Psalm 67, Acts 16:9-15, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 14:23-29
A number of years ago my wife and I attended a service at St Mary’s Church, Stoke Newington, the church in which our daughter was married.
On the head of the service sheet that day was written:
“Welcome everyone! We are here to share the loving hospitality of God, seeing Christ in friend and stranger”.
The other words that struck me that Sunday, was when the Rev Baker, the vicar of St Mary’s said in her address, ‘we must all get more used to being church than just going to church’. Words that resonate very much with what I also believe and have preached on, on more than one occasion.
That reaction of ‘seeing God in friend and stranger’ was at the very centre of our reading from Acts this morning. Here, Paul, frustrated at being unable to move ahead with his mission in Asia, is unexpectedly called, by God, to what were then the leading cities of Europe. In Philippi, eastern Macedonia, he finds Lydia and her household, with hearts and minds ready and waiting for the Gospel that he has to proclaim; Paul, ‘sharing the loving hospitality of God’ with Lydia and her household.
I was also reminded of ‘caring and loving one another’ last Sunday here as Jack Edwards spoke to us about being an ‘Echo Church’. For this is not something that will happen just for one hour on a Sunday, but as Jack told us, a different way of living that each and every one of us need to take into our homes and work places, our everyday ways of living, as Lydia and her household were willing to do. Also as Jack pointed out caring for God’s creation is ‘part and parcel’ of caring and loving one another.
Going to church is right and proper, but it is as the ‘body of Christ’, the living church, that we must be seen and also to act, taking the Gospel, like Paul, out into the world, into our communities. This we can do, not just on our own, but also with the ‘ever present’ Spirit of God, with us. This was the message that Jesus was telling to his disciples in our Gospel reading from John.
As Jane Williams writes in her reflection on this reading:
“In this passage, Jesus is setting out the ways in which, as a matter of fact, he will still be with the disciples, come what may. First of all, he will be with them whenever they remember and try to stay faithful to what he has taught them ‘Those who love me will keep my word’. Next, in trying to continue in love and commitment to Jesus, they will be continuing Jesus’ own work of making God present. And, of course, since where the Father is, so is the Son, by being the place of God’s present ‘my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”.
What Jane Williams tells us about the disciples will only be achieved with the power of the Holy Spirit, it being a constant enabler of the presence of God with them, as with us, in the mission of taking the Gospel out into the world.
As the writer of Revelation says, in the new creation, reality will be transformed so that wickedness is as impossible, and the need of sun, moon, or the Temple so special to those first century Jews, will no longer be necessary. At the final count, it is only the presence of God himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we as God’s church, need to embrace and to hold on to. Then we will always find a place in God’s home, be welcomed in, as Paul and his friends, were welcomed into the home of Lydia, and as we welcomed Jack Edwards last Sunday and the inspiration he brought to us on our journey to becoming an ‘Echo Church’.
So as we move forward into a new week let us all do so knowing that we are never alone and that all we do, even in very small ways can make a difference. For example, using less water, there was an item of news last week that said unless we can reduce our use, or store more water in reservoirs, then we could well run out in parts of the country by 2050. Also, to cut down on our food waste; it is quoted that homes in our country as a whole throw away approximately 20 million slices of bread and 920 thousand bananas every day; yes, every day! Quite staggering when you think about it. If we all do our little bit for God’s creation and show kindness and love to one another, then we will be showing as good Christians our care for God’s world and for one another.