Finding the Way of Christ in Community

A few have asked to read Sunday’s talk.  I would have liked to have ended with a fabulous link to the Lord’s Prayer.  I also considered handing out envelopes, each with a name of someone on our electoral roll to hold in prayer.  In the end, it would have been adding too many elements for this particular talk.  Another time!  Yours, in faith!

The Lord’s Prayer

Finding the Way

 

 

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The Christmas Story revisited, but is it true? What do you believe?

Helen invited us to listen to this story of Jesus at our last Home Group.  What do you believe?

It is the beginning of December and we are at the start of Advent, and the western world is starting to think about Christmas. I have often wondered how we could explain the importance of the Christmas story to people who don’t really know what it is all about – .
So tonight that’s what we are going to think about. But in a different way.

It is approaching Christmas time, and the world is busy getting it’s gifts ordered, the tills are ringing out across the land, people are planning their new clothes and their trips to see family and their huge food orders, and most have forgotten, or perhaps some never knew that we are really here to celebrate the birth of a baby boy called Jesus.

The baby was born to a woman called Mary- Joseph wasn’t the father. The baby was born in poverty in a stable at a very busy time in history, when people were moving in convoy from place to place. In this case Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Bethlehem in Judea. Not very different then from the babies being born to migrants moving across Europe in the present day. Or in fact to thousands of families across the world whose futures are uncertain. Babies are born to unmarried mothers, in poverty, in difficult circumstances every day of the year.

But this baby, we are told, was special. Wise and learned men travelled to see him because they followed the stars because the stars told them that a king had been born. Humble shepherds left their flocks of sheep on the hills and travelled to the town to search for this baby.

Angels appeared to people to pass on the message that the baby would be born. An Angel came to Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and told of this child/ Angels visited the shepherds and told them too. The King was so worried about this baby and what it would mean to himself and his position that he ordered mass infanticide to try to ensure that the baby would not be a threat. This story was recorded for history in the Gospels, and by the Romans. So it must be true.

It was the most important birth in the history of the world, more than the birth of a king or of an emperor. Because this baby was born of God. Because this baby was born to save the world from sin. Because this baby was born to die. Not like you and I are born knowing that death is the inevitable end of life. He was born to die on a cross, as the son of God, a living saviour.

First though he became a teacher. He was found at the young age of twelve in the temple with the teachers in the temple and they were amazed at his intelligent questions and answers. It must have been obvious then that this boy was special, that he stood apart from his peers. We don’t really know much about him after that until he was about 30, and that for the next 3 years he taught people, through stories and parables, that he healed people, that he had a group of disciples who helped in his works and teachings, and he told people that he was the son of God. People followed him. You would expect them to laugh and jeer and think he was too big for his boots, but people followed him, they came to hear him preach, to see him heal and even to raise the dead to life.

But he was ordered to be put to death.

This baby was born to die, on a cross, as the son of God, a living saviour. He died a painful and humiliating death. He was forced to carry his own cross through the streets whilst the crowd jeered at him. Imagine if you can the weight of that cross on his shoulders, and the heat of the sun on his head and his back, and the stones under his feet. So he was humbled and humiliated. They forced a crown of thorns onto his head, so his back was in pain from the weight of the cross and his head was bleeding from the thorns being pushed down as a taunt – so you think you’re a king do you?” Imagine the blood mixing with the sweat and running into his eyes and his mouth, and knowing all the time that at the end of this ordeal he was going to die.

And then they nailed him to the cross. Can you imagine the searing pain as the nails tore through his flesh. If you raise your left hand into the air, and then using a finger on your right hand, press as hard as you can with the your finger nail. Not pleasant not nice. A bit uncomfortable maybe. Now imagine a blunt and square nail, and it is being hammered into the palm of your hand, tearing the flesh into a ragged wound, breaking the bones as it goes in, and you are conscious and the crowd is baying and cheering. And you know that you have done nothing wrong. So the weight of your body is being supported by just your hands with the nails through them, and then the soldiers do the same to your feet.

So why did Christ let them do this to him. This is the man who could walk on water. This is the man who could turn water into wine. This is the man who was so powerful that he could cast spirits out of men, who could heal just by faith and the touch of his cloak.

Why didn’t he shout – God save me?
Why didn’t he tear apart the cross and the nails with a crash of thunder?
   Why didn’t the Angels of God come down to release him?

Because he needed to die, so that he could take on the sin of the world. He needed to die so that those of us who believe in him will find salvation. And he needed to die so that he could rise again, so that he would Become immortal.

He was the lamb of God, and as a lamb he was hung for a sheep.

What kind of love could have died to give us life?  Think about this story this Christmas.  What do you believe?

 

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Sing and Share, a musical encounter

The event on 26 April included a musical encounter with the newly refurbished organ played by an accomplished organist from Bristol!  Like all Sing and Share services, this was a one-off.

Pictures from another encounter with the master rebuilder of the organ are below.  An evening of Bach delighted all.

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At the end of the evening, a feast, remembering Linda’s father’s 90th birthday.

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The Long View

Sunday’s sermon set me on a path of introspection. Andrew took the opportunity to talk about the call placed on him to go and teach in another school. I’ve listened to Andrew in the past when he has questioned whether it is God who is speaking to him. So on the occasion of this position and challenge of the new school, Andrew placed three obstacles in the way of the decision. He described how every single one of them was removed and then he said ‘yes’ to the job. Seven months later, Ofsted has taken the school out of special measures. Andrew is now spreading the word that God blessed the school through His call.

This is, of course, a cause of great joy for all concerned. Why then, did my normally sunny, positive self struggle on hearing Andrew’s talk? As I listened to God that night, he told me that for all that triumphantly reflects his glory, he is present also in the harsh days of darkness and uncertainty.

This is a week when we need to take the long view and we have the perfect example in Christ’s final walk to the cross. In a few days we celebrate Palm Sunday. What glory, what excitement! The spontaneous act of praise as Jesus entered Jerusalem would have made anyone watching believe that it was ‘all systems go’ for Jesus to begin his earthly reign. But we know the end game. In less than a week, he would go from the people’s hero to criminal of the church, apparent blasphemer of God, under the penalty of death. Where were all the people now? Was there no-one left by his side but John? Even His Father left him. Can anyone imagine a lower place than this?

Faith is about the unseen as much as the seen. The signs that Andrew spoke about were visible signs. The fruit that he spoke about was visible fruit. We don’t always receive fruit immediately. We do not always see visible signs immediately. There is a longer view which we must respect as much as what appears to be short term gain or loss.

We can know which we are looking at by following the path of Christ. He stayed close to the Father during his final walk to glory. He prayed. He listened. He acted according to the call. He paid the final penalty for each one of us….and the world did not wait long for a longer view. Three days later, Christ broke the chains of death in the splendour of the ressurection.

Are you in the long or the short view right now? If God has called you to something, no act of man can stop you. Whether you are in a time of blessing or trial, stay close to God. Listen and pray for opportunities. When called to act, move. God will do the rest. Whichever time you’re in, the best is yet to come. As for me and my house, we’re standing on the promises of God.

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Rendezvous over the Atlantic

Life has been pretty crazy lately.   The wheels of my daily juggling act are all developing seeds of their own.  What started out as a mixed portfolio of life giving activities has turned into barely overlapping wheels of potentially life sapping obligations.  Just as in my previous life of The Iron Maiden, Financial Controller par excellence, I am now the Queen of yes, operator par excellence, can do, will do, love to do girl.  The only way out is to physically get away from it all and get close to God.

Knowing that I needed more time alone with God, I started ‘prayer and praise’ last August.  First gently, sticking a toe in the water, I started bringing along a friend into St. Andrew’s on Tuesday at noon.  We would pray and sing and praise and pray and just be with God.  After a few weeks it seemed selfish just to keep it to ourselves so I opened it up to others.  It is now a regular part of our church life.  So with this regular commitment and all the other ways that I regularly pray and study (NT Theology last year, OT Theology this year) I thought I was already doing the right things. I still didn’t get it and my yes girl mentality was taking away all that space I had in my early years alone with God.  Those important revelations that once came with a mighty hand, were not as frequent in my swirling world.

Enter Mary D, (code named now MD) over the Atlantic.   A few words brought out a life giving beautiful soul.  MD comes from Lighthouse Int’l Christian Church which is a mecca and multicultural melting pot for souls who have come from places like Iran, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.  Individuals and families come, many as refugees, new to the christian faith.  Many move to other parts of the UK from this entry point.  The church itself is growing rapidly, even with this steady movement.  Meeting at 4 p.m. for prayer, praise, worship and food (imagine the treats in store with this international pool), they are outgrowing their home and looking to expand.  Oh what I wish for this phenomenon to take hold over our population of pioneers in the lakes. But this wasn’t all that MD brought to the table.  She was convinced that what I needed was a precious book she was carrying with her called Begin the Journey with The Daily Office by Peter Scazzero.

Now I’ve been studying and praying and praising God with zeal for years.  I’ve done just about every configuration of sound bite study.  In fact, I’ve determined that what I need is more theology to understand the world and the people and the circumstances of those early days to encourage those stubborn hold-outs with a logical way to come to the grace of the Lord.  I thought I needed this little book like ‘a hole in the head’ and was pretty adament that I couldn’t possibly accept it. Mary was having none of it.  She insisted that this precious well worn book was for me.  God has put us together over the Atlantic for a reason.  And so I did what I was called to do and accepted it with a grateful heart. MD’s gift has brought me back to the quiet time that I’ve been missing in my world of (the most maddening combination of visionary, operator and processor) can do it all madness. So starting from next week, we’re all going to begin exploring this precious little book, slowly, in Prayer and Praise.  Our infusion with the living Lord just got a whole lot richer.

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Let the Trumpets Sound

Jesus loves you

Jesus is the light of the world

C o m e  to me  a l l  w h o  are thirsty.   I will give you living water.

C o m e  to  me  a l l  w h o  are  hungry.  I will give you  bread of life.

Jesus is the vine

Jesus is the shepherd

Jesus is the lamb of God

Jesus died for you and me

Let the trumpets sound, let the drums roll, let us walk the streets with banners tall and wide.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  Come to Jesus.  His yoke is easy, his burden is light.  Amen.

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God Breaks In

Encounter was truly awesome.  Four like minded souls, nothing short of angels, just walked through the door and we were simply blown away by the movement of the Holy Spirit Sunday evening.  I couldn’t get the experience out of my mind yesterday.  I continue to think about it and proclaim the wonder of the love and grace that brought it to our door.  Thank you God.  Thank you Bath and Yorkshire.  Thank you Mark.   Thank you Gill and Hazel.  Blessings to you all.

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