My kids were given the most beautiful kite – it was painted silk stretched across a fine wooden frame in the 3D shape of a bird, almost real looking. And it flew spectacularly well. We had it out several times, and that particular fine summer’s day we were on a wide, flat, busy beach. Up and up the bird soared, the wind pulling it firmly against the string, as we let out more and more of the line. Finally we reached the end, with no more to unwind when disaster struck. The maker had not fixed the line firmly enough and the string parted company from the handle.
Story books have it that the kite would sail off to lands unknown; but that is not the true physics. Without the pull of the wind against the line, the bird crashed swiftly to earth, with the full length of its substantial line trailing across the whole beach, through picnics, sandcastles, sunbathers, cricket games and … oh no! That moment a group of donkeys with their young passengers approached before I had a chance to remove my line. They got their hooves tangled in its lengths, and it took all the power of the donkey owner to hold them back from a frenzied panic, while I retrieved what string I could, and unravelled it from them. It really wasn’t my fault, but I felt so bad!
So we come to Exodus 26:15-30. The tabernacle needed a structure to hold the softer fabrics firm. And so too do our churches need structure. Their job is to create a space where Holy God can come and dwell. Yet too often they become the focus. Oh and the politics…don’t let me go there! What they often forget, and what we all must fervently pray for, is their need to keep strong and flexible. The tabernacle did not stay in one place. When God wanted to move on, the structure had to come down and be reshaped somewhere else. It was designed to be non-permanent. A church structure that is unwilling to change will find that God has moved on, and the space they are creating is empty. Like the string that held the kite against the wind, there always has to be tension. The firm frame held a tension on the softer textiles. And church folk will always question and push the leadership. That’s why we must pray, pray, pray for our churches, our leadership, our organisations, that we hold the right balance, and that we are ready to move on when God is. And that when all is rightly in place, together we create a place where God can be.