Sharing God's Love
Reading Acts 2, 1-21
Luke describes the events of Pentecost and the start of Peter's first sermon that resulted in 3,000 new followers of Jesus.
Reflection by Rev’d John Bourne
Have you ever wondered what it was like, to be one of the disciples that day when the promised Holy Spirit came upon them? 120 of them were gathered together in Jerusalem, discussing all that had happened in the last few weeks, and wondering about the future. They had seen Jesus arrested and crucified, and had fled in fear. Then the risen Jesus had appeared to one or two and then all of them, sorrow was turned into joy, fear began to turn into courage. They had stood in awe as Jesus blessed them, before ascending into heaven, and two angels had encouraged them for the task ahead – to tell everyone the good news that Jesus is alive, and through faith in him we can know true fullness of life and the sure hope of eternal life.
Luke tells us how they spent all their time in the Temple worshipping and praising God. Despite their obvious enthusiasm, we do not hear of a single convert, no one seems to have listened to them. Something was missing!
The missing factor was Jesus within them, the indwelling power of God through his Holy Spirit. What an entrance the Spirit made in that room as they talked and prayed! A sound like a rushing mighty wind silenced them, and as they looked round they saw tongues of fire land on every head. At the same time they felt a love within, greater than anything they had ever known, a love that filled them, filled them to overflowing, they had to tell others the wonderful news of the love of God. They poured out onto the balcony and began praising God and shouting out the good news. The streets were full of people come to celebrate the festival. A multinational crowd gathered and to their amazement heard these people preaching in their own language. What a scene it must have been, what a Holy cacophony!
Peter stepped forward, he managed to quieten the disciples and he embarked on
his first ever sermon. No notes, no training, no hesitation, the power of God
flowed through him and gave wings to his words. Some 3,000 people responded to
that message, gave their lives to Jesus and were baptised, and the Christian
Church was born.
years later, the Christian Church struggles on here in the west. In Africa and
many other places in the East, the Church thrives and grows, new Christians
come to faith every day, miracles happen, the Holy Spirit is at work in power! Here
and there in England, are signs of hope, there are Churches which do not fear
the Holy Spirit, but welcome Him and pray for Him to come on them. This
Pentecost, I will be praying for the Holy Spirit to come in power on me and on
us all, that we might know His presence guiding and leading us, and filling us
with that love that only Jesus can bring.
Yours in Christ
Gospel reading – Matthew 28, verses 16-20
Jesus sends his disciples out.
Reflection by Amanda Abbitt
This passage is quite familiar – it’s known colloquially as ‘The Great Commission’.
Over the last 3 months, with our churches closed, how have we been able to obey this ‘Great Commission’? How can we obey the command to ‘go and make disciples’ when the churches are out of bounds? We can’t invite someone to join us for morning worship. We can’t chat to the stranger over coffee and find out what drew them to church that day. We haven’t been able to share Mothering Sunday or Easter Day . There have been no baptisms.
But what if we focus on the last part of that commission, rather than the first? Jesus told his disciples to teach people to “obey everything I have commanded you”. When we look at everything Jesus taught, what would you say were the most important things? For me, I think it’s what we regard as the ‘new’ commandment.
Love your neighbour as yourself.
If obeying this commandment is what Jesus wanted the disciples to teach, how then should we view our own response to this ‘great commission’?
The current crisis has brought out the best in so many people. We have seen, and perhaps experienced, the kindness of people who have volunteered – shopping, collecting medicines – whatever has been needed. What we are seeing, over and over again, is ‘love in action’. Loving our neighbours by picking up a few things in the supermarket for them, so they don’t have to risk going out.
But who is our neighbour? Jesus taught us that it is, of course, anyone and everyone.
I know that the church has taken a leading role in many communities, assisting with shopping, establishing food banks, collecting medicines, even walking the dogs of people who are isolating.
I hope that the example of ‘love in action’ that the church all over the world and right here in Marden has set, will cause people to stop and wonder – what drives that love? Where does that impulse to serve others come from?
Perhaps the church, out there in the community has had an almost unique opportunity in these strange times to demonstrate that being a Christian is not about being in a certain building on a Sunday – but it IS about loving the stranger in all sorts of practical ways.
And maybe that’s the first step to ‘making disciples’. Perhaps it’s not about sharing our Sunday services (much as we are desperately missing them) but demonstrating love as Jesus commanded us so that those who witness it and experience it might be prompted to ask – why?
Jesus sends his disciples out to spread the good news.
Reflection by Naomi Lumutenga
We start today’s reflection visualising Jesus the Action Man; walking through towns and villages; teaching in places of worship, healing the sick; presumably, with his disciples providing back-up support. Then the helpless and harassed crowds pour in, wanting a slice of what he is offering. Jesus has compassion on them and seems physically overwhelmed; He realises that he cannot shepherd all of them by himself. He turns from Action Man to Empowering Commissioner – this marks a significant transition, a point at which, Jesus hands the physical baton to his disciples. With the crowds in mind, He starts by making the case for the transition: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few’.
proceeds to outline the tasks to his disciples:
‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive
And then their pay package:
‘Freely you have received; freely give. Do not
get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts – no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff.’
On face value, it is not a great incentive for a new job but let us think through ‘freely you have received…’. If we could begin each day with a blank piece of paper on which we list things we have freely received, not because we deserve or have earned them, but by the grace of God! Grace that culminated in Jesus taking the hit for our sins by giving his life through death on the cross and daily provides small things and big things; what can we bring or give, in return for that kind of love?
When commissioning the disciples, Jesus is upfront with them, about how tough it is going to be; starting with the lost sheep of Israel, he prepares them to feel ‘like sheep among wolves’….and ‘be flogged..’. But he also promises to give them the right words in whatever situation, because it will be the Spirit of the Father speaking through them, a great illustration of Father, Son and Holy Spirit acting in unison.
During these strange Covid-19 days, the harvest is REALLY ripe and
plentiful, manifesting through crowds protesting against racism; individuals
and groups searching for the meaning of life, increased participation in church
services and Alpha courses; the lonely, hungry, sick, bereaved; frustrated school
children and parents; those cut off from family, etc. The same Jesus is
passing, seeing these crowds and has the same compassion but needs workers;
that is where you and I come in, to help bring the harvest home. There is a
ripe harvest for young hands, old hands, male, female; we just need to open our
eyes to what is going on around us!
I end with a quote from Teresa of Avila:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.”
What a privilege!
Week beginning Sunday 21 June – Trinity 2 (Proper 7)
Gospel Reading from
Matthew 10, 24 – 39
Jesus explains that being one of his disciples is not an easy task.
Reflection by Sarah Emanuel
These are difficult words we read in today’s reading, a hard gospel. Jesus doesn’t say what we expect him to say, or perhaps want him to say, or wish he had said!
What he says is: ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.’ ‘What!’ you may shout, ‘but I thought peace on earth was the goal, the whole purpose and point! Now I find that he came to cause division! Well he certainly succeeded!’
If we consider the situation we may be able to make sense of the difference between what Jesus says here, and what he did through what we know of his ministry. We know that he healed, restored to life, and affirmed people’s value. As he says here, even the smallest of creatures are valued by God, and with us, ‘even the hairs of your head are all counted.’ We know that he loved us so deeply that he went knowingly and obediently to death for our sake. He taught, preached, travelled and fed people miraculously and when the time came, he did not raise an army or advocate violence; he told Peter to put his sword away in the Garden of Gethsemane and went willingly to his trial and death. And he told us to be peacemakers: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ he said, ‘for they will be called children of God!’
Jesus is speaking specifically to his disciples here, giving them their commission and warning them of the dangers of their task. They are not going to be following him under any misconception about the hardships of their mission. Proclaiming the good news is going to bring them into conflict with the authorities, upset their families and lead to persecution. In instructing them in the dangers he is strengthening their resolve and coaching them in their response. He tells them: have no fear, you are known and valued by God with a boundless love; this way is the way of life and of eternal life in which, one day, all things will be known and understood.
Sometimes peace isn’t the goal, if it doesn’t resolve or improve anything, if no-one is forgiven, nothing understood, the cracks merely papered over. Think of Chamberlain’s ‘Peace for our time’ speech. Think of all the times in history, and in our times, when someone or some group has had to stir things up to achieve a greater good; when the peaceable approach would be to keep quiet, say nothing, look away. Peace isn’t peace when it allows hurt and injustice, hatred and prejudice, or damage to the environment to thrive. Tables may need to be overturned, statues toppled, traffic disrupted to instigate change that offers the greater peace that lies in care for our neighbour and for all God’s creation. Jesus is calling on his disciples to have the courage to confess their faith and to live up to that calling and all it entails of love for God and for one another.
May God give us courage, strength and resolve when we need to stand up for another’s peace, the grace to bring peace to others, and His peace in our own hearts.