Summary: A 'full' text which I will expand upon as I preach. Peter's good reputation spread and people came to faith as he did things in Jesus' name. Our reputation is also very important ...
When I was a child I loved the Beano magazine, and as a parent I’ve enjoyed reading Dennis the Menace stories to my children. Matthew used to want me to read Horrid Henry stories to him, and now Rebekah does. Dennis the Menace and Horrid Henry have a reputation and they live up to it. Their names are a perfect fit, and their reputations are there for all to see.
What sort of reputation does Christ Church have? What reputation do we have amongst the people of Billericay? If they were to give us a name what would it be? What reputation goes before us? What are we known for? When the people of our local community talk about the people of Christ Church I wonder what gets said.
Some Churches earn a poor reputation; and a poor reputation is hard – but not impossible – to repair.
What reputation does Christ Church have?
Today’s Bible reading is set in the days of the early Church - not long after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus had promised his disciples that they would carry on his work and his message, and we’ve just heard how Peter brought healing to a man called Aeneas with the words, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and tidy up your mat” (Acts 9:34). Peter did some amazing things in the name of Jesus, and as a result of what he did many people believed in Jesus.
After the healing of Aeneas, Peter’s reputation spread. People were talking about him; so much so that when a good, charitable woman called Tabitha died (9:36-37), her friends sent word for Peter, urging him to come (9:38). Tabitha herself had earned a good reputation. The Bible describes her as someone “who was always doing good and helping the poor” (9:36). She had a good reputation in her community!
When Peter prayed for Tabitha, a bit like Jesus prayed at the grave of his friend Lazarus, Tabitha sat up (9:40) and was presented back to her friends well and truly alive (9:41). I’ve not yet seen anything like that in my lifetime, but the important point here is the fact that Peter did amazing things in the name of Jesus during the days of the early Church, and many people came to believe in Jesus as a result. Writing about these events, Luke the author of the Book of Acts says this: “This became known all over Joppa [in other words all over town], and many people believed in the Lord” (9:42).
What is it about the work of this Church that is becoming known all over town? Well I think we should be encouraged because there are many good things, and I probably won’t remember them all: Dambusters our once a month dads and Toddlers group is attracting more and more Dads. Attendance is more than an average C of E Church’s Sunday attendance!
Christingle and now Eastingle are firmly in the DNA of our local community. Well over 600 at Christingle on Christmas Eve and 160 at Eastingle on Good Friday and growing. I expect over 200 next Good Friday.
Being involved in Churches Together is fantastic. News that Churches Together in Billericay is the organiser of the Billericay General Election hustings is spreading fast. It’s a good thing to do. It’s the right thing to do; and there are many other things about us, about you, that our community appreciates: Toddlers, Tuesday drop-in, the growing Friday Night Youth Club called ‘Shaken-Up’ and much more; so please be encouraged; and please join the teams running them!
Many churches work hard at doing the right thing and doing it for the right reasons. Reputation will be earned, and people will come to believe in Jesus because they will see him at work through us; but we should also remember that reputation is easily lost.
So I pause for a moment and ask this: Is there anything about us that spoils our reputation and dishonours the name of Jesus? If there is, then please talk to me, or talk to a member of our District Church Council – DCC for short.
So is there anything we need to change? Is there anything we need to repent of – to say sorry to God about and then change our ways – perhaps an attitude towards a person, or a group in our community?
Earlier I mentioned Dennis the Menace and Horrid Henry: What reputation do we want Christ Church to have? What name would we like Christ Church to be known by?