Things get lost. Sometimes important things. They thought the ring had been lost, until Bilbo found it. The church too has got lost.
I was once struggling over a passage in 1 John 4, which warns against the danger of leaving the truth. The message seemed pretty clear, yet I felt I was missing something of its heart, something important, even though I did not know what I was looking for. So keen was I to understand this that I had got up in the night to pray into this, but still nothing. It was on my way back to bed that I felt God say to me, “I’m wooing my church back” and it upended my understanding of the passage. John was warning the early church, but now I wondered if those warnings had been sufficiently heeded, and I was reminded of an earlier dream. I dreamt of the bride of Christ, only it was not the picture of a glorious bride, but one from a horror movie, covered in rotting flesh, though still alive. It has to have been one of my oddest dreams, yet it felt strangely significant – even if I could not make it out. Maybe the church is not in such a great shape.
I blame a lot of this on the Greeks. In the first century things seemed to be going well for a mainly Jewish church. Yet, as it moved into the wider world it found itself confronted by the ideas of the Greeks. Ideas that needed responding to, but in the process became mired by them – and has been ever since. The trouble with ideas is that we don’t agree on them, which gives rise to conflict and then division. Whether it be over biblical criticism, science or the work of the Holy Spirit. No wonder we are in such a mess and riddled with division. A curse on all our houses. God is interested in none of our battles or our divisions, he wants one thing: that we love each other and are one.
On that night, as I went back to bed and I heard God utter the phrase “I am wooing my church back”, I broke down and wept. I wept over the state we had got ourselves into. Tears of repentance, yes, but not tears of despair, for I knew God was wooing us back. For me, that was closely linked with Toronto. Now, I don’t fully understand all that God has been doing through Toronto, but that God was at work I had no doubt. Somehow, the falling down, laughter, gold dust, glory clouds are all part of Gods move towards turning us back. God is wooing us. And I do not believe our past will be wasted. God will even use our divisions, as he causes the many streams to flow back together they will form a mighty river, pure and clean, sparkling like crystal. Yet somehow each stream will retain something of its hue, like many woven strands weaving in and out of the river, sparkling with iridescent light like many coloured gems. The river will bristle with life, with nothing wasted.
So, this is not a message of despair, yet it should stir us out of our complacency. If things do not look so bad to us, then maybe it is just that we have become used to the current state of affairs and see it as normal. It is not. I believe the truth is that the church has for many years been in a sorry state, but God is wooing his church back, and impossible as the challenge might be, what God sets his mind to do, he will surely accomplish.