Its true that it took us almost two years to read through the gospel of John, following the Bible Reading Notes ‘John for Everyone’ by Tom Wright, (for some reason the Woman at the well kept on coming round and round again) but we have got a bit faster going through the Letter to the Philippians following the course written by Nicky Gumbel called ‘A Life Worth Living’. We usually meet once a fortnight on a Monday at 2pm at Sarah Shirley’s house in Avington. We listen to some Christian music of some kind, read the relevant passage and then one of us leads us through the passages and then we pray together for the parish. We have some great discussions!
But this Monday, instead of our usual session, we had an Agape lunch. So who or where or why or what is an Agape Lunch, you might be asking! “Agape” is the New Testament Greek word for self-giving love. Agape meals were held in the early church based probably on the Jewish practice of the Chaburah where groups of friends would get together to eat, but in a more spiritual context than domestic meals. This meal is not the Eucharist which is a public occasion, but rather something additional. The Agape meal declined by the fourth century, but was revived by some amazing people called the Moravians who had a huge impact on John Wesley and the Methodists in the 18th century. It was at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street that Wesley felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ which encounter with the Holy Spirit led to his fervour as an evangelist (dismissively described in the 18th century as ‘enthusiasm’). The Agape meal in early Methodism involved a shared meal and testimonies of encounters with Christ, but today we were using it as the framework for our Bible Study into Philippians.
We were studying Philippians 3:10-21 and looked at the following questions raised by Nicky Gumbel in relation to this passage:
- What is the driving force of our lives?
- Paul uses the term “enemies of the Cross” verse 18. Who are enemies of the Cross?
- Paul says in verse 10 ‘I want to know Christ’ Can we say that?
So some really heavyweight questions.
Discussions on these issues were interspersed with prayers and a three course lunch which culminated in sharing bread and wine together.
We are keen to encourage others to join us to add to our discussions and take us further in getting to know Christ – please do let Sarah Shirley know if you would like to join us firstname.lastname@example.org.