Glorious Waste of Time
That is how Marva Dawn described worship. Her point was that worship cannot be reduced to cash value. We do not engage in worship for the pay off. Instead, we offer up our lives like the woman who offered up her precious perfume to honour Jesus by pouring it on his head.
I was thinking about wasting time in the last seven days that I have spent researching at Tyndale House in Cambridge. Tyndale is learning community, with a brilliant library of biblical scholarship, a group of staff who are committed to maintaining the highest standards of thinking, and a set of researchers from all over the world.
While there I read amongst other things a book by Richard Bauckham on the Letter of James. The writer included a quotation from the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, that suggested,
“Christian scholarship is the human race’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the New Testament, to ensure that one can continue to be a Christian without letting the New Testament come too close.”
There is always the possibility that experts will spend their time not seeing the wood for the trees. Research can sometimes be a case of thinking more and more about less and less!
That is not the case for those who are involved in working at Tyndale House. The philosophy of this place is focused on doing high-end thinking in the service of Jesus, the health of the church and the spread of his kingdom in the world.
Their focus is rooted in the desire to be a hub for people to be engaged in the glorious waste of time that is applying heart, soul, mind and strength to the task of equipping Christian thinkers to resource the church for its mission in the world.
What brings me to Cambridge? I wanted to spend time drilling a bit deeper into a project I have on at present. Sometimes it is good to spend a day or a week working on one project, without the pressure of having to deliver a sermon or a paper at the end of the week.
The mind is allowed to roam a bit freer. There is time to think and space for some stimulating conversations.
I was working on the theme of the Fatherhood of God and the challenges of many who have issues surrounding fatherhood.
I started with a handful of fragmentary ideas that have begun to fall into shape during the week. I have had time to check that my thinking is rooted in Scripture and that I have something helpful to say about it.
Not every preacher can afford either the time or the money to get away for a week but maybe putting a day a month in the diary to spend time in reflective study would pay all sorts of dividends?
One day a month would give 12 days to waste on reading 12 books, writing 12 chapters for a book, or simply to give us space to breathe and reflect more deeply.
The deeper we are as people, the deeper we can become as preachers.