Let’s remember God is God. There is so much talk and analysis about church, what needs to change what we need to say “sorry” for to the world even. A couple of thoughts:
1- I used to know a minister in Culloden who said that busloads of Christians from South of the border would come to his parish asking for forgiveness and praying passionate confessions and intercessions for true reconciliation between the English and the Scots. As a Scotsman he thought it was very nice anytime anyone wanted to say sorry to Scotland! However as a Scotsman too he knew that Culloden was about Scots against Scots and the English had no need to be asking for forgiveness all these years later for that particular scene of bloodshed! I don’t know if he found it easy or hard to burst the bubble of passionate but ill informed and needless prayer. We can’t blame others for our own family fights, even though we seem to have it in our Scottish DNA that someone has done us some wrong, and we don’t know who or when but we know it is the case!
Well, there may be times when the church needs to apologise to the world and should do so with true meekness, sorrow and humility, but let’s make sure we don’t push that beyond any factual basis. There is a danger that we forget theology and become all sentimental about the lost and have a merely sentimental view of the love of God that belittles the cross. “If only the church was more….” Listen: the Church could be as near Christ like as humanly possible this side of glory and be utterly hated and rejected along with our loving and righteous Saviour. I remember reading a poem whose origins I have long since forgotten, but it talked truth; it said that if Jesus came back into our world, our smile too would bristle with a bunch of nails (I think the poem was in a Willie Barclay book but I had to get rid of them along with hundreds of other books because old books are not good for my lung condition!).
2 – Let’s not overdo the importance of tinkering with or even completely overhauling church structures to be more fit for purpose. A church in dire straits needs to talk a lot about new structures to manage its decline because through discouragement over many years it may have been bewitched and lost belief that God can come and work in extraordinary power on saint and sinner alike. God is no gentleman. He can convert a person against their own will. He can baptise people in the Holy Spirit and get them speaking in tongues against their will – my successor at Holy Trinity and I saw it happen once to a group of reformed pastors in the Netherlands! Do we realise it can be incredibly fearful and incredibly funny when God moves? There is such a thing as godly and holy laughter, though there is put on stuff too!
God can do what He wants when He wants. It is a fearful thing though that in the mystery of His own will, there are times when He does respect our desire or lack of welcome towards His Spirit. At other times He sets the state of our hearts towards Him totally aside. Whatever, at the last no one will be able to accuse Him of fault whatever He has chosen to do in any life or any nation in any era – though it is considered sort of trendy to imagine that God will apologise to us all one day for the way things are! He does not need our counsel.
Oh if God should come to Scotland in extraordinary revival power, how we would laugh at so many of our own earnest discussions and angst ridden meetings, and say sorry to the One we truly need to say sorry to; to God for knowing not His Scriptures nor His power.
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