Showing posts with label unity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unity. Show all posts

09 February 2016

Here be giants

A few days ago I watched a Louie Giglio presentation at a friend's home. He was talking about 'giants' in people's lives, issues that they struggle with but have not been able to completely subdue. Louie Giglio used Goliath to teach that 'giants must fall', but I think there's a much deeper meaning in the David and Goliath story.

Dwarfs and giants are real, by the way. Not so often today because of hormonal treatments that can control a person's growth. The photo shows Robert Wadlow (right) and his father (left). Robert reached almost nine feet in height; he was immensely strong and was still growing until his death in 1940.

Robert Wadlow
Robert Wadlow
Personal or corporate? - At first sight it seems that Goliath, slain by David, is a great illustration of the personal battles we face as individuals. And we heard that David represents Jesus so, like the Israelite army, I am not the one who defeats my giant - Jesus is. I'm sure Giglio is right to point this out, but I am equally sure that Goliath represents a giant that threatens, not just individuals, but the entire church.

Goliath (and several other giants in the same period) did not come to defeat individual Israelite soldiers. Goliath came to defeat the entire army and, indeed, the whole nation. He shouted defiance against Yahweh (the god of Israel) and he threatened the gathered people of Israel. I suggest that there are giants defying the Most High in our day, and threatening the church. And just as David won the entire war by defeating Goliath (1 Samuel 17:9), so will Jesus have a mighty victory when he brings down the defiant, threatening giants of our day. Let's unwrap this a bit more.

The giants - Let's think about these giants. They are very big issues that the church has developed during her long history, they mislead us and are strong and powerful, difficult to identify and shake off. The people are afraid to tackle them; these giants defy the Almighty and they cause confusion and doubt. Can we identify any of these giants? I have some preliminary ideas that I will share, but there are likely to be others I haven't identified.

The leadership giant - I believe one such giant is our great misunderstanding of church leadership. I am not referring to people here, but to an idea. The giant is not a bad church leader, he is a wrong view of what it means to lead in church. Jesus clearly said that he is the only teacher and master we need, and that we are to be absolutely humble and loving (Matthew 23:8-12, John 13:1-17, John 17:21). Yet the church is full of many leaders - bishops, elders, pastors, vicars, priests, deacons, apostles, evangelists and so forth. The problem is that we have forgotten that we have one head, Christ himself, and we are not to rule over one another. To look to others to lead us is to defy the will of the Father expressed in and through the Son. There are leaders in church life, but they don't look like the leaders I'm referring to here. For more on leaders, see Jesus, Disciple, Mission, Church (JDMC), especially the sections on The APEST gifts and Other leaders.

The denominational giant - Another giant opposing the will of the Most High regarding church is the dreadfully divided state we are in. Paul criticised the Corinthians for being divided (1 Corinthians 3), and as the centuries have passed things have just gone from bad to worse. Denominations sometimes cooperate with one another, and that's great as far as it goes, but it's not the same as being one. Jesus calls us to be one 'as I and the Father are one' (John 17:20-23), Think about that for a moment. Can it be said to be true for the church today? If not, surely we're guilty of disobedience? Paul writes about one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:1-6). Some denominations even regard themselves as the one true church. If this is so, what do they think about all the others?

Wrong thinking about mission - Mostly, the church focuses on evangelism. When we think about outreach we think about sharing the gospel. But read Jesus' words in Matthew 28:18-20. Where does he mention the gospel or evangelism? He does, however, say that he has all power and authority, that we should make disciples everywhere and that he will be with us as we do it. The evangelism giant prevents us from doing what we have been clearly told. Let's try being and making disciples as Jesus commands, evangelism will happen along the way. (See the JDMC section on Becoming Disciples.)

Other giants - Are there more giants than these three? Undoubtedly, though three is probably more than enough to consider right now. The great difficulty with these giants is that we are so used to them that we no longer really see them. These giants are almost invisible, or we are so nearly blind and deaf that we neither see Goliath nor hear his daily challenge to us.

We need to ask our 'David', who is the same Jesus who said, 'Go in my name, make disciples, and I'll be with you', to demolish these giants for us.

Perhaps it's significant that David felled Goliath with a smooth river pebble. Jesus is more than a pebble, he is the very bedrock on which his church is built. And it's worth mentioning that he doesn't call us to build it. He did tell us that he would build it.

29 August 2012

Prayer meeting at Cornerstone

It was exciting to meet with others today to pray for the town where I live. We met at a local bookshop/cafe and talked and prayed over hot drinks and a light lunch.

My friend Jim invited me to a prayer meeting at Cornerstone. I was excited to discover this is another example of people obeying Jesus across organisational boundaries.

Ros had suggested meetings to pray for St Neots, and in particular for the business people in the town.

Jim had responded with some enthusiasm, Paul had offered a meeting place,  and this was the third meeting (I was unable to go along last week as I had a dental appointment). Dot also joined us, as did Paul who owns and manages Cornerstone. Jo has been involved previously but was unable to come today.

People and organisations - I'm not part of any organisation, considering myself to belong to the church in the town where I live (although I meet with one of Open Door's small groups). Jim and Paul are involved at the River, Dot meets in Bedford and Ros in Cambridge. Jo is from St Marys, Eaton Socon so there are six of us from five different backgrounds.

For me this diversity is encouraging and delightful and very much in line with what I believe Jesus is doing in Britain today. There is a growing and deepening trend to just do whatever we are shown to do. Our allegiance to One Leader (King Jesus) sometimes causes us to act in simple ways that were less likely in past generations when the denominations acted mostly independently.

Brief notes from the meeting - We had a useful and enthusiastic time of prayer. Ros reminded us of Ezekiel's vision of the deepening stream of water coming from the Temple and the trees on either side. (Ezekiel 47:1-12) Our life depends on this river, if our supply is not from the Holy Place we will be dry and ineffective. We also thought about the Kingdom and our need to live as subjects of the King. We are only in the Kingdom if we are obedient. That's what the Kingdom is, the realm where the King rules and is obeyed.

I'm looking forward to more of these Wednesday lunchtime meetings.

Does anyone have other simple, encouraging examples of working together across dividing lines in the church? We all want to see the Kingdom grow and extend. We all want to reach the lost and encourage our brothers and sisters. How is this happening in your own experience?

05 May 2012

Church is a network

< No earlier items | Index | Groups of two or three >

Church is a typical network structure with rich connections at multiple levels, just like the internet. There are many connections and many clusters but only one internet. Church is just the same, lots of connections but only one church.

Diagram of part of the internetHow many churches are there in the world? We don't know, but it must be a very large number. How many in England? I have no idea. How many in the town of St Neots in Cambridgeshire where I live? Ten or eleven?

It's a trick question. Jesus really did not intend to start more than one church.

We have divided what was intended to be one. The church is his bride, a living temple built of living stones. One bride, one temple, one head who is Christ, one church.

Certainly Paul writes of 'our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae' or, 'Greet Priscilla and Aquila [and] the church that meets at their house'. And he writes of  'the church at Ephesus' or 'at Corinth'.

Surely this suggests multiple churches? I don't think so, rather the sense is of one church in multiple places. How can this work? And how are we to get back to such a state of affairs? The answer to both those questions lies in understanding the nature and function of networks.

A well-connected network will have many local clusters internally linked, and wider links connecting across greater distances between clusters. This kind of linking pattern is very familiar, it's typical of the internet, road systems, and electronic devices. In fact it's typical of most network structures that connect multiple points at a range of distances.

Let's see how this works in church life, every member is connected to the head, to Jesus. Taking that as a given we can move on to consider connections between individuals. Jesus said that where two or three gathered he would be there amongst them.

Two or three is clearly the smallest possible size for church. One person is not church. Every believer should be part of a group of two or three, it's the fundamental level of connection, it is the most intimate level and this intimacy is extremely valuable.

We'll look at groups of two or three in more detail in a future post.

Please leave a comment.

Questions:

  • Does the network principle help us understand the nature of connections in the church? 
  • What value do you see in meeting on the micro scale (twos or threes)?
  • Do you have personal experiences with groups this size that you'd be willing to share?
  • Are there any disadvantages of such micro communities?

See also:



< No earlier items | Index | Groups of two or three >

25 April 2012

What is the greatest priority?

We consider interviews with three church personalities and ask, 'What is the most important objective for the church? What will most please the Lord?'

Fractured glassWe are being tugged in many directions in our lives as believers, we have become a polychotomy. There are voices telling us to believe the right things, say the right things, do the right things. Let's take a look at some of them and ask ourselves the question, 'What is the greatest priority?'

An article by Sam Hailes in Christian.co.uk started me thinking about this. Sam interviewed Peter Farmer from Nottingham, Tony Goddard from Peterborough, and Beresford Job from Chigwell. These three men have different ideas on the main priority - mission and multiplication (Peter), making an impact and caring (Tony), following Biblical principles (Beresford). If we cast the net wider we will find many more groups with other insights and emphases. Every denomination and group has its own ideas about what is most important.

So who is right?

To answer this question we need to turn to the Bible. But where should we look?

I suggest that the most important and fundamental guidance will come from carefully hearing what Jesus said. In particular, his prayer just before his arrest must be the best of all sources for what is essential.

Think about it for a moment. Yahshua knows that his whole life has brought him to this place of sacrifice. The burden upon him is enormous, his heart is heavy and he cries out to the Father. Surely what he asks at this moment will be the most important thing of all. What does he say?

In John 17, Yahshua prays for his disciples, and there is much here that we can benefit from. But then he prays explicitly for you and me. And this is what he asks.

My prayer is not for [my disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. ‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:20-26)

He wants us to be one, united, not split apart. The Messiah himself prays to the Father that we may be one 'just as you are in me and I am in you'. He wants us all to be 'in us' (the Father and the Son) so that the world may believe the Father has sent the Son.

More than that, Jesus has given us (you and me) the glory that the Father gave him. What?! Read that again. He's given you and me his glory! Why? So that we may be one. Then the world will know.

And he prays that we may be where he is and see his glory.

There's just no escaping this fundamental truth, that when the chips are down Jesus prays his heart out to his Father and asks that we may be one so that the world may believe.

What is the most striking thing about the church in our day? It is divided into myriad groups and denominations, all pointing to different things as being the most important. We are a broken, shattered people and the heart of Christ is broken when he sees us in this state. His heart is for us to be one just as he and the Father are one. And he wants to include us in their oneness and community.

Peter Farmer is not wrong about mutiplication and mission. Tony Goddard is not wrong about making an impact and caring for people. And Beresford Job is not wrong about following Biblical principles.

But above all, we now need to learn to be one. We need to celebrate our differences and learn from one another. There is no single right belief, right speech, or right action. His children all shine with the light of his presence. If we are to be part of the answer to his prayer we need to learn from one another and grow together in love, building one another up, encouraging one another, helping one another to focus on every good thing. We need to grow up into Christ. Paul understood this well, see what he wrote to the Ephesian church.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:1-6 and 11:16)

I am not suggesting that anyone is wrong, or that some are more right than others. I am simply observing that we remain shattered and that we are not yet perfectly formed into the one bride for whom Christ died and will return. Let us all strive to forge fresh bonds of peace. Paul called the Ephesians to keep the unity of the Spirit. Today we need to do more than that, we need to regain the unity of the Spirit.

23 February 2012

Oneness and reconciliation

< The centrality of Christ | Index | New and old in church life >

This time we focus on oneness with Christ and reconciliation with one another. In the previous post we considered oneness in the church. Reconciliation underlies and leads to this, without it the church will remain disjointed.

I and the Father are oneContinuing the series based on revelation at Coventry, this week we look at the second topic - 'Oneness with Jesus and in church life, reconciliation'.

As we saw last time, Jesus really is building his church. We need to seize this as a source of supreme hope and comfort at a time when men and women (more often men) have been inclined to take control.

Last time we considered the centrality of Christ. We also took a look at the requirement for unity in the church which his centrality demands.

This time we will look at unity again, but this time unity with Christ rather than unity with one another. Both are essential, of course.

Oneness with Christ - Along the east interior of the new cathedral at Coventry is a series of Bible texts carved on large, stone tablets. One of them is shown in the photo above; it reads, 'I and the Father are one. He that hath seen me hath seen the Father'.

These words from John's gospel (John 10:30, John 14:9) spoke powerfully to me. Our oneness with Christ depends utterly on his oneness with the Father. How so? Read the whole of John 10 and then consider these points.
  • In verse 7, Jesus makes it clear that he alone is the way in and out.
  • Verse 8, others who had made this claim were thieves and robbers.
  • To be saved we must enter through Jesus. There's no other way (verse 9).
  • Verse 11, he lays down his life for the sheep.
  • Verse 15, he and the Father know one another. (They are one, verse 30). We know him and he knows us in the same way (verses 14 and 15).
  • And then John 17:20-23 - arguably the most amazing few verses in the entire Bible. 
'I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.'

Let's be clear. Yahshua says that the glorious Father (the Most High) is in him (Yahshua, Jesus, Isa) and has given the glory to him. He further says that he (Yahshua) is in us and that he (Yahshua) has given the glory to us.

In other words the Most High is in us and we have been given the glory. It's all the same oneness, we are included in their oneness.

If that doesn't blow you away, nothing will!

Reconciliation in church life - In the ruins of the old cathedral is a statue entitled 'Reconciliation'. It represents reconciliation between nations that had been at war, a war that caused the destruction of the cathedral and many other beautiful buildings all over Europe. Millions of lives were lost.

But this sculpture also spoke to me powerfully about reconciliation in the church. Like the sculpture we are surrounded by the wreckage of a broken and fractured building. We need to be reconciled to one another.

We saw in the previous part that Yahshua wants us to be one, just as he and the Father are one. The Father, Son and Spirit are three representations of the One. They are three manifestations of the Almighty.

ReconciliationIn the same way we are to be one. We are all to be representations or manifestations of church. Each one of us is to be representative of the love of Christ, our head. Unlike the Father, Son and Spirit we can be seen as many disconnected individuals, or many sub-groups within the church. But this is not how we are meant to be. Instead we are supposed to be one body to which Christ will be attached as our one head.

That's why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 'I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.' (1 Corinthians 1:10)

And it's why in Ephesians 4:4-6 he wrote, 'There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.'

So you see why reconciliation is so important. Yahshua came to reconcile us with the Almighty, but he also came to reconcile us to one another. That is why the fruit of the Spirit is a reconciling fruit. Think about it! What are the characteristics of this fruit? They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It's the fruit of Jesus in our lives, it's the fruit of the Father. We are grafted in to the Son. Our Father, the gardener, did that work. Read John 15.

It's time to recognise our need for reconciliation to one another, and we will have to recognise it in our hearts, not merely as an intellectual exercise in our minds. It goes without saying that we should have the mind of Christ in this, but we also need his heart towards one another.

Every tiny, little step you can take towards reconciliation with a brother or sister or with a denomination or group (every little step) is a step towards oneness and the fulfilment of Jesus' mission. Every angry word, lack of patience, every unkindness is a step away from that supreme goal. I have been guilty of that so often.

It is impossible to have oneness without reconciliation. So hold nothing back in your striving for reconciliation! Ask Father to give you more and more of the reconciling fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. It's the only fruit that has the flavour and aroma of the Father's love, made manifest in Christ our Lord and King.

< The centrality of Christ | Index | New and old in church life >

UK Fellowship Friday Blog Hop - This blog hop is for Christians who live in the UK to link to a post you have recently written that might encourage other Christians. Started by Rhoda, please visit her original article.

17 February 2012

The centrality of Christ

< Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry | Index | Oneness and reconciliation >

This article returns to the results of visiting Coventry Cathedral late last year and considers some aspects of  what it means for Jesus to be central in our lives. It's all about him.

The tapestry of Christ at CoventryBack in December I posted some reflections on my visit to Coventry Cathedral. I always intended to revisit those thoughts and now I'm beginning to see how it all fits into the bigger picture.

Jesus really is building his church, just as he promised he would. I'm seeing it now much more clearly.

I'm seeing it in what is happening in my own life and I'm seeing it in what others are writing, saying and doing. This is so exciting!

Here are the topics from the previous post in this series. I'm going to expand on the first one this time.

  • The centrality of Christ, his majesty and glory.
  • Oneness with Jesus and in church life, reconciliation.
  • New and old in terms of church. They are connected. We need to remember the old but live in the new.
  • The old was brought down by intense fire.
  • The new is a different kind of structure.
  • Jesus expresses himself through the new.
  • The new touches the world and should transform it.

At Coventry - There was so much about Christ in the two cathedrals.

The enormous tapestry at the northern end of the new building is very striking. It is so large (it weighs more than a ton) that it dominates that end of the building and is clearly visible from every part of the nave.

One thought that was sparked by looking around the new cathedral was this - 'The view is very different depending whether you are looking towards me or away from me.' And that is so true of our view of Christ. He can only appear to have a central place if we are looking towards him. If we look away from him we will not see him at all!

There is also a strong theme of reconciliation in both old and new, and reconciliation is essential if we are to be one.

The centrality of Christ - It's just not possible to overstate the importance of this. If Jesus is not central in my life, who is in control? Often we fail to see what it means to have him central in our lives, or we begin to see but shudder and quickly move on to an easier topic.

What does it mean?

He said, 'Pick up your cross and follow me'. He said, 'I will build my church'. He said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life'. And he said, 'Nobody comes to the Father except through me'.

Some negatives - I must lose any ambition I have, and cease any attempt to make my life 'safe'. I have to give up what I regard as mine and see that it is all his - and always was. I have to die to self and I have to let go. I have been called to a new life and a new way of life. I have to see that if I lose my life while honouring Jesus that will be better for me than keeping my life. I have to understand that just as the world was implacably against him, so it will be against me too. I have to appreciate that with Jesus in charge my life may at times be very hard and unpleasant.

It's taken me a long, long time to discover that I am no good at managing my own life.

The positives - But if some of this sounds very negative, it's because I'm relating it from my point of view. What will we find if we view it from Christ's point of view? In John 17, just before he went out to be arrested in the olive grove, we are allowed a glimpse of Yahshua at prayer. We get to hear him setting out his deepest heart's desire before the Father.

In verses 1-19 he prays for his disciples, and there are one or two principles we should consider carefully.

  • In verse one, Jesus asks the Father to glorify him (the Son) so that he can give glory back to the Father. He cannot give what he does not have. Make a mental note of that. It's true for all of us, isn't it? We cannot give something we do not have. Remember that.
  • In verse two he makes it clear that he has authority over everyone.
  • In verse three he says that eternal life is to know the Father and the Son.

But from verse 20 to 24 he prays for you and me. He prays for everyone who believes in him because of his followers' words. In the light of the three principles listed above, we need to understand these next five verses in the deepest places of our hearts and minds. Here is where we find the positive set out for us!

  • He prays that we will all be one, just as he and the Father are one. Just as he is about to give himself into the hands of those who will kill him, his thought and prayer is for our unity. Do we attach as much value to unity as he does? We should! It is the first thing he asks for us at this terrible time. He puts it ahead of everything else - and so should we. Jesus is our unity! We are one in him, he is central. That is the only basis for our oneness. If we are not one in him, we are not one at all.
  • There is a purpose for our oneness. We are to be one so that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son.
  • And now hear his words in verse 22. These words will change your life forever if you allow them into your heart. 'I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.' Hang on a minute... The Father has given his glory to the Son. And now the Son is giving it to you? Why would he do that? 'So that they may be one as we are one.' If you stop reading at this point and just reflect on this single verse for the rest of the day, that is OK by me.

In the last two verses of this amazing chapter Jesus prays again for his followers.

What Jesus wants - Now ask yourself, what does Jesus want from us? The answer has to be unity with one another, doesn't it? And remember that first principle - we cannot give what we do not have. We cannot give Jesus what he wants from us unless we have unity with one another.

So if Jesus is to be central in our lives the implication and the requirement is that we are one people, one church.

He has given us the glory that the Father gave to him so that we may be one. Our unity is worth everything to him.

Remember the other two principles - he has authority over everyone - eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. That authority and that life are also ours if we are in Christ. Truly Christ is central.

He is majestic - His majesty arises from all of these things. That majesty cannot be separated from the glory that he receives and bestows, from the oneness we have in him, from his authority over all, or from his life that lasts forever.

'The Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.' (John 5:19)

'Apart from me', Jesus said, 'you can do nothing' (John 15:5).

< Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry | Index | Oneness and reconciliation >

21 December 2011

Hearing from the Spirit in Coventry

< Coventry Cathedral | Index | The centrality of Christ >

Sometimes the Holy Spirit pours his truth into our lives like a flowing stream. That's exactly what happened to me recently as I visited Coventry. I went because he told me to go and said that he would speak to me there. But he did even more than he promised. Isn't that just typical of his grace?

The remains of the old visible through the newAs I was preparing to visit Coventry, the Holy Spirit began surprising me with thoughts and I started to write them down. There was more revelation as I visited the old and new cathedrals; much that I saw prompted further thoughts. And finally, after I arrived home there was a third flow of spiritual truth.

The major themes I have identified are...

  • The centrality of Christ, his majesty and glory.
  • Oneness with Jesus and in church life, reconciliation.
  • New and old in terms of church. They are connected. We need to remember the old but live in the new.
  • The old was brought down by intense fire.
  • The new is a different kind of structure.
  • Jesus expresses himself through the new.
  • The new touches the world and should transform it.

What follows is taken from the notes I made on the day. The notes themselves are in italics, the rest is comment added later. I have not expanded all of the notes, there is simply too much for one article. I may revisit these notes, perhaps under the seven headings listed above.

Before the journey to Coventry

The contribution you can make to one church is to encourage people in having good, welcoming attitudes to all believers.

The idea that there is only one church has been much on my mind, and it was immensely helpful to have this guidance. It's not for me to demand or build unity. Instead, I must encourage everyone to accept others with different understandings and vision. Oneness is not about everyone being the same, it's about hearts of love touching through the differences.

Remind them that we're all brothers and sisters.

The 'wheel' emblemEven the emblem I gave you speaks of unity. There's a centre where all the spokes meet, and the periphery is held in place by every spoke. I AM the centre. My people are the spokes, each of them in contact with me. The periphery is out there in the world, far from me, their only connection to the centre is through you. Pray that they, too, will become spokes.

Read more about the 'wheel' emblem and its origin. There's a call to prayer here too; that's something I must not ignore or forget.  Father, remind me - often.

My expectation had been clear. The Lord would speak to me when I reached Coventry, but at this point I was still at home and he was already pouring out so much. I was astonished!

In the old cathedral

The old still remains, but it's empty.

The pillars have all gone.

There is no roof, no protection.

The windows are empty.

This is a place of memories, but few people are here to remember. Most of them are here to look.

The architect says that the new should grow out of the old.

In the new cathedral

A canopy connects the old and the new.

The new west front reflects the old cathedral in its expanse of glass.

The old is clearly visible throughout the new, it is not forgettable and not forgotten.

The view is very different depending whether you are looking towards me or away from me.

I am far more weighty than you might think.

The cathedral has an enormous tapestry portraying Christ, it is so large that it weighs more than a tonne. It's hard to imagine a tapestry being so heavy, and it is even harder to imagine the full majesty and glory of Christ himself. I think he wants me to focus both on his nature and on my inability to comprehend his nature.

This building speaks of life, a progression from the cradle. It's all about reconciliation and has contributions from people of all faiths.

This is an echo of what he showed me before I left home. Reconciliation is a prerequisite for unity. Jesus is our reconciliation, not only with the Father but also with one another. Oneness with the Most High and oneness with one another both depend on the reconciliation that only Jesus can bring. We cannot do without Christ, yet we need nothing more.

Back at home

The old building was brought down by the intense heat of the fire. It cracked and flaked stone, melted lead and glass, and consumed timber.

Fragments of the old stained glass remain.

The old and familiar, the very things we lean upon and think we need, these are all burned up by the intense fire of the Spirit. The old must make way for the new. Yet the old is still more than just a memory. Parts of it remain lest we forget.

Everywhere in the new are expressions of his love, glory, grace, peace, presence, and oneness.

There's a strong theme of reconciliation throughout both old and new.

Old and new are intimately connected.

These seem to be important ideas and should not be forgotten.

The old was brought down by an act of war, but the war was external - it was not a war between old and new.

The inner roof is not attached to the walls.

The technologies of old and new are quite different.

The builders of the old would have found the new literally incredible.

They would have been astonished and unable to comprehend how it could have been achieved.

There's an emphasis in some of the memorials on working selflessly together for a greater good.

There is a swastika on the bronze effigy. See how visitors have polished the swastika and the nose by touching them. Touch is so important.

Touch is transforming, turning dullness to brilliance. We need to touch Christ, we also need to touch one another.

The old cathedral is part of an old town and an old society, now gone apart from a few buildings. The new cathedral is part of a new town and a new city - the university, the shopping centre and so on.

The new fabric is already showing evidence of decay and shabbiness - especially outside.

Although there is a new move of the Spirit coming in church life, the new will go the way of the old unless there is maintenance and repair. It will be needed continuously.

< Coventry Cathedral | Index | The centrality of Christ >

22 October 2011

THOUGHT - His presence

When we think about the Almighty's presence among his people, clearly there's a difference between his presence personally and his presence corporately. Yet the two are inextricably linked.

A glorious solar haloAs far as his personal presence is concerned, we know that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, lives within us. Jesus expressly tells the disciples to expect him. He turns up at Pentecost and rests on each one - like a flame. He also dramatically energises and activates the church and they go out boldly sharing the good news. (Up to that time they had been prayerful, yet grieving, fearful and probably very confused.)

But notice that they were together in one place when the Spirit came upon them. The personal presence came in the context of corporate activity. There is something special about unity itself. The Father, Son and Spirit are one - a community - the pattern for all community. So we are intended to be one, a community as close as theirs. And even more amazing, we are supposed to enter into their community; the Son wants to bring his bride into the family home.

I cannot be the bride of Christ any more than I could marry a toenail. If we are to be the bride isn't it obvious that we must first become one? My wife, for example, is an entire person, not merely a collection of disconnected body parts. (Does this remind anyone of Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones?)

How badly do we want his presence, will we do what he says? Jesus' prayer was that we should be one as he and the Father are one and that we should be one with them. Read it for yourself in John 17:20-26. And immediately after that, Jesus goes to the olive field to be arrested and killed. We are so important to him that we're in his prayers at that terrible and particularly distracting moment.

Notice what he says about glory. He wants us to see and receive his glory (verse 22) - had you noticed that? The glory is surely the Father's presence within us individually and corporately. Just as his glory appeared as the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud and led the gathered people of Israel through the desert, so when we are in the dark he gives us light and when we are in the light he gives us direction.

As locally gathered expressions of his body, let's turn away from what we want and begin to focus on what he wants. Will we choose to be one and receive his glory? And will we choose, not for our own sakes, but for his sake?

Whenever we are one for his sake he will illuminate us and give us direction and pour out his glory. The enemy knows this and will do anything to prevent it. But resist him and he runs away because he can't stand in Jesus' presence.

Here's a suggestion to try next time you meet. Drop any plans for structure, don't prepare anything, don't have anyone 'in charge'. Just agree to be quiet in his presence and individually focus on Jesus. When he puts a thought in your mind, or a picture, or a few words, or a Bible verse - share it and then wait for someone else to receive. Don't be anxious about 'awkward' silences, just focus back on Jesus and get ready to share whatever he gives you.

See what happens. And why not report back by posting a comment below?

22 September 2011

Eaton Ford - Walking in the garden

< 20th September 2011 | Index | 23rd September 2011 >

Three of us met and Donna joined us for a while for a chat over tea and coffee. We talked a lot, shared bread and wine together, read parts of John 17, and prayed together.

DovedaleTalking about events and experiences led me to an interesting thought. Yahshua has opened the chance for us to walk in the garden again with the Father in the cool of the day. This is what Adam and Eve did in the beginning but we have since broken away and have been unable to return to that place of blessing. But now because of what Yahshua has done we are free to walk there again - and that's what our Father wants. We are once again welcome in his presence! HalleluYah!

With this thought in our minds I broke the loaf in half and shared it, then later Jim prayed and passed round the glass of wine. We do this in Yahshua's memory as he asked.

As we began to talk again, Jim mentioned the recent case of cage fighting involving children. 'How low can we go?' was his thought. This led on to a further thought, 'How would we modify our behaviour today if we knew it was going to be our very last day?'

We also talked about our tendency to judge others - we do it all the time. Jim told us a story about this. He and Pam were walking up Dovedale recently and as they were leaving he saw some people who appeared rather unfit; they were also wearing inappropriate footwear. Imagine his surprise when they later appeared at the top of Dovedale having walked it, Jim thought, almost as fast and he and Pam had done! He immediately felt guilty about his judgement of them. In the end it turned out they had arrived by car and had not walked the valley path at all!

Sean remarked that we make pretty much instantaneous judgements about others.

Then I read parts of John 17, much of verses 6 to 26. Some of the phrases that stood out for me are...

  • I have given them your word and the world has hated them. (verse 14)
  • They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (verse 16)
  • I pray ... that all of them may be one. (verses 20-21)
  • I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one ... so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (verses 22-23)
How amazing! It will be our unity that will convince the world. We still have a very, very long way to go on that!


< 20th September 2011 | Index | 23rd September 2011 >

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