Coming out in May, this introduction to my new book is an article-sized little picture of what I have come to understand as what it means to be an apostolic people.
On a clear, fresh morning in Lockdown 2021, as I pedalled along the now familiar canal-side route of my regular exercise escape from house arrest, my mind hovering between the birds and buds of spring and the limbo of not even thinking, the significance of the date suddenly dawned on me.
On this day in 1942, more than two decades before my birth, the SS Rio Blanco was torpedoed by a U-boat near the American seaboard of the North Atlantic. My grandfather, Chief Officer John MacCorquodale, was one of 19 fatalities and my mum, aged 13, was left fatherless along with her younger brother.
As I continued cycling, I recalled my mum, now passed away, telling me of how this tragedy brought about the arrival into the family home of her grandmother, Mary, to support her widowed daughter-in-law in running the home and raising the family. According to Mum, Granny Mary was a wonderful woman and the brightest shining light for Jesus she ever knew, mothering them all, widow and children alike, deeply grieved though she was herself by the loss of her firstborn at sea.
Mary came from a Tiree family that produced at least two Christian ministers, one of them apparently a renowned hymn writer, and my mother grew up singing Mary’s redemption songs. A generation later, in my own early childhood of austere Psalmody, Mum would occasionally gather her own children around the piano after what was, for us, the penance of Sabbath mornings, to sing songs that offered the same hope, joy and life that Mum first learned from her own granny.
I pulled over my bike at the bank of the canal, biting my lips as tears welled up and, for the very first time in my 57 years, uttered the words, “Lord, I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to say this, but I thank you for Mary MacCorquodale.”
My tears were a confluence of three emotions: first, gratitude for a brilliant light turned on in one of our family’s darkest nights; second, repentance that it had taken me this long to express gratitude for someone to whom I owe so much; and third, wonder at what other enormously important yet obvious things I may have been missing all along.
I have similar feelings now as I prepare to press ‘Publish’.
It’s taken me much too long to write this book.
Like my canal-side prayer, the things I’ve written were neither complicated nor hard to say, yet so important to be said and, potentially, a catalyst for gratitude, repentance and wonder to anyone who gets the picture.
It’s not hyperbole to say that in the vision of this book is the answer to everything for everyone.
The Big Picture, almost by definition, is not mine but God’s. It’s way bigger than I. It dwarfs the imaginations of the greatest thinkers and the strategies of the biggest churches. There is no vision worth having that does not fit somewhere into God’s.
The Big Picture is God’s vision.
Others may explain it more impressively and fully than I, but for me it’s taken nearly 40 years to sum it up in one banner:
- There is nothing of God that is not in Jesus Christ, the One in whom the Scriptures say the fullness of the godhead dwells bodily.
- There is nothing of Jesus – and therefore of God – that has not been invested in His body, the Church, and that is not revealed most clearly where that body comes together to express Him in unity.
- There is no part of the “all things” of God’s created order, visible or invisible, on Earth or beyond, that is outwith the reach of the church God has birthed and is still building today.
Your personal calling and your church’s or movement’s mission, will never come remotely close to achieving its potential, until you’ve pulled over to the side of life’s path and become gripped by something infinitely bigger than any and all of us.
Indeed, it is then that the purpose for which we were each created will begin, as never before, to find its place in God’s plan for everything.
Having outrageously packed the infinite into a ten-word banner, it is my prayer that The Big Picture: God’s Plan for Everything will at least begin to unpack a bigger picture that will cause everything to make greater sense for you; a master plan that will ignite in you some of the things God had in mind when, in eons past before the creation of the world, He planned you.