Rightly there has been an outpouring of grief over the fire at Notre Dame cathedral. We have rightly mourned the damage to the building, the destruction of precious artefacts and the desolation of an iconic symbol of French culture. I have never visited Paris, or lived there, but from what I read the sense of loss of immeasurable.
My one thought, however, is this: while so many people mourn for the loss of a building, where is there a similar outpouring of grief when a church community suffers a spiritual loss? We hear stories on a fairly regular basis of churches torn apart by disputes, or brought low by the sinful behaviour of a few members, or simply becoming cold and apathetic. Yet how often do we mourn over the state of the church on a local or indeed national level?
I was struck this morning at St Aubyn’s by a verse from 1 Corinthians 11:17: Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse (RSV) or as the NIV paraphrases it: your meetings do more harm than good. What a state of affairs that joyful fellowship in the Spirit instead becomes a negative, destructive experience! Yet this is what can happen and we need to be alert to the danger.
That is this Maundy Thursday we need to visit afresh Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 13:34-35: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. This is our mission statement as a church (and forms the counterpoint to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20). It is the quality of our relationships one with another that tells those around us whether or not Jesus really is at the centre of our fellowship. No matter what words are preached, or songs sung, if that love is not there, no-one will be that much wiser that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour.
Love doesn’t mean, of course, that we always get on with each other – there will at times be conflicts and disagreements (see my last post) – but when we are committed to loving, serving and forgiving one another come what may, Jesus will be honoured and glorified through and, more than not, in spite of us.
This may sound quite negative, but one thing that has so much encouraged me recently has been the growth in love at St Barnacles. I have seen so many people supporting, encouraging, comforting one another, often in hard, tough situations, and I have seen newcomers warmly included in that love. But we can never say that we have loved enough or shown enough of Jesus to the world around us.
So my simple prayer this Easter is for a fresh work of the Holy Spirit so that our love for Jesus and for each other grows and deepens, and others see the power of Jesus at work among us. And if you are reading this post as a visitor, please do join us, either at St Michael’s at 10.30am or at St Aubyn’s at 3pm. We would love to see you there!