Friday, 25 September 2009

The spider's web - your network?

Saturday morning two weeks ago, I took the photo that is here. It was just inside my gate, attached to the gate and the hedge. The sun was shining through it and, well, we cheated a little by spraying it with water to make it more photogenic; you can see it better. What I hadn't realised till I started snapping away, was that the spider was in the middle of the web, having its breakfast. It's a very clever piece of construction, a spider's web; it looks so fine and fragile, as if it would be blown away by the softest zephyr, but its actually tough stuff; how many connections are there on this web? I haven't counted them, but it must be a big number. Every joint is a connection that goes in 4 directions and the joint at the bottom left of the web is connected, even remotely, to the joint at the top right.

There are all kinds of ways in which we could develop this idea, but here are 2 thoughts. First of all, we are all part of a network of other people; in fact there is a network of which we are at the centre. There are people that we know from a whole lot of different contexts: family members, friends, people at work, former school mates, people we know from Church, the people we live beside, people we meet at the school gate when collecting our children or grandchildren; and others. These people form the spider's web of which we are the centre and every person we know forms a connecting point; they may not know each other, but they connect through you. The mission challenge we face as Christians is to allow the gospel to flow along these connections, so that the people we know, from wherever we know them, find out something of Jesus from us. So often, Christians have kept their Christian network separate from all the other parts of the web, for fear that these others would contaminate our faith, but by being separate, we have prevented the flow of the gospel outwards along these connections to the other parts of our network of connections.

Secondly, I have been challenged of late to see Church more like this. People often say to me that my life must be an endless round of meetings and to some extent it is. The word 'meeting' has got so much baggage associated with it, as if these are events we have to attend and they are boring! In actual fact, a meeting is just that, a coming together of people, meeting in one place for a purpose. Church Wednesday has been running now for 3 weeks (see the website for details) and we now have a meeting for prayer and another for Bible Study; using the same idea, but twisting it slightly, we have had 15 or 16 people coming together in one place to pray together and slightly more coming to meet together to study the Bible together. These are opportunities for people to meet in the same place at the same time, to do the same thing and I hope that you can see how different my second description of these events is from simply describing it as a 'meeting' that I have to attend.

Every time the Church meets, we are a network of people coming together for a common purpose. Some examples:

  • A Kirk Session meeting - a group of people who come together to exercise leadership on behalf of the whole Church.

  • A service of worship - the place where the Church of all ages comes together to worship God by singing together, praying together, listening together for God's word.

  • A meeting of the Guild of Friendship (or any other group within the Church) - a coming together of a particular network of people who share a common interest and who want to spend time together.

Our task is to strengthen the networks of which we are a part, to treat other people (the connections) with respect and love, and to let the gospel of God's grace in Jesus flow along these connections to encourage the Christians and to expose our non-Christian friends to Jesus.

I have found this notion has almost transformed the way that I view my diary; I'm trying to remember that every entry there is an encounter in which God can be at work and in which His grace can touch me or someone else. Try it; see how you get on with your network.

Friday, 4 September 2009

We have a choice!

Have you been following the controversy created by STV? I know, there are probably several controversies created by STV, but the one I mean is this: Scottish Television has chosen to opt out of ITV1 schedules for lots of popular drama programmes. Are you a fan of The Bill? You now have to watch it on ITV4 at 11pm on Monday night because STV refuses to show it at its normal broadcast slot on ITV1. We are denied Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Kingdom and any number of other drama programmes in favour of ... Well, they say, in favour of new Scottish drama, but the reality is, in favour of old repeats and well-worn movies and documentaries. We are denied the choice!
The residents of Juniper Green and Baberton Mains are about to be given the choice - who will represent us on a brand new Community Council. There is a process already in motion to find names and nominations of people who would be willing to stand for election to the Community Council, so that we can take more of an interest our community affairs. I, for one, would hope that this new initiative will not founder for lack of support! You have the choice, now; don't lose it.
Over the next year we will be able to listen to our eminent parliamentarians at Holyrood discussing whether we should be given the choice in a referendum about independence. There are options: will it be a straight 'yes' or 'no' to independence; or will it be a multi-option vote and you can tick your preference; or will the question be so obscure that you're not entirely sure what you're voting for? Knowing government, the last is the most likely. You will be given a choice of some description.
We make choices every day: will I use the bus or the car today? Which will be more convenient? Will we have sausages or mince for tea? Most of the choices we make are not life-changing choices; they merely affect how our life will be today. Yet, we exercise choices time and time again.
Church is full of choices. Look at the comments made on my blog a couple of weeks ago and you will see that some people prefer one kind of option in worship and someone else says something else. It's not always possible to accommodate both options in one event. So we try to provide options, choices. The evening service provides an opportunity for worship that is different from the morning service; some like it, others don't; most have never tried it! Church Wednesday is an opportunity for people to pray together and study the Bible together - this is not about ticking a box to say 'we have this in our programme', but is about giving people a significant opportunity to grow in faith and to get to know other people better. Some will love it and enjoy it; others will not, I suspect; but it will be a shame if you write it off without trying it!
Moses once faced his people with a huge choice: would they love God and follow His ways, or would they ignore God and go their own way? This is a life-changing choice.
"Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life." (Deuteronomy 30:19,20)