Dear West – 18 October 2018

Once a week I write a pastoral letter to the good people of the West Congregation of the Austin Stone Community Church. I will occasionally add some of those letters here.

Dear West Family,

This last Sunday I had one of the strangest pastoral experiences of my life. As I tried to really dial into our singing and to focus my mind on our great King, I thought I saw something swoop past my head out of the corner of my eye. I thought at first I may have imagined it, and then it happened again. I started praying that it was some sort of manifestation of God’s Shekinah glory, but when a friend made panicked eye contact with me from across the room and made the tell tale “I saw that too and it isn’t good” face that parents learn to make and recognize at kids parties, I knew that what we were dealing with was not something marvelous, but something altogether unmarvelous…bats.

They are creepy little suckers and there is no way around that, and so I had to navigate the best way to keep us all calm and to simultaneously acknowledge the presence of filthy flying mammals in our midst. Nothing like this ever happened to me in Africa, just saying. It got significantly worse when one of the little suckers chose to die…slowly…on stage…a few feet from a poor family sitting in the front row. I do hope they come back. Mason did brilliantly to keep calmly playing bass whilst this little flying rat took its last twitchy breaths inches away from his left foot. Bass players are chill, but it wasn’t a great scene.

Over the past week we have learned that these guys aren’t easy to get rid of. Pretty much every member of West staff has played a part in bat pursuit duty with varying results. I caught one in my cap (that I will never wear again) and Blake may have zapped one with a tennis racket insect swatter type instrument. Strangely, none of us had this listed in our job descriptions. What has been frustrating is that just as we think we have got the last one, a couple of others emerge. We had an elders prayer meeting at the building last week and a bat came swooping casually down to listen in. Usually, when our elders pray, we expect the Spirit to flutter like a dove above us, but this was altogether less comforting.

So now, you will be pleased to know, that we have brought in the leading experts in town who are going to get them out and keep them out through some serious and drastic measures of bat removal and future resistance. I now know why Bruce Wayne had to be so wealthy, it was to pay companies to keep the bats from the cave out of his house. Rest assured that they will not be around any more.

They got me thinking though. These silly little bats are like sin in my life. Usually hidden, often dormant, and normally only emerging in the dark. You wouldn’t even know they are there at first look, but they linger and nest and wait for opportunities to emerge and to cause chaos, and if you don’t take drastic measures to get rid of them, they return. You might not see them for ages, but they are still there, waiting for an opportunity to fly into your life and cause chaos.

Friends, the grace of God means that we can and should take our sin very seriously and should do all we can to put it to death and to remove its patterns from us. When Paul wrote to the Colossian church, he reminded them that they had been raised with Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God. The implication of that incredible news of grace is that they had to be ruthless with sin. It was the only logical response that they would put it to death, to not have any part with it. That they would do whatever they could to expose it, to remove it, and to move far from it so that it couldn’t return. Jesus, of course, taught us to do the same thing. To cut off offending parts rather than to live with them continually compromising us.

Just this week I have been reminded that I have let some things lie dormant in my life instead of killing them with the power of the gospel. I have let them linger in darkness rather than exposing them to the truth of community, confession and repentance. They come back then … just as soon as it gets dark.

Let’s be encouraged to be people who believe the gospel and because we believe it, to go to extremes to live new lives of holiness.

Tell someone your struggle.
Bring light.
Bring truth.
Open the doors.
Get rid of the bats.

See you Sunday at 9:15 or 11:15 for a bat free and beautiful Sunday!

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