Parish News : February 2022

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The beginning chapters of the book of Revelation contains ‘letters to seven churches’ in the province of Asia of the Roman empire.  These were letters to be read out in those churches, for the first century Christians to learn from.  The first of these (Rev 2:1-7) is addressed to the church of the great seaport at Ephesus, possibly the most important church in the whole province.  This is a prominent church renowned for the range of works they do in the community, a busy place with lots happened.  John recognises their hard work and endurance, but he adds a significant criticism.  ‘You have abandoned the love you had at first.’ (2.4)  So although to an outsider all appears good, and the work they are well known for continues, and although the place they are in still looks grand, in spiritual terms they are lost.  They have let go of their first love. 

And if you go to Ephesus today, it is a favourite stopping off place for cruise ships, there are some tremendous ruins to be seen, it is a UNESCO world heritage site.  But there is no great church there anymore.  There are physical reasons for that, the Goths sacked the city in the third century, the port closed with the river silting up, and it was also devastated by an earthquake in the seventh century. 

Yet a church does not need a prosperous city around it in order to survive.  What a church needs to survive, is a spiritual life.  In the first century, the church in Ephesus had lost its first love.  Could it be that was an original reason that the church there has now gone?

That is an important lesson for us today.  The work and activities we do as a church are all important and valued by people – whether for example it is the funerals that we host, or the teas and coffees served at the Meeting Place café, or the bags of food collected from Blacon Beacon at our church hall.  These are all valuable, but are actually of minor importance in comparison to our first love, our love of God, and the love we have received from Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is why we are here, that is why we do anything, and without that first love we are nothing.

It is God who is love who gives the church life.  A church lasts not because it has a big congregation, but because the Spirit of God lives in and through its members.  If a church is not alive in Christ, if the Holy Spirit does not live in us, then anything we do is worthless, and we will certainly not survive in the long term.   That is why our daily habit of prayer and bible reading, and our regular (weekly) habit of worshipping together, is essential to our life as a church.  That feeds us as God’s church, it reacquaints us with his love, it inspires and strengthens and guides us in our week.

At Epiphany we were reminded of the need for all of us to shine as a bright star to guide people to God.  We exist as a church in order to maximise encounter with God.  Everything we do as church is to help people draw closer to God, to help their encounter with God be as good as it can be for them at the time.  Love is in the end what helps that to come about, so if we are not ourselves in touch with God who is Love, then we cannot be effective stars drawing others to Him. 

Prayer, bible reading and worship connect us with God, help us to know his love at work in our lives, and enable his love to shine through each of us.  Let us ensure we do not fall into the trap the church in Ephesus did, to lose that first love.  Let us persevere with our daily devotions, let us not give up meeting together.

Tina Upton