2 Samuel 23 15-17, best and the worst., Extravagance, Giving/Generousity., Luke 21. 1-4 (widows mite)., values, Water

Value Church?

we have this wonderful person called Jo in our Church, she is homeless and lives in a bus shelter near the Church, and she is also a transsexual, which causes some in the Church to struggle.

I chatted to Jo as I was walking past and she asked me how I was doing, I laughed and said “nothing a beer and a holiday in Barbados wouldn’t fix, but not much chance of either!” we both laughed, and I forgot about the conversation and went off to lead a Bible Study in our Church Cafe (which is a converted toilet -write your own joke here!). Later on I spotted Jo’s wig by the window, and she had brought me up a tin of bass beer (Bass is Jo’s favourite, she hadn’t just got me a cheapy larger, but one she’s drink herself).

Although I love beer, that beer for me is too precious to drink. One of the most extravagant examples of grace and generosity I have come across. Sadly our Church has sometimes lacked both generosity and grace, and sometimes looked down on Jo too, and yet here she was showing something of the wonderful extravagance of God, a lesson and a challenge for us all.

For me, this story reminded me of King David and the well at Bethlehem.

13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

There is something wonderful and humbling about an extravagant gift.

I work most weeks at the foodbank, and it is interesting that some people bring along “Tesco value food” and others bring along “Tesco finest”. Any donations are gratefully received by hungry people, but I did think if I was having Jesus around for a meal would I serve him value food, or would I get the best I could afford? Jesus said: “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me?”

David refused to give God a sacrifice that hadn’t cost him anything, he wanted his worship to show God his worth-ship.

Another story that struck me as I was writing this blog is the story of the elderly widow with two copper coins, who gave what little she had to God, whilst the rich and the famous were giving large sums of cash in a showy way, she gave ALL she had. Although they gave a lot, they actually gave nothing at all, although she gave very little she actually gave more than them all.

what we spend our money on shows what we value. I had a job interview a while back in Portsmouth (the same Church that asked me 3 times about my opinion of LGBT people but not once about the cross). we went to their Sunday Supper for the homeless people of their area and they served up big saucepans full of instant soup, bread, and some cake. Then we went off to a meet the Church Council, we drank wine and had an extravagant spread of food. It is great that they are feeding the homeless each week, but the contrast between the two evening meals really struck me.

whilst I was at Salisbury I was involved in a project called Morning Star and they used to do a “Banquet run” giving out food to the homeless, but they made sure that is it was “food fit for a King” using their home-grown produce and serving food for the cities homeless that really showed them the extravagant love of Jesus.

I want to be a Christian that has a heart like Jo’s.

Jesus love for us is not “Tesco Value” love, but “Tesco Finest”, perhaps sometimes we need a little more extravagance in our love and our giving?

I’ll end with one of my favourite clips from the film Les Miserables where the Bishop gives the thief Jean Valjean not what he deserves but extravagant and amazing grace… Take a moment to watch this:

Spiritual Dryness, Water

water always wins.

I remember in very boring geography lesson hearing about a phenomenon known as the “flash flood”, when desert ground becomes so hardened that when the waters fall, rather than being absorbed and rehydrating the earth the rain simply bounces off the ground and floods.

This happens become the ground has become so hardened that it cannot absorb the water any-more, and although the people are crying out for rain, their soil is not ready or able to cope with it.

The water actually doesn’t fix the problem, if anything it makes it worse.

Yet what does bring that change is that gentle soaking, that gradual rehydrating, that gradually gets absorbed almost one drop at a time.

The rocky ground becomes soft and fertile again not in some miraculous transition but gradually drop by drop the earth begins to soften, most of this will be perceptibly slow and almost unnoticeable, but when this happens the ground is transformed and life can grow and flourish within this soil.

I blogged a while back about the verse from Job about “the scent of water”, that just the tiniest amount of water, can cause spaws of life energised from seemingly dead tree trunks.

Water is powerful, it brings life and restoration, rejuvenates and transforms, even a little can make a powerful difference.

Water is clever, it finds a way where there is no way, it can break through the toughest of substances not by noisy battering but persistent pressure, and finding that place that will allow it access.

The flash flood show the power of water coming together, but its power is often patient and cumulative, water works often unseen in often in the area of seeming insignificance or triviality

As I thought about water, I thought about evangelism for the thirsty people, some may want to drive into the water, put their head into in and gulp, gulp and gulp… where-as others may have lips so dry and throats so parched that all they can manage at first are tiny rehydrating sips.

It doesn’t matter how they in-take the fluid but that they drink.

we traditionally think about evangelism as the downpour, but it is often the faithful constistant work of the Kingdom, the gradual rehydration and continued hydration that actually births new, healthy and sustained life.

As sometimes we are called to be faithfully a rehydrating presence where the Kingdom is slowly seeping into our communities drip by drip, scent by scent, often unnoticeable, often too seeming ineffective, tempting to leap in and “throw a bucket of water over it all” rather than trust the patient work of faithful Holy Spirit, whose word does not return to him void but accomplishes that which it was purposed for.

Yet the bucket of water approach does little to help rehydration, it seems as though mainly its purpose was to make us feel better.

The slow faithful work of the drips restoring life, may not appear as dramatic, but actually it is more likely to produce a lasting flourish life. A downpour works for the immediate, but what happens next, do we just wait for the next down pour, and how thirsty will we be by then.

we often forget that there is an Emmaus Road (a gradual realisation of who Christ was) as well as a Damascus Road (and instant blinding light conversion) a not every person will come to Christ through the big, the noisy and the dramatic, but often gradually come to faith slowly as part of a lengthy journey.

As someone impatient, I am likely to be the one wanting to throw the bucket of water, and need to learn to be, to trust and to “let our light shine before people that they may see our good work and glorify our father who is in heaven”.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean,but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop” said Mother Teresa. The truth is our bit matters, our drip in the economy of God makes up the whole picture of Gods redemptive and transforming desire for his world.

Writing this blog I came across a quote from Dorothy Day, one of my spiritual heroes, she said: “What is the sense of our small effort?” They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time’ -too often we are impatient for signs of fruit, and yet God is building not for show but to last and endure.

The problem is that too often we aren’t people who are being and bringing that water of life, and our Churches sadly at times become something of a barren desert, in dire need of water. we are the hope of the world had yet we fail to fill ourselves with this “living water” Jesus said “whoever drinks the water that I give them will never thirst again, indeed it will becoming a spring rising up within him to eternal life”.

Have we allowed Christ to quench our thirst? To rehydrate our land? Too often we lack that life giving water, we dry out, and need to be filled again and again. Scripture talks about “go on be being filled” the language is of a tickly cough that can’t be resolved, you just need to keep drinking.

As I though of this image of Church, needing to be filled with water to share its water with a dry and arid world, I thought about a sponge, to often sponges are slightly wet, enough to wipe a table clean, but not enough really to do anything with, a sponge can be slightly dipped in water to make it a bit more useful, but in order to be full of water, it needs to soak in the water, for the water to permeate every pour and absorb every ounce of dryness, this absorption takes time but is the only way for the spounge to loose its dryness and its rigidity.

Another image I thought of water the perpetual overflow, like the baptistery at Salisbury Cathedral, water is alive, if it is not allowed to move and flow it becomes undrinkable, stagnant ad horrible, but whist it keeps on moving it remains fresh and life giving. I thought this is a picture of the Church, we need to be in the place of habitual overflow, staying alive and preventing stagnation, to allow the water to pour constantly and habitually into our communities to keep them hydrated and so that life can be birthed and flourish. To be effective in bringing that water of life, we first need to be filled, not just functionally filled, but so that every fibre of the sponge is filled with water.

Learning to be that constant Kingdom presence not just the occasional downpour, good news all the time, refreshing and water-filled all the time, as the water allows life to develop,grow and flourish.