A couple of years ago an older lady with a stooped frame walked into church with me. Her name was Dena. Her eyes were failing, her body was quite fragile and she struggled to walk. As she lent on someone else and me she said somewhat wistfully
“I remember coming here in the 1950s. I could bounce into church then. Look at me now, but I can still pray.” She paused and as we entered the church she said “I think I’m nearly ready to go Home.” Later, she shared just how much she used to love chocolate. I think we knew what she meant by ‘Home’.
Dena taught me some important lessons that day: that there are different seasons in life, it is worth looking deeply because each one can be celebrated for what it brings and faith in Christ matters. For Dena, this was her season for reflection, preparation and prayer.
Maybe jobs can be like seasons? Some jobs are enriching but others might simply be necessary moments in our lives. Sadly, for some people there can be confusion between what is necessary in life and what is enriching and this can lead to holding on to things that are meant to pass.
As a church and community we are in a season of change in jobs. We’re saying goodbye to Amy and Michael Johnston as they leave behind the ministries in music and children’s work and move back to Northern Ireland. Our Church school is saying farewell to Carolyn Holmes later this year as she leaves after fifteen incredible years and thirty years in education. Our prayers and thanks go to Amy, Michael and Carolyn.
We could try and hold on: keep the school as it has been, look for a mirror image person to replace Amy, fossilise the music in the genre that Michael brought to it. Or we could celebrate that which has been and look to what God has planned for the future.
I’m not sure Carolyn, Amy or Michael are looking for jobs but here are two unique roles to consider. The first sounds so boring with its listing on an advertising website is “Job Number: 1700295”
Why would you even glance at it? But if you don’t glance you are not lifted out of the today and given the possibility of a new tomorrow. Or what about the ‘hay’ job placed in the small ads of a newspaper? You probably smiled and moved on.
Then you glance again. What if the hay-chewing job had benefits so incredible you began to wonder why everyone wasn’t running to find out more? What if your first glance didn’t tell the full story?
And job 1700295? As you absentmindedly click on the link you find yourself at the Mondelez website and there, like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket, is your dream-come-true! You can become one of only 11 people working a mere 7 .5 hours a week and just between Tuesday and Thursday so you can have a long weekend. The job? A Reading, Berkshire, based Chocolate Taster.
It is the same with faith. Some people glance and move on; taste a bit but find it inconvenient; smile at its claims but see them as a few quaint values. There wasn’t anything quaint, irrelevant or inconvenient about Dena and her faith. It was like a rod of iron through every part of who she was.
Every time I read the Bible I find that there is more to understand about God. Each time I pray I find myself moving beyond my own preoccupations and into something deeper and wider than I can comprehend. The moment I pat myself on the back I am reminded by my Father in Heaven that another season of life is just around the corner.
Take the story of Jesus’ friend Lazarus (John chapter 11). There he is, dead. He’s very dead and the Bible makes this clear with some horribly graphic information. So, Jesus raises him. We could glance at it and move on – dismiss it. We could give it a bit of consideration in the same way we might humour ourselves about chocolate tasting; ‘could I move to Reading? Do I really like chocolate?’ but dismiss it as slightly inconvenient.
Or we could do as Dena did: consider its merits at a particular time of life. For those in a closing season, it offers more than platitudes: it is Truth that Christ can raise the dead. For those who see Christianity as a value system it offers an invitation into an understanding of reality which takes us into such a new dimension of confidence, love, care, charity and kindness that those around us may begin to wonder what has happened.
So what did I learn from Dena?
· To appreciate today and celebrate the season of life I am in
· To remember to look deeply rather than glance and move on
· Faith in God means being willing to let go when the moment is right to do so
· That true confidence comes from trust in the Lord who is the Maker of Heaven and Earth.