What is Your Frontline

If the links don’t work for you, here is John’s video presentation Christmas in the Summer, Spy Kids 2, Away in a Manger and Our God is a Great Big God.

Todays reading is 2 Kings 5:1-19Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Ian.

The Christian pastor and author John Wimber said, ‘The Church is not the building, it’s the people; it’s not just the gathering, it’s also the scattering’.

In my lifetime, the reality of this statement has never been more apparent for Christian ‘Church’ communities than during these past few months of a worldwide pandemic.

Like God’s people in the Old Testament and in the early Christian church, we have been scattered full time (in other words, with no option during this period to gather together in a church building on Sundays). Though unlike the early church, thankfully our scattering back into our homes, and into the streets where we live, has not been as a result of persecution.

But the miracle of God’s grace and goodness in the midst of the scattering of the early church, meant that those followers of Jesus Christ gave witness to God’s love for them, shown completely in the death and resurrection of Jesus—in the places where they had been dispersed to. Because of the way they lived their lives, in their sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ for all people, on the frontline of their lives, the Christian faith spread throughout the world, and more and more men, women and children came to know God’s saving love for them.

The word ‘Church’ comes from the Greek word, ‘Ekklesia’, and more accurately means a body of people, a ‘congregation’, who follow Jesus Christ. So the meaning is all about the people. Over time, and especially as large and splendid buildings have been created through the ages, the word ‘Church’ became associated with the place where the people of God met together—to be taught, to pray together, to be encouraged, before then going back out into their daily lives, to the ‘frontline of their lives.

But though associated in common parlance with a building, it is vital to remember that ‘church’ in its true form, is the people. Yes it is the people gathered, but it is also the people scattered, as John Wimber said. The reality for most people is that our scattered time, usually Monday to Saturdays, is much more than our gathered time, Sundays.

I say this as an introduction to a new sermon series over the next few weeks, ‘Fruitfulness on the Frontline—making a Difference where you are’. This is drawn from and inspired by Mark Greene’s book of the same title, and some of you may have this book. I warmly commend it.

St Matthews Church looked in detail at this material and thinking in 2018, just before I became vicar. We believe it is the right time to re-visit it, or for others, to freshly introduce it for the first time.

This is a picture of a dwarf apple tree in my garden, full this year of fruit which is growing and which in a few weeks, will be beautiful to taste and enjoy.

You and I are created to bear fruit in our lives every day of our lives, for Jesus, for the glory of God. Because when God is glorified, then our world and the people of our world know wholeness, healing, beauty, hope and love. Fruitfulness is mentioned many times in the Bible, starting in Genesis. And the foundation for our fruitfulness, the motivation for our care and love for others, is the ‘overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God’, as that song goes, for you and for me. ‘We love, because He first loved us’, says the apostle John in the Bible.

At school, I always wanted to learn to dive well. I managed to learn really quite good diving from the side of pool, or from high up on steady boards. But I never got around to learning how to do a great dive from a springboard, and I always wanted to. When you watch those Olympic swimmers do amazing springboard dives, it is a thing of strength and beauty, and it is extraordinary how much they can do, having bounced on that board and soared into the air. God’s love for you—and for me, is like that springboard. It can send us soaring. The closer we come to Jesus, to knowing that God loves us, the more we shall want to leap from that springboard of his love into the frontline of our lives, wherever that may be, and share that love. In his book, Mark Greene says, ‘Fruitfulness is the result of righteous living, of being planted in the house of God, of having one’s roots in God.’ ‘I am the vine, and you are the branches’, says Jesus.

So what is the frontline of your life? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our own frontline is always somewhere else—a specific place or time, or to think that where we are most of the time, isn’t as important or as obvious a frontline as someone else’s, who might be ‘at work’, or in a specific role. We all have a frontline.

We just read a passage from 2 Kings Chapter 5, about as man called Naaman, who was healed of leprosy by a man of God called Elisha. I encourage you to go back to this reading and read it again. A girl, who is a believer in God, is captured by a raiding party of a pagan king and ends up as a servant in Naaman’s house. Naaman has leprosy. This young girl, on the frontline of her difficult life, has compassion for her master and her captor, and suggests to her mistress that he see a prophet of God called Elisha. She is not seeking vengeance or punishment for him. Her intent is that Naaman should be blessed. Naaman is healed. God is glorified, and Naaman and his family become believers of God.

An intentional act of love and compassion, on the frontline of this person’s life, in hugely difficult circumstances, motivated by the knowledge of God’s love for her, brings others into the knowledge of God’s love for them. Lives are healed and transformed in a multitude of ways.
Over the next few weeks, my colleagues will be speaking about how we can develop a simple ‘Framework for fruitfulness’, to help and encourage us, starting next week when Goby Doherty speaks about ‘Modelling Godly Character’.

But in the meantime, as we begin another week, another Monday, I leave you with the questions, ‘Where is your frontline, now, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday? We all have one. And, how can we be fruitful for God and make a difference for good and for God on our frontline, in the lives of those around us.

To God be the glory. Amen

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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