PARISH LIFE IS BARKING MAD sometimes. Life in this Vicarage, on weekday mornings especially, is crazy. My wife observed that last night’s winds had died down. “Not in here they haven’t” I shouted back. “It’s like a bloomin’ whirlwind this morning.”
Church sound sytem’s playing up again. Every phone call I’ve answered is interrupted by the “call waiting” bleep. And the “new email” bleep on the PC flashes up another request … “could you just confirm”, “have you got”, “do you / did you know”, “what did you say the readings were again?”, “could you just cast your eye over this, and that, and this …?”And all this when I’m backed up by a superb administrator, and a first rate priest colleague, and having started out with my usual hour’s meditation and prayer, too.
I’m still yawning after this week’s Standing Committee. We have a cardinal rule that evening business meetings finish at 10pm at the latest. This one went on until 11.30pm … because like hundreds of other churches we dance round and round in circles trying to pull rabbits out of hats and “balance the books” for the coming Budget presentation to the PCC. When the larger churches are running with budget deficits of £20,000 +++, and the Diocese reckons it’s only going to be “brought back into the black” if the parishes meet their “Share” requests, life looks like the piles of leaves that danced around Bramhall in the past 24 hours … utterly at the mercy of an unpredictable power.
But that’s it, isn’t it? We’re not designed to have all the answers. Not pre-programmed. Not operating on our own instinct, or upon our wits alone. We do live under the mercy of God. We’re caught up in the act of CO-creating NOW. But we don’t have all the answers (hence our need for Divine CO-operation) … and – more importantly – some of the “answers” we have lived by (sometimes for a very, very long time indeed) have proved to be wrong! And – for a while at least – some of what may very well be God’s answers appear to us to be wrong! In the midst of the whirlwind of contemporary Church life I’m often reminded of the title of one of the late and great Canon W H Vanstone’s books: The Stature of Waiting.
Meantime, a bit like Job, we’re a little inclined to take God to task, to ask God to account for this, or that, or the lack thereof.
Well: I’m headed for a Quiet Day tomorrow. I’m going to step outside the reach of the whirlwind, pondering Job’s responses to some absolutely legitimate Divine Questions:
God of the whirlwind, we realise we were not there.
You made it all without us, from the earth’s foundations to the highest heavens.
You alone shut the doors of the sea and made, from the clouds, a coat for the earth.
We confess that sometimes we act as if we did it all, as if we have the answers.
We confess that we tear the blanket of mystery that protects your fragile creation and try to make it look as if we understand everything.
Forgive us. For we would seek your kingdom, respect the earth, honour one another and build communities of hope.
(paraphrased by Janet Lees)
Have a great weekend. And please speak up on Sunday if you’re using our church sound system!