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Over the past few years, I’ve started catching the train to London a few times per year. Admittedly, this is more for work than pleasure, though I usually manage to elongate the day and combine a daytime meeting with an early supper catching up with friends.
On one of these trips recently, I attended a meeting at a firm based in St Paul’s Churchyard, where our meeting room overlooked the front of St Paul’s Cathedral. Looking out over the balcony I was able to see the cathedral there in all its glory, but now set amidst much taller, more industrial-looking buildings. The ancient stones which have echoed the praises of the saints through the generations are now dwarfed by glass, metal and plastic, which perhaps sing the praises of the earthly city more than its heavenly counterpart. And yet the picture did not displease me, but spoke to me of the church’s vocation to be in the world, but not of the world, as Christ tells us in John’s Gospel.
This summer in Horbury we’re doing a course called ‘Life on the Frontline’, and it is about just this: how we are to be Christians in our everyday lives. In our first session this week we encountered in the video a fictional character called Anne. Anne is presented as a very ordinary person. She has a chaotic life, going from her job as a teaching assistant, to home where she mediates between her three children, ferrying them about during the week to their activities, and just about making time to catch up with friends over a coffee or at her aerobics class. Anne is a Christian, and she feels at times that she’s not doing very well in her faith. She can’t sing, and so wouldn’t join the choir. She works with children all week and so isn’t involved in the children’s work at her local church on a weekend. She is part of the welcome team, and so does have a role to play, but she feels it’s very minimal. Generally, she wonders what God has made her for, and how she can serve him better.
The point of the video, however, is that Anne needs to realise that God has placed her exactly where he wants her – in school, operating the taxi service for the family, meeting up with her friends, and so on – and it is in these very ordinary, everyday encounters, where she, and we, have the opportunity to live out our faith and be that light in the world around us.
Anne is just like St Paul’s Cathedral, set in the midst of a very different looking context. She stands proud and proclaims the truths of the faith when others are motivated by other causes. She sees a neighbour in need and responds because of that faith, showing them, in word and in deed, what being a follower of Jesus really means. When they struggle, Anne is there besides them. When they need guidance, Anne is there to offer it. She holds the people with whom she comes into contact in prayer. She seeks out opportunity to serve them. She doesn’t have to go round wearing a sandwich board, she is just faithful where God has placed her, amidst the people God has set her.
My encouragement then this week is to be like Anne, to be like St Paul’s, in the world but not of the world, little beacons of light in the ordinary, everyday humdrum of our lives, for if we all go out into our communities in our own ways, as little lights in the situations we find ourselves, the community itself will be aglow, and the world around us transformed.
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