Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Word in the Words

The Word in the Words

Words and the Word
Words of wonder
Words to inspire
Words to challenge
Words to comfort
Words to strengthen
Words to correct
Words to direct
Words to enlighten
Words to hear
Words to follow
Words to guide
And in all those words
The Word of God

We welcomed the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides who are linked to Highbury to our morning service today.

The Beavers had had a sleepover and I had joined them on Saturday evening to do an astronomy evening looking at the stars.  Needless to say, the evening was cloudy and it was pouring with rain.  I got them acting out Taurus, the bull, being chased by Orion the hunter with the dog at his heels and a great Bear in the offing too!  Using Stellarium, a superb planetarium program you can find out more about on the astronomy pages of our highbury church web site!

In the early part of the service one of the Beavers read a prayer giving thanks to God against the backdrop of pictures of the Orion Nebula and stars in the making, the solar system, planet earth, the Voyager photo of planet earth as a tiny blue dot and the Hubble Telescipe deep field picture of countless galaxies.

Thank you God for the stars … even when we cannot see them!

Thank you God for the sun that gives us light and life

Thank you God for the world we live in

Thank you God for such a beautiful world

Thank you God for looking after us even though we are so small

Thank you God for all your creation

Thank you God that you are a great big God

Thank you God that you care for each one of us

Help us to look after your world

Help us to help each other

Now and always


We then shared in a responsive reading of the Magnificat.

My heart praises the Lord;

my soul is glad because of God my Saviour,
for he has remembered me, his lowly servant!
From now on all people will call me happy,
because of the great things the Mighty God has done for me.

My heart praises the Lord;

His name is holy;
from one generation to another
he shows mercy to those who honour him.

My heart praises the Lord;

He has stretched out his mighty arm
and scattered the proud with all their plans.
He has brought down mighty kings from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away with empty hands.

My heart praises the Lord;

He has kept the promise he made to our ancestors,
and has come to the help of his servant Israel.
He has remembered to show mercy to Abraham
and to all his descendants forever!

My heart praises the Lord;

I got the youngsters to describe the book they use in Beavers, in Cubs, in Scouts, in Brownies and in Guides that sets out the program they follow.

I went on to say that in church we use the Bible as our handbook.

I had a variety of Bibles on display on the Communion Table, including a Hebrew Old Testament, a Greek New Testament, a King James Bible from the 1700's, a John Wesley New Testament, a Message Bible and a Street Bible.

I then got everyone to look at a copy of the church bibles.

We started by looking at the cover of our Good News Bible with its wonderful logo.

It can mean lots of things: one of the best interpretations is that it shows four people reading the Bible with the cross at the centre!  I spoke of the way we need to open the Bible and read it for it to be of any value.

And then we found the start and finish of the Old Testament and the start of the New Testament.

We then looked at the very last verse of Matthew's gospel, the first verse of Mark's gospel, the opening verses of Luke's gospel and the last verses of chapter 20 of John's gospel.

Just as you can tell what a modern book is about by reading the blurb on the very back cover or by looking at the opening sentence, so too you can see what each of the Gospels is about by looking to the beginning or the end!

Matthew's gospel provides you with all you need to know about the teaching and the commandments of Jesus.

Mark's gospel really is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and we need to continue the story in the living of our lives.

Luke, the doctor, has researched his gospel using reliable documents and eye-witness accounts so that a 'friend of God' can have an ordered account of all that happened in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

 And John's gospel is written so that we can know come to believe in Jesus Christ, and in believing have eternal life!

I then asked people to take a look at four pictures and work out what was common between them.

I recalled that at our Parade service in March, Matthew had asked us to remember in our prayers Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton player who had been taken ill and virtually died in a match against Spurs the previous day.

I had come across an account on the Bible Society web site of an interview Fabrice Muamba had recently given on Radio 5 Live.

Fabrice Muamba was on a BBC Radio 5Live special talking about his recovery from a heart attack.
In the half-hour-long interview, Muamba spoke to Reading striker Jason Roberts about how he's coming to terms with the situation – having suffered a heart attack on the pitch, technically died, made a remarkable recovery, and been told he'll never play football again – and the role of faith in his life.
At one point, the conversation turned to the Bible:

Roberts: Shauna (Muamba's then fiancée, now wife) said that she read Psalms to you every day, because you read the Bible every day. Did you hear any of them?

Muamba: ...she sat next to me and she read the Bible [to] me...Whenever it came to about 8 o'clock or 9 o'clock, everybody would have to leave my room...she would read a Psalm and then my dad would come in and we would all pray together...that's how my evening was every single day.

He went on to add 'you can't carry your car with you, you can't carry your wallet with you, you can't carry your money with you...but your family and God, what's important – that's always going to be important.'

How powerful the Psalms are.  

We went on to sing Stuart Townend's wonderful setting of Psalm 23.  Those words too speak into so many situations.

The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want.
He makes me lie in pastures green.
He leads me by the still, still waters,
His goodness restores my soul.

And I will trust in You alone.
And I will trust in You alone,
For Your endless mercy follows me,
Your goodness will lead me home.

He guides my ways in righteousness,

And He anoints my head with oil,
And my cup, it overflows with joy,
I feast on His pure delights.


And though I walk the darkest path,
I will not fear the evil one,
For You are with me, and Your rod and staff
Are the comfort I need to know. 

Stuart Townend

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Look to Jesus and what do you see?

In the opening chapters of John's Gospel a number of people look to Jesus and see him in all sorts of different lights.  By the end of the chapter we can see just who Jesus is and what he means for us all.

The following meditative prayer is based on John chapter 1 it was on the cover of our Order of Service Sheet today.

Looking to Jesus - Living for Jesus

Look to Jesus and see 
In all his words the Word of God
In all his life a light shining in the darkness
In all his deeds glory full of grace and truth
In all his love the Lamb of God
In all his thoughts the wisest of teachers
In all his humanity one just like us
In all his authority the Son of God, the King
In all  his being the One
The One who spans earth and heaven
The One who brings earth down to heaven
The One who raises earth to heaven
Look to Jesus and see
See the One worth living for

Janet led our prayers of concern

In our prayers this morning we are going to begin with a few moments of stillness, and then share in prayer for ourselves and our own needs.  We shall then join in singing Song 23 as a response.

We shall then pray for our church and its needs and for our church family, singing Song 24 as a response.

We shall then pray for the wider world and its needs.

And so let’s begin our time of prayer with a few moments of stillness

[Pause for a few moments of quiet]

Lord Jesus Christ,
You look into our hearts and see us as we are
You look into our hearts and you love us as we are.
You know our joys and our troubles, our hopes and our fears
Reach out and touch us at the point at which we need your touch most.

Should we be facing times of anxiety at home or at work,
Grant us your peace and your strengthening
Should we be facing times of ill health
Grant us your healing and that wholeness you alone can give
Should we be facing times of sadness in bereavement
Grant us your comfort and your blessing

Lord Jesus Christ,
Fill us with the love, the joy, the peace, the power of your Holy Spirit
That we may know we are not alone, but you are ever with us.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me,
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me,
Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me –
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

[Having spoken those words, pause for Mary to accompany the singing of that verse]

Lord Jesus Christ,
You look into our church and see us as we are
You look into our church and you love us as we are.
You know our joys and our troubles, our hopes and our fears
Reach out and touch us at the point at which we need your touch most.

As we seek the renewal of our church
Grant wisdom to our deacons as they guide us through a time of change
Grant each of us a willingness to share the gifts we have to build up the body of Christ

As we seek to develop our mission and our outreach
Grant your blessing on our Community Café, on Transformers, Hy-Tec, Hy-Speed
Grant your blessing on the partnerships we share across the world
            With Stefan and Birgit as they enjoy the rest of their leave
            With Children’s Homes in Kerala State as we develop our links with them
            Through the Council for World Mission and our mission partnership

As we seek to deepen our own personal faith and prayer
Grant us an openness to one another that enables us to support each other
And be close to those who are sad at this moment, thinking especially of James and Chris following the death of Chris’s mother, Agnes.
Be close to those who would love to be here with us but cannot because of ill health, thinking especially of Joan Lee and others in our thoughts

Lord Jesus Christ,
Fill our church with the love, the joy, the peace, the power of your Holy Spirit
That we may work together to your glory

Spirit of the living God, move among us all;
Make us one in heart and mind, make us one in love:
Humble, caring, selfless, sharing –
Spirit of the living God, fill our lives with love!

[Having spoken those words, pause for Mary to accompany the singing of that verse]

Lord Jesus Christ,
You look into our world and see it as it is
You look into our world you love it as it is.
You know its joys and its troubles, its hopes and its fears
Reach out to a world of need and touch it where that touch is needed most.

Bless the community of our town – we pray especially for the Police service and the new Police and Crime Commissioner, for County Community Projects and all who work for those who are most vulnerable. Be with all who seek to make our town a safe place to live and a supportive, caring community.

We pray especially at this time for those who are in prison and for those who work in our prisons and for the victims of crime.  We pray for the Knole and for the work of Langley House trust among ex-offenders.

We pray today for the people of Palestine and Israel that violence may cease: grant wisdom to those who work for peace and a just settlement.  We pray for the people of Syria and for peace to come to that troubled region.

Lord Jesus Christ, we pray especially for your people,
those who follow your way in all the world
May we together be ambassadors for you,
Sharing a ministry of reconciliation
That on earth as in heaven, your will may be done.

All for Jesus, all for Jesus!
This our song shall ever be:
You our only hope, our saviour,
Yours the love that sets us free!

Let’s draw this time of prayer to a close as we stand to sing All for Jesus.

Look to Jesus and what do you see?

At the national slate museum of Wales in Llanberis below the Dinorwic quarries where my great grandfather was a quarryman you can look across the valley and Llyn Padarn and look again until you can make out in the contours of the hill side the Lady of Snowdon.   The majestic profile of a dignified lady, a princess maybe.  You can look and look and not see.  But once you have seen it you will see it forever!

There’s this Sunday and next and then we have the four Sundays of Advent that lead us to Christmas.  Plans are already being made.  Shopping lights lit.  Cards purchased.  Presents bought.

I wonder whether we can take time in this season of preparation to look once again at Jesus.  I wonder whether we can do more than look.  Can we be on the look out for something to see.  As we look, may it be our prayer that we can see.  Maybe see with new eyes.

Look at Jesus and what do you see?

John’s gospel opens as people look to Jesus.  As they look to Jesus they see with new eyes.  And as they see it makes a world of difference to them all.

John the Baptist is the first.  He’s known Jesus.  He has baptized Jesus.  And the very next day he saw Jesus coming towards him.

 And he saw Jesus with new eyes. 

Look, he said to those around him. 

Behold!  The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Here we are.  Looking towards the front of the church.  Engaged in differing measure.  Coming to meet good friends.  A warm place to sit.  An interesting talk.  Fun with the children.  We look at the cross.  Lovely piece of wood.  And a table prepared with bread we shall hold and look at and eat.  And a cup to take in our hands and look at and drink from.  What are we looking to see?

The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus the one who comes into the messiness and awfulness and horrors of the world to be a transformative power that takes away the stuff that separates us from all that is of God.

John had seen something in Jesus – a power, a strength, a presence that was nothing less than the presence of God – “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and it rested on him.  I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.

Lamb of God.  Spirit of God.  Son of God.

As Christmas approaches let’s put to one side all those theories, arguments, ideas about God.  Let’s put to one side the philosophizing, the debating, the arguing.

Instead let’s look to Jesus and see in Jesus God – not a distant God, out there beyond the universe, detached, some vague first principle.  But God who comes into the world alongside people in their suffering, to abide with  them through good times and bad times to bestow upon them a strength that on their own they cannot muster, to be to them a loving Father who cares and will not let them down.

Look to Jesus and see God to be the one who abides with us come what may … and that is something we cannot keep to ourselves.  Neither could John.

The next day John was standing with two of his disciples.  He watched Jesus walk by.  And exclaimed ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God.

Once you have seen it you cannot keep it to yourself.   Anyone who happens to be with me I will want to share it with – look can’t you see – the Lady of Snowdon!

John shared it with his disciples.  And they got it.  They followed Jesus.

As John’s story unfolds at this point something remarkable and wonderful happens.

Jesus turned and saw them following.

It is very easy to imagine that faith is a matter of us searching, us looking, us hoping to see.   As we dig into the story of Jesus in the opening words of John’s gospel, something else emerges.

Jesus is also looking.  He sees and he has a question he asks those two followers of John the Baptist.

“What are you looking for?”

Have you ever sensed that someone is looking at you?   You turn and catch their eye.

What are we expecting as we come to church and share together here.  Whatever it is that we are expecting, can we for a moment see in our mind’s eye that just as he did then, so Jesus does no.

Jesus sees us.  He looks at us.  And he asks us something very personal …

What are you looking for?

What would be your response?

The response the two make is telling.

Rabbi – that means teacher.  They see in Jesus one who teaches with wisdom and with authority – that’s what has drawn them to be disciples of John the Baptist – the power of his teaching.  They recognise that even more so in Jesus.

Teacher, where do you abide?

And then Jesus says to them,  “Come and see.”

They came and saw where he did abide.  And they abided with him that day.

I love that thought.  Let’s transfer this into our service today.

The invitation is there for us to use our imagination, to see with that inward eye.   Imagine.  Maybe a picture of Jesus.  Imagine the figure of Christ.

He turns and sees that we have come here this morning.

And he asks us that question.

What are you looking for?

Let’s make their response our response.

Teacher – let’s acknowledge him as the great teacher … but then let’s ask that next question.  Where do you abide?

Where are you?  Where can we find you in this troubled and troubling world?  Where are you going to be?  Where are you going to stay?  Where are you going to remain?

Then let’s here Jesus say to us.


Those are the words to listen out for as we take communion.

Come to me all you that labour and are heavy laden.

Come and see.

This s where we are invited to take that step of faith.  Venturing out.

They came  and saw where he did abide and they abided with him that day.

Let’s come into the presence of Christ, realise that he promises to abide with us through this day, on into the days to come, through this week, on into the weeks to come.  He promises to remain with us to stay with us to abide with us, to be with us to the end of the age.

There is a comfort, a strengthening to share when we gather together especially around this table in communion.

So what do we do about it?

The story suggests there’s something to be done.

One of those two remains un-named – and many suppose him to be the one writing the gospel.  The other is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  So what does Andrew do?

He couldn’t keep things to himself.

He first found his brother Simon and said to him, We have found the Messiah (that means the one who is anointed, the one who brings in God’s rule).

He brought Simon to him.  And Jesus looked at Simon … and the whole thing starts again.

Now that’s a challenge to us.

Look and see.  Find Christ Jesus looks and sees.  And as we discover anew what it is to abide in his presence this is something to share.

The next day Jesus goes to Galilee – meets with Philip from the same town as Andrew and Simon Peter.  Philip finds Nathanael who can’t believe anything good can come from Nazareth.

And so Philip says, Come and see.

Nathanael comes … and what happens?  Nathanael discovers that Jesus is looking out for him and sees him.

Teacher, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.

Then comes the greatest promise of all.

You will see heaven coming down to earth, and earth going up to heaven – and the One who brings heaven down to earth, the one who takes earth up to heaven … is the Son of Man in all his glory.

Come looking.


And find that Jesus is also looking. He also sees.

Abide in him as he abides in us … and then pass it on.  Share it with others.

At Communion

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed,

‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

We too have followed Jesus.
He turns and sees us following and asks of us that same question.

 ‘What are you looking for?’

They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher),
‘where do you abide?’ 

He said to them, ‘Come and see.’

Jesus speaks those very words to us this day.

Come and see.

 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

They came and saw where he was abiding,
and they did abide with him that day. 

Let’s hear again those words of Jesus.

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.
 Abide in me as I abide in you.
Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,
 neither can you unless you abide in me. 
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,
because apart from me you can do nothing. 

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you;
abide in my love. 

‘This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

For the Healing of the Nations - a Remembrance Sunday Sermon

It’s a word that trips off the tongue very easily.

It’s a word that is much misunderstood.

It’s a word that’s been in the headlines recently

It’s a word that comes to mind all too readily on Remembrance Sunday.

It appeared in the headlines as Hurrican Stanley hit New York.

It could have appeared in the headlines as Hurricane Stanley hit Haiti had there been many headlines when that storm hit the Caribbean.

It has often been used to accompany photographs of the Somme and the other killing fields of the First World War.

It has often been used to describe the devastation of Hiroshima, the horror of Coventry, the killing factories of the holocaust.

It was used of those photos of napalm in the Vietnam war.

It comes to mind now as news breaks of yet more killing in Afghanistan.

The word is ‘apocalyptic’.

It’s a powerful word because it somehow sums up the sheer awfulness of destruction at the hands of the elements and far worse as a consequence of man’s inhumanity to man.

In the middle of the destruction it seems as if it’s the end of the world.

In the middle of that First World War, in the middle of the second world war, in the middle of the Holocaust … and for those caught up in the middle of the war in Afghanistan it must feel as if it is the end of the world.

Apocalyptic indeed.

When such images and such memories fill us with dread and we feel as if the world is falling apart the scenes we think about are ‘apocalyptic’ indeed.

I wonder whether on Remembrance Sunday it is helpful for us in a service specially for Remembrance Sunday to explore a little more what that word means.

For it is a word that’s easy to misunderstand.

Those scenes of utter destruction, that make you feel as if the world is coming to an end are thought of as ‘apocalyptic’ because they are reminiscent of a certain kind of writing that talks of the end of the world and depicts scenes of horror and of carnage.  The kind of writing that’s in our Bibles not just in the book of Revelation that is known as the Apocalypse, but also in books like Daniel and even in the Gospels.

I have a feeling it’s worth re-visiting what is going on in a book like the book of Revelation, the Apocalypse – if we can uncover something of the riches of that particular word we may have something that helps us get our mind round the sheer horror of war and the awfulness of what is going on in the world at the moment in the wars that rage in the middle east that seem to show no promise of positive outcome and seem potentially so apocalyptic.

The book of Revelation has been read in all sorts of ways, and often in such a way as to be positively unhelpful.  There is a way of reading the Book of Revelation, however, that is, I believe immensely helpful to us when faced with situations that seem to be so apocalyptic.

That way of reading hinges on the meaning of the word ‘apocalypse’ and what is going on when the Book of  Revelation describes the horrors it describes.

Literally the word ‘apocalyspe’ means ‘uncovering what is hidden’, ‘disclosing what is secret’.

The Book of Revelation as it makes clear at the beginning is all about the visions that a particular individual by the name of John had when facing terrifying circumstances.  The brute ugliness of the Roman power in the Mediterranean world had hit new lows with bouts of persecution directed at the followers of Jesus.

It is in one of these bouts of destructive persecution that John is exiled to the island of Patmos.  In the middle of his terrifying situation he writes in a coded kind of language.

What he writes is set at the end of times … but that is not to say the vision and the book is about what happens at the end of the world.  Set at the end of times his vision speaks into the current situation John finds himself in.  Written almost in a kind of coded language what he sets out to do is to give h is own analysis of what is really going on in the circumstances he finds himself in.

By describing these larger than life visions of what happens at the end of time he is actually seeking to provide his readers with a way of understanding what’s really going on around them in all the horrific events they witness.

It is as if there is a massive battle going on amongst all the powers that be in the heavenly realms that parallels the awfulness of all that happens on earth.  This is where you have to take care.  What is happening in the world around him is not a war between the forces of Christ and the forces of Rome – it is a persecution of the followers of Jesus.

The key points of victory as John in his vision glimpses the reality of the heavenly world is in the Lion that becomees a lamb and is slain – the death and the resurrection of Christ.

That pathway through suffering opens up the secret of God’s world and shows that through the awfulness, the apocalyptic events the contemporaries of John are going through there is an ultimate victory for God that will be made real.

It is a passionate plea for hope against all the odds in a God who will bring to fulfilment his purposes for the world.

The battles escalate – until the final resolution comes and John sees in his vision a new heaven and a new earth coming down from God as a bride adorned for her husband.

And the shape of that new heaven and that new earth is not just to give a sense of hope in a world beyondthe world we see: it is to show us how things are when all  is right in the new world of God’s creation.

If that is as it is in God’s way … then it has implications for what we do in the middle of the mess that is the world with all its apocalyptic goings on.

If in that new heaven and that new earth God will wipe away every tear fro mour eyes and mourning and crying and pain will be no more … then our task is wipe the eyes of those who weep now, to comfort those who mourn to alleviate the pain of those who hurt.

The vision goes on to speak of the immediacy of God’s presence let loose in that world – our task is to bring that presence into the midst of the pain of this world.

And then comes that wonderful vision of the water of life and the tree of life with its leaves for the healing of the nations.

If that is the vision John has of the new heaven and the new earth that is what we need to be shasring here and now.

Revelation shows us what is really going on in our world too.  And indeed in the world of every generation.  It is not telling us that the end of the world is approaching.

It offers us the hope that God’s victory is ultimately assured no matter the awfulness of what goes on.

That is not to be used to claim in battles we are engaged in that God is on our side.

Rather it is to be used as an indication of what we should be doing in the here and now.

In the face of conflict to bring comfort and healing.  And in any war situation to be seeking peace and the healing of the nations.

We honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in war as we recommit ourselves to the search for peace and the alleviation of suffering.

And that calls for political wisdom – a rejection of a blind assertion that God will always be on our side, and a determination to address the issues in the way we influence our political leaders and commit to the alleviation of pain and suffering wherever it may be.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Christ in All Things

What’s special about Highbury?

We came up with our six themes – a welcoming church, pastoral care, worship and prayer, mission, child-friendly, inclusive and diverse.

So what do we need to focus on for the future.  And at our Highbury@home weekend we came up with three things to focus on.

Mission and outreach
Personal faith and prayer
Renewal and gifts

And since the weekend we have got down to it.

Renewal and gifts – growth comes with pruning, was one of the comments made by the group that focused on that.   The deacons shared with Thursday’s church meeting the sense that has emerged in a number of different parts of our church life that how we structure the life of our church needs looking at again.  It’s not enough just to tweak the present structures to make them function better, we need to re-imagine how our church life works.  At our church meeting we set out a time frame to do just that – and we’ve begun by researching the experience of other churches, and by drawing on expertise from outside our church family.  We have set a timeline that will help us to address these important issues without sidetracking us from what church is all about.  By the time of our next church meeting at the beginning of January we hope to be able to do a first sketch of where we can be going together.  As someone said at the church meeting – it’s good to have such a positive feeling in going forward.

Renewal of structures is closely linked with the gifts that every single one of us has and the way we harness all those gifts – that will be something we are going to look at in our Sunday services in the New Year.

Mission and Outreach was another of those focal points.  There are things we can act on immediately – at our weekend people opted for different areas of concern – one group formed to look at renewal and gifts.  And we needed two groups to look at mission and outreach.  In her church family prayer at the start of our church meeting Diana prayed that we might be a mission centred church, with mission and outreach at the heart of all we do.

It was great having our weekend away at home, but next June we are going to go away for the weekend to Brunel Manor once again.  Now is the time to be taking bookings – and Lorraine is the one to receive those bookings.  What are we going to focus on?  We are going to focus on what it takes to be a mission-centred church.

Two of our young people, Adam and Matthew, wanted to lead one of those groups – and they did with a wisdom that impressed greatly one of the older members of the church.  They wanted to develop a child sponsorship link as they did at school – that fitted with thinking others had shared earlier … and so with Carolyn’s help the M’Ocean group are going to set up a child sponsorship link with CHIKS.

Thanks to Sue’s involvement we have built up quite a link with Children’s Homes in Kerala State over the years.  It was great to welcome Robin Radley earlier in the year and of real concern to hear how the financial climate has impacted on CHIKS.  So it felt right at the Church Meeting to give our Christmas Collection once again to CHIKS.  A very real on-going support.

How do we share our faith – one of our mission initiatives is Hy-Speed – helping us to reach out to men.  That meets again on Saturday and again is in need of something that arose in the other two group s that met.

Focusing on personal faith and prayer, one of those groups made the observation that it was important to pray very specifically for initiatives in the church.   May we pray specifically for the group looking at that re-structuring – if Hy-Speed is all about relational evangelism, then our prayer should be for those relationships Hy-Speed can develop.

Again, there’s one thing we can develop straight away in the context of Personal Faith and Prayer.

It’s important to run an Alpha course or something similar, commented one group.

And that’s exactly what we have beginning for five weeks on Tuesday evening.

And that brings me to a comment made again to me only a couple of weeks ago.

Of all the words we chose to describe what’s special about Highbury we didn’t mention ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’.

Maybe that’s because that’s what it is all about!  Something we all took for granted.

But there again, the things we take for granted, we need to be reminded of from time to time! They are precisely the things we can so easily take so for granted that we forget all about them.

It’s interesting to come back to that course that’s starting on Tuesday.  It’s a new course that has been put together by Suzanne Nockels from our Market Harborough church specially to explore church membership and what it means to belong to a Congregational Church.

And what should the course be called but ‘Christ in all things’.

“ ‘all’ is such a little word but of course it has a huge scope, writes Suzanne at the beginning of the booklet.

“Throughout Paul’s letters he talks of Christ coming before ‘all things’, bringing unity to ‘all things’, and that ‘all things’ are placed under his feet.

‘All’ implies no exceptions, there is no ‘everything but’ in ‘all’.

It is a short but massive word.

The local church is this wonderful set of people that tries by God’s grace to place Jesus ‘b efore’ and above ‘all things’.

It’s not easy, there are often set-backs and mistakes, but the life of Christ CAN be seen in the character and actions of a local church.

It can reveal ‘the fullness of him who fills everyting in every way.”

That’s what belonging to church is all about.

Christ in all things: Christ our head, Christ our hearts, Christ our minds, Christ our hands in giving, serving Christ together.

Christ in all things.

The course takes as its starting point a verse from Ephesians 1:22

God placed ALL things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

In presenting our plans for now and the future in the followup to our Highbury@home weekend I found myself turning to that wonderful prayer of Paul’s in Ephesians 3 from verse 14.

I have always felt it a wonderful prayer for that particular church in Ephesus, for any church since, and in particular for our church now and in the future.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 

We cannot ‘go it alone’ we need a strength from beyond ourselves, this is that power of God, unseen and yet so real in the Holy Spirit.

I pray … that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 

Faith is not just something cerebral – that enables us to come to the conclusion that we can believe in God.  Faith has to do with the mind AND the heart.   The living Christ is not something we believe in from long ago: it is a presence that comes deep within our hearts … and then it makes a difference to our lives.

I love that image – rooted and grounded.  It is something is earthed – made real down on the ground in active love.

Having Christ in our hearts means being rooted and grounded in love.

Then comes that remarkable set of phrases that have inspired so many prayers, so much thought – and is so powerful.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Above, beneath, around, within – the love of Christ – it is that love that fills us with all the fullness of God.

Love is at the heart of it all.  A love released in the presence of the Christ who is in all things.

Then comes a wonderful summing up, a doxology that gives God all the glory.

 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,

I just want to stop there.  Usually I skim through those words to get to the climax of the prayer.  But as we have been thinking about the life of the church in recent months, weeks and days I have found myself coming back to this verse quite unexpectedly.

We asked the question at the  Deacons meeting, do we need to tweak what we do in order to do it more effectively, or do we need to re-imagine the life and structure of our church.

We sensed we needed to re-imagine.

And that process of ‘imagining’ is for Paul prayer.

We are used to Paul and so many linking the idea of prayer to the process of ‘asking’, but not so used to linking prayer with the idea of imagining.

We are encouraged to ‘imagine’ things as they might be.  And as we have that picture in our mind’s eye so we put that picture into God’s hands sure in the knowledge that he has the capacity by the power at work within us … to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can…  imagine

 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. 

So as now we turn to focus on mission and outreach, renewal and gifts and on personal faith and prayer may we see Christ in all things and make this our prayer.

Christ in all things
Alive in our hearts
Bearing fruit in our lives
May we be rooted and grounded in love.
Over all things, beneath all things
Ahead of all things. behind all things
Deep within all things
May we know the love of Christ
And so be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who
by the power at work within us
is able to accomplish abundantly
far more than all we can ask or imagine,
to him be glory in the church
and in Christ Jesus
to all generations for ever and ever Amen.

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