Who does God want the church to be? The Church of the Past and Future…..
1 Peter 1v4-12 Matthew 16v13-19
Rev James Hunt – Sunday 28 June 10 am Live
BC AC ‘Before Coronavirus’ to ‘After Coronavirus’
Who does God want the church to be, especially as we look to the future? If you were with us at 10am Live on 31 May and on 7 June, you will know that this is a question we have already started to think about as we move from what some people have called the BC ‘Before Coronavirus’ era, to the AC ‘After Coronavirus’ era. Along these lines, this week, you may have been listening to the BBC ‘Rethink’ series about how we should generally rethink for the future:
-what should go back to go back to normal as it was?
-or what would be good to change for the better?
….in our economy, education, politics, technology and society
‘BC/AC’ and ‘rethinking’….what do you think…and what about the Christian church?
What we are learning
Over the last few weeks many have kindly been sharing with some of their thoughts about what kind of Christians and church we are learning to be more like and having to be more like:
1.We are learning how to be a Christian people for ourselves without all that we are used to helping us…..our normal services and activities…we are having to come to God simply as we read our bibles and pray….we are all having to lean on God in trust….focus on our inward relationship with God through Jesus
2.We are learning about new ways to communicate more…a steep learning curve at times with Zoom, You Tube and Face book and other technology!…but we are learning to be a people who can communicate in new and varied ways….in the future we are going I think to be both an ‘online’ as well as ‘offline’ people
3.We are learning about how to respond to those who are searching for God joining in with our offers of online prayer and services….and we are seeing new people connect with us
4.We are learning about how we can each respond and play our part to our neighbours and community with all the needs that we see….and in the future I am sure we will not want to stop doing that
5.We are learning about how to be a people who can live better with uncertainty, fear and even to face up to death itself
6.We are learning about to worship God much more in our actions and words during the week than just when we can’t go to church because we can’t
7.We are learning about how to rely less on the less important in life, for example material things, and more on the more important…..people: family, friends and neighbours
What have you been learning and what do you think? Well a picture can say it all sometimes, and some of the social media posts I have seen, and you may have too, have been really helpful at summing up some of the good in the difficult and something of how we are being re-shaped as a church:
THE BUILDING MIGHT BE CLOSED BUT THE CHURCH IS OPEN …..it is hard when we can’t meet in our lovely historic churches of St Peter’s and Blessed Mary. We will once again, but on the other hand, it is exciting that we have been a people going out to be where our community is.
Or how about this picture?
WHERE THE CHURCH IS…we have been less physically together, but on the other hand, we have come closer together with ourselves and with other people as we have been outside the four walls of the church building being present with others where we live and work and in doing what we can.
And my final picture, shows that whilst it will be good to come back together, we don’t want to lose some of the really good things God has led us to be doing.
THE CHURCH IS EMPTY…but this is because everyone is busy worshipping God in their words and actions in everyday life.
So, Who does God want the church to be? 100% as we were before? Or perhaps 50% of what we were and 50% of something new?
In the bible, Christians are encouraged to follow the example of St Peter, to be a people built on the rock of Jesus and following his example of going to where people are. In the letter of 1 Peter, Christians are encouraged to be a people who are like ‘Living Stones’ built together into a ‘Spiritual House’ that is the real church: “ 4 As you come to Jesus, the living Stone – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
The church is a people who are:
Living stones coming to the cornerstone of Jesus
Living stones in a spiritual house of people
Living stones offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God
The church God want the church to be, whether in old or new ways, is a living people connected to God through Jesus, living together in a spiritual family and helping others connect with God out of darkness into the light.
And how new people come to a living Christian faith? Well it can be when someone comes to a ‘Christian Service’ in church, but 1 Peter tells us that most important is when Christian take the church to people: when we love people and live in such a way that helps people start on a spiritual journey back to God, as 1 Peter 2v12 says “12 Live such good lives…..that they may see your good deeds and glorify God.”
So, what does God want the church to be? It might well be some of the things we have always done as well as some new things…….but I think in both the previous and the new, there needs to be a ‘re-setting’ ‘re-starting’ ‘refreshing’ and ‘renewing’ of direction in all we do that is most important. Every Christian need to have that ongoing real living personal relationship, to be together as a spiritual people and be priests helping to bridge the gap between God and people.
Over the last few months many Christians have been imagining being back in their churches for fellowship, to pray, to hear from God and to worship him, which will all be good when we can. But in going into church we must remember that a church is built like an arc:
-yes to be a place where God’s people meet together
-but also a place and people who are reaching out to help and rescue others
A Church…it is ultimately a Christian people who are ‘Noah’s Arc shaped’ to welcome, to rescue and to bring in new people to join and be part God’s family. The rafters of a church are like the hull of a boat and the church is a people travelling from the west where the sun is setting on the world’s way of life and ways towards where the sun rises in the east and God promises a new life and world starting now and in the future.
Postscript: If you would like to join in with our church family here at St Peter’s or Blessed Mary you would be very welcome in the weeks and months ahead.
Revd James Hunt
2nd July 2020