Do we really want to be vessels

Okay – quiet down please – next item on the agenda.  Item 15 – next year’s (something church work).  How many are we planning for?

About 5000.

Crap!  Are you mad?  Just how are we going to fit that many people in? We don’t have that many chairs – and the fire certificate for the entire building is only 500 – and we only have two toilets – and then there are the cups for hot drinks – and the kitchen couldn’t push through that much hot water that quickly – and …

I wonder how Jesus would have fared within church life structure: Mark 6:34-44

As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’ But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

Each Thursday we take a rickety bus into a cold carpark.  And each evening we complete a report in which we must note how many youngsters were on the bus.  And each week that is a guess – some guess higher and some lower.  So whether 5000 was the feeding number or not – whether it was exactly five loaves and two fishes or not – something miraculous did happen … there was not one committee in sight!

There was no planning – there was just the usual response:  “Okay, we never planned for so many and for this to finish so late. Let’s knock this on the head.  Any other option is out of our league right now.”  And Jesus’ response: Feed my sheep.  And the (unspoken) response: “Crap – are you mad?”

So I wonder how Jesus would get on with all “the structures” we have in place today – whether He would return with the miracles that we cannot (will not?) – whether He would work as patiently with us as He did the disciples – and I wonder if we would do any better than the disciples?

(even with 2000+ years of hindsight and learning – even with 2000+ years of Jesus indwelling each of us every second of every day of each of each of those 2000+ years.  Even as He never left us – even as He is with us right now – right where each of us is right now)

Which is why I have little interest in the precise number of people – no interest in whether it was actually just five loaves and two fish – no interest in whether this “story” has been sexed-up in the telling (and re-telling and re-editing and re-vision).  But I do have a question.

Do we really want to be vessels – or do we prefer to be vassals?

Because we do seem to prefer “perfection planning” rather than emptying ourselves.  We do prefer committees and full diaries rather than emptying them  (Paul – are you mad?  How could we do “kingdom work” … who would plan the services … just how would we know who was in charge … who was helping … who was doing what …  That would be chaos – we would lose control – and that is not how we do God!)  

And I know that Jesus had supporters. And I know He gives us gifts/talents enough to partner each other and Him.  But I do wonder … Have we lost the habit of feeding “His sheep” rather than “our sheep.”

Because if we are “the shepherds” and He is “the boss” … don’t we become vassals again?  But vassals with a twist … “the twist” being that we are not just any two-a-penny common-or-garden “ordinary vassals” – we have become shiny overworked and knackered “Super-Hero-Vassals”!  We call them committees.

So I wonder – just what would God Soft Hands Jesus make of our version of vessels?


What difference have I made

Why does my opinion matter?

Just why does what I say, post on Facebook, comment in WordPress (and all social media), agree/disagree with others, change my profile picture to (or not), stay silent … why does all that matter?  Why should anyone be looking at “my stuff” and think it good or bad, clean or unclean, right or wrong – simply because I am a Christian?

Why does what I say or not say, how I say it, with what tone of voice and mannerisms … why does that matter simply because I am a Christian?  Why should I get “picked on” simply because I am “a Christian”?  In a period of living where there is so much instant messaging, so many ways to be heard, so many being heard, so many adding instant messages, thoughts, opinions, pictures, colours and sounds – why should what “I” say and do “matter”?

Am I the only one who finds irony in this?

That well-worn frustration of “we are not being heard” as a Church, as Christians, as a faith … that is at odds with posting something virulent  (or amazing!) and then being pilloried (or “shared”) across the globe (for the very same words no one sees/hears)?

My voice and your voice matter.

The Jesus I love did not say and do stuff to go viral.  The God Soft Hands Jesus I know and love just “did stuff” and ”said stuff” because He was Jesus.  And He did that with a generosity of spirit and love (that I am so blown-away by – that I write about Him almost every day!).  He means that much to me – He has changed me that much.

Jesus was just one man.  Who walked and taught for just three years.  But who was Jesus His whole life.  There was no “on-bible” or “off-bible” with Jesus.

Jesus took twelve under His wing.  Even as He held, and holds, the whole of creation in His Love.  Jesus did not try and go viral.  Jesus did not ponder what would be listened to or not listened to.  What would be seen or not seen.   What would be a great message or a message needing “some more work first.”

Jesus did not hold strategy sessions, marketing meetings, organise annual conferences, develop faith schools, admin and a hierarchy – all the stuff of a “new institution”.  Neither did He ignore the existing institutions.  Nor did He dismiss anything or anyone.  The “excluded” beliefs.  Not in a personal connection.  He simply invited: Follow me.  Above all else love Me.  Love each other always.  Sin no more.

And we have been picking that apart ever since.  Trying to make it “one size fits all”.  Trying to make it “easy”.  Splitting the atom into ever-more denominations.  Ever more faiths.  Ever more differences.  And then complaining about not being heard.

I think we are being heard.  I think we each matter.  And the very reason we think we don’t think we are and we do – is because “we are and we do”.  It’s just that we don’t control “the message” as we want to.

And we don’t have the choice of “on-bible or off-bible”.  Everything we do – each of us – all the time – every day – even as we sleep – all of that matters to Someone.

(Have you ever considered what would happen if your post went viral?  How much time would be taken in answering (or ignoring) comments?  How much energy would you invest in being polite (because not being polite would not look good)?  How many comments would disagree with your post – and how would you handle that?  How little of your life would be left as you attempted to make each commenter feel important by responding quickly?  How many would you make feel small by responding quickly without reflecting?  How your loved ones would feel as you spent (even more) hours on WordPress?  How much you would NOT write because of that post?  How much time you WOULD lose with your Lord because of that post?  How many you might lose to the Lord because of how you handled the aftermath?)

I have had some very precious feedback in the three years I have been trying to “take dictation from GSHJ”.  I know He matters.  I know He changes lives.  I know He does that.

How many lives have I changed, what difference have I made … ?

How many, Paul – how many – come on – don’t tease … ?


Just me.

That’s who has changed.

(after that … who’s counting … and why?)