Alarms and Surprises - Please!

Shake Your Fists and Pick a Fight


If tonight were an end of term service for missionaries about to go overseas, there would be some hoo ha! You would be given cards as you leave with photographs and prayer letters. You would be remembered in PWAs and congregations and have your slot in Points For Prayer. And missionaries deserve our respect. They have sacrificed their home comforts and probably a much healthier pay packet to go to the furthest parts of the world to share the Gospel with those who have never heard it. They are God’s servants, out there shining light in the darkness. They deserve our respect and prayers. I am not questioning that at all that at all.

And of course there are those at home. There are ministers, pastors, city missioners, deaconesses, family workers, and youth workers. They are called out of the ordinary workplace to dedicate themselves to working for Christ. Again we need to support them and in many situations (not mine might I add!) pay them a lot more than we do. You hear people complain about the pastor getting a new car when there is no way they would be prepared to work for the kind of wage that the pastor works for. For some reason we think he deserves less because he is working for God. Bizarre? So we need to care for, affirm and look after those who are “good living (I hate that phrase!), for a living!”

And yet, I have a problem with the setting apart of missionaries and ministers and “fulltime” Christian workers. Perhaps my problem is not that they are set apart but that we have not set apart everyone else. I was at an ordination once where I heard a minister suggest that though it was good to be a lawyer or a doctor or whatever but the highest calling was the ministry. So folks, I am much more important than you. Look at me. And it is great to be so vital to God. It is abhorrent. It is heresy. It’s the Roy Keane syndrome.

If a lawyer or social worker or teacher or shop assistant or secretary or plumber in your Church got a new job this week why should we not bring them to the front of Church and commission them into their service for God? Why do we feel that the people who missionaries come into contact with are more important to Christ than those that are met on the shop floors or schoolrooms or offices of Ballymena, Maghera, Enniskillen or Newry? Is mission to people at home something less? Are the people who reach them not all missionaries?

Of course they are and yet we have neglected them. We do not take their vocations seriously. We diminish their importance in the Kingdom coming and in the Great Commission. We belittle what God has made them. We haven’t spent enough time giving specific training and prayer and support. We have an imbalanced view of mission.

This error in some way lets the missionary at home off the hook too. A missionary goes to Nepal and he is focused on his task, so he is not likely to look around for the trendiest Church with the worship that suits or the teaching that is best. He is not likely to come away saying “I did not get much out of that service today, why do I bother?” He is asking where he can be of most use and how he can be of better use? And so here at home, are we focused on the needs of Churches around us, are we prepared to go where there is a need? Could we be called by God to go to an aging inner city Churches that need help, not from a minister or from an outreach worker but from someone who will come and get behind the Church’s paid staff to help them realise the calling that Christ has given to all who claim to follow him.

If we go to Acts 8 and look at how the Gospel was taken from Jerusalem. Remember God had said that the disciples would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Well it is a wonderful verse in Acts 8 that tells us that the disciples remained in Jerusalem as the other believers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria and as they went they preached the word wherever they went. It wasn’t the professionals!!!!!

That Roy Keane syndrome needs dealt with not only within Roy Keane’s life tonight but within mine and the Church’s. I suggested this morning on BBC Radio Ulster that the book of Romans had some wisdom for Keano and it sure does for us: “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.” There’s a verse for Roy! It seems that Mr Keane thought he was above the station. Used to winning European Cups he knew more than the manager who after all played for Manchester City and Millwall. He was fitter than the rest of the team and they were just not as focus as him. Maybe as his own career slows down as he moves further into his thirties Keane will need younger, fitter and more important players to show him a patience and grace in the twilight of his Career that he has failed to show.

Paul you see reminds us that we all have a gift. And my goodness Roy Keane is one of the most gifted. But all the gifts are different and everyone needs to play their part. “One man doesn’t make a team” my dad used to say and St. Paul agrees. Leave the bossing to the boss, the administration to the administrator, the goalkeeping the keeper and do your midfield anchor job to the best of your ability. And so the missionary and the minister and the lawyer and the schoolteacher and the artists and the doctor and the civil engineer. For goodness sake even the history graduate has a role!!!! As I look out at all the gifts and vocations that make up the Kingdom I encourage you to take your gift and give it the impetus of your energy and passion. Play your part.

And as you play your part some of you are going to look and say “I am useless, insignificant and no one notices me”. Maybe so, but Paul tells us that that is not the point. Your role allows the people that need to get noticed, to be noticed. All of us are crucial to the whole thing running. Paul interestingly uses the body as his illustration. Bits never noticed and never heard of needed to release Roy Keane’s feet, Billy Graham mouth and The Edges’ fingers. Indeed a few weeks ago we’d never heard of the metatarsal bone. But a small one in David Beckham’s left foot that he can’t even use has prevented his brilliant right foot from kicking a ball. You are vital As I look out at all the gifts and vocations that make up the Kingdom I encourage you to take your gift and give it the impetus of your energy and passion. Play your part.

I am more and more convinced that as a Church we need to begin to train people for every vocation. Ministers 100 years ago probably had a huge influence in the parish. Today they have very little. So the vital co has shifted from the pulpit to the place of work and the place of living.

I hope that some of what happened in Derryvolgie Hall will come back to you as you go. I hope it will shape you. I hope that as we looked at the love, security, significance, the miraculous and hope that God gives us by his grace that you will find a foundation in your soul to have confidence to step out for him. I hope you have learned that God does not want us to be good but to be God’s. I hope you never go safe but holding onto God you will rage at the darkness, kick it til it bleeds daylight. I was given a Mark Eitzel CD by a friend recently and he pointed me to a song called sleep where Eitzel says:

“Altar boys look good in lace
But they are not known for their guts or nature
Goodness is not some pretty picture you paint
Its shaking your fist into the face of danger”

I hope you will go in the name of Christ and shake your fist at the danger. I hope that as you heard about Jubilee 2000 in that special week of events in March and as we informed you about Christian Aid and some of you go to London to campaign in June that you will have got an agitation about the way the world is and that you’ll shake your fist at the idea that 3 men in the west hold more power over wealth than the 60 poorest countries. I hope as half of you go off to build houses in South Africa it will be an experience that will change your agenda to shaking your fist at poverty and injustice and oppression so that God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. I hope the Presbyterian Youth For Peace course will cause you to shake your fist at the bigotry and prejudice of our own land.

To finish let me give a Bravehheart rallying call! William Wallace. He shook his fist at the danger. The English were killing Scotland man and woman at a time. The so Called Scottish leaders had cut deals with the oppressive English king to line their own pockets. Wallace wanted freedom for his people. He arrives face painted like Scotland have qualified for the World Cup and tells the frightened rabble of an army to not go home and regret their chance of freedom. Better to die than regret missed opportunity to be free! His mate says to him:

“Fine speech. Now what do we do
Just be yourselves
Where are you going?
I’m going to pick a fight.”

Shaking fist and picking fights. Jesus was all about that. The secret with him and it will be with us is our choice of fights. Roy Keane picked the wrong fight. In house squabbles in World Cup squads, in sessions and committees and families because we are arrogant little selfish know alls like is going to be the wrong fight altogether. We will be attacking ourselves. We need to look across the horizon of this world and see the places where it is not as it is in heaven. There we need to shake fists and pick fights until we bring God’s Kingdom and his will on earth as it is in heaven. As I look out at all the gifts and vocations that make up the Kingdom I encourage you to take your gift and give it the impetus of your energy and passion. Play your part.

Go shake your fist at the world and may you know God’s hand in yours every fight you pick!!!!


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