A sermon preached by Shirley Fiddimore at Highbury on Sunday, 11th September 2011
When I was asked some time ago to take this Service I felt complimented, but also apprehensive not having taken one for about 18 months or so. I wasn't given a theme , so I prayed and sought inspiration as to the topic/theme I could share with you.
As a matter of interest Google informs me that:
There are 1,189 Chapters in the Bible, and 31,103 verses, so I had a vast choice. Should I open the Bible at random and start reading; maybe that would be a starting point. I decided not to.
My mind went back to the course I attended in Nottingham many years ago. Richard is there this weekend teaching and developing Church ministries to candidates nation wide. It was there that I remembered a particular debate considering Who Jesus was? Similar to the discussions we have at the Alpha Course here in Highbury. A group of us discusssed and commented on how Artist around the world visually perceived and portrayed Jesus. We were shown paintings by current Artists from Japan, Korea, Turkey, and India, also by one from Europe. It was facinating to see the Jesus of all nationalities. I wondered if there was material I could expound on from this.
After a while it came to me, that at this stage of my journey, I 'd like to share something simple but meaningful; When I say simple, I mean simple to understand. Over the years, l Have read many Commentories on Books of the Bible. Had many discussions, and theological debates on how accurate it is; and, do we take it literally; how do we interpret various passages; and does it apply to us today?
The simple but powerful Truths I decided to share is the very reason the Bible is Holy and inspirational, and IS appropriate for today. I know that every Sermon should have 3 points, and as I wanted to share exactly 3 profound statements I came to the conclusion that perhaps I was going in the right direction.
The statements are the essence of our Faith and applies to every one; though I have personalised it.
1. Jesus came to earth, died and rose again for me.
2. I have been freed from sin and slavery, and have eternal life.
3. I have been given the Holy Spirit as my Helper.
As I said it is simple to understand but take these three Truths away from the Holy Bible then, it would be a History Book. There would be no teaching, direction or purpose - just constant wars and claiming of land in the early centuries, no Prophets, in fact simply no Hope in life or death.
These 3 facts ARE the basics of our Faith, and why we are here today. ALSO the basics of Faith of all Christians in the past, and will be, in future generations.
We celebrate Communion regularly to remember these miracles. Whatever we may forget over the years, and you will agree we do, and will, especially as years pass and we become older, and life seems to gets busier!
Sometimes I ask friends to remind me the theme of the previous Sunday's Service, and like me, they struggle to remember, which makes me feel better! This is nothing to do with Richard's excellent Sermons, of course, but rather that we are mortal beings, and can only comprehend and retain information for approximately 5 to 7 minutes in any one talk. The idea of discussing the Sermon at lunch immediately after the Service, appeals to me as was mentioned in the Church Meeting recently.
These 3 facts will remain in our minds for ever, because, It is a personal revelation, and Good News to be shared. I think we are starved of GOOD NEWS. The World News does not bring joy or happiness but does prompt us pray. Today we remember those attending the Memorial Service in New York which we will be focussing on in our Prayers of Concern.
Personally, I find it easier to share good news than sad news. Jesus tells his disciples (that is you and I) in Matthew: "Go then to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples; Baptize them in the name of the Father., the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age. What a comforting promise!
We will have an opportunity to invite friends and neighbours to Back to Church Sunday. This however, should be our life long mission and not necessarily confined to one day in the year.
In the first reading that Matthew read; Isaiah of the Old Testament, lived in the 8th century BC, in Judah he prophesied the birth and mission of Jesus 8 centuries before! Not 8yrs, or even 8/9 months but 8centuries!! In Chapter 7 v 14 he prophesied, and we read this at Advent; "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, His name will be Immanuel, which means "God is with us". This was Good News to the divided society of that day. It brought HOPE and encouragement to those expecting and awaiting the Messiah.
In the second reading we heard Jesus speaking that prophecy of Isaiah himself. He stood up to read the Scriptures in the Synagogue and was handed the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has chosen me to bring
good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed
and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.
Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.All the people in the Synagogue had their eyes fixed on him as he said to them. "THIS PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE HAS COME TRUE TODAY, AS YOU HEARD IT BEING READ.
This was the first public acknowledgement of Jesus being Divine. He understood and recognised his Mission on Earth: though it was not understood by many.
John the Baptist had that inner perception and knowledge from God Who Jesus was.
So did Simeon who was in the Temple when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus as their first-born to be dedicated to the Lord, as was the custom at that time.
There was also a Prophetess, a widow named Anna, who was 84 yrs old, who spent most of her time in the Temple Worshipping God. As soon as she saw Jesus she gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free.
It is clear that John the Baptist, Simeon and Anna all had the gift of discernment. We talk about gifts of the Spirit. Discernment is a rare and valuable gift. It is one of Wisdom. We can recognise each others gifts more readily than or own. It appears that those who spend much time in Worship, waiting upon and listening to the Lord, could be blessed with the gift of Discernment as was Simeon and Anna.
In responding to the Great Commission to all disciples, we will need discernment. We will need to know when to listen, when to be silent, when to speak, and when to share the good news.
If we are equipped and believe in these 3 statements, our chances of being discerning, sensitive and considerate when we share the Good News to our friends and neighbours will be successful.
I noticed that in these statements we have the main events in The Church Year.
1. Jesus came to earth; died and rose again
Came at Christmas! Died - Good Friday and rose again - Easter
2. I have been freed from sin, slavery/obsessions and I have eternal life.
3. I have been given the Holy Spirit as my my Helper.
And the Holy Spirit is Pentecost.
Before reading the 3 main points and a prayer for Guidance and Discernment written by Thomas of Aquinas in the 1200s which seems to consolidate what I've been talking about. I have one more piece of good news.
I have discovered, as I am now assisting Elizabeth Forbes to deliver Birthday cards and presents to Highbury members, that there are well over 40 members above the age of 80 yrs! So to enjoy a long and fruitful life stay with us in Highbury and mention it to your friends and neighbours!!
We conclude by reading together:
Jesus came to earth; died and rose again for me.
I have been freed from sin and slavery and I have eternal life.
I have been given the Holy Spirit as my Helper.
A Prayer for Guidance and Discernment
O Creator past all telling,
you have so beautifully set out the universe,
you are the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Shed on the darkness of my mind
the beam and warmth of your light
to dispel my ignorance and sin.
Instruct my speech and touch my lips with
make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
and able to remember;
and keep me finely tuned,
to interpret you word,
for you are God for ever and ever.