Sunday, May 6, 2012

A huge door of opportunity - the mission we share

Open wide the wide door
When doors close
Other doors open
Help always to remember!
You have set before us an open door
Which no one is able to shut!
Help us to see
            the door you have opened for us
and give us the courage to go through it!
Then, we pray,
help us to open wide the door
for other people that they might enter,
find faith
and know your wonderful love.

When one door closes another door will open.  I’m a great believer in that, though I guess like anyone else I need reminding of it at times.

I’m also a great believer in pushing at doors to see whether they will open or not.  Nothing ventured nothing gained!

Towards the beginning of the book of Revelation John the Divine writes letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor.  Real churches, it’s possible to visit each of them.  I have visited four of them, albeit a long time ago!  Each had different needs, and each letter is written differently.   But maybe there’s significance in the fact that there are seven letters, seven the number of wholeness, of completeness – maybe these are letters written to the whole range of churches, to every possible church you might ever find.  And among these letters you will find words of comfort, words of challenge no matter what church you belong to.

Writing to the church of Philadelphia St John the  Divine has a wonderful image that he shares.  It’s a picture that excites me.  It’s as if he is saying to this church – you have a wonderful opportunity before you, a great chance to do wonderful things – seize the opportunity.   Push on the door, and you can be sure it will open.

Actually, John the Divine doesn’t quite say that.  His vision is even more exciting.

Look, behold!  I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.

Wow!  That’s some vision.

To belong to one church is to belong to the one church world-wide – and together we are the body of Christ called to bring God’s love into a world of need.  And as we are called to do just that we must look … and see that God has set before us an open door, which no one is able to shut.
This is exciting stuff!

When we came up with all those words describing what makes Highbury special and grouped them under six headings, one cluster of words was grouped around our Mission.  That’s our focus through the month of May.

Mission goes to the very heart not only of what we do as a church, but at what we are as a church.

Out-going, outward looking, cares for community, community minded, charitable giving, mission orientated, the world

I love the range of words people came up with.

Interestingly, it was Paul who had already found the image of ‘the door’ a very powerful one to describe his work of mission.

It all began in Antioch.  Among those who were prophets and teachers were Barnabas and Saul.  The church was led by the Spirit to set apart Barnabas and Saul to travel through the Mediterranean world to take the good news of Jesus Christ.  Setting off for Cyprus, and mixing with non-Jewish people Saul, named after the first Jewish king, starts to be known by the more Greek-sounding name of Paul.  And his momentous workhas begun.  He and Barnabas travel throughout Cyprus and then on to what is now mainland Turkey visiting another town with the name of Antioch, and then on to Iconium, Derbe, Lystra before retracing their steps and returning to Antioch in Syria.

They can’t wait to report back on what they have done … Paul and Barnabas are excited.

they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.  
Acts 14:27 

The work of mission is all about opening doors for people so that the can come to faith, and then live their faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s exactly what we are about in our mission today.  It’s about finding ways to open doors in people’s hearts so that the can come to faith.

I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this verse in the Message Bible. 

they got the church together and reported on their trip, telling in detail how God had used them to throw the door of faith wide open so people of all nations could come streaming in.  Acts 14:27 The Message.

 But for Paul, faith has to be lived out in actions.  Much later on his missionary travels he has journeyed all through what is now Western Turkey and crossed over into what is now modern day Greece and visited Corinth.  Paul never forgot the people he visited and the churches he set up.  He continually remembered them in his prayers, wrote letters to them, and often re-visited them.  As he gets to the end of the first letter to the church in Corinth he describes the way he intends to visit them again.  But he has been delayed in  Ephesus, where he is writing the letter from.  He explains why in 1 Corinthians 16:8

8But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.  
1 Corinthians 14:5-9

 A wide door for effective work.  Again, I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it. 

MSG© 16:9 A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here. (There is also mushrooming opposition.)

Faith and work, faith and deeds.  In the task of mission those two go inextricably together.  As Paul says ‘all that counts is faith active in love’.  It’s fascinating that around this time Paul became very focused on raising money from the wealthier churches of what we think of now as Greece to support the famine stricken churches and people of Judea and Jerusalem.  A very practical expression of faith active in love.

Our Christian Aid Collection is very much an expression of that faith active in love.  Collectors are needed for Christian Aid week.   Bags are available and the list is there for us to sign up to.

A door of opportunity has opened for Sharon to share with a small group from St Luke’s, Sue Pestell, Sue Garcia and Christine Lodge  in a mission visit to Bolivia.

Sharon shared with us all that she looks forward to doing as the group visits Cochabamba and the Broombush Nursery.  We look to hearing all the news, not least through Facebook and the Blog Sharon will be keeping.

She specially asked for our prayers for safe journeying, good health, the project they will be sharing in and families back at home.

This visit is exactly the kind of thing Paul and Barnabas were doing – in visiting and supporting the work across the world.  It’s a tangible way of sensing we are part of that world-church.

Our prayers and our blessing go with you.  We will be thinking of you in our prayers – we are there for your family while you are away.  Please take our love and blessing and prayers to all the people you will be meeting as well.

My reflections today are very much with you in mind.

I want to share these words of Scripture with you and for you as you set off for Bolivia this week.

From Revelation 3:8

Behold!  I have set before you an open door that no one can shut.

May you come back with your faith strengthened seeing for yourself the way God is at work, using you and those you will be visiting  to throw the door of faith wide open so people of all nations could come streaming in.  Acts 14:27 The Message.

And in all the work you will be sharing … may you find that A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here.

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