For the preacher, and the witness of the Church, that has always been the target - the live possibility - that individuals will be fired by the truth of the gospel of Jesus - whole communities awakened from the tomb of apathy and indifference, to come alive in the life of the Spirit - and time and again, throughout the world, God has shown that not only can it be a dream, a vision, a hope...it can be a reality.
There are no academic qualifications needed, no A-level passes, before we can build prayer into the fabric of our life. It's a great leveller - the little old lady, the zealous university student, the new Christian, feeling their way in faith - the wizened old-timer who has talked long and often with the Lord...God starts where we are, and leads us on.
For a man has never been the sum of his possessions - but a complex confusion of emotions, ego, needs, hopes, failures choices. Where we are truly rich or poor lies in the nature of our inner life.
When the walking wounded of our world come to church for a service, they don't want to play theological games, and they don't want some superficial analysis of the latest political issue. They need something far more far-reaching and profound.
They need, these heroes and heroines of living, they need a word of comfort. They need to widen their perspective, and put their life where it belongs, in the setting of the power and majesty and love of God.
For a man has never been the sum of his possessions - but a complex confusion of emotions, ego, needs, hopes, failures, choices. Whether we are truly rich or poor lies in the nature of our inner life.
When I was an angry young man who didn't know any better, I used to go along with those who were savagely critical of church folk - damning them out of hand for their inconsistencies, failure to live up to their self image. Now that I know a little more about things, I have to say that such criticisms are not wholly fair. I find in the church, not people who think they are paragons of goodness - but people of great courage, who have in many cases, suffered devastating blows, yet who hold to God.
People are gravely mistaken who think we come to worship to display our superior virtue and our moral goodness. We come because Jesus declares himself the friend of sinners - and we are sinners.
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