A Message of Hope for the Church of God
By David Woollard.
A Message of Hope for the Church of God
Light out of darkness
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem….Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison…many were put to death…and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria”. Acts 8:1 & 3; 26:10
These were dark, dark days for the fledgling church in Jerusalem. Days of fear and uncertainty. Not long before they were full of the joy of their new-found faith in Jesus. They loved meeting together, praying, breaking bread, sharing stories of all that Jesus did and said. Faith was vivid and real, exciting and life changing. People they only half new became friends, everyone cared for each other, shared gifts of food, even money. It was as if the fellowship of followers were a family, a family bonded by faith in a living Lord Jesus and united in love.
Then this. This frightening attack from the authorities and most of all by Saul. He was by far and away the worst. And after the stoning of Stephen the oppression grew worse as if that one cruel act had opened the flood gates of anger and viciousness. Every day people they knew were dragged from their homes and taken to prison. Some to their deaths.
There’s only so much you can take. Only so many days you can cower in fear behind locked doors, waiting, wondering when your turn would come. If you would be next. So not surprisingly one family’s nerve broke, then another until family after family fled taking with them what little they could carry. Fled anywhere. Leaving behind home and livelihood, friends and fellowship. Everything that formed the normal pillars of security and safety in their daily lives. All gone.
They were left with nothing.
Nothing, that is except the spark of faith still glowing within them. So wherever they ended up like so much human flotsam, in whatever town or village they found refuge, when people asked them what had happened and why, they told them the stories they had been told about Jesus and all he had said and done. And how their belief in him had filled them with hope and given new meaning and purpose to their lives.
Their message was as simple and as profound as that. They didn’t know any theology. They didn’t know any of the things that the teachers of the law were so full talking about. But they knew about Jesus. And some of those who listened to them believed. And so the news of Jesus spread. Not despite their persecution. But because of their persecution. And though they didn’t know it, and would have laughed if it had been suggested to them, through these ordinary folk, these refugees of faith, the prophecy of Our Lord to the apostles was fulfilled: “ you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. Lk 1:4
That was Light coming out of darkness.
And that, I believe, is one of the messages God wants us to hold onto today as we too face a threatening shadow to life and livelihood through the Covid pandemic. A threat that has stripped from us many things we once took for granted as normal parts of every day life. Not least the freedom to meet together in worship. That has gone and for the moment we don’t know when, and how and in what way that freedom will be regained.
Yet, like those early disciples fleeing from Jerusalem, this time is filled with a wonderful and unexpected hope. Yes, Church, as we knew it is on hold, but ‘church’ as the living, breathing, interconnectedness of the people of God is alive and thriving. For God cannot be thwarted. New forms of worship and prayer are flourishing and growing, new pastoral networks forming by phone, cards, internet and text. New connections and bonds between members of the congregation being formed in a way they may never have been were it not for the common challenge we face. And through all these the church fellowship at St Peters is sharing with each other the timeless message of God’s love, love for each of us and love through us to one another.
Love that bridges all ages and gender, all preferences of worship style and tradition.
Love that when it meets makes God’s love and the sacrifice of Christ complete.
Love, that is the glue that binds the people of God together.
Jesus said,” love one another as I have loved you”.
And amazingly and wonderfully and unexpectedly that is what I believe we are seeing flourishing in these strange and difficult times. A wonderful Message of Hope for the Church of God.
Truly light out of darkness.
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