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Wisdom from the ‘occasional.’ 19 March 2005

Posted by Dr Moose in Uncategorized.
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I had an interesting chat yesterday afternoon. One of my ‘occasionals’ turned up on the doorstep and suggested we go out for a pint. So despite several pressing jobs, I did. After all, I’m pretty sure that what I’m meant to be doing is relational – and sharing a quiet pint is a very good way of building relationships, especially on a unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon.

Conversation wandered around, as they do, and got to matters of faith and church. After a while my friend said (words to the effect of) “I think you’d have more success if when people talked with you they were talking to the man, not the vicar.” He then suggested that whenever I was in conversation matters of faith and church came up. Or more precisely, that I brought them up. “People might be more willing to come to you if they thought you would listen to them.”

Yesterday afternoon I wasn’t convinced that I could do anything about it. That it was just my way. I don’t preach at people unless they come to “church” or talk faith unless people express an interest. And I didn’t think that I was too bad at listening.

Now, after a few hours thinking, I’m not so sure.

My boss, Jesus, spoke a lot about faith, but he also showed it in terms of practical action. The welcoming of the stranger, the inclusion of the outcast, the healing of the sick. As Matthew 10:16 puts it he told his followers that he was ” sending [them] out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”.

The ‘mission’ is given to us, as individuals without personal power. It is to be lived more than preached.

There is a saying attributed to St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel to all mankind. Use words if you have to.”

If the stories of faith growth in the Acts of the Apostles are to be believed then the nature and type of life the early church displayed were as powerful as (or maybe much more than) any charismatic and supernatural phenomena.

So, where does this leave me? If my friend is right, and I’m thinking more and more that he is, I have to learn to let God’s Spirit work in conversation and my life. To learn to trust and discern the openings better, and see a longer view.

It’s not the cop-out of saying that actions speak louder than words and then never acting any different to everyone else. One thing that was affirmed yesterday afternoon seemed to be that I was, much to my surprise, doing OK at the distinctiveness bit – rather encouraging.

If people ask, and give me a legitimate point of entry (like a baptism request), that’s one thing.

Jumping in with my size 11s whenever I see a size 1 opening is another !

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