Stuart's Thought for the Day
Another day, more changes…. For goodness sake, we’ve barely got used to the last lot! We all understand the need for protecting the most vulnerable and needy and want to restrict the number of hospitalisations and deaths to the minimum. Politicians across the spectrum are agreed on that. But when everything seems to change so quickly, we’ve no sooner got used to one new regime than another comes into force. Thankfully worship remains exempt for now, although weddings have a reduced attendance. No doubt no more changes will be landed on us over the coming weeks. All this is making me question the baggage I drag around with me – working preferences built up over many years, cultural preferences and ways of doing almost anything. Phew! Time to take a few minutes’ break, light the candle, and settle back with a drink to reflect on a strange day.
Jesus held a special training course to teach his twelve closest friends how to heal the sick in body and mind. Then he sent them around the countryside to tell people about God’s New World and offer healing. He gave them these instructions: “Travel light. You don’t need a backpack or walking stick, no food or money, nor even a change of clothes. If you’re offered hospitality, stay on that home until you move on to another district. As for any place that doesn’t give you a welcome, leave as quickly as you can and put that experience behind you.” So Jesus’ friends left him and set out on their tour of surrounding villages, sharing with everyone the Good News of God’s New World, and healing the sick.” (Luke 9:1-6)
Before long – and sorry no date set yet, official or otherwise, but we’re definitely starting to think about moving house, and making sure we’ve sorted out the detritus of 24 years of married life and 33 years of ordained ministry. There are occasional bouts of shredding old paperwork, cupboards and drawers sorted out, and long-unopened boxes are seeing the light of day for the first time since we moved to Frimley. Our next move will certainly involve major downscaling, and you’d be amazed at what we’ve uncovered already! Sorting out belongings always feels an uncomfortable process, but once it’s been achieved there’s an inexplicable sense of achievement and relief. In our materialistic, acquisitive society ‘travelling light’ doesn’t come easy.
Not that Jesus was interested in becoming a media guru on ‘decluttering’. His instructions to his friends weren’t an early form of hair shirt lifestyle, but rather an invitation to live by faith. It seems likely that Jesus’ friends would have heard these words and scratched their heads to know how this would work in practice. And if hard for them, how easy would it be for any of us to live so riskily and be so vulnerable? But Jesus isn’t here commending a frugal lifestyle, nor one that is completely dependent on the hospitality and generosity of others. These are guidelines for a specific event, a tour of local villages, which seems to be part of Jesus preparing his friends for their future calling and commission. He wants them to learn about trusting God totally as the journey unfolds, not as an alternative to being self-reliant, but to grow their faith in God’s grace and provision, unencumbered by material concerns. And he also wants them to be distinctive from many other travelling teachers of the time, who would have a small bag in which supporters might put coins which they stored up for a ‘rainy day’. Their calling isn’t to demand from people but to give them God’s Good News, free of charge!
Our new circumstances, like them or not, mean taking a long hard look at what we hold on to, struggling to let go. The promised vaccine may or may not prove effective, but it won’t now restore churches to where they were before. We may need to declutter the back of church or the vestry, but more important is decluttering the way we think, not to wantonly ditch tradition for its own sake, but to make sure that our mission journey ahead isn’t weighed down by spiritual or ecclesiastical baggage that would impede progress in sharing and spreading the Good News of Jesus. For now we have to find ways to make the best of what we have, whether in real time or online, to use every opportunity, however frustrating it may seem, to grow in faith and love and be strengthened to serve God in whatever way he calls us next.
Take a few moments now to focus on the things you hold on to most tenaciously – belongings, practices or ways of thinking and believing. Why are they important to you and how would you feel if you didn’t have them any longer? How will we recognise the new opportunities that are sure to come our way in due time?
Prayer for today
Lord Jesus, you taught your
friends to live by trusting you,
not to rely on their own resources but to be open to your provision.
Help us to declutter our thinking and our living,
that we may be unimpeded in serving you in love and hope. Amen.
Pause for Thought:
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