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27 April 2014
posted by Canon Dakin on 01-05-2014

1st Sunday after Easter

From today until Pentecost we shall be hearing the Acts of the Apostles which today gives us a snapshot of the early Christian community. It was brought together by the preaching of the Apostles - their witness to the resurrection of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Then there was what St Luke calls ‘fellowship’. They were not communists. The case of Barnabas who sold a field and brought the cash to the apostles was not typical.  What was basic was the support by the community of these men from Galilee who had given up their livelihood to devote themselves to vindicating Jesus. The ‘breaking of bread’.  It’s impossible to imagine the preaching of the apostles omitting their memory of the Last Supper and how they were to recall sacramentally the death and resurrection of Jesus, whilst the daily rhythm of their Jewish prayer life would develop into the monastic office in which the ancient Jewish psalms are still our staple diet

So the early Christian community took shape. It appeared as a definite group apart.  It’s not on the cards to be a private Christian.   The word church literally means ‘called out’. We turn out to meet together and to be seen. Buildings are important - spires pointing to heaven - but buildings only come alive when people gather to use them. Empty churches give a negative message. There are two fine 19th cent.  Churches in Preston that fifty years ago had each four or five priests. The two are now being served by one priest who is not resident at either of them.  That is the result of social change; the original congregations have moved out and immigrants, largely Muslims, have moved in.  That should not cloak the fall in numbers attending our churches not only in this country but throughout Western Europe and this is true of all Christian churches.  Linda Woodhead, a noted sociologist from Lancaster University, reckons that Catholics have a stronger residual loyalty than others but the modern young Catholic has a different way of being Catholic - he or she may come to Mass perhaps once a month. That is treating the Church like MacDonald’s - you drop in when you feel like it. It is privatised religion, just the opposite of what the Church stands for. Our Sunday attendance at Mass is not a simple application of the third commandment - Keep holy the Sabbath Day - it is our witness to faith in the resurrection. Every Sunday is a celebration of the Easter mystery - the death and resurrection of Jesus made present on our altar.      

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