‘But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building of itself in love.’ Ephesians 4: 15-16
Nowadays I frequently hear people saying to me, ‘I’m not religious but I do believe in God.’
Being religious to many people is perceived as being old-fashioned, stuffy, out-of-date, judgemental and intolerant. I remember not long into my first charge visiting a lovely young couple to arrange their wedding. Before I left I handed the bride my business card and told her not to hesitate to telephone or e-mail me if she had any further questions. She looked at me in astonishment and said to me, ‘You do e-mail’, to which I replied, ‘yes’, and she then said, ‘but you’re a minister???’ I remember being taken aback not knowing whether to laugh or cry. I ended up laughing, in fact we all had a laugh and I assured her that I also had a mobile phone, watched Sky television and used a laptop.
The perception people have nowadays of those who are religious does not help to boost numbers attending church on a Sunday. Many believe church to be archaic, a quaint pastime of a bygone era, an institution full of rules and regulations. But for myself having been raised in church as a child, taken to Sunday School by my beloved Granny- all I ever experienced from church was love, support, acceptance, encouragement and the comfort of an extended family. I remember Mrs Ivory who every Sunday asked me how school was and then allowed me to pick as many boiling sweets as I could from a paper bag she produced from her handbag. I remember the minister the Rev Ron Smith who seemed too cool to be a minister- he was a biker and frequently wore his biker leathers. Rev Ron had the most soothing Canadian accent and was softly spoken and gentle in nature. I remember my Sunday School and Youth group teachers- Mrs Jack, Mr Robbie, Mr Patrick, Mr and Mrs Bowie- all good, caring people who taught us the exciting stories of Jonah, Joseph, Esther, Moses. I remember coffee mornings where I sat with my granny and enjoyed the best-ever chocolate cake and caramel shortcake. When I look back at my experience of growing up in a church family, I have nothing but fond memories. The church was in no way perfect. I remember my Granny discussing with my Grandad occasional tense situations and disagreements. My home church was a congregation of people who were in no way perfect. For none of us are perfect, we are all flawed, all with weaknesses, insecurities, fears and regrets. But what united everyone was a common love for Christ and a desire to show this love in service to the community.
As minister of Lenzie Old, I would argue that I am not ‘religious ‘in the way that many nowadays perceive those religious to be, but I am religious in that I am hopelessly in love with the person of Jesus Christ and I passionately believe in the value and importance of his Church in the local community and in the world. None of us are perfect, and there is no perfect church, sometimes we don’t follow Jesus as we should and we get things terribly wrong, but when we do get things right, God’s grace intervenes and something miraculous and transcendent happens which has infinite depth and is way beyond any of our human understanding….
When the water of baptism is sprinkled on a baby’s head- God’s tenderness is revealed……..
When a beloved hymn is sung- a breaking heart is soothed….
When a couple exchange wedding vows- God’s love bestows blessing…..
When we share in Communion- God speaks softly to us in the silence……
When we offer friendship to a stranger- hope is kindled within a lonely heart…..
When we conduct a funeral- eternity is revealed…..
When questions are encouraged and welcomed- faith is deepened……
There is nothing old-fashioned, stuffy and out of date in any of the above. Neither is it judgemental or intolerant. For all these different ministries of the church point to love. God’s love so perfectly manifested in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. God’s love which is wholly inclusive, extravagant, tender, strong and eternal.
May we all as members of Lenzie Old seek to embody this tender and life-giving love of God, and in doing so help in some small way to change societies often unfair and misguided preconceptions of ‘religion’ and those who are ‘religious’.
Your minister and friend,