Monday, 30 March 2015

An Irish Blessing

Last week I was due to take a tour of the Methodist Church in Ireland with a group called Inspire. (Inspire are about encouraging a missional discipleship based primarily around small group accountability groups that spur people on to enjoying a greater sense of the life of God. You can find out more about them here.) The tour was cancelled but due to a number of arrangements already in place I still went to spend some time in Ireland with the Methodist Church there.

For me it was a great privilege and a real joy to be with them. I was hosted by Methodist Ministers and their families who kindly transported, fed and watered someone they hadn't  met before, who essentially was on a glorified holiday. The welcome and warmth of the people was remarkable - this is something that, in my experience, seems to transcend the whole of the island of Ireland and is embedded in the culture, but was especially focussed in the life of the church. 

Hospitality & welcome is something thats been high on my agenda for a while. It was a large feature of a piece of academic work a couple of years ago, and more recently at my church in Derby where I serve, we have focussed on welcome and hospitality for the last few weeks and talked about its power in evangelism and mission. To be treated so well by people to whom I was a random stranger was a powerful statement of the life of God flowing through these people. 

St Paul in wrapping up His first letter to the Corinthians speaks of a visit of some fellow believers to the church in Corinth. He talks of what they might add to the Corinthians but goes on to say that 

 "...they refreshed my spirit and yours also." 1 Cor 16:18

Although I spent much of last week being a tourist, seeing Derry/Londonderry (including a tour of the infamous Bogside and 'Free Derry') the spectacular Causeway Coastline, Belfast City Centre and a bit of Dublin, what really left an impression with me were the Irish Methodists themselves. I was left with the conviction that the British church has so much to learn from the Irish! There was, across virtually all the Irish Methodists I met a quite trust in God that pervaded everything they were. They very much refreshed my spirit! I was left reflecting on my own ministry and lifestyle and those of others around me. So often we communicate action, busyness, even dynamism and/or charisma, things that are attractive and appealing and, most often, good. But I wonder whether I communicate, a sense of deep resting in God and a humility that realises that I am nothing but for His gracious choice to use me for some reason in His work? I rarely see these attributes in myself and rarely see them in others who are in 'professional ministry'. It pulled me up short and reminded me of the simplicity of ministry - the call to walk humbly before God and see some of His transforming life flow out through me. 

For this week, Im in Bath staying with family, but also trying to make space to humbly walk with the Servant King through this week of all weeks in the hope that once again my spirit might be refreshed and renewed as I gaze in awe and wonder at the Saviour on a cross who is risen again. 


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