Monday, 29 November 2010

Being Sifted - a challenge

As we prayed this morning at the beginning of the week in my office we read Isaiah 42:18-25. Let's give this some context.... yesterday was beginning of advent - a time when we can reflect on, receive, rejoice in and respond in repentance to the coming of God's kingdom in and through the King, Jesus. My sense is that this particular time is a time when we need to be open to a certain 'sifting' work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If you look up the word 'sift' you find it refers to 'separating' and 'examining closely'. When you sift through a sieve the coarse parts are separated from the finer parts. To be 'sifted' this Advent we need to make sure our ears and eyes are open to hear God and see what he is doing. Isaiah 4218-25 highlights this - challenging the people who should be able to see and hear because they are God's people but aren't. They are sent as messengers but are deaf (v19 so can't hear the message), they are committed to the Lord as his servants but are blind. Isaiah emphasizes the point in verse 20 
"You have seen many things, but have paid no attention;
your ears are open, but you hear nothing"
This is 'seeing' and 'hearing' of course that is the seeing and hearing of faith. It speaks to our condition perfectly - we are people so taken up by other things - seeing so much else that it stops us truly seeing, hearing so much and yet unable to truly hear. It is no wonder we are taught to fast because fasting means we deny the overload of two such crucial senses and open ourselves to the purity and joy of hearing and seeing the Lord. Fasting has been an aspect of Advent much overlooked in recent times, possibly even something we are consistently overlooking in general as disciples of Christ.
Yesterday morning Outnumbered MSC met in Wetherspoons for a late breakfast and Clive and Ruth using a Rob Bell dvd really made me think about my response to God at this time and raised a number of questions in me that have been highlighted again less than 24 hours later. 
I recognise that I need to ask the question in my life of whether I am being so gummed up by 'stuff' I see or hear that I can't move the way God wants me to move. Being a missionary means that I need to be free to move simply and flexibly in my life.  
Am I only hearing what I want to hear is another key question.... how often have I closed my mind and decided where I stand before submitting to testing something out with God and those who's authority I am under. Actually there is no submission in this and there is no accountability. In Isaiah's words I have 'paid no attention' and 'hear nothing'.
Am I making the right interpretation of what I see and hear is another question. My interpretation of something can so often be skewed by my preconceived ideas.
Jesus' way of discipling was Invitation and challenge. The invitation is to relationship with him that means we hear his voice and see his works - the challenge is to be sifted so we can truly see and hear. In Isaiah's words; "Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come?" (v23)
 There is a 'sifting' work of the Holy Spirit going on at this time, I don't believe it is just because it is Advent - God takes our commitment to him as servants and messengers seriously.... do we? As the Kairos network develops we need the Holy Spirit's work of sifting so that what develops is (as the vows for the Order of Mission go) pure and simple and accountable.

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