And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back. (Mark 16:2-4)Disappointment can dog anyone.
It can get a group down, too. At White Stone we’ve had our fair share of disappointment over the years (mingled I should say with a good deal of joy and achievement). People whose stories didn’t turn out as happily as we’d hoped; tensions that proved difficult to resolve happily; stubborn health problems; growth slow despite effort and prayer.
We spoke in those days of our household having a ‘character of worship’. A little grandiose, perhaps (and those words should describe any church), but it gives a flavour of our early idealism. I believe God was in it, even if it was mixed with copious amounts of youthful naivety.
We’ve gained much. Breadth and stickability. We’ve learnt to pace ourselves (sometimes the hard way, as we’ve taken turns to bump along the bottom of burnout). We’ve learnt that love means longsuffering and that it isn’t neat and tidy and that we can live with that, even celebrate it. We’ve learnt some wisdom (I hope).
And yet. Could it be that when we gather to worship and pray together we’re – dull? A touch dowdy in spirit? Is it possible to worship God whilst slumped in an armchair and staring into the middle distance (‘the hands in my heart are raised’)? Could it be that spiritual gifts are a wee bit ‘same old’ (‘I saw a picture of God as a shepherd and us as his sheep’)?
Recently poleaxed again by one of our members going through some personal difficulties and having to move out, the spirit level sunk lower still.
And then, well – God spoke.
I don’t want to over egg the cake. I’m not claiming that we were all subject to an epiphany, a blinding revelation. But God has spoken to us.
It’s all combined to be a word of light in a dark place. God has made it possible for us to throw off the grave clothes, the old reactions and selfishness. We can rise in worship, not dominated by our poor old souls, with their thoughts and feelings of failure and hurt. We can choose life.
Then, to cap it all, our local pastor spoke last Sunday about ‘resurrection life’: how, though Christ, we can know a power of LIFE working in us which enables us to overcome and endure – and to shine.
It’s not that everything in the garden is rosy, but it’s strengthening to know that God hasn’t left us, that he is guiding us.