Deut 33-34; 1 Tim 3-4; Psalm 126-128
Reading here in Timothy the qualifications for Bishops and Deacons, it is not at all difficult to read that the early church must have been a very mixed bag of believers. Given that these are probably by the standards of the times very exacting standards, they suggest to us a church which is rife with all sorts of goings on. Which of course it was, as we know if we take but a moment to read any of Paul’s letters to the churches. Notoriously of course, the church in Corinth was accepting of incest amongst its members – and we may well say, ‘We thank you O Lord that we are not like that!’
Certainly, on the whole the moral standards of the church as we know it is ‘higher’. Certainly we wouldn’t have too much trouble finding a good number amongst us who might fill the qualification for Bishop or Deacon. But that is to miss the point. For whilst there was much amiss in terms of ‘good living’, the early church as we know was full of Good Life.
We may consider the early church in some sense morally dissolute – but it had a spiritually vibrant in a way that few churches are today, certainly in the West. We may well have an enticing, culturally acceptable, morally clean shop front, but is there any Life to be had?
Is it perhaps the case that we have confused middle class mores for Christian Life? So often I hear from those outside the church, ‘I am not good enough to be part of the church’. However much we might say that isn’t the point, few of our churches reveal in their common life the truth of that. It may seem rather perverse to suggest this, but is there any chance that those who come amongst us find that their culturally unacceptable lives are welcome?
The room has been swept clean, but have we allowed the Living One to come amongst us. Indeed we may well ask if we’d let the one who had nothing in his appearance that we might desire him in . . .