Friday, 26 April 2013

Whose Church is it?

You know that God is at work in your life when you no longer feel 'in control' of things. This is certainly true of my ministry in the parish at the moment. Things are moving in a particular direction that I hadn't fully anticipated and in a way I didn't plan. I can't say I feel disconcerted or uncomfortable as it is, basically, what I sort of asked for. I say 'sort of' in the sense that I have been surrendering more and more of my life and ministry to God in and during my prayer times partly as an act of service, partly because I realise that as long as I stayed in control nothing of much significance would happen in my ministry. As long as I am in charge God cannot, and will not act. As long as I think I know what should happen or what direction I think the Church should go it no longer becomes God's church it becomes mine.

The key text that brings this fully home is Matthew 16:18 where Peter has just had a revelation from God ("flesh and blood have not revealed this to you" verse 17) and declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In his reply Jesus says:

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."

I don't think that the 'rock' in question is not the Pope - as my brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church would have it - but the 'rock' of Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one, God's only Son. With that realisation comes obedience and service not human authority and power. On top of this declaration Jesus says "and on this rock I will build my Church." The two key words here are 'I' and 'my' where Jesus takes the onus off us and our petty plans and ideas and places them firmly, where they should be, on him, his will and his purposes. Because it is his Church, his body, and not ours. He is Lord and we are his servants.

Coming to this place has been hard and there are no guarantees that I will stay there. The human heart, even filled with the Spirit of God, is still prone to sin and temptation and there will always be that draw back to doing things the easy way or the way that I think it should be done. After all that is the way things have been done for the past 25 years of ministry. But now God is saying enough is enough, give me my church back and let me build it. And looking at the mess we are in that request is certainly on message.

Having shared this with others I was touched when one of our group sent me a text that she had woken up singing a chorus she had long forgotten and felt strongly that it was meant for me. Here it is my Noel Richards:

I want to be out of my depth in your love,
Feeling Your arms so strong around me.
Out of my depth in Your love,
Out of my depth in You.

Learning to let You lead,
Putting all trust in You;
Deeper into Your arms,
Surrounded by You.
Things I have held so tight,
Made my security;
Give me the strength I need
To simply let go.

Doug Horley & Noel Richards.
Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music

It reminds me of that older, perhaps more familiar hymn, the first verse of which runs:

All to Jesus I surrender;
all to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
in his presence daily live.

So my continuing prayer will be that this surrender will be continuous and whole-hearted and that I will always, at least in the sense of guidance and direction, 'in the back seat' with Jesus in the front.

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