Sunday, November 23, 2014

Living out your faith everyday

The Six Spokes of the Wheel – 6 Living out our faith everyday

I don’t know about you but I like sorting things.  I may have some piles lying around in my study, not too many, but I know what’s in those piles.  I actually like arranging things neatly – the books on my shelves are in some kind of order.  I know what went where last year in the vegetable garden and I know what will go where next year too … or I will when the time comes.

If things get in a mess as sometimes they do it makes me feel better if I organise things and get some semblance of order

When I was little I collected stamps – the attraction was to get them in order.

I’ve collected some interesting bits of rock and fossils – and arranged them on the window sill in geological epochs – doesn’t do much for cleaning the windowsill but it satisfies that sense of order.
It’s good to have a pattern to the day.

It may be a timetable you work to in a school context, or a time table you work out for yourself – a diary or a calendar on a phone helps you to keep yourself organised.

There’s something about us that likes order … and likes putting things into their appropriate place.
We even do it when it comes to things religious.

We have worked out a neat divide.

That’s secular.  This is religious

Saturday afternoon 3-00 another win / defeat [delete as appropriate – note I am writing this at 10-36 on Saturday morning] for the Robins – that’s secular. [In the event the Robins lost 1-4 and have now conceded 13 goals in 3 league games, scoring only 1 ... and I missed that as I was coming in through the turnstiles when they scored!]

Sunday morning 10-30 church on Sunday – definitely a win for God – no doubts [it’s now 10-37 on Saturday and nothing to delete there!] – that’s religious.

You could think of stuff that goes on in a week and work out ‘this is religious: that’s secular’.

Some organisations have quite clear rules when it comes to inviting speakers – religion and politics not allowed.

Keep religion out of it.

The politician who says ‘we don’t do God’.

Jesus thought very differently.  He had no time for those who wanted to impose some kind of divide between the religious and the secular.  You can see that one Sabbath day when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue.
Reading:  Luke 13:10-17
One Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. 11A woman there had an evil spirit that had made her ill for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free from your illness!”13He placed his hands on her, and at once she straightened herself up and praised God.

14The official of the synagogue was angry that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, so he spoke up and said to the people, “There are six days in which we should work; so come during those days and be healed, but not on the Sabbath!”

15The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Any one of you would untie your ox or your donkey from the stall and take it out to give it water on the Sabbath.16Now here is this descendant of Abraham whom Satan has kept bound up for eighteen years; should she not be released on the Sabbath?”17His answer made his enemies ashamed of themselves, while the people rejoiced over all the wonderful things that he did.

One of the things we don’t notice in that story is the significance of it being a woman who turns up in the synagogue, that 'gathering place' where the women are separated from the men and kept apart.

A woman deeply troubled arrives in the middle of the teaching and it is very disruptive.  The official of the synagogue – the attendant, in some ways it’s a bit like the role I play as Minister.  On this occasion someone else is doing the teaching – it’s Jesus – there’s an order in the place, it’s disrupted by the woman who is shouting out.

There’s a tendency I can feel for – a desire to keep the order.

Jesus thinks differently.

For him God’s presence was made real in everything, God’s love makes a difference in the whole of our lives.

In bringing healing to this woman whose whole life had been filled with hurt for so long on a Sabbath, Jesus cut through the whole ‘work and faith’ divide.  He was affirming something that was at the heart of his whole understanding of life and of faith.

Actually, the thinking Jesus shared was nothing new – but it was something so easily forgotten.
Jesus’ brothers were a bit ambivalent about all that Jesus did at the time he was doing it – they felt he should spend more time with them.  But they came to see things Jesus’s way.  And so after the resurrection they are among the followers of Jesus who meet in the upper room in Jerusalem.

One of those brothers, James, goes on to play a significant part in leading the church.  Tradition has it that he wrote the letter that bears his name at the end of the New Testament.

For James it was all important to get rid of this divide and to think very differently.  He was convinced that what you believe and what you do can never be separated.  

Reading:  James 2:14-18
My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them?15 Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat.16 What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” — if you don't give them the necessities of life?17 So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.18 But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.”

Faith, if it’s worth anything at all has to do with the whole of our lives.

That’s what’s so helpful about the analogy we have been using for our series which has been all about living the Christian life.

There are six spokes to the wheel – they are not part of what makes a rounded Christian life – they are what make for a rounded life.

Prayer, resisting temptation with Godly thoughts and Godly living, recognising we cannot do it in our own strength, but need always to be relying on the Holy Spirit. That involves making a difference in the world, sharing God’s love with others and living out our faith everyday.

It’s very easy to separate out the religious and the secular in our lives and think of our Christian faith as one among many things that are important to us.

As we come to this last spoke in the wheel, the whole point of our Christian faith is that it is the one thing that not only makes sense of everything else, but it also shapes everything else.
In those sections of my bookcases I have one section that’s just for little books.  It’s one of those things – that appeals – I quite like little books.  The little football annual – I have every one since the Robins got into the Football league.

On that shelf of little books is one very little book that has for 350 years made a very big impact.
It was when he was 18 that he discovered the Christian faith and the reality of God and of Jesus in his life.  He became part of a Christian community … but he was not one to do anything up front, anything anyone thought really important.  He just worked in the kitchen – and even in the kitchen he had the mucky jobs to do.

There he discovered something he passed on.

You don’t need wonderful science, great knowledge, beautiful art to sense God - all you need is a heart for God, that puts God at the centre and has love for God – and you can do that even in the kitchen

There was no division between the secular and the religious.  No difference between what you do at work and what you do at prayer – for actually they are all bound up together.

No matter how busy the kitchen was, he still had thoughts of God.

And people noticed the difference it made.  By cultivating this sense of God’s presence with him, he discovered a tranquillity, a peace that people noticed.

It’s not that there’s one time to work and another time to prayer – actually there’s no difference.  

Even when the kitchen was at its busiest with pot and pans making an awful noise and people shouting instructions all talking at the same time, it was that sense of the presence of God that helped him be at peace.

The time of business, said he, does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the nboise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.
The book he wrote was called ‘the practice of the presence of God’.

And it has made a massive difference to millions of people – out of all proportion to the size of the book!

How does it work out in your life – at work, at school, at home, - how vital it is to live out our faith everyday, what a difference it makes when we practise the presence of God.
Practical suggestions … after we have sung together.

Hy-Spirit Song
Practical Suggestions

1) Think of the last time you shared in
the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,
prepare for the next time you will
share. And then say grace at meal
times, sensing the real presence of
God with you in the sacrament of that

2) List all the activities you are
involved in during the week. On a
scale of 1 to 10 decide how well you
bring the presence of God into each
activity. Pray about it and see how
you can build you Christian life up.

3) Choose one day this week when
you will consciously do everything as
for God and ‘practise the presence of

4) In visiting someone who is not well
consciously think you are not only
bringing friendship and support but
you are yourself embodying the
presence of God.

5) Think of what you can do to help at
one or more events we are arranging
for the Big Welcome. Decide who you
can invite. Use our leaflets to make
some invitations.

6) Thinking of the Big Welcome and all
we do at Highbury think about what it
takes to be truly welcoming.
Show the video clip from the Big Welcome.
The top ten tips for welcoming

We looked at a video outlining ten tips for a welcoming church on the Big Welcome web site 

Introduction to the hymn

George Herbert, high flyer, linguist, musician, MP, fascinated with science, became a parish priest in Bemerton near Salisbury Cathedral and wrote poems to get his head round what his faith meant to him.

Wonderful collection – it finishes with half a dozen poems about death and dying and what’s beyond.  And just before he includes one poem he worked on considerably, revised, crafted.
He called it the Elixir and it captures the heart of his faith.

One verse about the new invention of the telescope.  It’s all about the infant study of chemistry – the search for something that will turn everything to gold – the elixir.

Teach me my God and King in all things thee to see

The Elixir

Teach me, my God and King,
         In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
         To do it as for Thee.

         Not rudely, as a beast,
         To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
         And give it his perfection.

         A man that looks on glass,
         On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
         And then the heav'n espy.

         All may of Thee partake:
         Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—"for Thy sake"—
         Will not grow bright and clean.

         A servant with this clause
         Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
         Makes that and th' action fine.

         This is the famous stone
         That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own

         Cannot for less be told.

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