From the vicarage May 2011
I’ve been looking again at a paper I wrote for my interview for the post of Vicar at Holy Trinity. As I read it I rediscovered this seven value statement, which I borrowed from another church (I can’t remember which one). The statement defines what I believe God teaches the church to be.
1. a worshipping community – we are defined by what God has done in Christ to make us his. We are therefore, first and foremost, a people who are grateful to God and who stand amazed at the wonders of his love. As a result, we worship God with our praises (and by celebrating the Lord’s supper).
2. an accepting community – the message of the gospel is that we’ve been accepted at our worst. We are to extend a similar acceptance to one another without demanding that they change first. We need neither frown upon nor be shocked by other people’s sin and weaknesses. We are to extend grace rather than judgement.
3. a holy community – though we are to accept people as they are, we are not to be content with leaving them where they are. The gospel tells us that we are destined to become like Jesus and that God has already begun the process of changing us from glory unto glory. We are to urge one another to live God-pleasing lives in accordance with our status as sons and daughters of God.
4. a truth-telling community – if we truly care about people we will be marked by gentle but honest truth telling which will lead others to want to change. And because we are accepted in Christ, we are also free to hear the truth from others and admit our own faults.
5. an encouraging community – the church grows as God joins and unites human lives by His Spirit and as church members encourage one another and build each other up”
(I Thess. 5:11; Eph. 4:15-16). Because of the acceptance which comes to us in the gospel, we are free to encourage others and desire the best for them.
6. a sacrificially generous community – the early Christians were known for their radical generosity (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35). We also ought to be known for being generous with our money and possessions towards one another.
7. a suffering community – Jesus loved us while we were still his enemies. He didn’t retaliate against us. He suffered our rejection of him and the wrath of God on the cross in order that we might be turned into his friends. We too are to love and forgive others even when it is painful to do so.
All these values only make real sense in the light of the cross. In the death of Christ for sin, God loves us more than we deserve, and that is the kind of love we are to show one another. When a brother or sister Christian sins against us we can do one of two things. Retaliate and/or slander them or forgive and be crucified, or suffer for them. If we don’t realise in our hearts how much Christ suffered for our sins we will never be willing to suffer for the sins of others.
This Easter, may the cross of Christ give us the strength to carry our cross and the sins of others to the glory of his marvellous name.
With much love