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Text of the Week: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19-20
Welcome to our services on the first Sunday in Advent and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. It’s the vision we have for our church … but what happens when you put it into practice? That’s the question we’ll be asking through Advent as we seek to put Christ at the centre of our own lives, of our church life together and of our involvement with the world around us. We begin today by reflecting together on the way we can put Christ at the centre of our own lives. Through the year we have been reading the Bible together with the help of the IBRA notes, Fresh from the Word. If you would like to order notes for 2017 please add your name to the list or have a word with Rachel Jacques. Our Bible reading plan takes us in Advent through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Having Christ at the centre of our lives is for Paul the richest of all blessings as it unlocks for us what our lives are all about: it gives us an identity and a purpose for the living of our lives. This Thursday at our Church Meeting we will explore ways in which we can ensure that Christ is at the centre of our Church life together. Do join us as we then focus in our meeting on the children and young people in our church family.
Welcome and Call to Worship
Praise and Worship with Hy-Spirit
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
The First Advent Candle
Reading: John 10:9 and 11
The Good Shepherd
As we light the first of our Advent candles our prayers are with those of our church family who are awaiting treatment in hospital. As we put Christ at the centre of our lives we look to him as the Gate through which we enter into the presence of the love of God and as the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost, binds up those who are hurting and lays his life down for his sheep.
I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A Japanese Christian once reflected on what was needed in the tiger economies of the far East where in the drive for efficiency and growth people work all hours and children are pressured to reach targets in demanding exams. He concluded that what was needed was a water buffalo theology that slowed life down.
The Gospel of Christ brings with it a slowness that brings peace beyond all our understanding.
At our Messy Church last week we reflected on the Good Shepherd and for the meal had place mats with different versions of the 23rd Psalm.
This is one that is special.
The Lord is my Pace Setter, I shall not rush,
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals,
He provides me with images of stillness,
Which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
through calmness of mind; and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity,
by anointing my head with his oils of tranquility,
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruit of my hours,
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord,
and dwell in his house for ever.
A Hy-Spirit Song
Activities for all over 3
Christ at the Centre or our lives
To me it matters.
Having that other dimension in your life that is more than the material things we can see and posess.
Something that makes sense of life.
I guess for me that’s where religion comes in.
There is a God dimension in the world that somehow fills a God-shaped hole in my make-up.
Think of that the other way round – it’s as if there’s a God dimension inside me that makes a difference and is all important to me.
Maybe it’s a Goddimension that’s simply there something of God in everonee
I love exploring the thinking of that and what’s important.
I guess that’s what makes me a religious person.
But I find there’s more than that.
From simply acknowledging a religious dimension in my life I then feel I want to be aware of that – I want to bring that dimension to the surface as it were.
That’s where I value having as one part of what makes me a spirituality. That seems to me more than simply being religious.
In a very real sense that religious dimension can be felt, can be sensed but it is a matter of faith – and I recognize all sorts of relifioous people with all sorts of faith backgrounds and all sorts of faith.
Somehow having something to believe in is important.
It is often said – it’s important to believe in something – that’s the important thing.
It’s somethiing many people have an awareness of. Taking funerals you encounter all sorts of people with all sorts of ways of thinking – they will have involvd me in taking a funeral because they want something religious – and I think it’s one of the big priviledge I have that I am asked to share at an important oint in people’s lives.
You recognize and I hoonour somehow an innate sense of god – and a sense also of the spiritual.
But I feel thre’s a value in bringing it into life now.
Many peole sense the religious and are drawn to some kind of spirituality – a practice of meditation – the popularity of Mind and Spirit sections in bookshops – outweighing the religious sections.
I sense a need people sense of doing something spiritual. Different thjings come and go. At the moment it is mindfulness That involves deliberately being mindful of this present moment – and focusing on this moment.
Putting away thoughts of what has happened putting away thoughts of foreboding about what might happen and being mindful in the present.
Of tremendous value – and has made a difference I can see.
But something is missing for me.
The different religions share common values and I want to take a common stand on common ground – but those different religions are different. They have different focal points. And what you focus on seems to me to matter.
Yes I honour the right for everyone to believe as they see fit. But it’s not true to say that it’s ok so long as you believe in something. The outcome of this week’s court case was the declaration that the murder of Jo Cox was a terrorist murder – there are -isms people pin their whole lives to that are massively damaging and corrupting. What you believe matters.
What you focus on in the practice of your spirituatlity can make a difference too.
So how does all this work out for me as a Christian?
Increasingly I sense the importance of not just the Christian religion, not just faith in Christ, or the practice of prayer the Christian way – what is important to me is Jesus Christ – what counts is putting him at the centre of the living of my life.
Not as one interesting thing among others but as the One who makes sense of everything else.
What does it look like to put Christ at the centre of our personal lives?
Paul was a very religious person.
Paul had a very strong faith
He practiced a strong spirituality
But then something happened to make sense of the rest of his life.
An encounter with Jesus Christ.
He ended his life in prison where he wrote letters of support to churches he had visited and founded.
Among them was the church in Ephesus. The letter we have is the inspiration of what Paul had to share with that church - we are going to be reading Ephesians through Advent in Fresh from the Word.
Do order your new copies of Fresh from the Word from Rachel for 2017 and we shall continue reading together.
What does putting Jesus at the centre of our own personal lives mean/
This is what Paul addresses in Ephesians 1:3-14.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.
AS the stories of Christmas unfold and we focus again on the coming of Christ we can dig into the story of Jesus and see all he did – but as we touch Jesus we touch something beyond – the glory of God in all his glory.
There is a sense of touching the God who is love – and so these spiritual blessings draw us to the God who is love.
This is something that goes to the heart of the teaching of Jesaus it goes to the heart of all that Jesus means – it goes to the heart of all that we are.
He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
That wonderful swense of being family
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.
It’s a setting free – jesus who maps out the way we should follow but brings forgiveness as we fail to follow that path and thereby strengthens to keep at it.
With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
It is not just about following a person with a particular set of values – it is about transforming the whole of creation.
This is a dimension to Christ that makes us steward the wonder of God’s creation.
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.
A wonderful sense of purpose through Christ.
In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
Hear the word of truth – the gospel of your salvation
Believe in him
Marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit – that strength from beyond ourselves – the pledge of our inheritance – the down payment.
We can only rise to the call Christ gives and put him at the centre of our personal lives as we draw on a strength from beyond ourselves, the strength that is given in the Holy Spirit.
For me one way to bring that sense of the presence of Christ with us is to read the words of Psalm 23. I love the Authorised version which somehow captures the rhythms of spoken English that gives it a heart beat that touches our innermost being.
Words that are well worth committing to memory.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Song: The Lord’s my shepherd
Prayers of Concern
Longing for light,
Words of Blessing