A home group that works (a short story)
By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream
The group members sat in the living room nursing their cups of tea awkwardly as the noise of crashing and shouting from upstairs reverberated throughout the house.
“Carol did tell me that Tom’s been difficult recently”, said Lucy.
“I’m sure she’ll say more when she comes down”, offered Mike. “Helen, why don’t you carry on with that story about your day at work – Kate and Ryan didn’t hear it as they’ve only just arrived”.
“Well”, said Helen, “as you know I do supply teaching at Marbury Community College. Today all the staff who weren’t teaching were in some kind of training meeting, so guess what – I had to supervise the kids who’ve been excluded from class!”
Expressions of sympathy murmured round the room.
“The same two girls were there for three lesson hours. They’re not even in the same year so I think they planned to be naughty and get excluded so they could be together. The older one was the leader, and the younger one was like her disciple.”
“Sounds like the beginning of a gang”, said Ryan.
The group then got into a discussion. Helen gave some background information on the older girl – 15 years old, her home life was chaotic (she had been told to leave home after her mother and her new boyfriend had a baby); she was disruptive and uncooperative at school. Social services were involved, but how would this girl find stability and proper guidance?
At this point Carol came in and sat down with a big sigh and tears in her eyes. “Tom is just being so difficult at the moment. He’s just turned 13. He won’t say it but I know he really misses his dad. I haven’t been able to give him the attention he needs, with things being difficult at work and so on.”
“Can we pray about these things right now?”, said Mike, and one by one the group members prayed first for Carol and Tom, then for the off-the-rails girl from the school, and then more generally for teenagers in the community and across the country. They brought before God the confusion that young people were experiencing, with norms about family and identity being re-shaped, the lack of role models, and worries about the future. They prayed a blessing on the ministry and witness of the church and especially the new youth worker.
When they drew to a close, the members of the group committed to an informal rota of practical help for Carol on some school day afternoons. It was Carol who after wiping away her tears asked “what are we supposed to be studying this week? I can’t remember what chapter we reached in the book?”
“Would it be OK for me to make a suggestion?” asked Mike. “I think I’ve heard a number of people say that this book we’re following week by week has got some good stuff in it, but often we feel it doesn’t really address our real issues, the things that come out in discussion like we’ve just had. Maybe we can go back to the book another time. Could we for now look at some Scriptures which shed some more light on what we’ve been talking and praying about? For me, Matthew 4 comes to mind”.
Together they read Matthew 4:12-25. Mike asked: “what was the problem, and what was Jesus’ solution?”
Kate responded: “well, the people are living in darkness. And they are suffering from every disease and sickness and demon possession. They need light and healing”.
“Jesus starts preaching first”, says Lucy. “Then he calls these ordinary guys to follow him. Then he heals the sick. But hang on, he says ‘repent for the Kingdom of heaven has come near’ – can someone explain what that means?”
“I guess it means something like ‘we need to change, a new start, because God is taking control”, offered Ryan. “Jesus talks about it first, and then he puts it into practice, he shows it’s real, with the healing and change in people’s lives?”
“And isn’t it interesting that the end result doesn’t just help the people on the inside, those who already know about God”, said Lucy excitedly. The light is for the Gentiles – and look, in verse 24 it says news about Jesus even spread to Syria. If only the Gospel would go there today!”
“I’ve heard that it is”, interjected Carol. “Apparently people from Syria are becoming Christians in refugee camps and in European cities as well. But it is so unbelievably awful for those people. I mean, can you imagine it? We complain about problems here, but we have no idea what it’s like to have to run away from home because of war”.
There was a discussion for some time about refugees and their needs, and then about problems closer to home, including the sickness of members of the congregation and other issues. Again the group paused to pray for those in the church needing the healing of Christ, people in the wider community, and then they interceded for those affected by the conflict in the Middle East.
“So let’s get back to the ministry of Jesus”, said Mike when the prayers had come to a natural end. What did he do to address the needs he found?”
Lucy frowned as she re-read the passage, and gave her opinion. “Well Jesus did the healing himself, but I guess he knew he wouldn’t be there all that long. So he called the disciples to follow him. In this bit we don’t see them doing much – maybe they travelled with him and saw the miracles he did?”
Something had occurred to Ryan as well. “Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, and James and John, ‘follow me’, and they left their work to go with him. I can see that they became the beginnings of a new movement which is what the church should be today. If I’m going to follow Jesus now, does that mean I have to leave my work? Do what he says? Fish for people? I mean, if we take it seriously, it’s like..big changes!”
There was silence for a moment, people looked at each other, and then the group erupted in laughter at the expression on Ryan’s face.
With a broad grin Mike said “why don’t we just spend a moment of quiet, and think about what some of these things mean for us. A light has dawned. Repent, turn away from what we know is wrong, because Jesus our King is here. He’s looking at each one of us, and says with great love, “follow me”, knowing full well what each one of us can do at this time. And we start to change the way we think – instead of being focused on ourselves we begin to look at what his agenda is”.
After a brief closing prayer the group relaxed and chatted. The door opened and Tom appeared, looking embarrassed and beckoning to Carol who went out. A few minutes later she returned with a huge smile. “He said sorry to me, and even let me say a prayer with him”, she exclaimed, looked up to heaven, did a fist pump. “Yes!” The rest of the group shared her joy, and later drifted home having met with Christ, learned from the word and engaged with the world.