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St Johns Southgate

05 Jun 2018

The catch up

I recently spent a morning catching up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in about 10 years.

I’m glad it happened, but it almost didn’t. Caught up in the absurdity of time-poor living, I found myself looking at my diary and selfishly wondering: “Why would I do this? What am I going to get out this? I’m probably never going to see this person ever again!”

I’m not proud of that fact, quite the opposite. But it got me thinking. It led me to seriously consider why my behaviour had become transactional, because the last thing I want to be is a person who only gives their time if there’s the promise of reward.

As I did some deep reflecting, I realised that I (or a least a part of me) had unconsciously come to believe the individualist lie – a lie that is very believable in this age of urgency.

Putting number one first makes perfect sense in a 24/7 high pressure world. But where does it get you?

Well, it got me to the point of almost saying no to something fabulous. Simply because I was intent on protecting what I had instead of being open to the infinite possibilities of shared experience.

We’re all time-poor. Even retirees! I’m frequently told by those in their golden years that they’ve never been so busy. But if our busyness leads us to devalue the other, or see in them only what we can get from them, something’s gone terribly wrong.

When Jesus walked among us, he prayed for a oneness – a communitarian experience of life for the people of the world. To that, most people, myself included, would say: “Yes! Of course. Community is so important. It’s everything!”

But knowing it intellectually doesn’t make it so, neither do councils, clubs or organisations. Building community requires individuals to decide to do things, not with complete absence of self-interest, but with a hope that their actions are cogs turning in a larger mechanism.

That morning I spent with an old friend turned out to be a blessing. There was no purpose to it, as such, but we talked about old acquaintances and who’s doing what these days. It took me beyond the “what’s next?” to a consideration of the other bees, beautifully buzzing in the hive – making it come alive and bear the fruit that it’s meant to.

Clearly, I’ve got a lot to learn, as a human being, let alone as a Christian or a pastor. But my experience is telling me that if I, and we, keep learning to slow down and smell the roses – to share with the other in their everyday doings, just because – that our collective world, would be better for it.

As winter begins, you may wish to join me in resolving to bring warmth to every interaction, so that we grow to be more of a community than a transactional society.

Tom Hoffmann

Pastor - St John's Southgate

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