Recently a Christian leader was asked by an audience: ‘Why do you go to church?’ After a moment of reflection, he replied: ‘Gratitude.’ I think this sums up it up.
Gratitude! Gathering together for worship is not meant to be a routine. It is the gathering together with our experiences of life – with all its ups and downs – and recognising the God behind it all. And even out of the darkest, most confusing moments, to hold on to the One who can weave out a garment of hope.
Gratitude! When gazing at the signs of Spring, seeing the goodness in human kindness and the strength in solidarity, I am grateful. Looking up at a star-filled sky in deep awe, and knowing that I am loved by God. As the Psalmist centuries ago, expressed it:
What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8)
Gratitude! Journeying through Lent, mindful of a death and resurrection that transforms everything. When a virus riddles our software on the hard disk, everything slows down and ceases to function. It needs to be dealt with. The longer I’m a Christian, the more I recognise that ‘forgiveness of sins’ is the core of the Gospel message. Hurt, unconfessed wrongdoings, bitterness – sometimes long hidden – can be healed, absorbed into God’s amazing grace in the light of the Cross.
And in this my final blog, I want to express my own deep gratitude to all those who have welcomed me so warmly over this past year into communities, churches and homes in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and beyond. Thanks, too, for all who work in Baptist House for our Union and BMS World Mission.
Amidst the many challenges, I have been privileged to see so many shafts of Kingdom light both at home and overseas. Keep ‘shining like stars in the Universe’ and punching holes in the darkness as you ‘hold firmly to the Word of Life’. God’s richest blessings on you all.
(Ernie has prepared a series of 6 Bible Studies ‘Like Stars in the Universe’ based on our Assembly 2013 theme: ‘Reclaiming Philippians for Today’s Church’. Copies of this are available from the online shop – priced £3. Ernie encourages churches to join a conversation based on the themes of the study – see www.likestars.org.uk throughout this year)