Sunday, September 8, 2013

Offering ourselves in the service of God and of other people

Our service today was a special service, welcoming people into Church Membership, celebrating our children's and young people's groups at the start of a new school year, presenting Bibles to some of our young people and then thinking of the way everyone in the church family has something to offer God and to offer other people in the life of our church ...

Call to Worship

Lord Jesus Christ
help us to lead a life worthy
of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness and patience,
Bearing with one another in love,
Making every effort
to maintain the unity of the Spirit
In the bond of peace.

Hymn:  33  Now thank we all our God

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Church Membership

Highbury is a place to
share Christian friendship,
explore Christian faith and
enter into Christian mission
with Christ at the centre
and open to all.

Highbury Congregational Church is affiliated to the Congregational  Federation, a fellowship of independent Churches who come together to share resources and to support each other.

We are committed to each other by belief in the living God, revealed in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

We trust in our Lord’s promise to be with His people who meet in His name.

We affirm the scriptural right of every Church to maintain independence in the ordering of its affairs according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We recognise the oneness of all Christians within the rich diversity of the world-wide Church.  We seek the unity for which Christ prayed by the means He wills.

We are partners in God’s mission with the Churches of the Council for World Mission, a world-wide mission partnership, and with Churches Together.

We worship, work and serve with all who love our Lord to realise His Kingdom in the world, and to help people everywhere to know the joy of His companionship.

God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation: there can be no other foundation.  Jesus said, “Where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.  I give you a new commandment to love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
1 Corinthians 3:11, Matthew 18:20,  John 13:34-35

Church Members are called to

  • Worship God regularly with the whole Church family
  • Remember the covenant with God in the Lord’s Supper
  • Read the Bible and pray regularly
  • Share in the life and work of the Church Meeting gathered together in Christ’s name.
  • Witness by the power of the Holy Spirit to the truth of the Gospel through what they are, what they do, and what they say.
  • Give their gifts of time, service and money to the work of the Kingdom as they are able.

In all they do they rejoice in the forgiving love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, knowing that when they fail they do not give up but go on in the strength of God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  Love your neighbour as yourself.    Mark 12:30-31

Questions for Church Membership for
Karen Waldock and Charlotte Armstrong

Do you believe in God and Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?

Do you promise as you are able to share here at Highbury in the church’s worship, in its mission, in prayer, in church meeting and in giving so that Highbury really can be a place to share Christian friendship, explore Christian faith, enter into Christian mission with Christ at the centre and open to all?

I do


Going deeper … a time with the children

I am going to get the children to tell me what happens when they go out to the back

Starting with the all together time … then going into their groups

I will then have some fun with the titles of their groups … but at the same get them to say they do Bible stories and hear what Jesus does

Bubbles – I will get some bubbles and talk about fun together and great stories

Splash – little bit older – a bucket of water and I will splash the youngsters and get them saying more stories

X-Stream – I will threaten to pour the bucket out as a stream – and then maybe get someone to throw the bucket of water down the slope by the front door – we are beginning now to launch out think more – how the good news goes out into the world

M:Ocean – getting older and out on the ocean the big world – big issues, big feelings …

And then introduce D:per – going deeper

I will then suggest that actually we are all basically doing the same thing – in the main part of the church we tell Bible stories, stories of Jesus … and we are making connections – listening out for what God is saying to us and his word for us … what we can do about it in our world.  In a sense we are all going deeper.

All of us are using one basic course book – and actually it’s the same one.  It’s the Bible.

Stories at a children’s level – but then we need to go deeper – and as you find out the Bible re-pays reading and really getting to grips with …

So for those in M:Ocean we present a Bible, the Youth Bible that helps you in going deeper – but the idea is that you will be continuing to use it as a real tool

Presentation of the Youth Bibles

And we all of us need guidance.

I will briefly tell the story of the Ehtiopian Eunuch and the question he asks …

An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get ready and go south  to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This road is not used nowadays.)  27-28 So Philip got ready and went. Now an Ethiopian eunuch, who was an important official in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia, was on his way home. He had been to Jerusalem to worship God and was going back home in his carriage. As he rode along, he was reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah

k*. 29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to that carriage and stay close to it.” 30 Philip ran over and heard him reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah

He asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 The official replied, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” And he invited Philip to climb up and sit in the carriage with him.  

Reading:  Acts 8:32-35

The passage of scripture which he was reading was this:

“He was like a sheep that is taken to be slaughtered,
like a lamb that makes no sound when its wool is cut off.
He did not say a word.
33 He was humiliated, and justice was denied him.
No one will be able to tell about his descendants,
because his life on earth has come to an end.”

34 The official asked Philip, “Tell me, of whom is the prophet saying this? Of himself or of someone else?”

35 Then Philip began to speak; starting from this passage of scripture, he told him the Good News about Jesus.

A Hy-Spirit Song

Offering of Money Gifts for the church – everyone remain seated

Reflections and Building up the Body of Christ

I grew up with Bible stories.  I love telling Bible stories to children.  But as I come back to them they connect more and more with the adult world I am very conscious of.

That came home to me forcibly last Sunday.  On Sunday evenings I am preaching through the Book of Acts and last Sunday I arrived at chapter 9 – which describes the encounter Saul who was to become Paul had with the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus.

When I was a child Damascus was from off time and in a far off place.  It is right at the forefront of our minds.

Read again the account and it is a brutal time when the first followers of Jesus are facing persecution – indeed Philip is on that road to Gaza because of the brutality of the persecution that is going on.  We were reflecting on the way Christ meets us in the middle of dark times.  And out of those dark times God brings unexpected good.

Paul makes a fleeting visit back to Jerusalem but there is then a 14 year gap which he spends initially in his home town of Tarsus – maybe he is taking time to get his head round this business of following Jesus and all it means, taking time to ‘go deeper’

He emerges after those fourteen years going again to the very place where he had been involved in brutal persecution of followers of Jesus and has a private meeting just with the leaders of the church there.  Maybe understandably they are very ‘iffy’ about him.  Not at all sure about him.  Then they see the genuineness of the work he is doing (verses 7-8) and then comes a wonderful set of verses that we use as the inspiration and model for our understanding of what happens when we welcome people into church membership of our church here at Highbury.

Cephas is just the Hebrew form of Peter – this is where we get the phrase ‘pillars of the church’ from.

Reading;  Galatians 2:9-10 (NRSV)

James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.

All are welcome at Highbury

But as we get to know people and

Recognise the grace of God at work within them
We then welcome them into church membership and extend the right hand of fellowship to them.

We recognise that each person has a job to do – Paul’s was to go to the Gentiles.

And all have a challenge to remember ‘the poor’, those most in need, the most vulnerable around us.

Every single one of us has a job to do.

And this morning we are going to have a second offering.  When twe ook our offering I deliberately got everyone to stay sitting down – usually we make a think of our offering – we are offering our gifts but we are also offering ourselves in the service of God and of other people.  Today we are going to take that seriously and so we are going to have a second offering – and this time we are going to offer ourselves in God’s service.

In a moment we are going to sing … as we prepare ourselves to make our offering – I am then going to give us space to write our responses to on this form together.

Hymn MTS 2 Be still for the Presence of the Lord


As I stand and offer myself in the service of God and in the service of other people I feel prompted to commit myself to serve at Highbury in the following ways ...
1)  Please write in a couple of sentences what you have to offer Highbury.

2) Please identify which area or areas of the church’s work you are drawn to ...
Children’s Work
Youth Work
Pastoral Care
Mission and Outreach

3) Much goes on behind the scenes - please tick what kind of support you feel able to give in what we have described as the ‘support services’ Highbury needs at the moment and for the future ...        
•           IT
•           The Church Office
•           Membership records and master list of Church Members and Adherents
•           Operations diary and room booking
•           Practical arrangements for Sunday services and occasional services
•           Sound and Vision
•           Housekeeping
•           Hospitality and catering
•           Publicity, advertising, leaflets and web site
•           Production, collection, collation and distribution of Highbury News
•           Maintenance and security of the building and grounds, car park, and Manse
•           Development of the building and environment
•           Health and Safety
•           Safeguarding
•           Disability Awareness and Inclusion

Now we make our offering – this time as the plates are brought to the front we will all stand and offer ourselves anew in the service of God and in the service of others here at Highbury

The Offering and Dedication Prayer

There is one body and one Spirit,
Just as we were called
to the one hope of our calling:
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in all.
To each of us was given grace
according to the measure of Christ’s gift
to build up the body of Christ.
May all that we offer help us as a church family to build up the body of Christ here in this place.

A quiet song from Hy-Spirit to lead into

In a moment Jean is going to lead us into our prayers for our church, for people in need and for the wider world.  In our prayers we are very conscious of the situation in the Middle East, not least in that city of Damascus.   We are conscious of persecution in so many parts especially of the Middle East – we are supporting this month the work of Middle East Concern in its support of Christians in the Middle East facing persecution.  Our harvest collection will be shared between our work of mission and the work of Middle East Concern – our supper that weekend will be a Middle Eastern Supper from our friend Bassam from Palestine  and Ian will be joining us to help us think through How we Pray for Christians in the Middle East.   He will join us again that Sunday morning too.  Tickets for that supper for £7-50 are available from today.   There won’t be fun and games but our children are very well aware of what’s going on will be thinking of it as they see reports on the news and thinking about it at school – so it may well be that they and especially our older children would get something very valuable out of this evening.  Ian has said – we only hear the bad news – but actually their research shows that there is much that is good happening too as churches are growing and making a very real difference in their contribution to peace and to justice.

Prayers of Concern

Hymn 430  How firm a foundation

Words of Blessing

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