United Church of Christ

The Shallow End

I received a wonderful gift a few months ago. It is the prayer handbook for the United Reform Church of Great Britain for the year 2019. It has weekly prayers, scripture readings, and short devotionals. I have been delighting in reading through that.

The prayer for the week of Feb. 10 begins with a quote I want to share with you:
“The Church is like a swimming pool; all the noise is at the shallow end.” The quote is attributed to Robert Runcie.

I thought that was a humorous and yet insightful observation. The Holy Spirit is always beckoning us to go into deeper waters. Noise aggregates in the shallow water, often noise about how dangerous those deep waters the Holy Spirit is calling us into are, and how we aren’t going to risk moving into those new waters. We tend to like it just fine here in the shallow end, thank you very much.

Sound familiar?

The prayer that follows is wonderful. I have repeated it many times to myself in my daily meditations, as well as before gatherings of church leaders in various meetings and locations. I often follow the recitation of that prayer with a brief reflection on trusting the Holy Spirit and taking the risk to go into deep waters. I won’t read the whole prayer, written by Wayne Hawkins, to you, but I do want to share with you these few lines that comprise it. They are precious and priceless:

“When I am safe in the shallow end with my feet firmly on the floor, when I am surrounded by the familiar and content with what I think I know, may I hear afresh your gracious invitation to wade out into deeper waters, to make new discoveries and be open to new possibilities.
When I am in deep waters and feel out of my depth,
When I am beyond my comfort zone and see and understand myself all too clearly, when I look with longing for the safety of the shallow end again,
May I hear your voice saying, ‘Don’t be afraid.’

Isn’t that beautiful?

The Holy Spirit is less concerned about what we perceive to be our safe choices than she is about the future health and vitality of a church that must move with her into futures we can’t anticipate.

“Behold,” she said to Isaiah, “I about to do a new thing. Do you not perceive it?”

John Robinson reminded the travelers aboard the Mayflower to remember that there is yet and still more truth and light to break forth from God’s holy word.

Abolitionist poet James Russell Lowell reminded us that time makes ancient good uncouth; we must upwards still and onwards who would keep abreast of truth.

God, we say, is still speaking.

Shallow waters feel good, safe, and secure. We can find lots of like minded people who will persuade of the wisdom of planting our feet on secure, safe land.

And always the Holy Spirit beckons. Times like ours call for courage – find yours; and trust, that the Holy Spirit knows what she is doing.

Come with me into the deep waters. Be not afraid. Follow the one who sees new horizons beyond the comfortable spaces we have created for ourselves.

Let the new horizon seekers, the deep divers, and the courageous and trusting souls among us emerge. May there blaze new pathways to new futures that we cannot see. And may we all have the kind of courage needed to leave the shallows and find new hope on this, our journey Into the Mystic.