It seems that in medieval times lent was observed with fasting but not on Sundays, for this was a day of feasting. I do not enforce fasting, [as if I could!] but do encourage any kind which appeals to the individual, for there are many ways of fasting. I remember one such Lenten period in HICC, it was a special prayer meeting midweek. My usual intention, when senior minister, was to let the whole congregation pray together, then the men and women would separate and the come together towards the end of the hour. I suggested an hour because Jesus said “Could you not watch with me one hour.” The men were to pray not only for God’s presence amongst us but additionally for the establishment of the men’s work; thus the division. However God had other ideas. We worshipped and then broke into mixed groups and prayed for the enhancement of the vision and for His overwhelming power to invade the church.
We then came together to worship again, there it stayed as God turned up, and we were overtaken by His awe-inspiring presence amongst us. A crescendo of noise erupted as our hearts were made alive to His glorious love that was spread abroad animating our souls and stirring our spirits in response. Such times cannot be manufactured, it is of God who quickens our spirit together.
As I was glorifying God and speaking in tongues I prayed for the interpretation and this is what God gave me. “We often long for matters and happenings in the physical realm to be paralleled in the spiritual realm, thus a Tsunami that invades a country would be echoed in its spiritual life with God’s harbour wave sweeping all before it. Not with disaster, destruction and death but with divine energy, brushing aside all sin and sorrow, leaving purity and peace. The similarity is possible to understand, as that forceful wave is unstoppable. And God, if he decided to move, can do what he wants, when he wants to whom he wants. Nothing can stop him. But, before a Tsunami there must be an earthquake, an eruption of severe magnitude, with trembling and shaking.
Thus, we as a people, might have to pass through unmitigated trouble before the wave strikes, knowing the misfortune of loss and death to self. Experience a place where we are left with the bare necessities realising that value in life does not consist of possessions. An oft sung song in the assembly is “he gives and takes away” and this indeed may be so, for to have the one there must be the other.
In such a Tsunami we lose our history, as birth and marriage certificates are swallowed up, and icons of past memories are destroyed. Although we may lament such loss we must also realise that God can write a new history that can exceed anything that has gone before. Even as the church can look back with warmth of feeling at what God has already done, we must not depend on that memory, but in looking forward learn that it can be swept away in the new surge of life and a new one can be written that will amaze our faith and belief.”
There was an inward urge to stay on past the allotted hour, but the folk had started their day early, as Londoners do. They had come straight from work to the church, and needed to go home, so I closed the meeting. The ecstatic utterance had covered much and needed meditation, “He gives and takes away” is fundamental to our personal individual history, to consider that would take a lifetime. If a divine tsunami struck us what would or could we lose, and how would we react to the Lord’s will? What clutter has been piled against our spiritual life that constitutes the “cares of this world” which spoils the seed?
In a practical parable, when I moved to Solihull I took much of my furniture I had in Hampton, it was in good condition, I was used to it, and it suited my aesthetic and design needs. Later, I married my second wife and she sold her flat and now we had other furniture and personal possessions that needed sorting; life has become a process of throwing or giving things away. We keep the local charity shop well stocked! I downsized and that is a good lesson to learn, what can we do without so that God’s Spirit can take possession? If we don’t, perhaps God will!