Eureka!

I get it! I get it! A ‘Eureka’ moment!

The best part of blogging is when I’m excited about something and I want to tell someone and there’s no one tell and then I remember – YOU!

This is an old Chinese proverb I heard, while I was watching a video from the Bruderhof website;

‘Never use a hatchet to remove a fly from a friend’s forehead.’

That’s not my eureka moment but isn’t that great? It was a stepping stone. Sometimes an adage is so clever that it just makes me laugh aloud with pleasure – like a great scene in a film, or a revelation in a poem, or an insightful sermon. My laughter is less about the funny-ha-ha aspect of it, and more about delighting in the clarity and wit, the words that communicate so much, so succinctly. Of course now (as usual) I’m tempted to go off on a by-road about individual scenes in Fargo, but I’m not going to do that today. I’ve banged on about them enough.

This proverb tickles me right now because recently someone took a hatchet to remove a fly on my forehead and he knocked my head off my shoulders along with the fly! So I’m typing this with my head tucked underneath my arm. The best proverbs, in every culture, are full of wisdom, taking some great truth that may have taken the writer years to learn, and tying it up in a neat little nugget. That recent hatchet job upset me for weeks, and I think will be a part of me for ever, but this proverb has made me realise what actually happened – there was a fly on my forehead and he did try to swat it off. Just with too much relish.

But none of that is my eureka moment. Not quite. It’s just leading up to it.

The best writings and the best lessons are like that proverb. They’re given in a spirit of love and gentleness but, more than that, they reveal a truth. But more than that, they heal and guide. But more than that, they equip and support. That proverb has helped me to see what’s happened and where to go from here. The whole Bible does the same.

We often talk about the gift of teaching, but that’s an umbrella phrase, covering so many different gifts; some teachers are planners, with lessons structured to meet exam requirements. Some excel in the pastoral aspect, being acutely aware of the individual pupil’s needs. Some are inspiring, passionate, adventuring into their subjects and less focussed on results tables. Away from the classroom too, in pulpits, there are again all sorts of teachers, those who expound and preach and rebuke, and there are anecdotalists and story tellers, there are blood-and-guts thunderers, and there are soft spoken smilers…. and they all do their best…. and then there are the distillers.

Distilling truth.

Concise and insightful. Able to wrap up a huge truth in a nugget of gold.

EUREKA! There’s my moment.

We all have our ‘go to’ books in the Bible and I tend to read the New Testament and Isaiah, Ecclesiastes and a few more – I’m not so great at tackling the big sweeping history of the Israelites. So I’m trying to remedy that and to get to grips with the historical books of the Old Testament and yesterday I started Deuteronomy. This morning I read

Deuteronomy 4:9 ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

And reading those words, fresh from recognising the relevance of that ‘hatchet’ proverb, that’s when the concept of distillation, came to me. I realised that the greatest gift I have had in my Christian walk is that I have been taught not just by teachers but by distillers. And I realised why and how their teaching changed my life. To teach in this way demands a great deal from the teacher. Maybe everything. More than the hours spent at the desk or in the pulpit. ‘Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.‘ To distil and reveal the depth of a Bible truth and to get it across to the distracted, the dreamers and the stubborn contrarians, the teacher has to live in that truth, not just exploring it but praying about it, submitting to it, applying it, listening for the echo… obeying the whisper of God… following him whatever else is happening….. a whole load of living to be done before the truth can be distilled, before the droplet of wisdom forms and glistens and drops….

… onto the parched ground below. Me. You.

I’ve had a crack at giving a message. It’s OK. I was OKish. Meant well. No more. But I’m not a distiller. Because it’s not about telling a story, any half decent narrator could do that. And it’s not about arguing convincingly, or understanding the politics of the early church – any one can read up on these and regurgitate the info. It’s not about passion or erudition or the timbre of the voice, or bringing the listener to tears, or causing them to shout ‘Amen!’ (isn’t that annoying? I think it’s really annoying, distracting, unnecessary. I do)

It’s not about any of that. It’s about living, living, the Gospel. When you live it, you can distil it. My old church talked about being prayer saturated, and I think that distillers have to be Word saturated. I think about the two teachers I’ve learned the most from in my Christian life, and I realise that although they are very different, and their ‘format’ of teaching is dissimilar, they have something in common; they both live in the Word. They are nourished by the Word, they study it, pray it, drink it, love it, live it. It invigorates them. And then they both distil it.

Jesus said ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

That’s what they do. They live by the Word. The Word is the fabric of their lives. By every word that comes from God and by the Word himself.

I owe so much to these two teachers. I don’t score them, mark them out of ten, compare them to Spurgeon, I don’t rate them alongside other preachers. All that’s a waste of time, rubbish. I just know that because they live in the Word of God, the words they speak and write are full of truth and love, and can be trusted. My eureka moment is that when teaching comes from the Word, inspired by the Word, submitted to Him, then it is pure enough to drink, to gulp down, to pour into the body, to swim in, to dive in, to live by. To trust. These two blokes are not perfect. They might even have off days, I don’t know. One is great at carving chicken and one makes the best pizzas in the world. Beyond that, they are not perfect. But they draw their strength and their gift from God.

My Eureka moment is that just as his pure water has flowed into them and from them into me, so it will flow out of me. All His doing. Sometimes you just have to give Him a capital H. God is good.

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