Category Archives: Takeley Chapel

The Church: Salvation

Sunday 24th July 2016

Psalm 95

Matthew 19:13-26

1 Timothy 4

1 Timothy 4:10
(ESVUK)

10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.

As the church we are the heirs of God’s promise to Abraham, that through his family the world would be blessed .

Genesis 12:3 (ESVUK)

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

This was the purpose of the faith of Israel and the foundation of all the other promises. We inherit this promise to show God’s glory. In Christ, the source of all blessing, we are made perfect in our lives; in our childlikeness and in our wealth, because by him our hearts are made right. We are part of Abraham’s family of blessing. Through persecution and suffering in our bodies and through our compassion we are a light to the world. As the church we bless the world by being the bearers of truth, in word and in what we do. We are lovers of peace and those who do good works. We are made perfect in Christ to bear witness to him who reveals the Father. In him we are called to a life together, part of Abraham’s family.

There will be those who form the structure and keep the traditions of the family. There will be those who oversee, who serve and those who teach and preach. There will be those called out to minister. But Jesus teaches that true worship isn’t confined to a place, a mountain, a certain city, a temple but amongst those who worship in spirit and truth. Jesus identifies himself not a system as the way, the truth and the life and it is in his person that we know the Father.

As the church, those elected by God to be a blessing in Christ, we need to be aware that if we locate Jesus in a place or amongst a particular gathering we run the risk of placing him on the periphery of our lives. If we locate him in a building or system he is no longer in the world he came to bless. Jesus teaches us to be as he is, in the world but not of the world. The church as the body of Christ is the blessing of Christ in the world. We are called to be in the world but not of the world.

The church, the elect chosen in Christ, is to be the light to the world. We are found in the dark places of the world, not separate from them. In our buildings and structures we can become separated from our calling. We are gathered in truth to do good works prepared for us. Our buildings are to serve the community and if they are in the wrong place we should leave them or find a purpose for them that serves the community around them.

If we see the church as our leaders and our holy places, we are actually a beacon of hopelessness, separate and useless. Our hierarchies and venues carry the message and should serve the truth and good works, teaching the good news of salvation in Christ. We as his people are to redeem the time and have a ready answer to share the source of our hope so that it is clear we are in the world but not of the world, drawn into its futility. The Spirit will reveal what this looks like, but how often we fall into futility and allow our system of being to give us license to be of the world. Do we embrace the system in our backbiting and hunger for influence, where leaders and members demand honours like the rulers and leaders of the world, sitting in honoured places with special privileges? The church of our own making is an idol, our doctrines are idols and our gatherings are idols if we think that through them we know God.

The true church is people working towards peace with one another and working for peace with their neighbours, blessing those around in Christ. It looks like people standing for truth that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is reconciliation. It will be amongst those who honour people called out to serve, to lead, to preach, teach, evangelise and who gather and care for people. This will not be confined to a time and a place or a person and always, always point away from itself to the Father so it is truly called the church of God.

So to the text 1 Timothy 4:10. It teaches us that we as believers are assured of salvation and Jesus is the saviour of all people. Our reading of Matthew shows us that Christ is sovereign in salvation not us. We do not get to choose through our doctrines or traditions who is saved or not saved; salvation is by faith. Our place is to pray that all may be reconciled to God in Christ without distinction and to serve all- to teach and admonish, provide for, pastor and serve even if there is no love returned and even more so when people appear to be enemies. Jesus shows the way on the cross, asking that even those who killed him would be forgiven; where is our faith here?

In our meeting and discussing we learned that perfection is not an end point but a state of being in Christ realised through our lives, a matter of the heart and, quite powerfully, we were reminded of the image of the family:

When we welcome people into our families they are welcomed on the basis of a shared life. We are saying; you are part of the love that is amongst us and we will extend to you the same care as we extend to the whole family. When you come to our home or to our table, you come on the basis that you are family and as family you will come to know and respect our ways of being, our traditions and enjoy them with us. But first you are family.

We also shared that we are called to a life together, not meeting together, and us meeting cannot substitute for life. The church meeting is our sitting down together and should not be neglected, but we are calling people, with Christ, to a life together not to a meeting. We want those who join us to be joined to our life together not the home and traditions we live in. Coming into our home is because we are family and Jesus teaches to those whose security is their home:

Luke 9:57-58 (ESVUK)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

 

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Footnotes: Or by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves

 

 

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

 

Perplexed

Let's celebrate!

I’ve always been a cheerful sort of chappy.

Genesis 21-22

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Romans 10:8-10

Hebrews 11: 17-40 (ESVUK)

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

So God asks Abraham to sacrifice- to kill- his child as a test of obedience. God in other places commands genocide despite also commanding that we are not to kill. Without the blinkers of a blind or indifferent faith this is, in the face of it, simply, very perplexing. It is hard to reconcile.

God reveals himself to be a God whose character and nature forbid child sacrifice and the taking of life, yet we are to commend those who do, for their obedience to the God who commands it.

There is another story aside from Abraham’s that is similar – the taking of the life of Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11). Read it and don’t duck the fact that at the end of the Bible his actions are commended as faith (Hebrews 11).

It’s all very perplexing when we would like it all to be made right and somehow sorted by the apostles. It is not.

Are we to gloss over these stories? Are we, in our fervor, to miss them out? The whole of the scripture does not allow us to with integrity. Some scholars try to let us off the hook; convinced that God would not command child sacrifice they propose that the sacrifice is figurative and the sacrifice was the daughter’s life as a woman, represented as death. But this Jephthah, in his fallibility, is a hero of the faith as is the lustful Samson and the power hungry, idolatrous Gideon.

If these are stories of faith- the faith we are called to, then in them there must be a disruptive purpose, calling us to a higher understanding of faith, or we might as well abandon faith as a futile fiction. Is their purpose to heighten our understanding of God or maybe to wrench us from our own understanding of God? You have to ask yourself why the Bible would in effect cause you to think the worse of God.

I can think of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. Jesus responds to her in a way that would be expected of any Jewish man of his day, calling her a dog, but then grants her desire. Jesus would not be loving if he was an unkind bigot, so to call the woman a dog could not have been unkind. But he did. It sounds unkind. Jesus, through his life, taught the good news of salvation so my faith trusts there is a higher purpose in this story not a license for bigotry and unkindness.

Where do we go from here?

The Bible is God’s word. It is the written revelation of God himself and all we need to know for salvation. The words are the words of ordinary people in their times and it is their words that carry the Word of God, the essence of their encounter with the living God. The words are prophetic, speaking the stories of God’s communing with people, in their language, in their culture and in their time. Many of the writers are unknown and even the identity of the Christian writers uncertain, but Christians hold that the Bible preserves the prophetic writings of these people and is the word of God. Tradition says they are true and all else is measured against them.

Jesu did not write anything except in the shifting sand. And we don’t know what it said only that the words challenged the scribes.

Jesus, a man in his times, spoke without sin. He is God and in Jesus we see God himself. In his life, death and resurrection we encounter God himself.

In the light and knowledge of his death, Jesus reveals to some disciples on the road to Emmaus the meaning of scripture. This, with them only having heard a rumour of his resurrection. They heard with broken hearts and their perspective was changed. But the words Jesus spoke were not recorded not even in summary. From the story we only have an inspiration to read the scriptures as being fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus being the Word of God, the scriptures speak of him and we are left to have faith in this: we will find him in them.

We accept all scripture as prophetic. Prophecy is spoken by a person. When we read God said… or God told… the word was spoken to a person, who would comprehend and relay it as a person; a person in their times, in their language – living from their past and present. We are told that all prophecy is like a misty mirror. We look in to a mirror to see ourselves; so we too are part of the prophecy. When God spoke over Jesus some heard it as thunder. God turned Abraham from the sacrifice by speaking through an angel not directly to him. Is this significant?

Whatever, our hearing now, perfects the faith of the heroes of faith.

So we can read scripture prayerfully putting our self in the picture and exploring the simple meaning; study its origins and the variety of translations and interpretations and then explore and follow the passions aroused in us. We can practice coming to the scripture in peace, reading it, meditating upon it, praying into it and finally moving to silent contemplation, embodying it.

We come to a living God, and the scripture is dead if we do not act upon it- if it isn’t part of us.

But please do not sacrifice your children, become a bigot or consider genocide an option.

 

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Messed Up Church

Luke 4:16

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.

 

01cfc8f82efd1976dcd8aee943b3e35109a5617ffeThis is part of the section of scripture we looked at in Chapel this morning. This was Jesus, in his home town doing what he usually did. And then the local builder claimed he was God!

What struck me was Jesus challenged them in the heart of what was normal; in his boyhood community.

God calls us to a special unity under him – a local community in Christ. Not a community of human traditions but a community where each part, each like a stone in the building , is a centre of unity in God- part of his purpose and will. God in Jesus is the foundation and the corner stone – the root and the apex.

But we are forever deflecting from this, building human kingdoms and systems not living temples. Why?

There will be a setting. There will be a gathering of people. There will be various functions or ministries cementing people together. Personalities and hierarchies sadly supplant God in these kingdoms. There is nothing usually inherently wrong but kingdoms of this world constantly arise in the heart of what we may call the church.

In  CCBS this morning I went on to hear Gareth McCormick preaching in part precisely on this through Nehemiah 13. These kingdoms are easy to recognise and work away at the integrity of the Temple which in our context is us- the people of God gathered in Christ.

Worldly religion in Christianity is a many headed beast. However the beauty of the true church is there is only one head – Christ. Each part works under his grace. Christ is the one source of life. The true church has one head.

This is the space for self examination. God’s church exists where there are no weekly organised meetings, no governing bodies, no outward props – it exists in the twos or threes gathered together. It points to the twos or threes – in simple meals, walks, accountability, teaching and prayer. Maybe that is why the church is able to thrive in austerity and persecution because the life is in relationships not organisations.

The test is whether what is inevitably built survives when everything of potential pride is removed – when a leader leaves, a building is removed or families depart. Where the spirit of Christ is, where his message runs deep, there is freedom and forgiveness – life and growth.

I am thinking of a new movement called the Messed up Church where messed up people who have been scarred by the many headed beast can get their wounds healed. Where they can find their unity in Christ in twos and threes.

To form it, the established church will have to change its name to the Get out of the Doors Church where the members become the seed of community actually in their communities, becoming relevant by being there where people are, not just organising themselves, exhausting themselves serving a many headed beast.  We are to be scattered liberally just in case there is good soil and there are ears to hear and eyes to see. We are to be like yeast in bread, tiny but bringing life to the whole loaf.

The local church there by is a resource, a sending community, not a centre of human growth but a constantly pulsing, sacrificial centre of kingdom growth.

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Intentional

Having visited Lee Abbey for a holiday on a number of occasions now, I have become aware of the appeal of an intentional community. Becoming the body of Christ, each member valued, is purposeful.

How though can being a body be achieved when people are gathered to communities that are so apart? People rarely engage with one another and certainly, in the church I am part of, small communities are secondary to the vision of the whole church and a main meeting.

This suits a lot of people and they are very blessed by it. They are able to be effective in their settings and carry an energy that certainly appears to be fulfilling. Church communities are formed around ministries, such as leadership, worship, social enterprise or youth. The momentum is through the task or sometimes a particular type of meeting. But this is not what I want.

Some people are able to function by networking within their work place where Christians gather. Others find involvement in a hobby, sports club or Gym satisfies. Interests such as running, cycling or bird watching have a draw as does support for a sports team. Surprisingly, need or disaffection can be a seed for community. This again is not what I want.

Deep down I have a need to grow spiritually and to be active in society as a whole. In my heart I need a source for being that starts with God but ends up blessing my neighbour. At Takeley Chapel I have seen the beginnings of how this might be achieved. I hope and pray that one day I might see it fulfilled. Currently we meet for breakfast and prayer on a Sunday morning; I would like to see the Sunday evening cafe meeting flourish and a monthly Friday evening community supper added.

The spiritual aspect I will come to, but practically what we could have is a menu of activities based around sharing meal times. These are natural breaks; breakfast sets us up for the day, coffee for the evening and Friday supper ends a work week. All these meetings should have an all age focus where children are able to participate and there are no restrictions on who might participate; all learning styles should be encompassed. There should not be a burden of preparation only inspiration

Children can be involved with adults in craft activities without a great need to organise anything special. In fact there should be room for people to be outdoors or even break out in to other spaces. The purpose is to be friends and families together.

Time should be flexible with people being able to leave when they are ready. Of course where there are activities then people need to know when these are happening but they should not be at the start of any meeting, to allow for people to arrive when they are able and still be a part.

What I am envisioning is threefold:

  • A Sunday morning prayer group arranged around the materials provide by lyfe.org.uk; the pattern is to reflect on a spiritual discipline through a bible verse and various materials. Through prayer, reflection and as a result of the teaching, participants agree to explore spiritual challenges for the week. These challenges might result in poetry or song, art or craft which can be shared the next week so that each meeting is organic. People may then go home, go on to attend other church meetings or decide to engage in some kind of recreational activity.
  • During the week participants would also follow the New Daylight materials provided by brf.org.uk, journaling, sharing their insights when they can over refreshments on a Sunday evening. The benefits of this would be to have a sense that on each day, not only are we pursuing the weekly exercise from Sunday morning and growing in our Spiritual knowledge, but each of us is on a shared prayer journey based on scripture. The resource is convenient as each day has a printed version of the scripture, a comment and a reflection or prayer and an audio version is available.
  • Each month, on the first Friday, early in the evening, a simple supper could be shared where people bring contributions and there may be sung worship. Those who are gifted may be invited to preach; those with insight may share what they they believe God is showing them. Communion will be shared and after prayer ministry, any business could be discussed that needs to be decided ending with refreshments and recreational activities. The source of this inspiration would be intimate groups of two or three, maybe organised around the renovare resources or other ministries that participants felt met their needs, meeting weekly.

It is hoped that as  result of this intentional life together, members would be effective employees, engage in other communities and serve the society they are part of, effectively, from a heart grounded in God.

It would only take two or three people to commit to this community to make it work. From it we may renew the communities we are part of and revive the gospel witness in Takeley.