Sunday, January 7, 2018

Belonging and Believing - a New Commitment for a New Year

Text for this week: Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Philippians 2:2

A Happy New Year!

Welcome to the first services of the New Year and a special welcome to any who are worshipping with us for the first time.

The Highbury Church family is made up of everyone who belongs … and everyone has a part to play, however small that part may seem to be.

Today we are inviting all who belong to the church family to make a fresh commitment to the life of the church.

All are welcome at our church ... and we hope all feel that they belong. We belong not because anyone at church has invited us, important though such an invitation can be! We belong because Jesus in his love for us invites us to belong and be part of his church family.

And so our service began as we all of us stood in a circle around the church, linked hands and shared our prayer concerns.

But Jesus asks us not just to belong to his family but to follow His Way just as he called the fishermen, James and John, Simon and Andrew, the tax collector, Levi, the Woman at the Well, Martha and Mary. And he invited people to believe.

There is the confident faith of a distraught Martha when her brother Lazarus had died.

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

There is the hesitant faith of the father who so wanted healing for his son.

the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ 

We invite all who feel at home with us in the church family to become church members by making a simple profession of faith in God and in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We welcomed a number of people who have joined us in recent years into church membership today. We asked those who have been church members over the years to renew their profession of faith.We invited those any who feel moved to make that profession of faith to have a word with one of our leadership team

At the heart of our Church family is the most basic of all statements of faith - that Jesus is our Lord and our Saviour.

We heard Paul's challenge in Philippians 2 and then read together his account of Jesus and his vision that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

Jesus Christ, though he was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
   and gave him the name
   that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
   every knee should bend,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
   that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father.

We invited those who joined today to sign our Church Membership book and those who were already members to sign a reaffirmation of their profession of faith. In our card marking church membership is a challenge to us all.

 Jesus said ...
“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

Therefore Church Members are called to ...

o worship God regularly with the whole Church family
o remember the covenant with God in the Lord’s Supper
o read the Bible and pray regularly
o share in the life and work of the Church Meeting gathered together in Christ’s name
o witness by the power of the Holy Spirit to the truth of the Gospel through what they are, what t            they do, and what they say.
o give their gifts of time, service and money to the work of the Kingdom as they are able

All the church family have been invited to join in reading the Bible together with the help of Fresh from the Word, the International Bible Reading Association's Bible reading notes. Nathan Eddy in his introduction to this year's notes explains the theme for the year. It has a particular appropriateness for us at Highbury as Felicity and I will be moving on this year and the church will soon be starting the process of seeking a new Minister.

It's the third year we have as a church family shared in a Bible reading programme through the year. As I began the notes this week for this year I found it very moving to see that this was the theme for the year - how important as the church seeks new leadership that that reflect not just what people want but much more what God wants for us. And where better to discern that than in seeking God's Word for our church in the words of the Bible?

This year we turn to the theme of leadership in our Bible  reading.
What does the Bible imagine good leadership to be?
What are the qualities of a good leader?
These are very timely questions we put to scripture, to God, and to you, this year.

As people of  faith we belive we can be part of the flourishing of our communities. We believe this can happen through reading and pondering the Bible; that God in the Spirit will work through our reading practice to help us be the leaders the world needs.

You can follow those Bible reading notes online by following this link.

n 21st January we are launching Giving for Growth as we invite all who belong at Highbury to reflect on the part we can play in the life of the Church. And at Explore on Tuesday evenings we will be focusing on the prayer that supports all we do individually, as a church family and in our mission and outreach.

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