Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any worshipping with us for the first time.
In the run up to Easter I am exploring what for me goes to the heart of the Christian faith.
For me, the God I believe in is a great big God, nothing less than the God of Creation. I don’t see any conflict between science and religion. The world of science opens up wonderful insights into the wonders of the universe – the God of creation is more wonderful still! To believe in the God of creation helps me to put in perspective the troubles I am all too aware of in the world around me. It also challenges me to care for the world we find ourselves in. But focusing on the God of creation only gets me so far in my faith.
I am a Christian.
For me, my faith finds its focus in Jesus Christ. Jesus open up a way of life to follow that is based on love for all, bringing healing into hurting people’s lives. The more I discover about this Jesus through my reading of the Bible and in fellowship with others who share this very special faith, the more he opens up for me the presence of a God who is not just the God of creation, but much more, the God of love.
This Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday and we have a special evening with a difference as the orchestra and chorus of the Harpsichord Collective present Vivaldi's much-loved 'Gloria'. Louise Cawte of St Luke’s who is the inspiration behind this evening comments, “This jewel of baroque music is a great hymn of praise in a number of short sections, with beautiful melodies and catchy rhythms. The orchestra will also perform some string music by Vivaldi and Bach's magnificent double concerto for oboe and violin.” Admission is free, with a retiring collection for SolarAid.
These are very rough notes of the service we shared ...
Welcome and Call to Worship
457 All hail the power of Jesus’ name
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
Do you leave your mark?
Can you tell things people have done?
Cleaning – flowers arranged
John’s story – in prison wants to know if Jesus is the one … and so sends his disciples – Jesus sends word back – look at what’s been happening, look at what I’ve done …
Work out the answer for yourself.
Reading: Luke 7:18-23
A Hy-Spirit Song
Activities for all over 3
Drawn into the Presence of God
In the run up to Easter I am exploring what for me goes to the heart of the Christian faith. For me, the God I believe in is a great big God,
nothing less than the God of Creation. To believe in the God of
creation helps me to put in perspective the troubles I am all too
aware of in the world around me. It also challenges me to care for
the world we find ourselves in. But focusing on the God of creation
only gets me so far in my faith. I am a Christian.
More and more, over the years, I have found myself coming back to Christ and the Jesus who is at the heart of the faith.
If all you’ve got is some sense of God, the God of creation then there are big questions that have no answer – and they cropped up when I went into school on Tuesday morning – why is there so much suffering in the world?
If God is all powerful, all loving, how does he allow suffering to happen?
I do find it helpful to turn to the story of Job – and sense that you have to live with unanswered questions.
But is this the only picture of God we can have.
Is there another way into the God who is so important.
This is where Jesus comes in.
I have always found Holy Week to be one of the most powerful weeks in the year.
I have found it helpful to mark the stages in the week.
Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, the three hours of Good Friday.
I found that for myself.
One Good Friday our youth group met together at 12-00 and we had a bread and cheese lunch – and we listened to a concept album that had just been released. There was no stage musical at that point. Just a double LP. Jesus Christ Superstar.
It put big questions about the identity of Jesus into the mouth of Judas – it prompted so much discussion.
The story itself is so powerful – told from different perspectives in the Gospels.
Just the biblical texts.
The Passion Play was such a moving experience at the Millennium
Maundy Thursday we basically read an extended part of the text and share in the Lord’s Supper.
And on Good Friday – the sayings at the Cross.
And a prayer walk through the town.
For a number of yeas I went up to Prinknash after the walk of witness – most memorably on the Day of the Good Friday Agreement. Driving back came the news the agreement had been signed.
I am one of those who is drawn to digging away at the Jesus of history -0 and that is a project that can be done. It’s been exciting to do that in all sorts of ways – not least in the project I am doing at the moment.
Jesus teaches such a powerful way of living – love God, love neighbour, love enemy too.
He makes that love real in bringing healing into hurting people’s lives.
And somehow in his presence those who follow him sense he opens up a window on to God that shows God to be a god of love who draws us into the closest of relationships with him.
Our Father …
The most wonderful of prayers.
Those who follows him sense that he brings that god of love close to them.
This is the god of love who is there through suffering, there even when he doesn’t appear to be there, the God who draws us to him in the middle of the suffering.
A very different kind of God.
For me, my faith finds its focus in Jesus Christ. Jesus opens up a way of life to follow that is based on love for all, bringing healing into hurting people’s lives. The more I discover about this Jesus through my reading of the Bible and in fellowship with others who share this very special faith, the more he opens up for me the presence of a God who is not just the God of creation, but much more, the God of love.
One of the books of the New Testament where that comes home to me is in the letter to the Hebrews.
It’s one of the later books of the New Testament – wrongly attributed to Paul in the AV, it is an anonymous letter.
It is a considered reflection in the light of the Jesus of history, but also the risen Jesus whose presence is there with us and whose presence is made real as we gather together in his name.
In Jesus we meet with the reality of God. These words are up with the opening words of John’s Gospel as they confront us with the imprint of God in the life of Jesus.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors
in many and various ways by the prophets,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things,
through whom he also created the worlds.
He is the reflection of God’s glory
and the exact imprint of God’s very being,
and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
When he had made purification for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
having become as much superior to angels
as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
That’s quite some statement
Jesus bearing the imprint of God – the reflection of God’s glory.
A HySpirit Song
The writer goes on to speak of the greatness of God.
There is a sense of the distance of the awesomeness of a great big God.
But Jesus is the one who draws us intot he presence of God and draws God into our presence.
Hebrews is built around the thought world of the Hebrew Scriptures – our Old Testament.
Jesus is seens as the one who is the great High Priest – the bridge builder – pontifex – bringing us to God, God to us.
The High Priest is just like God – but also just like us …
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus has experienced humanity at its worst – and is there with us in the worst humanity can hurl at us.
And that is so important to hold on t
That then has implications for us …
The writer explores the imagery and the thinking around the Templea s the place of God’s presence. Then imagines that we are invited into that presence.
We can enter into the presence of God – by the new and living way opened up for us by jesus.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We can enter into the presence of God
We approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
We hold fast to the confession of our hope
And we provoke one another to love.
At the heart of such a faith is faith – we have to trust and believe …
We act on that faith.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
The rest of the chapter goes through the great people of Faith of those Hebrew Scriptures.
With such faith … we need to focus on
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
That then makes a differencve in the living of our lives …
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?’
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.
461 How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
Prayers of Concern
456 Christ is the world’s true light
Words of Blessing
Retiring Collection for Highbury
Music: Alan Berry & Hy-Spirit