Polly and I were discussing an aspect of our time here in Peru while at language school. While here we live at a huge language disadvantage. Things are improving, but we are far from bi-lingual after nine weeks of class! We live in a seventh floor apartment that has no kitchen to speak of – microwave, refrigerator, electric kettle, hotplate and coffee maker. The quiet and tranquility of Vermont is the opposite of the noise, smell and bustle of Lima. A house plant and potted herbs by the window serve as our garden.
I find that in the midst of language learning we have become church attendees rather than leaders, ministers and pastors. I have preached twice, for which I am very grateful to Dean Parke at the Cathedral; but that used to be a primary activity and one that I love. Life is different. Polly and I describe this as a fast from the usual.
This passage speaks to me from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” on July 6:
God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience. Think of the enormous leisure of God! He is never in a hurry. We are always in such a frantic hurry. In the light of the glory of the vision we go forth to do things, but the vision is not real in us yet; and God has to take us into the valley, and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the place where He can trust us with the veritable reality. … The vision is not a castle in the air, but a vision of what God wants you to be.Let Him put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision. Don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you.
Our experience here in Peru these last ten weeks has been very much like being taken away from the usual. I find that the reference to the potter’s wheel especially apt. We are being reshaped. The experience is – to say the least – both difficult and yet invigorating. We cannot simply revert to the usual as we are in an unusual place. The times are not usual, at least politically, economically and in the Church. There is woe, decay and dismay all around. A respected English Church newspaper has suggested that Christians in the west are on the verge of being persecuted. The Anglican world descends into further disarray. The tearing asunder that was begun by the American Church is rippling through the whole Anglican Communion.
What is happening here? What are we being prepared for? Have we placed the emphasis in the wrong places? The renewals and revivals of the seventies were such a blessing as they led to a renewed commitment to Jesus as Lord, baptism in the Holy Spirit, to the Scriptures as “God’s Word Written,” and to the renewal of mission societies as we sought to bring the Gospel to the lost. I fear that we put too much faith in Church structures and not enough in Jesus as the real head of the Church. I believe that we are being prepared for a new form of Apostolic Church in which the emphasis is not on buildings and structures, hierarchies and accommodating the spirit of the age, but rather a renewed emphasis on the Great Commandment and Great Commission. We will have to revert to a simpler and more ardent Gospel way of being Church. And what will this look like? Not easy and not comfortable, but surely exciting—a grand adventure! Is that not what Jesus promised us as disciples?
Join us in a conversation. What are you hearing and seeing? What is God telling you?
Here we are, being shaped and made new. What God has for us is exciting. Stay tuned.