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“Listening to and hearing God’s Word…”

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listen"Listening to and hearing God’s Word…” (Hebrews 12: 18-29)

Thank you to all those who joined our Marathon Read this week!

This week 1 SPONSORED BIBLE READING (for Open Doors); 6 DAYS & 18 HOURS; 5 PROPHETS; 197 CHAPTERS; 6 COUNTRIES prayed-for; more than a few hard-to-pronounce-ancient-names (!); a DOZEN or so PARTICIPANTS; some tears & eye-strain; & at least 2/3 QUESTIONS:

“WHY do this? Why read the Bible publically?” It’s a good thing to do, and God commands us to do so – “devote yourself to the public reading of scripture…”

The main answer: The people for whom we were praying and the cause for which we were raising awareness and funds (PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS) – simply could not (cannot) do this. Own a Bible or read one out loud? You could end up imprisoned and/or dead!

Why would oppressive (persecuting) people ban the owning or reading of God’s Word? A big question – but it did occur to me as we read through the prophets – that the OT was Jesus’ own Bible. He quoted from it, relied on it; he taught from it. We should.

It also occurred to me as we read about Assyrians and Babylonians that kingdoms come and kingdoms go; that here we are, millennia later, part of/speaking of, God’s kingdom which is eternal, ultimately powerful over all earthly empires which turn to dust and rust.

When all else in heaven and earth is no more, there is a kingdom that will outlast the years”; “THE Voice that will span the years, speaking life, stirring hope – bringing peace to us – a Voice that sounds until he appears – for He lives…”

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Open Doors

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Open Doors Message – originally written for January 16th 2016

(I wrote this message with a view to preaching it on the above date when Adrian Smith from Open Doors came to address us at Sion Baptist Church. It seemed, at the time, “superfluous to requirements” – Adrian had said all that needed to be said.

So, in preparation for our upcoming Open Doors Sponsored Bible read (please see website for details), I offer this reflection to you:  

Please read: Daniel 3: 13-37 and Acts 7: 54 – 8:8

I cannot begin to imagine how terrifying it must be to be pursued, threatened, beaten or tortured or to watch those nearest to me terrorised, threatened with death and even killed. How would I react under that kind of pressure? Would I bend and bow the knee to the prevailing political or military powers in order to survive? Would I renounce my faith at the point of a blade and convert to some other religion or ideology? The honest answer is I don’t know.

Would I be like Stephen-about-to-stoned?

Could I preach a long sermon, then give my life; give up my spirit - into God’s hands? I don’t know.

Would I “dare to be a Daniel” or be like one of the Hebrew boys who go trustingly into the furnace even as on-lookers mock the God in whom I claim to believe – and in these milder British climes – try to follow?

I hope I never have to make such a choice…

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Our Leaders are called by God

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Reading: 1 Peter Chapter 5: 1-7

Today’s passage was penned by the apostle Peter whose purpose was to offer comfort, counsel and encouragement to a scattered and exiled church who were suffering persecution for their faith. We smile when we realise who it is that writes to a group of church leaders. Few of the disciples knew the experience of failure and humiliation quite like Peter.

Thirty years before on a Galilean beach Peter was forever changed when he heard again the call of God and was commissioned (by the Risen Christ) to feed his lambs, tend his sheep and feed his sheep again. In the end Jesus said to Peter (he says to all of us), if you love me I can use a man like you!

I am sure that these words of advice are relevant to every one of us. Peter is worth listening to because he can truly give a testimony to the humbling grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Today (too) Joanne has been commissioned - as a deacon, and our deacons have been rededicated. For them and for all of us, the apostle Peter writes these words… (1 Peter 5:1-7)

We acknowledge that every person in the Church of Jesus Christ is called to be a disciple, including (and especially) those who lead.

So, what does this new Peter have to say to those in leadership? What’s so special about our leaders?

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"Good and Pleasant"

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psalm133“Good and Pleasant” - Psalm 133 and John 17: 20-26

Politicians argue over the Commons’ floor about whether we live in a “broken society”. I’m not sure how you stand on that question. But there is, almost everywhere we turn, the evidence of lives which are fragmented, communities which are divided in and between themselves (by race, creed, colour, but by tribe and even by post-code!).

Families, which break and re-form, and break down again…

A rampant individualism has supplanted even the idea of community (There is no such thing as society!) so we are encouraged to adopt an attitude of “look out for yourself” or “I’m alright Jack!” – living in times where the young sit at computer screens and conduct their relationships, where being face-to-face or shoulder to shoulder is a rare thing and, for some, a frightening thing – where the loneliest place to be is in a crowd; where memories of leaving the back door on the latch are a distant dream…

Barack Obama reminded the mass of American citizenry gathered in Washington DC that they had pilgrim roots. That gathering was, in some sense, a picture of a people as one….

A new President seems, by comparison, to want to bring about division – to build walls rather than bridges…

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“Hubris, humbling and healing”

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Hubris, humbling and healing” (John 21) – preached at Trinity Community Church on April 23rd 2017

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WELCOME – I stand before you as an "expert" – in failure!

What do you do when you have done something really awful? (When you've let down your best friend?) Perhaps you continually replay the events in your mind; you, exhausted, might cry yourself to sleep; after you have done the round of self-loathing and have no more 'names' you can call yourself - what then? Give up? How do you deal with the humiliation? How can you face the person you have hurt? How do you live with yourself? Will they ever forgive me? Can I ever forgive myself? Is there life after failure?

When the women arrived that "first morning" to find the stone rolled away and Jesus' tomb empty they were already consumed by grief and a sense of abject failure...

But it is a sign of God's great love that He will often send his angels, and use them, to speak to his beleaguered people – especially in (critical) times of crisis – and times of seeming failure.

The angel said to the women at the empty tomb, "Don't be alarmed: you're looking for Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here; see the place where they laid him. But GO TELL HIS DISCIPLES AND PETER. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you..." (Mk. 16:6-7)

But GO TELL HIS DISCIPLES AND PETER. It is important that the women tell the disciples this wonderful news that He is not dead – he is alive - and particularly important that Peter knows. "Tell Peter!" Please tell Peter; I haven't finished with him...

We don't know (we are not told) where he went in the days after the crucifixion, or what he was doing; but it's a fair bet that Peter was struggling with a terrible sense of guilt and failure...