Autumn is here. The leaves are falling from the trees. Winter will soon be upon us. With the dying of some of the visible things, new life is growing in the invisible places; bulbs are beginning to stir underground, ready to send their new hopeful, bright shoots and flowers into the air once the winter frosts have passed.
With the dying of some things in our lives, with the upheavals taking place socially and financially, sometimes accompanied with loss of what we valued and depended upon the most, are we perhaps facing a time of testing?
Here is a short meditation which I hope will inspire you, loosely based on an inspirational talk which I heard given in an early morning prayer meeting in Jacksonville, USA.
Have you ever heard Billy Connolly or Eddie Izzard talking about the Church, its loss of direction, and its divisions and hypocrisy? Or have you ever seen the Fast Show sketch about the born again Christian policemen, who can’t bring themselves to arrest the criminals they catch red-handed without giving them the opportunity to repent and say sorry!
It is very amusing, but in some ways rather sad. So often we see Christians in general, and also the representatives of God (the clergy), the Church, and our places of worship becoming objects of scorn and ridicule. We sometimes see those we trusted in losing direction, vision and purpose, in the face of the pressures and uncertainties of daily life
Is this a new phenomenon? Are we alone in this challenge
Not at all! If we turn to 2 Chronicles, chapters 28 and 29, we can read about King Hezekiah taking over as King of Judah from his father, King Ahaz. Now King Ahaz had strayed from the laws of God, closed up the temple, and built altars to other gods on every street corner. (Sound familiar?) He thereby brought the chosen appointed worshippers of God, the Levites, and the temple worship, into disrepute. Also because of his abandonment of truth and justice the nation was soon under attack from all sides, and sons and daughters were being carried off into slavery. (What is the slavery that our generations are being carried off into? What pressures and constraints have been imposed upon us without our consent or approval, when we have trusted those in authority over us?
When Ahaz died and his son Hezekiah took over, he was determined to bring the Laws of God, and therefore truth, righteousness and justice back into the very centre and heart of the life of the nation. Hezekiah was also distraught because God had taken his hand of protection from the people because of the rebellion of his father and the people. (v. 9-11: ‘This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword, and why our sons and daughters and wives are in captivity. Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that His fierce anger will turn away from us. My sons, my daughters, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him and serve Him and minister to Him…’)
Hezekiah hated the criticisms directed at the appointed worshippers of God and the disrepair that the temple had fallen into (v.8). So in the first months of his reign he set about repairing and restoring the temple. The derelict doors had been open just wide enough to let the rubbish blow in, but his father had not allowed the worshippers in. So Hezekiah had the temple restored to its former glory. Then he calledtogether the Priests and the Levites, and said….(v.5: ‘Listen to me, Levites! Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the temple of the Lord….’
It has to start with us. The fruit will only be as good as the root
Humanism does not work because it places man and selfishness at the centre. We can read what happened to the nation of Judah under the rule of Ahaz
The simplicity of our faith is that it has God at the centre. (The first ‘S’).
Are we doing what is right in the sight of God? Hezekiah shook the people up and took them back to where God is to be found: personal devotion
The second ‘S’ is Saviour. What are we letting through the door of our hearts? Are we open to the person of Jesus? Remember that under the rule of Ahaz, the temple door was derelict, and open just wide enough to let the rubbish in. Let’s make sure that we are vigilant and watch what comes through the door of our hearts
The third ‘S’ is submission. Are we lining up under the Lordship of Jesus?
Hezekiah was a young man (only 25 years old) when he came to the throne. He had no doubt been influenced by the society around him. Yet when he became King, he was determined that things would be different. We can always find someone whose example is not worth following! So don’t be lead astray. Look out for those people whose example is worth following
The fourth ‘S’ is surrender. The door of surrender is giving up the desire to rule my life, and to develop a passion for pleasing God. (Not my way, but Your way, Lord). What has happened to our once great nation as we have sought to go our own way? (Hezekiah asked the same question thousands of years ago) It all begins with the individual, and the influence they have. (We could all name extremes: Mother Theresa or Hitler). But, as with Hezekiah calling the nation to turn back to God, we can make a difference. Hezekiah immediately called the people to sanctification, as soon as he became King. So………
The fifth ‘S’ is sanctification. We are descended spiritually in the tradition of the Levitical priests. We are also able to review and look at the temple of our lives. We can make new commitments to holiness (Set apart for God: Aaron, the great high priest had ‘Holiness unto the Lord’ embroidered on his vestments.) We are the only ones who can revue and repair our temple. God honours our motives, our decisions and commitment.
The sixth and last ‘S’ is sincerity. As many of you know, I am a potter, and studied ceramics, so I am very interested in this word! The word sincere comes from the Greek ‘Sen Sera’….. a quick etymological study (i.e. the study of words and language) reveals that this is a compound word, meaning ‘without wax’. In the ancient world, porcelain pieces were highly prized and very valuable. Unscrupulous merchants would try to conceal faults in the glaze of porcelain with melted wax. So therefore people would only purchase pottery from a merchant who displayed a sign saying ‘San sera’. You could test the provenance of a piece by holding it up to the light of the sun. It would reveal the flaws, if they had been filled with wax. How do we measure up when we held up to the light of Christ
We are all in this together! We are the privileged, appointed ministers, in the ancient Levitical tradition! As we review our spiritual lives, let’s allow ourselves to be held up to the light of Christ. I am aware that I can always preach a better Gospel than the one I live, so I depend on you, and we must depend on each others’ support and example to keep us constantly reminded of the high calling which we have accepted
David Clifton had his first break with indie band Sensible Jerseys, who were discovered by John Peel & then signed to Virgin Records. He has played guitars and mandolin with Tanita Tikaram, jazz & blues singer Mary Coughlan, Steve Booker (Duffy) Julia Fordham, Matt Redman, Robin Mark and a host of well known artists.
He first became involved with contemporary sacred music whilst working with former After the Fire frontman, Andy Piercy. David was appointed director of music at St Paul’s Onslow Square, and then to Holy Trinity Brompton. Andy & Dave recorded two much loved albums, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’ and ‘Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs’, both now available on iTunes. He is currently director of music at St Mark’s and St Saviour’s Churches, Tollington Park, London.
David’s first solo album, ‘Seeds of Hope & Love’ is on Integrity/Provident, who also distribute his unique Christmas CD ‘Christmas Carols & Songs’ (IKOS). These albums are available on iTunes, and through Proper distribution worldwide.