It was a delight to relax in the company of several hundred Messy friends for the Facebook Lives this week on the theme of ‘being Christ-centred’. Thanks to everyone for your warm generosity and, frankly, for turning up, when Repair Shop was on TV at the same time. Such dedication.
If you missed it, you can catch either of the two FB Lives on Messy Church BRF Facebook. And you can join us over the next few weeks at least on Wednesdays at either 9.00 am UK time or 8.00 pm UK time as we explore other aspects of Messy Church, especially Messy Church in lockdown.
It was very appropriate to be joined by Holly the Hydrologist for one of them, as the theme was Jesus being living water.
‘Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”‘John 4:13–14, NIV
‘On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”‘John 7:37–38, NIV
I found a fascinating article online by Lois Tverberg and plagiarised from her the idea of (biblical) Egypt being a land of ‘organised’, ‘mechanical’ water – water that is captured and stored, moved by machinery and human hands, saved up and structured and controlled. But God called the Israelites into Canaan – a land of ‘living water’ – water in freefall: rivers, dew, rainfall; a land where dependence was on God’s provision and not on human competence.
For my lunchtime walks, I take Minnie the dog (who was trying my self-control during the Live feeds by being incredibly flatulent in my enclosed study) along the crystal clear River Itchen and on to the adjacent rugby field. Earlier in the year, the heavy rainfall caused the Itchen to burst her banks and flood part of the rugby field. Now there are huge tracts of stagnant, fetid standing water, killing off the grass and worms and making only the seagulls happy. The contrast between the living water of the river, full of baby fish, fat trout, growing weed, ducks, swans and, yes, the occasional kingfisher and watervole (and probably coelacanths – my natural history isn’t that hot) and the ‘going nowhere water’ of the rugby field is very striking.
For Messy Churches in lockdown, we can see if we’re a lump of dead ice or a stream of living water. The two things are made up of the same composition, just as two Messy Churches might look superficially the same – welcome, activities, celebration, meal. But if a block of ice is sliding down a mountainside and comes up against a rock, it can’t move. It just sits there, unchanging and immobile until the rock goes away. If, however, a stream meets a rock, the stream will go round, over or under the rock – or perhaps (Sandy Brodine’s insight) wear the rock away – it can’t help but keep going to its destination, even if its path has been altered. So will a Messy Church be unstoppable in its hospitality, creativity, celebration and love for all ages, even in lockdown. With Christ at the centre – that living water bubbling up unstoppably in us – we may take a different path but we’ll be unstoppable in keeping on towards our destination.
Being reliant on living water – living in the present – is really hard! I’m mourning the loss of future events I was looking forward to that have had to be cancelled. I’m having to rethink my present and learn to live with ‘We just don’t know what the future will hold’. But, like the Hebrews crossing the desert and relying on God for manna day by day, like the way God provided water when Moses struck the rock (what a great image of the crucifixion!), we can start understanding something new about living in faith.
Being Christ-centred means relying on Christ, not on the structures of Messy Church. It means coming to our ministry, whatever form it takes, humbly and hopefully, expectantly and observantly, worshipfully and wonderingly, dependent on the Holy Spirit to be at work, rather than us coming with a job to do.
Lots of helpful comments from the Live conversation. Becky May shared: ‘We were talking about this value at a recent Messy Church planning meeting. One of our team said being Christ-centred means it’s not about what we do and whether or not things go right or wrong, because God will move in that.’ Jo Dolman said, ‘God’s living water – Holy Spirit – flows through us. When I became a Christian in 1993 we sang the words “let your living water flow over my soul, let your Holy Spirit come and take control”.’ Ruth Atwood shared: ‘I like the idea that if we are filled with the living water, that will be what will spill out when we’re knocked by the happenings of life. (I must admit, I can’t claim that’s my original idea.)’ Holly Humphries the alliterative hydrologist said, ‘I’m a hydrologist… so today message is very relevant… I see it as being flexible… Water will be here for us. It’s just about being wise about where, when and how much.’ Judy Morrison from Queensland described it as ‘great challenge about structure or flexibility!’
Bottled water or water from the garden water butt? Safe standing water or risky water on the move? The same component parts, but doing such different things!