St Michael’s and St Barnabas 19th August 2018
Readings – Colossians 3:22-4:6; Luke 11:1-13
For six years I worked as a chartered accountant in a small practice in Gloucestershire. The company in which I worked concentrated mostly on the motor trade and I could tell you many stories about the used car dealers who were on our books! I certainly learnt a lot about human nature, and I hope something of my experience helped to shape and mould my ministry today. I learnt about the pressures of running a small business, and all the paperwork that’s involved. I learnt about putting in a full day’s work and the strain of commuting each day. I learnt how to read a balance sheet and complete a tax return. And probably the most important lesson of all, I learnt how hard it can be as a Christian in the workplace.
To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think I had any real idea how to apply my faith to the nine to five routine. I had grown up with the teaching that if you are a Christian, you needed to tell everyone about Jesus, and if you didn’t, you were doing something wrong. Well, in my experience the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus came up very, very rarely and even if it did, I only thought of the right thing to say about 15 minutes afterwards. So on the whole I kept quiet. I went along with whatever was going on around me, yet all the time worrying I had somehow compromised my faith.
So looking back now after some twenty years in ministry, I sometimes wonder what advice I would give my younger self about sharing my faith? First of all, I would point out that in the New Testament there is no such thing as a lone ranger Christianity. To be a Christian in the workplace, you need to be part of a fellowship that is supporting you and praying for you on a regular basis. Secondly, only a very few people are gifted as evangelists. Of course we should all try to talk about Jesus when we can, but only a small minority of Christians have the spiritual gift of sharing their faith openly and easily. And thirdly, and most importantly, the New Testament says surprisingly little about evangelism. If you look at the teaching of Jesus or the writings of Paul, for example, the emphasis is far more on living in such a way that people sit up and take notice, and hopefully then go on to ask questions about what we believe.
So far in the book of Colossians Paul has presented his hearers with a wonderful, breathtaking vision of Jesus. He describes Him in Colossians 1:15 as the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. A few verses later on he calls Him the one through whom God chose to reconcile all things to Himself and the one who brought us peace by dying on a cross for us. That may sound very abstract, theoretical teaching but all the way through the letter Paul wants to show us that such an understanding of Jesus should have a direct, practical impact on the way we live our lives. Those who place their faith and trust in this Jesus have in a spiritual sense already died and been raised to new life with Him. We have been given a new relationship with God as our Heavenly Father, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and we have a wonderful hope stored up for us in heaven.
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