When we went to Llandaff Cathedral, outside Cardiff, Wales, the lonely docent said we should go find a special cupboard with Teilo’s head in it. We found one in a musty, dark corner way in the back, behind the altar. When we opened the creaky old door we got a peek at a dusty skull. As it turns out, the famous skull was in another cupboard, as you see. I don’t know who’s skull we were disrupting. But we were still excited to make the connection. The great church planter’s skull was preserved in the church, displayed in memory of a life admirably lived. He died sometime after 560, which was not an easy time to live. He had helped establish the church in Wales. Feb 9 is St. Teilo’s Day. Church planting types should mark that one their calendar. We need all the encouragement we can get.
Is that thing about his skull just creepy or can it be encouraging? I want to encourage the many people I have been talking to who think their time to live is pretty challenging, too — God does good things in tough times. I want to encourage people who need to get their head into the game of church planting — they are memorable. I want to encourage people who think the church just stuffs the memory of good things in closets and goes about their mediocre work as usual — not so! Did you witness the Compassion Teams celebrating their work last Friday?! Did you know about the decarceration team forming? Were you at the PMs last night? Did you listen to Gwen? No one is just a memory around here.
We’ve had a lot of dialogue about revival and reformation lately. We’re ambitious to do what God has given is to do in our difficult era. As a result of our dialogue, some patterns that people have established in relationship and mission are getting disrupted; people are feeling challenged, and things are changing for the better (already!) — and more is on the way. Some people feel excited; some people don’t feel so good. For the people who have always given it their all, serving new ambition feels like an overload – “I give my gifts and resources already. I can’t do more.” And there is always some person who shouts, “Don’t open that cupboard!”
I have been saying to a few of the stalwarts, “The problem is not that you don’t do things; the problem is that you just do your things. You might not be a church planter, but you need to concern yourself about whether the church gets planted. You might not have time to care for the children but your love has to be great enough to care about whether they are cared for. And if you do lead the worship, or care for kids, or lead a cell or do the limited thing you can do, you need to fill it with enough love, and let it be filled with God’s Spirit, so that what you do makes an impact beyond the borders of your smallness.” I don’t always convince people. but I try.
Maybe this is what one famous story of Teilo is about. (Teilo is actually pretty famous in Wales, at least).One day his Christian settlement was attacked and robbed of all their stores of fuel. In the cold Wales winter that meant they had to immediately go to the woods and cut down more trees or freeze to death. Their work was made easier when a great stag came to help them by delivering the wood with his antlers. Teilo is often pictured riding a stag. Life gets hard. Irritating things must be done. God shows up.
It will be great when you and creation are in such harmony that you can ride stags. Maybe that won’t happen. That’s no big deal. Until then you can be in harmony with God’s own Spirit and he will help you in your difficulties and build his church as a result. The challenges of this day can be met. Even the small things you can do will probably end up magnified, if you allow them to be in the hands of Jesus. Let’s keep our heads in the game — it is bigger than our incapability.