The Church after church

We are the church after church.

As God’s people we assemble, or at least we used to, in the building we call the church, we spend time doing what we often call ’church’ and then we go from there to be the church in the world. We are the church after church.

We are the body of Christ.

Paul explains this in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, each of us is part of the body of Christ and we each have a unique part to play in the working of the body. Martin Luther said we are little Christs. This is true both in church and after church.

We are temples of the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul says, “You surely know your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own.” If we replace ‘temple’ with ‘church’ our bodies are ‘churches’ where the Holy Spirit lives. We are the church wherever we are.

What does the church do after church?

Jesus took the beginning of Isaiah 61 as his mission statement in Luke 4

“The Lord’s Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers, and to say, ‘This is the year the Lord has chosen.’” Luke 4:18f

Since this is the mission of the Christ, and we are the body of Christ in the world today, then this is our mission. To tell / preach the good news.

On the day of Pentecost the great crowd of people were amazed because they were hearing everything in their own language. In Acts 2:6 & 8, the Greek word they use ‘dialekto’ gives us our word dialect. They each heard the good news in their native dialect.

The Holy Spirit empowers the church after church to spread the good news of Jesus in a multitude of languages and dialects so the whole world can be free to live in the glorious grace and love of Jesus Christ.

Holy Spirit, empower us to be the church after church. Amen.

For something extra have a listen to Twila Paris' "How beautiful" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJM0hFvz_64

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Milk

MILK

INVITATION TO THE THIRSTY: Isaiah 55:1

“Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

SIP: Milk – what comes to mind when you see or hear this word?

Perhaps its colour - white and clean or a recollection of the rich, creamy flavour coating your taste buds? How about the chill on lips and teeth and the cool cascade in your throat, as you guzzle an icy cold glassful? Or the fresh, frothy, mouth-filling feel that is oh so quenching? Or maybe, in seasonal contrast, the comfort of adding heat and chocolate to it for sustenance on a wintery afternoon?

Do you picture, a bottle, a churn, a cow? Maybe a baby suckling at the breast?

From the day we are born, we experience milk via the physical senses God has built into our bodies. As adults we can make choices about if or how we consume our dairy products. But for babies it isn’t an optional extra they can take, or leave, it is the fluid of life. The nourishment needed for survival, health, and growth.

However, as grown-ups, we are more than our bodies, so what of spiritual nourishment?

Cows’ milk, goats’ milk, even mothers’ milk, will feed us physically and nudge you with delight and thanksgiving towards spiritual well-being. But to truly nourish you in spirit you need pure, un-diluted spiritual milk - to eat and drink of God’s goodness.

DRINK:1 Peter 1:22-2:3 Newborn Babies

22 Once your lives have been purified by obeying the truth, resulting in a sincere love for all your fellow believers, love one another eagerly, from a pure heart. 23 You have been born again, not from seed which decays but from seed which does not – through the living and abiding word of God. 24 Because, you see –

All flesh is like grass

and all its glory is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, and the flower falls

25 but the word of the Lord lasts for ever.

That is the word that was announced to you.

2 So put away all evil, all deceitful, hateful malice, and all ill-speaking. 2 As newborn babies, long for the spiritual milk, the real stuff, not watered down. That is what will make you grow up to salvation – 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

*Read also Psalm 34*

DRINK DEEPLY: Meditative Prayer

Reflect, ponder, think, consider, deliberate, muse, wonder, mull over, meditate upon:

Take time to spend alone with God, drinking of his goodness. Have a two-way conversation as you deliberate together, holding God’s word before you. But let God do most of the talking! He is the one giving you a drink!

Drink the spiritual milk of Jesus’ presence and his grace as he speaks to you and the Holy Spirit guides and teaches your mind, heart, and spirit. LISTEN! And write down anything of significance you may wish to remember.

You may find one or more of these helpful to facilitate your quiet time with God:

· Go and find a quiet spot inside or outdoors to listen to God. You can sit or wander.

· Reflect on the words and phrases that stood out for you from the 3 Bible passages. Ask God to speak further with you about them and their significance for your life.

· Reflect on your state of being a child of God, of being spiritually re-born, of your new life in Christ. How do these realities affect your daily living and priorities?

· Pray that you may keep on longing for and tasting God’s goodness

· Pray for specific people you know to come drink and taste of Jesus and life in him

· Pray that you may find ways of being a vessel from which others may taste and see this goodness

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The Lord stands beside us

Paul’s in prison when he writes to Timothy, his young friend and co-worker. Acts 28 tells us Paul was in Rome at the time, under house-arrest guarded by a soldier. It wasn’t two weeks of quarantine in a hotel to wait for any signs of a virus but two years under house arrest.

During this time and close to the end of his life, Paul writes and describes some disappointment in those he considered friends.

16 When I was first put on trial, no one helped me. In fact, everyone deserted me. I hope it won’t be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood beside me. He gave me the strength to tell his full message, so that all Gentiles would hear it. And I was kept safe from hungry lions. 18 The Lord will always keep me from being harmed by evil, and he will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. Praise him forever and ever! Amen. 2 Timothy 4:16-18

I’ve highlighted the beautiful words of good news for Paul and for us. Jesus stood beside him.

Jesus’ disciples had a very interesting experience of the Lord standing beside them on the first Easter day. Jesus surprised them. Jesus came to bring peace and comfort to them in their fear.

But Thomas was missing and when they told him he wouldn’t believe it. Perhaps he thought it was too good to be true.

Many a sermon has been preached about Thomas and his doubting - with strong encouragement not to doubt like him. I wonder how many sceptic’s lives have been changed by those sermons.

It hit me this year (maybe it’s the isolation), Thomas isn’t the main character in this story, Jesus is. It’s about Jesus and his unending desire and determination to come alongside and help. He came and stood beside the group of disciples and they got it, he was alive. He came again, just for Thomas, and he got it.. Jesus didn’t want Thomas to be left in the dark of uncertainty. Jesus loved Thomas and wanted him to know the good news of his resurrection.

Jesus comes and stands beside us. He’s not satisfied till he knows that we know he’s alive, and that he loves us and is with us.

This is the good news of Easter!

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Jesus wept

I'm sharing this journal entry from one of our sheep / shepherds for your encouragement and invite you to share your stories to keep us connected David

Thursday April 2, 2020: A journal entry:

JESUS WEPT.

A Morning mist of low cloud wrapped soft around the hills.

I read John 6 and tried to ponder on Jesus the living bread. But the mist beckoned and drew me outside, quickly enfolding me in its clammy embrace.

There was no pausing to choose direction. I headed straight up the hill blanketed in the foggy stillness, only birdcall echoing the inner certainty – she’s coming to pray.

Pray up the hill. I haven’t prayed up there for a while. I’ve prayed. But not there on God’s hill, my place of retreat.

At the summit, as cloud drifted and lifted, it was my heart that rained out its anguished plea, the cry for help with COVID19: LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER. Help us Jesus.

That was it. No wordy waffle. I perched on the rim of the damp bench, poised in grief and need; heart, mind and spirit turned to God, “Yet still do I praise you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Living God.”

A lull then settled over me, like a mute button had been pressed to hush the turmoil of my distressed thoughts and wretched emotions concerning the plight of the world’s people. Wait. Be quiet!

Jesus wept. The words from last Sunday’s reading came to mind loud and clear.

33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Judaeans who had come with her crying, he was deeply stirred in his spirit, and very troubled. 34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Master,’ they said, ‘come and see.’ 35 Jesus burst into tears. (John 11:33-35 NTE)

I too burst into tears, and as I wept, there at the top of the hill, I knew he was weeping with me. Weeping with all the world. Weeping for us all.

Turn to me. And I, turning, vision all awash, could see clearly, he was there. Feed my sheep. To this I shook my head, and thought, I’m no pastor. You are a minister of my word. Therefore, speak my word to others. Speak my word to one another. And suddenly understanding dawned. “You aren’t just saying this to me, are you? It’s your call to all of us: Feed your sheep. The responsibility is ours collectively.” And I pictured the scattered sheep, isolated from one another but belonging together and needing creative new ways of being church and speaking grace and hope to one another and others.

I plunged, then, down the hill, not following the worn paths but winding down the steeper slope, weaving through knee high weeds, around rocky mounds and patches of slippery flattened grass, to emerge at the wider base track.

Now is the time to forge new paths. Jesus is still the Way, the “base track” of my faith remains the same. It’s the network of familiar paths that represent how we have lived out our faith, that have fallen away, not God’s word or his kingdom, or his love.

I am thankful for this love that comes to us where we are: scattered sheep weeping in the mist of uncertainty. I’m thankful that Jesus wept and that his way isn’t set in stone. That he comes and calls us to discover a new and living way, today and tomorrow and the next day. Hallelujah! This is a new day! And the Jesus who weeps with us in our distress will renew us and lead us on beyond COVID19.

JESUS WEPT.

The autumn sun filtered a pale ray through the drifting grey. A reminder that the God who weeps, also sheds light as well as tears.

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A time like this

At this moment we can’t gather together in our church buildings but that doesn’t stop us from being the church.

We’re the church, the body of Christ, and we normally gather together in a ‘church building’ around God’s word and sacraments. As we worship together we support and encourage each other.

How do we support and encourage when we can’t meet together?

We can use our phones to text, talk or FaceTime. We can send emails. We can skype and use social media.

We can remember that the Holy Spirit unites in Jesus Christ.

While we’re away from each other physically we’re united spiritually as we continue to worship in our separate places. Jesus promises to be with us and so whether we’re alone, in a family, or in our church gatherings, Jesus is with us.

We could compare this time to the time of the early church. On the Day of Pentecost 3000 people became believers in Jesus and were baptised. They came from many different places and went home with the good news of their new life in Christ.

Those who were in Jerusalem, or close by, met regularly in the temple and Luke tells us They spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread and prayed together. Acts 2:42

Bible scholars tell us that ‘broke bread’ is shorthand for celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Those who were close enough to the temple celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a community at the place of worship.

But what about those who were scattered? Luke also tells us in Acts 2:46 that the believers ‘broke bread’ in their homes. Some argue this is simply eating together but it’s just as likely the believers were celebrating the Lord’s Supper in their homes.

Can we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in our homes in times like these?

For the sake of good order we’d normally only have the Lord’s Supper in public worship. But public worship is currently not possible and therefore is this a time for special orders? Would our decision be based on how long public worship is banned?

For the sake of your spiritual health I’ve provided you and your family with an order that does include the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. You’ll need to decide whether you make use of this order or not.

Whatever you decide - God’s love and grace is with you.

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A faithful stake

This is a picture of a stake and its tree. Or is it a tree and its stake? The stake was once a pine tree and even now you can see signs of the way it grew. It was sacrificed to become a support stake for a little gum. This gum tree will never be a giant but it has completely outgrown the stake. The stake is now redundant but it remains there as a reminder that this tree was once little and in need of support. Can you imagine someone coming across this stake and its tree many years ago and noticing the tree was getting taller than the stake? What if that was considered disrespectful and the tree lopped just short of the height of the stake? It might have killed the tree and if it didn’t it certainly would’ve stunted its growth. The past is like a stake which has done its job and has often done it well but the present is where we live and wouldn’t it be sad if the past killed us or held us back and restricted our growth. We celebrate the past and learn from the past but we can’t live in the past. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) but he speaks to us in today’s language. God is the God of the living not of the dead. (Matt 22:32) His truths are timeless but they are also timely. We read and study his word not so we can live like the ancients but so we can discern how we are to live today. I think if the stake could talk it would tell us it is very proud of what its tree has become. Are we doing our forbears proud by who we are and what we’ve become and will become as God’s people in this time?

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2020 - Destruction and Death or Goodness and Grace?

As we begin 2020 large areas of our land are still in the grip of drought. Fires have been ravaging our land and destroying the homes and livelihood of people and animals. We might like to ask is 2020 going to be a year of destruction and death or a year of goodness and grace?

Some will say that because it’s begun so badly it can only improve but others might say this is just a foretaste of much worse to come. What about us?

What is our vision for the year of the Lord 2020 and can we claim to have 2020 vision to explain the current circumstances?

If we want to throw Bible verses around to prove our prediction or our version of the truth we’ll easily find them. But that’s not what the Bible is for and not a very helpful way to proceed. It’s much more important and helpful to have a holistic view of the Bible and the nature of God and to allow that to inform our thinking.

We know that

· God is love and nothing can separate us from his love.

· Our lives are in God’s hands.

· God will never leave us or forsake us.

· No matter what happens God’s always doing his best for us.

· We live in a broken and sin-filled world.

Therefore if you say 2020 will be a year of destruction and death, I’d say, you could be right. And if you say 2020 will be a year of goodness and grace, I say, you’re absolutely right because we’re children of God. Our hands are prayerful and we’re holding hands with our loving God.

In 2020 - Lord, teach us to pray.

Whatever 2020 brings - Lord, teach us to pray.

At the end of 2020 - Lord, let us look back and thank you for the privilege of prayer.

Amen!

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