Today is ‘Stir Up’ Sunday – the day that people are supposed to stir up their Christmas pudding ingredients and let them settle before cooking the pudding for Christmas.
In the wider Christian church it is ‘Christ the King Sunday’, and the last one before the Christian ‘new year’ on the First Sunday of Advent. The church at large (with the exception of some churches I know, lol) focus on the ultimate reality that Christ is seated on the throne, victorious, interceding, having done all that was required of him. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the essence.
Today, the idea of being stirred up and being at the behest of Christ the King have rumbled around in my heart and mind. I’ve been carrying an ache, or ‘a burden’, to use older language, but which maybe describes it better. A spiritual longing. And how can I articulate this longing by any other way that talking about how it is challenging me?
A few weeks ago, visiting my spiritual director, I was challenged with the question as to how I am tending to the presence of Christ in my life. Am I noticing him? Am I paying attention to him? Am I responding to Him readily? My honest answer was that, in part, I’m generally spiritually lazy, truth be known. Yes, I pray. Yes, I engage in a regular way with scripture. Yes, I worship. Yes, I witness and engage in mission. Yes, I sense him especially close at times, but mostly I can be unattentive. It’s all got so casual. It is tempting to start looking at others in order to point out the malady that plagues me in the ways that are more obvious in others, but any follower of Jesus is invited to look at the log in his own eye before attending to the speck in his brother.
And so, I find myself pleading that God ‘would rend the heavens and come down’ – into me: casting aside any casualness; over-familiarity; carelessness in prayer; and in mindless wandering in communion with Him. I’m reminded of the words by Andrew Murray, who said to a group of preachers/pastors ‘Your people’s greatest need is your own personal holiness.’ The only way for this longing to be shared and fulfilled in the church is if it is fulfilled and addressed in our own lives as spiritual leaders.
Now, on one hand, this is serious business. We’re talking about our access to the throne of Grace. We daren’t stumble in foolishly unaware. On the other hand, I’m not talking about legalistic piety, or ‘holier than thou’ that translates in to ‘we don’t spit, we don’t chew, nor do we go with girls who do’ – you know what I mean, right? I’m from a holiness movement background…and there, so often, ‘holiness’ is just behaving good. But, that is holiness misunderstood or at least incomplete. Holiness is the work of the Spirit in us that, yes, will probably produce changed behaviour, but which is ultimately a change of heart. It’s renewal, blessing, perfect love, Christlikeness…and it certainly isn’t dour or miserable. It’s joy and peace from knowing Christ and his reign in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy: ‘fan into flame the gift of God that is within you’, referring, of course, to Timothy’s anointing for the task of ministry, but which I think is applicable in many aspects of our lives pertaining to magnifying the gifts and presence of the Spirit in us, and of our lives magnifying Christ.
I pray with this ache for me: my spiritual poverty. I pray for the wider church, for the congregation I serve, and for you reading. God, would you stir us up? Lord, would you alert us to the presence of Your Majesty and Glory? Lord, would you leader us deeper into you, by whatever means, that we might more worthily magnify your holy name? God…would you stir us up again?