Regular visitors may be wondering what's been going on in respect of posts on this blog and I have to say I have been doing a lot of reading - mainly of other peoples blogs and sometimes it is quite fascinating. Sometimes other people beat me to a topic and I think I better not blog about it in case they think I am copying - sometimes I comment on topics on other blogs and sometimes I don't because there appears to be some friction creeping in to some of the topics. One comment on another blog says they hope that a topic doesn't develop into a clergy versus laity type thing and I agree with this it would be really sad to see that happen especially when topics being raised and discussed are important to those people who raise them.
Another thing that strikes me is that we are all human and I would hope can become quite passionate about things - I remember an evangelist once showing a poster with a picture of Bill Shankly and the Liverpool team and on it there were the words 'Bill Shankly and his twelve disciples'. The evangelist then went on to liken the crown at Anfield to the multitudes that gathered when Jesus spoke, challenging us to have the passion of the crown on the Kop at Anfield.
For those of us who preach I am reminded of something our Super said at a Local Preachers meeting when he said those of us who preach needed to be like Adolf Hitler - to a few pained expressions and sharp intakes of breath - but he had a point. I don't speak German but whenever I see old newsreel of Hitler I can see how and why the German people got excited he was a gifted orator with a charisma that even a non German speaker can recognise. How much better is the message that we have? Should we not deliver it with a passion and an excitement or have we got too bogged down in the politics of running the church etc.?
Of course I am sensible enough to realise that the preaching is not the only side to the Christian gospel and I am fortunate in that I belong to a church that tries very hard to show the love of God in its activities. For a number of years now we have had a ministry to asylum seekers and have seen numerous folk come and go as the mechanism of the home office moves them around from place to place. All of them have been welcomed and all of them are very much part of the family at our church even though many of them have moved on and some have even been returned to their own country but still keep in touch.
While all this has been going on we have retained our usual membership and our minister is a former asylum seeker who occasionally tries to get us to sing in his native tongue (he is from Rwanda)as well as trying to get us to try other new songs.
There is much to be thankful for and although there is a feel that the Methodist church is disappearing perhaps this in some degree not helped by people keep telling us this. I am reminded of a story I heard of a man who could not recognise a loving God because the priest had told him if he ate the bread at the Eucharist he would go to hell - he was in his forties before he lost this fear of God and came to realise that he had loving father - if we tell somebody something often enough or 'officially' enough they will often believe it.
One of the other things that struck me about the church I belong to was before we became members there we noticed that there was a willingness to try something different and to sing a new song. A willingness that stretches across all ages and all lengths of membership - our longest attendee has been coming to the church for 80 years but joins in and enjoys the varied worship styles that we have.
I am not saying that we should not raise issues and challenge problems but let's try to take the advice of the old song 'Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and don't mess with Mr in between'.
When I first joined a youth group at a Methodist church in the early 1980's we often used to sing those wonderful words 'Keep your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace'. Surely great advice for us as we try to serve our Saviour in the 21st Century with that message that is old and yet ever new!