Thursday, 30 June 2016

The real thing

Acts 2:46-47

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

I once worked with a small rural congregation, in a village small enough for everyone to know each other fairly well. One winter, going over the accounts with office bearers, a heated discussion developed over the price of heating oil and, before I could refocus folks' attention back to church finances, receipts were being produced from pockets and all were commiserating with one another about the shocking price of fuel. I smiled benevolently.
Similarly, in a larger congregation, with a bigger number of office bearers, when we were discussing members with whom we no longer had contact because they had apparently moved out of the address we had on the roll, a lengthy story unfolded of the comings and goings of neighbours and the growing incidence of buy to let properties in the area. Anxious to move the business on to accommodate a full agenda, I was impatient and frustrated.
And yet, both of these moments were kairos moments. Both were opportunities to stop and take stock. To learn about what affected and concerned members, what affected and concerned the community we served. Be it the price of fuel or sort term tenancies.
How often do we miss such moments from which we can learn and through which we might better serve?
In a quest to be efficient and to maintain good order - or just to get out of the building at a reasonable hour, we pass up opportunities to learn and grow together. And the bigger our agenda, the more tasks we have to tick off, the more positions we have to fill, the further we move from the core of our calling - to love God and to love one another. The tensions that arise out of trying to function efficiently erode the business of being community together, a community of love, gathered around the living word of God.
Perhaps we can learn to live with being less efficient. Perhaps we can learn to accommodate gaps, discern that they are there for a reason and a season, rather than stress over them. Perhaps we can learn that all the programmes in the world cannot replace relationships. And in learning all this, perhaps we can remember that the God of love calls us to be - to be with God and with one another.
Learning anew how to be church rather than do church.

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