|This previously published article from 07/01/2013 (under the title “On this day in 2007…”) is re-presented here as we start 2015 and as local leaders meet for a day of significant retreat at St Catherine’s, East Tilbury.
The Broken Cistern, the Found Key and the Sliding Door
Thursday 4 January 2007
During the day, Rod Sexton, then of Chafford Hundred Community Church, brought the following scripture to our attention:
There was some prayer around this, but the full implication and application was not realised at the time. Upon reflection, this scripture could have been interpreted like this:
The antidote for this is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14…
“… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
The Bible warns against paying lip-service, religious pride and bad shepherding. It is forgotten now that the original Followers of the Way were distinct from religions of the day for not having a professional priestly class (the priesthood was of all believers); for not having temples (we are the Temple of God); and for not being in any way tied to the authority of ruling authorities (our Kingdom authority is King Jesus alone).
Six years later, paradigms are shifting ever more swiftly. Year upon year of nationwide prayer – especially in the seven years leading up to 2012 – have begun to bring transformation by a renewing of the collective mind of the body of Christ.
Believers are thinking differently about how they gather. Believers are thinking differently about how they do mission. Believers are thinking differently about how they are equipped and how they equip.
Believers are thinking differently about discipleship – “I will build my church… Go and make disciples…”
Friday 5 January 2007
I’m walking around Fen Lane in Orsett. It’s a raw, bleak, blank day. Leafless lifeless trees etch out their wizened charcoal arms into the dank grey sky. All remaining vegetation is muted into a soft dewy emerald.
I’m praying about the Jeremiah 2:13 scripture (see above), and also this verse:
I’m praying about these scriptures because just before Christmas my wife and I had made the decision to join with some friends praying at one of their homes during January. I wanted to be sure we’d made the right decision. I wanted to be sure we were being obedient, and not just making it up as we went along. I wanted to make sure we were hearing right, and not hearing wrong.
Were we leaving or entering a broken cistern? Were we leaving or returning to the spring of living water? Were we leaving or entering the ancient path? Were we leaving or returning to the good way? I didn’t want us to be the ones who say, “We will not walk in it.”
Pressed for time, I decide to take a road I didn’t normally take. About ten paces up this path less travelled, I kick something metallic in the dusty dirt verge. Looking down, I see a key. I kick it again, thinking what an obscure place to lose what looks like an ordinary front door key. Then it dawns on me. A door key…
I pick it up. On one side it says, ‘Essex Shoe Repairs’ (this is the name of a key cutting shop in Chelmsford, I’ve since discovered). On the other, ‘Made in England’, and ‘1A’.
Instinctively I knew that I was somehow meant to find this key. It was an indication that things were about to be unlocked. Keys open doors. And, as all good Hobbits know, “If there’s a key, there must be a door.”
I felt God was saying yes, it’s okay for us to gather in our friend’s house that Sunday.
A little way on, I find a large branch strewn across the track, which I pick up and throw to one side. Immediately I’m reminded of…
It was time to begin clearing away the obstacles. Re-digging the ditches. Unblocking the wells. Reopening the ancient paths. Returning to the spring of living water.
Unlocking long-locked-up doors. “If there’s a key, there must be a door.”
Sunday 7 January 2007
Four old friends gather to pray in a living room somewhere in Thurrock, to open their hearts in a fresh way to receive something fresh from God.
They just wanted to get out of their formal church settings for a month to explore why they were feeling what they were feeling – dissatisfaction, weariness, frustration, a sense of ‘is this all there is?’ They didn’t know what to expect. Except to expect the unexpected.
From my journal:
“We discussed Jeremiah 2:13, and how we are dissatisfied with church as it is… And so we prayed – not for things or people, but to God. After sometime I felt the urge to open the sliding door [of the French windows] – to ‘let God in’ – but resisted. Vera eventually mouthed at me, ‘Tell them about the key’ – at which point I looked at the door again and saw that the latch had a key in it. I mouth back to Vera, ‘Shall I open the door?’ She mouthed, ‘Yes,’ in reply. So I walked down [the room] to the door… and turned the key, slid open the door open… and immediately with the breeze of cold air came in the Holy Spirit! All four of us began to laugh with complete joy… After a while I closed the door, but the joy of God’s presence lingered, and we knew our gathering had been right.”
It was the First Sunday after Epiphany. And we were surprised by joy.
Our month of Sundays came and went. The journey had been embarked upon, our coracles untied and our sails hoisted. We headed out to the deep depths.
An unexpected adventure. “If there’s a key, there must be a door.”
Monday 7 January 2013
Six years have passed. On our ‘Godyssey’ we have discovered the Secret Place. We have entered in The Presence. We’ve moved from the living room to the Community Prayer House where the prophetic was rife. We’ve put up our tent, taken it down and followed the pillar of fire, and put the tent up again. Others have passed through the tent, from hard ground through to lush meadow. We’ve been led into ‘church-in-the-house’ and moved the tent again, and pitched it in several homes.
Now, we’re learning what discipleship really is. We’re thinking about multiplication. We’re looking for ‘persons of peace’ or ‘worthy persons’ (Luke 10). We’re evaluating the five ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11.
During this time we’ve found six keys, or rather, six keys have found us. One was found just before we realised that what we were doing was indeed a form of house church. One was found next to one of my assemblages during the Thurrock Art Trail. A seventh key was seen around someone’s neck at a gathering last September in Nottingham – it had on it the letter V and the word ERA. Doors are opening for Vera now that can only be God’s doing.
And today a catalogue arrived – it’s for Paul Cave, but for some reason has our address on it. It’s from a company called Key.
“If there’s a key, there must be a door.”
Alan Hirsch (The Forgotten Ways):