Many years ago, when I was a young woman, very concerned about discovering the will of God for my life, I had a conversation with my father about what would happen if I fell in love with someone, but didn’t know if that was the person God intended me to marry. I remember my father saying, “Don’t you think that if you have fallen in love with that person, then perhaps that is the person God intends for you to marry? If God has made you and who you are then God will be working through the things that bring you joy and gladness.”
I was reminded of that story as we looked at Luke 13:31-35 last Sunday and I spoke about how vital it was that Canberra Baptist Church was a place where each of us – and especially those who are being nurtured in faith – could hear the call of God in their lives, could discover “the place where their deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”.
That is why we gather together as the church. Not because we like the building or the music or the other people who gather here (though speaking for us all – we generally like all of those things too!) But because, as I said on Sunday, we share the same desire Jesus had – “to see human beings flourish, to see people freed, to see people healed, to see people fed, to see people living in peace and in right relationship with one other, to see people finding this life-giving God who longs to cast warm and welcoming wings over us all.”
And we want to be a church where people can discover what brings them deep gladness! Is it helping refugees? Is it sitting with people who are struggling? Is it teaching children (and being taught by children)? Is it caring for the environment? Is it providing practical help to people in need? Is it sharing deeply with your friends and neighbours about what life is really about – and listening to them share as well? We are all invited by God to discover what it is that bring us deep gladness!
To come back to the marriage example, I eventually found the person who brought me joy and gladness. His name was (is) Aron, and I do believe it was God’s will for the two of us to be married! Tomorrow we celebrate 27 years of marriage – not nearly as impressive as some in our church – but I have noted, that according to the modern wedding anniversary gift guide, the gift for 27 years is ‘sculpture’. Perhaps what it is saying is that after 27 years you will have worked out that marriage involves twists and turns (“the course of true love never did run smooth!”); that there has been some work, some shaping (some shaping up!), some effort involved to reach this point.
And the same is true of each of us and the call of God. Yes, there is that call to ministry that speaks to our deep gladness, but to stay in that “place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” involves work and effort, moulding and shaping and perseverance.
We read the verses just before our passage on Sunday in prayers this week, and The Message put verse 23-24 this way:
A bystander said, “Master, will only a few be saved?”
He said, “Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires your total attention.
The way to life – to God – is vigorous and requires your full attention. We need to discover what incredible part of God’s life-giving kingdom ministry we are called to and then we need to keep at it!
Here is our verse, I believe, for the post-Covid period: Hebrews 10:23-25:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Amen to that!