Flying with the Swans.
On Saturday travelled with the family to Swansea to watch my football team Q.P.R. (stop snickering) play against the Swans. After just a couple of hours sleep I was up and getting ready to catch the train for our two hour journey to Wales second city, but don’t let anyone living in Swansea hear you say that! It was a fantastic family day out, with only one of my boys missing from the adventure. On this journey outside the walls the family becomes such a place of true focus and relationship, something that I appreciate so much more now than I ever did. Where as there was once a time when my weekends were spent running after God in conferences and then doing the church thing on a Sunday, now I prefer to dwell in God with my family and friends and work colleagues. These are real relationships that are worth the investment of time and energy. For me the only disappointment of the day was the result, my team lost 4-1, and as the song said ‘Swans will tear you apart again’. This leaves my team bottom of the Premier League and looking increasingly like getting relegated. The family time was amazing, so thankful to God for my family. Too many years spent investing in others who were not really interested in being invested in, and neglecting the little flock that God had already invested me with. It pains me when I think of how many P.K’s have issues with their parents giving all to church life, it will never be like that again for me. They are my inheritance and my investment. When we gather together, God is there in the middle of it all, even the mess and the arguments and the failures and disappointments. They are loved. The other thing that touched my heart at the Liberty Stadium and beyond was the sense of fellowship and community amongst the fans. The spontaneous singing of their chorus’s, most of which I will not repeat on here, where everyone joined in with the worship. A sense of togetherness in victory or defeat. My boys who are not really Swansea fans but true young Welshmen (yes they deny their English blood lol) soon were swept into the atmosphere and sang along, when they could. These people who worked all week now had something in common, they could stand with the stranger and support their team. Throwing aside all inhibitions and letting it all go. Where else are men seen to let down their guard like this? In church? You must be joking. Most men had to be dragged to a Sunday service by their wives and then most of them looked like they had just drank sour cream! Give them a sports team to support and they go crazy. As David said, ‘we can be even more undignified than this’. Office workers would sit next to factory workers next to the unemployed and students, all differences disappear for the sake of the cause. Lessons indeed for the body of Christ. The train journey too spoke to me about this as we joined the revellers who had gone to watch Wales play rugby, not live but in a pub or bar. Many under the influence of drink but joined together by their love for Wales rugby team. Men talking about the game and Les Miserables, women talking about trips and games and journey and family, all together for the cause of the Nation. I could see God there in their inebriation. Enjoying the fellowship, the togetherness. I thought about my friend Mark Pixley who said people should give up pulpits and buy bars and clubs and pubs. I could see what he meant. The problem is we would get the club or bar and put on Christian music or have Bible moments instead of just letting community be real and develop in it’s own way. Not saying we should not have music but please not someone singing about Jesus every five minutes! Saturday was a great day.
This was the week that also saw the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. A position and form of religion that means very little to me but have always had a love for the people and certainly never held the at one time Pentecostal point of view that the Pope was the antichrist and Catholics were all going to hell unless they repented. How narrow minded and judgemental we can be at other forms of Christianity while we create our own popes and call them pastors or apostles and prophets. Have seen or heard very little from this man since he has been in office but one quote from him came back to mind this week and reminded me that God is revealing His heart in all places, including Rome.
“A new form of Christianity is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, leaving the mainstream Christian denominations often at a loss.” Therefore the path ahead is “small communities where friendships are lived and deepened before God. We find people who speak of these small faith experiences at their workplace and within their circle of family and friends, and in so doing bear witness to a new closeness between Church and society.”
Pope Benedict XVI.
Those words so resonate with me and I am sure many others. A new sense of liberty to walk the small paths. That sense of creating big has long been buried in my life now. Building something that will reach up to heaven has always got man into trouble. It is time to just recognise heaven where we are. In those aisles of Asda on a Friday night, with my family on a train journey, in the stadiums as men cheer on their teams, sharing a pint with a friend in the local pub. Heaven touching and resting upon the earth in and through all things.
The Unknown Country.
In closing this week I want to share something I read in the Message version. This is for all the journeymakers and storymakers. For those who see glimpses of light ahead and for those gropping around in the darkness. Those who find peace where they are and those still struggling in the new landscape. Those who have found others to share in the journey and those still alone. Those who have been crushed by the rock and those who have fallen on the Rock. Keep walking this liberty road, it may feel like a road to nowhere but the somewhere is all around you, love is all around you. You may not know if you have ever made it but you are there. Here is to that next tentative step…
The Message (MSG)
Isaiah 42:16 MSG “But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.”