Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Lights for the world

Part of the experience of being at Conference is a search for illumination.

That may be trying to work out what the agenda means, dealing with when the lights go out because of a power surge like yesterday ... or the far more profound daily challenge of seeking the will of God.

There's something humbling about being in the company of people who can move seamlessly from high humour to deep reflection and theological seriousness within a heartbeat.

One illustration was seen in a Conference event which probably had more impact on those who were not attending than those of us who were.

Hundreds of people found themselves discovering illumination on the beach at Southport by walking a sand labyrinth created by volunteers. The team, led by Cornwall's Youth Enabler Andrew Nicholson, offered people the chance to follow one of the most ancient methods of reflection.

They took a piece of rubbish and walked through the labyrinth - almost a quarter of a mile all told - left the rubbish at the centre on a sand mound topped by a cross and then walked back with a pebble that they could keep.

It's such a simple idea and yet the conversations were so profound: with people who had no faith; with Sikhs; Moslems; with whole families; with children who jumped over the sand humps and with people who asked if they were allowed to walk the labyrinth.

On one day alone, 276 people left the 'rubbish' of their lives at the centre of the labyrinth and walked out ...

The theme in our worship this morning was of light dispelling darkness and we were reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew's Gospel: 'let your light so shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.' Matthew 5: 16

Later, Helen Cameron continued our deeper look at Colossians 1: 15-20 under the theme of Living out the Gospel within the culture, not apart from it.

The passage was an invitation to re-imagine the world as very different from the one we see, touch and feel, she said, but Paul invited us to realise we are not sealed off from the world - we breathe same air as everyone. Our calling is to be faithful in this time.

"We are created in Christ and for Christ: the cosmic Christ - Christ for all time and the whole universe," said Helen. "By the power of the Cross none can rule over Christ nor ultimately anyone joined to Christ."

That new community in Christ was one of restored relationships where compassion, generosity and grace were the hallmarks of the light the church shed on the world.

One of the most public opportunities we will have to take the Gospel onto the streets will be the Olympic Games next year and there was overwhelming support for a plea from Lord Mawhinney to get behind More than Gold which will facilitate the Christian response.

Around 6,000 - 10,000 Christians are expected to arrive from overseas to help share the Gospel during the Olympics and Lord Mawhinney also told those who are not inclined to sport 'Get over it!' because we will be flooded by it!

His dream was that, all over the country, local churches would erect big screens in their areas and welcome people to share events based on the Games - to plug in and light up their communities.

It's not a new song any more, but one that keeps rolling round my head is Run by Snow Patrol. You can't stretch the metaphor too far but I always hear God singing part of the song:

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear

We don't have a choice. We shine in our communities. The issue is whether we choose to hide our lights or let it out.

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