Exminster Methodist Church
Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email exminstermethodists@yahoo.co.uk, Minister: Rev Ben Haslam, Telephone (01392) 256716

Letter from Revd Ben Haslam

Last week I received some very sad news. A wonderful Christian man, superintendent of the circuit where I was a lay worker for five years passed away. He believed very strongly that you could find God in the mess and imperfections of life. It was fitting then, that the following words, from a Leonard Cohen song, were read at his memorial service:

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack, a crack in everything;

That’s how the light gets in.

Those words resonated in my mind as I pondered on today’s gospel reading (Matthew 22. 34-46) in which Jesus is questioned as to which of all the commandments in the scriptures should be held to be the most important. The two greatest commandments in Scripture, said Jesus, were these: Firstly, love God with everything you have got. Secondly, love your neighbour just as you love yourself. Sometimes we can treat these two commands as if love is the answer to everything and then define love as simply being nice, and we then wrongly assume that if we are nice enough, we are fulfilling God’s commands. Of course, it is not as simple as that. When asked which was the most important command, Jesus chose one which, essentially, requires that we make space in our lives and in our days for God’s love to work. Sitting there attempting to muster loving feelings towards God is not what Jesus is getting at. We can’t squeeze enough love out of ourselves to properly honour God – but what we can do is to make space in our day to keep aside everything else which is clamouring for our attention, and make God our complete focus. We can pray that we will live, act, and speak in His Spirit and not just muddle along in our own strength. God does not barge into our lives whether we ask Him to or not. Making space for Him is crucial.

Similarly, the second most important commandment, loving our neighbour, involves a continual making space for others in our daily lives. Not just the odd, good deed here and there, but more an attitude of continually seeking the good of others, however we ourselves might be feeling. It means that we make space for the presence of others around us to come into our decision making, our daily going about our business, our ordinary lives. As with the first commandment, we need help! I don’t believe that this comes naturally to us, but that our gracious God will, if we let Him, guide us more fully into a way of life formed by a rhythm of making space for God, receiving from God, and then living out what we receive… and then coming back to be replenished all over again. God’s resources are inexhaustible, but we need to make space in our lives in order to receive. But are our days too full? Is there so much already packed into our lives that there is not room or time for anything else? Now we come back to Leonard Cohen. If we are not allowing any ‘cracks’ in our lives, how can any light shine through? Sometimes we try too hard to make our lives ‘perfect’. What matters above all is opening our lives to God, and to do that we need to make space for God to show us who He is, and who we could be through His grace.

God bless, Ben