The address I gave at tonight's meeting of Churches Together in Central Brighton and Kemptown...
From the Gospel of St John, Chapter 20: 19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." John 20
Brothers and sisters
Like the disciples here we are gathered together in an upper room after the Resurrection of Our Lord. Here we sit around a table, much as the Apostles might have been – gathered together in fellowship, united to each other, as the Apostles were, through our knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. But do we sit here in this upper room as they did, afraid, in fear?
I suspect our initial answer might be “no” and yet a more honest answer might be “yes”... It is easy I think sometimes, for us gainfully employed in the normal routines of running our particular churches, to convince ourselves that we are being bold, we are being seen, we are witnessing, we are aren’t afraid... Yet, the truth of the matter is and particularly in this city in which we all work, the Gospel is not being as perhaps effectively proclaimed as it might be...
34 I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. 35 This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13
I know some of you have heard me say this before, perhaps in conversation or in Lent at lunch or in discussion, but as I see it, the greatest obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel in our world, is the inability of the world to recognise in us, the churches, God’s love in Christ. We are not recognised as “Christ’s disciples” so often we hear people mock us with the words “how these Christians love one another” a phrase originally written in praise of the Early Church by the pagans and recorded by the historian Tertullian in the 2nd Century, and now said derogatively of us in the 21st Century!
On this evenings agenda is an item “What is the purpose of Churches Together” and, whilst not privy to any prior conversations with anyone as to why it is there, I would venture to suggest that the answer to that question, will decide for us whether we are in fact afraid, whether we do have love one for another and whether we seek to proclaim the Gospel in this city together. For me the answer is simple, we should first seek to love one another in fulfilment of Christ’s command, that out of our love, will be borne a desire for and a witness to the Gospel and the opportunity for our contemporary pagans to remark “how these Christians love one another” full of awe, wonder and curiosity!
Let us then pray for Christ to come into our midst, here with us now, in this upper room, his 21st Century disciples, as He promised he would to those who asked Him; let us hear His greeting of “Peace be with you” and let us embrace and share it with each other:
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Help us to heal the wounds of your resurrected body by the sins of your Churches; help us to love one another as you commanded; help us to encourage and embrace and sustain one another in our proclamation of your Good News; that we might be recognised again as your disciples, that we might be worthy of your name as Christians; that the love of God made manifest in you, may be made manifest in us, that you may be made manifest in our world through, with and in us; that we may be “lights to the world” as you intended so that others may be drawn to your Love and your glory that the will of our Father may be fulfilled, God who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen