Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take heart!

In our Holiday Club with St Luke's we have been having fun in Rocky’s Plaice, a fish restaurant a little bit like Fawlty Towers, and exploring the story of Simon Peter, the fisherman who was given the name ‘Peter’, the rock by Jesus.

Jesus turned to the disciples and asked them, “Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “On this rock I will build my church.”

And so our service begins in a spirit of praise and worship as Hy-Spirit lead us in singing …

A time of Praise and Worship with Hy-Spirit

Prayer – led by Robert …
The Lord’s Prayer

Psalm 95 – the congregation – led by Robert

Jesus called Peter ‘the Rock’ – often in the Psalms God is seen as the very rock of our salvation. I am going to read one of those psalms, Psalm 95, when I say the words
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
we all say together the words in capitals ---

We begin with that response …

O come, let us sing to the Lord;
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.---
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today we would listen to his voice!
O come, let us sing to the Lord;

At the heart of the faith we share is the conviction that Jesus Christ is none other than the Rock of our salvation … and so let us join in singing our next hymn …

Hymn: In Christ alone, my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my song

Rocky’s Plaice – the Story – Becky


Recap the story

Winnie – the sketch

Song: Jesus is the Rock

Peter’s Story

The Memory Verses

Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid!
I will be with you always to the end of the age

Rocky’s Plaice – the song

Talk – Richard

Jesus is the rock – he calls Peter the rock – then Peter turns to the stones – and suggests we are all living stones, held together by the corner stone – Jesus himself.

Lorraine is going to read some of the words Peter shared in a letter he wrote …

Reading: 1 Peter 2:1-5 and 9-10 - Lorraine

Rid yourselves, then, of all evil; no more lying or hypocrisy or jealousy or insulting language. 2 Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved. 3 As the scripture says, “You have found out for yourselves how kind the Lord is.”
4 Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. 5 Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.
But you are the chosen race, the King's priests, the holy nation, God's own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light.
At one time you were not God's people, but now you are his people; at one time you did not know God's mercy, but now you have received his mercy.

How can we be living stones?

Those three verses contain an invitation and then wonderful words of promise.

Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.

We follow Jesus … not for our own reward, but for the sake of other people.
Twice yesterday at Greenbelt African Ubuntu theology was mentioned.
Once, in a powerful and moving talk about dementia by a superb speaker from Aberdeen university, John Swinton – where James Gregory is studying - And the second time from Solomuza Babuza, a Lutheran minister.

We live in an individualistic society that owes so much to the European way of thinking that goes all the way back to Descartes – I think, therefore I am.
All too often that has led us to think of Christianity as all to do with the individual and individual salvation.

Africa thinks rather of people collectively – Ubuntu theology.
I am because you are.

Jesus doesn’t say Follow me and I will give you the best reward you can ever imagine. Jesus says,
Follow me and I will make you fish for people.
Follow me and you will live your life not for your own sake, but for the sake of other people.

How can we do that?

By holding on to two promises.

In the stormy moments, especially when we venture to do something that’s scary or that is on the verge of defeating let’s see Jesus stretching out his hand to us, taking hold of us securely, and saying
Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

And in those moments when we feel alone, let’s hold on to that promise of Jesus …

I am with you always to the end of the age.

introducing Jonathan

Happy Birthday to Sybil

Prayers – Yvonne

Hymn: Amazing Grace

Through every danger, trial and snare
I have already come;
his grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

Closing Prayer and Blessing

Thank you, Lord, for giving us Winnie
Thank you, Lord, for giving us Rocky
For the games we’ve played
For the friends we’ve made
Thank you, Lord, for giving us fun

May God’s joy be in our hearts
May God’s peace be in our world
May God’s love be known between us
And the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with us now and for ever more.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Faith, hope and love

What do you make of your mind?

Do you find sometimes that your mind is thinking about so many different things that it’s a bit like the spring in an old pocket watch – you wind it up to the point at which if it gets wound up any more it will reach its breaking point. You come to the point at which you are so wound up you need to unwind. That’s where taking a break, taking time out, a day to unwind. And that’s the value I have found over the years, not least this year of a good holiday. Time to unwind.

Change the analogy to a computer that has reached its capacity, and your mind is overloaded. It can’t take any more. Or maybe a racing analogy … and your mind is going to spin off.

It’s good to take time out, to clear out the cobwebs.

Then there comes a point when you need to gather up your thoughts.

There’s the time to get your mind into gear … and get it thinking straight.

Isn’t English full of vivid pictures?

Getting into gear, clearing out the cobwebs, wound up, unwind.

The mind mattered for Peter.

“Therefore, prepare your minds,” he writes in 1 Peter 1:13.

He was the kind of person who needed to get his mind around things. There was something about the figure of Jesus that had an immediate impact … Peter, or Simon as he was known among the fishermen on the northern shores of the sea of Galilee, left his nets and followed Jesus.

Jesus saw how important it was for Simon Peter and all the others to learn, to be ‘learners’, to be ‘disciples’. His teaching had an authority to it that impressed Simon Peter and the others – the stories he told, the way he explained things, the new way he opened up for them to follow. It made sense. The way you could wrap up all the law and the prophets in the one simple thought – do to others what you would have others do to you.

Peter thought he had got his mind round it when Jesus asked the disciples who people were saying he was, You are the Christ, the Messiah, the one we’ve been waiting for.

But Jesus knew Peter hadn’t got his mind round it enough – there were hard lessons to learn. Peter thought the Messiah would overturn the Roman power … Jesus came to open up a way through suffering for everyone to follow, a way that would take him to the cross, but beyond the cross to resurrection.

That was something Peter could not get his mind round.

Then three times he denied Jesus, and he wept bitterly.

What was going on? Too much for his mind to take.

And then back on the shore the risen Christ asked him three times, Do you love me?

The waiting over, that unseen yet very real power of God in Christ was felt by Peter – and then he got his mind into gear and rushing down the steps and on to the streets of Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost Peter it was who made sense of all that was happening and could see what Jesus meant.

But he still needed his mind stretching even more – he couldn’t take it in that this love of God in Christ was actually for everyone – Roman as much as Jew … and it took a vivid vision he had and a remarkable encounter with a Roman centurion to change the way his mind saw things.

He was very conscious of the way the followers of Jesus had been scattered far and wide and he wanted to share his thoughts, his inspiration with them.

And so it was he took pen to paper and this letter addressed to the exiles of the dispersion. Some have thought it unlikely that Peter could write in Greek. But he was one who was able to use his mind. Galilee was occupied by the Romans, he was in a key industry that was supplying the occupation with the fish they needed for their lavish life-style. Greek was the common language of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire. Peter not only spoke Aramaic, albeit with a north country Galilean accent, he could also read Hebrew as a devout Jew, and speak and indeed write in Greek. In all likelihood he would have got by in Latin as well.

He begins with that sweeping summing up of the faith that means the world to him.

And now he comes to that point at which he wants all who read what he has to say to ‘prepare their minds’.

The Greek he is writing in, no less than English, has its vivid way of speaking. And this is one moment when that vivid language comes into its own.

What he writes is this:

“Gird up the loins of your minds.”

Quite a vivid picture. A very basic, very physical image.

Gird up the loins of your minds.

What’s he getting at?

When you read what Peter has to say he has got his mind round who this Jesus is, what that means for his understanding of the world and of God. It’s taken Peter time … but I sense he wants us to get our minds round that too.

Through the teaching of Jesus, the love Jesus showed throughout his life, the death he shared and his resurrection Peter is convinced he has a window on to the God of creation.

In verse 20 he writes of Jesus Christ, He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for the sake of all Peter is writing to … us included. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

I believe it’s important to get your mind round such things. I find myself in awe of the wonder of the world, and I seek to make sense of it. I am drawn to the insights of cosmologists, evolutionists – and though no evidence can prove the existence of God, I am passionate that believing in God makes sense in the world we live in. It is believing. It is faith. But it is worthy of the best of minds and it makes sense.

Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, President of the Royal Society, comes to the end of his fascinating account of the six equations that make sense of the universe and he concludes there are three positions that can reasonably held, that in his view ‘make sense’ It just happened that way, this universe is one of a multiplicity of universes, a multiverse, or that’s how it was created by God. What is important to me is not that Martin Rees should subscribe to that view, but that he respects it as a view that can be reasonably held and that makes sense of the world we see.

More than that I think it is important to make sense of what it is that Jesus opens up about God – in verses 18 and 19, Peter homes in on something remarkable that came across to him through the death of Jesus. It was somehow because Jesus came alongside humanity at its bleakest, at its most God-forsaken, on the cross – ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and at that point brought forgiving love to the fore - ‘Father, forgive them …’ – that Jesus has become for Peter the one makes real in the lives of each of us the reality that the God of creation is the God of love who forgives and renews. Peter makes sense of that against the background of the world he knew of the Hebrew Scriptures and speaks of Jesus as that precious lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

This is the God of our faith – the God of immense, forgiving, love.

Then in verse 21 he moves beyond the death, to share the importance of resurrection. Christ comes alongside us and all of humanity, shares our suffering – so that at that point at which we are conscious of that suffering and feeling its pain ourselves, we know that we are not alone – God is there with us in the midst of it.

And the suffering, the pain, the death does not have the last word. Beyond is resurrection. It cannot be proved – but Peter knew its reality, and it is a reality we too can share – and so it is not only faith in God that we can have, but also hope.

Through Christ we can really come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that our faith are hope are set on God.

Gird up the loins of your mind. Get your mind around these things and share that faith, share that hope … and it makes a world of difference. That’s Peter’s conviction and that’s what I too want to share.

But there is one more thing in this phrase that we cannot lose sight of.

It is for Peter the most important thing.

Gird up the loins of your mind … and prepare your minds for action.

With your hope set firmly on that wonderful loving God disclosed by Christ, on the grace of Christ, discipline yourselves.

Haven’t the Robins got off to a good start! [I am writing this on Friday, so it may need amending by Sunday!!] Not only have they brought in some strikers who can score goals, but they have brought back the great Steve Book, Goalie in the Robins’ golden days of Wembley triumphs and promotion to the league. Coaching Steve Brown the current goalie he was quoted in the Echo this week as having full confidence in Scot Brown - but for Scot Brown it’s all in the mind. He needs more self-belief.

The headline says it all …

Steve Book: Scott Brown’s career could be a page-turner if he shows belief.

In sport it’s what’s in your mind that counts.

Prepare your mind for action.

Gird up the loins of your minds – discipline yourselves, obedience is called for – and the task is to model ourselves not on the values of the world around but on the love of God.

It is as if for Peter faith and hope as they point to God and to the truth that is at the very heart of the world from the beginning, have a cleansing, renewing thing that cleans us out from deep within, clears out all the cobwebs, and renews us … so that we can gird up our loins and prepare our minds for action … in what way – through what Peter describes as ‘genuine mutual love’.

What a wonderful turn of phrase.

That’s the action we need to take – inspired by a genuine mutual love, e are called upon to love one another deeply from the heart.

That means seeking out practical things to do – measuring what we do by the worth it gives not to us but to others – a particular person to see, tasks to be done that will make a difference to someone, maybe the Christian Aid appeal for the floods in Pakistan.

Let’s gird up the loins of our minds in faith, hope and above all in ‘genuine mutual love’, loving one another deeply from the heart.

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light