Life without all the answers

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

How do you choose the books you read?

Perhaps you go by author, you have been challenged by or appreciated previous writings. Maybe a friend or colleague has recommended a particular writer. Maybe it is the theme of the book. The writer is addressing a subject that you are interested in, or want to learn more about.  Some may be attracted by the cover design which piques an interest and leads them to want to find out more.

With the book I have been reading recently, it was neither the theme, nor the writer; it was the strapline.  A few words on the front cover grabbed my attention and spoke to the emptiness within.  The writer is David Hansen, the book ‘The Art of Pastoring’, the strapline ‘Ministry without all the answers’. 

When the first lockdown was announced, I felt utterly bereft.  All of my activity, all my doing for God ground to a halt.  I can remember sitting in my study and praying “what do I do now?”. Having had quite a long ministry in my present Church, my role had markers throughout the week; tasks that needed to be accomplished on certain days.  I was living, to use David Hansen’s phrase, a “task driven ministry”.  With no tasks, my ministry was suddenly cut adrift and I did not know where I would float too.

Through reading David Hansen’s book, I actually believe I began to re-sense what my original calling was about.  Like many, I had become so busy “doing” for Jesus, I had lost sight of what ministry can truly be.  I felt really challenged as Hansen describes ministers and ministry as being a parable of Jesus. 

If my life was a parable, what was the message it was communicating?

A parable draws a comparison between something that is known and something that is un-known.  Jesus sometimes began his parables with the words “the kingdom of Heaven is like…” Hansen says:

Here’s what the pastoral ministry is for me: Every day as I go about my tasks as a pastor, I am a follower of Jesus.  I am therefore a parable of him to those I encounter.  The parable of Jesus works the power and presence of Jesus in their lives.

(page 31)

As we begin to emerge from this time of pandemic, many ministers and churches will, no doubt, want to make up for lost time and get busy again.  In the midst of my busy-ness, I am planning to take with me a question;

If my life is a parable, what message am I communicating?

If you would like to borrow the question, you are welcome!

Where are you?

Image by Lennart Bruchhaus from Pixabay

There has been a single verse of scripture floating around in my mind for a few days now.  It comes from a story in the book of Genesis.  Adam and Eve have disobeyed God and, in their shame, they decide that if they hide they might just get away with it!  The verse that follows this says;

But the Lord God called to the man, “where are you?” (Genesis 3 vs. 9)

I am sure this is a question that many of us have asked of God. Sometimes, we ask it in our fear.  Sometimes we ask it in anger at the state of the world.  Sometimes we ask it because we cannot work out what God is up to in our situation.

“Where are you in the face of this pandemic?”

“Where are you in the face of this diagnosis?”

“Where are you as I face loneliness?”

In the Genesis verse, God turns the tables.  Humanity is not asking the question of God, instead God is asking the question of humanity!

As I pondered these words, the first thing that occurred to me was that it is a strange question for God to ask.  After all, God knew the answer.  This is not a question of location.  God is not seeking the whereabouts of humanity, like a set of lost keys.

He knew what humans had done.  He knew that they had broken the rule of not eating the fruit from that particular tree.  He knew they were hiding from Him and, as He walked in that particular part of the garden, he must have known where they were hiding.  The scene that then follows is less than edifying.  The man blames the woman.  The woman blames the serpent.  The serpent hasn’t got a leg to stand on!

So, does God ask the question in order to humiliate and shame humans into confessing their guilt?

I don’t think so. 

As I have pondered the question, I see this as the universal, continual question raised by God to all humanity for all time “where are you?”

This is not a question of accusation, but it is a question of relation.

This is a question asked by the God who loves humanity, cares for humanity and is genuinely concerned for us.

As I heard the question, I took some time to journal; to pray; to share with God and, I discovered, as I answered God already knew.  Most importantly, God really cared.

Listen very carefully, I think God may be calling out to you – “where are you?”