And let us continue to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day coming nearer.
In the woods behind my home there is a brook; a small sliver of a stream meandering past pines and birches. It barely makes a sound as it winds its way around stones and fallen branches. There are two bridges allowing passage back and forth across this stream, though they hardly seem necessary. A well-trod path running along side affords any on-looker a close-up view of its twists and turns as well as the varied debris that nature has tossed between its banks.
At one such turn there is a tangled mass of broken limbs, rotting logs and entire trees that lost their battle with time and the elements. Some are large and weighty, some long and spindly but all of them beyond the ability of the little stream sneaking by them to carry them there. Elsewhere along the banks of this “brook” are the shattered remains of a once sturdy bridge that had been swept away by mightier waters than these. Now all that remains of these once proud waters are stagnant pools filled with rotting leaves and a tiny rivulet that runs by and around but not over the stones that cover its bed.
Where are the mighty waters that ripped a bridge from its moorings? Where is the rushing river that sent large trees tumbling past its banks? Where are the deep and churning waves that swept anything away that was foolish enough to challenge its angry current? Once the strongest man could not have traversed its banks without serious bodily harm; now I can cross from one to the other, at any number of locations, without even getting the bottom of my shoes damp. Where are the mighty rolling waters?
If you were here in the spring you would have seen them. “Wait,” you ask. “How can a proud and flowing body of water…a mighty living stream become a pitiful and decaying shadow of itself?” Simply put: It is no longer being fed. In early spring, swollen tributaries from upstream pour their waters into it. The crisp waters of melting snow gladly add their share. And the waters from heavy spring rains pour from seasonal brooks, pathways turned into streams and nooks and crannies you never knew were there to add to the bounty. In the summer all that changes. Once connected and fed by waters outside itself; it is now on its own. And without this connection to these other waters it slowly but surely begins to dry up. Locked in “fellowship” with all these other waters pouring themselves into it all was well. Alone it hasn’t a chance.
So…How is your stream doing? How are your “living waters”? Are you still being fed? Are your waters swelling as you feed on the loving fellowship of your faith family as they pour their love into you? Or are you drying up from the selfish pursuit of personal pleasure and solitary living; devoid of the joy of loving and being loved by your brothers and sisters in Christ? With the help of these “other waters”, are you still able to sweep away even the largest debris that is cluttering your life and blocking your path? Or are you struggling to wind your way around them or worse have you become a stagnant pool? Are you still being fed or are you drying up?
The story is told of an old Scottish farmer who at one time had been a faithful member of his church. One day he just stopped going. As weeks turned into months, the pastor decided to drop by one day for a visit. They sat by the coal fire sipping hot broth and making small talk when finally the pastor said, “So…Peter, I couldn’t help but notice that you haven’t been in church lately.” “No…no, I haven’t,” replied the farmer. “I’ve been pretty busy.” “Now, Peter,” said the pastor. “You know you can’t receive the full blessing of the Lord outside His body.” “Oh come now,” said the farmer. “I can talk to God here as well as there. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but frankly I don’t see any benefit I can get from being with a bunch of people that I can’t get here by myself.” “I see,” said the pastor. A few awkward moments passed and then without a word the pastor took the tongs next to the fireplace, reached into the fire and took out a single piece of glowing coal and placed it on the hearth. They both watched in silence as the coal went from bright orange to dull red and finally ash grey. The pastor then picked up the cold piece of coal and placed it back in the fire where, in short time, it was glowing once again. After a short time the old farmer turned to his pastor with a sheepish grin and said, “See you on Sunday, pastor.”
So what will it be glowing coal or cold ash…raging water or stagnant pool? The choice is yours. But admit it; it’s any easy choice, isn’t it?