Sunday, April 27, 2008

gratia

I've had a good week. It just felt more productive; the interview seemed to go well, and I enjoyed my time back in the City of Dreaming Spires yesterday. Henry was speaking to a group of Christian international students who will be graduating this year on the challenges of the post-university years and encouraging them from Hebrews 10:19-25, and he asked me and another friend to come along to help out, if only in a small way. I was especially encouraged to see someone I knew who had come along once to my group when I was a Bible study leader as either a very young Christian (or perhaps not even a Christian then), now really desiring to put God first. It was nice to see familiar sights: a student sitting on the bench highlighting her notes, queues of tourists and less industrious students alike forming to go punting, walking past Teddy Hall on the cobbled streets of Queen's Lane.

We also had a thanksgiving service this evening. It wasn't advertised ahead of time, but apparently the church leadership thought it appropriate to pause for a Sunday and simply give thanks for all that God has done in the past 10 years. In a sense, we give thanks each and every Sunday in our "regular" services, but it was nice, I suppose, to just have a little more time for reflection and praise for the gospel work that goes on, seen and unseen, even as we recognise that God is working through his people all over the world and we are but one tiny bit of that work.

I know, since I was under the same impression before I started going there myself, that my church had a bit of a reputation as being one of those hardline "Reformed conservative evangelical types", but I see now that it's a really, really unfair caricature. It has its warts and all, of course, and I wouldn't want to gloss over those, but I have found an attractive and authentic expression of the Body in this particular local gathering. There's no sense of sectarianism, no weapons being handed out for the weekly witch-hunt, no intellectual gamesmanship, and certainly no holy huddle of the frozen chosen. There is of course, the struggle to love God, love one another, to open up to our struggles, to not just store away information but allow a Spirit-driven transformation. But I know that the pictures of what is sometimes labelled as "conservative evangelicalism" that are described and given a roasting in some parts of the Christian blogosphere is a different creature from the one I know. I don't doubt those exist, but it just isn't the one I've experienced.

Sorry for the little tangent there, got a little carried away in wanting to make sure that such generalizations do not hold sway! Back to this evening. I knew that we had planted a couple of churches, but had not realised that all in all, there had been 12 in the last decade! Got to be reminded of the various mission partners we have all over the world, and some of the work that we don't really hear about. Lest we start patting ourselves too much on the back, Paul preached from Mark 10:32-45 on humility and true service - it was one of those sermons where the preacher seems to know all those thoughts that are presently inflating your head and proceeds to nip them in the bud. And of course, we ultimately go back to the cross, the ransoming work of Christ, the One who is both source and example for our service.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for men,
for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.
- Psalm 107:1, 8-9

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