Letter from the Church Council

I recently gave a sermon at ACC where I spoke about keeping our eye on God. I was largely influenced by my own experience in preparing the sermon; I have noticed that I often allow my earthly work to dominate my day-to-day thinking. To say I can go days without connecting with God would be untrue – I keep a bible on my desk and spend time reading and praying each morning – but to say I could go a full day without really connecting between morning and evening might be fair, especially on days where I skip lunch! God loves us to work, but he also loves us to spend time with him, and we need to strike the right balance if we are to be a disciple.

Of course, discipleship in its purest form requires a purity of commitment. It requires an acknowledgement that we are, indeed, “foreigners and exiles” in this world (1Peter 2:11) and that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). It requires us to turn away from our earthly possessions, and maybe even our relationships, and to move decisively with Jesus. There is, after all, a marked difference between a biological unit on earth and a child of God. We need to make sure we are on the right side of this divide.

Jesus says in Luke 9:62 that “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”. I ploughed a field once, in Babati in 2005. And I can tell you it’s hard work even when you look ahead. It took all my strength and nerve just to keep the tractor straight and I developed a new-found respect for farmers from that day (and subsequently, on reflection, for church leaders and pastors). I can’t even imagine the disaster that would have unfolded if I had looked back. This is, therefore, another brilliant analogy by Jesus – if we look back from Him, we cannot imagine the disaster which may unfold.

Getting bogged down in work is nothing new to the world – it has been happening to people for centuries. Even the disciples went back to their earthly occupation of fishing after the crucifixion and resurrection. Perhaps they were too desperate and confused to see, and indeed comprehend, what had truly happened. It took Pentecost, and the empowerment given to them by the Holy Spirit, for them to get up and really start spreading the word far and wide. What will it take for us? What do we need to see or experience to get us going? Or have we already seen and experienced what we need to hear and we are oppressing it in our minds in the interest of our comfortable existences and getting on with our day jobs? After all, we know what happened to the disciples: they became nomads on earth, travelling all over, with no fixed home, living in often frightening and hostile circumstances, as followers of our Lord. And they (except John) met gruesome martyr’s deaths, being variously skinned alive, hung for days, crucified, staked to the ground, beaten with clubs and more for their faith.

It is understandable that we don’t want that for ourselves or our families and there is absolutely no expectation that any of us put ourselves in that kind of situation. But the suffering of those who went before us (and that of modern Christians under persecution around the world) should certainly give us pause for thought. Let us consider what we can do on this earth. Let us consider how we might push ourselves out of our comfort zones. And let us consider how we might be better disciples. Whether we think of ourselves as foreigners, exiles, nomads, or pilgrims on this earth, we do follow Jesus, and that should take us into new ways of living!

~Michael Murray – Council Chair