When I recall my first efforts as a preacher, I marvel at the tolerance of my congregations. How they suffered from the excesses of youth; I was 18 years old when I first began. There was the occasion when we sang Charles Wesley’s popular hymn, And can it be (Hymns & Psalms 216), often referred to as “The Methodist Anthem”. I got carried away at the end of it, telling the congregation that I was so moved we should be dancing down the aisle of the church. Dance does have a place in worship today but not in those far distant days! Not my cup of tea, actually it does nothing for me, but it doesn’t stop me from singing gustily and I hope tunefully, Sydney Carter’s Lord of the Dance. Anyhow I don’t and never could dance! It would be nice to think of myself as a prophet, or an early charismatic Christian. Neither would be the true “me”! My utterance that Sunday morning was simply naively over enthusiastic, and perhaps a wee bit foolish trying it out with a Scots congregation. It would be different today.
Sadly, the older I become, the more I realise how staid is much of our spirituality and discipleship. The more I reflect, the more I realise how great the need to recapture something of the zeal with which the early Christians invaded the post-Pentecostal world. The sort of enthusiasm which got them into trouble when they were accused of “turning the whole world upside down” (Acts 17: 1 – 9 AV); a statement that infers utter chaos and, in my view, a picture that loses much of its point in new translations of Acts where it is replaced with “they have caused trouble all over the world.”
It was William Barclay who said the trouble is that with the passing of the years we wrap Jesus up in so much stained glass.