Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tesco & the Coming of Christ!

If you're alive you know that Christmas is coming.  Why?  For starters have you seen the lights?  Wicklow is beautiful.  I'll post some pictures later!  They're beautiful!  Then we have the stores.  They see this season as their salvation.  They're hoping for a great frenzy of buying.  They're pumping the sounds of Christmas over the speakers in their stores.  Recently I find myself wondering around Tesco singing along with the carols. 

At one point I was singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem".  I love that carol.  There I was looking for some crackers while singing these words from that great carol:

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

I smiled.  Like I said how can you miss it?  Yet the reality is in the midst of the lights and the tinsel it's easy to miss the essence, the essential core of the season, isn't it?  If you go back to Matthew 2 you'll read the story of the wise men.  If you read the first 18 verses you'll be confronted with how King Herod missed Christmas.  

That brings me back to the words of that wonderful carol.  Why come silently? Why wouldn't you want EVERY ear to hear him coming? Why no fanfare?  Maybe you're thinking... there was fanfare, remember the angels?  True, but their announcement was not very strategic, was it?  If you want to make noise, do it where it can be heard.  I was in Dublin the other day.  There was a protest over the new budget and the austerity measures being enacted here in Ireland.  They met in front of the General Post Office on O'Connell Street, not in some obscure village square.  They came to the center of this nation.  They came to a place from where their protest might be heard.

So again, why did Jesus come to Bethlehem, a small village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the center of it all?  Why a small stable, or cave?  Remember we're talking about the advent of Christ, the coming of God into our world.  We're talking about the saviour of humankind.  

I'd at least have had posters, and an ad campaign on the TV, letting people know.  Yet there was nothing.  To be sure the shepherds shared what they had seen, but let's face it they probably didn't make the evening news.

That brings me back to Tesco.  There on aisle 8 I found myself confronted with the coming of Christ, amidst biscuits and crackers... and I suddenly realized that's how Jesus comes.  He comes not as a slogan, or a headline, he comes right down into my every day life.  He enters into the real world and waits to be invited into my real life, not the headlines.

I wonder... Are you waiting for something special?  Are you waiting for the WOW of Christmas?  Perhaps we might discover, in the midst of the busyness of life, the coming of Christ in the last place on earth you expected him to come.... Maybe like me it will be amidst the biscuits and crackers on aisle 8 in Tesco or just maybe it will be in a conversation over coffee. Who knows!

Remember... how silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given... Let's not miss Him!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanks...

Storm over pier in Wicklow Town
I was down by the harbour here in Wicklow yesterday.  The wind was wet with a light rain. It was whipping about while the waves were relentlessly attacking the rocky shore.  I was alone on the pier, no surprise really.   No reasonable person would have been out there.  I was there to listen, to pray. (to be honest I was feeling a little sorry for myself) I'm slowly learning to do what I can do here in Ireland, and to leave the rest to God - easier said than done!  

Anyway, as I walked up from the pier I turned my sights towards the ruins of Black Castle.  Fighting the wind, I happened on a marker which shared that this was the spot where St. Patrick had attempted to land, only to have stones thrown in his direction.  As you may have already heard, the legend is one of those stones hit a monk in the mouth, knocking out his front teeth.  This marker shared that this same monk later returned to plant the church in this community.  He gained the nickname "Mhantain" which means toothless.  It's now the Irish name of this community, Cill Mhantáin - Church of the toothless one!  An amazing story of grace!

Yet as I stood there alone in the wind and the rain God spoke into my life.  We have a tendency to talk about how St. Patrick brought the gospel to Ireland, like he did it by himself. Yet the truth is he was NOT alone.  There was at least one guy that came with him, albeit he had a toothless smile.  And I'm guessing there were many others.  In turn I began thinking about Paul.  He too was not alone.  There was Luke, Silas, Barnabas, Timothy, the church at Antioch, and many, many others. 

As I reflected on all this I realize we are not alone.  In fact I arrived home to find a card from one of our churches in Oregon reminding me that Jesus was with us.  That led me to be reminded we are the BODY of Christ and each one of us is a part of it.  We are together in this most excellent adventure.  It's good to know we're NOT alone, don't you agree?

What an encouragement!  Thanks!  Your support, encouragement, prayers, cards and gifts lift us more than you can know.  You have no idea the difference YOU are making in our lives and ministry. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Am I being too careful?

I had a thought yesterday that I'm still trying to wrap my mind around.  It's this.

"Am I being too careful?"

Maybe you're thinking what is he talking about?  I'm thinking in terms of reaching this land.  I'm thinking of the communities of which we're a part.  I'm thinking of the strategy I'm asking God to give us.

I'm wondering, am I being too careful.  Don't get me wrong.  Any individual deserves our best.  God's call to reach this land is not something that should be dealt with flippantly, or with a lack of care, but I wonder....

I was thinking about the parables of Jesus, specifically the parable of the sower.  I remember one of my professors, Dr. Morris Weigelt reminding us that it's the parable to end despair.  I've been wondering if we might also think of it as the parable that calls to throw caution to the wind.

In the parable Jesus shares about a farmer who goes out to sow the seed.  Some seed falls on the path, some seed falls on the rocky ground, some falls among the thorns and some falls on the good soil.  If you think about it this farmer was a terrible sower.  Only one out of every four seeds fell in a place where it could grow and produce a crop.  Three out of four failed.  Some might suggest he had a success rate of only 25%, but we know from the story that the harvest of this farmer was great, incredible, unfathomable.  We read a harvest of 30, 60 and even a hundred fold.  How could that be?  I think it had to do with this individuals reckless technique of sowing.  He threw caution to the wind.  He sowed seed EVERYWHERE.  Should we not do the same? 

As we have come to Ireland we've been very conscious of the investment the church, YOU, have made in this ministry.  Failure is not an option...  My thoughts over these last few days have been... why not?  I mean if we're not willing to risk everything and fail how can we expect a great harvest.  Farmers plant their seed with no guarantee.   It's risky.  They could lose everything, and many have!  When we lived in Colorado we knew Potato farmers who would take premium potatoes, potatoes they could sell for good money and they'd place them in the ground to rot.  How crazy is that?  They were taking a risk, and there were years when they lost everything, but there were other years where the harvest was incredible.  If they'd wanted to be careful, they could have kept those potatoes in the barn, they could have sold them, but instead they risk everything in hopes of a greater return.  Should we not do the same?

Are we missing it in the church?  We do the safe thing, because we fear failure.  Instead of starting a new service or a new church we do the safe thing.  Instead of crossing the street and entering the life of another, we do the safe thing.  I'm not sure that's what God has in mind.  I think he longs to bless, but we've got to be willing to do whatever it takes.... I mean God did!  He sent his son to die for YOUR sin and MY sin and the reality is we all have the option of rejecting his offer.  Talk about risk!

In the next few weeks we'll be sharing with you what I believe God is calling us to do here in Ireland. I'm still working up the courage! I guess I'm warning you... it will be risky.  It will cost.  It will require sacrifice... and the reality is, it might NOT work... but doing nothing is NOT an option.  Doing something insignificant is NOT an option.  The call to make Christ-like Disciples in the nations is not for the weak of heart.  It's not for those who are looking for an easy assignment, it requires a recklessness that risks everything.

I'm tired of being careful and just limping along.  I believe God is calling his church to rise up.  As William P. Merrill suggests.

Rise up! O Church of God
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
to serve the king of Kings!

Are you willing?