God of the Humble

I love Summerfest! I love the variety of ages (grandparents, grandchildren, teenagers, parents, singles, babies – in fact I love the lot). I love to see people being able to express how they feel. I love the laughter and silliness. I love the sense of community with Jesus at the heart that grows within a few days. And now we have finished Summerfest 3 and it has been a wonderful time.

Our theme has been Naaman’s story from 2 Kings 5 – check it out it is a good read. It is the story of Naaman’s healing of his skin disease that came in a very unexpected manner, it is a healing, which was far more than skin deep, it was conversion of his heart. It was a radical and life-changing experience.

We read that Naaman arrived outside Elisha’s house with all his soldiers and chariots, and mules laden with gold and silver. Naaman’s identity was bound up in his wealth, his position and his success. He came to Elisha displaying how powerful he was, desperately wanting to buy his healing. You can imagine that Naaman was well put out when Elisha would not come to greet him as he felt his rank deserved and, adding insult to injury, he is told by Elisha’s servant to go down to the murky Jordan and dip himself in it seven times if he wants to be healed. Naaman was besides himself with anger. He was a huffy old Naaman! Yet with the courage and love of his servants he is persuaded to go down and dip himself in the Jordan. Isn’t it good that we too can have friends who are able to speak the truth in love, to save us from messing up?

It is very significant that Naaman ‘went down’ into the Jordan. He had to make himself small. He had to give up his identity that meant so much to him. He went down as a proud and successful general with a serious skin disease and came up with the skin of a young boy, with a childlike heart, declaring, “there is no God in all the world except in Israel”.

It is a story peppered with grace, yet it is grace that could only be received if Naaman was willing to go down. John Stott writes, ’Pride is your greatest enemy, Humility is your greatest gift’. It is true for us all that if we want to discover the grace God has for us we have to make ourselves small, we have to go down. If you are ever privileged enough to go to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity you have to bow down to get through the doorway.

So like Naaman when we go down, bow down or make ourselves small we understand a bit more of who God is, and what He is about. As it says in the Jerusalem Bible, “The fear of Yahweh is a school of wisdom, before there can be glory, there must be humility.” Proverbs 15:33

Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Summerfest with good friends from St Stephen's - great fun!

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Summerfest with good friends from St Stephen’s – great fun!

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Being ‘living water’

Wet and Wild at Scargill Summerfest

Wet and Wild at Scargill Summerfest

These last 2 weeks we have been enjoying Summerfest at Scargill. Summerfest is an all age arts festival where we have guest artists, all age teaching, a myriad of activities and a chat show every evening. It’s full on!

These last 2 weeks I  have doing quite a lot of speaking and succumbed to ‘foot in mouth’ when trying to quote Jackie Pullinger. It is funny that when we are tired  when brain and mouth sort of come disconnected.  I found myself saying she had lived for many years in the Walled Garden, and yes, we do have a beautiful Walled Garden at Scargill but sadly this is not where we will find Jackie Pullinger. For those of you who don’t know, Jackie spent many years working in the Walled City area of Hong Kong, bringing ‘cups of life giving water’ to prostitutes and drug addicts.

The verse from Matthew 10 that speaks about giving a cup of cold water to one of these little ones….has been resonating in our hearts and minds. There is nothing so refreshing as a cool glass of water. It is worth spending some time thinking about those who have been living water to us, those who have shown us kindness and compassion, who offered us ‘a cup of water’. It is good to give thanks for those who have brought us to life by their generosity and their belief in us, and, of course, not all these people will be Christians. I was remembering my primary school teacher who encouraged me and helped me believe in myself when education was such a struggle. Who are those who have offered cups of water to us, that have made a difference to our lives?

But, the challenge then is how can we be living water for others?

We are privileged to have this living water within us and we are called to give it away, not to hold it for ourselves. I’d like to encourage you to think about who you could give a ‘cup of living water’ to this week. It could be a word of kindness, it may be a ‘phone call to a friend we have not spoken to for some time in order to show them how we love them, it may be a listening ear. It will be an act of love that will bring life. Jesus brought life to the woman at the well (John 4) and we too have this opportunity to give Jesus to others, as the source of living water. Isn’t this just a wonderful gift that we can offer?

A friend posted this wonderful prayer on Facebook.

Holy Trinity, Well of love, Refresh us with your presence. May we drink of your life-giving water, Filling us with you, Overflowing to all those around us.