Tumultuous, has been a word used to describe the last two and a half years. COVID, Westminster politics, Presbytery planning discussions, wave upon wave of uncertainty sweeping across our country, our lives and our churches. Ministering through the uncertainty has been challenging, raising many questions. To quote an average theologian
“I am not sure what to do anymore!”
“Where is the joy and hope in the future?”
Rev. Peter Nelson, Internal monologues (2022, various points)
As we move deep into the year with the leaves falling almost as fast as Prime Ministers, I admit that I have at times felt cast adrift on a stormy sea, unsure of where I am going. Finding myself reactively responding to whatever comes at me, while internally dealing with the questions, “How do I move forward?” and, “How do I lead going forward?”
In his song ‘You’ll find your way’, singer songwriter Andrew Peterson writes that when the way ahead is challenging and uncertain, go back.
“Go back, go back to the ancient paths
Lash your heart to the ancient mast
And hold on, boy, whatever you do
To the hope that’s taken a hold of you
And you’ll find your way.”
It is a contrary position, isn’t it? There is so much ahead of us, so many decisions to make and plans to sort. However, to navigate through all that is ahead, to find rest and refreshment and a restored sense of purpose in what God wants us to know about him and do for him, go back!
Go back and remember God’s hold on us.
Hold on to the sure and certain hope in the promise that God’s hold on us is infinitely stronger and more sure than our hold on him.
Go back and remember God’s presence with us
Hold on to the hope that God’s presence is with us leading and providing for us day by day as we move forward. Recently, I re-found my Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible. I am not sure how I ever misplaced that mighty tome. Commentating on the Israelites time in the wilderness, Henry says “Those who God brings into the wilderness he will not leave nor lose there, but will take care to lead them through it.”
Go back and remember what we are to do as the church.
In ministry I have found that there are certain passages, texts, which have become if not front and centre to church life then a sounding board to which as a church we often refer.
Acts 2:42 is one of these texts, “and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
There is so much that can be done, should be done and needs to be done as the church. However, there are times when we need do no less than follow the example given by the early church, learning, sharing, worshipping. As a local church we ask ourselves, are we doing these things? If so, then maybe it is ok to wait there for today, being refreshed by God’s Word and his people, discerning his leading, before rising to the challenge of what we are called to do next.
Going back is a resting place, a place to draw breath in times of uncertainty, a place to restore confidence in ministry and mission, a place to remember the sure and certain hope that has taken a hold of us and in the God who will guide us into tomorrow.