Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch,
(New Revised Standard Version)
“For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
I confess that I feel the attitude of ‘Me and mine’ seems to have been a bit of a theme in recent years. Now there have always been individuals and countries who were – to put it bluntly – selfish, but I just get the impression of it all being so much more ‘in your face’ of late.
Whether it’s slogans like “Make America Great Again”, or “Britain First”, or even more locally people who ‘feel fine’ and so don’t think they need to wear a face covering or keep their distance. These are all expressions of selfishness; the attitude of ‘I only care about me and mine’.
Ignatius of Antioch is believed to have been martyred in Rome in around 107AD – no one is really sure exactly when. He was most likely born within 10 years of Jesus’ crucifixion and so lived during the early years of the Christian church. He would have seen and been involved in its early shaping.
They were exciting and yet dangerous times. To be a Christian was to be considered a subversive, a terrorist, anti-establishment. If you were obvious about your faith in Jesus, then your guilt was proven and your sentence was death.
It was within this context that Ignatius lived and led the church.
In spite of the danger, Ignatius consistently encouraged the church to meet together in acts of joint worship and the breaking of bread. His aim was to instil unity in the church. To encourage the believers to be ‘one body in Christ’. A lesson we sometimes need to be reminded of today.
Sometimes we might not trust ‘them from our neighbouring church’, because they sing different songs, or speak different words during their services. But the reality is that we are all worshiping the same Father, the same Jesus, the same Spirit. We are all part of the same body, serving the same Lord.
Seven months ago there were very, very few ‘live online’ or ‘streamed’ regular church services in this country. And yet now there are thousands. Many, like in Wigan, involve people who originate from different worship communities and traditions coming together for one purpose, to worship God as a unified body in Christ.
The law of our land may have closed our buildings for a time, but God’s church has always been very much open for business. Serving and praising together, even if in a virtual and socially distanced manner. In one way the difficulties and tragedies we have faced this year appear to have fostered a new sense of unity within the church.
When the time eventually arrives for us to finally come out of all the restrictions that limit who and when we may physically meet, my hope and prayer is that we do not retreat into the ‘old normal’ of being church. But rather we maintain the re-found unity and fellowship we have rediscovered.
Feed us, O Lord, with the living bread
and make us drink deep of the cup of salvation
that, following the teaching of your bishop Ignatius
and rejoicing in the faith with which he embraced a martyr’s death,
we may be nourished for that eternal life for which he longed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.