God's Word for today

Thursday, 24 December 2009

"Guess what we get to do today?"

In one of my favourite movies, "The Rookie", starring Dennis Quaid as a science teacher in his late 30s who gets a second shot at playing professional baseball, there is a memorable scene whereby amidst all the hardship, minimal recognition, and low wages while he "pays his dues" in the minor leagues, he is reminded of the greatness of the game and why he loves it so much - so much so that he says to one of his fellow players: "Guess what we get to do today? We get to play baseball!"

As ministers (especially Phase Ones) we often feel the same way, facing similar struggles to those of Quaid's character. But let us be reminded - especially at Christmas - what it's all about: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour!

So to all those ministers out there in churches across the world: "Guess what we get to do today? We get to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ!"

Halleluyah! Praise be to God!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas? Bah ... humbug!

I don't know whether it's just a sign of me getting older, or the result of an extremely taxing year, but I'm sitting at my computer three days away from Christmas and I'm really NOT feeling "Christmassy" at all.

Part of the problem is that I'm still feeling fairly shattered after the rigours of Phase One. And I must say, while it was a great learning and growing experience for me, and I encountered some amazing people along the way, I'm glad that the system as it currently stands has been done away with. While the concept of hands-on experience is a good one, mixing it with cross-cultural ministry has been somewhat daunting - especially when you actually know nothing at all about ministry! Add to that being sent 1000 km away from home, without your family, and its as though your entire support system has been whipped out from under you.

Then there's the question of "re-entry". Like it or not, I'm not the same person I was a year ago, and the same goes for the rest of my family - which is making reintegration quite challenging. When you live on your own, you are master of all you survey. Now I have to get used to sharing my attention, my time, and my living space with others again, and it's not easy. Even sharing a bed with my wife has been difficult, although this was only for four days until the truck uplifted our queen-size bed, together with a whole lot of other furniture, to take to the seminary in Pietermaritzburg where I will be spending the next two years of my ministry journey.

So right now I'm feeling a bit disjointed - especially since I no longer have a set of keys to my own house (I was away for a year, will be here for four weeks, and then off again for two years, so it doesn't make sense to cut me a set - but still!), my car and scooter are at SMMS (which means I have to borrow Belinda's - not a problem, except when she needs to go out), our bedroom is empty except for a blow-up mattress, and I'm a "visitor" at every church I go to.

My main concern, though, for not feeling as though I'm in the Christmas spirit right now, is that I have been afforded the privilege of preaching at the Christmas Day service - my first ever - at St Andrews this year. My "ex ex" Superintendent thankfully still feels that he can relax while on leave in Klerksdorp some 200km away while entrusting his congregation to my grubby little paws. Yet, given the way I'm feeling right now, I have absolutely no clue as to what to share with them. Do I preach a shmaltzy, sweet, "feel-good" Christmas message, or do I do something a bit more hard-hitting and challenging? There is likely to be a number of visitors, and usually church is quite full with children on Christmas Day as well, so one needs to be sensitive without being sickly.

Whatever I do, I KNOW that I need to share the love of Jesus with them - for their sakes, as well as for mine!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

What does it mean to be "home"?

It's hard to believe that it's already been two weeks since I arrived back at "home" to be with my family.

Now I'm really, really glad for us to be back together again. From time to time in my life, I seem to be "living" certain Scriptures - in my corporate life Mark 8:36, "what good is it to gain the whole world yet lose your soul" became a distinct reality for me, and surely during 2009, Genesis 2:18 - "it is not good for man to be alone" really rang true!

But in case you're wondering why I put "home" in inverted commas, it's because I'm beginning to change my understanding of "home" from being a particular place or a plot of land with my name on the title deeds, to being more of a state of mind. And in my case, given that I have entered an itinerant ministry where one is moved from place to place every few years (or after one year as I go from Uitenhage to the seminary in Pietermaritzburg), "home" becomes whichever place my family is. So next year, "home" will be somewhat divided as part of my family (Belinda and James) joins me in Pietermaritzburg, while another part (my mother) remains in Johannesburg.

But it's an interesting concept, this one of "home". A couple of months ago I had a discussion on this subject with Rev Dr Gqubule, who asked the seemingly innocuous question, "where do you call 'home'?" And I had to think about that quite carefully. Is it England, the land of my birth? Not really - we came to South Africa about a month before I turned five, and seeing as I am now 40, the overwhelming majority of my life has been spent living in South Africa, and so, having married a South African girl and having a son who was born here, I see myself as South African. Is "home" Johannesburg then? At the time Dr Gqubuke asked me the question, I has to answer "yes", not because of ancestry or ownership of bricks and mortar, but because my family was all there at the time.

And spiritually, where is "home"? When I was in the Welsh Male Voice Choir we sang a Negro spiritual song called "Going Home", which spoke of when we leave this earth and return to the arms of our Maker. Consequently, it was a popular song to sing at funerals. In the Scouts, we used a tracking sign comprising a circle with a dot in the middle, which meant "gone home" or "returned to base camp" but was mostly associated with Scouts who had died, or "gone home". And as Christians, we speak of departed saints as having "gone home to be with the Lord".

So where is "home"? Is it a place, a presence, or a state of mind? And if we truly acknowledge that we are "in this world, and not of it", with our stay here being a mere 70-90 years on average, perhaps we need to expand our consciousness of "home" beyond our earthly four walls.

I don't have the answer at this stage, but as with many things, the journey is often more important than the destination...