Well its almost a new year…We were recently back in the UK, and as ever, people enthusiatically ask about our last year. I guess this is a regular enough occurance, but it’s particularly asked of people who have been away.
Recently I was in a small church which is an newer church plant from the slightly larger church that I came to faith in. Everyone was wonderfully welcoming, and as I was brought to the front of the service I was asked 3 great questions by the Pastor, one of which was;
what were some of our highlights of the year?
I went on to tell of how we were excited about how our church family in South Africa was growing and changing, how we had the priviledge of being 2kms from the Syrian border during some of the height of that crisis, and the incredible and supernatural ways in which God was working.
I am still in awe of what God is doing there, and it was genuinely life changing for us, but as I sat down from my seat, I felt a small nudge from Holy Spirit that although I had shared things that genuinely bring glory to God, they also have a strange way of making people feel disqualified from the Christian life.
I knew that hadn’t been my intention, I experienced these things and remember them enough to know that I was very little more than a sepctator to incredible things God is doing. I really mean that, I know it seems like the stock false-humility statement, but it felt very much like the person getting up early and catching a beautiful sunrise. The right place and time, but nothing to do with the viewer himself.
Fortunately, I was asked to lead some corporate prayer time later in the service and I was able to share another story. This year I have learnt more and more about the presence of Jesus in the mundane.
Its hard to write a newsletter about the mundane days, the 99 in 100, but I believe it gets at the heart of what the Christian life is about. Allowing Jesus in the everyday not just the sensational. The Church at large desperately needs a theology, a sense of purpose in the midst of the tasks we do everyday.
Unfortunately, good and encouraging stories of what is happening in the inbreaking kingdom of God sometimes give rise to a frantic sense that we are somehow not ‘doing enough’, not ‘radical enough’, not ‘acheiving enough’. Now, there is a time to do, to be radical and to acheive, but my main take-away from this year is actually that we need to be present to God Himself as our chief aim.
To be present to God’s presence in us;
– that still small voice,
– that sense of belonging,
– sense of adventure and yet security.
All these things in the midst of loving others well, strangers and family, cleaning the dishes and the diapers (nappies in the UK, Napkins in South Africa), when we are tired and when we are energetic, being present.
For a while in my christian life, I thought the presence of God was fleeting, like a shy bird, one wrong move and BOOM, you are in a dark room, alone and abandoned. Instead now, I am beginning to see God’s promised presence is far more faithful and dependent than that. I have the opposite problem, my presence to the presence of God;
– When life gets to busy to notice the details, God’s winks at me, if you like.
– When I get too fixated on a task to see the people around it that God is teaching me to love well.
Jesus had his fair share of exceptional stories, but there is also 30 odd years where he was a carpenter, a brother, a son, a synagogue-attender, a learner, a friend. Of course, we don’t have much of that story to lean into in scripture. Maybe papyrus was expensive 😉
But be assured Jesus lived that life, and he didn’t think of it as somehow less holy than his death. He wasn’t waiting around to die, sorry to be brash about that, but I think that is what we fall into thinking; That Jesus’ life means nothing, only his death.
But He lived and lives, ever aware of His part in the family and story of God by an unending abiding in the Father by Holy Spirit, and that is his aspiration for us too. Not that we would be franticly looking only for a new ‘word’ or experience, but that we would contentedly bring our attention back to Him being ‘with us’, as our Christmas stories say, and inviting His Kingdom to come whereever we are.