I hate getting lost. I find it very frustrating going the wrong way, taking the wrong road or ending up not where I want to be. I thought all my troubles would be over when I was given a Tom Tom or satellite navigating system. When I finally worked out how to use it, I felt very confident that my days of getting lost and getting hot and bothered were over. Not so. While the additional technology has been a great help, and has steered me accurately to places that would have been very hard to find, this technology is not perfect. On several occasions I have typed in a Uniting Church only to be guided not to the church building but to the manse. In several cases that has added to my confusion given a number of our manses are let out on the real estate market and the occupiers have never heard of the Uniting Church!
I have always believed that God guides and that God calls and I have relied on this truth throughout my Christian life. The Bible is full of stories about God calling people: Abraham, the prophets, the calling of disciples, and the Damascus road experience of Paul. God, however, is not a GPS. The call of God and the guidance of God is not an exact science. We do have the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit and wise Christian counsel as great resources, but they are not in a sense, infallible. We can misread Scripture; we can be guided by our own ego or flawed intuition, and our Christian friends can sometimes give the wrong advice. (the current Archbishop of Canterbury, candidated for the ministry and he was told he would never ever become an Anglican priest. He just didn’t have the goods. Thankfully he applied a second time and was accepted). So the sign posts to the future are not always clearly marked. Faith and trust are key ingredients in the Christian journey. When God does call it may not always be clear. Some are given guidance from God that is so clear and convincing. I am delighted for people when that happens. On other occasions the future next steps seems hazy and confusing. Sometimes there is not one clear choice but several paths before us. Which job to take, which person to marry, which church to join, which house to buy, which areas to live in, can present us with an array of confusing choices. For Christian people we pray and activity seek guidance, but we also live with some ambiguity.
As John Ortberg points out, a classic example of the lack of a divine GPS is in the book of Acts. The church had to decide if God is calling them to include Gentiles in a radical new way. After much prayer and discussion they send out a letter with these words; “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”(Acts 15:28). “It seemed good”? The future of the entire human race is at stake and the best they could do was a rather humble “it seemed”. Interestingly the church leaders were quite comfortable sending out this letter. God’s will and guidance was not precise and bold. It did not demand certainty. Rather it called for sincere obedience, an openness to the Spirit and to each other.
Part of the great adventure of the Christian life is being open to the guidance of God and getting some wonderful surprises where God ends up leading us. Just don’t expect every road to be well signposted.
Steve Francis, Moderator