October 2017

The PCCs have been seeking my consent to change notice boards and I have been looking at all the options. One of the options is to go digital with the ability to change captions, times and notices. I did find this caption in my search: "This church is full of hypocrites; there is room for a few more!" This of course plays on one of the most given reasons for not attending church. Ministers tend to give reasons for attending church and are often disappointed at the response they get.

Yet, however, there is some mysticism about what is meant by the word Church. The church can mean different things to different people. As I have been visiting people in the three villages I have been getting a sense of what people think of the word church. More often, than not, people think of church as a building. If you "Google" the word, depending on the search engine, Wikipedia comes as one of the top entries and defines church in the first sentence as "A church building, often simply called a church, is a building used for Christian religious activities, particularly for worship services". Over time the word has gained this definition. Another use of the word church is denomination, as in "the Anglican Church" or any other denomination. To some it was the place for a quick prayer of thanksgiving, confession, or special occasion. To others it was a sacred space. I can remember one boisterous boy in one of my youth clubs who habitually swore – almost as a grammatical full stop. Much to my surprise, when he entered the church building for a band practice he was telling others off for swearing in church and I must say, he had the politest vocabulary inside the church – he turned into an absolute gentleman in an instant. However, some did refer to the church in the sense that the Bible uses it, as the community of believers in Jesus. I must hasten to add, rather negatively as well, as "hypocrites". Well, I can't deny that accusation; the church is full of sinners and broken people who have experienced forgiveness.

Recently, we have been looking at Peter's encounter with Jesus and what Jesus said about the church. Interestingly, Jesus himself did not use the word "church" much. He used it three times. The apostle Paul used it a lot and the other significant use belongs to Luke who wrote Acts – the story of the Church from its inception around 30 to about 65AD. The apostle John referred to the seven churches quite a lot. What is significant is that it never refers to a building. The closest we get to a building in the New Testament is Paul's reference to the church that met in Aquilla and Priscilla's house in Romans 16:5. Nevertheless, his primary concern was the people who met in that house. What defined the church wasn't a building or geography but belief in Jesus, that he was who he claimed to be: the special one from God (Christ), the son, the living God; who was sent die for my and your sin. Those who truly acknowledged this, as the apostle Peter did, in their own heart, were given God's Holy Spirit. When they confessed their sin, they were forgiven and transplanted into this entity called the church. Thus, the church critically is a gathering of forgiven sinners, not a building. Baptism and confirmation are signs of this experience. There are many who are baptised and confirmed but do not believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be. The true church is within what we might physically see – and outside it as well. There are many who do not attend church for whatever reason who truly acknowledge Jesus for who he claimed to be. Those who belong to the church are not perfect. Well I know that for sure: I am a part of it. As long as that is the case, any of the churches that I am appointed to as the under shepherd wouldn't be perfect. Let's take the Apostle Peter as an example: having had the great compliment "Blessed are you, son of Jonah" for what he said about Jesus, the very next moment when Jesus said he had to die, Jesus denounced Peter's reaction saying, "get thee behind me Satan". Poor Peter! The leader of the Apostles being denounced in this way! Yet before Jesus went to heaven to be at the right hand of God as it were, he commissioned Peter three times in diverse ways, saying: feed my Lambs, tend my sheep and feed my lambs. Peter had at the trial of Jesus denied that he ever knew him for the fear of his life, yet this weak Peter was appointed to lead the Apostles. So, the Church is a group of people gathered, who truly believe Jesus's claims. I will end with another unusual church notice board that reads "Don't' let worries kill you!" the second line underneath states… "Let the church help!".