Teaching in the parish

Teaching in the parish

This blog is to share the teaching within the parish

We are a parish who worship in four churches whilst being one worshipping community. Those who teach and preach within the parish wish to share what we believe God is sharing with us as we journey into the local communities and those in the wider areas.

Acts 4 and John 19 - Easter 2 - 2018 Rev Mary

Sunday 08th April 2018Posted by Sian Wed, April 11, 2018 17:59:40

That snapshot of life in the early church where everything was shared; money, possessions, daily life, and where no one was needy, has come down to us as either an almost unattainable ideal, or a stick with which to beat those who own any kind of property. Community living based on this early Christian pattern was around in the latter part of the 20th century, and in some circles was even advocated as the only really Christian way to live out the teachings of the the New Testament. We know of 2 couples who did just that, they sold their individual houses, bought a large one between them and lived under the same roof for some years. They extended hospitality to many needy people over years they lived together and tried to live according to the ethos of the early church, but as they would be the first to admit, community life had its downs as well as its ups and after 6 years they decided to abandon the project. The dictionary's definition of 'community' is: 'joint ownership, state of being shared or held in common, fellowship (community of interest)' It can also mean a body of people living in the same locality or even ecologically: group of plants or animals living together in a given area. But the first definition is the one that is closest to what developed in the early church. The members were of course, living in the same locality, but because of their experience of Christ they chose to live together. It was the kind of community that those outside couldn't help but notice. 'See how these Christians love one another' was one comment. Certainly, their life-style was all embracing, outward not inward looking, compassionately considering the needs of others. It could be described as holiness in action, because their attractive life-style sprung, not from a set of 'ought to's' but from a unity of spirit which was centred on devotion. Their relationship with the risen Christ was the foundation, inspiration and focus of everything they did, both within and without the church. Although each had a personal relationship with him, they show us that Jesus can't be properly followed in an individualistic way. To follow him means to become a member of the body of which he is the head. And as that body of believers, ie the church, they were sent out to share the saving work that the Father had entrusted to Jesus. The life of the church is a participation, a sharing in the the life of her God. This manifests itself on many levels. Just as each member is a unique person, so the ministry of the church has many different expressions. Today, as then, we all have a part to play and as Diana has already mentioned, we need to step up into the roles and areas where we can be uniquely used. As we receive, so we are called to give. As we worship, pray, learn and live together, focusing on Jesus then our life together will have something of that first century attractive community about it. People will notice and be drawn to us. Why it is then, that people often find the church irrelevant and unattractive? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it's often to run it like a social club instead of a supernatural life-line, which receives its uniqueness and power from the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is commitment to the Lord and commitment to one another. St John Chrysostom commented that Association increases love. If a stone rubbed against a stone sends forth fire, how much more when soul is mingled with soul. (More than merely rubbing the sharp edges off each other) That holy commitment goes further than just the sharing of material possessions. It involves a community where there are no material inequalities, not even more subtle inequalies between benefactor and recipient, which might create a 'them and us' mentality. Holding all goods things in common was not the only model of the NT church. Some members evidently did own property. But that particular model reminds us that the holiness that comes through our communion with our holy God necessarily has a social and economic dimension. One understanding of this, and I think it's a RC one, is that while private property is is permissible, every Christian must recognise that their goods belong to God, and therefore their use of them must reflect his care for those in need. We're beginning to see this here and to put it into practice, with the food cupboards and many other, often hidden acts of generosity and care. The emphasis needs to be right, it's not an emphasis on the doing first and then hoping the 'spiritual' will follow, but an emphasis on the spiritual first and then out of our love for God and for each other, mission will flow. We need the centrality of fellowship, in the church and with God before our community can be anything like that of the early church. Look at the Hub cafe for instance. It was set up to meet a need, the computer help, and originally a kind of small thrift shop. But it didn't take long for it to become a community which meets the needs of many people. And flowing from that, it has turned out to be a means of extra finance for the church. And if the love and commitment within a community is authentic, then its working will flow out into practical holiness. Thomas didn't believe Jesus had risen; he demanded proof. But when he actually encountered Jesus, he believed, why? Because he had met him face to face. We may not be able to meet Jesus in the same physical way, but through the Holy Spirit we can encounter him in life-changing ways. The life of faith is not simply about being convinced intellectually and individually, but being drawn into a body of disciples. Just as the risen body of Christ still bears the scars of his self-offering on the cross, the body of the church will be marked by sacrificial love. For it shares in his mission of love for the world, and is infused by his Holy Spirit.[Church Times]