Reading: Genesis 3:1-11,20-21
Last week as we celebrated Communion together we were reminded that Jesus was the new covenant
between God and his people. This was necessary as continually God’s people broke with the old covenant.
In communion we enter into fellowship. ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a fellowship with the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a fellowship with the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.’ Fellowship is a word that we often hear in church but what does it mean and does it mean the same for all of us? Do we only experience it when we are gathered for communion? The dictionary says fellowship is a fraternity but surely that cannot be correct within a church understanding as fraternity means brotherhood and therefore is exclusive to males. The dictionary also says fellowship is a friendship and maybe now we may be getting closer because friendship comes through mutual intimacy but surely it has to be more than this because if that covered it we wouldn’t need another word. Fellowship is that sense of unity, of community and participation in the lives of others that emerges among Christians and in the church from the common experience of faith in Jesus Christ. Fellowship in Christ is to be in unity with him, it is to be participating in his life and he in ours. It is a mutual relationship that becomes stronger as we understand more of him and the love he has for all people. I wonder if at the heart of the brokenness of our world is the brokenness of fellowship. It goes all the way back to the very beginning. We do not have to go very far into our bibles to see this. How was it in the beginning? God made a world and its beings who could relate with him and one another. There was a strong sense of trust linking together the creator and the creation. Eden the place called paradise soon became a place of shattered trust, the fellowship was broken, and the result was chaos. It has been with us since then. That is the continuing story of the Old Testament. God reaches out in love and affection establishing a covenant with Abraham. Through Moses, David, prophets, priests and kings, God sought to destroy suspicion and rebuild trust. God in his mercy continually moves towards us with the intention of restoring broken relationship and never moving away from us.
Reading: Acts 2:42-47
Throughout the Book of Acts we see the new church forming and growing and changing (never really been an ‘Aye been’). It follows the journeys of the early leaders as we too are led with them from one drama into another. Unaware themselves at the time this group were setting in motion something that would go worldwide and change the pages of history. For many people God, through Christ, for the first time in their lives became a reality. The fellowship of believers is characterised by joy, hope and love; joy for God’s acceptance of sinners, hope for God’s sure renewal of the world, and love as the true response to God’s unmeasured mercy. In Paul’s writings we see two things that he understands fellowship to mean. As believers we are to share in the sufferings of Christ through the cup and the bread. Paul urges the believing community to bear the burden of others, to support and pray, and to seek the good of others over our own good. Secondly, Christian fellowship is a partnership in the spreading of the gospel it is something we must work at. Fellowship, then, is the reality of life with God in Christ Jesus. It is community with fellow-believers who let Christ be Lord of that fellowship therefore it is an important matter. God’s final effort was the coming of his son to be one of us, the supreme reconciler. Here is the tie that heals and binds our wounded spirits, breaks the bonds of suspicion, and establishes within us love of God and of one another. That is the continuing story of the New Testament. Through the writers of the Gospels, in the book of Acts and those beautiful letters we are informed of the growth of the early church. Not only have we got the good bits as though there were no issues but we have the disputes and arguments, the disagreements and the falling out. Relationships and fellowships need to be worked at and there will be differing opinions depending on the maturity with which these are handled they can be positive experiences that bring growth and strength not necessarily always demise and weakness. As long as we don’t adopt that old way of things that I can remember as a boy growing up.
It’s my ball and it’s my rules. If you don’t agree with them then I’m taking my ball home and there will be no game. My rules or no game.
I will close with a French proverb, ‘A faithful friend is an image of God.’
Amen to that and thanks be to God for his everlasting mercy.