Bishop's Reflections #7: The Temptation of Performance

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I asked my family recently what it was that they missed most about going to church.

I wonder how you would answer that question? It may of course be something to do with your particular church, maybe the particular style of music and being able to sing with others. Maybe it's to do with receiving the sacraments, receiving holy communion on a regular basis.

But I'm guessing that for most of us very near the top of our list of things we've been missing most is the sense of community, of simply being with one another. Churches have all sorts of different ways of expressing that, sometimes it's through small groups where people meet together to simply chat and share their lives together, sometimes it's through activities where we do things together, sometimes it's just having a coffee after the service. But in all sorts of different ways expressing our life together as community is central to what the church is about and central to how we are formed into the likeness of Christ whose body we are.

And that's why when we think about the temptations that Jesus faced, and that's what I'm looking at in this short series of videos, the second of the temptations when Jesus was in the wilderness, was that he was taken to the pinnacle of the temple and told 'throw yourself off and God will come and send his angels to rescue you'. This is the temptation to perform. To do that public act where others will take notice and be impressed by what you're doing.

We know that temptation, do we not, particularly within the life of the church. How easy it is to think that we have to perform for other people.
Whether that's to do something in the public to make people look at the church and think isn't that wonderful, or whether it's to do with our own worship and wanting people to be impressed with the way we perform music or whatever it may be. Or whether it's to do something spectacular and to feel that we have to impress people.

Jesus, of course, rejected that temptation, as with the others. Making it very clear that that was not what he was about at all. And I wonder whether through this period of lockdown we've been having to learn again something of the importance of placing community before performance. Maybe the very fact that we've missed community so much and struggled to find ways of expressing that virtually over the internet is a reminder to us that we need the physical contact, if you like, of actually being with one another. That that's important to us not just as human beings but indeed as the church. And maybe as we begin to think about how we emerge from lockdown we need to be thinking less about our performance; what we do in church and more about our community and how we express the deep bonds of fellowship that exist within the Body of Christ.

So may God strengthen you during this period of Lent as you reflect on the life of Jesus Christ and in particular his death. 
So I pray that you would not only know him with you strengthening you in your own situation but that you would find ways of being part of the community of Christ, even during this period of lockdown. But also as we look forward to the end of this period and being with one another again.

First published on: 1st March 2021
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