26 February 2016
Open your eyes
Let me make a confession. I've read John 4, the amazing encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, many times, and indeed preached on it often. John devotes almost a whole chapter to this conversation and the events that follow. Most of us will know the significance of the situation: Jesus the Jewish Rabbi is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and speaking to the wrong type of person – according to the social norms of his time.
So, to the confession: it was only when I was reading the story again recently that I realised the significance of what happened next. The disciples returned from the village and there is a conversation about food. It seems they had acquired some and were determined that Jesus should eat. But Jesus had other things on his mind. It's almost as if he's too excited to eat. Something is happening and his disciples are missing it. In exasperation he says to them: "Open your eyes and look at the fields".
As a church leader or someone who has been around Church for a while, I know how easy it is to have my eyes focused in all kinds of directions - meetings to be planned, sermons to be written, small groups to be organised, rotas to be finalised – I could go on. A bit like the disciples who were so concerned about the food and why Jesus wasn't eating. It's so easy to miss out on what's happening before our very eyes. God is at work, and we fail to recognise it.
Then the disciples open their eyes and look. Suddenly they begin to see what Jesus is seeing, the people of a Samaritan village making their way towards him. The Samaritan woman, having met and spoken with Jesus, has become the first evangelist by telling her story. And so, the rest of the village wants to find out more.
I'm so grateful that God's purposes on earth are not totally dependent on me, or indeed us as his followers. We have our part to play, but wonderfully God is already at work. And so it is, that I continue to ask God to open my eyes afresh to see where He's at work and how I can join in with Him.
One of the wonderful privileges I have in fulfilling my role at the Evangelical Alliance is that I get to travel to so many parts of the UK and meet some amazing people with wonderful stories to tell of God at work - and of His people joining in. Despite rumours to the contrary, God hasn't given up on our country, indeed His Church is very much alive and making a profoundly significant contribution into so many communities. It's also wonderful to hear accounts of people committing themselves to Christ. We'd love to see and hear more stories coming in week after week from all kinds of church backgrounds, in all kinds of different ways. But perhaps the words of Jesus to his disciples in John 4 could speak to us in 21st century Britain: "Open your eyes and look at the fields. They are ripe for harvest."
The leadership team at the local church my family are part of recently spent an afternoon discussing a simple and yet profoundly significant question. What would it mean for us to be first and foremost a 'making Jesus known church', a bit like the Samaritan woman, introducing Jesus to our community? The discussion was fascinating and the outcome challenging. It caused me to ask myself, what would it be like if every church across the United Kingdom were to ask the same question and put their conclusions into practice? We know with certainty that God is committed to making His Son known and that the most loving act we, as His followers, can fulfill is to introduce people to Jesus. Like the Samaritan woman, we get the privilege of joining in the mission of God and watch in prayerful anticipation what harvest will result.