The Gate of Heaven - Dr Katherine Abetz
Reflection on Acts 2:42-47 (The Gate of Heaven)
There’s a story about a church which had written over one of its doors: ‘This is the House of God. This is the Gate of Heaven’. The door had a notice on it: ‘This door is closed in winter months’. When our children were small, one of their Sunday School songs went like this: ‘God is better than football. God is better than beer. God is better than cricket, ’cos God’s there all the year!’ The Gate of Heaven.
The church of Acts 2 seems the ideal church. But why? It doesn’t sound as if those early Christians had really good music or held special programmes or that they did lots of visiting. What did they do? They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to Christian fellowship, to prayers and breaking bread, a common meal including Communion. It was all about focussing on God as a communal way of life.
Their willingness to share comes out of their strong focus on worshipping together. We’re not told that they went out of their way to evangelise. But we are told that they didn’t just meet in homes. Where did they go? Verses 46-47: ‘And day by day, attending the temple and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people’. We can surmise that they weren’t silent about the Gospel when they went to the temple. ‘And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’
The situation of these early Christians reminds me in some ways of our situation as the ACC. Does that come as a surprise? At the moment anyway if we meet at all we have to meet in homes. But we also have something like the situation of the temple in Jerusalem because we have the wider Uniting Church where the Gospel doesn’t seem to be as well known as it should be. I think God has given us a means of sharing the Gospel in the wider Uniting Church through the Basis of Union which the Uniting Church has not (or at least not yet) disowned. But we need to be strong enough to be able to do that. How do we become strong enough? By focussing on God together which is what the Basis of Union encourages us to do. Paragraph 1 commits us to ‘go forward together in sole loyalty to Christ the living Head of the Church … open to constant reform under his Word…’
Together? At present the ACC needs strong regional networks. In a similar situation to us the Anglicans talk about alternative spiritual oversight. For the Anglicans, that means the Bishop. For us it means the Presbytery. If our Presbytery is apostate, we of the ACC can work with it for administration but not for spiritual oversight. For that we need our own network. South Australia has the Hope Network. We’ve attempted something similar in Tasmania and some of the Victorians have joined in. It doesn’t have to be ambitious in terms of programmes or anything like that. It doesn’t necessarily have to be organized by a minister. It could be started by lay people: praying together, praying for our churches, encouraging one another to fulfil our ‘high calling in Christ Jesus’, as it says in the Basis, Paragraph 15. It’s a word to us all.
I want to leave you with a couple of pictures from our time of ‘Hearing God’s Whispers’ attended by some of us earlier in the year. We were asked to choose pictures to illustrate what we thought God was saying about the ACC. I found one of the inside of a cathedral (perhaps like the temple or the wider Uniting Church) and a second of a kitchen, with a man leaning against the sink, nursing a little animal in blanket. The ACC was the little animal. Perhaps the man represented God the Father.