Glencairn Methodist Church
Life on the Frontline
You may be familiar with the passage in the Bible that begins,
It used to be the case that all Anglican children in Sunday School, or Confirmation class would have been taught to memorise these verses, along with the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed. At least this was the case when I was a boy! Learning things "off by heart" has gone out of fashion since then in educational circles. [An aside - I am an advocate of learning things off by heart. Not just holy things but also the multiplication tables, and poetry, and lots more besides. Apart from giving a person more or less instant recall of very useful things, it does help to keep the brain exercised. The sad thing is that if one is old enough to belong to that generation, one is also now old enough to be suffering from some loss of memory!]
Besides these three items, many of us would also have learnt off by heart the church Catechism, which may be found in succeeding editions of Church of Ireland Book of Common Prayer (1878, 1928, 2004). It starts on page 766 of the 2004 revision and on the Church of England website www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/book-of-common-prayer/a-catechism.aspx. (I cannot find it on the Church of Ireland site!)
In a series of questions and answers the catechism leads the pupil through many aspects of Church teaching. After teaching the ten commandments, the next question is, "What dost thou chiefly learn by these Commandments?" and the answer is "I learn two things: my duty towards God, and my duty towards my Neighbour." I will reproduce "my duty towards my neighbour" shortly, but it is essentially, a guide to living in society, a guide to interpersonal relationships in everyday life.
OK I'm getting close to discussing the title of this message, "Life on the Frontline".
Let me ask you, dear reader, where can you be of most use to Jesus in helping advance his kingdom? Is it within the fellowship of the church, in the church building or working in the church hall? Is it helping run a youth organisation, or arranging the flowers, or reading the lessons? Or is it "out there", out in the community, in the place where you work, or in the street where you live, or the coffee shop or pub where you socialise with friends? Look at it like this: there are 168 hours in a week; suppose you sleep for 56 hours and eat for 21 hours and "work IN the church" for say 6 hours, that still leaves 85 hours awake. So even if you spend 6 hours in a week doing churchy things, you spend 7 hours per day doing other stuff, meeting other people.
ALL members of a Christian community (that is, a church) are called to help build up one another, through a leadership role or a servant role or perhaps both at different times, depending on your talents or gifts. You do this in the 6 hours per week. But ALL Christians are also called to "go and make disciples" and there are 85 hours per week available for this.
And you can do this whether you are at work or out shopping or socialising or whatever. These places are your "Frontlines" where you can work most effectively for Jesus in advancing the Kingdom of God. The people you meet here are your "neighbours" and the old guidance of the Catechism on how to behave is this:
Now quoting from the Catechism,"My duty towards my Neighbour is to love him as myself, and to do to all men as I would they should do unto me: To love, honour, and succour my father and mother: To honour and obey the Queen, and all that are put in authority under her: To submit myself to all my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters: To order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters: To hurt nobody by word nor deed: To be true and just in all my dealing: To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart: To keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering: To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity: Not to covet nor desire other men's goods; but to learn and labour truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state of life, unto which it shall please God to call me.
You need to bear in mind that this was written no later than 1878, more likely in 1662 and perhaps even in 1549. So the language is a bit archaic and you need to bear this in mind. Nevertheless there is still plenty here to help you relate to other people in a Christian way. And in the church we should pray for one another that each of us in our own unique situations may have the grace of God to live like Jesus.
Ideas about ""Life on the Frontline" are coming forward from contemporary Christian thinkers including the team at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC). Emma has just finished leading us in St Andrew's through the LICC six week course of that title. This gave teaching on how to deal with difficult times on the Frontline, what to do on the Frontline, how to prepare, and help one another to prepare, for the Frontline, how to be a "whole-life" Christian.
Another study course published by LICC is Fruitfulness on the Frontline. It indicates what characteristics we need to develop to live on the Frontline or are developed by living on the Frontline. These are Modelling Godly Character, Making Good Work, Ministering Grace and Love, Moulding Culture, Being a Mouthpiece for Truth and Justice and being a Messenger of the Gospel. Further notes on this are reproduced below.
[Look up their website for more details www.licc.org.uk]
Now it occurs to me that this material in very similar in content to the teaching in the Catechism we looked at earlier. We are to some extent reinventing the wheel. But, since the church in the large has forgotten what the wheel looks like and how it works, then it is good for it to be reinvented in modern terms. Many church members have forgotten that it is their responsibility to help advance the Kingdom of God wherever they are through personal witness in deeds and, if necessary, words, so that new disciples will find that following Jesus is for them.
Ken (24 October 2014)
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm
Exodus 20: 1-17 (Authorised (King James) Version) - The Ten Commandments
Fruitfulness on the Frontline
Modelling Godly Character