Today’s reflection, contributed by Jane, is based on Acts 11; the music is I’m gonna clap my hands, and we conclude with the prayer of the week.
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. 20 But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists[a] also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. 21 The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with[b] the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”
27 At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. 29 The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers[c] living in Judea; 30 this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Last Sunday 6th September will be remembered for the faithful coming back to worship together after such a long gap apart. It was such a memorable time at All Saints, not only were we together, but we had our first Community Forest Church in the beautiful churchyard. As with the early church, we, the church of today were able to publically witness and proclaim Jesus as Lord, as we acted out our worship and declaration of faith.
At the end of services we are often told to ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’, just as Barnabas had directed the Christians ’to be faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion.’ What does this mean to each of us? Is it just coming along faithfully to the Sunday service or does our faithfulness extend to all parts of our lives? Are we prepared to share our faith with others or is it something personal and nothing to do with anyone else? If our commitment to Christ is so special to us, then surely we must share the love and joy that this personal relationship with our Saviour gives to each of us? Whilst we could not sing, we signed, jumping and clapping in the churchyard – ‘I am gonna (going to!) clap my hands, stamp my feet to show I love you, …shout out loud and sing your praise. …for you are everything to me, Jesus I love your name.’ Do we live our lives meaning and showing this?
We were exploring God’s loving nature by considering the different leaves in the churchyard, looking at their complexity and diversity. Just as God made them, he has made us, paying attention to every detail. Being the start of autumn, many of the leaves were dried up having fallen off the trees, reminding us that if we are to be fruitful and alive we too need to be connected with our creator. We were challenged as to whether our lives look like this – being connected to our creator God?
Being together is really special and encouraging. However, can we use that encouragement to allow the Spirit to work in all of our lives, our work, how we bring up our children? Our lives are a witness to our love of God. People don’t take a lot of notice of what we say, it’s what we do to love others that will have an impact on the world.
As during the famine during the reign on Claudius, there was need, the Christians ‘being determined that according to our ability that we send relief’; maybe as people are starting to feel the impact of job losses, we need to echo this, providing for the poor and needy; coming alongside the hurting, the lonely and lost. We also need to stand up for causes dear to our and God’s heart to protect our land and resources.
As the story goes –If we were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?
Prayer of the week
you search us and know us:
may we rely on you in strength
and rest on you in weakness,
now and in all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.