Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.
These giraffes sit on my office windowsill, you might have seen them in previous videos. We bought them on a holiday in France in 2012 and they remind me of our holiday.
They sat on our mantel-piece in Cornwall, then went into storage while we were in Birmingham. When moved here Louise my wife thought we should get rid of them, I didn’t, so we found a compromise and they ended up in my office.
Now they not only remind me of our holiday, they also remind me that as human beings, include married couples, have differences of opinion.
Lockdown as a time to learn
I want to encourage us to reflect this month on what we may learn from lockdown, because I do not believe this is a time of life on pause that doesn’t matter. I don’t believe this is a time that God wants us to waste.
Just as the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was formational for them, I believe our living in lockdown is a time that can be formational to us. Where God has and continues to speak to us, challenge us and change us.
For some of us, we may feel like lockdown is over, for others, we may still very much feel like we’re in lockdown, for others again, maybe we’re in the middle.
Wherever we stand on that spectrum, it doesn’t really matter, it just goes to prove one of the things that I’ve been increasingly conscious of over the last few months – just how diverse and different we all are.
Diversity & Difference
And that’s where this month of learning from lockdown reflections is going to begin.
In the book of 1 Corinthians we read:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12, NRSV
The body of Christ, the community of faith, is made of lots of different parts, we all look different, we think differently, respond to circumstances in life with the full colour pallet of human diversity.
I’ve seen the diversity and difference in so many ways through lockdown. Some people have seemed to thrive during lockdown, Energised by the new opportunties and environments and challenges others have really struggled, and others somewhere in between – with good days and some not so good days.
Christian faith is not about conformity – not about creating robots that think and speak the same. It’s about being a community of faith that can call itself a communtiy while celebrating the fact we’re different.
It’s about being people tuned into God’s Spirit, collectively discerning what Gods Spirit is saying to us as individuals and as a community of faith
As we’ve worshiped from our homes, I’ve found my role as minister being less of a leader of worship, and more of an enabler of worship – offering lots of different resources by post and online, seeking to resource the diverse people that make up the churches I serve. It’s been a joy to see diversity thriving, but a challenge at times to keep up!
So as I encourage us to reflect this month on what we may be learning from lockdown, I want to start from a recognition of the diversity and difference among us.
And I want to encourage you all, to think and pray and reflect for yourself… what would you say you’re learning, or have learnt during lockdown.
And try to be go a bit deeper and further than saying I’ve learnt to use zoom.As much of an achievement that may be! `
Where has God spoken to you, challenged you or encouraged you?
What is God’s Spirit saying?
Join the Conversation
Comment below with your own reflections on leanring from lockdown.
For this week’s Testimony Thursday I think about Testimony as stories of God interacting in our lives, and share a glimpse of one of the places I see God at work in the lives of individuals and community during lockdown.
A big thumbs up – thank you to Bognor Methodist for allowing to space to be used, and all of you for the way you give, and pray for the work of Foodbank – and the many other groups and organisations, local and international, seeking to support the vulnerable and most in need at this time.
For me, these acts of co-operation, giving, sharing, supporting, shows that the church cares about our community, and the lives of those who live in it.
the church cares about our community, and the lives of those who live in it.
Even though lockdown has meant many of us are unable to get out at do much, we’ve still got opportunity to see God at work around us.
So what’s your story of God at work around you?
Comment below and share – I’d love to hear from you!
This is the first of what I hope will become a semi-regular series of short tasters for books that I recommend reading.
Lots of you will know that I have a passion for testimony; stories of God in our lives, shared with others. I believe that testimony has the power to challenge minds and inspire hearts and transform lives.
‘So what’s the story…?’ is a made up of 12 short, accessible chapters, packed with insights from Barbara and Clive’s own experiences in life and ministry as well as their own research. Through the book they unpack multiple ways that story can shape us, our faith and our living as individuals and community, as well as exploring scripture as story – not in terms fiction or non-fiction, but in terms of the influential and transformative power of story within scriptures pages. Clive and Barbara also helpfully highlight places where we must be careful not to abuse the power of story, emphasising the importance of pastoral sensitivity and care.
I recommend, ‘So what’s the story…?’ because not only does it explore the power of story in it’s multiple forms, the book also strikes at the heart of what it means to practice our faith in Christ, pursuing our own discipleship, living as Christian community and sharing the story of God in us, with us and around us, with our neighbours and communities.
For me, the book helped me make more sense of how my story has been shaped by God’s story, and given me more confidence in how that testimony can bear witness to my experience of God – where ‘God’s presence has made a difference’ (p.47), and open space to challenge, inspire and transform, by God’s activity in the stories of others.
‘So What’s the Story…?’ is published by Darton Longman and Todd, written by Barbara Glasson and Clive Marsh, current President and Vice-President of the British Methodist Conference (2019).
Many in my churches will know that this year is a ‘Year of Testimony’ across the Methodist Connexion and we’ve been sharing stories of God at work among us in recent weeks.
I want to encourage us to continue to see and speak about where God is speaking and working among us now, during this time of distance and isolation, because even though we may be distant from each other, God is not distant from us.
Many in my churches will know that a sermon illustration from my garden is often not far away, and on Sunday afternoon, I took the plunge to dig the veggie patch. It was covered in weeds and very much not ready to do any planting! But I turned it, fork by fork, pulled the weeds out, moved any stones I found, and broken down the chunks of soil so that it is now ready for me to start some planting.
For me – God spoke to me through that process, about how church and ministry might look now.
For me, much that was familiar and growing has sadly gone, almost all the weekly routine I took for granted has been turned on it’s head. Yet I’ve had a really strong feeling that God has been saying there’s now potential for new ground to be tilled, new planting to be done and new growth to be seen.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
This week God has been saying to me, reminding me, that while life and ministry feels like it has been turned on it’s head, while I miss seeing people and already long to be able to communicate without using phone, email or other technology, God has not turned on his head.
God is still as present as ever, and even in the chaos and uncertainty, is able to do new things, and will do new things in me, and I pray, in us as we journey through this together.
God is with us, and will make a way through the wilderness – do you perceive it?
Where has God been in your week? Comment below and share your stories of God with us, in us and among us.