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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sharing God's Love

This was the sermon shared by Karen on Sunday 16th November - the fifth spoke of the wheel - sharing God's love.

Six Spokes of the Wheel - Sharing God's Love with Others (Word-Centred Life)
Luke 4:16-21, 42-44

Presence of Jesus ...
Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth, the town where he grew up, and announced that this was the time that the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2) had promised long ago - the time the whole nation was waiting for - the time when the Lord would save his people.

It was great drama. Jesus' old neighbours were sitting there - those who knew him as a boy - those he had done carpentry work for - perhaps some extended family. They had heard the gossip about what Jesus had been doing elsewhere but now they wanted to hear what he's got to say for himself back home in Nazareth.

Someone handed Jesus the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he unfurled it and read
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor and proclaim freedom for captives, sight for the blind, release for the oppressed ... the Lord's favour.

In one way Jesus was continuing a long tradition. From the very beginning God had tried to communicate with lost humankind through the spoken and written word. From the beginning humankind had been afflicted by sin - the self-centred, self-elevation condition of the heart which causes suffering, hurt, broken relationship and, as we remembered last week, industrial-scale wars. Sin causes separation from each other and separation from God, leading to decay and death.

God loved lost humankind too much to leave people in suffering and sin. From the beginning he tried to call them back to himself. When Adam and Eve turned away from God and hid in the Garden of Eden, God called out trying to find them. Through the centuries God chose leaders, messengers and prophets to reveal himself and his love for his people - Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, prophets such as Isaiah himself - a long line of often colourful characters which ended with John the Baptist.

So, in one way it was the same as before when Jesus read the scroll but in another way it was completely different. When Jesus sat down the townsfolk pressed him to say more and to their shock, Jesus said that Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled right there in their presence - in that synagogue - in their hearing - as Jesus spoke.

This was different. This was the pivotal point in human history. God had come to earth himself in Jesus - Jesus who had been with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity of God, from the beginning of time. Now he was here on earth. This time the messenger was the message. Jesus is the Living Word - his presence communicates the love of God. Jesus presence is Good News.

 ... brings Transformation
So what does this Good News entail? Why is it good news? Jesus proclaimed sight for the blind, freedom for captives, release for the oppressed - Transformation. Jesus brought transforming love.

We talked about transforming love earlier in the year, when we considered the so-called Parable of the Prodigal Son parable and more recently on the Prodigal God course. The father in the parable welcomes his errant younger son back home despite his earlier transgressions - his sin. The father throws a great party in the son's honour - the lost is found - the hungry is fed - the separated joined - transformation - outrageous transforming love.

... as Revealed in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Jesus wasn't accepted in his home town Nazareth but he travelled around the neighbouring towns and countryside, bringing Good News. He healed the sick, welcomed the outcast, challenged people with stories and teachings about God. Jesus wasn't self-centred and self-elevating - he didn't suffer from sin like everyone else. Wherever he went Jesus reached out to others and always glorified his Father God not himself.

And Jesus is Good News for us still today. The Good News didn't end when Jesus died because his death was different from everyone else's. Jesus wasn't afflicted by sin, decay and death like the rest of us but even as he died on the cross, still showed love for those around him. And God raised Jesus to life again three days later to prove that his transforming love was greater than death itself.

After his death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' followers preached about him and demonstrated his love to others. People were affected by what they experienced - 3000 repented of their former ways on the Day of Pentecost. More and more people experienced God's transforming love and forgiveness themselves. God gave them his Holy Spirit to help them change. They had a new start - a new life in Christ.

Jesus followers came to understand that Jesus covered the cost of all human sin on the cross - the sinless one died for the sinful that the sinful might go free. God raised Jesus to life again three days afterwards. He broke the cycle of separation and death. Jesus followers wrote about him - the New Testament gospel accounts and letters we have in today - and spoke about him and witnessed to his continuing transforming presence in their lives.

We've included some definitions on the service sheet. Not all Christians agree on every word but these are our definitions to help us at Highbury now.

Repentance - a change of heart, mind and direction
Repentance is a turning - a change from elevating ourselves to elevating Jesus - a change from putting ourselves at the centre to putting Jesus at the centre. Each of us need to make the good news our own, thanking Jesus for what he has done for us and welcoming him into our hearts and lives.

Repentance can happen in different ways ...

Someone lent me a fictional novel once called "Never Ending Story". In the novel a boy is given a book about a faraway fantasy land that needs help. As the book progresses the dynamic of the story starts to change - subtly at first but then more strongly. Eventually the boy goes into the fantasy story he is reading and has amazing adventures there.

Repentance can be gradual like the "Never Ending Story" - we start to hear about Jesus and experience Christian love and then gradually the good news becomes a part of us and we know Jesus' presence for ourselves - we become part of the good news story.

Or repentance can be a special moment of clarity at a particular point in time, when we suddenly realise what Jesus has done for us and know his forgiveness. Having spent some year away from the church as a teenager, trying to have nothing to do with God, I experienced such a moment on Good Friday 1976 and it remains very special to me still.

Mission - to make the good news/gospel known.
Just like Jesus' first followers, as we "join the story" and know Jesus ourselves, we have a role in making the good news/gospel known to others.

Different bibles translate Luke 4:18 differently. Some say Jesus preached good news whilst others say he brought good news. The Greek word isn't the standard word that means to preach or proclaim, but another very common New Testament word which means "to evangel". "Evangel" is good news so the noun becomes a verb - "to good news". We must share the gospel story about what Jesus has done in history, of course, and our stories about what he continues to do now but "to good news" means more than words. We must also share God's love and Jesus, the Living Word, alive in us and amongst us now.

Personal Testimony
I could include many sermon illustrations about Christians who have helped me to understand the good news though word and deed and character, but this one personal testimony.

A few years ago, I met a Christian lady at a family funeral. My father was the youngest of a large, poor, family with minimal contact with church. This lady lived across the road and she had taken him to Sunday School as a small boy.

Years later the church up the road - Buckland Congregational Church, Portsmouth - helped his family more and then, very bravely, let the social services run a youth club on its premises. Both my father and mother attended the youth club as teenagers and met there. Both were so impressed with the leader that they eventually started going to church on Sundays too where they learnt more about Jesus. Eventually, my Dad went to Church Membership Classes and came to faith himself. He went on to lead Sunday School and the Youth Club in that church. He became a deacon and after we moved to Bath, he became Church Secretary. A long way to travel. Transformation.

And, of course, without the lady who took my Dad to Sunday School, the church that let a youth club use its premises, the Christian youth club leader and those who taught my parents the faith, I wouldn't be standing here today. I wouldn't be the person I am.

Thank God for all those who have shared the good news with us. Help us to share God's love too.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Making a difference in the world

When Karen and I were planning this set of sermons exploring the way our Christian lives can be shaped and built up we noticed that we would arrive at the fourth spoke of the wheel on Remembrance Sunday.

There seemed an appropriateness to the way it worked out.

In the Spiritual Formation workbook the heading for this section is Practising the Compassionate Life.  The whole section is then linked, as each section is, to a particular tradition in the life of the church.   This week that tradition is ‘the social justice tradition’.

Karen and I re-named this section – Making a Difference in the World.

A wheel is round – and our Christian lives need to be ‘rounded’ – our Christian faith touches every part of our lives.

We began with prayer, went on to think of the way we need to draw on God to resist temptation, have Godly thoughts, seek Godly living.   The third spoke of the wheel was a reminder that we can do none of this Christian living thing in our own strength.  The wonderful thing about our Christian faith, what makes it good news, is that we have a strength we can draw on from beyond ourselves, the Holy Spirit.  So it was we focused last week on the need in our Christian living to rely on the Holy Spirit, that strength of God, unseen yet so real, we can draw on in the living of our lives.

However personal faith may be, the Christian life can never be something individualistic, set apart from other people.

The reality is that “God cares deeply about how we treat one another.

Not only does the wheel of our Christian lives need strong spokes, the wheel needs to be ‘balanced’ too.

The two great commandments Jesus identifies have exactly that sense of balance, that sense of roundedness.

Love for God


Love for Neighbour

That’s what’s all important.

“That call to love another, to love your neighbour is grounded in God’s love for us.  God loves us, so we should also love one another.  If we could see the world through the eyes of God we would look through a filter of compassion. 

“God cares about our needs, our hurts, our brokenness.  God is ready to forgive, to heal, to restore us.  And the Lord longs for us to see others as he does – priceless, unique people who need love and compassion. 

Jesus lived a life of compassion ‘for the least’.   And in the person of Jesus God shows us how to live.  That involves a commitment to social justice, to seeking the good of others.  True service … flows out of a relationship with God, makes no distinction between the large and the small, is content with hiddenness, is free of the need to calculate results, is indiscriminate, meets needs, is on-going, builds community.    [notes adapted from Spiritual Formation Workbook]

This is the roundedness of the Christian life.  This is the balance the wheel of our Christian life needs.

Nowhere is it better expressed than in the words of the parable of the sheep and the goats.

Reading:  Matthew 25:31-46

31“When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne,32and the people of all the nations will be gathered before him. Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33He will put the righteous people on his right and the others on his left.34Then the King will say to the people on his right, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world.35I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes,36naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’

37“The righteous will then answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?38When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you?39When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’40The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these members of my family, you did it for me!’

[41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Away from me, you that are under God's curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels!42I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink;43I was a stranger but you would not welcome me in your homes, naked but you would not clothe me; I was sick and in prison but you would not take care of me.’
44“Then they will answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and would not help you?’45The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.’46These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.”]

Thirty-seven years ago when I started in my ministry there were people in the church, in the village and also Felicity’s grandfather in our family who remembered fighting in the First World War.  With my passion for history I wanted to find out about what they had done.  Without exception they did not want to tell of what they had experienced, such was the horror they experienced.

In al my time at Highbury there have been older people who fought in the second world war – I will remember the moving way Vic Lewis shared his thoughts on a video clip I made from his home – still on our web site.  Now those who fought in that war have died.  Confronted with the evils of Nazism there was a driving force for good in the overthrow of evil.  The awfulness and horror of that war

I have always felt that to honour the memory of those who died we must remember the longing they had for peace to come.  We honour their memory by pledging ourselves to work for peace.

This year, our minds turn very much to the first world war.  And this centenary troubles me.  That was not so clear cut – in many ways the culmination of the clash of the Empires of the Nineteenth Century.

And the settlement at the end of the war with its imposition of punitive reparations and the establishment of nation-states with straight-line borders around the Middle East had within it the seeds of more war as happened in 1939-45, and the seeds of the war that now rages in Iraq and Syria and around the Middle East.

There is another strand for us to remember and I believe honour in our church family and in our memory of those wars too.

At the beginning of August 1914 150 Chrsitians attended an ecumenical conference in Constance, Germany.  The purpose fof that conference was to persuade the leaders of Germany, Austria, Russia and France not to go to war.

The conference came to an abrupt end because war borke out while they were meeting.  The delegates hurried out of Germany before the borders closed.

Among the delegates to the conference were Dr Henry Hodgkin an English Quaker and Friederich Siegmund-Schulze, a Lutheran Pastor and Chaplain to the Kaiser.

The two travelled together as far as Cologne.  There at the railway station as they parted, they shook hands and said:

“Whatever happens, nothing is changed between us.  We are one in Christ, and can never be at war.”

Back in England, Henry hodkin reconvened the conference.  He felt that a common statement of a more radically Christian nature should be made.

130 gathered in Cambridge and founded a movement that this year celebrates its centenary,  The Fellowship of Reconciliation.

The key to their thinking was in the words of the centenary history, was this:

“It was not just saying ‘no’ to war’ but ‘yes to the expression of the Christian faith in the whole of life.  It had a firm New  Testament basis in the words of St Paul:

“If anyone be in Christ they are a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.  And all things are of God who hath reconiled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
The FoR basis has five points.

  • That love as revealed and interpreted in the life and death of Jesus Christ, involves more than we have yet seen, that is the only power by which evil can be overcome and the only sufficient basis of human society.

  • That, in order to establish a world-order based on Love, it is incumbent upon those who believe in this principle to accept it fully, both for themselves and in relation to others and to take the risks involved in doing so in a world which does not yet accept it.

  • That therefore, as Christians, we are forbidden to wage war, and that our loyalty to our country, to humanity, to the Church Universal, and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Master, calls us instead to a life-service for the enthronement of Love in personal, commercial and national life.

  • That the Power, Wisdom and Love of God stretch far beyond the limits of our present experience, and that He is ever waiting to break forth into human life in new and larger ways.

  • That since God manifests Himself in the world through men and women, we offer ourselves to His redemptive purpose to be used by Him in whatever way He may reveal to us.

So how does that work out in practice?

It’s the kind of thinking that inspired two of the older members of Highbury who welcomed Felicity and me when I first arrived.



It’s an organisation still in existence aiming to enhance understanding and friendship between people of all nations.

At Hy-Way we still song the vesper Clare Clucas shared with us – it was lovely speaking to Clare on the phone as she told me something of Arthur’s story.


He went to work on the land in agriculture in Heston – what prompted him to be a Conscientious Objector was his Christian commitment to living out the life of love mapped out by Jesus and so he joined the local Congregational church and there, in a routine maintenance day, found himself sharing the same paint pot with a girl who was there picking tomatoes.  His first girl friend had ditched him because of his views on the war; but Clare and Arthur were together for the rest of their lives  - and together gave Felicity the warmest of welcomes back in the early 70’s when she used to come to Highbury first and to both of us in 1991 when we  arrived here.

Covent Garden


Clare recalled how taking such a stand meant big differences within Arthur’s family.  Though she was pleased to discover many years later that a cousin had married a Conscientious Objector who had been parachuted in with the D Day landings completely unarmed, but just a medical kit on his back.

Having myself, with Felicity, belonged to the Fellowship of Reconciliation since I was in the sixth form at school, I felt that at this Remembrance Sunday as we mark the centenary of the First World war that this was a dimension of remembrance that was good to honour as well this year.

To live a rounded Christian life we are called in our own conscience to work out what it means to Love God and Love our neighbour – and then to let that, through prayer and relying on the Holy Spirit, shape the whole of our lives.

In a moment we are going to think of practical things we can do wo that we can indeed practise a compassionate life and make a difference in the world.

A Hy-Spirit song

Practical Suggestions

  • Write a kind, encouraging letter or email.  This may seem like a small task but it can work miracles!

  • Volunteer to help with CCP’s Hamper Scamper appeal for Christmas – this is an extension of the Foodshare programme we support week by week.

  • Guard the reputation of another person By refusing totake part in discussions that focus on half-trughs or fault-finding, you can contribute to the death of a rumour or criticism.

  • Look for an injustice and address it  in the home, at work, in the world at large.  There’s a petition about the persecution of Christians and the injustices there are in our world at the moment to sign in church. Do something for another cause this week.

  • Take a stand Is there racism, sexism, or some other form of discrimination in something you are involved in that you need to address?

  • At this time of remembrance where do you stand on war and peace?  Is there something you could do or say to be a peace-maker?

Relying on the Holy Spirit

Six Spokes of the Wheel - Relying on the Spirit (John 14:15-17, 15:26-27, 16:7-15, John 20: 19-22)

How are you getting on with the Six Spokes of the Wheel? Have you tried the Prayer and Godly Thoughts and Godly Living practical suggestions at home? The practical suggestions aren't tests. There's no pass or fail mark. The practical suggestions are like training exercises which can help us become more Christ-like.  Today we move on to consider the third Spoke of the Wheel - Relying on the Holy Spirit.

Last Sunday I ran the Great South Run - 10 miles along the sea front at Portsmouth. Although I got a Personal Worst time, it was great to take part. I trained over a six month period, gradually building up longer distances, interspersed with faster sessions. Training takes effort and perseverance. On one occasion I over-trained and realised the importance of incorporating adequate rest-days into my training schedule. Rest allows the body to recover.

Much of modern life in Britain is about effort  - always working, always trying harder, being strivers not shirkers. It's as if the treadmill has moved out of the gym and taken over the whole of society. It starts at school with SATs, GCSEs and A Levels, and progresses into our working lives, driven by the need to get a job, keep a job and pay the rent or mortgage. Older people need to work longer too, given the uncertainty over pensions and the pension age in the future.

There are times when we need to work hard as Christians but we mustn't succumb to treadmill-society norms in our Christian lives. We need to leave time and space for the Holy Spirit to work in us. Relying on the Spirit isn't about effort and trying harder. It's about accepting an amazing gift from God - a gift that will make us more Christ-like.

It's good to give gifts but it's also good to receive them. Some people find that harder than others but God can help everyone of us if we open ourselves to receive his gift of the Holy Spirit.

Paracelete Sayings

Before his death and resurrection, Jesus prepared his disciples for the time when he would not longer be with them in person. There are five so-called Paracelete Sayings in John's gospel chapters 14, 15 and 16 where Jesus teaches his disciples about the Holy Spirit. When Jesus returns to heaven, God will send the Holy Spirit to help his followers on earth.

In John 14:15-17 Jesus says to his disciples:
I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit of God who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains in you and is in you.

The Good News Bible describes the Spirit of God as our Helper. A Helper is one who comes alongside us and helps us live our Christian lives.

The original Greek word is Paraclete which means "one who calls alongside".

Paraclete can also be translated as Advocate . An Advocate is someone who speaks outwardly on our behalf - like a lawyer in court. The Holy Spirit helps us find the words that we can't find on our own.

Thirdly, Paraclete is sometimes translated Teacher. The Holy Spirit speaks inwardly to us, teaching God's truth to our minds and hearts.

The Holy Spirit comes alongside us to help us, speaks outwardly on our behalf and speaks inwardly to teach us and the Holy Spirit is always a "he" and not an "it". The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity - with God the Father and Jesus the Son in an eternal relationship of love. The Spirit shares the same love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, humility and self-control as the Father and Son.

Accustomed to zombie films and Dr Who episodes, we can easily confuse the Holy Spirit with a sort of fictional alien life-force which takes control of people, typically threatening to overrun a city or spaceship. The Holy Spirit isn't like that. He's not an alien life-force. He doesn't take us over and never forces us to do something. Whether it's speaking in tongues, saying a prayer out-loud or that sudden feeling that we must go and talk with someone or ring them up, the Holy Spirit always give us the final choice. 

When I worked at Lucent Telecoms, I was part of an enormous team developing a Radio Network Controller for the 3G mobile phone infrastructure that smart phones use now. There was masses to learn. The Radio Network Controller had to connect and route thousands of calls and connect to the internet, sending data reliably as the user moves from cell to cell.  Fortunately I worked alongside a very talented telecoms expert when I first arrived called Eugene. When I got something wrong Eugene didn't tell me off or even correct me directly, he would quietly ask one or two seemingly small questions. When he left, I would
start thinking about the problem and often work out the solution too. Eugene came alongside me. He was a gentle teacher - more akin to the way the Holy Spirit teaches us.

In  John 15:26-27 Jesus says
I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me. And you too will speak about me.

The Holy Spirit teaches us in a specific way. He testifies about God the Father and makes the deep truths about God the Father real to us, in our hearts and minds. None of us here today are rated "zero" on the Holy Spirit Spoke of the Wheel because each one of us already knows something of God. The Holy Spirit is already at work in each one of us. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul says that no-one can confess that "Jesus is Lord" without the Spirit's help.

In the Star Wars films, the Force - the fictional power from outside - is primarily given to those who are genetically predisposed to receive it - they have a special type of DNA. The Holy Spirit is given for all but we have to want to accept the gift and remain teachable which can be harder as we grow older.
 We can think we've heard it all before.

An older retired minister gave me some advice once. He had preached many sermons and listened to many more over his life. How did he cope listening to others now? He said that he always prayed beforehand that God would teach him something new in a service. He wanted to keep being taught by the Spirit for the whole of his life.

Thirdly, in John 16:8 Jesus teaches his disciples
When he comes, he will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin ... because they do not believe in me.

Sin isn't not working hard enough or securing our own salvation by never doing anything wrong - we can't do that. In an early Six Spokes of the Wheel talk, Richard explained that SIN has an "I" in the middle. Sin can be seen as "the self-elevating and self-centred condition of the human heart". Sin is putting ourselves at the centre and giving ourselves prime importance. Instead we need to put Jesus Christ, the Son, at the centre of our lives. SON has a "O"  in the middle - a circle of love spreading out from Jesus. We need to give the Spirit space to move in our hearts and minds and convince us that we need a Saviour, Jesus Christ and to rely on him.

In John 20: 19-22 the risen Jesus Christ appears to his disciples
It was late that Sunday evening and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus stood among them, "Peace be with you," he said. After saying this he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed at seeing the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you." Then he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."

There can be many things that scare us - things that makes us afraid. We can be hiding behind metaphorical locked doors. We can even be scared of the Holy Spirit because of misunderstandings or earlier events in our lives. Jesus comes to us and says "Peace be with you" and offers us his Spirit to us too.  He provides the words, the understanding, the peace, strength and courage that we can't generate on our own.

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings like eagles
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 41:31)

Practical Suggestions

The first Relying on the Spirit practical suggestion is to read one of the passages about Spiritual Gifts and then pray for one - for yourself or someone else in the church.

In 1 Cor 12:4 Paul writes
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to everyone in their particular service.

Paul goes on to list some of the gifts of the Spirit  (e.g. messages of wisdom and knowledge, faith, power to heal, work miracles, proclaim God's message, discern between gifts that come from God and those that do not, speak in tongues, interpret what is said). In other parts of the Bible we learn about other gifts (e.g.  administration, helping people, encouragement and craftsmanship). The Spirit gives different gifts to different individuals for the building up of the church and wider mission in the world.

Read one of the Spiritual Gifts readings at home and ask God to grant a gift to yourself or another member of the church for the good of the whole. With gifts we don't get to pick and choose what we're given or even when. Don't make demands. Just be open to the Spirit's moving.

Many metaphors for the Holy Spirit are fluid e.g. wind, fire, wine and water. Wind and fire can  be strong or gentle. Wine and water flow. The Spirit is not easily containable. He flows where he chooses.

The second practical suggestion is to use the following Stuart Townend song as a prayer at home. You might want to open your palms on your lap as if receiving but if not, just say the prayer, opening up your heart

    Your love, shining like the sun,
    Pouring like the rain,
    Raging like the storm,
    Refreshing me again.
    I receive Your love.

    Your grace frees me from the past,
    It purges every sin,
    It purifies my heart
    And heals me from within,
    I receive Your grace.

    Pour over me,
    Pour over me,
    Let Your rain flood this thirsty soul.
   Pour over me Your waves of love,
   Pour over me.

   I come and lay my burden down
  Gladly at Your feet,
  I'm opening up my heart,
  Come make this joy complete,
  I receive your peace


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