Discipleship

Three months ago we welcomed to our church family a bright, friendly young woman who had travelled some four thousand miles from the United States to spend time on holiday with us in Lewes. During her time with us she was instrumental in setting up our cafe at TRINITY St John’s.

VisaAmazingly, she did this on a voluntary basis because she felt that God had prompted her to perform this act of generosity. Having charmed everyone with her enthusiasm and faith, she did an incredible job of getting everything up and running. And now she has returned home. The idea that someone would come here with no hidden agenda and no desire to earn money was something that our visa system couldn’t understand.

But, in that short time she has left her mark: practically, because she has trained a group of people as baristas and cafe managers, but also spiritually, because her willingness to give up her life in the US to offer her skills in a place where she knew no one and would not benefit from her actions is very humbling. The fact that she could not get a visa to do this is indicative of how other-worldly this idea of selfless service has become.

Yet, on a daily basis, Christians around the globe perform acts of incredible selflessness; leaving homes and families to become missionaries in poverty-stricken countries; risking danger to themselves by protecting and caring for others, and giving their time and money to set up charities and organisations to create positive change. Within TRINITY we have members of our congregation who are missionaries in Ukraine, in Romania and in Rwanda (to name a few). On a smaller scale the life of TRINITY Church functions successfully only because of all the willing and generous volunteers who give up their spare time to organise clothes for refugees, run groups for children or older people, complete admin tasks, make coffee or cakes, visit the sick or lonely, give their time and talents in singing or playing an instrument, run technical support, arrange flowers, and many, many more. Lots of these tasks go on unnoticed and un-remarked upon. The people
performing the tasks do not do so for money, acclaim, or even for thanks. They do it because to be a Christian means to be servant-hearted.
cross

Jesus performed the ultimate act of sacrifice; an act so significant and so life-changing for each of us that we feel daily the awe and thankfulness that comes from being undeservedly rescued. And this response to Jesus is what compels us to make our comparatively small offerings to others.

Recently Steve preached on John 12v 1-8, the story of Mary pouring out a jar of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and then wiping them with her hair, and the question he asked was ‘What does wholehearted discipleship look like?’ There isn’t a non-Christian equivalent of the idea of a disciple. The word is occasionally used flippantly, usually by the media describing a celebrity’s new fad diet or exercise regime. Used in this way it simply means ‘follower’. The idea of discipleship, that is the act of behaving like a disciple, is uniquely Christian. Jesus instructed us in Matthew 28v19 to “make disciples of all nations” and so to be a disciple is to believe in, and follow, and try to be as much like feetJesus as we can. The apostles, with their reassuring weaknesses, taught us how to be disciples in the way that Christ intended. Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Matthew, James, Simon and Thomas were, at various points throughout the gospels, disloyal, doubtful, fearful, quick-tempered, impulsive, slow on the uptake, selfish, judgemental and competitive.
Nevertheless, these same men showed incredible courage and faith by the lives they led and deaths they suffered for Jesus’s sake. Their human frailties combined with their Spirit-filled resolution should give us hope that we are capable of giving up our own lives for Jesus too. Very few of us are being called to martyrdom for Jesus’ sake. But we are all called to give up our lives for him. We are all called, like Mary in John’s gospel, to give up our pride, show sacrificial devotion and lay everything before him. Jesus died so that we might have a fulfilled life on this earth and an eternal life with him. Anything we do for him seems very little in return.

For further reading on the idea of discipleship and sacrifice read Matthew 5 v 14 -16, Luke 9 v 23, Luke 14 v 33, John 8 v 31 – 32, John 13 v 34 – 35.

Community

Two weeks ago, Steve preached a challenging sermon about kingdom relationships which challenged us to form meaningful relationships with others and then to be willing to forgive when our relationships break down.

AGM logoThe following Wednesday was our TRINITY Church AGM where we heard from the various ministers responsible for specific areas of church life and celebrated together the successes of the last year.

The combination of the two has made me think about church community.

‘Community’ is one of those ideas that we all want to engage with, that we all love as an idea, as a principle, but are often not so keen on in practice. We all know what a good community looks like; warm welcome, genuine interest in one another, learning together, growing together, loving and caring for one another. And there is no doubt that church is able to provide this to all its members. At the AGM we heard about the work done t
o create communities for our children and their families, and for our young people. This is by no means all, as is obvious after just a cursory glance at our website. There are groups for older people, for those with learning disabilities, fortnightly home groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, outreach groups such as Lewes Sings Gospel and many more. And all of these are incredible opportunities for our church to show love and care to one another and to those who do not otherwise come into contact with the Christian message or Christian people.

But why is community sCommunityo important to us? Why do we yearn for the fellowship with others and the encouragement and support that being part of a community brings? The first thing I was struck by is that we don’t have to look very deeply into the Bible to see that the three part God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is in Himself a community. The divine Trinity creates together, supports one another and delights in being together. And we are the children of that God. We l
ong to be part of a community because we were built for it and so we long to experience it amongst our fellow human beings as well as with God.

And our God is very inclusive. In John 3:16, it states clearly that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. The invitation
is unconditional. It’s not a black tie event, where we might be turned away for dressing incorrectly; it’s not a fairground ride where we have to be the right height; it’s not dependent on finance or looks or education or racial background or even another’s measure of
‘goodness’. “Whoever” means everyone. Even me.John 3 16

We need to show this inclusivity to everyone, no matter how hard it is. We’re not the interview panel who get to decide whether someone is the right person to join the team. God wants us to share his Son with everyone. And in doing so, to see his redemption at work in their lives. We are made for community and I think, as a church, we’re doing a pretty good job. But we can still do more, both collectively and individually. We never want someone to say that they came to church and didn’t feel welcome. And that means both those who venture in for the first time and those who come most weeks but struggle to fit in. After all, where would we be if the disciples had decided their group was good enough, big enough, and friendly enough just as it was?

We are a community open to everyone. This is often difficult but, we are able to look to the example Jesus set us when he was on earth and able to call on the Holy Spirit to help us when loving others is hard.

God’s invitation is for “whoever”. We need to make that our aim each day.

For further reading on the inclusive nature of God’s community, read Luke 10 v 25 – 37, John 5 v 24, Galatians 3 v 28.

 

 

TRINITY Connect Weekend – 11th-12th June

Saturday 11th – Sunday 12th June

BBQ, England football match, Celebration Service, Seminars, Activities for the whole family.

With Special guest Bishop Nazir-Ali

 

Saturday June 11th at TRINITY Southover

6:30pm BBQ

8:00pm  England Football game

Sunday June 12th at TRINITY St John sub Castro

9:45am Coffee and Pastry.

10:30am Celebration Service

12:00pm  Lunch – bring your own

1:00pm   Seminar – Freedom, and the threat of Extremism

2:15pm    Activity – Treasure Hunt or Quiz

3:15pm    Tea and Coffee and Cake

4:00pm    Informal Close