Beware false beauty

By John Ellis

This morning was crisp and beautiful. The prospect of an unhurried drive by the cross-country route to Staplehurst, where I was due to lead worship, felt like another Moderator’s perk. Coming down a hill with the road surface in shade, a large patch of black ice turned this into a very bad plan. After some impromptu ballet, the car was stuck in the muddy roadside verge facing the wrong direction. A few minutes later another car came down the hill, followed the same pattern and ended up in the verge on the other side of the lane. At least we were symmetrical.

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Staplehurst United Reformed Church

Although entirely unhurt, being marooned in a country lane five miles from where I was supposed to be leading worship in 45 minutes presented some challenges. Before the Elder on preacher rescue duty reached me, God provided a cheerful Good Samaritan in a Landrover with a towline to haul me back on to the road. The service began only fifteen minutes behind schedule.

This is not a way of preparing for worship that I would recommend; but it highlighted some thoughts that might not have been so prominent without it.

First, even the most trivial of road accidents remind us of what could have been. Only last Wednesday there was an email at 3.30am to tell me of the death in a road accident of a friend’s brother. We can make whatever plans we like, but in reality our hold on the gift of life itself is fragile.

More positively, plans breaking down demonstrated the thoughtfulness and resourcefulness of the local church. Without a hint of criticism of their foolish visitor, they rose to the occasion. In particular, the music group ensured the congregation’s extra time was filled with worshipping God. When our plans don’t work, what better response than to focus again on God: check out Acts 16.25.

Thirdly, I had inadvertently illustrated one point that I had planned to make in the sermon anyway. All leaders are dependent on many other people in order to deliver what is expected of them. If the leader is more prominent, it does not make him or her more important.

It being the season of Epiphany, I followed the example of the Magi and travelled home by another way.

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