A Grim Sign

A Grim Sign

26 July 2013

"We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet." (Ps 74.9)


Of all of Aotearoa-NZ's indigenous wildlife, it is the bird, the Tui, which I absolutely love the most. He flies with jet-fighter-like speed and precision. His glistening black, green, blue and white colouring is brilliant. His singing and "conversation" are orchestral, haunting and other-worldly. He takes up a lot of my time, obtaining my complete attention effortlessly and without any kind of resentment on my part.


The earliest European settlers christened the Tui, the parson or preacher-bird, because of the white feathers at his throat. If you look at portraits of 1st Great Awakening leaders, Wesley and Whitefield in the 18th C, you'll see why...their black coats and white "dog collars"!


I call the Tui the "prophet" bird for two reasons:


(1) His song is glorious, symphonic...and it gives glory to the Creator.


(2) In the darkness, immediately before dawn and after sunset, he calls and calls. And his poignant chant ricochets off valley walls and weaves through thick bush, like a bell's time, it's time! When I wake up in the dark, I lie and listen out for him. I wait eagerly for his wake-up call. Like the bona fide prophet he's:


* Early.

* Singular.

* Faithful.

* Timely.

* "Blind" (2 Co 5.7)


My admiring eulogy might help you then to understand how stunned and then heartbroken I felt when I came upon two of these beloved and beautiful creatures lying together, smashed up and dead in a roadside gutter last Saturday afternoon. I was in one of New Zealand's provincial cities, to preach on three occasions in two different churches. By the time I got into my evening meeting I was charged up with sadness, indignation and a warning...this warning.


Every Christian Community in every nation, has to accept and live in a particular and peculiar kind of tension...which more often than not is very awkward and also uncomfortable. And as inconvenient as it might be, if we fail or refuse to embrace this, we will flop over into unreality and unfaithfulness. We are bound to accept the pressure and "stress" of loving and accepting all that the Lord is doing throughout His entire Body, all around the world. We do not have permission to behave like spiritual chauvinists, religious patriots. But at the same time - even as we esteem and are open to others' inheritances - we must love and honour, just that little bit more, what God is doing in our own backyard. And as New Zealanders, this is something we generally do spectacularly poorly.


During the 90's Revival in this nation, there were three main streams of unction and fire; from Toronto, Pensacola, and the indigenous. I personally tasted and thoroughly enjoyed and was blest by both of the overseas Outpourings. But at all times, I felt a very strong sense of responsibility to nurture, run with, and "promote" our homegrown Revival. This struggle was exhausting. It was like selling ice to Eskimos and hawking wood burners to the Tropics. Over and over again, when push came to shove, a majority of Christians here opted out of the necessary and even difficult tension, They ran off after and with the exotic, the imported...probably intimidated by the sheer weight of numbers, as well as the perceived glitz and glamour and "success"?


So, here is a fresh warning. We must honour and embrace with special and additional fervour those gifts of the Lord which He has sovereignly elected to plant in our own "soil". But there is more. In nature, exotic (imported) plants and wildlife - if allowed free rein - will often present a major threat to the indigenous. And so it is also in the realm of the spiritual and supernatural. Do not ever assume that what builds the Kingdom of God in another part of His Vineyard, will automatically be healthy and fruitful here. In fact, it may constitute a threat.


I believe that two "streams" of spiritual influence are going to flow into Aotearoa-NZ from overseas. And, while not necessarily wrong in themselves, in the long-run they will prove to have been detrimental to the "native" work of God here. And this quenching will focus its attention upon the prophetic; a unique dynamic that God is forming and raising up in our midst...His and our gift to the whole Kingdom, everywhere. We must remain awake and on-guard so far as this is concerned.


In a very real and practical sense we do have a most important choice to make. We can elect and accept being "small" in the eyes of the world, while remaining absolutely faithful to the singular and peculiar call of God. (And thus become great in His sight!) Or we can continue our current trend, and (lusting after "success at any price") find a more exciting "parade" to follow to somebody else's "circus"?


"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name'...Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' " (Mt 7.21-23)


"There is a poverty of uniqueness...(and there) is a temptation put also to each of us: to renounce (this) do just what 'everyone else' does...the average, thoughtless mediocrity that is veiled and protected by the legalities, conventions and flattery of a society (church?) which craves endorsement for every activity...Yet without paying the price of poverty (of spirit) no one will fulfill his mission." ("Poverty of Spirit" by Johannes Metz, Paulist Press, NY 1968)