I went to court the other day. I was supporting a friend of mine who was being prosecuted in the Crown Court. I felt nervous, unsure of myself, unaware of who was who, of where I should sit, of whether I could check my smartphone for emails during the hours watching and listening.
The courtroom was still and calm but it seemed as if a sense of unease lingered under the floor, waiting to seep up through the carpet and bring harsh judgement and humiliation. It felt grey and severe.
“All rise”, said a voice and we obeyed. In came the judge, wigged and gowned.
I surveyed the courtroom, not really understanding what was being said but I gradually worked things out. The people in wigs were the judge and barristers and a solicitor. The judge wore robes and the others had what looked like specific collars and bands. Some court officials were wearing gowns. The jury, the accused, the witnesses and the observers (like me) were dressed normally. Us and them.
A disturbance as a member of the public near me sat in the wrong place and had to be moved by the judge. He explained how the furniture was set specifically to enable lines of sight and to separate the jury, the lawyers and the accused from everyone else in a certain way.
At one point the judge got cross with someone and there was no doubting that he had the power to make your life a misery. As he said, this is a solemn place where matters of importance are decided.
“All rise”, again. And we did. The judge left for lunch. All in all, I sensed authority and power. Someone else’s authority and power. And I knew that I wanted to be on the right side of that! If that authority and power was there to protect and help me I felt safe. If not, I was in trouble. My friend went to prison for seven years.
This made me think of two things. Firstly; I’ll bet that when people come to our gatherings for the first time they are nervous, unsure of themselves, unaware of who is who and of what they should do, where they should sit, how they should respond. Secondly; that I want there to be a sense of God’s authority and power when we meet together. Not the lingering unease of the courtroom but hope-filled expectancy. It reminded me of when we invite people to stand to worship, “All rise”, because the King is coming among us!
The Doing the Stuff conference this weekend is going to be great. We can come with expectancy that the King will come and that as Robby ministers in Jesus’ name, with authority and power, we will be sent out with Jesus’ authority and power too. But rather than bringing harsh judgement, we will be used by Him to bring freedom, healing and good news.
Let us stay aware of guests and newcomers though and quickly set them at ease, even in the presence of Jesus!
It is going to be great to see HMC full – many will be sitting upstairs in the balcony – imagine all those hundreds of people coming in and out of the church, full of expectancy and being equipped to go and take Headingley, Leeds and the world for Jesus!
For those of you who have bought tickets, check out the website for details of the projects in which you can get involved – red, amber and green – one to suit every taste!
If you can’t make the conference, Robby will be preaching on Sunday morning and evening so you can take part then.
We've completed the teaching series Doing the Stuff, the final one being my sermon on Sunday, Jesus and Demons. They are all available on the website - search under Resources.
The Hub summer term starts after Easter. We’re just finishing our second term in Leeds and it is very good. If you would like to join the Leeds Hub you can find out lots of information at www.hubtraining.org.uk
Here’s a verse from the bible rendered in “emoticon”. It’s a creation by Giles Fraser (a parish priest and Guardian columnist).
Post your guesses on the church website!