relationships with our families, our neighbours and our work colleagues. To let the life of the Spirit seep out of us into the places where we tread and into the conversations that we have.

    I don’t think we can be Church more. We are 100%, living, breathing genetic Church. We cannot be any more Church than when we first accepted Christ.

    I’m 100% convinced that if we truly knew who we were, truly knew that we were sons and daughters of the Most High, truly knew that we co-occupy the position of universal Chief Exec with Christ, then we would forget worrying about small c church, we would forget our mindless, trivial difficulties, we would forget trying to make sense of it all, we would forget trying to forge a new model that works in a contemporary post-post-modern societal structure…

    …and we would just live. Love God and do what you like.

    p.s. Top posting - with you on that thinking

    p.p.s. Yeah and you're a skiver!

  3. @ Nick... good to be back... *yawn, inspects suntan... grin*... working hard now... ;p

    @ Pop... The other day I was walking back to the garage where my creaky bicycle is locked up, and happened to pass someone with a TVR just closing the boot. The soft 'clomp' that it made as it latched like getting an ear full of whipped cream...

    And I appreciate your thinking... I'm chewing on it right now...