Ever have those days when everything seems to go wrong? Church has been a bit like that recently…
At school, we used to sing the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” – do you know the one? All about brave soldiers marching forwards into battle, ‘See his banners go’, ‘Like a mighty army, Moves the church of God’ – all sung to a rousing tune. The sort of song you have to stand up to sing. Well, the church I attend isn’t like that. My bit isn’t anyway. Sometimes it’s more like Dad’s Army if I’m honest.
Take this week as an example. On Friday, we had the health inspector at Lunch Club. Now, in case you don’t realise, health inspections are very high stress. If you serve food to the public, you have to comply with certain laws, which is good. You have to attend a hygiene course, so you don’t poison anyone, which is good. You are given a ‘star rating’ so everyone can see what your hygiene standards are like, which is good. In order for all these excellent things to be effective, you have to also endure random inspections by the health officials. Which, when you are the leader of a group, is quite stressful.
So, this week I was cooking and knew an inspection was due. Arrived early and scrubbed the kitchen before I cooked. (Yes, we do ALWAYS wipe the surfaces, we do not every week scrub the tiles behind the taps, dig out every last crumb behind the bins, things like that.) I was mid cooking when the inspector arrived. A very nice woman dressed in white overalls. I explained that I was cooking, and would just strain the part-cooked potatoes which were ready for roasting, and then set her up with our files to read through, while I put the potatoes in the oven and got lunch to a position where I could leave it for a few minutes. I left the potatoes in the saucepan while I grabbed the folders for her to read, then turned back to find one of of the other helpers was mashing the potatoes – or at least, was trying to mash them, they were still hard as had only just come to the boil. I did not slap the helper (inspector was present) and rescued those potatoes that were still large enough to roast, then continued to cook lunch and answer questions and appear calm. All turned out okay, 38 people had lunch (very few commented on the potato shortage) and we retained our 5 star hygiene rating. But it did not feel professional. It didn’t feel like an army marching forwards.
Another unfortunate event was our film night. We found out that it’s possible to rent films after they have been in the cinema but before they are released on DVD. This makes for a good opportunity to have a ‘community cinema’ – a service for local people, somewhere friendly for them to spend a Friday evening, plus they come into the church building, meet some of the members, and hopefully discover that we are welcoming, church is less ‘odd’ than they might think. The first showing was this week. It had been advertised in the local press, fliers had been given out, ice creams bought for the interval, a new high definition projector bought to ensure film quality, we were all set. We just needed the film. Which was delivered later than expected. So no one watched it beforehand. Certificate 12A have changed since I was a kid (when we went to see things like The Sound of Music!) As I sat in the church building, behind a fluffy haired sweet old lady; while strobe lights from a party scene flickered across the stained glass windows and people on the big screen snorted drugs; I felt this might have been a mistake. In the interval, the pastor said how relieved he was that at least there had been no nudity. He spoke too soon….
None of which makes me feel much like a mighty army of God. But we try. We are called to be faithful, not to always succeed – which is just as well at my church! And, we do have some brilliant sermons. This week, the week of disasters, we had a sermon on the book of Job. You know the book? It’s about a man who has everything, nice family, health, possessions. Then God lets the devil take it all away, to see if Job will still worship God, if he will stay faithful. I have never seen the point of this book before. I have no idea if it’s based on actual events, or is a story to make a point – but previously I never got what the point was, it just seemed cruel. But this week, it was explained.
The book shows that God is worth following. Just because he is God. Not so we have an easy life. Not because it will guarantee health, or wealth, or safety for our family. Stop and think for a minute.
Sometimes Christians ‘sell’ God. We talk about becoming a Christian so you can know peace, joy, forgiveness, so you have someone in your life who cares. The book of Job illustrates that these are NOT the reasons we should follow God. We should worship God because he is worth it. Just because He is God. That is a huge thought. Huge.
Thank you for reading.
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