I really like the weekly college chapel service.
It may be something to do with it being a service where I don’t have to sing, lead the service or preach. Though, in ten days’ time, I will actually be preaching there and, in the past, I have been known to lead the service a couple of times and sing once! I guess that, given my love of being anonymous, that could be described as a ‘fail’ on my part – albeit also a great and scary honour to be asked to contribute in this way.
But, largely, I am successful in coming only ‘to receive’.
A phrase which I hate, by the way. Since when was worship only about receiving?! Nevertheless, to sit still and have nothing expected of me in a Christian meeting…it’s nice!
This week, my supervisor was preaching. As soon as he began, I nearly got my pen out to start taking notes as an automatic response, a throwback from some of his lectures which I attended last year. Basically, once he gets talking, you have to concentrate really hard to get it all down before you miss something. Most lecturers take forever to make their point and so you have long enough to make the notes; but not this one! My notes from those classes are brilliant in places; in other places, they are full of question marks and unfinished sentences interrupted by abruptly-started new paragraphs. At those points, you can assume that I was floundering as what I thought I knew was being turned upside-down so many times that I no longer even knew which way was up!
Anyway, digressions aside, I didn’t take notes in the preach this week and I regret that. There were a couple of sentences which I would have liked to quote here but I think that to rely only on my memory of them might mash up what was actually said. And I don’t want to be guilty of the classic syndrome where the listener thanks the minister for preaching something that morning which in fact the preacher never said. I’ve had people do that to me before; it’s enough to make you think you may have fallen asleep in your own preach and not noticed what you were saying!
But there is one thing I can engage with from memory. After a message from John 15:7 about the power inherent in the Word of God and the need to align our hearts and minds with truth, there was a takeaway activity involving us choosing one area where we long to see change in our lives and then selecting one verse of Scripture which relates to that area. What if, the question went, we believed the Word of God over this area of our lives? What would we see happening as a result over the next forty days of Lent?
I didn’t even need to think about this one. The area in which I want to see freedom is my drivenness. I hate it. That need to make stuff happen. The compulsive responsibility-taking for things which are actually not in my control…
Anyway, enough about that because you’ve heard it all before. More than once. In fact, you already know which verse sprang to mind too.
The soundtrack to my year so far. Luke 10:41-42. (OK, two verses!)
Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.
But what really got me on Tuesday was whether these words of Jesus, these words which I know he wants me to internalise – do they really abide in me? That’s what John 15:7 says, after all.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
What would it take for Jesus’ words really to abide in me? What would it take to feel that drivenness kick in and then, just as quickly, hear again those words: ‘you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary’, Mary’s portion of simply sitting quietly at his feet? How would my drivenness be turned around and my mental patterns reconstituted by the Word of God?
One of my newer practices has been to learn portions of Scripture. I’ve tried before, by the way, and failed miserably so given up. But perhaps it is a new season for this because recently I learned Ephesians 3:14-21 with one of our trainee preachers to help her become possessed more by the text she was due to preach. And, as I did so, I found myself more able to let the Word abide in me. It started to train my heart and mind to meditate more on Scripture, to let it form me in those moments of dead time doing household chores and walking along the road. (Echoes of Deuteronomy 6:7?!)
Because that little experiment seemed to go better than expected, I thought I might up the ante and learn a book.
A short one. Colossians rather than one of the longer possibilities!
And I’ve got a friend doing this with me but, because this attempt may be an unmitigated disaster on both of our parts, she will remain anonymous at this point; it’s only I who is going public with this attempt to let Scripture abide in me more.
So, perhaps as I begin to learn Colossians and keep reviewing that small chunk of Ephesians, I will also regularly be reviewing my memorisation of Luke 10:41-42. And maybe – just maybe – forty days of reflection on Jesus’ rebuke of Martha, alongside the effort to internalise some other amazing texts, will change some of my thought and behavioural patterns around drivenness.
I will keep you posted.