Keep Watch Over Yourselves
Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” Acts 20:28.
These words from St Paul to the Ephesian elders delivered at Miletus are his last message to them. They have shaped Anglican understanding of oversight and episcope down the generations. These words are in our services of ordination.
Last words are important and Paul above all wanted the Ephesian Church, which, under God, he had been part of creating, to hear them. He would not be with them in person, but taking heed to his words, they could still be shepherds who would have the capacity to guard the flock and protect them from wolves (see Acts 20:29). Some of those wolves would come from their own number, and by “wolf” he means someone who distorts the truth Acts 20:30.
I have just become a grandfather for the first time. My grandson was born nearly two weeks ago, his name is Noah Samuel James and he, his mother and father are doing well, thank God.
As I was preaching on these last words of St Paul, I was thinking of my first words to my grandson.
In the card I wrote to him (for him to read later!) I mentioned a verse we read in our family bible reading the morning after he was born. Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born and unto us a Son is given”.
I smiled at God’s kindness in bringing this verse to my wife and me on such a day.
I gave this verse to Noah in our card. I was thanking God that he was letting us (and Noah) know that he has been born into a world in which the government is on the shoulders of the God who came into this world as a little child and who is the Wonderful Counsellor, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Mighty God. Of his kingdom there shall be no end.
How will our grandchildren know this is true?
If we who are elders are keeping watch as St Paul calls us to do. If we are not only recognising the wolves but able to stand against them. If we call out those who would distort the truth and be those who teach and live the truth ourselves. Then our grandchildren will grow in churches in Ephesus and around the world that know his kingdom and the true King.
The Lord Jesus was the child of the Isaiah prophecy. He is the one who has established his kingdom and he needs us (as he himself reminded us) to keep alert so all may know how they can enter that kingdom and live within it.
Wherever you are and whatever challenges you are facing may you know the Lord enabling you to keep watch and be the shepherd (overseer, bishop or leader) he has appointed you to be.
May the church in your land and region be a gospel church not shrinking as St Paul did not shrink, from teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). May new born babes in your communities grow up to know the world’s true King and Governor. May they know this King laid down his life for them. May they know he shed his blood for them. May they know the whole purpose of God for their lives as we do not shrink or hold back from sharing any part of what God has given us to teach and do.
I am sure we are all aware of ways in which we have not been good shepherds. As we hear again St Paul’s words and pray for the worldwide church and the Anglican church, may the Lord enable us to be the shepherds he needs us to be for the church now and the generations to come.
With love in Christ
Bishop Keith Sinclair
Member of GSFA Resource Group and
Trustee of Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion (EFAC)