Thursday, January 21, 2010

From Hebridean Altars

Seven times a day, as I work upon this hungry farm,I say to Thee,
'Lord, why am I here?
What is there here to stir my gifts to growth?
What great thing can I do for others - I who am captive to this dreary toil?'

And seven times a day Thou answerest,
'I cannot do without thee.
Once did My Son live thy life,
and by His faithfulness did show My mind,
My kindness, and My truth to men.
But now He is come to My side, and thou must take His place.'

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hospitality is something which the early church were asked to practice. Both St Paul and St Peter instructed the early church to be hospitable:

'Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.' 1 Peter 4: 7-9


'Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.' Romans 12: 12-13

Have you ever noticed that church meetings are much better attended if they:
a)Serve food
b)Take place in a home

Why is this? Both of these ingredients make people feel welcome, comfortable and wanted. They have the effect of making someone new to church life feel part of the group. In our current society genuine hopsitality is usually only offered to close family and friends. If Christians open up their homes unconditionally, then surely their hospitable attitude will be received well and with pleasure, despite being counter cultural. However, in our private and inward looking society, Christians today often seem to ignore this important outward sign of Christ's love and practice hospitality rarely. I find this perplexing and worry about its effect on our witness as the body of Christ.

When I was a student, Christians from my church regularly used to invite people from the congregation around for Sunday lunch. They saw it as a time when they could get to know individuals and bond with them. We appreciate the invitation and felt a real sense of family...something we talk about a lot within the church. How many loving, close families do you know who never eat together or meet up just to spend time with one another? Very few I would imagine. And yet we so often think we can be the family of God without this important factor!

Building community then, is one of the most important building blocks if we want a healthy church. Without it, our effectiveness as the body of Christ is curbed and opportunities for showing the world the uniqueness of a Christ centred community are lost.

Paul and Peter had their reasons for encouraging Christians to be hospitable. The word is often mentioned in conjunction with the importance of loving one another: and love is so much better when it is shown tangibly.

In 3 John Gaius is asked to practice hospitalty. In Romans 16, Paul mentions the hospitality that Gaius has shown him. Clearly Gaius took the instruction seriously...why shouldn't we?

Friday, January 08, 2010

One of the positive angles that has been hi-lighted in news reports on the winter snow and ice, is the way in which rural communities seem to be looking after one another during the extreme weather.
Community is a subject I have blogged abut before and it is as an area I care about very much, particularly as localised community seems to be non existent in bigger towns and cities. Even in my smaller town, my neighbours rarely speak to one really is quite alarming how insular and 'private' we have become.
Community deos still exst of course, but the preference today is for scattered communities drawn together by leisure or work. The problem with this approach is that the people you mix with are likely to be of a similar educational level, age group and set of interests as yourself. At first glance that may seem to be an advantage; but is it really a good thing to be so similar to those you mix with? In this restricted world of sameness, when are your ideas and preconceptions challenged? When do you benefit from the wisdom of your elders or from the freshness and enthusiasm of those younger than you if you are older yourself?
The eclecticism of the traditional village community just isn't present in most scattered community groups. Town churches are one of the few places that can still reflect a healthy wide ranging community in these places, as long as they resist the temptation to become a sort of club which appeals to a specific type of person. Then, (and this happens all too often) they become grey and uninteresting, places which exist for the benefit of those within and not those outside. They are in these situations unlikely to attract anyoone other than the type of person already represented..another interest led community like all the others. No wonder the church is said to be in decline!
Jesus commands us to go and take the gospel to others. It is therefore crucial that we as Christians become a part of our local community, wherever it is, become known, enter into the hub of local life and take an interest in the people around us who are not just like us. Maybe when they see the church as an inclusive place where people of different interests, ages and approaches to worship, exist together in a caring and supportive environment, then our churches may begin to grow.
A relational approach to evangelism is the most effective way in which people can see Christ. I am really looking forward to living in rural parish from the summer. I want to involve myself in the lives of the villages and make the effort to get to know people through my day to day contact with a real, localised community.