Dear Friends and Fellow Members,
This month we mark another anniversary in the work of our church. We live at a time when anniversaries and birthdays have become big business. I remember a few years ago being shocked by a shop in Australia that existed simply for parties. I am sure that similar shops exist in our own country. It is a sad reflection on our ‘civilised’ culture that it is possible to make a living on parties. When this happens we have lost the focus of anniversaries and birthdays.
If we read the Old Testament carefully we will see that God gave a lot of time to annual events. These were used as means of remembrance and or preparation. God actually stated “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. … (Dt. 16:16). These are more commonly known as – Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. We are not required to observe these annual events, because Christ kept the whole law for His people. The one event that we are called to remember regularly is the communion of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus himself said, “… Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor 11:24) He has given us a very simple meal that is accessible to the poorest of believers, in order to be reminded of the single greatest event in history.
Communion reminds us of the cost of our salvation – the life of the eternal Son of God, but it also reminds us of the sufficiency of our salvation. There is no other need – “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7). God has given us communion, because it would be so easy for many ‘very important’ things to crowd it out. We need reminders of great events. In the summer of 2012 it seemed that nothing mattered more than the Olympics, but already it is a distant memory. Are other important matters or events that have become a dim memory because we have allowed the pressures of life to push them to one side?
At this anniversary time it would be good to take time to reflect on the goodness of God in this past year. There is a great danger in our faith being purely historical. We thank God for his work in creating the world; for the fact that he chose and made a covenant with Abram; that he led his people out of captivity and into the Promised Land. We are grateful for all the truth that we learn from the words of the Old Testament prophets. We are also overwhelmingly grateful for the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, His birth, life, teachings, miracles, death, resurrection, ascension and continuing prayer for us in Glory. However, is our faith only historical?
The Lord Jesus Christ promised in the Great Commission “… I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) He also calls us to “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (Jn 15:4) Both of these verses speak of, and require a continuing relationship with Christ that remains effective and productive. Do you ever take the time to reflect on how your relationship with God has changed over a period of time, in this case a year? It is vital that our faith is a living faith. It is often said that faith is like a muscle. It might always be a part of our body, but it is only effective when it is used. Do you/we trust God more today than we did in 2012?
As a church we thank God for those who have professed their faith in baptism and joined the church. We thank him for the new opportunities for ministry that have opened up, for example in the residential homes in our area. We praise Him for those who have taken up responsibilities within the life of the church. We thank God that despite an obvious turning away from the principles of Scripture at a national level yet we still have the freedom to meet for worship whenever we choose, but especially on Sundays.
Anniversaries also provide the opportunity to redress the priorities. As Christians we never need to set priorities, because God has set these in the Bible. Our responsibility is to see that we have not lost our first love and where that has happened that we again make sure that God is first and foremost in our lives.
May God help each of us to enter a new year of worship and service with God in Christ as the centre of our focus.
Your grateful pastor,
Bernard Lewis October 2013