Great home group last night. A new series of Bible evenings looking at Ecclesiastes. Some interesting observations from the discussion:
1. Why don't British Christians get into wisdom books more? is it because we don't quite know what to do with them, or is it because getting wisdom for living is not high on our priorities?
2. A lot of people in the group read Ecclesiastes 1 about everything being meaningless and instinctively went "NO! We really don't find life like that." Which is exactly what the Teacher of the book wants believers in God to do. It gave us a goad to react against, and react we did
3. The nagging question we didn't really answer was what does it mean for all of life to be lived for God, when life is just so busy and full? When everything conspires to make us unintentional about it. I was struck again by how unavoidably fast and full life in suburbia is for most people, and what kind of attrition that alone can cause on our spiritual lives
Been reading a little bit around the web about people's niggles with churches and denominations. Mostly from people in the churches and denominations that they are niggling about. In one set of comments someone lamented the number of people they know in their denomination who never value the denomination or give it a second thought. They wondered why that was, perfectly reasonably.
The response of the writer and all those who commented basically ran: "people ought to value it because they are in it. If they want to belong to a church or denomination that is a simple matter of loyalty, goodwill and common courtesy." I agree with that but think it is insufficient as an answer.
After reading several comments I was crying out for someone to say "let's value this or that not just because we should, but because it is VALUABLE! Because it is brilliant and I love it." I can be as guilty of lack of enthusiasm about denominations as anyone, but nevertheless I wanted someone to enthuse about their church/denomination in such a way that made me think "they think this is really attractive and wonderful." Majestic, useful, encouraging, God-centred, enjoyable, practical, beautiful.
It is easy to knock the bad, much easier than praising the good. That is why cynicism about church can be so tempting. But behind all temptation to niggling cynicism must lie a deep desire that the thing we niggle about ought to be - and could be - superlatively brilliant. And might already be in some areas. I love looking for the best things about my church and raving about them. Someone recently said to me "but we aren't as great as you make us out to be, that is giving a little bit of a false impression." I guess my response to that is that in God's eyes the Church is wonderful. Its the bride bought at the cost of his blood. And therefore it is appropriate for us to describe it - with all its warts and flaws - using the terms God sees it in, praying and hoping that in doing so it raises hopes, expectations and aspirations about us actually living out our new identity, and being the people he has already made us to be.