“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
I had just arrived home from our church Christmas meal, well fed and ready for a lazy evening (thanks Gabby’s). Sadly this did not happen! Long story short; the Mothers and Toddlers fund had been stolen from the church and the perpetrator(s) had broken out through my office window.
We keep nothing of worldly value in the building (1 John 2:15) , other than a (well hidden) box that contains the Mothers and Toddlers collection. The fund goes towards toys, books, biscuits, drinks and snacks for the children. At the end of term the surplus is then spent on a party and goody bags for those who come.
I do not want to go into too much detail, but, we have been told that the extensive movements of the perpetrator(s) throughout the church building left many clues for Crime Scene Investigation who are hopeful.
With Police support we published what had happened on our Facebook page. The community quickly rallied around their local church, setting up a crowdfund page that has raised nearly £600 in less than 24 hours. As a church we are terrifically humbled by this gesture and thank all those who donated, offered their support, encouragement and prayers. We are so blessed to be in such a community, surrounded by so much love and generosity.
We are just a small independent church supported by our members. We are not part of a larger denomination, we do not have fancy ornaments and relics to maintain, and you do not see me walking around the village with costly ministerial garb (more like trainers, jeans and a Parker jacket). The little money we take in during the Sunday collection goes on the facilities maintenance and bills, to ensure it remains a safe and welcoming place for all those who come throughout the week. The rest of the funds go towards serving the local community God has given us.
As a church we love everyone in our valley just as Christ loved us (1 John 4:19). We long for opportunities to show this love, by sacrificially giving and supporting the community we have been called by God to serve (1 Peter 4:10).
This is why I am so horrified by such a crime and pray deeply for the perpetrator(s).
I grieve for them and for the desperate situation that they must be in this Christmas, to risk so much for such a small collection box. If they had simply come in to see us, we would have rallied around them and supported as best as we could. They simply did not need to break in.
So, on behalf of the church I would like to reach out to the perpetrator(s) and say:
- We understand that everyone faces difficulties in their lives and that these often lead to misjudgments and mistakes. I have made several myself (1 Timothy 1:15)! The Bible tells us, that this is human nature, none of us are perfect (Romans 3:10).
- Please know that church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners. We are not a place of duty driven religious nuts, but a loving community of grace who gather in thanksgiving.
- As we gather knowing that none of us are perfect, we do not judge anyone who comes in (Matthew 7:1).
- Our unlikely unity as a family of all ages and backgrounds, is a unity unseen by worldly institutions, radiating from the love of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
- For these reasons we welcome all who wish to come, whatever the circumstance and this means you to!
During this festive season we remember how low God came, in love, to raise the weakest of us up. He (Jesus) left the glory and perfection of Heaven to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). He chose to be born into the lowest of families, spending His first night on earth in an animal feeding trough (Luke 2:7). He grew up to live a life of poverty (Matthew 8:20) and suffering that peaked in the most unimaginable pain of crucifixion. Where on that Cross He took on Himself the justice we deserve for our failures, the consequences for our sins and gave us His perfect life despite our imperfections.
By accepting that God has done the “religion for you” (In Jesus Christ) and repenting of your ways, seeking to follow Christ’s example, Christians can know a fresh start. A clean slate that we as a church offer (by God’s grace) to you today! What a gift this Christmas (John 3:16) .
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25.
As Christians we do not come to a God who cannot sympathies with life’s difficulties that you maybe facing, because in Christ Jesus, He faced the world at its very worst! (Hebrews 4:15). In Christ, we do not come to a God of judgement but one of love and compassion (Psalm 145:8). The God who by His grace (not by our merit) forgave us for our failures (Ephesians 2:8-9) and in this same strength, we as Christians can forgive all those who have caused us pain to.
This is the real meaning of Christmas! Hope, in our loving God, who paid the price for our failures.
It is a shame that such profound love that we are reminded of at ‘Christ-mas’ has been replaced by a big red man that shows no mercy to those on his naughty list. It is a greater shame that Christmas has driven such social pressure on families that some have had to go to extreme lengths simply to fund the season.
If the perpetrator(s) is reading this, we have a number of events going on over Christmas and you (as well as all the community) are most welcome to come and join us to find out more about a love that you will not receive anywhere else, a love that can forgive and forget all things. (1 John 4:8).