Light in the darkness
More than one thousand years ago, the land all around was thick with dark forest. Wild animals and opportunistic thieves lay waiting in the shadows, making travel dangerous. In an area later identified by the Domesday Book as ‘Warfelt’ a clearing opened up. But far from being a place of refuge, this clearing seems somehow darker even than its surroundings, with the echoes of pagan rituals hanging heavy in the air.
And yet here in this darkest of places at the darkest of times a group of Christians began to meet. They knew that Jesus never shied away from the dark, messy parts of life. That communities of Jesus followers are not meant to hide away in safe huddles, but to stand as a light shining in the darkness.
A rich tradition
And this community survived – nearly 60,000 Sundays later it continues to meet on the same Warfield Church site. Surrounded now by domesticated animals and a clutch of well-kempt houses, it’s easy to be lulled into a sense that all is now well with the world. And yet a cursory look at the news, or an honest conversation about the hopes and fears of any individual, will reveal that our mission to shine Jesus’ light in a world of darkness remains just as urgent as ever.
A mere 431 Sundays ago, a group of us extended this mission into Bullbrook. We planted a new congregation to continue that rich Jesus-tradition of bringing God’s light into the darkness, meeting together, seeking God, loving one another, and reaching out to those around us.
Together we are building a community where everyone can experience God’s love.
Together. Every one of us is a unique masterpiece, crafted individually by God in his own image. Not cheap flat-pack Ikea replicas, but one-of-a-kind bona fide originals. And that means that every one of us has a unique role to play. We cannot be a community by ourselves, and we cannot achieve great things for God unless we work together in His name.
That’s why this past Sunday we gave everyone in the congregation the opportunity to start thinking about what’s going well and what things we might do differently in the year ahead. We did this by writing down our thoughts on three values that define who we are as a community: that we reach out, love one another, and above all love God.
- Reach out: We’re not here to ‘build a community where me and my friends can experience God’s love‘. We can’t be a holy huddle worrying only about our Sunday meetings, the songs we sing or the coffee we drink. Like the very first Christians meeting in that dark forest, we’re here precisely in order to reach out into all of our surroundings – even where this takes us into new and unfamiliar territory.
- Love each other: As followers of Jesus we are adopted into God’s family – that’s one of the pictures the Bible gives us. This means we should do our best to love one another and to provide support through the ups and downs of life. Our weekly Sunday meeting should be a bit like a family meal: everyone joins together, chips in with the cooking and the clearing up, shares stories with one another, and welcomes visitors or new members of the family.
- Love God: At the core of everything we do, is our complete, utter, 100% dependence on God. The Bible tells us that unless the Lord builds the house, then the workers labour in vain. Only God has the power to bring healing, peace and comfort into the midst of a broken world. And the unique bond that holds us together as a diverse community of people is our common family tie in Jesus.
And the people said…
So what did we have to say about these things? I’ve uploaded a summary of everything we wrote down to download at this link. Take a look. See what you think. Mull on these plans, bring them before God, and then – if you’re feeling brave – ask him: “Lord, what part do you have for me?”
I’m really encouraged looking through the things everyone has said. I feel inspired to be part of a community who clearly already get it – the importance of loving God, each other, and the world around us. Who can see how we’re already living this in out, but are not satisfied standing still, and are passionate about pressing forward into new adventures in the year ahead.
My prayer is that 2014 is a year when God’s light shines through us more brightly than ever.