Sunday 18 June 2017
A surprising homecomingLuke 15:11-32:
Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.’
Having delivered a grievous insult to his father, the younger son continues to make himself a disgrace to his family, nation and religion before being forced to slink back home. Surely, Jesus' listeners thought, this young man would get his come-uppance? Instead, the father embraces his son and gives him a place of honour. Nigel puts the story of the Prodigal Son in its cultural context and shows how shocked those hearers would have been. What sort of father is this? What is your role in the story? God the Father longs for every person to come home and feel his embrace.
Sunday 11 June 2017
Who can we trust?Luke 4:16-21:
[Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.’
A few days before Chris spoke, the General Election had shown that the public were reluctant to put their trust in politicians. As the drama which begins the recording shows, putting our trust in anyone is a risky business. So why trust Jesus? Do his promises and track record stand up to scrutiny? Chris explains why he has put his trust in Jesus for so many years, and urges us to do the same.
Sunday 4 June 2017
Waiting overActs 2:1-18:
When the day of Pentecost came, [the disciples] were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
These events, re-enacted in dramatised form at the beginning of the recording, fulfilled the promise made earlier by Jesus that the disciples would receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's power is linked with bearing witness to Jesus, says Geoff, and the church exploded into life that day as everyone present heard the message. After Geoff spoke, four people of different ages and nationalities were baptised. God continues to draw people to himself today.
Sunday 28 May 2017
The real issue2 Corinthians 4:1-6:
We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God... And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel.
[Paul said,] As I was on the road [to Damascus], I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”’
If the gospel we preach is true, why don't more people believe it? Paul writes from his own experience: he was unable to see the truth, thinking that he could work everything out for himself, until the light of God broke into his life and showed him he needed Jesus. We don't need gimmicks or clever tricks to present the gospel, says Megan. Rather, as Paul did, we should present it faithfully, knowing that God alone can bring light into people's hearts.
Sunday 21 May 2017
Power demonstration1 Thessalonians 1:2-7:
We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5:
I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power.
If Paul, the greatest gospel preacher of all time, was a poor public speaker, we need not be so ashamed of our own weaknesses, nor bound by our own fears. We should pray that we will be given the right words to speak to each person, says Geoff, and trust in the Holy Spirit rather than in our arguments to persuade the listener to respond.
Sunday 14 May 2017
Being ready1 Peter 3:8-17:
In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
What is this hope that we have? And what would prompt anyone else to ask us about it? Bobbie reminds us of the reason for our hope - the life-changing power of Jesus living within us - and of the love between us which should mark us out as his disciples. Here's a challenge to each of us, and together as a church, to take the message of eternal life to those around us.
Sunday 7 May 2017
God is with usJonah 1-4:
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish... Then [the sailors] took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Did Jonah think that by running away he could somehow escape God? If so, he learned an important lesson: that God is everywhere, with power over everyone and everything we could ever encounter, no matter how difficult the situation. Ann's talk - followed by more explanation from Rachel - is very short, introducing the theme of our All In service. After this we went into different zones to write, discuss, think, be creative and even act out the story of Jonah - using a parachute!
Sunday 30 April 2017
What real friends doLuke 5:17-26:
Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’
“A few people saw his deformity, and yet still chose to be his friends’
A physical disability such as the one in the story is obvious to all, but what if the thing that binds us to our “mat” is something shameful - as in the modern-day story that Chris tells? Who can we trust to help us when we are afraid to reveal the truth about ourselves? Chris challenges us to be willing to take risks, and to be the ones who will put in time and effort to bring others to Jesus for healing.
Sunday 23 April 2017
A message to share2 Corinthians 5:11-21:
If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! ... And [God] has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God.
Are you willing to serve for the good of others, respecting and listening to those to whom you will go? Do you know and believe in the values of the kingdom to which you belong? Are you ready to go out of your safe space to demonstrate those values to others? God has a job for you, says Allan: that of ambassador, representing the kingdom of God. For the next few weeks we'll be following the theme A message to share
leading up to a special time of outreach at the beginning of June.
Like the kingdom of God, the life within these corms is almost invisible, yet it will one day produce something of great beauty
Sunday 16 April 2017
Nothing could hold himMatthew 27:62-28:10:
The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.”’
Never, says Geoff, has there been an escape story like this one. Jesus, dead for three days, returns to life and breaks out of the sealed tomb. Over the next few days he meets with his disciples and deals with each one in a way that overcomes their doubts and fears. Whatever sorrows we have to carry, whatever sense of failure, the risen Jesus is the one who can give us fresh vision and hope.
Sunday 9 April 2017
The triumphal entryLuke 19:28-44:
As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side... They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God's coming to you.’
This, says Chris, is not a Palm Sunday sermon. Instead, he takes us on a journey with Jesus, among crowds who long for a King, and on to a view over the city that Jesus loved - a city that failed to recognise the one who alone could have brought it peace. Will we in our day help people to see Jesus, the only one who can bring hope to a broken world?
Sunday 2 April 2017
Clothe yourselves...Colossians 3.12-17:
As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
What we choose to wear signals our intentions for the day, and - as the drama near the beginning of the recording illustrates - how we want others to see us. Speaking in an All Age service, Susan describes the sort of qualities we should "wear", and points to the God who alone is able to change us from the inside so that, bit by bit, these "clothes" become a more comfortable fit.
These fine "clothes" were put on display as the Bible passage was read
Sunday 26 March 2017
Jesus laments over JerusalemIsaiah 49:13-16:
Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!’
[Jesus said,] ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.’
On Mothering Sunday, Megan's talk reminds us that love can bring great pain as well as joy. Jerusalem was the city on a hill which was meant to proclaim God's values to the world. Instead it rejected God and crucified Jesus rather than accept the shelter he offered. Megan urges us to find true freedom in Jesus before, as it was for Jerusalem, it is too late.
Sunday 19 March 2017
Jesus' baptismMatthew 3:11-17:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then John consented.
Since baptism was a sign of repentance it's hardly surprising that John objected to baptising Jesus, who he knew to be sinless. What was going on? The answer, says Arif, helps to explain the purpose of Jesus' ministry which began at this point. Do we know what God is calling us to do with our lives?
Sunday 12 March 2017
Loved in tough timesLamentations 3:13-27:
So I say,
‘My splendour is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.’...
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The writer of the book of Lamentations was indeed going through the darkest of valleys, having seen Jerusalem destroyed after a long siege by the Babylonians. Even Jesus, on the cross, felt a sense of abandonment. Yet in these words Geoff finds pointers to a response when all hope is gone and God seems absent.
Sunday 5 March 2017
God protectsExodus 1.1-2.10:
Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
According to Pharaoh's decree, this child - born to one of the Hebrews who were then slaves in Egypt - should have been thrown into the Nile. Instead, he was rescued by Pharaoh's own daughter and returned to his mother to care for him. When he grew up, Moses would become the one through whom God rescued his people from slavery. Speaking in this All In service, Megan reminds us of the need to pray for God's protection for others and ourselves.
As we learn in the drama at the start of the recording, not all heroes are really all that "super"
Is this mug well enough protected to survive being posted to Australia?
This acrostic poem is read out at the end of the recording
Sunday 26 February 2017
Unfailing loveIsaiah 54.1-10:
‘Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband -
the Lord Almighty is his name -
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.’
This prophecy, addressed to the people of Israel returning home after 70 years in exile, is full of allusions to the promises of God made throughout the Bible. Bobbie explains the implications of those promises and how they can change our lives today.
Sunday 19 February 2017
Power to comprehend God's loveEphesians 3:13-21:
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.
Knowing we're loved: that's the theme of our current series of sermons. We know in our minds that God loves us, says Allan, but we need to know it in our hearts as well. He offers 5 different things we can do to allow this knowledge to go deep into our being.
Can you spot the mountain? Some people miss the big picture, says Allan
Sunday 12 February 2017
Love poured outRomans 5:1-11:
Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ... Hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
“You are never safer than you are with Jesus because he risked everything for you”
It's wonderful to think that our lives can be full of love, given to us through the working of the Holy Spirit. But, as Chris explains, for God to truly fill us we have to be emptied of all the rubbish first. God has provided everything we need to make that possible, but we do have a habit of holding on to things rather tightly. The worship in the service was led by Roger Jones and a team from Christian Music Ministries, and there are some references to that in the talk.
Sunday 5 February 2017
God's loveGenesis 2:4-3:13:
The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being... When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
After a dramatic interpretation of the Bible story (it doesn't stick strictly
to the words in Genesis) Matt goes on to remind us that the love of God rather than romantic love is what all of us truly need. This was just the first part of our first ever All In service, and we then went on to respond in a variety of different ways. There's more about the service here
. The recording ends with a summary from service leader Rachel Fasham.
Crooner Matt sings us a love song
Is there more to love than just froth and bubble?
Sunday 29 January 2017
A change in statusJohn 15:9-17:
[Jesus said,] ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.’
It's an extraordinary privilege, says Geoff, but one that comes with great responsibility. This is a friendship like no other, initiated by Jesus and characterised by sacrificial love.
Sunday 22 January 2017
Condemned no moreRomans 8:1-4:
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
In a courtroom, the defendant is found guilty - and is immediately set free. But on what terms? It's wonderful to be forgiven, but God's love goes far beyond even that, says Bobbie. She lists some of the amazing privileges God has given us and the help available to us to become more like the people he wants us to be.
Sunday 15 January 2017
Known on the insidePsalm 139:1-18:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
God knows all about me - everything I do and think, even before I have thought of it myself. A God from whom nothing can be hidden, from whom there is no escape and who can do anything. This is wonderful and comforting knowledge, says Chris, that will change our lives if we truly believe it. After the talk we viewed a video meditation on Psalm 139.
Sunday 8 January 2017
Children of GodJohn 1:9-13:
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world... To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
1 John 3:1-3:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.
What is it that defines a person? We might think of job, status, possessions, abilities... but to truly know that we are unconditionally loved by God is something that goes to the core of our being and changes us from the inside. The new sermon series Knowing we're loved
is aimed at helping us know and live out that truth. To anyone who has not taken the step of receiving Jesus, Geoff recommends the Start! course
as a way of discovering more about the love of God.
Sunday 1 January 2017
A long searchMatthew 2:1-12:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’
Why did the Magi think that their long and dangerous journey was worth making? What did they expect to find? What they actually found was a treasure more valuable than anything they could have expected, says John, and we too can find eternal treasure if we look in the right places.
What's in the package? Who is MB? Let John unwrap the mystery...
Sunday 25 December 2016
God with usJohn 1:6-14:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
It's the greatest nativity play of all, the one where God took on our humanity. And, says Geoff, it has a cast of nobodies, people who thought their lives would never amount to much. God still enters the lives of ordinary people. What might we become if we truly recognise that God is with us?
The star decorating our lectern was made out of offcuts from the banner hanging behind it
Sunday 18 December 2016
An angel comes to MaryLuke 1:26-38:
The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
Mary said... ‘He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.‘
From a troubling encounter to exuberant praise. What brought Mary from one to the other? She was asked to take on a very difficult task, says Graham, but she came to see the purposes of God at work in her life. How can we overcome our fear when we are called to do something out of the ordinary? Sorry there's some background noise on the recording.
Virgin and Child by Sandro Botticelli: Mary looked nothing like this, says Graham
Sunday 11 December 2016
The Redeemer prophesiedMalachi 3:1-4:
‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him -
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.
“The Old Testament is like a giant Advent calendar,” says Allan, and here are two of the “windows” that give glimpses of the coming Messiah - the kind of person he was and what he would do. These messages are still relevant to us today as we respond to Jesus and let him change us.
Sunday 4 December 2016
The parable of the gold coinsLuke 19:11-27:
[Jesus said,] ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.”... Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.’
“If we do nothing with the gifts that God gives us, that is a betrayal of the trust that God has placed in us”
As the story continues we discover that one servant has multiplied the money tenfold and another fivefold, and each is are rewarded, but one who hid the money away is punished. The word "mina" - about 3 months' wages - is often translated "talents" and, says Geoff, Jesus is referring to all the gifts God gives us - skills, abilities, time, money. Will we hide them away, or use them in the service of Jesus' "business" - to make disciples of all nations?
At the end of the talk, we each pulled out a buried message...
...and here it is
Sunday 27 November 2016
The labourers in the vineyardMatthew 20:1-16:
[Jesus said,] ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the market-place doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went... The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.’
"It's not fair!" cried the workers who had put in a full day's shift. As the day went on the vineyard owner hired more and more workers, yet he paid them all the same amount regardless of how long they had worked. What's going on? As Chris explains, the kingdom of God turns earthly values upside down. What if everything we have is an unearned gift from God? It could make quite a difference...
Sunday 20 November 2016
Parables of growthMark 4:26-32:
Jesus also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces corn - first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’
A time to sow, a time to grow, a time to harvest. When we pray, "Your kingdom come", how does this work in practice in a person's life? Who does what to bring about change? Bobbie draws on her own experience of being rescued from despair to encourage us to introduce people to Jesus.
Sunday 13 November 2016
The parable of the sowerMark 4:1-20:
[Jesus said,] ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’
In Jesus' story the seed represents the Good News that he came to bring and the soil represents different types of people, only one of which produces any fruit. Geoff explains what a fruitful life might look like and reveals that his own early life was less than promising in this regard. How will we respond to God's message of love?
Some seed fell on stony ground and got taken by the birds
Some seed fell on shallow ground and the plants withered in the sun
Some seed fell among thorns which choked the plants
Some seed took firm root and produced lots of fruit
Sunday 6 November 2016
A life changing conversationJohn 3.1-17:
Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!’
One night, a respected religious leader came to ask Jesus some questions (the recording starts with a dramatised version of that encounter). Later in the service, parents and godparents were asked some questions about faith before a baptism took place. Nicodemus didn't understand Jesus' answers to his questions, so he kept on asking. We should do the same, says Megan, until we're ready to answer the question Jesus asks us: will you follow me?
Sunday 30 October 2016
Bringing others inJohn 10:1-18:
[Jesus said,] ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.’
It's a nice comforting picture: the sheep on the inside under Jesus' protection, and the big bad world kept outside. Except that... Jesus came on a rescue mission and is always working to draw in the outsider. Earlier in the service we had heard from someone who had fallen into debt but had found new faith and hope through our Christians Against Poverty debt advice centre. Geoff reminds us that the church should be shaped to make room for those who are currently on the outside.
Sunday 23 October 2016
Humility and hospitalityLuke 14:7-14:
[Jesus said,] ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast... take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Jesus isn't just speaking about etiquette at a dinner party, says Geoff, but about our attitude to life. I'm too important... I'm worthless... She/he/it is beneath me... any of those thoughts indicate that we have a problem. Geoff points to Jesus as our role model and our guide to the true worth of each person.
Sunday 16 October 2016
Light for the nationsIsaiah 42:1-7:
‘I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.’
‘Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.’
Christians believe that these prophecies refer to Jesus, but how can we in our day follow his example and bring light into the world? As Megan recalls from her own experience, a small action can make a big difference, and our weak efforts to defy the darkness are part of God's greater plan. Megan was speaking early in the morning of the Great Birmingham Run which came past our building a few hours later. Sorry that no PA was used for the service and so the audio quality of the recording is lower than normal.
Sunday 9 October 2016
The priority of worshipHaggai 1:1-15:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘These people say, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's house.” ... Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin? ... Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured,’ says the Lord.
Over a decade after their return from exile, God's people had made good progress in rebuilding their houses and farms, but God had somehow been left out of the picture... and things just weren't working out. It's so easy to push God to the margins, says Bobbie, in our individual lives and as a church. If we put God at the centre everything we do becomes an act of worship. What state is our "temple" in?
Sunday 2 October 2016
Harvest: God the faithful gardenerLuke 13:6-9:
[Jesus] told this parable: ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”’
We know that God wants to produce fruit in our lives - to make us the people that we ourselves would want to be. But we're not there yet... the recording starts with Rachel Fasham leading a time of confession that points us towards the forgiveness and hope that God freely gives. Then Geoff uses some real fruit to illustrate how God works to make us fruitful, and explains the surprising and hopeful end to Jesus' story.
Sunday 25 September 2016
A man born blindJohn 9:1-25:
[Jesus] spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
This man had never been able to see and had no hope that anything would change - until Jesus came along. Walter, who is the pastor of a church in Bolivia, describes his own experience of growing up spiritually blind, and then God breaking in to transform his life. God has the power to set us free physically, emotionally and spiritually and this service ended with many people coming forward to request prayer for healing. Walter spoke in Spanish, with Gray Parker translating. The recording is a composite from two different audio tracks, and for practical reasons it is mainly Gray's voice that is heard, with some of Walter's words also included.
Sunday 18 September 2016
Seek the prosperity of the cityJeremiah 29:1-14:
‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce... Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”’
Aliens in a strange land: an experience known only too well to some of our congregation who are refugees, and earlier in the service Geoff reported the excellent news that three of our number have been granted leave to remain in the UK. There is a sense, too, in which the whole Christian church does not belong in Western, secular society. Should we turn our backs on the world and keep ourselves "holy"? Instead, Jeremiah's prophecy challenges us to get involved in the world around us. Geoff describes some ways in which this is happening locally and urges us to seek the good of our city for the benefit of all.
Sunday 11 September 2016
Abraham's callGenesis 12.1-9:
The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’
David introduces the theme of our sermons for the next few weeks by going back to the very beginning of the story of the people of God. Abram, later given the name Abraham, responds in faithful obedience to God's call and so receives the promised blessing, one which we share as his spiritual descendants. The blessing we receive as we follow God's call is never just for ourselves
but rather for the benefit of the people, community and nations around us.
The chapel at Ffald-y-Brenin, Pembrokeshire, a Christian community which exists to bless its visitors and neighbours
Sunday 4 September 2016
Transforming churchActs 2:42-47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The church that grew in the first days after Pentecost wasn't perfect, but it still represents a standard to which every church should aspire. Geoff asks us to consider how Christ Church matches up against that ideal. To what extent do we live out the Christian story as a community? Listen, be challenged and pray!
Sunday 28 August 2016
Wise judgement1 Kings 3:16-28:
Two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, ‘Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. During the night this woman's son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast.’
One living child, and two women who each claim that the child is hers. Who is telling the truth? How would you have decided the matter? So often we can't work out the right thing to do, or we know what it is but are unwilling to do it. In the Bible story, Solomon's wisdom enabled him to find a solution to the problem. Megan gives us some pointers to resolving life's difficult decisions.
Sunday 21 August 2016
Solomon's request1 Kings 3:1-15:
The Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’ Solomon answered, ... ‘I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties... So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’
There is a kind of wisdom, says Bobbie, that can only come from God. Sometimes it runs counter to the world's ideas, and Bobbie gives examples from her own life where this has been the case. There's a warning, too, that even a wise person like Solomon can be led astray by their own desires. Ask God for wisdom, then put it into practice.
Sunday 14 August 2016
The value of wisdomProverbs 8:
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her...
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me...
For those who find me find life
and receive favour from the Lord.
Who wouldn't want to be wise? Not the kind of "wisdom" to be able to make a fast buck or get one over on everyone else, but something to build a life on. Chris explains what true wisdom is and how we can get it - and the cost.
Sunday 7 August 2016
Dodgy buildingLuke 6:46-49:
[Jesus said,] ‘As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.’
Putting Jesus' words into practice, as Geoff admits, is not easy. For the last few weeks we've been looking at some of his hardest teaching to follow. But building our lives on any other foundation will lead to a crash when trouble comes. It's not enough to hear - we have to respond!
Geoff showed this photo of the foundations of the Christ Church building: much appreciated by those who remember the cracks in the walls of our old building
Before the talk Geoff arranged a practical demonstration of the effects of good and bad foundations, though building style turned out to be important too
Sunday 31 July 2016
The secret rewardMatthew 6:1-6:
[Jesus said,] ‘When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’
Jesus' hearers would have regarded giving, praying and fasting as especially important ways of offering service to God. As Jesus points out, it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons and end up serving ourselves. David explains what our true motivation should be, and the nature of the reward that Jesus promised.
Sunday 24 July 2016
Dealing with those who wrong youMatthew 5:38-48:
[Jesus said,] ‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also... You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’
Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. These have become familiar phrases, but they would have had somewhat different meanings for Jesus' original hearers. The grievances they suffered through living under Roman occupation had led them to set limits on forgiveness, and we so easily do the same. What does it mean to truly forgive? Should we just let people walk all over us? Graham explores what Jesus was really saying - and acknowledges that it is really hard to live up to.
Sunday 17 July 2016
How are you looking at others?Matthew 5:27-30:
[Jesus said,] ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’
[Jesus said,] ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!’
The recording begins with David Mole, who led the service, reading a reflection from pastor and author Rick Warren: do we view other people the way God does? As irritations, burdens, enemies, people that matter? As Megan goes on to explain, the way we look at others is known to God and makes a big difference to the way we live our lives. In particular, viewing others as sex objects can end up destroying lives and marriages. Secret shame, addiction, guilt: this is difficult territory but Megan has a message of hope and encouragement.
Sunday 10 July 2016
What do we make of anger?Matthew 5:21-26:
[Jesus said,] ‘I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment... and anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.’
Some Christians, says Geoff, have interpreted Jesus' words to mean that we should never get angry. But didn't Jesus himself show anger at times... and shouldn't we be angry when other people are abused or treated unjustly? Anger has great destructive power, but as Geoff explains the Holy Spirit is working within us to help us to handle it well.
Sunday 3 July 2016
Why worry?Matthew 6:24-34:
[Jesus said,] ‘So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’
The recording starts with Ann, leading the All Age service, asking us to list the things that we really need (rather than just want) in order to live. Then Matt arrives with his surfboard and reminds us of the promise that Jesus made to his disciples, who had given up everything to follow him: that God would provide what they needed. With the nation facing an especially uncertain future, our true security lies in belonging to the Kingdom of God.
No worries: Matt puts his surfboard down to talk about trusting God for what we need
Sunday 26 June 2016
Jesus and the lawMatthew 5:17-20:
[Jesus said,] ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them... unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’
For the religious leaders of Jesus' day, God's law meant the whole body of teaching laid down in what we now call the Old Testament. It covered food, hygiene, forms of worship and just about every aspect of everyday life. But the word "testament" means "covenant", and as Naeem explains, Jesus came to bring in a new covenant based on what is in the heart rather than outward observance. Naeem is spending a few weeks on a placement at Christ Church as part of his training for Anglican ministry.
Sunday 19 June 2016
Salt and lightMatthew 5:13-16:
[Jesus said,] ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? ... You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden... Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’
Who said following Jesus would be easy? Standing up for truth, integrity and justice, and bringing the love of God to a world full of darkness... these are some of the challenges Chris presents us with. Speaking just a few days before a referendum that divided the nation, Chris also mentions the need to repair divisions wherever these exist within Christ Church so that the light of Christ may be shown through our love.
Sunday 12 June 2016
Vaughan Thomas on behalf of Open Doors
The persecuted churchActs 20.17-36:
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: ‘... I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.’
was born in an era when it was dangerous to be a Christian in Eastern Europe, the USSR or China, but few people in the West knew much about life there. Today, persecution is more likely to be on religious rather than political grounds, and its effects are being felt even in our own city as its victims seek refuge here. Vaughan reminds us that persecution is the normal state of the church, and those who do not suffer it are in a state of privilege. He outlines some of the ways in which Open Doors supports Christians under persecution and helps them not just to survive but to make a positive impact in their situations. There's much more information about Open Doors and how we can support their work on their website.
Sunday 5 June 2016
Jericho takenJoshua 6:1-20:
When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forwards, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord's covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark... Joshua had commanded the army, ‘Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout.’
As Joshua and the people of Israel marched around the fortified city of Jericho, its walls must have seemed even more intimidating than from a distance. Nonetheless, God's promise that the city would fall proved stronger than the evidence of their eyes. When faced by impossible situations today, who will we choose to believe? Geoff challenges us to be alert to what God is doing in breaking down barriers today.
A cunning plan: At the start of the recording, "Joshua" explains how Jericho is to be captured
An impossible distance to jump... but not with someone bigger and stronger to help
Sunday 29 May 2016
Joshua's visionJoshua 5:13-15:
When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand... The commander of the Lord's army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.
Having crossed the River Jordan, the people of Israel face the challenge of capturing the huge fortified city of Jericho. Perhaps Joshua is wondering how he will lead his army into battle when this encounter brings him up short: the battle is God's, and he is in charge. If we are ever tempted to think that God is on our side, we've got it the wrong way round, says Allan: our task is to fit in with his plans and fight for his causes.
Sunday 22 May 2016
Stories of remembranceJoshua 4:1-18:
Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed... and said to them, ‘Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, “What do these stones mean?” tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord... These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever.’
The people of Israel set up twelve stones, one for each tribe, to remember for all time God's act of deliverance in bringing them across the Jordan. Bobbie presents five modern-day "rocks": things we should celebrate and thank God for, and ways of remembering them. Sorry there's a bit of background noise for the first couple of minutes of the recording.
Sunday 15 May 2016
Crossing the JordanJoshua 3:
Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people... Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’
While [Jesus] was eating with [the disciples], he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
After forty years of wandering in the desert just one thing separated the people of Israel from the land that had been promised to them: the river Jordan in full, raging, impassable flood. They could only wait for God to intervene, and by obeying his commands they were able to cross the river on dry ground. Jesus' disciples, too, had to wait to receive the power that would enable them to fulfil the mission he had given them. Waiting is hard, says Geoff, but it teaches us not to trust in our own resources and to hand control over to God. Geoff played a brief video of the river Jordan in flood: just the audio on the recording is enough to sense the power of the water.
Sunday 8 May 2016
Spies sent to JerichoJoshua 2:
Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there... The king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: ‘Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.’
What Rahab did next earned her a place not only in Israel's hall of fame, but also in the ancestral line of Jesus. She had recognised the power of the God of Israel, and knew that her city would surely be defeated in the coming invasion. So she helped the spies to escape, and bargained for the lives of herself and her family. Rahab the prostitute seems an unlikely hero, says Geoff, but God delights in using people we would write off in order to bring about his purposes. We are in danger of excluding from our churches those who don't fit the mould.
Sunday 1 May 2016
Jesus... said, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’
1 Timothy 6:17-19:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
The recording starts with a dramatised version of the first reading, which sees a rich young man held captive by his wealth and unable to take on the values of the kingdom of God, described by the second reading. In this All Age service Susan challenges us to think of ways of being generous not just with our money but also with our time and talents. Some members of the congregation contribute their own ideas. What are yours?
Sunday 24 April 2016
Joshua's commissionJoshua 1:1-9:
The Lord said to Joshua son of Nun... ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.’
After so many years of waiting and wandering, the time has come for the people of Israel to enter the Promised Land. For Joshua, too, this is the culmination of a lifetime during which God has prepared him for this role. Now he is given some commands to follow, but God makes promises to match each one. Chris reminds us that no matter what stage we are at in life, God is preparing us for something - and Chris also offers us an unlikely sporting hero to hold as a role model.
Sunday 17 April 2016
Taking frightDeuteronomy 1:19-38:
[Moses said,] ‘But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You grumbled in your tents and said... “Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky.’”’
Camped in the desert on the edge of the Promised Land, the people of Israel awaited the report of the men they had sent to spy it out. The men returned bearing huge bunches of fruit and the news that the land was heavily fortified. The people for whom God had parted the Red Sea gave into their fears, which meant a slight delay: of 40 years. What opportunities might we miss, asks Geoff, if we become paralysed by fear at the prospect of risk or change? He outlines some specific areas where moving forward in faith could make a difference to our lives and our world. The recording ends with a picture from a member of the congregation encouraging us to fully live out our God-given identity.
Sunday 10 April 2016
An unexpected encounterJohn 20:19-29:
Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
He's gone down in history - unfairly, says Geoff - as "Doubting Thomas". In reality he's someone who cared deeply about Jesus and about the truth. Today our faith rests on a combination of the tradition handed down by the apostles and our own personal encounters with Jesus, and Christ Church should have room for everyone who has genuine questions.
Sunday 3 April 2016
Back to fishingJohn 21:1-14:
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven't you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Were these experienced fishermen fools to take any notice of the mysterious stranger? But what a result when they did. John reminds us of other apparently foolish actions that turned out to be true wisdom, above all, Jesus' death on the cross. Don't be a fool: listen to and follow Jesus!
Sunday 27 March 2016
A likely tale - or is it?Luke 24:1-12:
When [the women] came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Who could possibly believe such an unlikely story - that a man who was dead and buried could come back to life? Yet each of Jesus' followers, in their own time and in their own way, met with him and were convinced that he is alive. And, says Geoff, people continue to have encounters with the risen Jesus today, and to have their lives changed as a result. Will you just write it off as a tall tale?
Sunday 20 March 2016
Mark of maturityJohn 21:15-25:
Jesus said [to Peter], ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’
Did anyone say it would be easy to follow Jesus? If we hand our lives over to him, he might lead us to a place where we would rather not go. But, says Geoff, that is the place where real joy is found - a life truly worth living.
Sunday 13 March 2016
Supporting one another in changingEphesians 4:14-16:
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.
When we come to faith we begin a new relationship with God and he starts to transform us into the people he intends us to be. This is not meant to happen in isolation, but in relationship with others who are on the same road. Graham explains some practical ways in which we can help each other and be helped by others as we move forward in faith.
Sunday 6 March 2016
How to be sad in a good way!Isaiah 6:1-7:
‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’”
2 Corinthians 7:8-13:
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it - I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while - yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.
It's hard to say sorry: it took a toddler 67 tantrum-filled minutes to reach that point in a video clip we watched earlier in this All Age service. And it's even harder to mean it, to recognise we're on the wrong path and turn back to God. Geoff explains the crucial difference and why it matters.
At the end of the talk Geoff invited us to make a sign of repentance
Sunday 28 February 2016
Jesus: healer and lifegiverJohn 5:1-24:
One who was [at the pool] had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
“Do you want to get well?” Who would say no? Yet there are all sorts of reasons why people might hold back from asking for healing, and some of those who came for prayer afterwards said that they were especially challenged by what Chris said about this. The message that growth comes through brokenness is hard to accept, but it's very much in keeping with what we've been learning recently as a church. Some personal references have been edited out, along with an explanation of a special prayer event that was held two days later.
Sunday 21 February 2016
Rooted in graceGalatians 3:1-14:
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’
2 Corinthians 12:1-10:
[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
“We need to know that regardless of what we might see as our insufficiencies and failings, as forgiven Christians we are in God's good books”
It's possible to do the right things for the wrong reasons, says Bobbie: out of guilt, in order to impress others, or even to impress God. None of these bring freedom or the kind of Spirit-filled life that God intends for us. Bobbie points the way to seeing ourselves as we really are, and building our lives on God's amazing grace.
Sunday 14 February 2016
Our bit in changingProverbs 4:20-27:
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.
If God is at work in us to change us, do we still need this ancient wisdom for living? Allan affirms that we have to make a daily choice to follow the path of discipleship and explains how we can put these principles into practice in our lives today.
Sunday 7 February 2016
James, the brother who changedMark 3:20-34:
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
1 Corinthians 15:1-8:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
It was clearly very hard for Jesus' family, who had seen him grow through his childhood and teenage years, to accept the radical change of direction his life had taken. Yet some years later we find his brother James playing a leading role in the early church. What made him change? James' story, says Rachel, is one that can encourage us all and give us reason to trust in Jesus. The recording begins with a dramatised interpretation of one of the readings, and ends with Geoff leading us in an act of response to Rachel's message.
Footsteps leading from an empty tomb: each of us made a personal response
Sunday 31 January 2016
Led by the SpiritRomans 8:9-14:
if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
We can't change ourselves by trying harder, says Geoff, but only with the help of the Holy Spirit. So how does it work in practice? Geoff explains what can we do to actively co-operate in the process of change.
Spiritual disciplines: this list was displayed on the screen at one point in Geoff's talk
Sunday 24 January 2016
Recognising the tug of warRomans 6:1-14:
Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
If even the apostle Paul felt this inner conflict, says Megan, we should not be surprised or discouraged if we feel it too. She commentates on a brief tug-of-war contest as an illustration of the daily battle we face, and explains how God is literally on our side to help us win.
Sunday 17 January 2016
Living out of our true identityGalatians 4:1-7:
You are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand... God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
What greater privilege, what higher status, could anyone have than to be a child of God? Yet so often we don't see ourselves in that way, but live in fear of rejection. Geoff explains why this is so damaging and points the way to finding our true identity.
Sunday 10 January 2016
The big goal: spiritual formation2 Peter 1:1-10:
[God's] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Corinthians 3:7-18:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Geoff begins our new series on spiritual formation
with some good news: God wants to change us to make us more like Jesus, and he has given us everything we need to make it happen. Yet so often we feel that we're stuck the way we are, or that somehow this kind of thing is not really for us. Geoff has some encouraging words... and there's much more to come on this theme over the next few weeks.
Sunday 3 January 2016
Patience rewardedLuke 2:21-38:
There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.
Also in the temple that day was the elderly prophet Anna, who, like Simeon, recognised at once the child for whom they had waited so long - the one who would fulfil the hopes of Israel. At the start of a new year, Allan encourages us to hope for the right things and to stay close to God so that we can recognise his voice.
The recording begins with Anna and Simeon discussing their experiences in the temple tea shop
Sunday 27 December 2015
Dangerous timesMatthew 2:7-23:
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.
Herod, made angry and fearful at the news of a rival king, responds by going on a murderous rampage, while Joseph, fearing for the lives of his family, flees to a place of safety - just as several members of our own congregation have had to do. How does tragedy and danger affect our relationship with God? Stephanie urges us to keep trusting him and to accept his love. She has put together a list of Bible verses to help with this (image on right): take one a day!
Sunday 20 December 2015
Joseph's dilemmaMatthew 1:18-25:
Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.”
“An unsung hero maybe, as many of you are. But central to God's purposes too, again, as many of you are.”
Joseph probably never thought of himself as anyone special, but this brief picture shows him to be a true servant of God. In response to Mary's apparent unfaithfulness, he takes the kindest option; when the truth is revealed to him, he is willing to change his mind. So to him is entrusted the care of the Son of God through his infant years. As Bobbie points out, there are many people inside and outside Christ Church who serve God faithfully in apparently ordinary ways and they, too, have a valuable role in the kingdom of God.
Sunday 13 December 2015
An unlikely promiseLuke 1:8-22:
The angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John... He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
To Elizabeth and Zechariah, a faithful but childless couple, would be born a son - John the Baptist - whose purpose included the restoration of family relationships. How would this help prepare the way for the Lord? Because, says Chris, the way we relate to our human fathers is crucial to really knowing God as our Father and accepting his love. This is not guilt territory: the emphasis is on healing.
Sunday 6 December 2015
Jesus sees the heart of the issueLuke 5:17-26:
Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
These friends brought the man to Jesus seeking physical healing but Jesus gave him something extra that he didn't know he needed: forgiveness. It all happened because the friends would stop at nothing to bring him to Jesus. Megan challenges us to give our friends the opportunity to meet with Jesus, especially at Christmas when so many more people are willing to attend a church event.
Our model house already had a hole in the roof into which we could lower the names of people we wanted to pray for to meet Jesus
Sunday 29 November 2015
Healing as a signJohn 4.43-54:
There was a certain royal official whose son lay ill at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders,’ Jesus told him, ‘you will never believe.’ The royal official said, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ ‘Go,’ Jesus replied, ‘your son will live.’
When this man got home he found that his son was indeed healed, and the whole household came to believe in Jesus. If you don't believe that this kind of thing happens today, hear Susan's story (in the middle of the recording) of what happened when people all over the world prayed following the discovery of a serious heart condition in her then unborn daughter. Geoff maintains that healing is an integral part of proclaiming the gospel message today, in Christ Church and elsewhere.
“The consultant looked at us and said that the left ventricle had grown big enough to sustain life without any need for an operation. He looked pretty stunned about it really”
Sunday 22 November 2015
Prophetic evangelismActs 8.26-38:
An angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road - the desert road - that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official... This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’
Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I've ever done. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way towards him.
“The woman started to cry because she couldn't believe that God knew them that intimately”
What led Philip to abandon a fruitful ministry in Samaria and head for a road in the desert? What led a group of Christians to talk to a couple of total strangers, guided only by clues given to them in prayer beforehand? These are examples of “divine appointments”: of God directing people towards those in whom he is already working. Geoff challenges us to see ourselves as co-workers with God and to be prepared to take risks as we seek and follow his guidance.
Sunday 15 November 2015
Bridges to the differentJohn 4:1-26:
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.’
Meeting opposition is hard; meeting indifference is possibly even harder. Stephanie draws on Jesus' example to offer practical steps for crossing barriers and making him known to others. In the end it's God working in people that makes the difference: we can only be partners in what we is doing.
Sunday 8 November 2015
The good news of mercyLuke 10:25-37:
An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus... He wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’
Who, in response to the ancient commandment, should this man “love as himself”? If the answer he had in his mind was “someone like me”, Jesus' reply contained a shocking twist: the hero of the story we have come to know as the Good Samaritan came from a race that was despised and hated by the Jews. Speaking on Remembrance Sunday, Geoff uses some wartime stories as examples of enemies showing mercy to each other. To truly follow Jesus' example we have to show kindness to those others would reject, not just people like us.
Sunday 1 November 2015
Nobody should be throwing stonesJohn 8:1-11:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’
What Jesus said and did next marks out a crucial difference between him and the Pharisees: he actually cared about the woman and wanted to restore her and set her on the right path. The way we think about people affects how we speak and act towards them, says Bobbie, and as always Jesus is our role model for dealing with people that we - and the world - might want to reject. Sorry that due to some technical problems the first few seconds of the talk were not recorded, and there is some background noise which goes away after a couple of minutes.
Sunday 11 October 2015
Weekend Away 3: Lord, save me!Matthew 14.22-33:
But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’
We've stepped out in faith, taking a risk in obedience to God's call, and then - it all seems to go wrong. Why is this happening? How can we ever trust God again? This is another long talk but full of insight into how to respond to this kind of situation - and how not to. John speaks from personal and painful experience of failure and of being led on by God to a place of trust and growth.
Saturday 10 October 2015
Weekend Away 2: Jesus says "Come"Matthew 14.22-33:
‘Come,’ [Jesus] said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus.
Peter put himself in a situation where he was forced to trust Jesus. It's only by leaving the place of safety in response to God's call that our faith can truly grow. John describes what that call might look like, and how we can recognise it - and why it is better to follow it than to try to avoid it.
Saturday 10 October 2015
Weekend Away 1: Jesus, if it's you...Matthew 14.22-33:
‘Lord, if it's you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
Why did Peter say this? The reasons tell us a lot about his relationship with Jesus and what it meant to him to be a disciple. We need the same kind of relationship, says John, if we are to be transformed and to change the people and situations around us. This talk had a big impact on many of us at the Weekend Away, so don't be put off listening by its length (nearly an hour).
Friday 9 October 2015
Weekend Away: IntroductionMatthew 14.22-33:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It's a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.’
In the middle of the storm, Jesus came out to meet his disciples. What follows next in the story provides the theme for John's talks in our 2015 Weekend Away, but in this introductory Friday evening session he simply focuses on the fact that Jesus wants to meet us. Come, Lord Jesus, make your love more real to us, and make us ready to hear and respond to your voice. The recording begins with Geoff interviewing John: we learn what excites him most about Christian ministry, and also what sends him to sleep...
Sunday 27 September 2015
In God's slipstreamJohn 15:26-27:
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father... he will testify about me. And you also must testify.”
“When [the Advocate] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.’
We must tell the world what we have seen and heard of Jesus. That sounds hard, and it is. But earlier in the service we watched a short video
showing how to make cycling easier by closely following someone directly in front. In our case it's the Holy Spirit - the one Jesus referred to as the Advocate - who does the hard work that we cannot, and Chris gives some examples of how this works in practice.
Sunday 20 September 2015
The prime motivationPsalm 145:8-18:
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry... But the Lord said... ‘Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left?’
“The end is nigh!” This was the message that Jonah, after first attempting to run away, took to the city of Nineveh, and he hoped that it really was true. To his horror the people repented and, as Jonah had feared, God spared the city. We make the same mistake if we ever think that God cares only about a chosen few, says Geoff. We need to ask God to give us a heart of compassion for all people no matter how undeserving we think they are.
Sunday 13 September 2015
The challenging cultural landscapeJohn 1:1-18:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols... They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
We start a news series Regaining confidence in sharing our faith
by looking at the culture in which we live and which seems so hostile to the Christian message. We've been here before, says Geoff, and in any case our confidence is in God and not in any formula or prepackaged method for telling others about Jesus. Nonetheless we need to understand the factors that make it hard for those around us to hear the good news.
Sunday 6 September 2015
Come out of the boatMatthew 14:22-32:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified... But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it's you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said.
With images of Syrian refugees making perilous boat journeys very much in our minds, Geoff begins with a reference to another small boat which took St Columbanus and other Irish missionaries to continental Europe many centuries ago (sorry the microphone did not pick up the first minute of the talk
). Like Peter, they were willing to take risks in obedience to God's call and to step outside the comfort zone. If we could do what we are doing without God's help, we're still in the boat - and missing out on the adventure of faith.
What step of faith is God calling us to take? We were invited to write our thoughts down on paper boats and float them on water
We wrote down the causes of our fears and threw them into the dinghy
Sunday 30 August 2015
A call to persevereHebrews 10:19-39:
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.
Thanks to Jesus' sacrifice, which Allan spoke about last week, we can have confidence to enter God's presence. Chris reminds us that we need to keep on drawing near to God in order to receive the benefits that he intends. Chris also offers some practical suggestions to help us to keep going through all the distractions and difficulties of life.
Sunday 23 August 2015
A perfect priestHebrews 10:1-18:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.
The idea of one person giving up something - even their own life - for the sake of others is known and understood in every culture. Yet no-one ever made a sacrifice that was more costly, or had such far-reaching effects, as that made when Jesus gave up his life on the cross. Allan explains why that sacrifice was necessary and how it brings new life and hope to each of us. After Allan's talk we sang Matt Redman's song “Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice” after watching this video which sets the song against powerful images of Jesus' crucifixion.
Sunday 16 August 2015
A perfect priestHebrews 4.14-5.10:
Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
You may not think you need a high priest, but who doesn't need mercy and grace? Chris Turner, who led the service, begins the recording with a story illustrating this theme. Stephanie goes on to explain how Jesus can meet all our needs in building a relationship with God, and has more stories of how this has worked out in her own life.
Sunday 9 August 2015
A constant temptationHebrews 3:1-19:
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today', so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
Following Christ, as David reminds us, can be a bumpy ride. When the going gets tough, it's tempting to take the easy option and turn back. David explains why fixing our full attention on Jesus is the best way to ensure that we hold on everything that makes life worth living. There's a topical reference to Caleb, who was one of the very few who remained faithful to God in the wilderness: it's also the name of the baby born to youth worker Ellen Dann just a few days before David spoke.
Sunday 2 August 2015
Like Father, like SonHebrews 1:1-4:
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
If you want to know what God the Father is like, look at Jesus. That's one of the fundamentals of the Christian faith with which the writer begins this letter. John uses a well-known Bible story to remind us that we too, imperfect though we are, are called to grow to become more like the Father and reveal God's character to the world.
Sunday 26 July 2015
How to live when you know where you belong1 Peter 2:9-12:
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
"Just who do you think you are?" The answer to that question, for a Christian, is pretty extraordinary. Our status is completely undeserved and cannot be earned, but it does mean that much is expected of us in the way we live. Allan describes how some of these things have worked out in his own life and challenges us to actively share our lives with others.
Sunday 19 July 2015
A kingdom that lastsColossians 1:9-13:
[The Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews explains the differences between the terrifying and unapproachable picture of God revealed by the old covenant and the kingdom of God to which we are privileged to belong. Chris describes some characteristics of the "acceptable worship" that is fit for this kingdom and how it helps us to draw closer to God and each other.
Sunday 12 July 2015
The kingdom in your midstMark 1:14-15:
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
[The twelve apostles] Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
What does the kingdom of God look like? Is it just an abstract concept, or confined to a specific historical time and place? Not if these demonstrations of God's power through Healing on the streets
are anything to go by. Geoff encourages us to see the reality of the kingdom of God today and to learn to live in it.
Sunday 5 July 2015
When you open your eyes2 Kings 6:8-23:
When the servant of [the prophet Elisha] got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don't be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha.
It's hardly surprising that we feel intimidated when the opposition's forces are powerful and highly visible. As Geoff reminds us, it's a situation that is common in fiction as well as in real life. We start a new series The reality of the Kingdom
with this reminder that God's resources, though hidden, are greater than any power we may ever encounter. Yet as the story goes on we discover that grace and compassion, not self-preservation, should be our true motivation.
Sunday 28 June 2015
You may not see the resultsDeuteronomy 31:14-23:
The Lord said to Moses, “Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.”... The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”
On that same day the Lord told Moses, “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, opposite Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people... you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”
So often the pattern has been repeated throughout history: one person does the hard work of starting and leading a project, only to find themselves moved aside as someone else enjoys its fulfilment. As Megan observes, God's treatment of Moses seems especially harsh in this case, but what was his true motivation for all those years of service? Our acts of service, big or small, may have consequences that we never get to see.
Sunday 21 June 2015
Faith in a disabled worldGenesis 1:26-28:
God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
1 Corinthians 12:21-26:
God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
Paul uses the physical body as a metaphor for the Christian church: everyone valued, everyone an essential part of the whole. Many of us in Christ Church have personal experience of disability, infirmity and other long-term conditions. In this context, what does it mean to be made in the image of God? Geoff explains the essential contribution that people with disabilities make to the life of Christ Church and every church. Geoff showed two short videos relating to the L'Arche communities where people with and without disabilities live alongside each other. The first features the founder, Jean Vanier, and the second - shown at the very end of the talk - illustrates the Beatitudes as acted out by members of a L'Arche community.
Sunday 14 June 2015
Learning to live with limitsExodus 18:5-27:
When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand round you from morning till evening?’ Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God's will...’ Moses' father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.’
Sometimes it's induced by today's can-do culture; sometimes the pressure comes from within, from apparently good motives. Moses was at risk of burnout, says Graham, and he advises us to take account of our own weakness and avoid heading down the wrong track. We need God's grace in order to fulfil God's call.
Sunday 7 June 2015
Get it off your chestJeremiah 20:7-18:
I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me...
The word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long...
Why did I ever come out of the womb
to see trouble and sorrow
and to end my days in shame?
How would we react if someone stood up in church and said something like this? Surely God's people are not supposed to have such thoughts! Yet it's a sign of Jeremiah's closeness to God that he is able to tell it like it is and not try to pretend that all is well. God is big enough to handle our rants and wants to build an honest relationship. Before Bobbie spoke in this All Age service, we had a rare opportunity to hear from an Old Testament prophet when Cathie interviewed Jeremiah in person. Perhaps he was really quite jolly after all? Listen and find out.
Cathie finds the prophet Jeremiah to be a tough interview subject
Sunday 31 May 2015
Learning from failureMatthew 26:47-56:
While [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people... Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’ Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him... Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
Failure is a universal, and unpleasant, human experience. It was shared by all twelve of Jesus' closest disciples at the time of his Passion, yet Judas went on to a very different destiny from the rest. Megan reminds us that when we fall down, as we surely will, God's grace calls us to get up and walk again. Who will have the last word in our lives? Continuing her tradition of cake-related illustrations, Megan showed us an unsuccessful cake, followed by two successful ones. As they were only pictures we were unable to put them to the ultimate test.
Sunday 24 May 2015
Pentecost: Power to transform the worldLuke 3.15-18:
John [the Baptist] answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’
When the day of Pentecost came, [Jesus' disciples] were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The same Spirit that filled Jesus and enabled him to change so many lives was now at work in his disciples. They received the same power, and, says Geoff, the same task: that of transforming the world. That's still what the church is here for, but it's only possible if we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and work in us.
Sunday 17 May 2015
Weakness is not the exception2 Corinthians 12.1-10:
In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
“If only I didn't have this or that problem, I could achieve so much more.” When our goal is to be more effective in serving God that seems a reasonable thing to wish for. But, as Paul discovered, God's priorities are different from ours. Whatever our “thorn”, says Allan, it's an opportunity for God's grace to flow. Allan spoke fairly briefly because some time had already been spent interviewing Chris Amulo, who has been a vital link in arranging visits of teams from Christ Church to his home village in Western Kenya. Chris described how God had used him despite his admitted tendency to say things that can be misunderstood and cause hurt. Where once he was seen as just a son and grandson in his village, he is now looked on differently because, through the gospel, he has helped to establish connections with the rest of the world.
Sunday 10 May 2015
Foolish comparisons2 Corinthians 10:7-18:
You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do... “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
A few days before Chris spoke, the nation had subjected its leaders to the ultimate popularity contest: a General Election. When Paul's leadership was attacked, his response was very different from that of any politician. Chris outlines Paul's manifesto: to point people to Jesus rather than himself, highlighting his own weaknesses rather than his strengths.
Sunday 3 May 2015
Feeling ordinaryExodus 4:
Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
It's hard to blame Moses really: God had just told him to go to Pharaoh and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. When called to perform a task for which we feel inadequate, don't we too make excuses? Speaking in an All Age service, Megan reminds us that it's God's power, not our abilities, that make us qualified to serve him. At the start of the recording, Ellen describes some situations that have made particular people fearful: can you identify with any of these?
Which hot water bottle will you choose: special or plain? Megan also enticed us with triple chocolate cookies, and more
Good news in cake: God chooses the ordinary to do extraordinary things (our thanks to Ann for making the best sponge cake ever!)
Sunday 26 April 2015
Bishop Maurice Sinclair
A feast for Jesus' rescued peopleLuke 22.7-23:
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
The Passover, the greatest of the Jewish festivals, commemorates God's rescue of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. At this particular Passover meal Jesus gave it an additional meaning as he instituted a remembrance of the rescue act that he himself was about to perform. Speaking in this special service, with two children about to join in receiving Holy Communion for the first time along with other young people and adults, Bishop Maurice explains why Jesus wants so much for us to share this meal with him, and how this celebration helps us to give Jesus his proper place in our lives.
Sunday 19 April 2015
Whose power is it anyway?1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5:
“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
Later in the day (at a separate event) some of us heard living proof of what Geoff was saying when an individual going through severe long-term depression spoke of the loss of competencies, abilities and familiar roles that the illness had brought. That message, delivered from a place of brokenness, had a huge impact in bringing home to us what it means to be part of a loving church community.
“You and I can do heroic things because we believe in the transforming power of God”
We start our new series Faith, weakness and vulnerability
with the discovery that the apostle Paul was not the ultimate power preacher we might imagine. It was the message he proclaimed, not the messenger, that turned the world upside down. Geoff reminds us that the power of the Holy Spirit living in us is more than enough to do whatever God might call on us to do.
Sunday 12 April 2015
A roadside encounterLuke 24:13-35:
That same day [as the Resurrection] two of [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus... They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising him.
Two travellers, dispirited and confused, are walking along unaware that the risen Jesus is with them. A unique journey in history, maybe, yet there is much that we can identify with today. Megan explains how Jesus gently turns lost hope into transformed lives as, step by step, he reveals the truth about himself. Sorry about the poor audio quality of the recording: much lower than Megan's message deserves.
Sunday 5 April 2015
Easter Sunday: A new creationIsaiah 65.17-25:
See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don't be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!”
He is risen indeed! But how can we be sure of that, and what does it all mean for us today? Let Allan and his helpers unwrap the Easter message as they open some chocolate eggs and discover some surprises inside.
Good news in chocolate: A set of Easter eggs with unexpected contents
Sunday 29 March 2015
Freedom for captivesIsaiah 61:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion.
These words were addressed to people who had suffered the pain of exile and were now labouring under the burden of rebuilding their homeland. Several hundred years later, Jesus adopted the same words as his personal mission statement. Megan explains how Jesus is able to set us free from the things that weigh us down today and in every age.
Heavy laden: Megan showed some photos of motorbikes she had seen in Vietnam
Sunday 22 March 2015
Christians Against PovertyMatthew 25:31-40:
The righteous will answer [the King], “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
As we prepare to launch our Debt Advice Centre alongside 5 other local churches, David, who is Regional Manager of Christians Against Poverty
, describes how CAP operates and, just as important, why. There's an opportunity and a need for members of all the churches involved to play a part in turning round the lives of people trapped in debt. We hear also from David's wife Wendy who explains what it means to give our lives to Jesus and leads us in a prayer of commitment.
Sunday 15 March 2015
God's preference for justiceIsaiah 58:1-12:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
"Churches should keep out of political and social issues and concentrate on personal morality and spirituality." Geoff doesn't agree, and nor did Isaiah and the other prophets. Geoff gives several modern-day examples of Christian involvement resulting in changed lives and communities, and directs us towards a campaign against sexual violence against women
and a day of action for climate justice
. There's a warning here: if we close our hearts to the needs around us we close our hearts to God as well.
Sunday 8 March 2015
Who deserves our trust today?Isaiah 45:16-25:
Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, “In the Lord alone
are deliverance and strength.”
We live in an age of mistrust. We have learned that the public face of politicians, companies, newspapers, even entertainers is often very different from the reality. Through the prophet Isaiah, and later through the person of Jesus, God claims to be the one who really is true to his word. Chris challenges us to put our trust in this God and let him turn our lives around.
Sunday 1 March 2015
Don't trust in idolsIsaiah 44:6-20:
All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
Surely no-one would be so stupid as to make a block of wood the centre of their life and community? In ancient times many people in Israel and other nations did exactly that. But replace that block of wood by a mobile phone, or a games console, or a wad of banknotes, and the idea doesn't seem quite so ridiculous. Speaking in an All Age service (led with some style by the Reloaded youth group) Matt explains what we can do to counter the power of things that draw us away from the God who is truly worthy of first place in our lives. The method of destroying an idol demonstrated by Matt - jumping up and down on it - comes in the "don't try this at home" category. Follow the more constructive advice given in the talk instead.
Sunday 22 February 2015
Bishop Raphael Samuel
The call to vulnerabilityJoel 2.23-29:
You will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other.
A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years... When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him... He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Life is messy, says Bishop Raphael. How do we respond when we get hurt? Jesus made himself vulnerable to pain and so was able to bring healing to a hurting world. Raphael uses his own story to show how God's strength is revealed through human weakness. He explains why each of us, and Christ Church as a whole, is called to follow this path. Raphael is Bishop of Bolivia and was in Birmingham with his wife Michelle to grow the link between the churches here and in Bolivia. Geoff Lanham introduces them both at the start of the recording, which was made in a special evening celebration. Later on we were encouraged to respond to Raphael's message and allow God to work in us and heal us of past hurts.
After Raphael's talk, Michelle Samuel used dance to interpret a reflective song: flags are used regularly in this way in their church in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Sunday 22 February 2015
The suffering servantIsaiah 53:1-12:
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Could the death of one person really bring healing to a nation and so to the whole world? What sort of person would this be? Here, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, is a prophecy which foretells the purpose of his suffering. Geoff challenges us to accept the peace with God that Jesus won for us on the cross.
The Watts Memorial in Postman's Park, City of London, commemorates people who sacrificed their lives for others
Sunday 15 February 2015
You are my witnessesIsaiah 43:8-13:
‘You are my witnesses,’
declares the Lord,
‘and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no saviour.’
As this prophecy makes clear, the people of Israel were called to tell the nations of their time about the greatness of God. What's the message we are supposed to take to our modern world, and how can we, with all our human weakness, be expected do any better than ancient Israel? Along the way Bobbie draws some lessons from - and highly recommends - the book that accompanies the Fruitfulness on the Frontline
course by Mark Greene.
Sunday 8 February 2015
Fear notIsaiah 43:1-7:
But now, this is what the Lord says -
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine...
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth -
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’
As some of our members know only too well, being forced to leave your homeland is an unpleasant experience. The people of Israel, in exile in Babylon, felt that God had abandoned them and that there was no hope for the future. David explains what this prophecy meant to them and how it can speak to us today when we face terminal illness, debt, loneliness and even the complexities of the asylum system.
Sunday 1 February 2015
My chosen one in whom I delightIsaiah 42:1-9:
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations...
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles.
In this All Age service Megan gave us the opportunity to test our knowledge of superheroes - and to discover why Jesus didn't quite fit that particular mould. The people of Gotham City and of ancient Israel just wanted their problems sorted out, but God has a much bigger purpose, one that involves us today.
Sunday 25 January 2015
The baptism of JesusMark 1:4-13:
Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’
Why did Jesus choose to be baptised - a sign of repentance that he surely did not need? And what must it have meant to Jesus, at the very beginning of his ministry, to hear those words of affirmation from his Father? Geoff reminds us that we, too, are meant to be confident of our identity before God, and that our worth lies in who we are and not what we do. Sorry that a problem with the microphone resulted in occasional very short breaks in the audio.
Sunday 18 January 2015
Homelessness SundayMatthew 8:18-22:
A teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Caring for people in need is an integral part of our faith. So Sarah, who works for Thrive Together Birmingham
, reminds us. People can find themselves on the streets or in hostels and temporary B&B accommodation for a wide range of reasons, as this video about youth homelessness
illustrates (we watched part of it just over 6 minutes into the talk). Churches can and are doing something to help: for instance, the Birmingham Churches Winter Night Shelter Project
which Sarah's organisation set up. Download her talk and listen to the story, then watch this video
which shows the shelter in action. After that... pray, and see what's really going on in our city!
Sunday 11 January 2015
The visit of the MagiMatthew 2.1-23:
Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” ... On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
“He's come for the outsiders, for the ungodly, for those from other nations, from other religions, from no religion. All are welcome to come and worship him and bring what they can.”
Of all the characters in the Nativity story, none are more mysterious than the Magi. They didn't worship the God of the Jews, and they looked for signs in the stars, something that Jews were forbidden to do. Yet God leads them to the doorstep of the infant Jesus. Allan looks for the meaning of their visit and the gifts that they brought.
Sunday 4 January 2015
A wait fulfilledLuke 2:25-40:
There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout... It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.
We don't know how long Simeon had to wait for the fulfilment of the promise God made to him, but when it did happen, it was probably not in the way he expected. Megan acknowledges that waiting is not easy, but we have to learn to live in accordance with God's plans rather than ours and to let him surprise us by the way he works. There's no need to wait to hear Megan's talk, because it's available for immediate download.
Sunday 28 December 2014
Who is this new-born child?Colossians 1:9-20:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation... all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
If the one who created the universe really came into our world, he would surely make a difference. John reminds us of some people whose lives were changed by their encounters with Jesus, and challenges us to let Jesus change us today.
Sunday 21 December 2014
A God who relates with us
We all know the Christmas story: or do we? Its earthy reality has been turned into something that, to modern ears, sounds like a fairy tale. Speaking in the evening Carol Service, Geoff invites us to look again at the Jesus who gives us the best possible picture of God: a God who made himself vulnerable and dependent on others so that we could come to know him. There's more information here about the Christianity Explored course Geoff mentions.
Sunday 21 December 2014
Mary's song of praiseLuke 1:39-56:
Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour...
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.’
Once, a woman prayed to God out of her desperation to have a child. Her son, Samuel, went on to establish the kingdom of Israel, and Hannah sang a song of joy at the way God lifts up the poor and humbles the mighty. Now Mary, whose child was about to bring in a new kingdom, proclaimed a similar message. The world - and all too often the church - honours the rich and powerful. Yet throughout history, explains Geoff, God has used the most unlikely people to bring about his purposes - and he still does.
Sunday 14 December 2014
Angelic encounterLuke 1:26-38:
In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’
While this story presents no problems to a child performing in a nativity play, it raises many questions in the mind of a 21st century adult. Chris argues that the story makes sense if we believe in an all-powerful God, and also that it is very relevant to the way God calls us and leads us through our lives today.
Sunday 7 December 2014
Stay awake!Matthew 25:1-13:
[Jesus said,] “Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps... At midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’”
This is a story rooted in ancient customs, and Matt - speaking in an All Age service - takes the opportunity to test our knowledge of wedding traditions in various countries. In the story, only the bridesmaids who are ready for the bridegroom's arrival - even at an unexpected hour - are welcomed into the banquet. We, too, need to be ready to meet Jesus when he returns.
We expect high dress standards from our preachers, but Matt really raised the bar on this occasion to go with the wedding theme
Sunday 30 November 2014
Salvation: so who gets in?Matthew 25:31-46:
[Jesus said,] “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”
As for those on the King's left, a rather different fate awaits them. But is it really true that there will be such a final, permanent separation? If so, how will God decide each person's destiny? Geoff presents some answers to these difficult questions. For now, the main issue is whether we are moving closer to God each day or away from him.
Sunday 23 November 2014
What kind of hell can we believe in any more?Matthew 10:22-28:
[Jesus said,] “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
[Jesus said,] “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
“If what you believe happens, when I die I'll be in a bit of a mess.” So Bobbie, introducing the service, recalled a remark once made to her by a non-Christian friend. Of all the teachings regarded as Christian, the idea that anyone should suffer eternal torment is the one we would least like to believe in. But is that really what Jesus taught? Geoff continues our series asking the difficult questions and affirms that there is a message of hope in Jesus' warnings.
Sunday 16 November 2014
What are we saved from and why?Ephesians 2.1-10:
You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air... But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.
The bad news really is bad. Chris explains the heart of the human problem: the human heart, which constantly leads us astray and builds a barrier between us and God. But this makes the good news that much more wonderful: the good news of what God has done to break down the barrier and to change us from the inside. Chris admits to speaking for a bit longer than he intended, but it's hard to be brief with a message that can change a lifetime and an eternity.
Sunday 9 November 2014
Isn't Jesus too nice to judge?Luke 13:22-30:
[Jesus] said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don't know you or where you come from.’”
So how do we get to heaven? Obeying the Ten Commandments... going to church... doing more good things than bad... believing in God... not doing anything really bad? Those are some of the popular answers Megan alludes to one minute into her talk. Jesus warns anyone who thinks that they are entitled to a place in heaven that a relationship with God is what is required - and continues on his way to Jerusalem to give up his life to make that relationship possible.
This is the picture - normally displayed on the wall of our Quiet Room - that Megan showed us nearly 5 minutes into her talk
Sunday 2 November 2014
God's attitude to his broken worldJohn 3:14-21:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
As we start a new series looking at some difficult topics, Geoff sets the scene in this All Age service by affirming God's unchanging love and his desire to restore rather than destroy. That's the background against which any discussion of punishment and judgement must be set. As so many of us in Christ Church know, God is in the business of turning people and lives around, and we're called to be part of that task. You can view the recycling images (starting at about 5 minutes into the talk) here, here, here and here. And here's a song/video which presents Geoff's message in a different way.
Sunday 26 October 2014
When longings go beyond wordsRomans 8:22-27:
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God.
Some things leave us speechless: they may be so wonderful, painful or shocking that there's nothing that we can say, to God or anyone else. Stephanie reminds us that prayer is more - much more - than words, and that God can speak to us in many different situations - which leads to some surprising suggestions for ways of spending our money.
Sunday 12 October 2014
Restore us, O GodPsalm 80:
How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smoulder against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbours, and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
"God, why don't you do something?" That's the core message of this and many other psalms, as God's people suffered the disastrous consequences of defeat by other nations. As Allan reminds us, restoration can be a long and painful process, requiring a lot of trust in the Shepherd who always cares for us. At the start of his talk Allan showed us a picture of Vincent van Gogh's painting Bedroom in Arles which has undergone a major restoration project: there's more about this here. Later, just before 15 minutes in (and not included in the recording), we watched a BBC video clip showing how a lengthy restoration process uncovered an art masterpiece.
Restoration project: Allan showed us this photo of a once-dilapidated bureau which he worked hard to make beautiful once again
Sunday 5 October 2014
Harvest: The bread of lifeJohn 6.35-51:
[Jesus said,] “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.”
Bread is a staple food for millions around the world, and our Harvest service highlighted some people in poorer countries who rely on growing basic foodstuffs to keep them alive and provide an income. But Jesus clearly isn't talking about physical bread here. Bobbie explains how she discovered, through painful life experience, that Jesus really is the living bread who can meet our deepest needs. The recording begins with the Cubs explaining what Harvest means. Later on, Bobbie refers to her recent visit to Kenya: the website article about it is here.
Sunday 28 September 2014
Seeing ourselves as part of the problemDaniel 9:3-23:
“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame - the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you... Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
“Intercession is about sitting where other people sit”
Daniel's agonised pleadings are all the more striking because he was the last person who could be blamed for Israel's calamitous situation. Geoff urges us to respond to the evidence of today's broken society not with self-righteousness but with grief, recognising our own weaknesses and sharing in the pain in the heart of God.
Sunday 21 September 2014
Praying with a bigger vision1 Timothy 2:1-4:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people... This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
We rightly want the best for those close to us, but most of the prayers recorded in the Bible have a much bigger horizon, encompassing whole nations. Matt encourages us to follow Paul's instructions in these two letters and to pray big prayers. Here's a link to Operation World which features information about a different country to pray for each day.
Sunday 14 September 2014
Prayerful response to adversityActs 4:15-31:
When [the believers] heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God... “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
We face many different kinds of difficulty. On this particular morning we felt a great sense of loss following the death of Jenny Mason who had been like a sister and mother to so many of us over the years. Later in the service we prayed for Christians in Iraq and Syria who face murderous persecution. As Megan explains in her talk, the apostles had spent a night in prison and then faced down the authorities' demand that that they should not speak any more about Jesus. Megan describes how and why we should pray in good times and bad and so build a healthy relationship with God.
Sunday 7 September 2014
The church that prays: Don't give upLuke 18:1-8:
Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don't fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me!’”
Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
That first reading provoked laughter from the congregation: in both these stories Jesus presents us with vivid, even shocking, pictures to make the point. Geoff assures us that God is not like the unjust judge or the stingy neighbour, but he does want us to be persistent and patient, contrary to today's "get it instantly" culture. Part way through the talk we broke off to sing a hymn Lord, teach us how to pray aright (follow the link for the words). Later on we watched a short video from Open Doors showing how God is working through his people in Syria: part of the audio track is included in the recording, or you can watch the whole thing here.
Sunday 31 August 2014
Changing shame into praiseZephaniah 3:9-20:
‘On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters... At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honour and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,’ says the Lord.
"Things can only get better" goes the song, yet so often our experience is just the opposite, just as it was in the days of ancient Israel. Yet, as Allan explains, Zephaniah's prophecy looks forward to a day when God will indeed be fully present with us. It's a wonderful promise, but also a warning not to oppress those to whom the kingdom will one day belong.
Sunday 24 August 2014
When God judgesZephaniah 3:1-10:
Woe to the city of oppressors,
rebellious and defiled!
She obeys no one, she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord,
she does not draw near to her God...
“I have decided to assemble the nations,
to gather the kingdoms
and to pour out my wrath on them -
all my fierce anger.
The whole world will be consumed
by the fire of my jealous anger.”
This is the truth about God that we would rather avoid: we know him as Father and friend, but too easily forget that turning away from him, as ancient Israel did, has serious consequences. Yet Megan reminds us that God's purpose in sending the prophets - and, ultimately, Jesus - was to bring us back to him, and to offer the life and hope that God wants for each of us.
Sunday 17 August 2014
A greater splendourHaggai 2:1-9:
“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,” declares the Lord. “Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you,” declares the Lord Almighty.
"This is not how it was supposed to go." We've all been there: discouragement sets in when our grand plans and hopes just don't work out. The people of Israel experienced it too, as the realisation grew that their rebuilt temple would lack the magnificence of the original. As Matt explains, Haggai's message of hope is not just for his own time, but is true for God's people throughout history. Matt studied the reading in considerable detail and has supplied more extensive notes which can be downloaded using the link on the left.
Sunday 10 August 2014
Room for God's prioritiesHaggai 1:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘These people say, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's house.”’ Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?... Give careful thought to your ways.’”
“Our use of time and money is a barometer of our true priorities”
When the people of Israel returned from exile, rebuilding the temple was top of their agenda. Then somehow other needs seemed more urgent, and good intentions gave way to excuses. Yes, it can happen to us too, with the same result: we miss out on God's best for us. Listen to Megan's challenge to get our priorities right... don't put it off!
Fill a jug with large stones... add gravel, then sand, then water... and you've got a sermon illustration! Megan will explain all
Sunday 3 August 2014
When others doubt youMark 6:1-6:
Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘...Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.
The recording starts with service leader Ellen Dann, plus young helpers, using some pieces of wood (photos below) to illustrate that there are two sides to every story - and especially in people's understanding of who Jesus was. John goes on to tell us about a time when he failed to work out who somebody was. Are we ready to welcome the living God into our lives?
Sunday 27 July 2014
When those closest to you misunderstand youMark 3:13-35:
Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’
If you've ever been misunderstood or criticised, you're in good company. It was arguably worse for Jesus because the criticism of him was never justified. Chris has much personal wisdom to offer on how to deal with these unpleasant experiences and turn them into opportunities to learn and grow.
Sunday 20 July 2014
Two ways of looking at the problemLuke 9:10-17:
Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to [Jesus] and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’ He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish.’
It's hard to argue with the disciples' analysis of the problem, but they had missed one crucial element: Jesus wanted all those people to be fed. Geoff reminds us that God is calling us to work in partnership with him, and the little we have to offer is enough for him to achieve great things. Geoff also gives us an insight into the world of giant halibut catches. If you came to the previous week's Messy Church you could have made actual bread, and decorated some paper fish too.
Sunday 13 July 2014
First World War CommemorationIsaiah 2:1-5:
[The Lord] will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war any more.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.
In four years of bitter fighting that took the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians, the old European order was shattered and the seeds sown of future conflicts that still scar our world today. The scale of the suffering raises many questions about morality and faith, and Geoff challenges some of the myths and simplistic assumptions that have crept into our popular understanding of the First World War, at least in Britain. The recording opens with members of our congregation telling their own stories of how the war affected their families. The memories of 101-year old Daisy remind us that these historic events still fall within the compass of a human lifetime.
Sunday 6 July 2014
A surprising gratitudeLuke 17:11-19:
One of [the men with leprosy], when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’
When we express our thanks, everyone benefits - including ourselves. All Age service leader John introduces the topic by giving some recent examples, then Matt describes some of the horrors of skin diseases (without photos, fortunately) and what it must have meant to those men to be healed by Jesus. Why should Christians particularly be those who are grateful? What are some of the effects of being thankful?
Matt asked us to discuss those two questions and write our answers on large sheets of paper... and you can see what we wrote by following the links above, along with our descriptions of what we're thankful for
and what we take for granted
. Suggestion: Use the browser controls to open each of the links in a new tab/window then ensure you view the images at 100% size.
Sunday 22 June 2014
Who did Jesus give attention to?Mark 5:21-34:
One of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed round him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years... When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak... Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
These stories tell us of three people who received bodily healing from Jesus. What about their inner selves? Stephanie reminds us that our deepest needs are not physical, and can only be met by being honest about them with God and with each other.
Sunday 15 June 2014
The balance to be struck: caring for ourselvesMark 1:35-38:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’
‘The most important [commandment],’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’
Does self-denial mean being available to everyone else all of the time? Or caring for others without any thought for ourselves? Jesus evidently didn't think so, and Geoff explains some of the reasons why we need to set boundaries in order to truly serve God and others.
Sunday 8 June 2014
The big goal is maturityEphesians 4:1-16:
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
So the church is about relationships, not just a collection of individuals; and we are to become more like Christ. Graham discusses what this means in practice and why we should care for each other all of the time, not just at times of crisis. Also, why online questionnaires may not be wholly reliable.
Sunday 1 June 2014
Broad shoulders, warm heartsGalatians 6.1-10:
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ... As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Early arrivals for this All Age service had the opportunity to donate towards Oliver's trip to next year's World Scout Jamboree, and received an immediate reward in the form of a bacon sandwich. Helping others isn't usually so straightforward, as some sketches performed by the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts illustrate (the first of these was unfortunately not picked up by the microphones and is not included in the recording). What's the secret that enables us to help each other through difficult times? John explains, with the help of custard and his own scouting memories.
Sunday 25 May 2014
Can't live without you: the importance of mutualityRomans 12:9-21:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves... Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body - whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. And so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
“Everybody fits here... we have to help each other to find out how we fit”
What is God's answer to human loneliness and isolation? Where can we reveal the hurt inside us to people we can trust? Where can we fit in, no matter what our background or abilities? Perhaps the church isn't quite there yet, and needs to listen to Chris' heartfelt message.
Sunday 18 May 2014
Tend my flockEzekiel 34:9-16:
I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
[Jesus said,] “I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd.”
If Jesus is our model of pastoral care, that really is something to live up to. Geoff discusses what it means for us as the people of God to apply the rural image of a shepherd in our everyday urban society.
Sunday 11 May 2014
The church as the movement of servant lovePhilippians 2.3-5:
In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’
Why would you go where you don't want to go and spend money you would rather not in order to help a stranger in need? Where can we find the motivation to truly care about those around us, and to become aware of their needs? Chris points us towards some of the answers, and encourages us to keep asking questions and listening to one other as we seek to become a more caring community.
Chris was visiting Britain for a period of college study. We got to know him last year when he did so much to organise the Kenya leg of the Youth Encounter trip to East Africa and we look forward to further developing that link.
Sunday 4 May 2014
Why care about caring?John 13:31-38:
‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
God blessed [the man and the woman] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
Why should we care - for each other, for those around us, for the whole of creation? “It will make me look good... I'm told I've just got to... Because God won't love me if I stop caring...” These are some of the wrong answers that came out in a piece of drama before Geoff spoke. Rather, says Geoff, caring is a response to the love God shows to us, and to the example we see in Jesus. How does it work in practice? At the end of the talk Geoff was helped by two children to explain some of the many simple, practical ways we can show care for others.
Sunday 27 April 2014
Jesus meets us in our fears and doubtsJohn 20:19-31:
Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among [his disciples] and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
It's hard to blame Thomas for his desire to get things straight in his mind and not just to rely on the word and experiences of others. The good news is that Jesus does not criticise Thomas but meets him where he is. David reminds us how Jesus dealt gently with others who needed reassurance and how he led them into new places of faith and service.
Sunday 20 April 2014
From weeping to witnessJohn 20:1-18:
[Jesus] asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).
The Resurrection changed everything. Jesus' ministry, once restricted to a small area of Palestine, would now extend to every age and place. Mary Magdalene's life had once been a mess, but Jesus had set her free to find her true self. He still calls us by name, says Chris, and he can give us that same freedom if we will let him.
Sunday 13 April 2014
A rival kingJohn 18:28-40:
Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place... the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.’
What sort of kingdom is this? No territory, no weapons and, at the time, very few signed-up members. Yet, as we have seen in this series, Jesus challenged the established order, and he still stands in contrast to the world's way of doing things. Let him have authority over our lives, says Geoff, and he will transform them.
Sunday 6 April 2014
Keeping bad companyLuke 5:27-32:
Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’
A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
We thought we were at an All Age service, but instead we found ourselves back in the first century - with our tax collector host receiving some unexpected guests at his party. Who is good enough to stay, and who should be thrown out? Jesus has some surprising views on the matter.
Party time for tax collectors: some of those hairstyles were a bit wild back in 28 AD
Sunday 30 March 2014
Restoring the rightful rulerJohn 12:20-33:
Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified... And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
The people and things that seek to rule over us - whether human authorities or our own desires - do not, on the whole, have their own death on their agenda. Jesus has a radically different way of breaking their power and proving who really is in charge. If we choose to live under his rule, says Geoff, we have to go down the same self-sacrificial path.
Sunday 23 March 2014
Challenge to legalismMark 3:1-6:
Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ But he replied, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’
The Jewish leaders had got their religion nicely sorted and packaged, explains Bobbie. They also never saw any miracles - until Jesus appeared on the scene and exposed the hardness of their hearts. Bobbie draws on her own past to highlight the difference between rule-based religion and a genuine, life-giving relationship with God.
Sunday 16 March 2014
The blasphemerMatthew 9:2-8:
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!’”
“Jesus answered them... ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’”
Why things turned dangerous for Jesus
is a new series looking at some of the things Jesus said and did which brought him into conflict with the leaders of his day. As Allan says, it was unthinkable for a Jew to claim to be God, yet the healings Jesus performed and the quality of his teaching could not be denied. It's a challenge for today's world too: how should we respond?
Sunday 9 March 2014
Psalm 142: Desperate timesPsalm 142:
“I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-11:
“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
There's a saying that if you want to complain, you should go straight to the top. Who else can sort things out? In this and many other psalms, David follows exactly that principle. Geoff explains that pouring out our troubles to God is an authentic Christian experience. Seeking health, wealth and happiness is not... here's a challenge for us and our churches.
Sunday 2 March 2014
Reloaded youth group
Psalm 130: God forgetsPsalm 130:
“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”
“‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw [his son] and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
This youth-led service focused especially on the story of the Prodigal Son, which Jesus used to paint a vivid picture of repentance and forgiveness in very human terms. As Katie
remind us, it's a familiar story - but can we really identify with either of the sons? Both failed to recognise how much their father loved them. The psalm affirms that whatever the circumstances, nothing can ever change God's love for us and his desire to welcome us home.
Sunday 23 February 2014
Psalm 100: Mandate to worshipPsalm 100:
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs...
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.”
“I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!’”
Why does God want us to worship him? Is he just attention-seeking? What if we're feeling miserable, or just can't sing? Graham answers all these questions, and more, as he gets to the heart of the matter... our relationship with God.
Earlier in the service Matt had reported back on his recent visit to Bolivia and reminded us of the flag choreography used in one of the churches there... but there are many ways of expressing worship, whatever our nationality or culture
Sunday 16 February 2014
Psalm 84: Desire for God's presencePsalm 84:
“How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God...
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.”
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
In ancient Israel those who lived far from Jerusalem had to undertake difficult and dangerous journeys if they wanted to worship God in the Temple. Our journey towards God is different in nature but we still have to go through difficult places. Stephanie explains how we can find encouragement and help each other as we make that journey.
Sunday 9 February 2014
Psalm 42: Longing for GodPsalm 42:
“As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’”
1 Peter 1:3-9:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
The Jews in exile in Babylon mourned for the loss of the Temple and, as it felt to them, for their abandonment by God. Geoff encourages us to be honest about our feelings, especially when we feel far from God, and to ensure that we are truly seeking him - who alone can satisfy our deepest needs.
Sunday 2 February 2014
Psalm 32: The blessing of repentancePsalm 32:
“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
“[Jesus said,] ‘I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”
The Gospel reading, which was acted out before Ellen spoke, describes a man with obvious physical needs: he was paralysed and had to be carried to Jesus by his friends. Yet Jesus put his need for forgiveness even above his need for healing. That forgiveness is available to each of us when we turn away from what we know to be wrong and come back to God instead. No wonder repentance really is a blessing!
Sunday 26 January 2014
Psalm 22: Facing abandonmentPsalm 22:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?...
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.”
All of us, says Allan, are somewhere on the journey from the desolation of this psalm's opening verses to its triumphant conclusion: He has done it!
Along the way, we learn that's it's OK to express our deepest feelings to God, and how the perspective changes as we look to him. For Christians, this psalm took on an extra layer of meaning when Jesus quoted it on the Cross, and that is expressed in the reading near the start of the talk.
Sunday 19 January 2014
Psalm 26: Integrity before GodPsalm 26:
“Vindicate me, O Lord,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in faithfulness to you.”
1 Peter 2:9-12:
“Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.”
At first sight the words of David's psalm make him appear self-righteous. But he clearly knew he wasn't perfect, as his other writings and his life experience show. As Bobbie explains, integrity is more about an attitude of heart, and with God's help we can set our hearts in the right direction.
Sunday 12 January 2014
Psalm 27: Courage in times of fearPsalm 27:
“One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.”
“Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
“Faith is not a get out of jail card”
The psalm begins with some confident statements... "The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?" But, as Geoff explains, we do face fears and genuine dangers. Rather than offering easy answers, the psalm points us to where strength and peace can be found no matter what the circumstances. The track Geoff played after the talk can be heard here.
Sunday 5 January 2014
Cathie and Allan Bartlam
Psalm 1: Walk, stand, sitPsalm 1:
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.”
“We are surrounded by people who think that what God says is irrelevant”
We all want to be blessed by God, even if blessings don't always come packaged in the way that we want. Cathie and Allan explain some of the things that can pull us away from the best path through life, and how we can overcome them. This All Age service came at the start of a new series on the Psalms. The recording doesn't include some highly visual activities Cathie and Allan included to illustrate their points, but there is room for a bit of audio-only football nostalgia.
Sunday 29 December 2013
Our God is greaterMatthew 2:7-23:
“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.”
In a quiz that preceded the talk we learned that Herod had a considerable track record in disposing of potential rivals, so the threat to the infant Jesus was very real. Joseph may well have wondered why God chose to expose his son to such dangers... but as Stephanie explains, God can be trusted to work out his plans.
Pastor Siud of the Kimyal tribe rejoices as he receives the first New Testaments in the tribal language. Let Stephanie explain his remarkable story.
Wednesday 25 December 2013
Growing up to serve GodLuke 2.1-20:
“While [Joseph and Mary] were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
For most of the year, we think of Jesus as a man: teaching, serving, dying, rising. Bobbie reminds us that he needed 30 years of growth before he was ready for these things. We, too, need a lifetime of faithful service to become the people God intends us to be.
Tuesday 24 December 2013
Come to the lightJohn 1.1-14:
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”
Darkness can be frightening - and it can also be a place to hide. With Christmas Day about to begin, Chris reminds us of the difference that Jesus made by his coming, and how he still shines a light today.
Sunday 22 December 2013
Don't be afraidLuke 2.1-20:
“There were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’”
Speaking in the Christmas Carol service, Chris reminds us that the shepherds weren't the only characters in the Nativity story to react with fear... and in today's world, too, fear and anxiety are rampant. Chris points us to the only one who can give us true peace of mind.
Sunday 22 December 2013
The shoot: the promise of a SaviourIsaiah 11.1-10:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit...
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash round his waist.”
Small, vulnerable, yet carrying the promise of new life: the shoot of a plant is easily overlooked - as, indeed, is a baby. Graham explains how Isaiah's prophecy points towards a new type of kingdom and how it gives hope not only for ancient times but also for us today.
Sunday 15 December 2013
The forerunner: John the BaptistLuke 1:57-80:
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God”
“What's the sermon God wants you to preach?”
Prophets make people feel uncomfortable, says Allan, and the message John preached ultimately cost him his life. Our calling may not be the same as his, but we should share the same desire and purpose: to point people towards Jesus.
The choice of a child's name was hugely significant in Bible times, says Allan. He claims that his own name - spelled with two L's - is Celtic, and means fair, handsome, noble, harmony or stone. It has an entirely different meaning in Welsh...
Sunday 8 December 2013
Unity mattersJohn 17:20-26:
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
"That all of them" - that's the church throughout the ages - "may be one". Given our poor track record, is it any wonder that most of the world does not believe? Chris explains what it is that truly binds Christians together (spoiler: it's not committees!), and what we can do to maintain that unity and make it count in the world.
Sunday 1 December 2013
The aroma of Christ2 Corinthians 2:12-17:
“We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.”
It's a long way from frying bacon in Selly Park to a victory procession in ancient Rome, but in this All Age service Matt makes the connection and challenges us to attract others to Jesus.
Don't try cooking this way at home... because it won't work
Sunday 24 November 2013
Sent into the worldJohn 17:6-19:
“‘My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it... As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.’”
James was visiting us from CPAS, an Anglican mission agency which Christ Church helps to support.
“Don't expect this world to meet all your longings”
If we are disciples of Jesus our relationship with the world will be a difficult one, says James. We have different values and have a different destination in view. James encourages us to follow Jesus' example of engaging with the world and gives some practical examples of how we can do that.
Sunday 17 November 2013
Fruitful evidenceJohn 15.1-17:
“‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’”
The process of pruning sounds painful - and it is, as we have to let go of some things we would rather hang on to. But, as Geoff explains, the loving and expert gardener in charge of the process seeks our greatest good. He gives some examples of how God can demonstrate his love when he gets to work in individuals and communities.
"Phil! Over here! We are waiting for you!" This photo, which was taken in Copacabana, on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, will make sense once you listen to Geoff's talk
Sunday 10 November 2013
Alone no moreJohn 14.15-21:
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever - the Spirit of truth.”
“I felt overwhelmed by the love and by the knowledge that I would never be on my own again”
It begins and ends with obedience, says Bobbie... and Jesus promised the gift of someone who would help us walk in his footsteps and unite us with others on the same journey. She tells the story of how this became a reality in her own life.
Sunday 3 November 2013
The face of truthJohn 14.1-14:
“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’”
Many people have asked the same question as Philip, in one form or another. Show us what God is really like! Geoff describes some of the bad experiences that can distort our view of the true God, and reminds us of where we can find that perfect view, and the real life that goes with it.
Sunday 27 October 2013
The calling of the disciplesLuke 6:12-16:
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”
Who on earth would choose those twelve people in particular to lead a movement that would change the world? Unpromising though they were, the time they were to spend with Jesus would transform them. Chris leads on to an extraordinary and very personal story that followed from his recent decision to spend time with God. The cost of following Jesus is high, but it's worth it to truly know his love.
Sunday 13 October 2013
Working for a higher purposeMark 12.13-17:
“Jesus said to [the Pharisees], ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.’”
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Geoff continues our What in the world are we supposed to do?
series by looking at work (whether paid or not). Why and how can we bring glory to God through our work - especially if it is boring? Geoff has lots of ideas, as well as experience of boring jobs.
Sunday 6 October 2013
Weekend Away talk 4: A life beyond compareJohn 21.15-23:
“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’”
Peter had let Jesus down, and badly. Now he had to face the risen Jesus and also face the truth about himself. Was he better or worse than anyone else? It didn't matter, because God had a plan and purpose that was for him alone. And that's our story too, says Adrian, as the church becomes a place for healing and restoration, and each of us becomes more truly the person we were made to be. Adrian said some very nice things about Christ Church, and perhaps it was out of embarrassment that the microphone decided to go intermittent at certain points. Sorry about the occasional brief gap in the recording.
Saturday 5 October 2013
Weekend Away talk 3: A faith worth sharing1 Peter 3.15:
“In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
If we have truly encountered the love of God, we will want others to have the same experience, but sadly it's all too easy to turn good news into bad news. In the unlikely event that you have never come across a crass or embarrassing attempt to share faith with others, Adrian has a couple of examples here - and he also has much advice to help us to be good news and to share our faith in a way that is natural to us. Adrian also showed a short video reminding us why the church isn't supposed to be just a cosy club.
Saturday 5 October 2013
Weekend Away talk 2: Surprised by the love of GodLuke 5.6-10:
“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ ... Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’”
It's one thing to believe that God loves us, but another to really know and experience the love of God and for that to be our main motivation for serving him. Peter was quite overwhelmed by his encounter with Jesus but once he knew that he was accepted, there was no turning back.
Friday 4 October 2013
Weekend Away talk 1: Lost our wonder...Luke 5.1-5:
“When [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’”
Adrian began his Surprised by God
theme by considering Peter's tired response to Jesus' instruction. It's easy to lose sight of the joy and love that God intends for us. But Peter recognised something special in Jesus - and his life was turned upside down as a result.
Sunday 29 September 2013
Christ Church Youth Encounter team
Report on the Christ Church Youth Encounter visit to Kenya and TanzaniaMicah 6.8:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
This was a verse that came to mean a lot to the group of young people and leaders from Christ Church who spent 3 weeks in Kenya and Tanzania earlier this year. In this special service they told us about the places they visited and the people they met, and we heard what a big impression the visit made on them. There's much more about the visit on the Youth Encounter page.
Sunday 22 September 2013
Christ Church Bolivia team
Report on the Christ Church visit to BoliviaActs 16:6-12:
“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
It was not a dream that prompted a group of 12 Birmingham Christians - most of them from Christ Church - to spend 3 weeks in Bolivia in July and August, but the call was just as clear. In this recording the members of the team report on their experiences: how the churches in Bolivia are reaching out to those around them, the inspirational work they do with children, what we can learn from them and much more. Towards the end, Geoff describes how God's powerful intervention transformed the church in Bolivia. There's much more about the visit to Bolivia on the team's web page which includes an article about this service.
Sunday 15 September 2013
What's wrong with “Going to church to worship”?Hebrews 13:11-16:
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
What in the world are we supposed to do?
Over the next few weeks we'll be exploring how to live out our faith in practical ways in the world around us. To begin with... if you talk about "going to church to worship" you may need to think again about what church is, and what worship is. Geoff provides some explanations and practical advice for whole-life worship. Geoff also showed a short video which pokes a bit of fun at church services. Any resemblance to Christ Church is probably best kept quiet about.
Sunday 8 September 2013
Living out our valuesPsalm 15:
“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose way of life is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart.”
“Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig-tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.”
In this special service, we were focusing on the values
that we adopted as a church nearly 2 years ago. Geoff's talk is a bit longer than the average sermon, but is full of practical actions that any of us - young or old - could commit to in order to demonstrate these values in our daily lives.
Sunday 1 September 2013
God's glory in all the earthPsalm 96:
“Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.”
Luke 10.1-4, 17-20:
“[Jesus] told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”
The people of Israel were given the privilege of a special relationship with the Creator of the universe, and also the responsibility of telling other nations of his greatness. It wasn't a complete success... but do we, their spiritual heirs, do any better? Allan encourages us to recognise and reflect on who our God really is, and to face up to our difficulties and fears about taking that message to others. Exceptionally, this recording comes from an evening service. It begins with Cathie, who led the service, recalling the amazing response when Allan preached just a few weeks earlier in a church in rural Kenya. Our morning All-Age service focused on God's promise of forgiveness when we turn back to him after failure, but we can't put the recording online because some of it is subject to copyright.
Sunday 25 August 2013
Bits we often miss... Titus 3Titus 3:
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle towards everyone... When the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy”
Between a rock and a hard place... that's how the Christians of Paul's day must have felt as they wanted to proclaim and live out their gospel-based faith but had to live in a society dominated by an entirely different worldview. If we feel that tension today, how much more so for Christians in countries afflicted by social and ethnic conflict. David explains Paul's teaching on how to live when big ideas collide.
Sunday 18 August 2013
Bits we often miss.. 1 John 31 John 3:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ... No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”
So how are we doing? John wrote to counter false teachers who claimed that it doesn't matter how we live. Chris explains the reasons why it does matter, and gives some encouragement for those times when we feel ourselves to be much less than the people God wants us to be.
Sunday 11 August 2013
Bits we often miss.. PhilemonPhilemon:
“It is as none other than Paul - an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus - that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains... If you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”
Short stories, as Bobbie points out, can be very compelling. This letter, in which Paul makes a highly personal appeal on behalf of a runaway slave, draws us into some delicate relationships between individuals in a Christian household. Did Philemon, with the help of the local church, "do the right thing" or did he conform to the culture of the day? Bobbie can't tell us that, but she can explain some of the lasting principles that lay behind what Paul wrote.
Sunday 4 August 2013
Like a little childMark 10.13-16:
“Jesus... said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’”
What is it about young children that makes them so special to Jesus? Is this just a sentimental story? Stephanie explains why Jesus' words are relevant to all of us, whatever our age, experience or ability. Stephanie was speaking after we heard that the Youth Encounter team in Kenya had attended a service that lasted 5 hours. As this was an all age service she kept her talk short, but no promises for future weeks...
Sunday 28 July 2013
The ultimate goalPhilippians 3:1-11:
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things... I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings.”
What could I do, or be, to make God love me more - or less? Paul once thought that his Jewish heritage and scrupulous observance of the law would earn God's favour, but now he considers them worthless. John gets to the heart of the matter and explains the benefit, and cost, of knowing Christ.
Sunday 21 July 2013
Human skill or divine wisdom1 Corinthians 2.1-14:
“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”
Weakness, fear and trembling: feelings that might have been appropriate to the team about to depart for Bolivia - of which Chris was a member. But how could Paul, the world's greatest ever evangelist, have such an attitude? Chris explains why, and gives us an idea of how to identify people with this gift. Chris decided to warm up for the Bolivia trip by starting the sermon with a Bible verse in Spanish. It was good practice because 3 weeks later he had to lead an entire Communion celebration in Spanish.
Sunday 7 July 2013
Fools for Jesus1 Corinthians 4:6-17:
“It seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honoured, we are dishonoured!”
Few people actually enjoy looking foolish, but this recording from an All Age service begins with service leader Joe asking for revelations of embarrassing things people have done in the past (don't try these at home - though a video clip of thieves who broke into a security shop and were caught on 17 CCTV cameras outdid us all). In a Christian context, it's hard to resist pressure to conform when we know God wants us to be different. Geoff's talk includes some drama exploring these conflicts - and be ready to vote in a game of “Judge That Ministry”.
Sunday 30 June 2013
Looking out for the needs of othersActs 4:32-35:
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”
2 Corinthians 8:1-7, 13-15:
“We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
We might expect rich people to be more generous than poor people, but it doesn't always seem to be that way. The generosity that the first Christians demonstrated sprang from a shared experience of the risen Jesus and not from examination of their bank balances. Allan gives examples of generosity that he has experienced and some practical advice for breaking out of the self-centred rut.
In his talk Allan referred to an interview that had taken place earlier in the service. Chris had given very generously of his time and energy to organise the rural Kenya leg of the Youth Encounter trip that was to take place just a few weeks later.
Sunday 23 June 2013
Managing timeLuke 9:57-62:
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’”
“When the Samaritans came to [Jesus], they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.”
Time management consultants: Graham is not stealing your business, though you might want to make your seminars more lively than the sleepy affair he showed us a picture of near the start. Jesus was concerned about more fundamental matters: ensuring that we are not distracted from serving God fully so that we can truly have the right priorities. Graham does have some practical advice too... it has to be worth 23 minutes 1.2 seconds of your time.
Sunday 16 June 2013
The power of hospitality1 Kings 17:7-24:
“‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ [the widow] replied, ‘I don't have any bread - only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it - and die.’ Elijah said to her, ‘... First make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”
1 Peter 4:7-10:
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
We'd all love to be hospitable, but our homes aren't tidy enough, we're a bit busy really and there just isn't enough to go round - and frankly we're a bit suspicious of strangers. Anyway, what's it got to do with Christian values? Rather a lot, says Geoff, as he deals with our other objections.
Sunday 9 June 2013
Offering our spiritual giftsRomans 12:3-8:
“In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
1 Corinthians 12:27-31:
“God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.. Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.”
Yes, we are all different, with a wide range of gifts and abilities that are needed for the church to become what God intends it to be. So what kinds of gift are useful, and how can we learn to use them? Since Chris generously offers us his gift of preaching, you can download this sermon and find out.
Sunday 2 June 2013
Investing for the futureMatthew 6:19-21:
“[Jesus said,] ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’”
“Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ ... Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’”
We don't often get sharp-suited financial experts sharing their secrets of wealth in Christ Church - especially in All Age services - and when you hear what special guest Rick has to say you will realise why. Perhaps Jesus' teaching is a bit smarter even than Rick's suit? And why does that expensive medallion look so much like a CD? The value of investments can go down as well as up, and you may not get back all the money you invested. Pity Rick didn't realise that sooner...
Sunday 14 April 2013
The generous FatherLuke 15:11-24:
“While [the son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him”
1 John 3:1-3:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
"It's outrageous!" The story which we have come to know as the Parable of the Prodigal Son broke numerous cultural and religious taboos, and would have been truly shocking to Jesus' hearers. Yet, says Geoff, understanding that God's love comes with no strings attached is the key to enjoying a full relationship with him. Later in the talk a student described her recent personal experience of discovering the outrageous love of God.
Alice (centre) was interviewed during Geoff's talk. She came to Christ Church with Caleb and Kalyn who are based at Canvas House which "brings a bit more love to Birmingham" by reaching out to students.
Sunday 14 October 2012
Boundaries around desire
1 Corinthians 6:12-20: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you,
whom you have received from God? ... Therefore honour God with your bodies”
Romans 13:8-14: “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light”
Have you ever noticed that depictions of sex in films, books and TV programmes are always outside marriage?
Even many Christians have abandoned the traditional view that sex should only take place within marriage -
or at least they fail to live up to it.
Geoff argues that God does not want us to be damaged or short-changed, or to be enslaved by sexual desires.
Rather, we should encourage each other in the struggles that we face so that we can all reach a better place in our lives.
Sunday 7 October 2012
Run the race, keep the faith
Hebrews 12.1-4: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in” (‘Message’ version)
Matthew 5.13-16: “You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world” (‘Message’ version)
Emma was speaking at a special service for all the churches supporting the 2012 Great Birmingham Run, held just 2 weeks before the event.
Emma is a minister at St Martin's in the Bull Ring and took part in the race for the first time in 2011.
She describes some of the ways in which distance running mirrors the Christian life and encourages us to be passionate and patient in living out our faith.
Sunday 11 March 2012
Committed to whole-life worshipIsaiah 12: “Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.”
Romans 12.1-2: “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship... be transformed by the renewing of your mind”
Worship is what goes on in church on Sunday, and involves singing. Right? Well, it might be, but it's only a part of the picture. There's good news in Geoff's talk for those who can't sing, and plenty to think about for anyone who thinks that the rest of our lives don't matter. Find out here what it means to change your mind in a Christian way.
Sunday 4 March 2012
Reloaded and Revive youth groups
Engaged in wider social and global issuesIsaiah 58.6-11: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression... and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday”
This week's recording consists of excerpts from this All Age service. There is a short talk in the middle, but every part of the service had been well thought out to communicate the message of Isaiah 58 and apply it to the present day.Not included in the recording - but referred to in the talk - is a short video from Compassion UK showing some of the projects that have lifted people around the world out of extreme poverty.
Sunday 26 February 2012
An open, inter-generational community
Mark 10.13-16: “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.”
Deuteronomy 31.9-13: “Assemble the people — men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns...
their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God”
Sticking with people like ourselves... judging people according to their age... picking and choosing the things we like.
These are behaviours typical of modern consumerist culture, argues Bobbie - but the church is called to be radically different.
This is the picture Bobbie showed at the start of her talk.
You can read the full story about this young person
Sunday 19 February 2012
Authentic in our relationships
Luke 6:37-42: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Romans 13:8-10: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another... love is the fulfilment of the law”
How can the real me and the real you get to know and trust each other, overcoming the risk of rejection and hurt?
Designer boots, fake antiques and lots of turtles feature in Stephanie's explanation,
along with some practical suggestions.
Sunday 12 February 2012
Hospitable, welcoming and acceptingGenesis 18.1-15: “Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, If I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.”
Romans 15.5-9: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.”
Continuing the series focusing on our values, Geoff quotes many examples - biblical and modern - where generous hospitality has resulted in great blessing. As we ourselves have received God's unconditional welcome, we are called to pass it on to others, regardless of whether they are part of the "in crowd".
Sunday 5 February 2012
Responsive to God
1 Samuel 3:1-21: “The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, Samuel! Samuel! Then Samuel said, Speak, for your servant is listening.”
In this All Age service, Stephanie tells the story of Samuel - how as a boy he heard the voice of God,
even though Samuel did not yet know God.
Helen then discusses the different ways in which God can speak to us, no matter how young or old we might be.
Samuel went on to anoint the kings of Israel: will we, like him, respond when God speaks?
Sunday 22 January 2012
Passionate about living out God's word: Prayerful and dependent on the Holy SpiritMatthew 7:21-29: “[Jesus said] Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”
Acts 2:42-47: “[The first believers] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”
What would the Christian church - and our lives - look like if we really believed that we can't achieve anything lasting without God at the centre of it? Or if we allowed Jesus' teaching to change us in every area of our lives? All too often we get it wrong, but Geoff encourages us to get praying and get living.This the first in a series on our values which will continue over the next few weeks.
Sunday 15 January 2012
Launching the Christ Church Vision StatementExodus 13:17-22: “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night”
Exodus 33:12-17: “The LORD replied, My Presence will go with you”
Where is Christ Church heading? What do we believe God wants us to become? The Vision Statement
is the result of many months of discussion, thought and prayer and in this talk Geoff presents it to the whole church. Coming up over the next few weeks is a sermon series on our values which will help us to think about the implications in more detail.
Sunday 19 June 2011
Does God always arrive on time?
John 11:1-44: "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
When Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick, his response is astonishing: he just stays where he is. Why? Where is God when we need his help?
But his absence leads to something more powerful and faith-building than if he had been there.
This is a message of real hope to anyone going through tough times.
Walter Barrientos is a church planter from Bolivia, here on a visit to strengthen our growing links with that country.
Sunday 17 October 2010
Frank Lyons, Bishop of Bolivia
The poor man at the gateLuke 16.19-31: The eternal destinies of Lazarus, who is a poor man, and the rich man who fails to help him
1 Timothy 6.6-10: "We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it"
The recording starts with an interview with Frank's wife, Shawnee, about living and serving as a Christian in Bolivia. Frank then goes on to talk about Jesus' parable, which challenges the assumption common in his time that the rich had God's eternal favour. In fact it is the poor man, Lazarus, who is welcomed by God. Who do we identify with, and how can we use whatever "riches" we may have to help others?Sorry that the recording suffers from considerable audio distortion. It's worst at the start, so do stick with it!