by Kathy Matuschka
Click here to download your printable verse to carry with you today.
Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:8a).
Yesterday we reflected on new things God is planting in God’s church, and today, we turn our attention to the renewal of existing churches. This can be challenging because of the history that older congregations have. When conflicts and misunderstandings fester, and there are different versions of what occurred and what is needed to fix it, it can sometimes seem impossible that God will renew existing congregations.
The congregations who first heard the Book of James were only decades old. We don’t know what sorts of quarrels and fights the recipients of James’ letter had, but we do know that he had a lot of advice for them about how to live well in Christian community. That advice included grieving, mourning, wailing and humbling themselves before God.
James argues that many of our troubles are self-inflicted, stemming from our reluctance to leave space for God’s will and our neighbour’s needs.
Often instead of grieving and repenting, we argue amongst ourselves. When times are tough, anxiety among us increases, and so too does conflict.
Rather than coming near to God in our brokenness, we hope that we can manage it ourselves. But God knows we keep trying to justify ourselves instead of humbling ourselves at Christ’s cross. God invites us to come near to him (as he is already near to us) in our grief and confusion. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus showed us that this is true!
In our congregations: How do we look for and care for the shoots that emerge on the existing tree? How do we decide which branches limit the new shoots and so should be lopped? The Bible says to come near to God, and God will come near to us. God’s Spirit will help us sort out what things need our repentance.
As we come near the cross, we come nearer to each other. It’s the only place where we can truly meet!
Dear God, please break through my pride and stubbornness and keep drawing me to you and my sisters and brothers. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
Kathy Matuschka loves gazing at and walking within God’s creation, listening to stories of life and faith, and spending time with family and friends. She serves within the LCA Queensland District as Assistant Director for Ministry & Mission.