This year’s Lent Course – a few thoughts.
This years Lent course has been a special time to focus on our relationship with God and each other. We’ve thought particularly about the holiness of the Church. There are two aspects of holiness – what we have been called away from and what we have been called to. With the help of the Puritan John Owen we have been focussing on the latter – what have we been called to as a church. His short book, Rules for Walking in Fellowship, has encouraged us to enjoy a foretaste of the glories of heaven as we journey through the struggles, trials and temptations of this life together. As the church we are to be an outpost of heaven.
Does All Saints feel as though it is an outpost of heaven? Well in six months of being with you all I would have to say in some ways yes. I know many of us benefit and enjoy the life of the church, received mutual encouragement, have been uplifted in praise and worship and edified through teaching. However, we yearn for more: to taste more of the abundance of the promised land, new creation, in the here and now so that our life together might, as John Owen would say, adorn the gospel we proclaim. That’s the idea – so that many might see the life we share and wonder at the God who unites us through the cross of Jesus, and so turn to him.
How might we grow in our calling to be heaven’s outpost? Well, John Owen has lead us through what might seem to be a mundane list of guidelines. This is no exciting and well-promoted new fad or a cutting edge church-growth technique from the latest mega-church leader. These guidelines seem like basic Christianity, that is, until we ruthlessly try to pursue them in our life. I’ve included a summary of John Owen’s rules below. If you weren’t able to come on the course why don’t you get a copy of the book and you will see that half of each chapter is simply pointing out the biblical basis for his rules. On this point alone they demand our attention. Added to this is the weight leant by a man who was passionate about the the church in his day fulfilling its glorious calling so that the gospel might be effective in his generation. Our generation desperately needs the gospel to be effective so I, for one, will be listening to his advice.
Rules for walking in Fellowship…
..With reference to the Minister who watches over our souls
- Listen and submit to the word and ordinances committed to his administration and dispensed by his ministerial authority with the ready obedience in the Lord.
- Observe and follow his way of life, as far as he walks in the steps of Jesus Christ.
- Pray for assistance and success in the work committed to him.
- Respect your minister and submit to him for his work’s sake.
- Provide for your minister and his family.
- Stand by your minister in all trials and persecutions for the Word.
- Gather together as a congregation at the appointed times with our families.
…with reference to one another
- Show affection, sincere love in all things, toward one another, as Christ has shown to his church.
- Pray for the health and protection of the church.
- Strive for the health and protection of the church.
- Zealously endeavour to preserve unity, both in particular and general
- Separate from the world and all forms of false-worship.
- Frequently engage in edifying spiritual conversation.
- Bear with each other’s faults, weaknesses and failings with patience.
- Bear each other’s burdens tenderly and affectionately.
- Freely contribute and administer appropriate material support to those who are truly poor.
- Carefully avoid all causes and causers of divisions
- Cheerfully share the lot and portion of the whole church, in prosperity and affliction, and do not draw back on any occasion whatsoever.
- In the life of the church regard everyone as the same and engage with all.
- Pray as a church for those who are in distress, persecution for reflection.
- Help each other in our efforts to live as Christ would have us live
- Walk in holiness and godliness of life for the sake of the gospel, the building up of the church and its witness to the community.