For all you Scrooges out there, here’s something that’s not all about Christmas.
On the fifth Sunday in October the two churches in Ashdon got together for a joint morning service at the Baptist Church building on Radwinter Road. It turned out (although this was not part of our original planning) that 29th October 2017 was almost exactly the 500th anniversary of the date when Martin Luther pinned his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg – the start of the Reformation. As both the Church of England and the Baptist Church as denominations are ‘Reformed’, it seemed an appropriate day to start this new venture.
No matter how hard you look through the Bible, you won’t find any mention of denominations, and as we have no problem in worshipping and working together, it’s worth asking the question why they still exist. If you look across churches and compare what we believe and what happens in church life you will see one area where the denominations differ and that is commonly called the sacraments (baptism and communion).
Baptism and communion are the only two ‘religious’ things that Jesus told us to do. They are essentially just washing, eating and drinking. Careful examination of the Bible doesn’t give any more information as to how we should do what he told us to do, but it’s clear that he did not want us to make a ritual out of anything. Therefore, we do need to understand what baptism and communion mean and why Jesus asked us to do these things.
I believe there is a way that the denominations could come together on this if we could all see the sacraments as acted-out prayers. There is a phrase that appears well over 100 times in the New Testament referring to Christians: it says that we are ‘in Christ’. It also tells us that when we go through baptism, we are baptised ‘into Christ’ (Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27). It is as if the water of baptism represents the person of Jesus and by being baptised we are asking to be in him. This speaks of how close in relationship we want to be with him.
The New Testament also often refers to Christ being in us. Jesus said, “…you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20) He also said about the bread and wine of communion, “This is my body” and “This is my blood”. He gave us communion so that we could use it as a way of asking for him to live in us.
Major W Ian Thomas wrote, ‘To be in Christ – that makes you fit for heaven; but for Christ to be in you – that makes you fit for earth! To be in Christ changes your destination; but for Christ to be in you – that changes your destiny! The one makes heaven your home – the other makes this world His workshop.’
I believe, if the various denominations of the Christian church could agree on this understanding of baptism and communion then a real unity is possible. Plus, if we all seek to be united with Jesus, he can work through as he did through the church of the 1st Century when the New Testament was written. This unity in Jesus does not mean that local churches need to be clones of one another. Rather, they are intended to be as individual as people are, but with a common Head and a common purpose to see the kingdom of God on earth. Then they can, like the first disciples, turn the world upside-down (Acts 17:6).
Despite having some sympathy for Mr. Scrooge, we really are looking forward to Christmas. The dates to keep in mind at All Saints’ Church are:
- 10am Saturday 2nd December: Work Party in the Churchyard – everyone welcome, bacon butties for the energetic
- 6:30pm Sunday 17th December: Carol Service with mince pies and mulled wine
- 4pm Sunday 24th December: Christingle service – please bring a present that will be given to a needy child (labelled ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ and age)
- 11:30pm Sunday 24th December: Midnight Communion
- 9:30am Monday 25th December: Christmas Family Communion
Team Vicar, All Saints’ Church, Ashdon
Please have a look at our new website: www.allsaintsashdon.org.uk