6th February 2013

Burnt Stones

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?’”
Nehemiah 4:1-2 (NIV)

A few years ago my family and I visited a local church.  It was Sunday just after their service had finished and we thought we would go in to see what it was like inside.  Inside we saw a beautiful building with incredible architecture dating back to 1822 when it was built.  It was a major landmark on the High Street with a few grave stones in the grounds around it.

However, what struck us most about our visit was that not one person gave us a greeting or invited us to share some refreshments with them.  We were obviously strangers and stood out for a number of reasons. We smiled at a number of people and tried in vain to engage a few in conversation. So we left saddened and disappointed by this experience from God’s people, especially after reading their mission statement:  We are an inclusive church … by sharing his love with one another and the world beyond these doors. So come, whoever you are, join us, to search, to listen, to grow, to laugh, to feel part of something good.

It reminded me that words can be cheap and that actions speak so much more loudly and effectively.  A few questions were raised in my mind and about my congregation.  What is the nature of our welcome to friend and stranger? Do we practice hospitality and are we inclusive of all those around us?  Matthew 10:40, 42 tells us, “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me…And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”

Shortly after this, that church was burnt to the ground by arsonists. Now, I am not saying that this was divine retribution. But again I was reminded that I often mess up and miss many opportunities to do the good works that God has prepared for me. Thankfully God in His mercy has an incredible way of helping me see and learn when my focus is in the incorrect place or on the wrong thing. On a number of occasions he has allowed me to be “burnt” so that I learn.  I am learning to be more understanding and patient, not throwing stones, because I live in a glass house!

The good news is they have rebuilt the church and their congregation have renewed zeal and community focus. So on a future visit I pray that God will be pleased and praised by our mutual respect and welcome of each other.  Just as a new church has been erected so may new relationships be built and existing ones be refreshed.

Thank you, Father, for calling us into the body of Jesus Christ and including us in your awesome work. Help us each day to demonstrate our love for you and our neighbour. In His name we pray.

Study by David Gibbs

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