The following is the text of the reflection given by Charle12string Lax (Charlie Northcroft) at the service he led on May 5, 2010, at the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life.
When the Gentiles were accepting the good news about Jesus and becoming disciples in the 1st century, some Jewish Christians said they must go through the same processes as they had, such as circumcision, in order to fulfill Jewish laws. That Gentile Christians should be the same as Jewish Christians! Even today some Christian groups seem to think that that everyone should be just like them in order to be acceptable!
Jesus tells us that we just need to be connected to Him. Then we will be fruitful.
The following reflection is based on Acts 15:1-6, and John 15:1-8.
Isn’t it sad, how so often when good things happen, someone comes along who demands things are done their way!
In our Gospel reading Jesus said, just stay joined to him and let his teachings become a part of us, and we will produce good fruit. Yes there may be times of pruning, but as long as we remain joined to Jesus we will grow stronger, and we will produce even more fruit. The kind of fruit produced in our lives will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faith. [See Galatians 5:22]
Sometimes these take a while to develop! Often I need to be patient with myself while a new crop develops, because perhaps someone has shaken my tree, and the last lot has all fallen off and been ruined. Often others have to be patient with me also!
In the Acts of the Apostles we often read how people were filled with joy when they accepted the good news. That’s a very common experience. I remember the joy I had when I first accepted Jesus into my life! Even in the midst of unfavourable things happening, we can still be filled with the joy of the Lord. I was not going through a happy time when I accepted Jesus into my life, yet I was filled with joy.
In Acts 8:8 it says, that when Philip preached in Samaria, miracles happened, people were healed, and there was great joy in the city. In the Acts 15 reading we had today, we read how other believers had great joy when they heard the gentiles were turning to God.
However, there were a few people that were not happy. These were some of the Jewish Christians. They said that the new converts should be circumcised like they had been. There always seem to be a few legalists around that demand people follow their rules. That demand that the pattern or process for being accepted, must be the same for others, as it was for them. Some of the Pharisees were like this, and we can be in danger of acting like them today.
In my early years as a Christian I remember hearing a man called Floyd McClung say, that in essentials, there should be UNITY. In non-essentials there should be TOLERANCE, and in ALL THINGS, LOVE!
Often people who are legalists, lack the fruit of love. They often don’t realize it, but they have stopped drawing on the sap of the vine for nourishment, they have lost touch with Jesus and their branches are drying up.
It can happen with any of us. There have been times when I have have got pretty dried up. Fortunately, I have had friends that have faced me with the truth of my actions, or God has brought someone along my path to show me love, and in so doing, has encouraged me to trust again in Jesus. At times I have made the mistake of loving the gift of that person, and forgetting God, who has brought them to me, and that can be a danger too! We must NEVER forget God, the GIVER of the gifts!
In our Acts reading, the disciples saw the wisdom of checking with the Apostles and the leaders of the church as to the truth of what people were saying was necessary for salvation. So they went down to Jerusalem to see them. You can read for yourselves the results of those discussions in Acts 15:7-35. Today also we need the wisdom of others, to check the wisdom we think we have!
Here at Epiphany we are lucky to have on the Leadership Team, and in this congregation, people from around the world, who have had different experiences, and have different gifts and resources to share. We are not all from the same theological mould, and therefore we can be enriched by each other, and have the opportunity to learn and grow in this new environment.
I am sometimes saddened in Second Life when I see some groups forming congregations based on their common lifestyles, experiences, or theological understandings, rather than on making Gods priorities their priorities and recognising that we are all connected to the same vine.
Here, on Epiphany Island, at this cathedral, we have a unique opportunity of greeting people from around the world, of welcoming ALL, of trying once again to fulfil the words of Isa 56: Where God says “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” Where he says, that all are welcome who do right and are just in their way of living. Where he says, no one, not even the eunuch, need say “I am a dry tree!”
That’s right! We are ALL acceptable to God! We can all be fruitful. We can all start again. We just need to accept what Jesus has done for us, and let our father, God, graft us into the true vine, JESUS!
It is not a painful process for us, Jesus took the pain on the cross, so that we could be made whole again. Thanks be to God! Let us remain in Him and not be distracted.