Hi everyone. Rob here.
It’s been a very hot summer here in New Zealand, the last two weeks especially. One of the things that heat and humidity does is slow you down. Too much movement done too quickly and you are bathing in sweat, desperately needing a cold pool to dive into. It makes you think carefully about what needs to be done and when. Hamilton, where I live, has cooler mornings but it stays hot right through to late in the evening, so the lawns get mowed early. The dog gets walked early and late. We plan for swims at friends places. We eat differently. In other words, life gets lived intentionally but slowly.
I believe that this is a great metaphor for the spiritual life. Intentional slowness is a way of becoming aware of what’s needed at any given moment and of what we are capable of giving. It simplifies life but in a way that adds to its riches. It can open our eyes to the hidden ways of God’s kingdom.
It seems that many of us want to put God on fast-forward. Our prayers demand this or that. Church strategies want growth and transformation and maturity in a convenient package. We want to know our calling which is apparently where we find personal happiness and fulfilment. But it just doesn’t work that way. God acts on an eternal timetable. His work is made to last. He wants new wineskins as well as wine. If we are to be the kind of people, and the kind of churches that are to embody the new reality of God’s kingdom, we need to become new in every way. And that takes time!
The danger is by moving too quickly, by trying to get ahead of God, we can end up sabotaging good work already done. It’s a bit like trying to put together an Ikea bed frame. If you try and rush it you just won’t be able to put it together. You need to dismantle the whole thing to get it to work (speaking from experience here!). God constructs but he also deconstructs. He actively dismantles human projects that aren’t part of his kingdom mission. It’s an act of mercy but we need eyes to see what he’s doing.
In our too-busy, fast-moving, digital and downloaded world, we literally can’t keep up. Nor are we meant to. Instead we need eyes to see what God is up to in his world that has invaded ours through Jesus. This can only happen when we intentionally slow down. We have monarch caterpillars on our swan plant at home. I have to stop and stare at that plant for several minutes before I can spot them. God wants us to stop and look at what he has made, at this this world he still loves, until we see him at work. It may not be immediately obvious, and we need to know what we’re looking for. Why not start with Jesus’ mission statement in Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
When you see that work going on then you know kingdom work is happening. Likewise when you see the fruits of the Spirit in operation – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 6:22-23) – then you are seeing the work of God happening. When you see people repenting and turning to Jesus then we know “the kingdom of God is near.” Where you see Matthew 25:40 happening you know that kingdom work is being done:
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
God is at work. May we slow down enough to see his kingdom in our world and may we then be willing participants.
Grace and peace.