Friday, 4 September 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
This week the Church is being invited to look at itself. Our reading from Matthew’s gospel recognizes that human beings, even if they are gathered in the name of Jesus Christ, do get things wrong. Their priorities become skewed towards personal likes and dislikes, they come into conflict with each other, their focus is easily diverted away from Christ’s call to love and serve.
As I have been meditating on this week’s gospel reading, I have spent some time reflecting on the last (almost) six months. For most of that time our church buildings were closed and we were invited to continue our lives of prayer and worship in the privacy of our own homes. For many this has been a time of re-examination, of reflecting on what is really important about our faith and our discipleship. For some it has been a time of looking-back and regret, and very little else. For some of those who have spent that time looking over their shoulders and hankering after the ‘old ways’ there has been a real challenge to faith. At a recent on-line clergy conference, one of the key-note speakers invited us to consider this question: Is 2020 the year we have been waiting for?
Many church members have spent many years complaining about the Church as an institution. Those complaints have generally been rooted in a longing for the return to a mythical past that never really existed. There exists a folk memory (and it is nothing more than that!) that our churches were once packed to the doors, with standing room only, every Sunday of every year. That has never been the case, not even during that time in our history when you could have been fined a shilling for not attending church. Every church member knows what Christ has called us to do and, in our hearts, we also know that we fall far short of that calling. This week’s reading from Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 18:15-20) invites us to bring all the thoughts we have had about the Church over the last few months into focus. It invites us to look at those around us in a new way. It also invites us to stop looking into the mythical past and to start looking forward through Jesus’ eyes. None of us knows what the future holds for us, but we do know that we have just one life on this earth and that it is our calling to make the most of it. Let us rejoice that we can gather in prayer and worship, no matter how different it may look and feel from the past, and let us rejoice that we still have the opportunity to go forward in faith with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The word Church is derived from the Greek word ecclesia. Like most words in ancient Greek, ecclesia has more than one meaning when translated into modern English. The secondary meaning I would invite you to focus on is fellowship. Our churches should be places of fellowship, places where we come in Christian love and acceptance, to pray and to worship. Therefore, I invite you all to come and fill our churches (within the current social distancing regulations, of course) as we pray and worship the God who created us and who loves us.
Please contact me in whatever way you can to book your place for our services in Irnham this Sunday. The services will be at 9am and 10.30am as in previous weeks.
With every blessing to you all,