Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hope - a Baptism Service on the First Sunday in Advent

Text of the Week: Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Romans 12:12

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to Kevin and Lorraine as they bring their daughter Laura to be baptized and to everyone in their family as they share with us in this celebration. Laura’s grandmother, Vera, has been a member here for many years and was part of our church choir. It’s the first Sunday in Advent and we will be starting our preparations for Christmas. During the first part of our service our Open the Book team, who regularly take Bible stories into Oakwood School, will be telling the story of the First Christmas. We’ll also be lighting the first of our Advent Candles. On Tuesday we have a Messy Church service for Advent specially for families – 5-00 for tea then crafts and into church. On Saturday we have our Christmas café here in church from 10-00 until 1-00. Come along to enjoy coffee and home-made cakes, Christmas crafts and the Word of Mouth Singers singing carols. Hy-Speed will be organizing digital Scalextric racing.  If you can help, have a word with Jean Gregory or Felicity Cleaves. We’ll be welcoming St John’s Infants to church this Thursday and Friday at 1-30 for their Nativity Play and then Pittville School Year 7’s on Monday 11th December at 11-00. It would be great if you can make it to any of those events so that we can give the youngsters and their parents a really warm welcome from us all at Highbury! And one more event to look out for! On Wednesday, 13th December, we have our Christmas Lunch at 12-30 followed by Carol singing in church. Do sign up for what it is always a very special occasion.


Welcome and Call to Worship

286 Tell out my soul

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Laura’s Baptism

It’s great to welcome Kevin and Lorraine as they bring Laura to be baptized. It’s Kevin’s Mum and Dad, Vera and David   who for many years have belonged to the church here at Highbury. Vera in the choir and a regular member of our evening congregation. We miss David with his wonderful smile! So it’s lovely that Vera is able to  join us – and it’s great to meet Lorraine’s family for the first time today as well – and all the family and friends who have come specially for our service.

As Kevin and Lorraine bring Laura to be baptised we all share in the Church’s Sacrament of Baptism. It is a time for all of us to be reminded of the free gift of God’s love which is poured out on us before ever we know anything about it ... and it is a time for us to rejoice in the difference that love can make to us all as we make it our own in faith.

Reading: Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)

Jesus showed that the love of God has no limits as he went to the cross and on the third day rose again from the dead. It was then that he challenged his disciples to take the Good News all over the world, making disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that he had commanded you.

The disciples bided their time until with the outpouring of the Spirit of God they were empowered by God to go out into the streets with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Peter was the first to preach the message. When the people in Jerusalem heard what he had to say they wanted to know what they could do.
Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children and for all who are far away - everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him. (Acts 2:38-39)

From that day on Baptism became the sign of the change that God’s love in Jesus Christ can make in our lives. Those coming to believe in Jesus Christ were baptised and their families too. From the time of the early church, Christian parents have brought their children to be baptised as a sign of the love God pours on them all ... a love to which, it is their prayer, their children will respond in faith as they grow older.

Baptism Today

So it is that Kevin and Lorraine bring Laura to be baptised today.

In Baptism, God our Father welcomes us into a covenant relationship with him, declaring that we are his children through Jesus Christ, our Lord, and that our future lies with him through the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is a powerful sign that God’s grace is not dependent on anything we do - but is poured out quite freely on each of us. This grace of God in Christ Jesus has the power to change our lives enabling us to die to the world and to rise again to newness of life in Christ Jesus our Lord. But grace can only make a difference to us as we make it our own, responding to the love of God in Christ Jesus simply by turning and trusting ourselves to him in faith.
It is our prayer today that at each stage of her development Larua will make the promise of salvation her own until in adulthood she is able to make a full commitment entering into membership of the Church by declaring her faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour.

God’s grace is at work through Jesus Christ and through his Spirit working in the lives of the parents, the family and the church. In presenting this child for baptism we therefore acknowledge a threefold responsibility - of the parents, the family and of the church - to care for her faith and character and to see that she is brought up in the Christian way of life, in the nurture and admonition of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and in the fellowship of the Church.

It is for the god-parents to play their part together with parents, family and church in fulfilling these responsibilities.

The Baptism

Kevin and Laura, as you believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, do you promise, depending on the grace of God, to teach Laura the truths and duties of the Christian faith; and by prayer and example to bring him/her up in the life and worship of the Church so that she can enjoy the security of love and the heritage of faith?
           
We do.

I ask those Kevin and Lorraine have invited to be God Parents to answer we do to the question I ask:

Do you promise to give your encouragement and support to Lorraine and Kevin as they fulfil their promise to give Laura a loving home where the love of God in Christ is shared?

We do

I will ask everyone who has come specially for the Baptism as friends and family to stand as you are able and to say we do to the question I ask.

Do you promise to give your encouragement and support to Lorraine and Kevin as they fulfil their promise to give Laura a loving home where the love of God in  Christ is shared?

We do.

And then I will ask everyone who belongs to the church family here at Highbury and any who have joined us for the first time this morning to stand as you are able and say we do to the question I ask.

Do you promise to give Laura and all little ones a welcome in this church family where they can grow up knowing the love of God and the teaching of Jesus Christ for themselves?

We do.

Laura Truda  , I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace.

The Baptism Prayer

I am going to invite Kevin and Lorraine to light the first of our Advent Candles, a candle that reminds us of hope –

The First Advent Candle

“Rejoice in Hope, be patient when things don’t go well, and persevere in prayer.” Romans 12:12 for Jesus said,

I am the light of the world; those who follow me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life. John 8:12

Hymn Your Promises are Coming True – verse 1 and chorus

Your promises are coming true –
Our waiting hopes fulfilled.
Your light has burst upon our world –
The new dawn that you willed.
Your coming gives us hope to live,
And strength, with you, to build.

Come, Jesus, and be with us now,
Be with us now
Come, Jesus, and be with us now!

The First Christmas – Open the Book

A Hy-Spirit Song

Activities for all over 3

Reading: Isaiah 60:1-3 and 19-22

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
   and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
   and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
   and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
   and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

The sun shall no longer be
   your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
   give light to you by night;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
   and your God will be your glory.
Your sun shall no more go down,
   or your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
   and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Your people shall all be righteous;
   they shall possess the land for ever.
They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands,
   so that I might be glorified.
The least of them shall become a clan,
   and the smallest one a mighty nation;
I am the Lord;
   in its time I will accomplish it quickly.




543 Longing for light

Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has power to save us.
Make us your living voice.    
Christ, be our light!    

Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.
Christ, be our light!

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.
Christ, be our light!

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.
Christ, be our light!

Bernadette Farrell (b.1957)

Things to Look Forward to

It was great that first time I met little Laura. I had been visiting Vera in Windsor Street and was about to go when Kevin appeared in the doorway, ready to take Vera down as the family had arrived. Laura was only a couple of weeks old and it was great going down with Vera in the lift and then meeting up with Laura and Elaine. That’s something wonderful about a new born baby – and specially wonderful seeing Laura cradled by Vera – a new arrival in the family.

Every time I see a tiny little baby I am just amazed at the miracle of life – for me, I feel the wonder of God’s creation.

And with a new arrival in the family come so many hopes and expectations. Those fingernails so perfectly formed, already some hair? Who does she look like? Who will she take after? What football team will she support – that’s already been decided! You could go so far as to say today’s the day when there will be a new baby bird in the Robin’s Nest!

When a new arrival comes in a family we can’t help but think back and remember those who have gone before us – as we do of David now. But with the arrival of a little one there are all sorts of hopes for the future ahead. A new born baby brings hope into our hearts.

But it feels as if it’s a scary world that Laura is born into. It’s a time  of so much uncertainty. There are fears for the future as well. What will the future hold for little Laura? It’s such a fragile world, a world of all sorts of complexities, all sorts of uncertainties. What will this world be that she will grow up into? What will become of her?

With all those hopes come all those fears as well.

And all too often the fears seem to get the better of the hopes.

Seeing a little one makes me feel the wonder, the miracle of life – and makes me feel the wonder of God’s creation. I cannot help but feel that there must be something more than I can see that makes.

There’s something very appropriate about sharing in a baptism service on the first Sunday of Advent just as we are beginning that build up to Christmas.

At the heart of my faith as a Christian is not just some general idea about God – beyond all things and in all things, the God of creation, the God of the enormity of the universe, the God of the tiny little baby.

At the heart of my faith as a Christian is a God who comes into the mess of the world, shares with us not only in the wonder of life, but in the awfulness of the mess of the world.

So it is that this God comes into our world as a baby born into a cruel world filled with uncertainty and fear. It’s a brutal regime that forces the birth to happen not in the comfort o fa home but the squalor of a stable. It’s a brutal regime that forces the young family to flee as refugees across Sinai to Egypt. It’s against the backdrop of a brutal regime and a cruel world that the baby grows into a man who sets out a way of life to follow based on care and concern for others that extends loving your neighbour into loving your enemies too. It’s a way of life that brings healing where people are hurting. And the brutality of that world leads to the God-forsaken loneliness of death by the most cruel form of execution.
It’s as if in this Jesus, God comes alongside us in the cruelty of a cruel world – but the brutality of that cruel world does not have the last word. It is in resurrection victory that Jesus shows that God has the last word – and that is a resurrection victory we too can share.

And it’s all there in microcosm in the birth of a baby in Bethlehem.

One of the carols we shall be singing is O Little Town of Bethlehem

1          O little town of Bethlehem,
            how still we see thee lie!
            above thy deep and dreamless sleep
            the silent stars go by.
            Yet in thy dark streets shineth
            the everlasting light;
            the hopes and fears of all the years
            are met in thee to-night.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

I take that story and it brings me back to the world of today. Yes, a world of fears. But it’s always been like that – each generation has fears of its own – for us who were born into the height of the cold war, a previous generation born into the uncertainties and fears of the war, a previous generation, the depression and another war.

The Christian message is one for the real world – it offers a way of life to follow that’s worth passing on, and I for one would love to pass that on to Laura. It’s more than a way of life to follow. It’s a way of making sense of the world – that sees the preciousness of life and sees that for all the uncertainties and fears the world hurls at us, there is something more, beyond what we can see - God has the last word. The victory is ours to share.

What’s this God like? All sorts of things come to mind he is the light that breaks into the darkness. – among them as Christmas approaches is that God is like the littlest of babies.

Maybe we need to see God not in the awesome majesty of incredible power, but in the vulnerability of the tiny little baby.

Judi has shared with me a poem she came across by Lisa Debney that invites us to do just that. She thought we could use it over Christmas – it’s a great moment to share it as we think of Laura and share in her baptism on this the first Sunday of Advent.

It’s title is Shepherd and the poem imagines a shepherd seeing the Christ child in the manger that first Christmas night.

Shepherd

Until tonight,
I could not fit the size of God
into my head.
I thought he was a God
for prophets and kings,
men of words and wisdom.
But tonight I am looking at God made small,
small enough for me,
small enough to pick up
and hold like a lamb.
I could not talk to a God in the clouds;
but tonight when I look and smile
and talk nonsense to this
tiny thing, I know that I am
talking to God.
And it is God who smiles
back at me and waves his
perfect hands in delight.
And tonight in your smallness, God,
you seem bigger and more powerful
to me than you ever did before.
I can hold you now,
hold you in my head
and hold you in my arms,
and know that you are holding me in yours.

Lisa Debney in
Burgess, R. (2005) Hay and Stardust: Resources for Christmas to Candlemas. Glasgow, Wild Goose Publications.

519 Love divine

Prayers of Concern

167 Guide me

Words of Blessing

Retiring Collection

Music: Alan Berry / Hy-Spirit


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Dementia Friendly Church

Text of the Week: Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:27,26

Welcome to today’s services and a special welcome to any who are worshipping with us for the first time. We aim to be a Dementia Friendly Church. Today’s services take us on the next steps of the way towards reaching that goal. MHA (Methodist Homes for the Aged) suggest that a Dementia Friendly church would 1) accept and value people regardless of cognitive abilities, (2) ensure that the person who has dementia, and those who support them, are cared for through all the stages of the illness. (3) make sure that the person who has dementia, and their friends or family members, are both spiritually and pastorally supported and nurtured in order for them to enjoy being a part of a worshipping community in every sense. (4) be open to what people with dementia have to offer, look for strengths and abilities, then support and encourage the use of these gifts so that that they may participate in the community that is the body of Christ. The Alzheimer’s Society want as many people as possible to become a Dementia Friend. And today is an opportunity for everyone to sign up. A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it's like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action - anyone of any age can be a Dementia Friend. We’re going to watch two videos, share some reflections and then invite everyone to sign up as a Dementia Friend. It’s as simple as that! We very much hope you will!


Welcome and Call to Worship

212 Morning has broken

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

The Tale of a Turnip

Reading: Luke 9:46-48
A Hy-Spirit Song
Activities for All over 3

Paul was writing of the Church when he wrote to the Corinthians about the body of Christ – every part of the body needs every other part of the body – and the seemingly unimportant parts of the body turn out to be the most important.

You can apply that to the Church today in all sorts of ways. Each one of us matters as we belong to church; each of us has a part to play, however, small we imagine our part is. Our Ministry Leaders and our Deacons have begun to reflect on what happens next after Felicity and I move on – and they are going to share some of those thoughts at the Church Meeting a week on Thursday. We are going to begin the New Year by inviting all our church mmbers to renew the commitment they made when they became a Church member – we would love all those who come to church to be a church member and so we will be welcoming people into church membmership at those first services of the year. The invitation is there for all who feel at home in the church family and share our very simple faith in God and in Jesus Christa s Lord and Saviour.

But those words of Paul challenge us in all sorts of ways in being a church family. They challenge us to value everyone and to recognize that everyone is just as important in the eyes of God as everyone else – from the youngest to the oldest and no matter who we are.

That conviction has prompted us to take steps towards becoming a Dementia Friendly Church. And that’s what we aim to do today.

I want to be very personal for a moment. My first encounter with dementia was when I was five or six – it’s one of those early fragments of childhood memory. My Grandma had come to stay and gone missing. My Dad found her at the top of the road. She was fine and had just been walking to the Clarence to catch a bus. All perfectly reasonable, except that we were living in Leicester and the Clarence was where she would catch the bus to get home from shopping in Pontypool in South Wales. At the time no one understood what dementia was or what caused it.

My next encounter was at college when our tutor shifted from being an eccentric Don to omitting to do all the things he should to ensure our course was delivered. He had dementia … but at the time no one understood what dementia was or what caused it and so no on could take appropriate action in response.

My next encounter was in the 1980’s in Pontesbury – the husband of one of our members had been a stalwart at the Parish church until he began to do strange things which had resulted in him being stripped of his office and then being asked not to come. At the time no one understood dementia or what caused it and so responded inappropriately to it. After his death I well remember his widow’s excitement when she showed me an article in a  Sunday Paper about Alzheimer’s Disease – that’s him, she said to me. That’s what was wrong. That explains it!

Understanding made such a difference to her, albeit looking back.

As Felicity and I moved here Highbury was very involved indeed – and I was personally touched again. First an aunt and then a cousin of my father’s had dementia very badly and I was the only relative having to sort everything out. At that time the newly formed  Alzheimer’s Society was made up of lots of local self-help groups. The Cheltenham branch met here at HIghbury. Each year for twelve years or so we hosted a service for World Alzheimer’s Day and had speakers who were leaders in the field of seeking understanding of Dementia. We had a memorial book and observed minutes silence for those who had died with dementia.

As the Alzheimer’s Society changed, there was no longer space for that kind of self-help group, other issues arose and the Alzheimer’s Society severed their links with us.

But in the last ten years we have continued to seek to support those with dementia in our church family and around – and to do that one of the key things we have done is to seek an understanding of the condition. Twice a year we have a Pastoral Care meeting and at a number of those sessions we have focused on Dementia to increase our awareness.

But now we want to go one step further. We want to become a Dementia Friendly Church. The Methodist Homes for the Aged, who run care homes rooted in a Christian ethos around the country – here in Brockworth one specializing in dementia care and in Long Eaton one general home where our own Eric Burton is.

They suggest a Dementia Friendly church would
  1. accept and value people regardless of cognitive abilities
  2. ensure that the person who has dementia, and those who support them, are cared for through all the stages of the illness.
  3.  make sure that the person who has dementia, and their friends or family members, are both spiritually and pastorally supported and nurtured in order for them to enjoy being a part of a worshipping community in every sense.
  4.  be open to what people with dementia have to offer, look for strengths and abilities, then support and encourage the use of these gifts so that that they may participate in the community that is the body of Christ.


It’s that fourth objective that takes us back to Paul and what he had to say to the church in Corinth. As you listen to these words, listen to them in the context of our seeking to become a Dementia Friendly Church.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink.

For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. If the foot were to say, “Because I am not a hand, I don't belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, “Because I am not an eye, I don't belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body. If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell? As it is, however, God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be. There would not be a body if it were all only one part! As it is, there are many parts but one body.

So then, the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don't need you!” Nor can the head say to the feet, “Well, I don't need you!” On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker; and those parts that we think aren't worth very much are the ones which we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body which don't look very nice are treated with special modesty, which the more beautiful parts do not need. God himself has put the body together in such a way as to give greater honour to those parts that need it. And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness.

All of you are Christ's body, and each one is a part of it.

All of us are Christ’s body, and each one is part of it.

The Alzheimer’s Society want communities, shops, churches to become Dementia Friendly. To make that happen the Alzheimer’s Society want as many people as possible to become a Dementia Friend. And today is an opportunity for all of us here to sign up … and indeed for any of us sharing at home.

 A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it's like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action - anyone of any age can be a Dementia Friend. So we’re going to watch two videos, share some reflections and then invite everyone to sign up as a Dementia Friend. It’s as simple as that! We very much hope you will!

Understanding Dementia – a video

[To share the videos we are watching today with your church  go to  https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/ sign up as a Dementia Friend, register as an organization and you will be able to choose two videos to share with your church. This was the first, Understanding Dementia]


181 For the beauty of the earth

To me this hymn speaks of a love that encircles us all and a love that treasures each and every person for the person they are.

For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:

Christ our God, to you we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light:

For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and brain's delight,
for the mystic harmony
linking sense to sound and sight:

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild:

For each perfect gift and sign
of your love so freely given,
graces human and divine,
flowers of earth and buds of heaven:

Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917)

So, what is involved in becoming a Dementia Friend?

Becoming a Dementia Friend - a video

[The second video we showed was the last in the selection described above.]

It’s a simple idea.

A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it's like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action - anyone of any age can be a Dementia Friend. Now we are going to invite everyone to sign up as a Dementia Friend. It’s as simple as that! We very much hope you will!

And there’s an invitation – on Wednesday 29th November at 2-30 we are having a short half hour service followed by tea and cakes and have invited friends from three or four care homes to come and join us – do join us if you can.

If church is about being the body of Christ where every single part of the body counts and is just as much treasured as every other part. Church is also about being friends together and friends with the greatest friend of all.

547 What a friend we have in Jesus

1          What a friend we have in Jesus,
            all our sins and griefs to bear!
            what a privilege to carry
            everything to God in prayer!
            O what peace we often forfeit,
            O what needless pain we bear,
            all because we do not carry
            everything to God in prayer!

2          Have we trials and temptations,
            is there trouble anywhere?
            We should never be discouraged:
            take it to the Lord in prayer.
            Can we find a friend so faithful
            who will all our sorrows share?
            Jesus knows our every weakness:
            take it to the Lord in prayer.

3          Are we weak and heavy-laden,
            cumbered with a load of care?
            Jesus is our only refuge:
            take it to the Lord in prayer!
            Do your friends despise, forsake you?
            Take it to the Lord in prayer;
            in his arms he'll take and shield you,
            you will find a solace there.

Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886)

Prayers of Concern

153 Great is thy faithfulness

Words of Blessing

Retiring Collection

Music:  Richard Sharpe and Hy-Spirit



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Forgiveness And Reconciliation

Text of the Week: Let us not become tired fo doing good: for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.  Galatians 6:9

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time. It’s Sunday Special today – that means that any children and young people are invited to go through to the café space where there’s some breakfast and lots of activities to enjoy. Thank to our Explore Group who have put together the first part of our service today and to Hy-Tec and Hy-Tide who have put together the last part of our Service. This morning’s service follows on from Remembrance Sunday last week and takes us back to the occasion when David Waters, who spent a gap year with us twenty years ago, joined our panel at the 40th anniversary of Richard’s ordination. David gave us a fore-taste of the Songs of Praise programme he had recently worked on. It was broadcast last Sunday afternoon to mark the 30th anniversary of the Enniskillen bombing. It tells a moving story of forgiveness and reconciliation. This evening’s service ties in with this week’s readings from Matthew’s gospel in Fresh from the Word. Rachel Jacques has copies of the new edition of Fresh from the Word ready for 2018. If you haven’t before, do join those who have been using Fresh from the Word. It gives us the opportunity to read the Bible together as a Church family not only in our Sunday services but through the week as well.


Welcome and Call to Worship

After the welcome invite people to be quiet and in the stillness sense the presence of God with us.

Jesus said,
For where two or three are gathered in my name,
I am there among them.

Please remain seated to sing as a prayer …

38 As we are gathered, Jesus is here

            As we are gathered, Jesus is here,
            one with each other, Jesus is here;
            joined by the Spirit, washed in his Blood,
            part of the Body, the Church of God.
            As we are gathered, Jesus is here,
            one with each other, Jesus is here.

John Daniels (born c.1954)
Copyright © 1979 Authentic Publishing/Adm. by kingswaysongs.com

And so with the presence of Jesus with us
it is good to join with all God’s people wherever they may be
to sing our praises to God.

Then I saw the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders
fall before the Lamb,
and sing a new song:

Then I looked,
and I heard the voice of many angels
surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders;
they numbered myriads of myriads
and thousands of thousands,
singing with full voice,

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and in the sea,
and all that is in them, singing,

‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might
for ever and ever!’

And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’
And the elders fell down and worshipped.

Let’s stand as we are able to join in singing

173  Sing to God new songs of worship-
all his deeds are marvellous;

1          Sing to God new songs of worship-
            all his deeds are marvellous;
            he has brought salvation to us
            with his hand and holy arm.
            He has shown to all the nations
            righteousness and saving power;
            he recalled his truth and mercy
            to his people Israel.

2          Sing to God new songs of worship-
            earth has seen his victory;
            let the lands of earth be joyful
            praising him with thankfulness.
            Sound upon the harp his praises,
            play to him with melody;
            let the trumpets sound his triumph,
            show your joy to God the King!


3          Sing to God new songs of worship-
            let the sea now make a noise;
            all on earth and in the waters,
            sound your praises to the Lord.
            Let the hills rejoice together,
            let the rivers clap their hands,
            for with righteousness and justice
            he will come to judge the earth.

After Psalm 98, Michael Baughen (born 1930)
© Michael Baughen/Jubilate Hymns

It is wonderful to join in with all God’s people wherever they may be and of every generation in singing the praises of God.

Let’s share together in saying the words of Psalm 145 in our praise of God.

I will extol you, my God and King,
   and bless your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
   and praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
   his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall laud your works to another,
   and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendour of your majesty,
   and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
   and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
   and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

I will extol you, my God and King,
   and bless your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
   and praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
   his greatness is unsearchable.


How good it is to sing the praises of God.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.

And sometimes it makes us feel very small, all too conscious of our inadequacies, our frailty, our sinfulness.

We know what we should do … and yet so often we don’t do as we should.

We know what we should say … and yet so often we don’t say it

We know what should be in our hearts … and yet so often it’s not there!

But that’s the whole point of the faith we share in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The God he opens up for us to sing our praises to is the God who is full of compassion, who sees us as we are and touches us with a deep-down love that forgives.

Let’s go back to that wonderful vision of God’s glory Iain began our service with …

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slain,

And grasping the secret of life in all its fullness

Then it was that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, sang  a new song:

‘You are worthy to open up the secret of life in all its fullness
for you were slain and by your blood you set your people free for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
   and they will reign on earth.’

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,

‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honour and glory and blessing!’

Let’s look to Jesus and see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and in the knowledge of that wonderful love of God let’s say together more words of that Psalm.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
   and his compassion is over all that he has made.

I will extol you, my God and King,
   and bless your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
   and praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
   his greatness is unsearchable.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
   and his compassion is over all that he has made.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
   and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling,
   and raises up all who are bowed down.
The Lord is just in all his ways,
   and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
   to all who call on him in truth.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
   and his compassion is over all that he has made.

On Tuesday evening we met together at Explore to put this morning’s service together. We’ve celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Richard’s Ordination as Roy Jenkins, David Waters and Yvonne Campbell shared their vision for the church with us. We have celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and the wonderful insight it has given us that God’s grace in all its love reaches out to each of us before we have done anything to deserve it.

We have reflected on dying, death and what is beyond in the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. In  our Remembrance Service we have committed ourselves once again to work for that peace which those who died in war longed to see.

Where can we turn next?

Reconciliation was, we sensed, the theme we should share today.

Reconciliation begins with forgiveness.

Where better is that story told than in the book of Genesis? Many of its stories set the scene for the whole story of salvation the Bible contains.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation are at the heart of those stories in Genesis and at the heart of the whole story of salvation in the Bible.

When Jacob cheats Esau of his rightful inheritance the two brothers become enemies. The story unfolds focusing on Jacob until towards the end Jacob sees Esau approaching him with 400 hundred men and he is convinced he is bent on revenge and destruction. Gathering all his family together, Jacob goes on ahead to meet his brother and he bowed down to the ground seven times. It is not in a spirit of enmity that Esau has come. He has come in a spirit of friendship.

Jacob reaches out to Esau and says, most movingly, “To see your face is for me like seeing the face of God, now that you have been friendly to me.”

As Jacob’s story comes to an end it leads on to the story of Joseph and his Brothers. And it is a story of forgiveness and reconciliation.

There’s a most moving moment in Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor dreamcoat when Joseph is at his lowest – he has fallen out with his brothers, they have fallen out with him. He finds himself in the deepest of dark places. And it is there that he finds the presence of God.

Close every door to me.

I love Joseph and the Amazing Tecnicolor Dreamcoat – but at the very end it somehow misses the point. It comes to a climax with the slushiest of messages – Any dream will do!

No, any dream will not do, I always feel like shouting out in the theatre  but I restrain myself and get carried away with the exuberance of the m music – which I could sing … but I won’t!

The Bible story actually comes to an end on a much more challenging and a much more powerful note.

At the very end of the story in Genesis the tension mounts one last time. Their father, Jacob, has now died. And the brothers are convinced that Joseph will turn to hatred and wreak revenge.

Genesis 50:15-21

After the death of their father, Joseph's brothers said,

“What if Joseph still hates us
and plans to pay us back for all the harm we did to him?”

So they sent a message to Joseph:

“Before our father died, he told us to ask you,

‘Please forgive the crime your brothers committed
when they wronged you.’

Now please forgive us the wrong that we,
the servants of your father's God, have done.”

Joseph cried when he received this message.

Then his brothers themselves came and bowed down before him.

“Here we are before you as your slaves,” they said.

But Joseph said to them,

“Don't be afraid; I can't put myself in the place of God.

You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good,
in order to preserve the lives of many people
who are alive today because of what happened.

You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.”

So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts.

Forgiveness leads on to reconciliation.

Verse 20 is one of the most powerful in the Bible …

You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good,

That’s the God I believe in.

And then comes an even more wonderful moment … as Joseph reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts.

Let’s come back to those words of Psalm 145

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
   and his compassion is over all that he has made.

The Lord is just in all his ways,
   and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
   to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfils the desire of all who fear him;
   he also hears their cry, and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
  
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
   and all will bless his holy name for ever and ever.

187 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy

1          There's a wideness in God's mercy,
            like the wideness of the sea;
            there's a kindness in his justice,
            which is more than liberty.

2          There is no place where earth's sorrows
            are more felt than in God's heaven:
            there is no place where earth's failings
            have such kindly judgement given.

3          For the love of God is broader
            than the grasp of mortal mind;
            and the heart of the Eternal
            is most wonderfully kind.

4          If our love were but more simple,
            we would take him at his word;
            and our lives be filled with glory
            from the glory of the Lord.

Frederick William Faber (1814-1863)

Forgiveness gives rise to reconciliation. And that makes a world of difference.  It can make a difference in our lives not because of any strength we can muster but because of that strength we can draw on from beyond ourselves in the unseen, yet very real power of the Holy Spirit.

But the Spirit produces
love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
humility, and self-control.

There is no law against such things as these.

Reading: Galatians 5:22-26 & 6:7-10

And those who belong to Christ Jesus
have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires.

The Spirit has given us life;
he must also control our lives.

We must not be proud
or irritate one another
or be jealous of one another.

Do not deceive yourselves; no one makes a fool of God.

People will reap exactly what they sow.

If they sow in the field of their natural desires,
from it they will gather the harvest of death;
if they sow in the field of the Spirit,
from the Spirit they will gather the harvest of eternal life.

So let us not become tired of doing good;
for if we do not give up,
the time will come when we will reap the harvest.

So then, as often as we have the chance,
we should do good to everyone,
and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith.

Those are powerful words –

he must also control our lives.

People will reap exactly what they sow.

So let us not become tired of doing good;

So then, as often as we have the chance,
we should do good to everyone,

Forgiveness. Reconciliation.

Can that really be something practical to live your life by?

A month ago at that celebration weekend for the 40th anniversary of Richard’s ordination, David Waters spoke of his return to Songs of Praise. He had just been working on the Songs of Praise edition for Remembrance Sunday which this year marked the 30th anniversary of the Enniskillen bombing in Nortthern Ireland. David spoke of filming Joan Wilson whose husband Gordon found it within himself to forgive those who had so cruelly killed their daughter. He rcalled how everyone involved in the filming was moved – even the cameraman, moved to tears, he said.

Joan Wilson reflects on how faith gave her strength after losing her daughter in the Enniskillen bomb. And Father Brian Darcy on how Gordon Wilson’s words impacted the Peace Process.


Thursday on the Today Programme at 1 hr 30 mins

Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, himself a victim of terrorist bombing went with the Coptic Bishop Angelos to a desert monastic community north of Cairo and he spoke to a community that feels under siege.

On Tuesday we will be praying for the persecuted church – to do that with Open Doors is to be struck by the resilience of the Christians in the Middle East, their defiance in the face  and their commitment to the Gospel of Christ in all its forgiving love.

Bishop Angelos reflected on what it was about the Coptic people that impressed him.

The Copts are a resilient people who have faced persecution for 2000 years and the wonderful thing for me, the very inspiring thing for me is that I always fall back on the example of people here who face this with such forgiveness and such strength and such grace.

We don’t want to die. We love to live because life is given to us by God we are not people who look to die but we embrace it if it comes our way. I think resilience comes from a love of life in the right way and an ability to forgive even those who pursue our death and our persecution.

What would you say then, to the extremists of ISIS and others who say Christians have no place in the Middle East? Asked Frank Gardner.

My message to those who choose to persecute us, replied Bishop Angelos, is that you are loved, we forgive you.

Frank Gardner responded, How on earth can you say that you love somebody who blows up and butchers innocent people?

Because I know that it is the evil within the person acting not the person him or herself and what I want is for that person to look at every individual as a human with the sanctity of life, with a dignity and a right to live.

Then Frank  Gardner went on to meet a Coptic man whose granddaughter had been killed in the bombing of a Cathedral church last December just before Christmas when a suicide bomber had killed 25 to 30 people, nearly all women and children.

Frank Gardner asked Samir what happened that day. Speaking through an interpreter he explained what had happened.

I got back from church and turned the TV on and saw there had been an explosion at |St Mark’s and people had died. I knew my grandchildren would be there so I rushed down there to see what was going on.

I saw ambulances, police and people carrying stretchers – he saw my daughter who had seen my granddaughter had been taken to another hospital.

He found her plugged into a machine. We were praying for a miracle. We prayed to God to save her we kept on praying for her but sadly she was gone. She went to heaven 21st December

After the terrible thing that has happened has it changed you? Asked Frank Gardner. Do you feel stronger, weaker?

After the attack we are stronger. I used to go to church once a week before the attach but now I go several times a week.

Our church is called the martyrs’ church – its fruit grows with the blood of martyrs, the believers of the church.

Then came the question that made me prick my ears up even more.

Could you ever forgive the terrorists who did this?

Samir then spoke so powerfully of his Christian faith.

Our religion teaches us to forgive. It teaches us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us. And to pray for those who hurt us. Yes we will forgive them despite all the blood that was spilled. Our faith tells us to forgive.

Frank Gardner then went on to give his comment as the BBC’s security correspondent.

Well, he sighed audibly, it’s obviously an incredibly moving story. A number of things strike me about this.

One is this amazing attitude that Coptic Christians seem to have, the few that I have spoken to since I have been here of turning the other cheek. Of saying, you know, we must forgive.

Then Frank Gardner said something very, very personal.

But personally, as a victim of terrorism myself, I don’t forgive the terrorists. They’ve never apologized. I’ve never had a letter from the mum saying forgive so and so.

But they, [those Coptic Christians,] are different.

They keep telling me they want to love the terrorists, they want to say prayers for them which to me is extraordinary.

The other thing is the resilience that they have so this man that has lost his darling grand daughter and his own daughter has been horribly scarred and damaged  for ever by the explosion yet he says he goes even more to church than ever before. He is determined to resist the threats from the terrorists.

486 Forgive our sins as we forgive

1          'Forgive our sins as we forgive',
            You taught us, Lord, to pray,
            But you alone can grant us grace
            To live the words we say.

2          How can your pardon reach and bless
            The unforgiving heart
            That broods on wrongs, and will not let
            Old bitterness depart?

3          In blazing light your cross reveals
            The truth we dimly knew,
            How small the debts men owe to us,
            How great our debt to you!

4          Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
            And bid resentment cease;
            Then, reconciled to God and man,
            Our lives will spread your peace.

Rosamond E. Herklots (1905–1987)
© Oxford University Press


Is it really possible to seek reconciliation for real?

Hard on the heels of that piece by Frank Gardner on  Friday morning came Thought for the Day with Lucy Winkett.

She reflected on how forgiveness is so often seen as something weak, as if it involves letting people get away with something. So often it is seen as somewhere between impossibly generous and unhelpfully pious.

She was quite clear. It is not about being nice. It is not about being a doormat. Especially does that apply, she suggested, to women who have experienced domestic violence.

She reflected on the way there is a timeliness to forgiveness and for many it isn’t yet; it isn’t now.

She suggested it’s more of a process than an event.

And then she quoted Marion Partington who only discovered after 21 years that her sister, Lucy, who had gone missing had been killed by the West’s in Gloucester. The discovery set her on a path that has led to her involvement in the Forgiveness project.

Forgiveness, she suggests, is giving up hope of a better past. She knows what she is talking about.

When I embark on a process of trying to forgive you or trying to forgive myself I am taking a deep breath and turning my face towards a past that I know I can’t change. It’s not weak: it’s strong. And the hallmark of the strength of forgiveness is found in the root of the word used in the NT. To set aside. To let go. What is forgiveness then?

Listening to Samir perhaps it begins in defiance, choosing what is inevitably a costly path to freedom

It’s interesting how Lucy turns to an understanding of the NT to throw light on the emotional power of what Marion Partington had said. Lucy Winkett has written the forward to 2018’s Fresh from the Word. Rachel has got fifty copies for the New Year – and so make sure you get a copy. If you haven’t had one so far please put your name on the list, and make sure you get hold of them.

“When we read the Bible with our heart, she says, we let it touch us; we let the gospel get under our skin….

“When we read the Bible with our head, we obey the commandment to love the Lord our God with our mind as well as everything else.

“And finally, when we read the Bible with our feet, we acknowledge that this scripture is good news for our lives as they are lived now.”

Is it really possible to forgive in such a way?

Is it really possible to seek reconciliation for real?

No, it is not possible … in our own strength.

But what makes our faith the faith that makes such a difference for Samir and those Coptic Christians and for Marion Partington and those involved in the Forgiveness Project is that we have a strength from beyond ourselves that we can draw on.

The Spirit has given us life;
he must also control our lives.

People will reap exactly what they sow.

So let us not become tired of doing good;

So then, as often as we have the chance,
we should do good to everyone,

526 This is a day of new beginnings

This is the definitive version of the text. An earlier version Is this a day of new beginnings in Faith Looking Forward is given elsewhere but the definitive version should be used wherever possible.

1          This is a day of new beginnings,
            time to remember, and move on,
            time to believe what love is bringing,
            laying to rest the pain that's gone.

2          For by the life and death of Jesus,
            love's mighty Spirit, now as then,
            can make for us a world of difference
            as faith and hope are born again.

3          Then let us, with the Spirit's daring,
            step from the past, and leave behind
            our disappointment, guilt and grieving,
            seeking new paths, and sure to find.

4          In faith we'll gather round the table
            to show and share what love can do.
            This is a day of new beginnings;
            our God is making all things new.

Brian Wren (born 1936)        
© 1983, 1987 Stainer & Bell Ltd

Prayers of Concern

The Lord’s Supper led by our Children and Young People

Praise with Hy-Spirit


Words of Blessing

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