Sunday, February 20, 2011

Open the curtain and enter the most holy place

Some questions you come back to the older you get.

Where is God?

That’s something the littlest of children can ask. I hope we have moved away from describing the old man with a white beard sitting in the clouds. Yet somehow in the response I make I would want to convey something of the mystery of God. “He’s all around us, he’s with us wherever we are and wherever we go.” And I value stories that take children into the beyond into the mystery of God.

Where is God?

That’s a question people often come back to when thinking through life, faith and the big questions. It’s a point for debate, for discussion, for conversation. This is the stuff of the science and religion debate. Do we push God back to the beginning of things and see God as the distant ‘prime mover’. Do we put God into the gaps left by science and speak of Intelligent Design I find that difficult to take! I am much more drawn to the way George Herbert seeks to answer that question …

Teach me, my God and King, in all things thee to see
Where is God?

That’s a question that can pierce the soul of the most faithful of believers when tragedy happens, when their world falls apart. Where is God in the catastrophe of an earthquake, in the protracted pain of a loved one as they are dying and yet won’t die? Where is God? Is a question that sometimes has no easy answer.

One of the great things to me about the Bible is that it contains a record of the way people over many hundreds of years grappled with this very question.

Where is God? Stories tell of the greatness of the God who is beyond the heavens, not to locate God just above the clouds, but to evoke a sense of mystery at the God who is beyond all things. Genesis 1 evokes the mystery of God as the one who brings order out of chaos. Yet in the next breath in Genesis 2 and 3 come stories that tell of the way God is in the garden of this world, walking alongside us. Stories told not to locate God in a location archaeologists may one day discover, but to evoke within us that sense of mystery that God is walking with us through this world.

Where is God?

Poetry communicates the mystery of God’s presence in Psalm 139.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me,
You know when I sit down and when I rise up.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven you are there,
If I make my bed in Sheol you are there,
If I take the wings of the morning
And settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me,
And your right hand shall hold me fast.

In response to that question it’s all there. God is all around us. He is wherever we are, wherever we go.

But that agonising question ‘Where is God in the face of untold pain and suffering?’ screams out from the pages of the Bible as well.

How long, O Lord? will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul
And have sorrow in my heart all day long?

When I read Psalm 13 and many other passages like it, I realise that that final, agonising question is not one to hide under the carpet. It is not a question that the person of faith must suppress because such questioning is not appropriate for someone who professes faith.

What I find when I read the Bible is that people of the most profound faith have moments in what can often be the tragedy of life in this very painful world, when this question haunts them and torments them.

Where is God?
How long will you hide your face from me?

In a very real sense in the Bible we find people grappling with the very questions people still grapple with. For me the he Bible is indeed a book of timeless truths.

But the Bible offers another way of answering this question. It’s a way we are not so familiar with. But it’s a way of understanding that can release for us a way of answering this question that goes right to the heart of our Christian faith. It’s a way of responding to this question that for me makes all the difference.

Where is God? For a thousand years before Christ people pointed to the Temple. And beyond its outer courtyards, inside its central building, through the curtain into the Holy of Holies, that most holy place where God’s presence touches earth.

Taken by Mary and Joseph to the Temple at 8 days old to receive the sign of the covenant and to be given the name Jesus, he had visited at 12 and stayed on when his parents departed for home – it was his father’s house.

Catching sight of the Temple on his arrival into Jerusalem he wept over it. He castigated those responsible for it. My Father’s house should be a house of prayer and you have made it a den of thieves. Destroy this temple, he said pointing to the building that had been 46 years in the making, and I in three days I will raise it up. Those Judeans who heard him were astounded. This went right to the heart of all they believed – it was not possible. The temple was the place where God’s presence touched earth. “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years and you will raise it up in three days!” But, explains John, Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken..

All that the temple stood for in pointing to the location of God found its fulfilment in Jesus himself.

Where is God? Look to Jesus and find something of the presence of God. But where is the presence of God to be found supremely in Jesus? Not so much in a miraculous birth or resurrection victory, not so much in dramatic miracles of nature or of healing, not so much in the love Jesus has for others.

It is easy to gloss over it … but Matthew observes something very special that happens at the moment of Christ’s death.. At the darkest moment, at the moment of sheer God-forsaken awfulness.

That curtain is torn in two.

Matthew 27 and Hebrews 10

At noon the whole country was covered with darkness,
which lasted for three hours.
At about three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means,
“My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”
Jesus again gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Then the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
When the army officer and the soldiers with him who were watching Jesus saw the earthquake and everything else that happened, they were terrified
and said, “He really was the Son of God!”

We have, then, my brothers and sisters,
complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place
by means of the death of Jesus.

He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain —
that is, through his own body.
We have a great priest in charge of the house of God.

So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith,
with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience
and with bodies washed with clean water.

Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess,
because we can trust God to keep his promise.

Let us be concerned for one another,
to help one another to show love and to do good.

Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing.
Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.

It is as if in the agonising, painful death of Christ, the curtain is parted and we can see into the most holy place, the holiest of holies, into the very presence of God. Or put it another way, it is as if at that moment, the presence of God is released, not longer behind the curtain, but let loose into the world.

The curtain that separates off the most holy place, the holy of holies, where God touches earth is torn in two at the point of utter agonising, horrific pain in the crucifixion of Christ.

Where is God? Actually there in the moment of greatest pain and agony. That is the point at which we can see into the most holy place, that is the point at which God’s presence is let loose into the world.

Where is God in catastrophe, in personal pain? God is there in the middle of it. That I find to be a remarkable insight. I want to hold on to that.

But that insight then makes a difference to what we each of us do with our lives.

If all that the temple had meant for a thousand years finds its fulfilment in Jesus then Jesus builds something where God’s presence can be let loose in the world.

Everyone who hears the words of Jesus and acts on them will be like the wise man, Solomon, who built God’s house on that rock in Jerusalem. Peter got it when he looked to Jesus as the foundation stone and all of us as the followers of Christ as the living stones that make up the place on earth where God’s presence is made real. Paul got it when he said of each one of us who follow Jesus that we are a temple for the Holy Spirit. Paul then goes on to speak of us being built on the foundation stone of Christ … and he speaks of us being the ‘body of Christ’. It is in us that the presence of God may be seen, it is in us that the presence of God is let loose into the world.

It is the writer of the letter to the Hebrews who explores this way of thinking most. He goes to great lengths to describe all the thinking around the temple and then finds all the temple is about finds its fulfilment in Jesus.

But then he prompts us to ask another question.

If God is there in the moment of greatest pain that Christ experiences, where does God want us to be?

It is supremely important that we have confidence to go through the curtain on the new and living way opened up for us by Christ especially in the pain of his dying. We must hold fast to our faith, with a confident hope and then bring love into the lives of others.

If God is there in the moment of pain and suffering … he calls us to be there alongside people in their pain and suffering, to bring faith, hope and love into our world as the presence of God is released into those places of pain.

God in Christ it is
that putteth aside the curtain,
that we may look into the most holy place.

Grant each of us the confidence to enter in
as we read the words of Scripture
that we may discover the new and living way
in those words
that tell of Jesus in all his glory and in all his pain.

Let us approach with faith, -
... hold fast to our hope
... and share love with all around us,
especially with those who touch pain at its darkest.

[taken from Myles Smith Preface to the Authorised Version and from Hebrews 10]

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Breaking the shell to get at the nut - the secret of the kingdom

To get from Felicity’s sister’s home to visit Felicity’s mum in hospital last Monday we had to drive through the centre of Leicester along the Welford Road. We paid homage to the home of Leicester Tigers as we drove past their incredible new stand, past the forbidding prison, past the Demontfort University and the magazine, a castle-like building, and then we drove through the Underpass. The road goes through an underground tunnel for the shortest of stretches. And you have to juggle lane changes that take the visitor to Leicester unawares. I remember that being built way back in the 60’s. It involved the demolition of rows and rows of terraced houses.

My parents took me to a short service by one of those houses just before it was demolished. It was William Carey’s cottage. The story of William Carey, the humble bootmaker from Northamptonshire and Leicester who gave up all to travel to India as the father of the modern missionary movement was a thrilling story. How he learned not one but many languages, set up a college and seminary that still stands to this day, translated the Bible into more than 20 languages and waited more than 20 years for his first convert. It was a story that inspired. Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.

It was one of many stories I grew up with that fired me with a vision for the Christian faith. It is something that makes a difference to the world. It is something worth sharing.

I had supposed William Carey to be the first person to take the Christian Gospel to India. I have had to re-visit the story. We have been thinking of Sue Cole and the Children’s Homes in Kerala State that she is visiting in support of CHIKS in the last three weeks following on our Christmas collection for CHIKS. It was not long before Christmas looking forward to that collection and Sue’s visit that I told the story of Thomas. Tradition has it that he journeyed eastwards and took the Gospel of Christ to Kerala and Southern India in the first century. Archaeological evidence of Roman remains on that South West coast of India dating to the first century is circumstantial evidence for the plausibility of the tradition preserved in the Coptic, Syrica, Orthodox churches of that part of India that can trace their history back at least fifteen hundred years.

Little did I know that Dan Moses would be taking his daughter Andrea to celebrate Dan’s mother’s 90th birthday over Christmas. And that the family home is within sight of the cathedral that marks the supposed place of the burial of Thomas! It was wonderful this morning to see the fruits of Andrea’s research over Christmas and hear her tell the story of Thomas.

It too is a story to inspire. The Christian message, the gospel we share is a gospel to thrill. A Gospel to make a difference. It is a faith to inspire.

William Carey felt the call of God to share the Christian message just as Thomas had done centuries before. We may not be called to travel the world, but we each of us are called of God to share our faith, to share the inspiration and the thrill of the difference God can make in all our lives through Jesus Christ our Lord and our Saviour.

Hear the call in the words of Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory.’ 4The pivots* on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph* touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Can you hear the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, who will go for us? What is the task God is calling you to do now?

Hymn: I the Lord of sea and sky

What I found an inspiration about the call to missionary service as a child was the thought that the task William Carey had begun was one I could help finish in my lifetime if I put enough in my Missionary society collecting box. I think as a child I thought Gladys Aylward the missionary to China had almost made China entirely Christian and with a bit more work the task could be finished in my life time.

I think there is a certain expectation I had then and sometimes find myself yearing for again that my Christian faith will sweep the board. It is something that not only can make a world of difference to people, but is something that will change the whole world instantly.

Faith is something that will bring about instant change. In some ways it’s the world we live in. Have you noticed how if you want an assortment of nuts it’s easier to buy a bag of nuts that have already been shelled than it is to buy a bag of nuts that require the much harder work of cracking each of them open with a nut cracker. I for one am drawn to the ease of a bag of shelled nuts.

It’s easy to have that kind of expectation of faith and of the Gospel.

As the child in me grew up and became a man, I have come to realise that the real world isn’t like that.

After the first flush of enthusiasm for our missionary faith we can move on in our thinking.

Funnily enough, however, I would not say that I have become disillusioned. To the contrary I would say I have not become disillusioned.

I want to tease away at what it is I am called to, and what this Gospel and this faith is like. I have found it fascinating to dig a little more deeply into the missionary story behind William Carey and Gladys Aylward, fascinating to dig away at the traditions around Thomas.

More significant still, however, is to go back to the Bible and the roots of that sense of missionary call.

I come back to Isaiah chapter 6 and as I read on in the story there I discover that all is not as it first appears.

Here am I, send me, says Isaiah in the response to the call of God. And then the voice of God speaks to him and what the word of God says is very strange, very enigmatic. Much more down to earth than the imaginations of my childhood response to the missionary call.

‘Go and say to this people:“Keep listening, but do not comprehend;keep looking, but do not understand.” 10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes,so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears,and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.’ 11

The very first thoughts that come to Isaiah are that there’s no instant fix. As you can understand, that takes Isaiah aback. Won’t his message make a difference to people as soon as they hear it! You can almost hear his exasperation …

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

The response is even gloomier.

Until cities lie waste … and the land is utterly desolate.

The call is to share the message in spite of the fact in the absence of instant results … but there is a hope.

Isaiah is directed to the image of an oak tree, felled in the middle of a wasteland … but a stump remains standing when the tree is felled.

That stump – that’s the hope.

That is ‘the holy seed’.

Keep at it … don’t get disillusioned. Hold on to the word – share the word. The seed will grow in the fullness of God’s time.

When Jesus comes on the scene he has a wonderful message about the rule of God breaking into the world. And people who hear him are amazed at the authority of his teaching. He has a powerful message of love for God, love for neighbour and love for enemy. And he lives it out as he brings healing into the lives of people who hurt. As you read his story you might expect everyone to be swept along. Instant change.

But as the story unfolds in Mark’s gospel especially it isn’t like that. From the very outset he encounters opposition. There is a hardness of heart around. It is not long before he has caused onetime bitter enemies to join forces together in a plot to destroy him. Wherever he turns there’s opposition. What’s more by the time he sends out the twelve he warns them they too will face opposition.

How can you make sense of this?

It’s very early on in Mark’s telling of the Gospel story – to round off the first quarter of his Gospel that he tells of an occasion when Jesus shared teaching with the crowds, and let the disciples in on the secret of his teaching.

He is nothing less than that ‘holy seed’ … as the crowds are by the sea of Galilee he invites them to picture a field – a typical field. It’s tough ground for the kind of farmer Jesus knows well – often hard limestone rock just beneath the surface. The method of farming is different – for the Palestinian farmer

Sowing pecedes ploughing. The sower strides over the unploughed stubble. He sows intentionally on the path which the villagers have trodden over the stubble, since he intends to plough the seed in when he ploughs up the path. He sows intentionally among the thorns standing withered in the fallow because they too will be ploughed up, nor need it surprise us that some grains should fall upon rocky ground; the underlying limestone, thinly covered with soil, barely shows above the surface until the ploughshare jars aginst it[Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus 2nd ed(New York) 11f quoted in Ched Myers Binding the Strong Man (Orbis, 1988), 176

Reading: Mark 4:1-12

Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. 2He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ 9And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret* of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12in order that“they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand;so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.” ’

This is the reality – a hard reality to learn and take on board.

The Christian faith does not offer a quick fix.

Such is the power of Satan, the force for evil, the powers that be, that some will stay by the way … and not walk on the way that Jesus maps out.

Tribulation and persection wil come … and some will not be able to stand their ground.

The cares of the world, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things will also come in and choke the word. And it yields nothing.

As with the experience of Isaiah, so with the experience of Jesus, and with the disciples … and down through the ages there is going to be a resistance.

Hold on.

The value of what we do is not measured in terms of the instant fix.

This is the inspiration we need to hold on to.

It’s not just a holy seed. A Palestinian farmer could hope for a 7fold yield, a bumper harvest would be a tenfold yield. That would mean he would have just enough but would still beholden to the landowner. The wonderful good news that Jesus has is that the seed bears a remarkable crop – thirty, sixty, one hundred fold. And that’s enough to set the farmer of the parable free from the landowner he is tied to – and set him up for life.

Let’s hold on to that promise.

This story was important to Thomas as well … in the Gospel of Thomas, discovered only a hundred years ago, the parable is included.

Jesus said, "Now the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered them. Some fell on the road; the birds came and gathered them up. Others fell on the rock, did not take rood in the soil, and did not produce ears. And others fell on thorns; they choked the seed(s) and worms ate them. And others fell on the good soil and produced good fruit: it bore sixty per measure and a hundred and twenty per measure." ( )

It’s worth keeping at it. Hold on to the vision. Look to the seed. Work at it … there isn’t an instant fix. But the good news of Christ with that love of God has the power to transform us and working slowly through people individually to make a world of difference around. That’s the secret. But you have to work at it – there are no ready to eat nuts, you need to break open the shell to eat the kernel and discover the secret of life.

“Translation it is
that breaketh the shell,
that we may eat the kernel.”

Let me in on the secret, the secret of life,
as I read the words of Scripture
that I may be nourished by your Word
in those words
and know it to be true ...

To you has been given
The secret of the kingdom of God.

It’s one to take to heart in the face of all that is around us.

Our faith offers us no easy fix. We have to work at the nut break the shell to get at the kernel.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Year of the Bible - a Parade Service

To mark the 400th Anniversary of the Authorised Version we are marking this year as the Year of the Bible. At this morning's service we welcomed Brownies, Guides, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts and gave a special welcome to Ede Hollyhead, Assistant County Commissioner for Guides, as we joined with Rachel Jacques and Diana Adams in celebrating more than 80 years of service to Guiding between them!

Parade Service

Something instrumental from Delirious Deeper

Call to worship

Song of worship – Jesus is Lord

Prayer &Lord’s prayer

Call to worship repeated in NT Greek (or Hebrew, etc)

Talk about how that is how the stories and words of the Bible were originally shared, not written down but spoken. We are going to be thinking about the Bible today and create our own Bible using this piece of string. Sadly all we have at the moment is this piece of string, what do we need to make this into a Bible.

We need some Books

Get different members to find the books hidden on the windowsills, etc and work out where to peg them on the string

So we have all our books but what do you find in books, they’re not usually empty are they? We normally find words in our books. Do we have any English speakers in the congregation who would read something for us?

Get different people to read the same passage from different translations, e.g. The Street, The Message, NIV, King James version, maybe even include a picture of The Manga Bible (explain a bit about the Manga Bible).

Jesus is Lord in different languages

You can even get Bibles on tapes and CD’s, we have a set here at church called “Faith comes by Hearing”

Now that was great, it really showed how the Bible can share different things from just one passage and it can really relate to our lives because it uses words that maybe we will be able to understand, so even if there is a Bible that you struggle to understand, all is not lost, there is a translation out there for you.

But hold on, I understood those ones because I speak English, but what if I went to Berlin and the people I met didn’t speak English so couldn’t read the Bible for themselves, what could we do then. Well, thankfully the Bible has been written in over 2000 languages, with many more partial translations. Lets add the verse that we heard to the string and the pictures from the Manga Bible.

John 3:16


Worship song, kids one, Father Abraham

Now one of the translations the Bible is called The DramatisedBible. This Bible provides a way of reading the stories in a different way. It lets the stories come alive in exciting ways.
We are going to have a reading from the dramatized Bible now.
Dramatised reading(from dramatized Bible), from cubs, beavers, etc?

The story tells of the way Ezra shared a reading of 'the Law' from the Bible to all the people when God's people returned to Jerusalem.

By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. On the first day of that month they all assembled in Jerusalem, in the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law which the Lord had given Israel through Moses, to get the book of the Law.

So Ezra brought it to the place where the people had gathered — men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. There in the square by the gate he read the Law to them from dawn until noon, and they all listened attentively.

(During this next section wait for everyone in church to do or say what is described)

Ezra was standing on a wooden platform that had been built for the occasion. Six men stood at his right, and seven stood at his left. As Ezra stood there on the platform high above the people, they all kept their eyes fixed on him. As soon as he opened the book, they all stood up. Ezra said,

“Praise the Lord, the great God!”

All the people raised their arms in the air and answered,

“Amen! Amen!”

They knelt in worship, with their faces to the ground.

Then they rose and stood in their places, and the Levites explained the Law to them: They read God's Law and then translated it, explaining it so that the people could understand it.

God’s Law was written in Hebrew, but in Babylonia the Jews had adopted Aramaic as the language for daily life, so they needed a translation from the Hebrew to understand it

When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor; Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people,

“This day is holy to the Lord your God, so you are not to mourn or cry.”

Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who haven't enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don't be sad. The joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong.”

The Levites went about calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them.


Well, let us add that reading to the string.

So we have our books and we have our words. But when you think about your favourite books, Bible or otherwise they all have something in common and that reading talked about some of them. What do you think this might be?

(get the congregation to shout out some things)

Well, it is characters or people and sometimes animals, depending on the book of the Bible. So we need to add some of those to the string. Which people from the Bible can you remember, what about some people from the old testament? And from the new?

So the Bible isn’t just about words and books but it is about real people and the lives they led. The Bible doesn’t just share things we need to remember or learn from but it also shows us others who have followed God, people who might have struggled and people who lived lives that can offer us an example of how to live or even just stories to inspire us and show us how wonderfully God has created people for thousands of years.

Worship – Tell me the stories of Jesus?

Well, our string is getting quite busy here. But that worship song gave us another hint of something that is missing from our string. We’ve focused on the books, the language and the characters. Those are all great things but great books and the Bible is fully on many great books need something extra. Something that stops it being a cookery book or a maths textbook and makes it into something that can and does change lives. Any ideas?
The Bible, whatever language it is in or even when it is in graphic novel form, has stories and themes. Some of the stories are simple and some are more complicated and have lots of meaning . Some themes just last for one book or even sentence of the Bible and some go into lots of books. During the offering (?) you will see that some of the Bibles in the chairs have a square of paper in them, what I would like is for you to draw a picture of your favourite Bible story then I shall ask you to come and peg it up in the right place, and if you want you can tell us the Bible story you have chosen and why. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.


Offering and Dedication

The people talk about the stories they have chosen as they are pegged up.
So as you can see we have built up a great picture of the Bible. And as I mentioned before the Bible has themes running through it. There are things that God didn’t just share with one person but kept on sharing with people throughout the Bible, Old and New Testament. One example of this is his Covenant. His promise to his people was shared with Abraham, but he also made promises to Noah, to some of the prophets, and then he fulfilled his covenant with the coming of Jesus. Showing that it had been part of his plan. So we can put the word covenant here, here and here.

(peg to string)

Now can anyone else think of themes from the Bible, maybe the stories gave you an idea of some of the themes?

(peg up some words on themes, e.g. animals, children, suffering, love, prayer, death, miraculous, character, fighting, slavery, God’s message, etc)

Ask anyone else if they know of any themes or if some of the themes mentioned called also go somewhere else?

(finish pegging, etc)

Now, we have only done an hours work on putting the Bible together, it has taken many years more than that to create. In fact there is a youtube video where two people have tried to reduce the Bible into 1 minute but as you are about to see it is impossible.

Bible in one minute video clip

It is impossible because the Bible is so big, not just big and heavy like this one but is full of so much. Stories, themes, people, words. Real lives that have been lived, millions and millions of lives are mentioned in this, some are just given a word or a sentence and some have whole books about them. The Bible is so big it can be hard to think where to start reading or even how to start reading but it is possible to read it because it is in a language we can understand. It has been done in a way we can relate to and many of the situations of the people in the Bible are like situations we may face. I have never been in a lion’s den like Daniel but I have had to face difficult people, places where people don’t like what I do or times when I’m not sure if God is with me. I haven’t seen my best friend be nailed to a cross but I have known times where I have felt scared by things I can’t control, I have felt sadness when someone has died and confusion to what God’s plans are for me. The Bible can be a huge part of our lives, not just something that we use as a safety net or a great book end but something that can help us through our lives and offer us so much wisdom and comfort.

Let us now share in worship together.

Prayers involving the themes

Worship song

So every book has a beginning, a middle and an end, like our service has had. With many books we might read it and it will make a difference to our thoughts for a while or give us a bit of information to share with others. Some books we pick up, enjoy and then forget about straight away. But the Bible isn’t like that, it isn’t just some words and people from thousands of years ago in a book, it is something that can change our lives, affect the way we treat people, the decisions we make, the things we do. In fact the Bible is alive in the lives of the people who read and hear it.

Because of this we are finishing our service in celebration of people who have done things in service of to God, changed by the words that are part of their lives. The Bible is a living book.
(get some uniformed organisation kids to stand around the people we are celebrating with the Bible string in their hands, while prayers are said for those we are awarding – maybe bring in a bit about words, people, stories and themes to do a quick sum up)

So let us take the Bible out in to the world and share all these words, people and stories with those who don’t know how alive it is.


(Parade out, those without the flags take a bit of the string and parade out with the Bible on a string with the song All Day by Hillsong United)

Order of service:
Call to worship
Song - Jesus is Lord
Prayer &Lord’s prayer
From the beginning
Song – Father Abraham
Reading – Nehemiah 8:1-12
Who are they?
Song – Tell Me The Stories of Jesus
What’s next?
Offering and dedication
Building it Up
Worship – All I Once Held Dear& a rousing worship song
Building Us Up

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