“I don’t believe it!” cries Victor Meldrew in ‘One foot in the grave’. “I can’t believe it!” claims my cycling buddy Scott. And “Unbelievable!” are the responses to the testimony of Erzad Suleiman (in a Samaritan’s Purse Tik Tok video), delivered by Jesus from the hands of terrorist kidnappers and received at home, after 3 days interment, by his wife who knew of his safe return due to a dream in which Jesus told her Erzad was coming home.
St Anselm famously said, “I do not understand to believe, I believe to understand. For I believe this: unless I believe, I will not understand. Remove grace, and you have nothing whereby to be saved.” I totally agree with Anselm, it is my experience that from trusting belief has grown an intimate 24/7 personal relationship with the living God. However, here in the West we live in a culture of ‘unbelief’ and ‘disbelief’, where the generally accepted assumptions that ‘God exists’, ‘Jesus is the Son of God’, and that the Judeo-Christian world views found in the Old & New Testaments of The Bible are the authoritative sources of morality in our society, these public truths have been relegated to half-truths and private values at best, and to lies at worst, ‘Unbelievable!’.
In his book ‘Conversations by the sea’ Andrew R. Rollinson describes the need for ‘Credible Communities’. Speaking of the Christian Church, and quoting Liam Fraser, he writes, “Our credibility has drastically eroded yet, at the same time, all around are signs of a deep longing for meaning and a fascination with what authentic spirituality could look like…” People’s beliefs and ways of life need to be ‘plausible’ before they become ‘audible’.
And here lies the challenge for churches in Irvine, and across the land: to practise the big- hearted loving generosity of God in the way we treat one another and share with our neighbours, to demonstrate how wonderfully life-affirming, and positively outlook transforming the Good News of God’s Love in Jesus Christ is.
Irvine Parish Church’s Kirk Session met for the first time last Wednesday, the amalgam of 5 congregations’ leadership teams from Irvine, Dreghorn & Springside. We had a good robust, honest, hopeful, and faithful start. It is our earnest prayer that we can grow plausible and attractive loving communities, which go well beyond our walls and fences to prove the loving presence of Jesus right here and now wherever people are. As Rollinson warns, “The ultimate cause of mission lethargy lies not with a lack of confidence, credibility or creativity but with the church ‘curved in on itself’.”
So, Lord Jesus, teach us to courageously follow You beyond comfort to where you call us in the service of people ‘half-living in the shadows’. Shine the light of Your Love in and through us. Help us to be an active participant in a loving group, community, church, where The Gospel can be embraced gladly, that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 / NIV)