Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Despising the ordinary

What could church do that would enable you to flourish spiritually?  That's the question we began with at Gospel Group last night as we studied Nehemiah 11-12.  It's a fascinating question isn't it because there are so many possible answers and so many of them are dictated by the trends in our society.  But it is a question worth thinking about not least for how it exposes our habit of despising the ordinary God instituted means of flourishing in our faith.  What could church do that would enable you to flourish in your faith?

In Nehemiah 11 and 12 the walls are rebuilt, the people have committed themselves to the covenant having repented of their sins.  And now they put structures in place in Jerusalem that will help them as God's people flourish in God's city.  Firstly 1 in 10 of the people from the surrounding villages and towns moves into the city.  We need others, something that is plainly obvious when you read the New Testament and pay any attention to the one another's.  They put leaders in place who will administer what needs to be administered, who will give direction and be the bridge between good intentions and actual action.  They put the priests in place to make the offerings and sacrifices which we know point to Jesus the great high priest who once for all offers himself for sin.  They recognise the Levites and put them in place, those who read, teach and apply God's word to the people.  They set people apart to be gatekeepers, to provide security from their enemies but also to facilitate purity by keeping Sabbath traders from other nations out.  And they recognise and put musicians in place who will lead the people in recognising, rejoicing in, and responding to the faithfulness and goodness of God.

In Nehemiah 12v44-47 we are told that the people ensure that these groups are provided for materially on an ongoing basis so they can keep on dedicating themselves to their given roles, so that God's people have the trellises (yes I know that's been used somewhere else) which facilitate spiritual flourishing.  Israel commit themselves to having structures and people in place that will enable them to flourish spiritually.  But it's worth noticing that these are the ordinary everyday things that God's people had done for centuries.  It is not a magic bullet, it doesn't guarantee spiritual flourishing (see chapter 13) but it does provide an opportunity for it to happen.

As you move into the New Testament we see similar structures put into place in the New Testament church.  Those who read, teach, and apply the bible to the people, those who guard them (see Acts 20 - elders watch over the flock), musicians to lead us in worship, leaders who help direct us as to where the rubber hits the road with a passage.  And yet because of the sheer ordinariness of it all we are tempted to despise such things, to take them for granted because of their everyday or every Sunday-ness.  Instead we ought to thank God for them and for providing them so that we have opportunity to spiritually flourish and we ought to dedicate ourselves to making the most of the opportunity they provide rather than looking off and wondering about or longing for the silver bullet that will provide instant flourishing.

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