Credit where credit's due
( Alan does what he's told )
|Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give the praise. Wherefore should the nations say, Where is now their God ?|
|( Psalm 115 )|
Today is 2004 March 17, and I have read the passage above as part of my ( theoretically, though not always practically ) daily Bible reading. I think I have understood it for the first time.
After reading Psalm 115, and meditating thereon, I wrote ( among other things ) this :
If we give credit to people for everything that happens, it appears that God is doing nothing - whence the question. But if we give credit for the same things to God, we are witnessing to His significance in our affairs.
I don't suppose we can make it happen at a truly national level - it would need more than just the churches to endorse the message for that - but we can do it at a personal level.
The key is the next phrase : "How will the nations understand that You are God ?". The answer is that they won't if we just keep quiet; that's why we have to make sure that credit for the worthwhile things we do really is attributed to God, and to do that we have to speak out and say so.
This is me, speaking out and saying so.
Here, then, is a list of some things I remember which I have done because I believe that God has in some sense told me to.
I don't want to dramatise that; there has been no thunder and lightning, no apparitions, no unnatural phenomena. Instead, there has been, in most of the cases I list, a growing and curiously pressing conviction that I should do something or other.
Without that conviction, I would probably have done none of these things. Some of them - singing in the choir, for example - I would have quite liked to do, but would probably not have started because I am timid, and unwilling to join new groups of people. More of them I definitely did not want to do, and - like Jonah - resisted before finally giving in. I believe that none of the activities has done any harm, and that some - perhaps most from around 1975 onwards - have done some good. This would not have happened without God's prompting. Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but unto Thy name give the praise.
Most of them have brought me joy and fulfilment, to some degree, sometimes beyond my wildest expectation. This has not always been immediate.
The list is as close to chronological order as I can get it, though in many cases the only dates I have ( if there are any ) are those on which I did something. The more significant dates are perhaps those on which I became aware of the call, but these are unrecorded. The column on the right is a sort of indication of the context in which the activity was undertaken.
The list is not complete. A few items are omitted because I don't want to, or don't quite know how to, write them down; a few are omitted because I'm not so sure of my motives; perhaps I've forgotten some.
Many of these items have some sort of story attached. Perhaps some day I'll find time to write them down. This is unlikely to be in the immediate future. So far, there are one or two notes down at the bottom. They're optional.
|1954||Join Cambridge University Methodist Society||personal; didn't last|
|1955||Attend Billy Graham meeting, Cambridge.||personal|
|1955 - 1957||Attend small group with Peter Richards.||personal|
|1955 - 1957||Attend Emmanuel College chapel services.||personal|
|1957 - 1960||Join Leeds University Methodist Society||personal|
|1965? - 1968?||Attend Methodist church, Singapore.||personal|
|1975? - 1987||Attend Holy Trinity church, Devonport.||personal|
|1976? -||Read the Bible ( almost ) daily.||personal|
|1976? - 1990?||( - while in Devonport ) Sing in the choir.||Holy Trinity|
|1976? - 1979?||Cut the church grass occasionally.||Holy Trinity|
|1978? - 2007||Attend the weekly Chapel services.||university|
|1980? - 1987||Lead the choir.||Holy Trinity|
|1980? - 1983?||Write all ( first year ) or some ( thereafter ) Chaplains' columns in Craccum.||university|
|1980? - 1986?||Run the Practical Christianity Today group.||Holy Trinity|
|1985? - 2007||Rehabilitation computing.||university|
|1986? - 1987?||Write for Different Threads.||university|
|1986? - 1987?||Give two (?) talks to science faculty students, with George Seber.||university|
|1988||Sing in the choir of St. Luke's, Reading.||personal|
|1989? - 1995||Attend Holy Trinity church, Devonport.||personal|
|1989? - 2007||Support the Chaplaincy Network.||university|
|1992 - 2005||Write for, and produce, Real World.||university|
|1996||Attend St George's church, York.||personal|
|1997 -||Attend St Augustine's church, Devonport; support Jean's ministry there.||St Augustine's|
|1998? - 2007||Administer the Chaplaincy Network.||university|
|2002 -||Join the Monday night home group.||Holy Trinity|
|2004||Keep the Thursday service going in the interregnum between chaplains.||university|
After a lot of agonising, now convinced that I should explore further, I got in touch with Wycliffe Bible translators. They sent me some material; it became clear very quickly that it wasn't for me.
( I remark that I'd taken up the Maori dictionary project as a sort of call. The job came along - accompanied by John Jensen, who has himself been something of a blessing - for someone to do while I was in the computer centre, and I took it on as something more worthwhile than many of the jobs that turned up. Indeed, I think it was worthwhile, but I don't think I'd link the social good to the Christian good quite so naively now that the political correctness industry has taken over. )
I don't remember ever thinking highly of denominational divisions in the church. People are different; it's not unreasonable that they might have different preferences in how they worship God. It is entirely unreasonable that they should regard each other with any less than love.
Because of this, I've tried ( now and then ) to make connections between denominations. When I was choirmaster at Holy Trinity, I sent an open invitation to all the other Devonport churches to join our choir for our Christmas carol service - and, of course, to attend the service. We had some very special services. Also, the Monday night study group, incorporating Practical Christianity Today, expanded first by joining with Roman Catholics on 1 October 1984 when there was enthusiasm for ARCIC, then later invited people from all Devonport churches and became the Interchurch Group. That lasted several years, and from time to time we had members from all the Devonport congregations except the Salvation Army. I also invited all comers to the Easter Eve services we did with the choir.