For various reasons I have not been blogging for a while. I won’t put my finger on any particular reason at the moment. I have been reflecting ‘off-line’, if you will. But, something that Sally wrote connected with me, and in a sense, with what I have been thinking. In her beautiful post the need for a vision…, she wrote this:
I am reminded of the story of the river Jordan which flows to first the sea of Galilee which is fertile and filled with fish, and then on to the Dead Sea where it stops because it has no outlet. The Dead Sea is well known for living up to its name! Churches have the capacity to be filled with life, bringing life to the communities around them. They also have the capacity to become places where the flow of Gods blessing is allowed to stop and stagnate, especially when the main concern is for the preservation of the status quo.
She uses this to describe a church council meeting in which she thought of this story that reflected on the church. Reading her post, I doubt many ministers would disagree with this assessment. Churches are looking to find out how to survive rather than how to do ministry. In what would be a caricature of the situation if it wasn’t true, one church who wants to continue only to have a place on Sunday mornings has demanded to know why they can’t get money from the church (circuit, district, or connexion levels) to keep them open. The church will draw in all in can and, as with Sally’s image of the Dead Sea, there is no outlet and brings death.
I have turned to bitterness in all of this – at my churches, at the circuit, district, and connexion. It hit me over the last week just how bad it had got. There are a number of reasons for this, and I am still working through looking at myself honestly to separate out where I have gone wrong and where I need to challenge/encourage the churches.
So, maybe this is why I am listening to Sally’s parable differently over the weekend. Now, Sally’s parable (and I think it is just that), like all parables, don’t have to take into account every simile and metaphor. Her analogy works great as a description for many churches (in particular, the one I spoke about).
But, I would like to press the parable further. As I read her parable, I remembered my own experience at the Dead Sea only a month ago. The Dead Sea has no life, and if one were to take a big gulp of it, the water would act as poison to the lungs. Yet, the water and the mud have healing properties. I won’t take up the claims of ‘making people look 40 years younger’, but the minerals deposited and pooled are great for the skin. For thousands of years people have to come looking for healing.
While no miraculous cures happened on my trip, I did have some healing on a very dry patch of skin on my hand. I have noticed this for over a year and from time-to-time, put lotion on it. I forgot about doing anything with it at the Dead Sea. I remembered this the next day and kicked myself for forgetting. But keeping it in the water and using my hands to plaster mud all over, something must have happened. Over the next day or two, I noticed that it was looking significantly better, and did so for three weeks (it is back to pre-Israel trip because I haven’t used the lotion any more. I really need to see my GP about this.).
So, even at the Dead Sea, healing is possible. I don’t really know where to take this ‘parable’ from here. I think it may have more to do with me and my bitterness than the churches. Maybe the connection is that the Dead Sea water is not used for what we normally think water is used for, and we have to find alternative means for its use. I don’t know.