This summer, we had a lovely holiday traveling up North, visiting friends and churches in Manchester, the Lake District and then in the Western part of Scotland. Even Iona featured for a day (and that day trip included 5 ferry crossings!).
In Scotland, I have become a “hot tub convert”!
With the cold weather and strong winds (and often also the rain), it is such an efficient way of warming up again quickly after a day out. I had initially been surprised that so much of the holiday accommodation in Scotland featured either a hot tub or a swimming pool with sauna. We rented a holiday lodge for a few days – complete with our very own hot tub. We hadn’t particularly looked for somewhere with a hot tub, but when it was there, it added much joy and warmth to our days.
And this made me reflect on the role of the Church in our society:
Many people don’t initially look for the church either. Life seems busy enough, there are many activities to occupy our spare time outside the church, and many people simply enjoy the comfort of their own homes after a day at work. They may have a basic belief in God, Jesus and in Heaven, but the church doesn’t appear in their lives very often. And they get on fine with life.
What prompts people to come to church again and engage with their own faith is the “rough weather” in life. When things aren’t as smooth, when icy breezes shake us up, when storms shake our very foundations in life, then we are more likely to look for the warmth of the “hot tub” church.
And once we have allowed ourselves to step in, momentarily leaving all our “stuff” behind, we find ourselves surrounded by the warming comfort of God’s embrace. We become still. Whatever burdens we carried, however cold we felt, we sink into God’s arms and rest there for a while. Even if the breeze continues to blow around us, the hot tub offers a sanctuary and gives us a different perspective.
After spending some time inside the comfort of the hot tub, we feel strengthened and ready again to face our surroundings – whatever the weather. As we step out into life again, we decide which things we need to pick up again, and then we do so with new energy. And when we get more familiar with using a hot tub, it becomes an increasing joy to step in, even if the day has not been windy or cold at all. The hot tub is never a necessity but it can add much joy to our days.
Equally, I don’t believe it is a necessity for people to attend church regularly in order to find salvation, but if we do spend time in church, with God and surrounded by our family in Christ, then we feel refreshed and strengthened to face the challenges of our days.
1 Peter 5:10 promises: “You will suffer for a while, but God will make you complete, steady, strong, and firm.” (CEV Bible)
Church, at its best, offers us a foretaste of the unconditional eternal love and comfort of God’s eternal Kingdom!