“Preach the Gospel at all times – and when necessary use words.” (St Francis of Assisi)
20 years ago when I myself was only 20, I lost the person I loved most in the world. Not “lost”..that doesn’t even come close…I watched the person I most loved and admired in the world waste away, fade away, in disease and pain. I’ve carried an enormous burden of grief with me for half my life. Recently I took a baby step in turning around to face it. I went for the first time to the place where my Dad’s ashes are scattered.
Afterwards friends asked me how it had been, and I struggled to find any words. What struck me was this…that no words, superlatives, gestures or declarations can ever help anyone to understand how much I loved my Dad. I can never with my words alone, bring the person that he was alive for them in any way that would help them know him, or begin to understand why and how much I loved him, and certainly never to love him themselves.
But, my close friends do know him- through me. They know him because our smiles are the same, the know him because our values are the same, they know him because our terrible sense of humour is the same. I look like him, I talk like him, I live for the values that he instilled in me.
And I wondered later if it is the same with Jesus. There are people in my life who I desperately want to know Jesus. But they cannot begin to love him simply through me telling them to. Hearing about who he was through stories of his life may help, but in the end they need to see him…. to start to know him a little... and begin to want to know him more. And we, the church, as his body.... we can show him to the world. By individually and collectively rooting ourselves in him and becoming more like him as we grow in our own knowledge and love, by living more and more in ways which show Jesus to others…..they may catch a glimpse of him in us. A glimpse of his outageous love, compassion, justice and the beautiful upside down kingdom where the last are first, and the lost, the last and the least are blessed.
And that glimpse may tempt them to want to know more.
As someone who came to know a little of God at first through seeing him at work in others, I can tell you for sure that you cannot begin to understand the impact these tiny glimpses may have…………
Heavenly father I pray that you will grow the fruit of your Holy Spirit in me, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and self-control. Teach me when to speak and when to remain silent. Give me a heart for your justice and hands that work to bring in your kingdom here on earth. Heavenly father please guide our church in your ways, make us confident and brave, humble and loving, give us your servant heart for our community and our world. Amen.