Crumbs

I have been thinking about names recently. Mine means brave and strong. The last things I feel myself to be. But I don’t think I got my name by accident and so, in the spirit of faith, I claim those qualities, even if I can’t yet see them. In any case, Jesus is both brave and strong. And he lives here, at this dubious address, in this over-sugared, under-exercised body, if the Book is to be believed. And if my experience of company in solitude, presence in silence and audience to my thoughts holds any weight.

It is too late now to retreat into familiar hiding places. In Finding Nemo, the daddy fish Marlin is in the habit of making a number of exits and returns to his anemone each morning, before plunging out into the world. I’m out past my comfort zone now but I don’t know the way back. It’s barred to me. I can’t go back to the home I remember because it’s not there.

Sometimes I look to where we used to be and imagine us all there again. But that is impossible. Like the river flowing past, the water is constantly changing. In the old neighbourhood, buildings are pulled down and new ones are built, the single marry or move away, children grow and leave. It all changes. So this desire for home is for a snapshot in time, or a series of them I have plated into a pretty meal to feast on at moments like this.

Thankfully God tells us in his word not to replay former things and look to the future. He calls us forward, out of our inclination to circle back to what was. New memories to make, new adventures to be had. Thankfully Jesus is here with me, quietly encouraging me, lending weight to the flimsy words I dare to speak on his behalf.

A woman asks me how she can keep going to church and Bible study when she, despite being a Christian, knows she still sins. Surely God’s holiness and purity make it impossible for her to access the great love she keeps hearing about. Surely, she thinks, she’s still too wrong to qualify for it.

I take a deep breath before answering.

When I realised I have talked continuously for about four minutes I stop and check that the line hasn’t gone dead. You still there? I’m sorry I just got carried away, I say.

No, no, it’s wonderful. Just wonderful. I can hardly believe that he loves me like that, she says. Go on.

So I do. And again, after I have talked for a good while without pause, I check in with her. I can hear the relief in her voice.

And I am blessed. Why? Because earlier this morning I asked God for an opportunity to explain the hope I have in me. Because I have avoided this for so long I don’t know how to do it.

But after talking to this woman I realise I just have to express what I understand. No more, no less. No big theological concepts, just what I understand. In Bee Movie (just humour me, I have little kids), Barry gives his friend Adam a piece of cake crumb from his new human friend. That’s what they eat? Adam asks, blown away by the taste. No, Barry says, that’s what falls off what they eat.

My point? What we believers have in the word of God is so amazing, so excellent and powerful that even the tiny crumb we offer in our slightly chaotic way is powerful and satisfying.

So let’s use what we’ve got and see what God does. The harvest is great but the workers are few.

shutterstock_91317458

 

Advertisements

Opportunity

This is it, possibly. Without wanting to sound dramatic or make you uncomfortable, this could well be it. The last thing you ever read. The last words I’ll ever write. I know this now like never before. And that it’s easy to forget; to take each day, or week, or month, or minute, for granted.

So I will take this opportunity to spell something out to those of you who are reading this not because you know Jesus already but because you’re polite or because you’re curious or bored or you’re waiting for something to download or for the kettle to boil. Not because I really want to but because I need to. In doing so I am breaking my own golden rule, devised long ago, to help me avoid the fallout of plain speaking and the pain of rejection. I had no right to come up with it, of course. The rule? At all costs protect yourself.

I apologise to everyone I know personally who is reading this and who has never heard me start a conversation about God. I am sorry. I have been too vain and too proud to do it. And I’m sorry for the times I’ve shut down a religious conversation because I’m terrified of outing myself. These are not the only reasons of course, though they are the most powerful. The other is that I feared not knowing enough for my words to carry weight, being caught out by a difficult, or more probably in my case, a simple, question which would make my faith unravel. But that was because I thought it all depended on me. And now I know it doesn’t. It depends on God. And on those who listen.

Christians have assumptions about the secular world which are false. Okay, what I really mean is that I have for years hidden behind a false assumption. It’s that people basically know the gospel and actively, consciously reject it. In truth, most people don’t. Don’t know the gospel, I mean. What many know is what Christians are against. But not what we’re for. What we do believe. So here goes.

God is love. And God loves you. To death. He wants to be in relationship with you. To connect with you at the deepest level, beyond the masks you project, the insecurities you harbour, the barriers you put up. He knows who you really are, and he wants to release you into real freedom. Jesus came to show us who God is, to describe his nature. He did it through a 3-year public ministry, summarised in four eyewitness accounts in the New Testament, known as the gospels, teaching small groups and large crowds, with miracles of healing and other signs of the supernatural. He offered something called eternal life and described himself as the son of God, and in the understanding of the Jewish community he was born into, as God himself. This claim made him a threat to the Jewish leadership, who had him executed. His followers claimed to have seen him alive three days after his death. The life, death and resurrection of a person like this were all prophesied centuries earlier in the Old Testament. The death of Jesus paid the price for the sin of mankind, sin being our rejection of what is good in favour of what isn’t. And it was necessary because our sin cuts us off from God, puts a barrier between us. Jesus is the way back to God. God climbed down into his creation and gave us a hand up out of the mess.

Okay, it won’t win any theology prizes but unless I hit send now it won’t happen. There are countless people who have expressed it better and more fully than that, but that’s not the point. Don’t be put off by sock-and-sandal-wearers, or by slick performance preachers, or even by me, wherever I fall in that spectrum but please take this opportunity to think about what you’ve just read. Find out what on earth I’m talking about. At worst, if I’m wrong, I will die falsely believing I’m loved and that my life has purpose. I will have lived a hopeful life with my imaginary friend Jesus, who will have made me more loving, more willing to take risks, to be compassionate, to pass on what I believe I’ve been given. If I’m right, though…