John’s Notes for August

I like the story which the Christian speaker J. John tells about the way he avoids admitting to people he’s just met that he’s a ‘Reverend’, because of the preconceptions people carry about that role, and instead being creative in telling people what he does.
Once J. John got into conversation with the lady sat beside him on a flight to the Far East.
“She asked me, ‘What do you do?’ and I said, ‘Well….’ (a pregnant pause) ‘… I work for a global enterprise.’
“She said, ‘Do you?’
“I said, ‘Yes I do. We’ve got outlets in nearly every country of the world.’
“She said, ‘Have you?’
“I said, ‘Yes we have. We’ve got hospitals and hospices and homeless shelters. We do marriage work, we’ve got orphanages, we’ve got feeding programmes, educational programmes. We do all sorts of justice and reconciliation things. Basically, we look after people from birth to death, and we deal in the area of behavioural alteration.’
“She went, ‘Wow!’ And it was so loud, her ‘Wow!’, loads of people turned round and looked at us.
“She said, ‘What’s it called?’
“I said, ‘It’s called the church … have you not heard of it?’”
J. John celebrates that, if we are a follower of Jesus then we are part of a global enterprise: and “not only global, but intergalactic, because it includes everyone that’s gone before us.’”
The global enterprise dealing in the area of behavioural alteration… that’s the church. I find this very encouraging at a time when the grumpy old broadsheets keep elegising Christianity in what are reportedly its twilight years. For ‘the church’ is far more than just Sunday worship in the traditional denominations. It is to be found among the many, many people inspired in some ways by the Spirit of God to reach out towards others: a whole variety of people who are very active indeed.
This is behavioural alteration: where, in a world which asserts that we should do everything we can to be rich and powerful, some choose to live and work alongside the poor. In a world which encourages us to toughen up and harden ourselves against all feelings of loss, there are some giving themselves in friendship to those who mourn and feel grief and loss. In a world which measures success by how much of the time you are thinking only of yourself and your own happiness, some, inspired by Christ, hunger and thirst for the common good and aren’t satisfied with the status quo. Where the highest value in society is independence and the aggressive pursuit of higher status in the social pecking order, behavioural alteration is displayed by those who are merciful and compassionate, their openness and sincerity operating through unadulterated motives. In a world which encourages us to strike back quickly when others strike us, and guard our image so we‘ll always be popular, how encouraging to find many working for peace and reconciliation, persevering even when they’re misunderstood and misjudged. They inspire me … you inspire me to alter my own behaviour, when I see them, and see you doing that.
Revd John Davies, Priest in Charge
john.davies@leeds.anglican.org. 01524 805928
Article extracted from a talk accessible at bit.ly/johndavies-global-values

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