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.”
In our last church we had two families that were directly involved in the Tsunami in Sri Lanka. One family came back from their holiday with a miraculous tale of how God had sovereignly intervened: A dog bit their child so they went to casualty instead of the beach thus missing the huge waves that annihilated the place an hour later. But –lest you get too excited about that- another lady lost six members of her wider family (who lived in the area). So how do you work God into the equation in circumstances like that…. Or the Minneapolis bridge disaster… or yesterday’s earthquake in Peru where at least 17 worshippers died and over 200 were trapped as two churches collapsed? Falling masonry in the Senor de Luren church in Ica was said to have killed 17 and injured dozens. In nearby Pisco rescuers were yesterday trying to free 200 people from the rubble of their church. About 70 per cent of this port town of 60,000 people, 125 miles south of Lima, was levelled. The tremors caused similar destruction in a third town, Chincha, although Lima itself escaped with only one recorded death. President Alan Garcia declared a state of emergency but thanked God that the 7.9-magnitude quake had not caused still worse damage ‘with an immense number of victims’.
So President Garcia can thank God that the earthquake wasn’t worse!? Can someone lay some theology on me here? But I warn you…. Your theological solution has to enable me to chide Garcia, rejoice with Tsunami family no.1 and sympathise with Tsunami family no.2.
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.