Monday, 5 June 2017

When the wind blows....

There has been a picture being shared on social media in the last couple of days man casually mowing the grass as a tornado looms behind him. It can be found here.

The story is, that mowing the grass was on his to-do list. His wife had gone for a nap leaving him to get on with it. His daughter noticed the change in the weather and went out to tell him, but he decided to carry on mowing because that was what was on his schedule. He told her he had his eye on the tornado.

What would you do in that situation?

Carry on with the to-do list despite the tornado?

Go inside and wait to see what happens?

Wind is a mighty thing.

A few months ago, in the middle of a sermon, just at the right time our fire exit blew loudly open and made everyone jump. 

Wind has the potential to do the unexpected, to change the course, to enable a tin can to roll up hill and cause chaos and devastation. It has, I watched in Beauty and the Beast last week, the potential to open up the way to a frightening but promising new life......

John 3:8 says this:

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from, or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

That tornado could have changed direction. That tornado could have caused destruction..... Yet the man carried on with his to do list, because that's what he had always done.

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. On that first Pentecost I'd imagine that the arrival of the Holy Spirit was as shocking as a tornado (even though they were expecting it). The disciples were ready and prepared for it and were waiting. Their chores paused for that time....

The man in the tornado story carries on doing his to-do list - his default - his normal - keeping an eye out but not prepared to stop and think. 

Sometimes we can all be a bit like that - our to do list is done whatever is around..... 

But.... then the tornado changes direction and we miss it as we resolutely stand firm in our ways and in the past. 

Perhaps there are times when we need to pause from our to-do list - our normal - our default - and watch and see and feel where the wind is going. Watch and see and feel where the Holy Spirit is leading us. 

Times are changing. Churches are changing (where they are willing to).... and we've all got to ask ourselves the question - what are we going to be doing? 

Are we going to be resolutely carrying on mowing the lawn, or are we going to stop, pause and watch and wait, listening and then moving to where the Spirit is leading us?  

Glitter in your hair, glitter everywhere......

Glitter in my hair
Glitter in my shoes
Glitter between my computer keys
Glitter in every corner
Glitter in every space

When I was a teacher I'm sure the cleaners had a secret moan when I had been making posters with my class again. Anything from charity fundraising, international pi day, Mechanics revision (there was a big basket of glitter on a slope, what friction kept it sitting?) and bar charts with Year 7 declaring their favourite fraction involved glitter.... 

Glitter on the carpet
Glitter in the corridors

Now I'm not a teacher and have morphed into a Baptist minister, my love of glitter has not diminished. A craft with the added beauty of glitter makes one sparkle and shine like no other.

Glitter in the hymn books
Glitter in the cake

What I don't understand about glitter, is the number of people who I talk to who have an intense hatred of the stuff. 

We've banned glitter, it gets everywhere. 
Glitter? Nasty stuff. 

I was reflecting on the banning of glitter from church buildings. What does it say about us? 

That we like to be tidy and clean and not make too much mess?

Or let's dig deeper.... we don't like things when we don't know where they are going to scatter? 

I recently ordered a new book. I don't know what it has in it as I haven't opened it yet, but I love the front cover. It's called Untamed Hospitality by Elizabeth Newman. On the front cover is a picture of a Dandelion Clock.

Imagine if we practised hospitality like a dandelion clock offers its seeds to the wind? We don't really know where it's going, we don't know what impact it will have and where the seeds will settle and grow, but we might be open to the possibility of our hospitality seeds taking us to places we don't expect. 

Imagine if we practised hospitality like glitter - where we don't mind where we end up, where we don't really know where we are going, but we know we will end up making our home somewhere where when the light catches us, we will sparkle, and bring beauty and change. 

Are we afraid of the glitter because we are afraid of mess?
Are we afraid of the glitter because it says something about our approach to change and risk? 

A crafter went out to make craft with glitter. As the crafter crafted, some of the glitter fell on the floor, and someone came later with a vacuum cleaner and sucked it up. Some of the glitter fell on some paper without glue. It looked beautiful for a while, but then it was picked up and the glitter fell away and the picture was no more. Some of the glitter fell amongst the scrap material, and its sparkle was hidden and eventually it was thrown away. Other glitter fell on the craft the crafter was making and it sparkled and it shined as it became something beautiful. As the crafter carried the craft home, the glitter spread onto their clothes and there was a trail of glitter wherever the crafter went - a trail that spoke of the story of the beauty of the craft even when it had been left in a pile with others. 

Let those who use glitter spread the sparkle far and wide by being generous and hospitable and be not afraid to take glittery risks.....

And go with the glitter. It doesn't matter that it gets everywhere when it brings joy to so many. It doesn't matter if you go home sparkling because then you can tell your story. 

And while we're at it, let's stop banning food and drinks from certain parts of the building..... church needs to be like the living room, not the formal front room where the sofas are covered in plastic and shoes are most definitely banned. The living room is where family is built, where people feel safe and where relationships develop. If we don't allow the spreading of glitter in our spaces, there will always be a barrier to feeling at home. The living room allows space and time for faith to grow - a messy, glittery, challenging, comfortable place to call home. 

Glittery glitter.

(for Jesus' version of the glitter story (and with a much greater depth of meaning than surface glitter) see The Parable of the Sower - Matthew 13:1-9)