Last laps

I was going through my diary for the next wee while and realised that many of the items appearing on the horizon are after my placement in Brussels. Twelve weeks, a time that seemed so long before the placement, has simply flown past. I also realised that I haven’t blogged for a while but that’s not an indication that I haven’t had much to do. But, in a sense, it’s been the ‘same routine’. Like doing laps, the routine can seem repetitive, but there’s always some little nugget tucked away that sticks with you and lifts any routine task out of the simply mundane. So, for the sake of future memory jogging, here are some ‘nuggets’.

I was preaching last Sunday (in fact I was doing the whole service) and the theme for the day was ‘The Guest House’ – a reflection on the incident with Martha and Mary recorded in Luke 10:38-42. Over the summer weeks, the children have been following some holiday club material and it was decided that the adults would also appreciate the same themes. I was most amused when I landed with this particular week for the theme of hospitality (and priorities) has been the recurring theme for this placement. In fact, if I need to hand in a theological reflection on the placement I could probably hand over the sermon.

The service, I thought, went well and the sermon, though not earth-shattering or theologically ground-breaking, held together well enough. If anything I thought it was a little bit ‘light’, but did ask some searching questions of the hearers. Much to my surprise a number of people spoke to me afterwards (and subsequently) to say how much it related to situations and people (including themselves) that they knew. I guess the lesson is that we put the word ‘out there’ and give it over to the Spirit to use.

Notable nugget number two came from a visit from last week. I don’t want to give identifiable details for obvious reasons but an observation is worthy of note, I think. Visits are often done for the best of motives but can completely miss the point of doing them. It’s an easy trap to fall into that we visit people to be ‘nice’, because Christians are ‘nice’ people, aren’t they? Sometimes ‘nice’ isn’t what’s needed. Sometimes just being ‘real’ is far better for the person on the receiving end. By being ‘real’ with them we give them permission to be real in return and acknowledge the reality of a situation that may not be what they want but is their reality. Just being ‘nice’ can gloss over this reality and, in a sense, trivialise it.

Nugget number three came through a plea at the start of a visit, barely after the introductions. “When you are a minister, and when you have your own charge, please, please, welcome everyone,” I was told. A prophetic word? I don’t know, but it seemed like a slightly odd start to a visit to someone I didn’t know. Yet, at it’s heart was the experience of settling in a country where, even now, systemic racism is obvious and is, nevertheless, much better than it used to be. If ever you want to test whether you have any underlying racial tensions, one of the Euro placements will clarify the issue for you. You simply cannot stand at the door of a church and greet that many nationalities and speak to that many ethnic groups if your integrity in this area is lacking.

I’m now looking ahead to the paperwork for this placement. I can’t help but think that there’s a book that could be written if all the ‘reflections’ were explained in full and weren’t so selective.

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