Earlier this week I was one of sixteen people who met at Worcester Racecourse at six in the morning. Apart from the couples we were all strangers. We were greeted by a man we didn’t know who after a brief introduction mobilised all of us to assist him. After helping spread out the fabric of a giant hot air balloon I got the grand job, with another chap, of holding the balloon open so that air could be blown into it. The air was then heated, and the balloon rose majestically into the air.
Sixteen people, myself included, then climbed into the basket of the balloon and our pilot took us up into the sky above Worcester where we then drifted slowly in a southerly direction at a speed of roughly ten knots.
An hour later our pilot was searching for a landing spot. Having identified a field in a small village he brought us gently back to earth. It was then all hands on deck to bring the balloon down onto the ground prior to deflating the balloon and packing it away. Everyone helped and the atmosphere between our group of mostly strangers was as incredible as the wonderful experience of balloon flight we had just enjoyed.
When you consider that most of us had met for the first time that morning the cooperation was astonishing. None of us seemed concerned about getting our hands dirty despite being paying passengers. We had landed in a damp field with nettles and evidence from livestock, but nobody batted an eyelid when asked to help.
Why is it so different in church? It seems to be the case in most churches that a small proportion of folk are actively involved and don’t mind getting their hands dirty, while others behave like passengers on a cruise liner expecting to be waited upon.
Our balloon pilot could not have blessed his passengers with the experience of flight if his passengers hadn’t helped him. Mucking in was part of the experience and we all gained from the process of being part of a team. If we consider Jesus as our pilot, then we know that He doesn’t need our help. However, I believe that it blesses God and it blesses us when we offer our help without hesitation no matter how dirty or difficult the task may be.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23 NLT)
Incidentally, the balloon flight was a gift from my children for my sixtieth birthday nearly a year ago. I have only just had the opportunity to enjoy that gift. It was a struggle finding a date to arrange the flight as the voucher was only valid for twelve months, and finding a day with the right weather is an issue. This is a bit like the gift of eternal life – the offer is for everyone, but not everyone will enjoy the gift. I guess this makes it more important than ever that the church pulls together and does what it is called to do: love God, love people, and make/build disciples.