Messy business- the kingdom of God, the church and our lives…

This weekend we had a great time clearing and cleaning inside and out at one of our locations- the older church in a village just outside of town.  Alongside members of the congregation around 30 local residents who might at best describe themselves as ‘occasional visitors’ or ‘not religious types’ turned up and grafted really hard throughout the day. With various people coming and going over the day, there were probably around 60 of us involved. It was a great time, and we made huge progress.  We shared lunch together and got to know one another better, and agreed that we’ll do this again at the end of the year…

Now, question to ponder… was this part of a deep outreach strategy? Or was it a way to harness the generous spirit of our neighbourhood? Or was it something else that was just good in itself?

The next morning I was speaking on the ‘continued growth of the Kingdom’- looking at how people respond to Jesus in Mark’s gospel. Its messy, and not exactly purposeful, and its not under control.

Here’s what I planned to say- if you want to compare it to what was actually said, then you can listen to the audio on our website here

We’re continuing in our series on the Kingdom of God, looking once again at its growth. At the start of today’s reading, the apostles gathered round Jesus- they’d been sent out with instructions to go and preach the Gospel of repentance- which is, by the way, exactly the same as the Gospel of salvation… it’s the same thing, the only difference is where you start- if you preach salvation to someone who feels safe they may find it difficult to hear and understand that they need to be saved. Equally if you proclaim to someone who is in the depths of despair that they are lost its not anything new or helpful to them- one needs to be warned of the dangers that they do not see, the other needs to be encouraged that there is hope beyond all that they know…but both are the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus, that through him there is forgiveness and life eternal- through him we can come to God as father…

They gathered round and told Jesus what they’d been doing- this passage here gives one of the really important reasons for why Christians gather together- when we come together on a Sunday morning, when Christian leaders gather at Churches Together or synods, one really important thing that we do is share our stories- not to show off or to moan, but to encourage each other and be encouraged by each other… I wonder whether all of the disciples, or apostles as they’re called here (apostle- sent… Jesus has sent them out so they’re no longer disciples- followers), had pure 100% encouragement when they were out teaching people about Jesus and praying for healing… I doubt it, in fact I’m sure they didn’t… and so each one needed to be encouraged by the others… and then Jesus says ‘come, and get some rest’. This is the second really important thing we do when we gather together- we’ve encouraged each other and been encouraged, and then we are restored by God- we are refuelled ready for what lies ahead of us…

What lay ahead of them- we talked last week about opposition and authority, and here we see that same cycle- there are people suffering, there is spiritual darkness, and Jesus has authority over both…

And people hear that he is coming- they run across the region… their friends and neighbours tell them. And why? Because they are intrigued, because there’s no TV and the football season hasn’t started, but also because nothing like this has ever been seen.

When we talk about God, about our faith, about our church, its important that we know what we’re talking about… it shows through in our words but also in how we talk (which is actually much more important)-

God saves us, and has given us life with him. Our faith gives us purpose in life, and helps us to manage all the things the world throws at us. Our church is a place where we are accepted and challenged- encouraged and welcomed…

Our church has a sense that we have a part to play in what God is doing- in the lives of individuals, in the life of this community and as part of God’s church in this part of the world…

But here’s the twist- we don’t know exactly how its all going to pan out in the meantime… we  don’t know and we can’t control who of our friends will respond to an invitation to come to church, or who might have questions they’d love to ask… just as Jesus couldn’t control people’s response to his teaching and the gospel that his followers proclaimed…

Go, preach, offer healing where you are welcomed, and look for where there is response… it’s a strategy that seems lacking in structure but it is infinitely flexible, its organic and can respond to any situation.

And so we try anything and everything, we’re never disheartened by people’s response because the only failure is a failure to try…  the invitations… if no one you know would like to come to this service, then how or what might be more appropriate? Because its not about the specifics of one thing, its about the overall- are we joining in the growth of the kingdom of God, in all its messiness.

And no mention of any sporting events at all! So there you go.



3 thoughts on “Messy business- the kingdom of God, the church and our lives…

  1. I am enjoying listening to your sermons very much. I am finding it interesting comparing your talk with the one I listen to at my church. Same subject and message but a different way of doing it. We had a squeaky child at the back too!

      1. How lovely! I hope you didn’t think I was being rude! I’m always pleased to hear children in church. I was always encouraged to keep mine in the church when they got fractious which was very noble of our vicar and the rest of the congregation at the time.

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