Friday, 30 July 2010

Hearers and Doers

The recent Haitian disaster generated many hours of media coverage, pictures of buildings flattened, streets destroyed, people scattered and many killed, maimed or made homeless. We saw and heard of the disaster and its aftermath, but like much of what we hear these days, it becomes more static in the airwaves after a short time. We emotionally engage for a while, maybe toss some money to a charity as result and then move on to the next thing. The moment has passed and our interest fades as we look for the next thing to draw our attention, like the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

This generates a culture that listens or hears but resists engaging or doing something about it, leaving to others or to those closer to the situation. We are told that attention spans for learning are falling as more and more young people look to the remote T.V. controller to help them satisfy a growing demand for different viewing, new things, something to interest or absorb even if only for a short while.

I was thinking about all of this the other day  related to food (something I enjoy) and recipes. When we get excited over a great recipe, listening to one of the many food programs on the T.V., what happens if we hear but then do nothing about it? Well just that, nothing! We and others around us will never experience the aromas, textures, flavours, colours and sheer enjoyment of that food if we never actually buy the ingredients, prepare it, cook it and serve it. We will never experience the pure joy of all of this because we heard about it but did nothing ourselves about it.

How does this fit with Christian faith? Well James tells us to be not only hearers (listeners) but doers of the word of God, we are to act on what we hear - through sermons, through teaching, through reading the word of God. Hearing or reading it is not the end only the beginning, we are to put it into action in our lives. We are not to be a sound bite people who hear but then move on to the next sound bite for further stimulation and entertainment. The best sermon in the word has no impact if those who hear do not act upon it. This is James' point :

Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

The word of God, however it is listened to, is dry and dusty and of no use if we don't put it into action in our lives. It is meant to change us but can only do that if we take it to heart, put it into practice, in effect live it out. Then it becomes living and active in and through us

The Bible is full of examples of living out what people had heard. Peter and John for example had no money to give the lame beggar outside of the temple, but they did have something to put into action - faith in Jesus Christ; Result the man was able to walk.

If faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, imagine what God's church could manage if it puts its faith in him into action. Let the word of God become living and active in you, be hearers and doers of the word of God.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Comfort Blankets

When I was fresh out of University, the first time, there was a great series on the radio ... "The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy", based on a book by Douglas Adams and since made into a T.V. series and a film. One of the major pieces of kit required by a Galaxy hopper says the guide is a towel. "A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have ...". The towel has both practical and psychological  benefits.

All of my children had what we called comfort blankets when they were children, that is something that helped them feel secure and safe in bed alone at night with mum and dad downstairs. One was a knitted clown, another a yellow baby's knitted blanket. I suspect if I looked hard enough where each lives I would find some remnant of those comforts.

We all have things that make us feel safe and secure and often any idea of changing those things or leaving them behind provokes the most rapid and vehement of responses from us. In church life it can be a particular prayer being used each service or the types of songs and instruments, it can even be where we sit or the kind of seats we use. All in a sense provide a comfort blanket, a sense of security in a very volatile world.

Another area of church life that often provokes a "run for the hills" attitude is mission - that is reaching out in our communities, making friends, meeting needs, inviting people home for a chat or even to a church event or social. In effect church with its services, meetings and internal activities can be a comfort blanket for those who attend. Leaving that comfort behind and engaging with a generally non Christian world, evokes feelings of fear, possible danger, rejection, scorn, being laughed at. Jesus took on board all of those things for us, he asks us to risk them for others. Have you ever asked yourself or more importantly non-church folk what they see, hear, take away when they come to church services?

Fortunately the Bible gives us a few hints that we are not to stay in our comfort zones, with our comfortable ways to do things. The early disciples were people of the way, they went out to others, often breaking new ground and shattering taboo's and religious comfort blankets. Acts is a good place to start if you are thinking of putting your comfort blankets down, try following one of Paul's journeys for example his visit to Philippi . If you like hearing rather than reading try, its pretty cool and you can set it up to listen to scripture being read.

Give it a go, let go of the comfort blankets, let Christ lead you and go out and be a person of the way - reaching neighbours and friends for Christ.

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