This via Baptist e-news sweep is interesting. It sounds to me as if the father, the local church and the judge have been incredibly sensible, sensitive and pastoral in their responses. However, it did make me wonder what might have been the response had it been a Baptist(ic) church where there is no equivalent to Confirmation, and Baptism is a rite expressing a personal profession of faith. How does our understanding of Baptism inform our response? What might you have done had it been a ten year-old in your church...?
Today's PAYG, for the feast of St Lawrence the Deacon, centred on 2 Corinthians 9:6 - 15 in the rather pithy ESV:
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, theywill glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
The point is this... no room for arguing then! You only get out what you put in. Not exactly rocket science but a useful reminder. Listeners were invited to consider those areas of their lives in which they sow sparingly - give little time or little effort - and those in which they invest heavily. This is more than a prompt to increase financial giving, more than an appeal for funds, it is a challenge to look inward and be honest about our priorities and our commitment. It's not unlike the Galatians epithet 'as you sow, so shall you reap' except that where we are not thinking righteousness vs sin, but instead the 'how much' and 'how sincere' is our generosity, which ought to arise from the immeasurable generosity of God.
It made me think - to be honest about the things to which I pay lip-service, and those to which I am whole-heartedly committed - whether that be things overtly spiritual, relationships, activities, causes and so on.
The point is this... how much, how often, how good... and why? Hmmm.
Brits love an 'underdog' it's true, but hopefully we also have some genuine admiration for those who will never win medals of any colour. This from BBC website is a useful reminder of true Olympic spirit.
Don't think I'd ever really twigged the origins of the phrase 'also ran' duh!
The broad title for this weeks service is "sharing our stories" and completes our seven weeker on discipleship based on Mark. This week we centre on the return fo the twelve from their first mission and what happens when they start sharing their stories.
This week I've spent a lot of time listening to people, one of the privileges of ministry; people sharing their everyday stories. Stories rich in humour and tenacity, struggle and anxiety, to name but four of the many interwoven themes or threads of feeling and attitude.
My sermon writing is running way behind schedule this week, but that's OK because I kind of know where it's going to go. But I can't help feeling that the conversations - the sharing of stories - this week has been a living sermon, with people articulating the stories of their lives, sometimes vocalising how faith informs or is informed by that, or questioning how God is active or present, sometimes not even hinting at things spiritual or theological.
Testimony, beloved of Baptist Baptisms and Baptist/Congregational/URC ordinations/inductions, as we tell stories of how God brought us to this moment...
Testimony, beloved of tent missions and revival meetings when we hear how God rescued some incredibly miserable sinner from a life of debauchery (probably two decades ago and seemingly has done very little since)...
Testimony, the sharing time in some congregations where the same people every week tell how God has been good to them in some material blessing...
Yes, these are deliberate exaggerations in some cases but it does remind me how we make 'testimony' something other than it really is. Telling our stories, the everyday stuff, that's testimony, whether or not we recognise or name God's involvement. Sharing the fact that life plods on with nothing much to report. Admitting that life is a struggle or that we are beset by questions or emotions that trouble us. Rejoicing in the funny or wonderful or special. Testimony ought to be natural, we ought to be able to share our stories and perhaps, together, tease out the hints and glimpses of God's grace.
Can life be a sermon? I suspect, if we have ears to hear, it can.
Now I just have to write something for Sunday that isn't just a repeat of this!
Nearly two years ago I wrote a post about a squirrel with a missing tail. Yesterday as I ambled through the park having munched my lunch I saw the same squirrel on the same tree drawing oohs and ahs from a family having a picnic at is base. It made me smile to see 'my' squirrel alive and well and squirreling: resilience and adaptation are wonderful qualities...