The Joy of the Gospel

The Joy of the Gospel – Session 5

So great to have this picture from Wendy – sums up a lot of stuff!   (Picture of dog wagging its tale).   Key words to sum up past 4 weeks.   Joy as in deep ummmmmmm.   Be still, be with, be open…

Let your tale wag.   Encounter – we get joy as we encounter Jesus which we do in word, through bible and spirit – stuff like Prayer Ministry.   And encounter needs to happen time and time again.   Its that ongoing encounter that resources us to go and tell people about the joy of encountering Jesus.   Basically living out our believes in a world of constant change.

 

You may also recall that really challenging question those using the study guide are being asked: “If you were to see your spiritual life not as something that brings personal comfort but sends you out to encounter others, would there be anything you need to do differently?” 

 

Then, last week we were thinking about proclamation, about telling our good news to others.  Now, this week we’re thinking about serving others.   Social action.   Hence our reading from Luke (4:16-21).

 

Now, this is Jesus’ manifesto.   This is what Jesus himself says he’s came to do.   No broken promises.   He did it and in our day and age he commands us to do the same.   It is this stuff, his manifesto, that shapes church.   No cynicism.   No get out clause.   This is what Jesus’ manifesto is, and it is ours too.

 

What do you think?   What do you really think?

 

Just break it down a bit.  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,”   This is about us encountering the HS.  

“because he has anointed me…” So, we not only encounter the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit equips us, enables us to be involved with stuff we wouldn’t normally, couldn’t normally do ourselves.

 

Remember too, this is the official Anglican study book written in response to the Catholic teaching on this.   You can’t find a more institutionalised church book than an ARCIC study book!   So, if talk about the HS makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, you need to be challenged.

 

If you are sitting there this morning thinking ‘is this stuff really for me?’ then your starting point is to encounter God’s spirit.   To be open to the Spirit of the Living God working in you.   And some do like to put a barrier up to that!   This is the real deal!   This is central to Christian belief.   So, from that place of encounter and of equipping we have proclamation: “to proclaim good news to the poor.”

To the poor!   To the poor!!   “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…” Ahhhhhh!  To sit lovingly with people who have been behind bars…   are behind bars.   “And recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”   Help!!!!!!   “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”   Well, its in engaging with all this stuff that the year of the Lord’s favour is proclaimed!!

 

Its all this stuff that shapes how we do church.   Has to.   Because its Jesus’ manifesto.

 

Now, I’ve had the privilege for the last three years of taking one of the modules on what is called IME.   Reflective Practice: mission and evangelism.   So, this is a module that newbie curates have to do as part of their ongoing training.   And this last session this past week we were looking at social action.   And because this book we’re using – the Joy of the Gospel is really good I quoted from it,

so you can have that slide too!

 

I’m trying to make the point that this stuff on mission, evangelism, social action, work of the Spirit

is the bedrock of what we’re about.   Its for all of us – no get out clause!   And I’m emphasising that this is mainstream stuff – its not wild and wacky – its really kosher!   Anyway, the book we’re following says this about social action:

 

Comments from Paula Gooder in response to The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium)

“The heart of the gospel is life in community and engagement with others. If we receive God’s love and love him in return then it follows that we will also desire, seek and protect the good of others.”

 

“The first theme – inclusion of the poor – lies at the heart of our faith: every individual Christian and every Christian community is called to work for the liberation of the poor so that they can be a full part of society. We are called to hear the cry of the poor and then to work to transform their lives and enhance their dignity.”

 

“The second theme – peace – is equally important. Peace is not just the absence of violence nor does it justify unjust social structures, peace, involves a deep and lasting unity.”

 

 

Now, this is really challenging, because it forces a church community to do a number of things.   Firstly, it stops making Christian belief personal.   It never has been – its always been community centred.   So, if you are someone who says quietly, no my faith is personal to me, then try and let that view, kind of change.   Christian belief is about community and learning, growing together.

Its about establishing more of God’s Kingdom in our lives together.

 

A second challenge is that is forces a church community to no longer see itself as a club.   Over the years, not just here, I’ve had many a conversation about ‘new comers not understanding how we do things.’   Still hear them.   Yet, if we get the love of God, really get the deepness of what he has done for us, really get how he continues to bless us now, then we can’t do anything else other than give that love away and if they change how we do things, so what?!   It allows God’s Kingdom to flow more beyond these wall.

 

A third challenge about social action is that it is, frankly, messy.   It affects you emotionally as you engage with people who are different from you.   It affects you intellectually as you have to think about stuff and why you are doing it.   And its demanding.   It allows God’s Kingdom to challenge and change structures in society.   This is about bringing Christ’s peace to all structures in society.

 

So much easier just to be a church where you come for an hour and then go.   But that’s never been part of Jesus’ manifesto.   And beside being Jesus’ manifesto for us they reason that the top bananas of the Anglican and Catholic churches are emphasising social action is because that’s the way churches are built!   Having a heart for the poor and wanting to bring Jesus’ peace in on every situation.

 

Now, this social action happens in different places, at different levels and in differing ways.   Some of the charities we financially and prayerfully support are working at a national level – MAF, CMS.   We seeking to give 10% of our income to these organisations as part of Jesus’ mandate to serve the poor and marginalised.   That’s why it is such a passionate issue – its trying to get Jesus’ manifesto actioned.

 

St Es folk are involved in things like PM, FB & Night Shelter.   We can support each other in what each other is doing.   The two Christine’s engaging with FSW, that kind of thing.   And this happens at a local, town level for example.  

 

Then we’re also trying to develop what we do here locally and its why we’re working in partnership with People Matter & Food Bank; why we’re beginning conversations to see some other stuff happening around debt in the new year.

 

These focused activities help us to raise issues, to draw people together to help others.   Yet at its heart, its what we do to stand alongside people, to help them encounter Jesus’ peace.   We get to do that kind of stuff, too, if working, then at work, where we gather, standing alongside people in need.

 

In preparing for my session with the curates I came across this from the Vineyard Church

who are really good at social action.   And what they say kind of draws all this stuff together to do with encounter, to do with change.   It honours the Catholic and Salvation Army traditions and it says that as we encounter God so he basically stirs people to act.   Do you ever get that when you worship.   A sense of wanting more, a sense of being propelled to do something?   That could be the Spirit’s work in you and you face a choice – to let it go or to act.

 

Vineyard Church:  From their website.

“Compassion

Often we read that Jesus had compassion. Combined with obedience it seems to be the main driver behind his ministry. Worship leads to the presence of Jesus and he, by his Holy Spirit, brings compassion. Compassion is not just a feeling but an unction. A compulsion that goes beyond emotion.

 

When the Holy Spirit comes through worship he often leaves a deposit of compassion in the church. We express his heart of mercy and his demand for justice to a broken world. That is why so much of the social justice work done in this country emanates from the church. The Vineyard has a way to go before we catch up with the Roman Catholics and the Salvation Army. But we expect the Lord to deposit compassion in our core being as a church and we expect to spend money, time and energy expressing it not just to each other but also outward into our community and beyond.”

 

This is such a challenging series, yet, at the heart of it is the encounter of joy.   That joy happens as we do this stuff.   All this stuff.   So please can we be challenged by the series to act.   Today, we’ve been thinking about how our social action affects the world around us.

 

If social action still feels like a tall order, there was once a boy walking along a sandy beach and he came along a lot of star fish, beginning to dry up in the sun on the sand.   He started throwing them back in one by one.   But there were so many, it didn’t seem to make much difference.   Which is what a passer-by said.   “Wasting your time! – can’t save them all – just too many of them.”   “But I have that one”, said the boy as he throws it back in “And that one… and that one… and that one…   I’ve made a difference to them!”


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