Last week I was on holiday on the Isle of Wight with Simon’s cell group. They studied together at Cuddestone and were ordained together 26 years ago. They have met every year since. They know each other well. Anyone who heard Bill speak about the college days at the reception would pick this up as apparently he and Simon where good at essays or rather as he put it waffle. They love each other deeply and have upheld each other trough growing families, though illness, through bereavement, in fact through all the changing scenes of life in the last 26 years. Last year I was privileged to join them for the first time. I met a group of strangers on a Friday evening and a week later I left on a Friday morning feeling I too had known them for years also.
On each meet up we have daily worship and we also tell our stories for the last year. Each tale is moving, as we talk about our families our spirituality our hurts and emotions. Sadly this year we lost a member to Cancer, and Annis, Brian’s widow shared their painful journey with us. All our hurts and bereavements were treated with great love warmth and compassion. You could also see the light of Christ living within each of them, even though now only 2 of the 6 priests are working. What I experienced was true Christian unity and fellowship. We celebrated a Golden Wedding and our wedding (well a gaggle of clergy any excuse!) and we enjoyed much prayer and rejoicing.
Each of us here tonight also bears witness to that true unity of Christian love and fellowship. I first came to this church 50 years ago as a 9 year old child. I can remember joining the choir. Learning to ring the bells I am now terrified of. I was prepared for confirmation and confirmed in this church. This building holds many memories for me. But it is the people that are part of this building which are important. The lives that have touched mine. It is the people who have come and gone over the 50 years of my memory that have reflected the message from John this evening. John writes Children let us not love in words or talk only. Let us have real love that causes us to do good things.
John’s letter clearly tells us that through the love of Christ we belong to the truth. The message is that we should love each other. This refers to the command that Christ gave us in John’s gospel 13:34. The readers of this letter heard this command when they first heard the good news. That is, when they believed in the Lord Jesus. It is an important part of the gospel that we should love each other. Our love for other Christians shows that we believe. It is evidence that we are children of God. John goes on to explain that Christians are to the people of the world as Abel was to Cain. If we do good things, some people will hate us for it. This should not surprise us. It is in the nature of human beings. There will always be evil in the world, there will always be people who will cause trouble for those who try to do go, the divide will always be there. But despite this we need to do the good works we need to show that we are the people of Christ. Thus the true message of Christian love is make ourselves and all we have available to the Lord, and to be at the disposal of others regardless of how that is perceived and received.
In Christian fellowship and unity we belong to each other and to Christ and it is through loving each other and Christ that we have a new life. We are then transformed from death to life, from darkness to light. We know that we have life, though our love for our brothers and sisters and such love shows that we are children of God.