I wonder how much attention you pay to the readings in our services?
Over the course of the year, during our services, we hear read much of the Gospels – which tell of the life of Jesus and finish with the accounts of the resurrection. We hear too many of the Epistles (or letters) – many of which were written by St Paul to growing Christian communities in various parts of the world.
We hear rather less of the book of Acts. The Acts of the Apostles is really part two of the Gospel of Luke. It was written by the same author and tells us what happened in the early years of the church. I think it is interesting to see how the first Christian communities functioned and to compare this with church life now.
The very first Christians lived communally and shared everything, including their belongings. However this wasn’t expected to go on for long - Christians then expected Jesus to return very soon. As it became clear that this wasn’t what was going to happen, they had to find a way of living that was sustainable in the long term.
When we read Acts, and the letters of Paul, we are told that Christ sets those early Christians free from selfishness and greed. There is much in these writings that is not practical now, but the basic guidance for living holds true now.
St Paul, in several places in his writings, refers to the Christian community as “the body of Christ”. We are the representatives of Jesus in this community at this time. What we do, how we act, what we say….all of that has to be as Christ-like as possible as we seek to make our faith known and understood by those around us. In the early church there were instances where Paul felt he had to encourage and teach about this.
He also wrote about how, just like in a physical body, different parts have different functions but all are important, so it is in the body of Christ. We all have a role to play, we are all important.
It really matters that we play our part and cooperate with and encourage others. Part of this must be to keep thinking about our place in the body.
There are areas in our church life where more help is needed – have you considered adding something to what you already do? It is easy to think that those with particular roles will always be there but we do need to make sure that no one is indispensable, that we have people “in reserve”.
I am sure there are people in our congregations being called to explore ministerial training, both lay and ordained, and I would like to urge those people to explore further! We really could do with more in leadership roles, roles like ALM, OLM, Readers etc.
March this year is entirely in Lent, and Lent is a good time for reflection, and perhaps particularly this year, to reflect on our own role within the body of Christ.