Thursday this week – May 14th was the day the church remembers St Matthias.
Judas Iscariot (remember him ?) had come to a sticky end, and the 11 remaining disciples chose a replacement. There were two possible candiates, Joseph and Matthias.
The disciples drew lots, and Matthias was chosen.
So there were some readings to go with this part of the story of the early church, one of them being from the prophet Isaiah.
Apparently, there was a man of some status, called Shebna, who had come up short. This is what it says about him. (The Message translation)
God is about to sack you, to throw you to the dogs. He’ll grab you by the hair, swing you round and round dizzyingly, and then let you go, sailing through the air like a ball, until you’re out of sight. Where you’ll land, nobody knows. And there you’ll die, and all the stuff you’ve collected heaped on your grave. You’ve disgraced your master’s house! You’re fired—and good riddance!
Woah! That’s harsh.
Then God chooses someone else – Eliakim – to carry on the work. It’s all there in chapter 22.
One of the other readings set for this day is from John’s Gospel chapter 15, where Jesus tells his followers that they have been chosen, and put in the world to bear fruit.
Now bearing fruit is an interesting thought. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus had been talking about the importance of pruning a vine so that you get good grapes from it.
We’re learing the importance of this – we have two young fruit trees – and apple and a plum. They are in their second year, and if I pay attention to the experts, I will need to prune all the fuit bearing branches this year, because that will allow the tree to put all its energy into growing strong roots and branches. If I don’t take the fruit off this year, then the fruit I do get this year will be small, and I will be risking not having the best fruit in years to come.
It’s a hard thing to do, but necessary if I want the very best for the trees.
So my question is this – where does God’s church need pruning at this moment in time ? I have often heard these verses about pruning applied to the life of an individual, but what about applying it to communities, and to the church in general.
In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, we (the church) are having to find new ways to meet each other – through online platforms, social media etc. Hopefully this time of crisis is causing us to think about what is really important for the health of the church. (Returning to a growth metaphor)
What might need to be pruned for us to see new growth ?
What are the essentials that make for church ? How can they be nurtured ?