A Way of Life: One God, one body (Sunday reflections, July 2018)


I am using this morning/evening material from the Ely Way of Life recently published as a way of, as they put it, ‘raising the spiritual temperature of the diocese’.  We will be using this material through most of July and August.  Each Sunday the spoken material will be complemented by a leaflet, adds to what I have time to say in the next 10 mins or so.  I encourage you to use these next few weeks to think seriously about your spiritual temperature – are you too cool or just about right?  do you need warming up, spiritually? How are you growing spiritually?  Have you got a bit lazy?  (It happens to us all…)

This text was offered as a reflection in services in Hardwick and Dry Drayton on 1 July 2018 as part of the Way of Life series based on the Ely Way of Life.  It is posted here just as it was first written, including spelling and grammatical mistakes and phrases used for a ‘spoken’ style.  Some of the images used alongside it may also be included.  

Bible readings
1 Cor 12:12-20
Luke 9:57-62

In our gospel/second reading we heard Jesus’ words: ‘Follow me’ to those he met on the road.  ‘Follow me’, but your following must be wholehearted and enthusiastic, a priority rather than the thing you do when everything else is done.

Intentionality is a fashionable word in today’s church to describe the importance of directing our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, desires and hopes towards living a fully Christian life.  A key question throughout these 7 weeks will therefore be: if we are serious about growing as disciples, what do we intend to do about it?

This is important for our spiritual health, and it is exciting to be shaping how we live, our stance towards life.

The flier that accompanies this reflection can be downloaded here. 1, One body

A church is a community not a building or an event.

So this morning/evening we begin with the first piece of content entitled ‘One body’.  A question – When I say ‘the church’ or ‘church’ what springs to mind.

Perhaps an event at a particular time. The phrase ‘going to church’ points to church being an event that we choose to go to or not.

For some people church is primarily a building.  A beautiful ancient building in our case.  A building to be stewarded for future generations or perhaps that drain us of resources.

But both of these are a misconception.  Because the church first and foremost is a community of people.  Why is this?  Firstly, the whole narrative of the Bible tells us that God meets with people in communities.  And secondly, the tradition of the church is to welcome those baptised into the community of the people of God.

The Bible tells us stories of many individuals, but their lives are woven into a much greater story, a story about the people of God, from Israel in the OT to the church in the NT stretching forward to the fulness of time when all things in heaven and on earth are united in Christ.  In the letter to the Ephesians (4:4) – There is one body and one Spirit… one lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.  It is clear that a godly life is a shared life.  And that is why our congregations greet those just baptised with these words – ‘we welcome you into the fellowship of faith; we are children of the same heavenly father’.  Baptism marks our entry into the church, the household of God, into the body of Christ as described in our first reading from 1 Corinthians.

Confirmation/affirmation on offer

Just a quick aside here – if you were baptised as a baby and your parents answered for you at that stage and have not yet had the opportunity to make that faith publicly your own through confirmation, then let me know.  Let’s do it.  Or if you were confirmed some time ago, and because life has moved on and you are a different person now would appreciate the opportunity to formally affirm your baptismal faith, the we can do that too.  Or if you have never been baptised… These are important rituals as we declare how we aspire to live, as followers of Jesus Christ.

People of Jesus Christ

So back to the matter in hand.  The church is not an event, not a building, the church is the community of the people of Jesus Christ.  The diocesan strategy uses the great phrase – we pray to be the generous and visible people of JC.

I’ve just come back from Rwanda, from Kigali.  There were 6 of us from Ely diocese who were guests of the Anglican diocese there.  The link is set up for mutual learning.  We were there to gather ideas, to form relationships, to pray with and for people and they for us.  We observed a range of projects.  We listened to people’s stories.  As soon as you go out of the limited newer parts of the city centre you are bumping slowly over rutted tracks, no electricity, water collected from the local standpipe in Gerry cans. Like no suburbs I have ever seen before. It was a privilege to worship and preach in the local churches on both Sundays, and in Kigali prison last Monday.  Worship services are 2 ½ or 3 hours long.  Three or four different choirs might come and sing to the congregation.  Everyone new is introduced and brings greetings to the assembled company.  And when the congregation stands to sing, they don’t just sing, they dance as they express wonderful exuberant praise to God as Father and King.  And one of the things that moved me most, was that however different our circumstances were, however different our ways of worshipping were, nevertheless we are all followers of the one Lord Jesus Christ.

A shared life not a private commitment

The Christian life is a shared life.  Our reading in Corinthians uses the metaphor of a body – we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.  When we become Christians we do not lose our individuality but your faith and life is not a private thing. And like a material body each member only grows together with the whole. Let me ask you another question: is your expression of Christianity more like a shared life or a private commitment?

A shared life: a way of life

But what does this shared life look like?  Does it mean that we live in each other’s pockets?  Well, no, thankfully not.  This way of life is both more profound and more inspiring than that.

Over the centuries Christians have developed a variety of ways of life, sometimes called rules of life.  Some of the best known are the Benedictine rule of life or the Franciscan one, lived largely by monks and nuns, but also lay people too.  These are shared rules or ways of life that tie a community together, that shape its identity.

About 10 years ago, before I was ordained and when I first came across the idea of a rule of life, I set one out for myself.  A daily, weekly and monthly rhythm of commitment to support my life in Christ.  Daily things like praying and reflecting on a passage of Scripture.  Weekly, meeting with other Christians in church. Monthly, reading a book that taught me something about faith.

One particular framework for a way of life is known as The Commission (below).  It is used at services of baptism and confirmation.  We don’t often speak about it but over the next few weeks we will be exploring its clauses and the implications of each so that, separately and together, you can use it decide what this way of life might look like in practice for you.  Each of us will probably discover that there are things we are already doing whether we realise it or not.  But we may also find we are doing things that we decide to stop or change, and we may find some things we’d like to start doing.

Those who are baptized are called to worship and serve God.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you persevere in resisting evil,
and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you proclaim by word and example
the good news of God in Christ?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all people,
loving your neighbour as yourself?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you acknowledge Christ’s authority over human society,
by prayer for the world and its leaders, 
by defending the weak, and by seeking peace and justice?
With the help of God, I will.

May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith,
that you may be rooted and grounded in love
and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.

Common Worship: Christian Initiation © The Archbishops’ Council 2006

Spiritual growth is always a gift from God, but we know from the witness of the Bible, the tradition of the church and the experience of the saints that it doesn’t happen by accident.  For this reason individual Christians and church groups have often adopted particular patterns for living their faith more deeply.  Can I encourage you to be intentional, accountable, specific, practical and realistic as we examine the text of the commission together and separately over the next few weeks.  Some of us might find it helpful to explore our questions with companions on the way.  Eg, Prayer pairs or triplets, cell groups, 1-1 spiritual direction.  If you have suggestions or requests let me know or other members of the ministry team know and we will see what we can do.

Let me end with this summary:

·       The church is primarily a community to which followers of JC belong, not a building to visit or a weekly event to attend.
·       The Christian life is primarily a shared life not a private commitment.
·       Intentionally adopting a way of life such as that based on the clauses of the commission connects us to the wider Christian community and enables our spiritual growth.  We will be looking at this more over the next few weeks.

May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, that you may be rooted and grounded in the love and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.  Amen

About Alison Myers

I am Team Rector for the Lordsbridge Team of Churches, a cluster of 11 villages west of Cambridge. Within the Team, I am Vicar of Hardwick and Dry Drayton, and Lead Minister for Pioneering Projects.
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1 Response to A Way of Life: One God, one body (Sunday reflections, July 2018)

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