If you are reading this and you happen to be at Spring Harvest in Skegness and have encountered an idiot with a grey beard who smiled at you, it was me. I have been trying to engage through smiles and cheery ‘good mornings’ but there has been little response. I didn’t realise that being a Christian meant avoiding eye contact with other folk, and forgetting to tell your face that finding salvation through Jesus Christ was the most wonderful event to have occurred in your life. Perhaps I am invisible? The risk is that Jesus also becomes invisible outside of the Spring Harvest Big Top.
Yesterday Marilyn and I took a walk along the coast: a three-and-a-half mile walk to the north to be precise. We made an amazing discovery. Just outside the palisade fence that surrounds the Spring Harvest site there are caravans and mobile homes as far as the eye can see. We believe that these holiday dwellings are probably inhabited by people who have not met Jesus yet. Some of them were out walking. We smiled at them in the same way we smile at the Spring Harvesters. Some even returned our smiles. Of course, they were not as middle-class as the nice Christians on the other side of the fence, but they have one thing in common with all us: they were created by God who loves them every bit as much as He loves us.
So I was wondering about what we do at Spring Harvest. I accept the need to be here to worship, to learn, and to grow in God, and that the aim of Spring Harvest is to better equip the church to function as God intended us to function, i.e. in the world but not part of it. The problem is that if we are invisible to each other then it is possible that for many of us the lost on the other side of the fence (i.e. outside the doors of our cosy Sunday clubs) are also invisible.
If Christians are to be agents of change in the world then we do need to be one with each other (the theme of Spring Harvest this year is One for All – the importance of unity in a fractured world) but are we really intent on being seen in the world instead of hiding behind our fences and doors? And what about prayer? Are we truly and earnestly praying for God’s will to be evident in changed lives all around us, not just at Spring Harvest. Incidentally prayer only finds its way into the Spring Harvest theme guide on page 44 where it gets a quarter of a page. Shouldn’t it be on the first page, or is prayer invisible too?
There is a hymn we used to sing that starts with the words: Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes. Isn’t it time that God became truly visible in His church, through His church, and in the lives and especially on the faces of all who have already come to know Him?
“No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.
“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” (Luke 11:33-36 NLT)