Malcolm’s Monday Meditation: “Well-Holy Watford”

It’s time for a shameless plug. Not the bath or electrical type, but the “something-I’m-excited-about” type.

Usually I write about events of the recent past. This week is an exception. It’s time to write about something future. Specifically…

The first ever Watford Sunday service for the London International church of Christ Watford Family Group. 10.30am, 5th October 2014 at the Holywell Community Centre, Chaffinch Lane, Watford, WD18 9QD.

It’s been a long time a-coming, and a long time a-praying, but it’s almost here. This doggedly determined group of devoted disciples have dreamt of the day a Watford hall would ring with spiritual singing.

We are a group of 20-odd adults and around the same number of children – I’ve lost count. The spread is significant. God has placed us in Chesham, Aylesbury, Hemel Hempstead, Dunstable, Croxley Green, Chorleywood, Bushey and Watford. But we come together because of the common bond as followers of Jesus Christ. We’ve mourned together, eaten together, laughed, cried and prayed together. Babies have been born, couples married and relatives buried. We open our Bibles, our hearts, our mouths and our ears to learn from God and from one another.

Our normal meetings are Wednesdays, but something special is happening for us this Sunday. For the first time we are going to gather to break bread, preach the Word, pray and sing songs together with our friends and relatives on a Sunday in Watford. Please, if you are within driving distance, come along and join us. If you’re too far away you have two actions: pray for us; and invite your friends who live close enough to attend.

I cannot promise an all-singing all-dancing event, but I can promise a warm welcome from sincere people, good teaching from God’s word, and an excellent, simple lunch!

Now you know how important this event is you might be asking, “How do I get there?” Well, find Tolpits Lane in Watford and at a sharp bend you will see this:


Closely followed by this: 
Turn off and make your way along the road to the centre:

The car park is on your right: 
You’ll see the main building with the entrance to the left.

 

We’re in the main hall. I do hope you can attend. Everyone is welcome. Here are a few more photos of the surrounding area to further whet your appetite.

I hope you have a wonderful Watford week. 
God bless, Malcolm

Malcolm’s Monday Meditation: “Jesus was an Ornithologist”

Behold! A picture of my mother-in-law and a vulture. Which is which? My mother-in-law is the one wearing the hat!

She is a keen bird-watcher, or ornithologist to give it its proper name. And so was Jesus. Don’t believe me? Have a look at this passage:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26 NIV11)

Jesus told us to “look” at the birds. What kind of “look” is involved? It’s much more than a casual glance. The greek word – emblepsate – is in the imperative, meaning it’s a strong command. The word is defined as, “to look attentively, gaze earnestly, at an object; to look searchingly or significantly”. This ancient kind of “looking” fits well with the modern image of the “twitcher”. A twitcher is the kind of ornithologist who, hearing about the sighting of an unusual bird, drops everything, grabs their binoculars, jumps into their car and drives hundreds of miles motivated by even the slimmest possibility of catching a fleeting glimpse of the rare bird.

So why is Jesus commanding us to gaze earnestly at birds? Because it’s an antidote to worry. He has commanded us, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matthew 6:25 NIV11). Yes, “Do not worry” is also in the imperative. That’s a command too. But how can we obey this command to not worry? It’s simple – look at the birds, gaze at them, be attentive in your looking. Why? Because God feeds them.

I imagine Jesus looking up to the skies as he said this, pointing to one of the huge flocks of birds that migrate through Israel. Indeed, around 500 million birds fly though Israel twice a year (see this link for the migratory patterns and a lovely video). Some flocks of cranes can number up to 85,000 birds. Jesus is reminding us that these birds are fed, and they do not worry. Neither should we. We don’t need to worry because we are “much more valuable than they” (Matthew 6.26 NIV11).

Is God calling us to passivity? Not at all. As Luther famously put it, “God provides food for the birds, but he does not drop it into their beaks.” We are to work for our food, but we are not to worry for it. Indeed, more significantly, we are to pray for it. Earlier in this chapter Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11 NIV11). They key here is that the prayer is for enough bread for today. Worry is most often about the potential tomorrow. But that’s not yet arrived, so why not focus on today – and pray.

The main point? Worry will not help you, rather it will cause spiritual amnesia, causing us to forget our true value to God. So instead of living in the world of worry, go outside, look up and gaze at the birds. Go on, I dare you, be an ornithologist for a day. I’m off to borrow my wife’s binoculars.

I hope you have a wonderful week. God bless.

Malcolm

Malcolm’s Monday Meditation: “Delightful Doors”

Do you like doors? Not the rock group, but the vertical variety. I love a good door. Let me introduce you to one. The specimen in the photograph was, apart from the front door of our home, the most important door of my childhood.

I was reminded of it on a recent trip down memory lane. We took some friends into Ashford to give them a tour of my old haunts. One such was the parish church of St Mary the Virgin where I sang as a chorister. Somewhere inside on the vestry wall hangs a board with my name listed as Head Chorister back in the ’70s.

Looking at the door brought back a flood of memories. And feelings. Talking to my friend Charl I realised that, for me it was a significant place of safety. Once inside that door, robed up and ready to process to the choir stalls I felt at home. Why? Perhaps because of something that connects with what Jesus once said about a door.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:6–8 NIV11)

The door will be opened – that’s a guarantee. But what lies behind it?

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9–12 NIV11)

Jesus said that good gifts were gathered on the other side of the door. I certainly felt that as a lad going through the old, heavy vestry door. Once my bike was chained up, I turned the door handle and entered a place of familiarity where all was predictable. I knew my place, my role, my function. I had meaning, purpose and value.

Isn’t that what Jesus promises us? If we will but simply come to him, leave all else aside, knock and enter we will find meaning, purpose and value. Behind that door we discover a security that nothing in this world can match. We are guaranteed eternal life. Behind that door we discover a value that goes beyond anything anyone can offer us. We are loved by one who gave his own life for us to be saved.

And, there is one last thing. Just as I entered the vestry with a further purpose – that of processing to the choir stalls and leading a congregation in worship – so also we enter the Jesus door with a purpose. What is that?

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12–13 NIV11)

We’re called to respond to the generosity of God by being generous to others. Loving as we would like to be loved. That’s not too much to ask is it? After all, we’re safe now on the right side of the door. We’re not the door, but we know where it is. Let’s tell people. It’d be good to invite others to knock, open and enjoy the gifts of God.

I hope you have a wonderful week. God bless,

Malcolm

Malcolm’s Monday Meditation: “Building in the Sky”

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a hotel!  One of the stranger sights in Singapore is this boat-like structure. Locally known as the “Noah’s Ark Hotel” it’s a 5 star hotel in the sky shaped like an ocean-going cruise liner. There it sits on a concrete, steel and glass Mount Ararat. 
On my first morning in Singapore I walked out of the hotel for a prayer walk. Before I could get going, I had to process the sight of the ship in the sky. I found it rather distracting, to be honest. What was it saying to me?
Well, the conference I was attending had a theme – “build. Amongst many builders in the Bible we have Noah. He built an ark. Why? Because God told him, “make yourself an ark of cypress wood” (Genesis 6:14 NIV11). And the purpose? “I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you” (Genesis 6:18 NIV11). God wanted a relationship with Noah, and He wanted Noah’s family to be safe. 
Now, I’ve not seen the recent film “Noah”, and I have no comment on its theological accuracy here (which I believe to be highly suspect), nor do I have a review to share (check out Mark Kermode’s review on one of my favourite podcasts, where I believe the word used most frequently to describe the film was “bonkers”), but I do believe that the theme of building something to save family is one to which we can all relate.
I watched four films on the flight home from Singapore (a new record for me), one of which was “Godzilla“. Yes, I know, it’s a somewhat stupid monster movie (my defense is that I was very tired). I cried buckets towards the end of the film. Why? Well, treading carefully so as not to reveal crucial plot points, what I will say is that the theme of saving family is a strong emphasis.
One of the most important themes of the conference was that of building well. What we pass on to the next generation needs to be well constructed so that they can take the building higher. In 1 Cor 3.10ff Paul said that he “laid a foundation as a wise builder”. Some of that wisdom was that he knew the time would come when he would find “someone else .. building on it”. His response was to call others to “build with care”.  What does it mean to build with care? Well, that’s a post for another occasion, but for now, perhaps the lesson for me is to heed the lessons of Noah, which I would summarise as: build what God tells me to build, even if looks stupid to the rest of humanity, seems as if it has no meaningful purpose, and takes 100 years to finish. 
Where’s my hammer?
I hope you have a wonderful week, and God bless.
Malcolm