Sunday, 2 April 2006

True Meeting Together

Easter Sunday morning brought us a richly refreshing taste of fellowship the way the Father planned it to be in His Church. I had invited a friend here in our retirement village to drop in and spend an hour or so with us. Like us, this brother is well advanced in years, but his religious background is vastly different from ours. He was reared from earliest days in the rigid inflexible rituals and rules of radical Irish Catholicism, while we were nurtured in the strongly evangelical tradition of Baptists. Opposite pole you'd think. Irreconcilable theologies surely! Yes, but for the amazing grace of God.

As we talked together, he related the story of Father's patient and gracious dealings in his life, beginning with a radically transforming experience of entering into a true personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Saviour, with an ensuing endowment of power in the Holy Spirit. Gradually over the past twenty years or more Father has been leading him on step by step , revealing the restricting bonds of rule-bound religion and ritual and imparting grace to him to cast off the shackles, until today he is walking in an intimate, simple, experiential knowing of Jesus free of his former churchianity. He has had to courageously resist the efforts of well-meaning friends who have pressured him strongly to reconform to the rules and practices of his former religious way of life.

For our part we shared something of our pilgrimage to freedom in Christ Jesus and how we too had had to shake off the restraints of religion in order to walk more fully in the way of Jesus.

So, here we were, from opposite poles of religious background, sharing in a richness and warmth of fellowship with our risen Lord and with each other. As the Apostle John wrote, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” and, because we both partake of that, we have fellowship with one another. Our time together moved with great naturalness into prayers of praise and thanksgiving for what we had just experienced of the living Jesus in our midst, just as He had promised. We had met together in the real sense of the writer to the Hebrews, when he exhorted us not to neglect meeting together.

I have lived since in the glow of that precious time and in the realization that Father means Church to be like that. Religious systems, religious buildings, religious rituals are all irrelevant. A vital relationship with the Lord Jesus and people coming together with open hearts in His name to share His life. That is Church.

Recent weeks have also brought us a wonderful reunion and meeting of hearts with a dear friend who worked together with us in the Congo over forty years ago. And yesterday, April 17 th . Margaret and I were looking back with overflowing thankfulness on 58 years of a marriage richly blessed by our Father.