Sunday, March 10, 2013

Changing gifts, changing lives

It was a big issue at the time.

And there was a lot of heartache over it.

There was no small dissension and debate.

And so the church at Antioch despatched Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem where they were welcomed by the whole church.

They then met with the Apostles and the Elders who between them worked through a plan to put into effect.

But before putting the plan into action they put it to the gathered church in Jerusalem.

And so it was that the Aposltes and the Elders, with the consent of the whole church went ahead and carried out the plan.

Acts chapter 15 is one of those places in the New Testament where we draw our inspiration for our way of being the church.

At Highbury we have had what has been for us a big issue to resolve.  There has been some dissension and debate.  That’s great – it’s just as happened way back then.

It was our deacons who have worked on a plan of action for us to take.  But before putting the plan into action it was put to the gathering together of our church here at Highbury:  we had our Church meeting on Thursday evening when we as a Church, meeting together, seek the mind of Christ so that we can shape the life of our church and set the future direction we should take.

And indeed we really did come to a mind in our meeting to take our plans forward to the next stage.  So it is that in our case the team of Deacons with the consent of the whole church will start to flesh out the plans we have for the future of our church so that we rally can be a place to share Christian friendship, explore Christian faith and enter into Christen mission with Christ at the centre and open to all.

The work begins now.

And we shall continue to work on that pattern – at each step of the way the Deacons will be reporting back to Church Meeting and seeking that ‘consent’ as together we seek the mind of Christ.

So what’s the next step now?

It is for each of us to be thinking what we can contribute, where we fit in, what part we have to play in the life of our church.  Will it be a continuation of what we have been doing?  Will it be something new?

That’s something for us all to pray about, to seek guidance for.  And so we have an invitation to pray – think which of the areas of the church life we have identified you have a real heart for – it may be one or two.  Then we invite you to take a bookmark and focus your prayers on that area of the church’s life.  In prayer, seek what it is God may have in store for you to be doing.

All sorts of things need doing and everything is important and counts.

The action that Jerusalem church took was to send a letter to all the churches and Paul suggested to Barnabas who had come down from Antioch to Jerusalem with him and others that they should visit every city where a church had been planted.

But they couldn’t agree!

There was dissension between them.

And what they agreed was actually to go their separate ways.

Barnabas went off with Mark and Paul went on his way with Silas.

It’s Silas I want to reflect on for a moment.

he comes now to play a really important roles as a travelling companion with Paul – joining Paul as he makes the crossing over to what we think of as Europe from Asia Minor as Paul reaches Philippi and what we think of as mainland Greece for the first time.

We know next to nothing about Silas – but what we do know gives us food for thought as we think of the part we can play in the life of the church here at Highbury.

If you track through the references to Silas or Silvanus as he is sometimes called in the new Testament you find him doing different things at different stages of his life with different people and in different settings.

On his travels with Paul he is very much up front, a companion and co-worker of Paul in the thick of things.

But that’s not the last we hear of Silas.
We last encounter him when he is much older with another of the apostles, with Peter as Peter is writing a round-robin letter to scattered churches wherever they may be.

It is almost as if Silas is no longer active  and able to go on his travels, but he has adopted another role.  He uses another gift, something given him perhaps for this later stage in his own life’s journey./  Whereas he had been at the heart of the action joining Paul in his travels facing imprisonment in Philippi up front with all the action, now he plays a back room role, a support role.

You get right to the end of 1 Peter and encounter Silas as the one who is writing out Peter’s letter – and as a backroom worker Silas receives high commendation from Peter.  Through Silas, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you, and to testify that this is the true grace of God.

Silas maybe took to heart something else Peter said in that letter when he challenged everyone, us included.

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.  Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God, whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things, through Jesus Christ.  To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.  Amen.

Once he had been the speaker – the one up front.  Now he served behind the scenes helping in the writing of the letter.

So what are the gifts to use here in Highbury?  Something you’ve always done?  Or do we need to be prepared to recognise God has different gifts for us to use at different points on our journey.  So what is the gift he has for the next stage of the journey here at Highbury?

So much God has given us
So much we have to share
And yet so much changes
At one time a messenger
At another time a companion
At another time a worker
At another time keeping the records
So much God has given us
So much we have to shre
And yet so much changes
Open our eyes, Lord,
That we may recognise
All you have given us and
All we have to share.
Silas: Ac 15- 16, II Cor 1:19, I Thes 1.1 Peter 5.10, 12

Jean then invited us to share in a Christian Aid Super Soup Lunch next Sunday to mark the start of our involvement in the Enough Food for Everyone ...  If Campaign.

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