When I preached a few weeks ago at Pentecost, I kept coming back to the theme of excitement. I talked about exciting things in our own lives. We considered the excitement of Jesus’ disciples, having seen him risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. We were encouraged to think about the last time we were excited to be Christians. And I challenged us to think about how we could fan the flames of our faith into an almighty fire, so that when people look at us as Christians they see a spark of something that is attractive to them.
My sermon mentioned a few ideas as to how to fan the flame because, let’s face it, sometimes our enthusiasm for being a Christian and for all that comes with it, can seem but an ember. And after I had got home that Sunday afternoon, I was reading through my sermon notes again, hoping it had struck a chord with at least one person, and wondering what I might or could or should have done differently. And as I read through, this leapt out at me:
“Maybe we can – out in the ‘big wide world’ – be intentional about spotting those opportunities to talk about our faith, or to offer to pray for someone, or to mention what it means to us to follow Jesus Christ.”
When I prepare and then preach a sermon, I try never to do it so that people will think I’m putting myself on a pedestal. I try to make it about ‘all of us’ rather than ‘you lot in the pews and me in the pulpit’. I am aware that I have just as many faults and foibles, flaws and failings as the next person. And I am aware that I need building up, reassuring and challenging as much as anyone else.
So when I was writing the sermon, I was trying to convey what I felt God might be wanting to say not just through me, but to me. And this is where the extract above comes in.
For some time now I have been wearing a cross on a necklace as part of my everyday ‘adornment’. And that adornment is part of my work attire too. So it’s led to one or two conversations with people who have commented on how pretty it is, and then asked why I wear it. So a small handful of people I work with know that I am a Christian.
For some time too I have felt a desire to pray for my workplace. I work in a high school whose student population is about 95% Muslim, the workforce being about 20% Muslim. During Ramadan last year whilst at work, I felt moved to forgo my lunch and instead to spend the time I would have been eating, reading my Bible and praying for the school. Although I mentioned it to nobody at the time, I found the experience very moving and sensed God’s love over and around the school.
It was remembering this experience, along with wearing my cross, and thinking about how we as Christians can be more visible to others, that I felt that God was prompting me to do something extra. On that Sunday afternoon I didn’t really know what the extra would be, but on the Monday morning, I found out!
As I walked into work on the Monday, I felt very clearly and distinctly, that God wanted me to be brave and identify myself not only as a Christian, but as a Christian who wanted to bring the whole school – students and staff – before God in prayer. Not only that, but that I would pray every day, in my own time, before school started, within the school building. And not only even that, but also I should let the whole staff body know about it and offer to take prayer requests to hold before God.
I am not a brave person. I am not a fast to react person. I am not a person who feels comfortable putting myself in a situation where somebody might react in a way I feel I can’t handle. But this wasn’t about me, it was about God. It was time to practice what I had preached!
So I took a deep breath and went to see the Principal. And he said yes. He not only said yes, but he said it was a great idea. He not only said it was a great idea, but he suggested I use the girls’ prayer room to pray in. By the way, our Principal is a Muslim…
I had expected a refusal at worst, a cautious yes at best. I’m not sure what that says about my faith in God, or even my attitude to other faiths, but I do know what it says about God. One word. Awesome!
So when we got back to work on Monday after half term, an email went round the whole staff body explaining that I:
- Am a Christian
- Am coming to school earlier so I can pray
- Am taking prayer requests
- Am happy to pray for people of all faiths and none
That was two days ago and of all the emails I have ever sent out, that one has had the most impact. I have been approached or emailed back by people thanking me for sending it, by people coming to chat to me about being a Christian, and already, by some prayer requests.
The next thing I will be doing is standing up in our weekly staff meeting and reminding people to keep the requests coming and that I will continue to pray for us all. Now it’s one thing sending out an email, quite another talking to a staff body of 120 – I am really nervous about that but I know that God will give me strength – but again it’s not about me, it’s about giving people the chance to know that there is a God who loves them.
I am so excited and so nervous about where this will lead. God has an abundance of love and grace and blessings that he can pour out upon all people. And we are called as Christians to help to do that. So although in the grand scheme of things I’ve only taken a little step, it still feels like a great big leap to me.
I urge you to spend some time in prayer with God. Maybe he has an even bigger leap for you!