It has been some time since I’ve had a clear enough spot in the week to sit down and reflect here about ministry and discipleship in this particular period of life we’re facing. Everyone is now talking about the ‘New Normal’ as it becomes very clear that life will have to change for some considerable time as we fight off this disease among us.
Churches will have to work out the practicalities of how to do that practically, but I sense there is a great danger of the practicalities of this movement forward crowding out what valuable lessons may be learned through lockdown, and that I’m afraid will be lost very quickly. That, however, is not what I want to talk about today – rather, some reflections on what has moved within my own life and what my own New Normal is looking like.
Through my daily times of prayer, reading, reflection, and silence, there are many things that have arisen to the surface which have been heightened and clarified in this context which I’ve been holding before God. I’ve been sitting with the question ‘What is it that I seek?’
- The solace of resting in God as the one thing necessary. This isn’t a new discovery, but has become a different reality in these days. Face to face with one’s mortality, and living through those ‘eternal questions’, I come to affirm that there is one over-riding call in our lives as followers of Jesus: to be in and aware of God’s presence or absence, and to live out of that. I think the Westminster Catechism puts it like this ‘To love God and enjoy him forever.’ That sounds rather lofty, and my lived experience feels a bit more rugged than that, but there’s nothing else I want amongst all the competing desires.
- A Place of Resurrection – a place where I can be myself and settle into stability, and where this can be lived out. I’m not talking necessarily about geography here, although the early Celts were always travelling in search of the place where God would establish them, via land or via sea, and where they would live out their days and await their Resurrection. The Benedictines always had a firmer commitment to stability as regards to place, over and above the Celtic peregrinati. On one level this is about feeling free to embrace all God is calling me to be, but also about settling into what/where my ‘fitting task’ is.
- A community of brothers and sisters for the journey. I’m a useless facilitator of any status quo that makes church a corporate show, over and above a dynamic community lived ‘face to face’ and ‘side by side’. The institutionalisation of the church is a great adventure of missing the point that many of us are sadly over-attached to. Even in lockdown, there is the pressure of performance, comparison with what the folks down the road are up to. What happened to companionship on the journey? I’m more clear that ‘making disciples’ is our task….it is Jesus’ job to build the church!
- A simply uncluttered life. Little of the extra is necessary, and it brings little joy, both in terms of material things or other things that fill our time and makes its demands.
- To live out the blessing. Living out of the fruit of ones life in Christ. You have to be prepared that some people aren’t going to like it – but that’s usually their problem. In the main, the most authentic ministry flows from our personal relationship with Jesus and encounter with him. I’ve learned lots of nice stuff over the years, but its always secondary. That’s not to minimise learning, but its also not ultimately where ministry comes from in my experience.
I’m not really sure what of that will chime with others, but these are the lessons I’ve learned. I have to say that, in the long term, they will guide some significant decisions, but for now I’m just living in the light of them to see how they settle.
Never waste a crisis. Sit with it, listen to it, let it teach you.