The View from the Vicarage: The Serving Church

We pick up today where we left off on Friday in our reflections on the Acts of the Apostles, the story of the new and emerging church and what it means for the church today and the church in the context of a world fighting COVID19.

Our passage today comes from Acts 6:1-7 where we read about the establishing of different ministries and structures in this new Christian movement.

In order to keep things in the right order it needs to be said that our passage starts with some disquiet. The Greek Jews feel that the same level of care is not being given to their poor and widowed by this fledgling church than is being given to the Hebrew poor and widowed. Whilst both their cultures were quite different they had come together in following the way of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, I do not see this as a division created by culture or race, more likely an organisational issue caused simply by the huge increase in numbers in the church in such a small space of time.

What that meant of course was that more people needed to step forward. The apostles felt that they still needed to spearhead the mission of Jesus Christ and called seven new people to work with them in serving the poor and preaching. The apostles are joined by Stephen, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch.

What we see is a changing church that needs to be lead in new and different ways in order to serve God. What we also see is a changing church calling different people with different gifts to undertake different roles or vocations. This is where we see ourselves in the story of that fledgling New Testament church. We have lived in a changing world for some time yet the pace of change in the last six weeks has been frightening for all and has had a big impact on the church.

The church today has responded in a number of ways, but putting aside the technology for now the biggest change is in individuals. We have always loved and cared for one another and for our communities but the changes in recent weeks has seen a number of people step forward to serve God through the church in new ways, from co-ordinating phone calls to organising prescription collection and much more.

When we go back to whatever normal is, or will become, we must remember these days and continue to serve God in this new way. God calls us all, he has a vocation for each and every one of us and we all have a different role to play in his kingdom.

I leave you with a modern hymn by John Bell that reflects something of that calling on all of our lives:

Will You Come And Follow Me
If I But Call Your Name?
Will You Go Where You Don’t Know
And Never Be The Same?
Will You Let My Love Be Shown,
Will You Let My Name Be Known,
Will You Let My Life Be Grown
In You And You In Me?

Will You Leave Yourself Behind
If I But Call Your Name?
Will You Care For Cruel And Kind
And Never Be The Same?
Will You Risk The Hostile Stare
Should Your Life Attract Or Scare?
Will You Let Me Answer Prayer
In You And You In Me?

Will You Let The Blinded See
If I But Call Your Name?
Will You Set The Prisoners Free
And Never Be The Same?
Will You Kiss The Leper Clean,
And Do Such As This Unseen,
And Admit To What I Mean
In You And You In Me?

Will You Love The ‘You’ You Hide
If I But Call Your Name?
Will You Quell The Fear Inside
And Never Be The Same?
Will You Use The Faith You’ve Found
To Reshape The World Around,
Through My Sight And Touch And Sound
In You And You In Me?

Lord, Your Summons Echoes True
When You But Call My Name.
Let Me Turn And Follow You
And Never Be The Same.
In Your Company I’ll Go
Where Your Love And Footsteps Show.
Thus I’ll Move And Live And Grow
In You And You In Me.*


Your friend and Vicar


*© 1987, Iona Community, GIA Publications.

Painting by Fra Angelico 1447, West Wall of Niccoline Chapel, Vatican City

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