God is at work

God is at work among us.  I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said to me there was something special about our last two Sunday morning gatherings.  The presence of God was very real, and he spoke clearly to many.  I believe this is the latest stage in a movement of the Spirit which has been building since the summer.  Our Sunday morning series on Ephesians has been a catalyst for this: inspiring us, challenging us, and changing us. 

A month ago now we heard a rallying call from Steph preaching on the first part of Ephesians 2, reminding us of our high calling as a community who are here-and-now seated with Christ in the presence of the Father.  The next week we considered how the church is the temple of God, that he dwells among us as we meet to worship, with the challenge to consider how we prepare for Sunday mornings as a result.  And this has borne fruit as there has been a change in the atmosphere of Sunday morning in subsequent weeks. 

Then Peter reminded us from Ephesians 3:12 that we may “approach God with freedom and confidence,” and asked the question why so few felt able and willing to pray during times of open prayer in worship.  Service leaders have picked up on this, and encouraged us, and new life has been breathed into our prayer together.  Building on our successful Day of Prayer last month we are beginning to grow in this vital but struggling area of our life together.

Last week God moved many of us powerfully as we reflected on the sheer unimaginable scale of God’s love for us, and simply scratched the surface of what that means.  A very special service where God’s presence was felt in everything that was said and done.  There is always a sense of nervousness after such an occasion, as the next week can feel quite flat by comparison.  But this morning’s service too was special, and used powerfully by God in many ways, not least the challenge to humility towards one another as we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.

And it hasn’t just been about Sunday mornings.  One recent week seemed to be particularly hard for many in the congregation.  But it was really encouraging to see how readily people rallied round to help those in need, and the love and support of the church community – a very tangible outworking of that unity of the Sprit. The doors that seem to be opening to work more closely with the Cherry Tree Centre and through them to the community of Swinemoor are another example of God at work.  And I’ve already mentioned the Day of Prayer.

All of which leads me to say God is at work among us.  I don’t know the fullness of the plans which he has for this stage of the life of our church.  But I do know that if we continue to seek and expect his presence with us in worship, to spend time before him in prayer, and to live out our unity in loving compassion for one another and the world, there is much more that he can and will do in us and through us.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

Who is supporting who?

Reading Stuart Murray’s Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a strange new world, for my next assignment, and came across an interesting idea I hadn’t explicitly thought about before, though in practice I think I probably instinctively follow it.

He suggests that one issue with the church is that, even if we’ve rejected the idea of “clergy” and “laity” we’ve too often slipped into a model where the majority of the people are there to support the minority – the leaders – in doing Christian work.

He suggests that the Biblical model is the precise opposite, citing Ephesians 4:11-12, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service…”

So it is “the people” who are to live and work for Christ’s praise and glory, and those in positions of leadership and responsibility in the church are there simply to equip them to do so.  What a difference it could make to our witness if we could really understand this!

What shaped stone are you?

“[You are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”   Ephesians 2:20-22

I love the image which Paul uses here.  I picture a temple made up of all different kinds of stones.  Different colours, shapes, sizes.  And God uses them to build.  Some of the stones need rough edges knocking off, in places there are big lumps of mortar to fill in the holes where a stone doesn’t quite fit, but somehow out of all these uneven stones God builds something beautiful.

This temple has Jesus as the cornerstone, the first stone in which gives the corner which sets the directions of the walls and therefore controls the shape of the whole building.  And in him the whole building is joined together, which suggests he is the mortar between the stones too.  And 1 Peter describes us as “living stones”, each of us having Jesus living in us by his Spirit, so that in fact God does not just dwell inside the building, but permeates the very walls.

And the great news is, somewhere in that building there is a hole in the wall that is shaped just like you.  A place God is keeping to slot you into his temple, so you can become a vital part of the dwelling place of Almighty God.  I pray that he will show you where you fit in, so that you can become part of his magnificent temple.