Churches Together July 2012
Before I start I just need to say this: When we planned to have a shared lunch together after this service, we had absolutely no expectation or frankly the faith to believe that Andy Murray would make it to the Wimbledon final! So I think most of us would be happy to say let’s eat together a little earlier than we might have done so that those who want to can get back to the TV for 12:55. Don’t worry if tennis isn’t your thing, please do stay and help clear up!
While we’re talking of tennis – did any one see the Men’s Doubles final yesterday? Briton Jonny Marray (ranked 76) and Danish Freddie Neilsen (ranked 111), two players who apart didn’t have sufficient world ranking to get into the tournament, two players who on their own have never got through the 2nd round of any ATP tour championship had been paired up as wildcards and some how made it to yesterday’s final.
It’s amazing what you can do together!
It is really good when we get together like this to worship as the Church in this village. Today we represent something bigger than the sum of our parts. We represent not our individual churches or communities but THE CHURCH in our village.
One of the things that happens when you wander around, as I do occasionally, with my shirt on backwards (like today) is that people ask you questions about the Church. One of the frequent questions that I get asked is about why there are so many different types of Church – what we might call denominations – and its a tricky question to answer. So I tend to tell people about the life-saving station:
Because when you look at it there are usually very good reasons why different churches and denominations have cropped up.
Many a time has a church or particular style of Church progressed from being a dedicated community of Christ-believers following (or doing their level best to follow) God’s call on their communal lives to – eventually becoming no more than a club – a place of disconnected ceremonial traditions that we seek to uphold despite having long forgotten meanings.
Its a challenge that every Church faces at some point – the moment when what we do becomes more important than the reason we started to do it in the first place.
No more so than in the my own denomination the Church of England where too often the gospel has been sacrificed in the name of tradition. Churches become no more than museums and rituals become devoid of their meaning. In free churches ‘our way’ of doing things can become more important than the mission. – its a danger all churches face.
The good news for us when we lose our way is that we serve a God who wants to redeem us, both personally and corporately as the Church. When traditions become more important that faith, God is waiting just around the corner for us to turn back to him.
But It’s a far cry from the call of Paul in this passage from Corinthians. Paul calls us to be Ambassadors for Christ. In the political and legal world of the time an ambassador was not usually a professional diplomat, as we would understand it, but someone prepared to travel a long way to represent a government of community. He (normally He) would carry a message and express the views of those who sent him. He would embody the interests of the sending power and negotiate on it’s behalf. Ambassadors were charged finding strategic ways to communicate the message they were bringing effectively. The word was used both for those representing a state and for those sent by small communities or private individuals.
When Paul uses the word for the church – he is not talking about individuals he his declaring the call of the whole Church. No matter where it is meeting, no matter what it looks like. He is setting up the family business for the future of the Church Universal.
We are blessed by God to be a blessing to our world. We are called to share the gospel in our communities. To take this wonderful free gift of grace given to us by the risen Jesus and to offer it for others. Not ram it down their throats. Not convert them by force. But simply to share what we have so others may see the love and peace we receive from Christ and want-in.
To debate when appropriate perhaps. But most of simply to ‘be’ His Ambassadors in the world. Simply and openly representing Christ in every area of our life
This missional call is at the centre of the gospel. It’s non-negotiable. We don’t get to choose whether we as individuals or our particular Church want to be involved in mission and evangelism, we don’t get to choose if sharing the gospel with others is something we want to do. It is the very heart of what we as the Church are here for.
Paul makes no bones about it in this passage. He links directly our redemption & reconciliation by God to our call to be his ambassadors. We have received from him therefore we must share what we have been given.
We may all have different traditions here. We may like different styles of worship. But these differences should be our strengths not a weakness.
One of our biggest challenges as the Churches of Lytchett Matravers is how we work out what we do together and what we do apart. The next few years are going to be crucial in our mission in our village together. The more we can work together, the more we can put aside the desire to see people come to our particular brand of service or worship – the more we will see people turning to Christ.
I would dearly love to see us working more together to this aim, to see us each as Churches sharing in the mission in this community – bringing together out strengths as churches to complement each other and to reach out in the name of Jesus.
With God there is no limit to the vision of reaching our community while continuing to hold to our separate identities as churches.
Jonny Marray & Freddie Neilsen were no more than cannon fodder when they started the Wimbledon Championship last week. Wildcards who, despite having played hardly any games together before, found strength in each other’s game and a way of complementing each others strengths and weaknesses. Yet they successively outclassed some of the best doubles pairings out there to reach the final. The sum of their parts was dis-proportionality greater than them individually.
Then this happened:
Amazing things can happen when we work together in our mission.