|Ministry Musings are also included on the latest pewsheet|
God is always teaching us something new.
There are a whole lot of new things happening in my life right now. I’ve become your new curate, I have a new job, my family and I have moved to a new house in a new town with new people and new churches.
There is a lot to learn with my new job. One of the biggest challenges in my first month has been preaching four times in three different churches on three different lines from the Nicene Creed. These haven’t been on the easiest topics: ‘For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate’… ‘he suffered death’…’and was buried’. This wasn’t a nice, gentle, easy introduction! These statements are deep, they are complicated. But I’ve loved it.
The whole point of a teaching series on the Nicene Creed is to think more deeply about some very familiar things that we have been saying for years and often when we do that we find something new in the old.
The first two talks were easier because we can learn a lot about Jesus from his actions, and that includes his crucifixion and death. However, his burial is a different prospect entirely. Surely there can be nothing new to learn from Jesus lying in a sealed tomb… can there?
But actually, the more I’ve thought about it the more I think that we can learn a lot from that day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. You see Jesus was out of reach that day, nobody had access to him, it was a day of total, deafening silence.
We are very good in church about celebrating answered prayer, about proclaiming healing done in Jesus’ name or testifying about the time when God was powerfully present in our lives. But this is only part of our story and although we often don’t shout about it we often get silence when we pray, even in the darkest of times when we call out in despair, when we beg for Jesus’ presence we can get total, deafening silence. It can sometimes feel as though our prayers are bouncing back off that sealed tomb.
This isn’t new information, we all know this but we might find some new hope when we really consider that total, deafening silence. Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, argued that it’s in the silence of seemingly unanswered prayer that God draws us into a deeper relationship. This makes sense when you think about it, because if God answered all our prayers, if he always gave us a visible tangible sign of his presence whenever we cried out in despair, if we could call on him and he always popped up like a genie in a lamp ready to grant our wishes then it would fundamentally change our relationship with him. There would be no need for faith, we would all be compelled to believe in him, the evidence would be undeniable.
Would we really long for a deeper understanding of God? Would we really need a relationship with him?
The more we study him, the more we see how many new lessons God has to teach us. Even when he appears to be silent he can still be there, he can still be working.
The trick is not to lose faith, the trick is to keep on asking and not to think we are too old to learn something new.