Friday, August 5, 2016

A ‘bag of bones’.... PART TWO


(Mark 7:10-13)


Emlyn’s daughter now works to support her two youngsters and it is frequently ‘grandad’, Emlyn, who attends them at dinner time when they come home from school, who prepares the evening meal, who takes them to the doctor or dentist or the casualty department when those minor crises we all experience occur. He labours to support her and them. And though he sees it not, he is far better equipped to serve his wife 100 per cent when he is with her than he would ever be if she were permanently at home.

But he still feels guilty! He feels guilty that in a corps (church) short of leaders but full of labour, he is not doing his part as he sees it; that he is not taking some of the weight off the commanding officer’s (Pastor’s) shoulders. At one time he and his wife were totally immersed in corps activities, but now? ‘I could do more if I didn’t spend every afternoon with Eva, but she has been such a wonderful wife and I feel I ought to be with her and yet I also feel I ought to be helping you more than I do.’

What Emlyn fails to see but is apparent to all who have eyes to see, is the fact that there is no greater ministry in the corps than his. He often feels isolated in his ministry to his wife and what Christian prisoner has not questioned how languishing in prison can be of much help to the Kingdom? Yet what unending blessings have come from such prisons, blessings that have outlived those who have been the means of blessing. Obviously we call to mind the Pauls and Bunyans and Bonhoeffers. Emlyn’s private ministry to Eva is a means of grace and blessing and encouragement and challenge to all. He could so easily call that time spent with Eva ‘corban’ (see Mark 7:10-13*) and claim to be giving it to God by using it in service at the corps, when in fact to do so would be doing disservice to both, to Eva and ultimately to God himself.

It is so easy for us who love God and love all that the Army stands for, and who are concerned for the extension of God’s Kingdom to get a distorted view of what service to God is. It is such an easy thing for us officers to think of our ministry as merely fulfilling the demands and needs of a corps, when our ministry should be our life, what we are. If we no longer live, but Christ lives within us, our ministry is merely sharing the Christ within us, sharing what we are with everyone, at home, on holiday, at the corps, everywhere and all the time.

We cannot separate Christ from his ministry for the two are one. Our problem as people is that we can so easily be busy fulfilling our religious duties, our human precepts, our rules, that they become an end in themselves. We then live in fear of defaulting as far as man-made regulations are concerned, whilst paying scant attention to caring for the intimate personal relationship that God wishes to have with each one of us. We admire that Good Samaritan for his goodness but sometimes forget the cost involved to him in helping the Jewish victim so callously mugged. The cost was more than money; it was facing his own people, and being so frequently humiliated and insulted by such as he whom he had helped. We quickly condemn those two religious men in the story, but perhaps they were too busy about their religious duties to actually help anyone. Their time was ‘corban’, given to God, and to have defaulted would also have been costly.


Howard Webber

Bournemouth, UK

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