riversmeeting

a church in carrick-on-shannon

Archive for Irish Christianity

The kingdom of God is a party!

Check out Luke 15: Three interweaving stories.

They were stories about precious things lost.
He told of a woman who had lost a small fortune, a shepherd who had lost a sheep and a father who had a runaway son.

Something precious was lost and warranted an all-out search.
When it was found, it was cause for unbridled celebration.

Then he said, “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

It is not a stretch, nor disrespectful, to say that heaven throws a huge party when lost people come home to God.
And if we know anything about the Jewish concept of feasts and banquets, we can be sure that there is a lot of singing, dancing and joyful noise in heaven’s banquet halls.

So why should church be dull and boring?
Why should we subject people to mind-numbing boredom and sameness when heaven is cutting down the nets in victory?
Our church is not a show, not a performance, and not very polished. As a whole, we’re a pretty messed-up gathering of people. But God is good, His mercy endures forever and He is opening His arms to lost, broken people like us…and like you.

Please check us out…your visit would be cause for celebration!

Carefully fall into the river

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On Sunday last we visited the African church near us. Pastor Ayo was speaking on Luke 5, on the call of the first disciples and the command of Jesus to “launch into the deep.” The disciples, you remember, had toiled all night and caught nothing. They were disconsolately washing their nets when Jesus commandeered one of the boats as a preaching platform. After the impromptu sermon, he encouraged the weary fishermen out into the lake to fish once more and Peter (probably) sighed “We’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. Nevertheless, at your word…” They cast the nets and are astonished at the immediate and abundant catch. They signal to their partners in the other boat to come and help them with the catch.

This is where I got excited. I knew the story, of course, but I began to hear what God was saying to our church. In the face of weariness (“We have toiled“)  and discouragement (“and caught nothing“), we encounter Jesus and respond(“nevertheless, at your word…”). The harvest is plentiful…immediate… “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers.” And then they “signalled to the partners in the other boat.” My friends, we are the partners. We are partners in the gospel. IGod is calling us to partner these other Christians in the town and help  with the harvest. Launch into the deep. Or, as in the Engrish picture “Carefully fall into the river.”

church without walls and the end of the one- man- band

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Checking out the Northumbria Community, we try to live by this rule.

Summary of the Rule of the Northumbria Community –
A Way for Living

This is the Rule we embrace. This is the Rule we will keep: we say YES to AVAILABILITY; we say YES to VULNERABILITY.

We are called to be AVAILABLE to God and to others:

Firstly to be available to God in the cell of our own heart when we can be turned towards Him, and seek His face;
then to be available to others in a call to exercise hospitality, recognising that in welcoming others we honour and welcome the Christ Himself;
then to be available to others through participation in His care and concern for them, by praying and interceding for their situations in the power of the Holy Spirit;
then to be available for participation in mission of various kinds according to the calling and initiatives of the Spirit.

We are called to intentional, deliberate VULNERABILITY:

We embrace the vulnerability of being teachable expressed in:
a discipline of prayer;
in exposure to Scripture;
a willingness to be accountable to others in ordering our ways and our heart in order to effect change.

We embrace the responsibility of taking the heretical imperative:
by speaking out when necessary or asking awkward questions that will often upset the status quo;
by making relationships the priority, and not reputation.

We embrace the challenge to live as church without walls, living openly amongst unbelievers and other believers in a way that the life of God in ours can be seen, challenged or questioned. This will involve us building friendships outside our Christian ghettos or club-mentality, not with ulterior evangelistic motives, but because we genuinely care.

Why do people come to church? Heating, seating and eating…

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After working in this church plant for the last year, and in six other churches in the region, as you guys know, Val and I are moving to take over a Baptist church in London. Before we leave, by way of legacy, we thought it appropriate now to give you our THREE IMMUTABLE RULES (is that the right word?) OF CHURCH DEVELOPMENT. If you follow these simple guidelines your church will invariably succeed.

HEATING

If your building is cold and uncomfortable, then even if people come, they will probably never return….

EATING

If you only offer me stale Rich Tea out of a grotty tin I will use that circumstance to form an opinion of the value you set on fellowship.

SEATING

If I have to sit on a hard wooden pew made for a 30cm gluteus maximus then please set a forty-five minute limit on the service.

Or on the other hand….

Make it comfortable. Make it cosy. Set a high value on fellowship. Strangers become less strange over a meal. Make it so that we can relax in the presence of God and one another. Could never quite see the point of seventeenth century Bible texts, eighteenth century hymns, nineteenth century buildings…. Get the heating, seating and eating right and at least the people who gather (and me) will be ready to listen.

Ireland is full of water

(Moy river. Photo by Jan)

The one desire which grows more and more is to give … Giving and receiving are at bottom one thing, dependent upon whether one lives open or closed. Living openly one becomes a medium, a transmitter, living thus, as a river, one experiences life to the full, flows along with the current of life, and dies in order to live again as an ocean.

~ Henry Miller

Seeing things Jesus’ way

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To see things Jesus’ way, you need a special lens. We know that Jesus was misunderstood and misinterpreted in His day but have you ever thought that that was pretty inevitable? Consider this: he exposed injustice, he confronted every lie. He proclaimed a “Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees”, who revered the past, while systematically persecuting every new prophet who rose up to vindicate the spirit of the past against the institutions of the past. Read the rest of this entry »

People are more important than projects

Here’s the shining faces of the team at Karvina just before heading up to Krakow for the return flight img_6628.jpg 

Hi guys! So nice to be home in dear old Ireland. Hot showers! Hairdryers! Potato bread!  Just arrived back last night/ early morning with a rather jaded mission team from the Beskydys (Czech Republic). We have to check Lucy at Casualty tomorrow, when she wakes up…. she has a suspected fracture (to the left foot) and Vanessa will apparently have headaches for the next three months following her serious concussion. Is this what Jesus meant when he said that the enemy comes to steal, kill and to destroy? Sometimes, I must admit, it seems a little paranoid and childish to talk like that. Other times -like when you’re on a mission trip and doing your serious best to counter the enemy plans- it seems very real. I’ve been re-reading the gospel of Mark and the sheer multplicity of Jesus’ encounters with the devil and with the demon-possessed sounds more like something out of Harry Potter, than the way my (conventional) church background would have me believe.

Anyway, we had an amazing time with a bunch of forty teenagers high up the mountains, introducing them to bluegrass and introducing ourselves to the delights of Czech cooking. No electricity but plenty of buzz. And the title phrase of this post came to me as a kind of insight into the way church (I mean the body of Christ) operates…. not through schemes, plans, theologies, institutions…. not through any kind of projects at all. I was a bit sad about that, being good at projects.

But only ever through people. After all, people ARE the project, if you want to put it like that, according to the end of Matthew 28. And in the course of this adventure that we call life, people are on the frontline.

So, guys, pray for Vanessa and Lucy and also for all the young people who have come to Christ over the last few weeks. I sense that I must never focus on plans but only the Lord. Maybe like that difference between church as FAMILY and church as BUSINESS?