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Reflection for the month

June

Let the church be the church

At a time of increasing global instability, rising nationalism and anxiety about refugees, our society needs a fresh vision of a better world.

At times like this, the church is challenged to be bold in offering an alternative vision. While many believe that the wider public is only motivated by appeals to self-interest, the truth is that many ordinary people of all faiths and none yearn for a more generous vision. A world where no one is left behind.

The lectionary readings for June take us back to our founding moment as a church. They remind us of the big vision at the heart of our common life.

  • As today's disciples, we face the dilemma that the very first followers of Jesus faced.'

We don't share these stories because we need a history lesson but because, as today's disciples, we face the dilemma that the very first followers of Jesus faced. Dare we proclaim the kingdom of God and live it out?

Just as the first Christian communities found inspiration in sharing these stories, so may we find that the readings this month refresh and renew our commitment to be the church.

The disciples spent three years with Jesus learning what the good news is all about. They saw the impact with their own eyes. And they shared in the rollercoaster ups and downs that led to his death.

A month after the Crucifixion, at the feast of Pentecost, the disciples' moment for decision had arrived. Their choice was to go home and pick up the threads of their old lives, or to step up and carry on where Jesus left off.

There were few signs that this group had any leadership potential. The gospel record is merciless in highlighting their misunderstandings, competing ambitions and superficial commitment. But in the short time since Jesus’ death, a sea change in their understanding occurred.

The result is that at Pentecost, the disciples came out of hiding and stepped back into public life. This audacious, Spirit-filled decision is truly world changing. The movement that you and I are part of was born in that moment.

The first church took shape in the community that formed around the 12. It's here that the vision of a better world was put into practice. Day to day living reflected the values of God's kingdom. This was a community that consciously acted in a way that signalled what a better world would be like.

Many who longed for a better way of living joined in. But not all responded enthusiastically.

  • When we put our faith into action we will encounter resistance.'

Some whose wellbeing was built on inequality and injustice found change unwelcome. This rapidly growing movement needed to be contained and resisted. Injustice and inequality cannot be maintained without violence. The new church communities soon encountered opposition and persecution.

No wonder the readings from Matthew for the Sundays that follow Pentecost remind the church of Jesus's own experiences of opposition, and his warnings about the cost of discipleship. But they also reassure that, despite the challenges, Jesus is always present.

When we put our faith into action we will encounter resistance. But be of good courage. Jesus is with us and many long to hear his vision of a better world. Many long to see what his vision means when it is lived out. They are like sheep without a shepherd, or a harvest ready to be gathered.

Refugee Week / Refugee Festival Scotland is one opportunity for the church to share this big vision.

Christian Aid was founded to enable churches to respond together to the needs of those displaced in Europe following the Second World War - the church choosing to step up rather than shy away from the challenges of the world.

And we continue to do that more than seventy years later - the church living out that belief of a better possible world; that belief in life before death.

 

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