“I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen”
(Martin Luther, 1521)
There could be no more fitting way to end our Mission Month than by remembering that 31st Oct is billed as the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Generally linked to the 95 theses (or statements) that Martin Luther nailed to a church door in Wittenburg. You may also be surprised to learn that Playmobile (who make model figures for children) say that their most popular figure in the history of their company is the one of Martin Luther, of which it has sold over 1 million.
It is said this one act changed the world (the theses, not the toy!), and it certainly challenged the established Church of the day.
However, truth be told, it was a whole range of people who contributed to this change, and ultimately it was the Word of God that was behind it all. The Word of God, the bible, a library of books written centuries ago by a whole host of authors, the best-selling book of all time, the book translated into more languages than any other, the book that is the freely available to us today.
If the Reformation had not taken place, the bible could have remained unknown to a waiting world. If the Reformation had not taken place, we would not be here as a congregation, for the Reformation fanned the embers for the creation of the Baptists.
If the Reformation had not taken place we would not be celebrating Mission Month, for the Church five hundred years ago had lost its way and was no longer a missionary movement of God.
If the Reformation has not taken place, we would not be followers of Jesus, standing firm on the Word of God.
So in some senses we are just another person in the Reformation that began with Jesus, and continues to this day. The Reformation may continue through you if, like Luther, you stand on the truth of God.
The apostle Paul loved to use the phrase “stand firm”, notably saying towards the end of Ephesians
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist
(Ephesians chapter 6 verse 14)
Whether we keep God’s Word, by our bed, in our hand on Sunday morning, in our bag at school or work, downloaded on our phone or tablet, or treasured in our heart and memorized in our head, let us never depart from it, for it began a reformation that continues in our heart for the glory of God.
Pastor’s Patch – December 2017
WAITING Traditionally in Church History, Advent is the season of preparing and waiting for 24 days. Christmas itself is then celebrated for 12 days. Modern society, by contrast, seems to have got very muddled in its approach – for the preparation and waiting for Christmas seems to commence in the shops selling their wares somewhere in September, and Christmas itself is pretty much over by lunchtime when people go online to buy more “stuff”.
As Christians, it is so easy to get sucked up into this way of thinking and living. If that’s the case, where did we go so wrong? It could well be that we have lost the art of waiting. Advent concentrates the waiting, Christmas prolongs the celebrating. I confess that I am easily swayed by the rush of our culture; I too have little patience for waiting.
This was highlighted when I attended a two-day prayer retreat in November organized by the Order for Baptist Ministers; the theme was “waiting”. As we reflected together that waiting is so undervalued in modern life and yet how it is so valuable in spiritual growth. Waiting is not only necessary, it is beneficial. God’s Word seems to concur with this. The psalmist encourages us to
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27 v14) - And again
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield (Psalm 33 v20) And if God’s people tell us to wait, then surely the Lord has sent that message through them, so they are His words, it is His encouragement to us.
So let us this December reset the clock. May we as a congregation consider the value, even the beauty of waiting. Even a cursory glance through scripture reveals many periods of waiting. Abraham waited 25 years for a promised son to be born to his wife Sarah. The Israelites waited for their release from slavery, and then waited for their wilderness wanderings to lead them to the promised land. Later in their history they needed to wait for seventy years in exile before they could return. And Jesus was waited and expected not just for decades, but for centuries.
Whilst on the retreat I imagined, and crudely drew this picture. On the key is written the word “waiting”. The key is being offered up to a dark-filled keyhole. I sensed that for me, waiting was actually a key for me to progress through the next stage in life. Thus, I am aiming to learn to be better at waiting, especially this Advent.
As a couple of practical prompts to remind me of this, I’m trying to walk slowly wherever I go and celebrate the journey as well as the destination. I’m also chewing my food more times than normal, savouring the taste rather than rushing to finish the meal. You may smirk at my ideas, but they are helpful for me.
If you find it hard to wait, why not develop a couple of ways to help you wait and see what benefits arise? You will need to discern what works for you, but it could be well worth it. We’ll just have to wait and see though, won’t we?