Celebrating Smallness

For years I used to teach using an image of a funnel,small

to help shape ministry. At the top of the funnel is the wider community and as it narrows the volume decreases but the concentration increases. At the very narrowest spot in the funnel is the cross. It represents the cruciform life, what Jesus called “the narrow way”.  Numbers are only relevant at the uppermost reaches of the funnel but concentration is the key in the formation of cross shaped Christianity (and can there be any other true form of the faith?).

Now I no longer teach in formal settings and in a world obsessed with numbers I am content with smallness and its potential for ‘high concentration’. When people ask me how our ministry is going they often inquire about numbers. I feel their disappointment when I share the numbers but sense the tide turn as I begin to tell the story of what God is doing in folks’ lives.

For the past year or so Linda and I have been attending a “Worship and Bible Study” which takes place after a community meal at the Out Flow Shelter. After supper we watch the crowd dwindle down to a handful who choose to stay for worship. Often we share communion as well as the worship and study. We find these the most meaningful worship experiences in our week. Phil, who leads this is a busy man and sometimes he cannot make this mid-week time and he asks me to “Phil” in. This week a small handful of us remained. I only had a few hours’ notice so I shared what I had been learning in my personal devotions that day. I am so glad for that spiritual preparation! As I was speaking a woman came in breathlessly. I felt the prompting to ask her if she had something to share. She had come because she felt the Spirit’s prompting to pray with a group of other believers. She had learned of a stabbing and a victim in critical condition. She was bursting to pray for this situation. I invited her to lead us and she did. She then apologised but said she couldn’t stay. She rushed out again. We all had a sense that we had become involved in something much bigger than ourselves! A large gathering may not have been able to make room for this but we could turn our little coracle quickly to accommodate the Spirit.

We have a small house church meeting at which people share in tears and at length. We have patience to hear each other because we are small. These times are more intense than any larger gatherings.

In a world obsessed with numbers I have become content with smallness. Society may never know the eternal consequences of obscure small ministry, but society is not our audience. The one who began his earthly incarnation as a single cell in a virgin’s womb illustrates to us “Do not despise small things!”

Throwing Pots

The First Sign

Ordinary water, the stuff of everyday life,

The stuff of life itself!

Poured into dull clay jars,

Pots thrown by human hands!

At His command tipped out,

Gushed forth the best of wine,

This the sign “New Wine”!


In the ordinary of hum drum life

Minutes and hours that make life itself.

He pours into dull clay jars

Pots thrown by divine hands!

At His command flows out

Streams of ‘Living Water’

This sign “New Wine”!


I was recently at a gathering of our Threshold Community. During the time together the topic of note taking and journaling came up. I shared that I don’t write anything down. Immediately I was reminded by my friends that I write each week. At their insistence I did have to admit (to myself) that this does form some kind of journal of my thoughts and journey.

Linda is an avid note taker but I never take notes. I got through school on my then excellent memory. It fails me sometimes lately but in the past it saw me through. Most of my ‘writing’ though, is for my own amusement. Much of my so-called writing is never actually written. I compose in my imagination and there I edit and there I enjoy. I share these only with my ‘Muse’, God the Holy Spirit. The above were some thoughts I had as I mused on John chapter 2.

I look for the double entendre from which to make a pun. I see clay jars and think of Paul’s analogy that we are jars of clay. I think about us being formed on the potter’s wheel ‘thrown’ by God who is the Potter. I remember Graham Kendrick’s poignant lyrics in “The Servant King” “Hands that threw stars into space to cruel nails surrendered.”, and see a double use for the word thrown, for a potter ‘throws’ a pot. I see the everyday ordinariness of tasteless ubiquitous (for us) water, which occupies the clay pot until the royal fiat to be poured out. I wonder when it became such fine wine. Was it wine before it was poured or only as it was poured? I don’t know. But I do know the new wine was not in evidence until it was poured.

Where am I being poured? Or am I holding my contents to myself and not living for God and his world? Is my fine wine turning to vinegar as it remains? The promise of John 4 is “streams of living water”.

The Dead Sea is dead because there is inflow but no outgo. It is well named! Is there a lesson here? I think so!

Humour me!


For as long as I remember, I always wanted to be a comedian. I find humour in almost everything and if I do not always amuse others I do amuse myself! This desire comes at a price. Early on I did not keep a rein on my biting sense of humour and it got me in trouble at home and at school. Looking back, I was seldom a “bad” kid, but I was constantly in trouble. I have spent countless hours standing in the hall outside the principal’s office. My clowning came at a high price sometimes but heedless of the cost I persisted. Many thought I would never amount to anything and I seemed determined to prove them right! I guess you could say “I was laughing all the way to the food bank.” Seeing and commenting on the lighter side of things became a heavy burden.

For a time I decided to become serious about being serious. I failed! It is just not in me. Then early one day as I was thinking about sun rise “It dawned on me!” I had an epiphany. I had just enrolled at the Church Army Training College and found myself with my fellow students, standing at a busy street corner in Toronto. We were there to ‘witness’ to the rush hour commuters as they waited for a bus. Some of my fellows were gifted musicians and they got to display their talent. Because I had no talent I was assigned to orate! It was then that it dawned on me that I did have a talent. That my desire to see the amusing side of things might be God given. I could use my powers for good and for God! No one on that busy corner was as changed that day as me.

Comics often speak more truth through humour than you hear in many lectures. I began to hone the skill of telling truth through humour. God has the most amazing sense of humour: just look at the ostrich, platypus or gaze in a mirror! The scriptures are replete with this facet of God’s character. Gideon is called “A mighty man of valour” as he cowers in a wine press. Jonah is vomited on shore as a missionary to Nineveh, Peter is nicknamed “the Rock”. The Bible is full of whimsy which makes it all the more winsome.

To laugh or even smile requires that we let our guard down. It is my goal that by making people smile I prepare the way for the Good News to be received. It is with a sense of humour, usually of the self-deprecating kind, that I win a hearing with my friends on the streets. It also works in pulpit, though like most comics I have sometimes “died” out of even these ashes God can bring life!

I do not mean to communicate that I am frivolous! I am in great earnestness to communicate with power the message of God’s love for frail and fallen humanity. The empty tomb represents that God has the last laugh and we all know that he who laughs last laughs best!

If you can’t bring yourself to guffaw at least smile today, God loves you!

A New Lens


Perhaps the most fun thing I get to do is watch people encounter Jesus for the first time. They may have heard of him but have not really encountered him. It is a joy to see the light go on for them and to hear their early observations.  I have been a Christian for a long time. I cannot remember waking up and not belonging. Inside the Kingdom is my ‘normal’ and I get to see it fresh through the eyes of my friends and appreciate anew what a wonder it all is.

As a spiritual exercise I have been trying to read scripture through the lens of a new comer. Over the years I have developed my own hermeneutic (way of reading and understanding Scripture). I default to my learnings in the past and create difficulty in discovering anything that may lay outside them. This new discipline, which I have learned from my Street Hope friends, involves setting aside preconceived notions and approaching the Gospel story with fresh eyes. This is easier said than done and I often have to stop myself. Like a train I want to run down a familiar track. I stop remove my familiar hermeneutic glasses and intentionally put on my tyro glasses. This inevitably leads me to a place of amazement, and once I stand firmly on this ground of wonder I can pick up my old frames and ‘dig deeper’.

This led me to begin to wonder what it was like for the first disciples, to encounter Jesus. Imagine Nathaniel. He is invited by a friend to meet the Messiah. He picks up his scepticism and trots off with his friend. Jesus meets him with a display of insight into the character of Nathaniel, who is impressed enough that he believes his pal’s extravagant claim that this is the Messiah. Together with the growing gaggle of disciples they crash a wedding in Cana and witness the first “sign” of Jesus’ messiahship as he turns gallons of water into the best of wine. Next he accompanies Jesus to Jerusalem where he witnesses the absolutely extraordinary ‘cleansing of the temple’. Together with his fellow disciples he recalls that the long awaited Messiah would be consumed with zeal for the house of God.

We read all this in a few verses of familiar scripture, but Nathaniel lived this in a few short days. What a mind blowing experience. His entire way of thinking had been revolutionized. There was still much he did not understand but what he had witnessed was more than enough to shatter his view of the world. What wonders his ‘fresh eyes’ witnessed! He probably spent the rest of his life processing it all.

At first reading I envy (a sin I know) Nathaniel, but then it dawns I can have a similar encounter, not just in my past but in my present. His mercies are new each morning and I can and ought to encounter him freshly in the now. My long experience in following him doesn’t preclude a current fresh encounter but only helps me to process the meeting.

I am grateful to be involved with people who experience with wide eyed wonder the Good News of Jesus. They are a gift to me to help me in my own halting walk.