I read a wonderful piece recently written by Margaret Silf. In her book Landmarks an Ignatian Journey she describes an experience she had whilst attending a friend’s induction as minister of a church. She writes;
The congregation streamed out of the church and into the hall. The place became alive with conversation, and, as so often happens at these gatherings, within ten minutes the laden tables were almost bare…..…Except for one large bowl of rice salad, which remained untouched in the middle of a long empty table.
Margaret then goes on to say how she could not understand why the rice salad had not been consumed with the same gusto as the rest of the food. It looked good, somebody had obviously put time and effort into it. She tried to imagine the feelings of the person who had provided it. She decided that she would consume some of the delicious looking rice salad. However, as she approached the salad she discovered that the reason why it had remained untouched was because there was no spoon to serve it with.
Margaret Silf used the bowl of salad to ask some serious questions of the Church and, I believe, that her questions are very valid for us to consider too. The Christian faith is, to use Margaret Silf’s analogy, like a bowl of delicious salad! But, as she rightly asks, where is the spoon?
Today, as I wrote this piece, is marked as the Feast of The Ascension and I read part of Marks Gospel this morning as part of my devotions;
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
(Mark 16 vs. 15)
Over quite a number of years, the fellowship at Pier Avenue have undertaken building work. In the physical sense, we undertook the building of the Welcome Centre, Atrium and improving other facilities. This has been done to enable us to actively engage with an ever changing community.
We have engaged. Our building is constantly in use by Church and outside groups. We have welcomed the homeless. We have welcomed the confused, hurting, lonely and isolated from our community. We have sought to build bridges to “outside users” of our halls and we have learnt some interesting things along the way.
To only consider the physical aspect (no matter how beautiful that is) of our mission and to neglect the inner aspect of our mission is to miss the most crucial part of all. Too often, we do a great job at the “outer” display of mission at the expense of the “inner” part of mission.
I believe that people are hungry for a deeper reality in life. People are hungry for, as Jesus puts it, “life in all its fullness” (John 10vs. 10). Therefore, we must continually ask ourselves the question, what are we engaging people with where, if you like, is the spoon?
For me, I believe we continually need to be seeking God’s guidance on our Spiritual lives. As individuals, and as a Church, I feel that we need to, regularly and honestly review the journey we are on and seek God’s leading for the future and we need to be brave enough to ask the honest question of ourselves, where is the spoon? Can others easily see and access all the good things of God through my life?
As I read on in the Gospel, I read something I had never spotted before;
Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
(Mark 16 vs. 20)
It was that phrase, and the Lord worked with them that caught my eye. They were not on their own Jesus, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit worked through them, enabling them to engage.
As I was reflecting on these words, my mind went to a well-known passage in John’s Gospel where Jesus refers to Himself as the true vine (you can read it in John 15 vs. 1 – 17). In that passage Jesus tells us that we must remain in Him, connected, receiving His life flowing through us and, as we do that, then we will truly offer the world something that is worth having.