Today was the first time back in my home congregation in Oxford since Christmas.
It was great to be among friends, familiar liturgy and good preaching.
I have been speaking and preaching at other churches during January. I find this to be a great privilege. I feel particularly energised when I preach, especially so when the passage has come to me with freshness, or when people speak afterwards about new things they have taken on board. Both of these happened over these past few weeks. On lady came up to me after I made reference to “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (see Mark 15:34). I said that this was single most influential verse in enabling me to grasp the Gospel. I had always been perplexed that the Son of God – who had been so close to his Father – was apparently abandoned at the time of his greatest need. But of course, the heart of the Gospel is that the Son not only stood in for me at the cross (my substitute), but He bore the weight of the wrath of God’s punishment for me (providing propitiation):
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior! (Philip Bliss)
So, when a congregation member excitedly reports that they have understood this verse for the first time, well, it was worth preaching a sermon for that one person alone!
But I also felt fed whilst sitting back in the pew: participating in corporate worship and feeding on the word along with brothers and sisters in Christ. It is unhealthy to not want to be fed regularly yourself so we should receive as well as give.
Both giving and receiving is part of worship; feeding and being fed is necessary. Exercising our gifts is exhausting but often energising and generally encourages us. Being fed is also very necessary to build reserves for the week ahead. We must do both. Paul was particularly positive about the Philippian Church, and not least because of their partnership in the Gospel: “…you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.” (Phil 4:11).
Just as in the life of the physical body we need to feed, exercise and thereby be able to nourish others – the same is true in the body of Christ. Let us enter into partnership with one another in giving and receiving.