I went round to my friend’s house the other afternoon to watch an important football match. There were two people supporting my team and seven supporting the opposition. That didn’t matter because we won. But what struck me was the our enthusiasm as we shouted, yelled and punched our fists in the air.
On reflection I wondered if our enthusiasm for our Lord is as great. Do we shout our message from the rooftops. Maybe it’s not quite the done thing and it might cause offence instead of a following for the Lord. But we can metaphorically shout from the rooftops. We can prayer fervently (a lovely word, not much used now) and continuously be in a mindset of communication with God. We can show God’s love and kindness, by gong the extra mile.
We don’t want to be like the Laodicians who were neither hot nor cold or like the Ephesians who abandoned the love they had at first.
I waited two days for a parcel to be delivered. It was something I very much needed and was excited to be receiving it.
For some reason it made me think of the Israelites. They had forty years wandering, waiting to get into the Promised Land. Then they had the wait for the Messiah. False messiahs arrived but not the One they were waiting for. In many cases they are still waiting, even after over two thousand years.
We live in an ‘instant society’. We want everything now or even sooner. The Bible tells us ‘Wait for the Lord.’ Ps 27:14, ‘I wait for the Lord, my soul waits’ Ps 130:5, ‘Blessed are all who wait for Him’ Isaiah 30:18 ‘. ‘While we wait for the blessed hope.’
By the way, my parcel never did arrive; I had to order all over again.
I want to share with you the love of my garden. I know that personal gardens are very much a British institution and maybe in your part of the world they do not feature so much. My garden is not very large but quite large enough for me to cope with. I have been known to say that in the 15 years I have been living here it has grown is size. (What has actually happened is that it has stayed the same dimensions but my strength has diminished.)
I’m not very skilled at gardening; I just dig a little hole and pop the plants in. With the help of the sun, rain and the Lord, things grow. I’m a flower gardener, not a veg gardener. Though I do have two small apple trees and some soft fruit bushes. And of course, plenty of flowers.
My small space gives me great joy, especially during the months when we were locked down. On cold days like today I have to wrap up well but I always feel better from having a stint out there with the birds singing and the wind rustling the leaves.
This old hymn by William Young Fullerton, sung to the tune of Londonderry Air which we used to sing many years ago, suddenly came into my mind. The various verses explain that there are things the writer cannot tell – how God should set His heart on the son of man, how silently he suffered, how He will win the nations and all the lands will worship Him.
Having set four ‘I cannot tells’ Fullerton then writes the second half of each stanza with a confident proclamation ‘But this I know.’ He knows the Lord has been born of Mary when Bethlehem was His only home, he knows that God heals the broken-hearted and calms our lurking fears. ‘But this I know,’ he declares that all nations will see His glory and skies will fill with rapture. The last line triumphantly declares ‘At last the Saviour, the Saviour of the world is come.’
Some of you will have read of the tree in the street outside my house. During lockdown I photographed it season by season As it had grown exceptionally large I feared the council would cut it down. I needed a record of it in case that happened. Some branches were dead, others hung down so low that the parents taking their children to school had to duck down to get by. Other branches extended out over the road and scraped the passing traffic.
Then the other day the council did arrive and started cutting off the dead and overhanging branches. They made a most professional job of the task and now the tree is a menace to no-one and a joy to look at.
That’s what I want God to do in my life; prune all the dead branches, tidy up the sinful parts and leave me looking and acting a good useful Christian.
All my friends know that I’m no good at anything technical. I’m better on the artistic side. I struggle with computers, IPads, tablets, mobile phones and so many other gadgets which are becoming essential to everyday life.
Fortunately I have some long-suffering friends. They explain where I’ve gone wrong and tell me what to do next. As they explain I think I understand the problem but when they’ve gone I realised that I don’t understand all the instructions and again I’m struggling. I do make note but then I can’t find them or can’t read what I’ve written. Oh dear. When things are explained to me once again, often I’ve forgotten just one of the steps of the instructions. Therefore things don’t work again. The gadget won’t do what I want it to do.
I wonder in our Christian lives if we forget one instruction from God. Possibly something which we don’t like to hear. What is our essential message from God which we are ignoring?
The other day facebook ‘went down’, well actually quite a lot of social media wasn’t working. There was disruption all round the world. Even my small plans for the day were disrupted. Then I realised that I don’t want to become too dependent on these things. There are other ways of interacting with people.
My thoughts moved on to God. If God could only be reached by His ‘facebook’, how long would it take me to miss it? I don’t want to become relying on human facebook, but I do want to connect more with God’s ‘facebook’ and all the many ways that He relates to me.
Recently I was told about a lady of 102 who wished she could go back to being 79, an age not many of us have reached yet. But I wonder how it feels to be 102. I need to walk in other’s shoes and imagine how they view life. It was Jesus who said, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned’ Luke 6:37
We can never fully understand another persons life and why they act as they do. People’s lives have been described as an iceberg. We only see one eighth, the other seven eighths are out of sight. How often do we ask a person ‘How are you?’ and they reply ‘Fine.’ That person is maybe suffering in some way but hiding it from the world. We then judge the actions of that person without knowing the whole story.
It was a wet, cold day as the two stone masons were chipping and fashioning stones. A parachutist drifted by and asked the men what they were doing. ‘I’m chipping this stone to go in the gap,’ the first workman replied. ‘And what are you doing,’ the second mason was asked? ‘I’m building a cathedral.’ The two men working side by side, doing the same job, one plodding on with his work, the other building for posterity.
In our lives are we working day by day without seeing the bigger picture or are we contributing to the kingdom of God.?
Our church leader is always coming up with fascinating illustrations to explain a certain point. One Sunday he placed a large green cushion and a large red cushion on the platform about two feet apart. He asked for a volunteer and there always is one. The green cushion represented the perfect God and the red one us with our sins. The volunteer was asked to jump from the red cushion to the red one. The leader then moved the cushions much further apart, making the gap too large to jump. The thought was that we can’t get from the red cushion (our sinful selves) and the green one, God. The leap is too great. Sin is too much of a barrier.
The leader then produced a large kitchen roll (Jesus) and spread out it out between the cushions. Our volunteer was then able to walk over to the green cushion. Jesus had made the way possible by His death on the cross. I will remember that illustration. I trust the youngsters will too.