October 30th – A Grave Situation



I had to conduct a funeral. The church was packed-hundreds of the deceased’s friends, neighbours and workmates had come because the dead man was only forty five years old when he crashed his new motor bike when overtaking. He left a loving wife and two grown up, distraught children. Because of the family background a great proportion of the mourners had no church experience. It was not a Billy Graham rally. It was a funeral. The council estate was in attendance, plus a great fleet of leather-clad motor bikers, factory workers and mates, all had come to take farewell of a good friend. It was a moving and loving tribute.
There were three hymns, scripture readings, prayers and an address. The church folk present thought it was, quote, “a beautiful service”, “nice”, “impressive”. To me, I was standing before a large crowd of unchurched people, whom Jesus loves, but whom I know I could not reach. I might as well have been speaking in Chinese! Our cosy Christian religious culture-speak was an alien tongue to them. The sorrowing family, like me, and like the Lord Jesus, were working class and not all that at home with most religious ceremonial. Beforehand the young widow had loaned me two pieces of paper containing their baptismal testimonies. I had baptised this couple as believers some years before, and the husband had not been able to read out from his own script at that service, he was overcome by emotional tears of joy. She helped him out by reading what he had written. It was glorious: the two of them – she giving his testimony as he sobbed and nodded in agreement.
Well I was able to read out, on the day of his funeral, what he meant to say for himself that night of his baptism. So it was his words, not mine, which he spoke to his workmates and neighbours. Although I was glad of this, and have no idea what effect it had (communication is not just in words, it is images), I confess I wondered if we even began to cross the communication gap which yawned light years wide. I saw a picture of our cosy religious ideas of evangelism as dragging alien beings into our church world, and I was struck by the total incongruity of it. I want a working class church! A church where ordinary sinners and the uncultured are at home, as much as the well educated: where vulnerable, needy peoples who say they have need of naught but more money, meet the real Jesus, who alone heals and satisfies our vulnerable, grieving, hurting, sinning little souls.But, Oh that Gap.The only one who really bridges it, is Jesus. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Matthew says:
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Matthew 7: 28-29
A Prayer:
Lord, whom the common people heard and understood and in whom they rejoiced, make your church more like Jesus and more people-friendly.
Now read Luke Chapter 7.

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Thought 4 The Day

If your spiritual powerlessness upsets you and all that you can offer is tears, then weep your prayers to God.

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