A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
A Passion for God
Recently when I was to share the early morning communion at Cliff College I turned up just after seven to prepare myself. To my astonishment there was a mattress, pillow and duvet right outside the chapel doors. I thought this must be some kind of student prank – not unknown here! But then I met a female student in her dressing gown and she told me how in her prayer time the previous night she had felt the Lord was telling her that the next morning communion service would be very special for her and that He had a word for her. She then couldn’t sleep, anxious because she thought she might oversleep and miss the Lords word. In the end she brought her mattress to the chapel door knowing someone would wake her if she overslept there!
This really impressed me; she was passionately excited about God moving that morning. Once a Christian it is very easy to become casual in our faith. It can seem we loose our first love like the Church in Ephesus (Rev 2.1-7) and become laid back or even bored by our walk with God. How do we keep a passion for our Christian journey?
It has to start with our love for God. There is no better place than meeting Jesus at the foot of the cross, which where we get things in perspective. At the cross the wonder of such a depth of love cannot fail to enable us to see things in the right perspective. For me, this results both in a greater depth of love to share with other people and in personally wanting to know more of Christ.
A passion for God can be seen as an activist thing. As Methodists we are good at this. The historian David Bebbington saw ‘’Activism’ as ‘The enduring hallmark of the evangelical movement’ (‘Evangelicalism in Modern Britain’, Routledge: London 1994 p41) For example the Methodist Bible Christian Church in 1900 urged every member to do three things, the third being to ‘work and witness as never before (Luke W ‘Memorials of F. W. Bourne’, Gregory: London 1906, p 184)’
A passion for God can also be contemplative. I have come across many prayerful people utterly passionate but not activist – we can sometimes be so busy we loose the quiet place to listen to the ‘Still small voice’. Then again we can be so quiet and restful that we never get on and do anything. It’s finding the balance!
I can remember Howard Mellor once speaking to a group of young people about the passion for more of God being like a journey. It was a good image – you never arrive, just keep on traveling. You can’t outrun God; He is ahead all the time. I think part of my passion comes from the mystery in the journey of faith - I never know what to expect next!
Mystery is something we are loosing in society today as we have to have answers for everything in our ‘know it all’ culture. In the Anglican liturgy they ask that their ‘lives may proclaim the mystery of faith’ (Alternative Service Book Easter Liturgy Year A ) A mystery leads me on, and I’m passionate for others to share in it. God is the supreme Mystery. As St. Paul puts it quoting a secular poet, it’s only 'in God that we move and live and have our being' (Acts 17.21) Mystery and God go together - the more I come to know and appreciate Him the more I become aware of the depth of mystery and the reality of God in my life.
So I keep the passion for God aflame by love. Holding to the greatest commandment ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’ (Deuteronomy 6.5). Loving God with all that I have and growing in that love is the essence. I see Him in nature (Romans 1) and His Word. The Bible is God’s word and inspires passion however we read it in our different ways. When you examine the life of Jesus as well as Daniel and many others who had a passion for God, you find that prayer was a vital ingredient in their relationship. Prayer is open communication with God and is essential.
Finally passion for God comes through forgiveness. Peter slipped up in his relationship with Jesus (Luke 22.54). David also messed up (2 Sam 11) but they both got up and carried on the journey after God once again. The receiving of forgiveness and the resulting sense of cleansing and restored fellowship with God sustains our faith and is the root of all passion for Him. It involves our openness to God’s Spirit and putting ourselves in a place to receive, even if that means taking up your bed.
Incidentally we had a powerful service that morning and God spoke to us all!