community of grace, grace, love

Community of Grace…

If you’ve come back from the United Service, you’ve probably just heard Simon Holland speaking about his vision for the Church he serves (note the language) in Bath, “to be a community of grace at the heart of the city”.

We are Christ’s ambassadors, entrusted with Christ’s ministry of reconciling the world to God. Imploring people on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

A broken world, and broken individuals need to experience the radical grace-filled love of God expressed in the love of God demonstrated most clearly and beautifully upon the cross of Calvary. Steve Brittan has said that the cross shows us the greater truth, that God himself is good news.

At  the heart of the universe is a God who is not angry or vindictive, but loving us and desiring to welcome us home into relationship with him, with that same furious love as shown in Luke 15, with the parable of the running father (a better and more apt name that the prodigal son).

This is a message of radical and transforming hope, that however broken we are, however steeped in sin we have become, what ever we have done or whatever has been done to us, the grace of God and his love is greater still.

Reminded of the line from that great hymn; “the vilest offender, who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives”.

The truth of us as Church, is we have forgotten what God, in Christ, has done for us.

We have forgotten we ourselves are forgiven sinners. We ourselves are not whole and respectable, without fault, blemish and with a cupboard or two full of skeletons.

Grace has saved us, we need to show grace to a world that won’t necessarily understand it, and probably can’t articulate it, but is none the less desperate for it.

Grace changes lives.

Grace transforms brokenness.

It’s gotta work this time tomorrow…

The truth is it is easy being a Christian on Sunday night, surrounded by other Christians, in nice family comfortable surrounding…

but the  truth is that isn’t where most of us spend most of our lives, we have jobs, we have families, we have friends, Christianity if it means anything has got to work as well as it does on Sunday evening on Monday morning, otherwise, what is the point?

When we think of our lives as a pie chart our ‘church’ but can seem like a slim slither of the pie, and then ‘the rest of life takes over’, but I believe our faith was never meant to be compartmentalised into small separate sections, our Christian walk isn’t done when we can ‘tick a box’ and say we have ‘done’ our Sunday… instead, our faith is meant to be something that permeates every area and facet of our lives.

Jesus said “I stand at the door and knock if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him” and yet too often the invitation is only into the hall, or standing or the door step, or maybe just into the ‘best and most presentable room of the house, the sunday slither of our life, but Jesus wants to be invited in and it be ‘access all areas’, and actually the darkest and grottiest corners of our lives are actually the bits we need him in the most…

After all as Jesus himself said: “those who are well don’t need a doctor but only those who are sick… not come to call respectable people but sinners” -yet the western Church spends half its life trying to look respectable.

Simon, spoke of our Churches flinging open the doors every day of the week, welcoming people in (and they have done, they have an awesome coffee shop and lots of great things going on) but I am saying one step further.

The Church is called out to the streets,
The Church  is called out to the marginalised and disenfranchised.
The Church is called to minister amongst the hurting and the broken, the least, the last and the lost.
The Church is not some faceless institution or an over-worked vicar, the Church is you and me, ordinary people who love Jesus, ordinary people for whom Christ died, one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread, all of us, all the time, living out a radical life going against the tide of conventional norms and expectations, doing life God’s way, holding our grace to a world that needs not just to theologically understand it, but understand it through experiencing it.
I believe grace, like love, needs to be experienced before it can be understood.
And so, as I was talking about that Church is not a slim slither, a small percentage of our existence, but actually our everything, all the time, every day, ‘living sacrifices, choosing to offer ourselves as surrendered sacrifices before Christ, 24-7, 465, for the rest our of lives (or until Christ returns).
The challenge is about taking this grace out with us into our world, everyday, in the vast medley of situations, opportunities, people, places that we encounter each day, a deployed army, and undercover agent living for a different Kingdom shining out like stars in a crooked and depraved world, salty people, light people, people of hope for it is Christ IN US the hope of glory; the same spirit within us  who believe who raised Jesus from the dead.
And we’re not just called to potter around in these places, but actually to transform them, I believe all of us should be looking for those small and significant opportunities to bless and live out grace, but also look for the great opportunities, the transforming moments, dream dreams that scare you, pray God gives you visions, believe in bigger as too often we have lost sight of the furious love of God who desires relationship with his creation and think that all we can do is the small, lowly and sparse, where actually dear brethren, the Father longs to give us the Kingdom.
A friend of mine described one of his vision statements for his Church, it was “faith that made you gulp rather than yawn”, I think the same should be said for our lives; let us seek the coming of the Kingdom living out radical love and compassion that the grace of God flowing from us by our obedience makes a world ‘gulp rather than yawn’.
You see when you and I live this out, they see people and communities that look like Jesus.
Jesus had the most attractive life ever lived on this planet.
The word Christian simply means ‘little Christ’.
So when you put you computer off, remember that you are now in your mission field, you are now on the front line.
Now is the day of salvation.
Let’s live out lives of radical grace, not just within out Churches, but within a world that broken and needs to know God and to see what he is like.
You might be thinking, this is too much Andy, I can’t do it in my strength, then I will close by saying, ‘yep, you are dead right…  but the good news is you don’t have too, pray that God will help all of us see this message not just be an email rant, but a daily reality, impossible humanly speaking, but as the gospel reminds us, “nothing is impossible with God”.
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