Looking back over the last year in the life of the churches I serve I can see that the Lord has been showing us his provision and yet also our needs. We have seen the Lord provide again in our regular worship and experience of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst. We continue to be surprised and encouraged by our mission communities and seeing new people join communities of faith. There are real glimpses of a renewal of faith, community and life that stir us on. As we seek Jesus in prayer so we have seen His provision in different areas of our lives together.
Yet at the same time we have been reminded of our struggles, often in very practical ways. A heating system that has broken down without easy fixing before next winter… areas of church life without people to oversee them… illness, family and work pressures wearing people down. At times we have also been aware of the wider pressures Christians face in the world and the challenges facing the Church of England in terms of attendance, finance and vocations. At an election time in the UK the needs of our nation are also regularly brought to our attention. Sometimes this is just to point out what is wrong and attach blame to someone else – there are many needs to be met. Our faith is being tested in the face of provision and need.
This testing of faith has brought us together, stimulated prayer, challenged our vision, caused us to embrace change and take steps as the Spirit leads. But not always! The temptation is always to see the needs as too great and the provision too little and to leave our faith unchanged. We will see loss and find hope difficult. It is hard to measure progress. Maybe we have to change more radically and let go of more if we are see ways forward. Often we also need our eyes open to the provision that is there, if not what we expect or always want to see. Somehow, in the Lord’s hands, renewal brings real provision yet without addressing the needs in the way we might want it to.
Part of the call of Christian faith today is to keep walking in the provision of the Spirit in times both of plenty and lack. It is to walk the way of Jesus through the ever real Easter story of Cross and Resurrection. Yes, renewal provides for us a richness of provision that witnesses to the generous and overflowing mercy of God. Yet this is so often seen in, through and alongside the deep needs of our selves, churches, communities and nation.