A student survey conducted at one of our local schools determined that young people see the church as being full of old people and pews. And they think that the pews have to go. There’s some good news in that survey, they didn’t say the old people should go, only the pews.
Think for a moment: How does their perception match reality?
We might immediately begin to defend the pews. They've been good enough for generations. They keep us awake. They haven’t killed anyone.
Or we might be offended that they’ve labelled us as old. We might argue that we’re not nearly as old as our grandparents were at the same age.
We might want to join James and John to ask Jesus whether we should call down fire from heaven and destroy them.
But before we get too defensive, these young people are crying out for the church to recognise and value them. They don’t think the church cares about them, they don’t think we care. They think the church is only interested in the people who’re already involved, which to them means old people.
I wonder whether they’re any different to those of any age who aren’t connected to our churches. Would the whole ‘unchurched’ and 'previously-churched’ community agree that we don’t care. Would they contend that we’re only interested in ourselves.
If we’re so busy polishing and defending our pews then they have to go. If there’s anything in our church that uses up our time at the expense of living our lives for Jesus then it has to go.
Even more urgently we have to go. Not leave the church, the community of God’s people, but go with the good news that because God loves and cares for every single person in this world so do we.
“As you go”, Jesus says, “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus cares about this because he has ‘skin-in-the-game’. He died for each and every one we encounter as we go about our lives.
How do we, as individuals and a church, need to change so that no one in our community will feel that we don’t care about them?
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
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!
Here are some web links you might like to check and use what's appropriate for you