Sunday, May 22, 2016

Messy Church / Traditional Church - Dialogue- Post 1

This time a week ago I had just arrived at the High Leigh Conference Centre in England to help out as team at the Messy Church International Conference. 

Over 200 People arrived from across the world with Delegates from New Zealand and Australia, South Africa, USA, Canada, various European Countries and the British Isles. It was a fantastic few days. Lots of comments can be found on the twitter hashtag #MCIC2016.

This blog I want to focus on the formal-ish conversations I was asked to lead on the dialogue that is / needs to be happening between Messy Church and Traditional Church across the world and across the denominations. I'm aware that I come to this from a very particular perspective - that of an Anglican Priest - used to traditional church and love the formality of the book of Common Prayer and the structures within the Anglican way of "doing Church".

I came to the conversation with 3 questions:

Firstly - What questions are / should / could traditional church be asking of Messy Church?
Secondly - What questions are / should / could Messy Church be asking of traditional church?
Thirdly - What are the common points where this dialogue could/should take place?

So having over 40 people in my two conversations lots of questions were identified - from actual experience

What questions are / should / could traditional church be asking of Messy Church?

  • How can we learn from messy Church ?
  • How can we have time for messy Church when we are busy doing Sunday/Traditional Church?
  • When are you going to be doing the Eucharist and are you “real” church if you don't do it liturgically”?
  • How many Un-churched are coming?
  • Do Messy Church have an Organisational Structure?
  • How will Messy Church grow themselves without a traditional church to support it? 
  • When are the Messy Church people going to come to ‘real’ church? 
  • Is it really All age? 
  • How do we respect Lay Leaders? 
  • What is this the future of TC if there are now newcomers - who is going to take up the baton? 
  • Is MC draining energy from the church? 
  • How can TC adopt the concepts of MC ? 
  • Is MC just for Children?  
  • When is MC going to pay towards the parish? 
  • Where are the sacraments in MC? 
  • TC feels vulnerable because of MC. How is that helpful for the future? 
  • Are we being too closed minded? 
  • Should we be more open-minded? 
  • Who is MC for? What is family? 
  • When will they come to real church? 
  • Is there a conflict between TC & MC? 
  • Where are the future role holders going to come from? 
  • What is the teaching of MC? 
  • Does TC still matter? 
  • Is MC the only way to get children involved? 
  • What does parish/church council think of MC? 
  • Is it OK to go to both / one/ either? 
  • Do people have to make a choice between TC & MC? 

What questions are / should / could Messy Church be asking of traditional church?

  • How can we get recognition of time requirements of Sunday Church and need to get get permission to stop Sunday Jobs ?
  • How can we get permission to make changes to the structures and organisational rules that are preventing us from doing what we believe God has called us to do  ?
  • How can we be together ?
  • How can we pray for you ?
  • How can we get recognition as ‘church’ not a stepping stone to church? 
  •  What are the treasures that we need to have that you have? 
  • What would make you feel welcome / want to come to visit us? 
  • Are we going to be taken seriously? 
  • What makes you think its just a kids club with no value? 
  • What do you want to know about Messy Church? 
  • If we dont do this where do you see yourself in 20-50 years?

What are the common points where this dialogue could/should take place?

  • Knowing that we don't have all the answers 
  • Mutual Respect - both recognising the needs of others 
  • Sharing of prayer 
  • sacred Memories 
  • Sharing the physical space 
  • We have the same motivation and the same Gospel - The foundations are the same 
  • The needing to unpick the meaning of Church 
  • Sacraments and Weddings are Celebrated 
  • Communication on a personal level 
  • Sharing of ideas 
  • Prayer for each other - Commitment & Needs (Actual and people) 
  • Breaking down barriers 
  • Respecting the validity of TC and MC 
  • Recognition energy limitations of people 
  • Listening to each other 
  • Shared resources 
  • Open access to equipment and storage 
  • Food 
  • Mothers' Union / Other organisations with shared values
We could and probably should be exploring each one of these points in detail as each one of them could lead to an understanding of Ecclesiology- our understanding of the church whether this be traditional or Messy.  

To some reading this some of these questions may seem to be radical, problematic, and maybe even judgemental - they really aren't meant to be that way - but questions asked demand answers - and some answers may be No, some answers may take a lifetime to answer and some might lead to a whole life of discernment. 

For me there are a couple of fundamental questions which I'm playing around with - for me the three/four are

  • Is Messy Church Really All-Age? 
  • What Treasures does Traditional Church have that Messy Church needs? 
  • How can Messy Church work with organisations with Shared Values? /
  • Messy Church & Sacraments

I wonder if you were to pick one question / issue out of each section to wrestle with - what would they be?  feel free to comment below / facebook / blog. 

We concluded each session with reading from 1 Corinthians reminding us that we are part of the body and one part cant say to another part we dont need you 

The Importance of Mutual sharing - And learning from One another

Could Messy Church wake traditional Church (which is very word and cerebral) to the understanding of learnings styles and help it rediscover some which it may have lost on the whole

How can we make the points of dialogue places of creative engagement and what forums do we have for those?

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Worship and Service - Daniel 3

Worship and Service
Daniel 3

This is the first sermon I've got around to blogging in a long time ... maybe its time to restart again! - This sermon was preached at our Sunday AM Holy Communion Service in Carrigrohane

May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen

We in the Church talk about Worship Service as something to go along to  … but this morning I would like to separate these two words to mean something different apart from each other As we listen to the reading I’d love you to listen to how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the king and the accusers talk about both worship and service – They are highlighted on your sheets.

Let’s listen to the reading – follow along on the sheets you have.
The first thing to notice is that both Worship and Service are effective – they are verbs they are about doing things.  They are actions that have consequences.

Who they worship, who they serve is important
The context here is in an empire which has conquered Daniel and his friends  and the king is trying to unite his people in worship with him being the subject of that worship – however he doesn’t seem to have counted on the fact that people would have much problem with this as – Babylon was a place of many gods. 

This Statue which was setup was huge – 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide

What is also interesting is the people who daubed the 3 in to the king … These were the Chaldean whose lives Daniel and his friends saved just before this event (2:24) probably they were jealous of his instant rise to fame but how quickly they forgot that they had him to thank for sparing their lives!
So back to the text – This event shows the competing options of worship Gold statue v’s living God

This of course has been the challenge for the Israelites down through the years

Whether it be in the wilderness - the golden cow or the Ashera poles of the other religions on the Israel’s borders – the temptation has always been to veer off and do something which God himself commanded them not to do in the fundamental doctrine of the Law – in the 10 Commandments     

They are looking back at – refusing to serve your gods, refusing to worship your statue

The 3 are charged with refusing to complete the kings command – but the king doesn’t realise who he’s dealing with – he doesn’t realise the limits to his power I love the question he asks at the end of verse 15 - And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

What god can rescue you? … What god has power? … What god deserves the worship and service?

The Testimony of the 3 is the testimony of persecuted down through the years
O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

It’s the same testimony the Christians made – across the years – in periods of persecution – in periods of rule of dictators.

In our vocabulary we still talk about serving God and Worshipping him
Thankfully we’re not in a land where we’re persecuted, we’re not in a land where we’ll get thrown into a firey furnace for not bowing down to a demi-god  but in our application of this passage

Away from home – Let’s remember that there are people alive today who are in very similar positions to Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego with a 11 -hour flight North Korea, 7 Hours – Eiritrea

"My mother spoke with me in a calm voice, but her eyes were red and swollen: 'Four agents from the National Security Agency raided our house. They confiscated one of the Bibles and arrested Father.'"Hee Young's* family was broken apart in the mid-nineties when the North Korean authorities raided a secret worship meeting in her house. Her father disappeared and she never saw him again. Many other Christians were arrested at the same time.Christians are viewed as hostile to the regime.Choosing to follow Jesus is one of the most dangerous decisions a person can make in North Korea. If discovered, they face arrest, torture, imprisonment, and perhaps even public execution. In the case of Hee Young's family, they were banished to a remote area. But thousands of Christians are incarcerated in prison camps in North Korea, and most will stay there until they die.And yet, many have decided that knowing Jesus is worth it. Their only Bible may be in their mind. They may never meet with more than one other believer. They may never say the name of Jesus aloud. But the church in North Korea is not only surviving, but growing - and they have great hope for the future.
 EIRITREA  - Or When Senet* was arrested for refusing to put the state before her faith in Jesus, she was put in a small cell with 55 other women."We were so tightly crammed in that we could not sit properly, let alone lie down to sleep. We were forced to work long hours without rest. My
immediate commander was especially cruel."But in a dream one night I saw myself fighting with and defeating a very strong man. In the dream I was surprised by my strength and wondered how I had managed to defeat him."The so-called 'People's Front for Democracy and Justice' exerts absolute control over its citizens, including their religious life. All religious groups must be registered. Christians are considered a threat to the state; their houses have been attacked, and they have been tortured, beaten and imprisoned in horrific conditions. Some are detained in metal shipping containers in scorching temperatures.

In our world today the extremes of people who are standing up for worshipping the living God is huge – trying to understand this in Ireland in near impossible – but we’re linked to our brothers and sisters in diverse parts of the world. How do we do that … I believe the first part is simply finding out information about them – is a good start!

What about at Home when we look at worship & Service
Is it singing songs?, is it about liturgy? – passages like this remind us that worship is costly. We’ve got to remember that what we do is counter cultural.

Wise is the church that seeks to be “in” but not “of” the world (John 15:19), resisting aspects of the culture that compromise the integrity of the gospel, and eagerly engaging its culture with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who comes to each culture, but is not bound by any culture.

How we do this is such a vital question – what are the things in our culture are we prepared to stand up to the prevailing culture and say a definitive No! to – even if it means we’ll be looked down upon or even be persecuted for.

This may mean regular everyday things with groups of friends saying no to drugs, no to underage drinking. For others it may be decisions in the work place, not going with the prevailing shoal – swimming against the tide.

Daniels friends would not compromise – they knew the boundaries and weren't prepared to go beyond them. What’s our boundaries and are we prepared to stand our ground?

Service – is simply doing the things – serving the living God is the stuff we’ve just looked at in previous weeks Fruitfulness on our front lines – getting on and producing the fruit – living out how God has called us to live.

Let’s Pray

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Salt and Light to the community - Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Homily

Homily Preached at The Church of The Immaculate Conception - Blarney on Tuesday 19th January

Texts 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NRSV)
Matthew 5:1-16 (NRSV)

May the words of my Mouth and the Mediations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen. 

I would like to thank Fr. Bill for his welcome and his invitation to give this Homily. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an important part of the Church calendar as it reminds us that we’re not alone in the mission which Christ himself gave his 12 Apostles. It reminds us and challenges us that the body of the church is broken in all sorts of ways but this service is a service which reminds us that unity in the midst of our diversity is possible. 
That the things which we hold in common are great. 
As somebody who works extremely closely in this community with both Fr Bill & Anthony and value greatly their friendship and ministry I am extremely thankful to God for the strong bonds of friends that exist across our community.  The weekly Bible Study,Toddlers,  Community Alpha Courses, Messy Church, Community Carols, Holiday Clubs, Family Fun Mornings which are run - are team work between members of both churches - this is, as far as I'm aware a unique place for this type of work and I’m so thankful to God for all that he his doing in this place. 
Pope Francis wrote the following in a letter last summer:

We know that the visible unity of the Church is the work and gift of the Holy Spirit, who will bring it about in His time. Meanwhile, any effort we make in favour of the unity of Christians is necessary and urgent. The world need to know Jesus. We must proclaim Him without any pause, together. The division among Christians is the fruit of our sin and it is a scandal and our greatest impediment for the mission for which the Lord has called us: announcing the Good News of the Gospel. 

Today, the blood of the many Christians slaughtered in diverse parts of the world cries to heaven. The one that persecutes does not make a mistake, he does;t ask if they are Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox… they are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, and that is enough. The blood challenges us: Do we have the right to make our divisions a priority while the blood of our brothers is shed for the testimony of Jesus Christ?  …
… We know very well what divides us , let us be strengthened more in what unites us: the common faith in Jesus Christ as the only Lord and saviour,  the Word of God and Baptism 

Our Gospel text takes us to the feet of Jesus, on a mountain side 2,000 years ago but the words are as contemporary as they are historic - they are as applicable for Blarney as they were for Bethany 
They are reminders as to what God values:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who search for righteousness, are merciful, pure, peacemakers, persecuted 
For those who the world looks down upon - God lifts up as examples 

and then Jesus goes on to state to the crowd gathered before him 
You are the salt of the Earth, you are the light of the world … it cant be hidden 
I wonder in what ways  can you and I be salt and be light in the places where we find ourselves? 

In our workplaces, in our homes, in the supermarket, in the pub - wherever we are … how do we bring light into the situations we find ourselves in. 
The challenge in our culture in our culture is plain to see - it is how do we adequately talk about faith, live out our faith day by day in a world that is increasingly questioning and doubting, in a world and a culture which is changing the old norms which generations past have taken for granted - surely we are told this in our readings today ... our identity is in Christ our Lord 
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Fundamental to who we are as Christians is the Love that Christ showed upon the cross and the love that we are to share with one another. 

Unfortunately, in our land and across the world when church is mentioned - the words love and mercy, grace and peace are far from so many peoples lips - no matter what the denomination, no matter what the conversation is about. 

But that is our challenge - our challenge is to spread the gospel to those who are outside, to those who are struggling with faith to those who are lacking hope, to those who are questioning. You and I are called to be light and salt to a hurting and confused world. 

Our challenge is to dig into his word - to find the hope in that word and to effectively speak and act that word in our lives. Humbling serving, ready to articulate our hope whenever and wherever we can. 

Last Tuesday … in Growth Group we’re looking at Fruitfulness on the front line and explore some big theme of How we can be salt and light on our frontlines… where we are day and daily …these themes are helpful to think about where we are… 

Modelling Godly Character
Making Good Work 
Minstering Grace and Love
Moulding Culture
Being a Mouthpiece for Truth and Justice
Messenger of the Gospel

All of these ideas are ways in which we can individually but we’re called to do these things whoever we are. 

This is not simply theory … this is what we’re to be about - salt is effective, light is effective … lets get on and do! The world is depending upon us. 
Our community is depending upon the church to speak out and show what life in all its fulness looks like - too many people are lacking hope and direction - its the job of each one of us to be that salt and light. 

Jesus didn’t say this secretly to the 12 disciples this was public, this was to every single person - EVERYONE 

YOU ARE SALT AND LIGHT in your everyday … 

as salt is effective, as light scatters the darkness 

Let’s through the power of the Holy Spirit - allow God to Change us and then go and change the world … beginning with where we are … right here … right now! 

And he might change the ends of the earth! :-) 

In a moment we’re going to give you a reminder to be salt … we have a sachet of salt and a tea light candle which we’ll light reminding us all that salt and light are effect … yes their small but effective! 

I notice that the salt is the brand GEM 

I wonder as we take these away ... could we remember that 

God Empowers Me to get on with mission 

Let's Pray ... 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Climate Change and the church

I could be wrong, but for the vast majority of Christians living in ireland -  Climate Change is not top priority and I know that this blog my annoy some of my readers but surely we need to do something.

within the Next couple of weeks in Paris ... our world leaders will be meeting to try and hopefully make some decisions about our worlds use of our carbon resources.

We at the very least need to stop using resources at the rate we're using them, we need to stop exploiting the poor and need to find ways to help our brothers and sisters. 

This year in particular I'm extremely conscious of this as I prepare to bring another team out from Ireland to Zambia which is suffering drought ... This plea goes beyond individuals ... it needs to but it needs to start at grass roots ... doesn't it? 

Take a look at this video ... it shows the real effects of Climate Change on the people of Zambia and what potentially could happen with changes to our weather patterns. As with poverty there's a huge complex matrix of problems. But in terms of helping we need to be strategic in what we do to help our fellow world citizens. 

When we head out next summer one of the major things we'll discover is that development and life generally is being hampered by the lack of water in the hydro station at kafue dam which at the moment at its lowest levels for years

Heres what the Archbishop of Canterbury said recently in a speech... 
"I want to pick out four particular areas very quickly
"The first has already been mentioned by [Second Church Estates Commissioner] Caroline Spelman in her maiden speech, that of education and networking. We have unrivalled access to networks around the world. How are we going to use them and look beyond our own boundaries as the Church of England to draw in the resources of the whole Communion? This is a moment not for just looking inwards.
"It is still too big an issue for most people to get their minds round, including most of us here. And it is above all a classic issue for the whole people of God, not just for the clergy and the bishops and the ordinands. Part 5 of the Anglican Communion’s marks of mission says that we are “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth”. That has been in our objectives as a Communion for many years; we have to come back to that and say what are we doing as part of our educational work and networking that will demonstrate that we take it seriously.
"Secondly, we have to come back to the basic social teaching principle of the dignity of the whole human person and the breaking down of the barriers between us achieved in Christ. In other words, as Duncan Dormor said, this has to be holistic. There are many questions that stop us facing climate change. We need to be deeply engaged in the development, as we are through the Anglican Alliance, of the new SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals. If climate change is to have the place that it needs in international policy, conflict is one of those areas that destroys any attempt to manage issues around climate change. Climate change is both a driver of conflict and a victim of conflict, and we must face that reality and use our networks to address that issue.
"Thirdly, co-creativity. We need an imaginative commitment to new ways of approaching the subject of climate change that does not accept a deterministic or selfish nationalistic policy. We cannot simply look at ourselves and say, ‘we must do better’, and kick the ladder away from the vast majority of humankind that is struggling to find the prosperity that we enjoy so richly. That requires a huge investment in new ideas. If you look up Leo Johnson’s work in this area, it is quite fascinating.
"And lastly, it must be incarnational. Alexandra Podd and Caroline Spelman spoke of this. We are to be exemplary in what we do ourselves. That comes down to some very basic things about faculty legislation; about use of our buildings and imaginative work there; about how use our heritage; about how we use and invest our finances, of which more later today; and around how we heat and light things. Symbolic action such as use of paper at General Synod, the amount we travel, and disinvestment or the tackling and engagement with companies in certain areas, such as arctic drilling, are equally important.
"This is not a standalone issue. It cuts across all we do. Thank you."

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sermon - James 2:1-13

Sermon preached today at Sunday AM in Carrigrohane as part of our James Sermon Series 

Let’s Pray 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen 

Over the course of these weeks we’re looking at the Book of James across all our services in the parish … we’re going slowly through the book and so picking up on the gems of wisdom, teaching and excellent advice contained with in. Its a Letter to a church who were trying to live out their new found faith but who were tempted to be returning to some cultural norms which were all about them and that they were so used to - They were as we’ve already seen in the first chapter That James was writing to a church with problems … the problem of persecution but also the problem and also of temptation… 

Chapter 1 ended with the reminder that … “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Quite a simple thing in theory but we do know … even after 2,000 years we still find it so difficult to do just that. So let’s see how James tries to unpack what the word (as far as he has received it) and how he tries to translate it for the people in the church(es) he’s writing to, what he’s urging them to do and in turn translating that for us today. 

The health & safety warning of this passage ... 

We could very easily fall down 2 potholes which are difficult to get out of … we could fall down the hole of condemnation and heap up a whole mountain of guilt upon ourselves which isn’t useful nor healthy  - woe is me! 

or we could fall down the hole of defence and say actually this doesn't apply to me at all or trying to justify our actions for a certain event which has happened and the walls of defence go up 

with that warning given ….Let’s look at the passage for today … James 2

Simple Structure … when it comes to reading the letters 

Who is he addressing here? 

These comments are directed to those in the Church assembly … those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory … in other words - ordinary everyday Christians who know the Lord and who are trying to live out their faith in their community … sound familiar? 

People who know what it is to be in want and know what fantastic gifts he has given to his people. 

Sometimes its easy to live out our faith … but … and its a big but … at other times its really, really difficult … We might understand it but the difficulty comes in putting it into practice … of taking it from the page into our minds but then also putting it into practice 

So, What’s the problem here that james is trying to tackle? 

v2 - In The assembly (their meetings) We’re assuming here their worship gathering which are made up of people of different people … Rich and Poor, Male and female, slave and free. People of different backgrounds but whats important for us to realise The culture of the day would be a hierarchy of all sorts upper and lower classes with various legal rights associated with being in a particular place - The thing with the church is that it was at its best it was to be a place of equality, a place where all were the same. 

The key word here is Favoritism or in other translations partiality - The greek word used here literally means, “to receive the face.” The idea is taking people at face value. They may have said “they’re a good person to be around”, “they’re no fun”, “not going to get on with him” … perhaps this is as close as the Bible gets to the familiar saying - “Never judge the book by its cover”. 

Favourites … we all have them - your favourite singer or band, football team, chocolate bar, meal, restaurant. But lets remember James wasn't writing about those … it was to a church community - a community where people are meant to be different … where all were valued for who they were not what they did or their position in life. 

I was recently listening to a sermon from a pastor in a church in America who has written various books - francis Chan .. he was preaching on this passage and he decided to do a bit of an experiment with his congregation —-> I’ll let him explain what he did … VIDEO 


This is challenging … we might not have the option that the First Century Christians had … in terms of seats verses the floor but there are things we can do to exclude, to put people down … probably not intentionally but we do do it 

As with many things in the Bible … its not the necessarily action itself its the heart behind the action … 

James zooms further in on the problem he gets to the heart of the matter … its not just favourites that are the problem but its deeper than that 

In v4 we see a Rhetorical question - Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

If thats the problem why is it a problem? -  The basic problem is its inconsistentancy 

Why should the rich get the best seats
Why should the poor be told to sit on the floor 

3 reasons 
  • It’s Inconsistent with God’s Way of viewing things  (5-6a) 
  • It’s Inconsistent with the way the rich are treating believers (6b-7) 
  • It’s inconsistent with the claims of the ‘Greatest Commandment’ (8-13) 

Let’s take a look at these apparent inconsistancies

God’s way of viewing things 
God has chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith  … there are loads of passages. If you’re interested theres a fantastic study in looking at how much of Matthew’s Gospel James uses. But a quick flick through it shows us the beatitudes … blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. Also Jesus’ teaching in luke’s gospel … its the poor, the outcast who respond to Jesus’ message 

So if God says he has blessed the poor with the kingdom of heaven, and as paul has he has chosen the foolish and the weak and the despise then we need to rethink our pecking order and what we value

The poor here seem to be those who were both economically oppressed and spiritually inclined.

The way Paul says this … 

1 Corinthians 1: …26For consider your calling, brothers and sisters, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,… 

The way the rich are treating believers 

Its clear to James that those who are sitting in the good places in the assembly are those who are the ones who are exploiting the poor … The word here is the same word used in Amos 4:1 exploiting the poor 
in Ezekiel 22:7 for exploiting the widows and the orphans. Basically there are those among the gathering who are acting against the demands of ‘pure religion’ which james has already talked about in chapter 1 

So not only has God Blessed those who are being looked down upon, actually those who are being exalted are those who are actively dragging believers down 

If those things are not bad enough James goes on to give them his strongest blow which brings it all together 

The 3rd Inconsistency Claims of the ‘Greatest Commandment’
It’s inconsistent with the most basic, fundamental principle of the law … You shall love your neighbour as yourself

How can they show favouritism without sining … they can’t and neither can we! … James is very clear here … whatever transgression of the law we make. 

Its this sort of idea that the rich man who asked jesus who is my neighbour … and basically the answer was the told in the parable of the good Samaritan … where the unlikely one was the one who showed mercy. 

so is there any hope? 

Well the great news is yes! … change is possible 

this is where when we bring this together and ask the “so what do we do? question” … or to ask it another way … what’s the proposed solution ?

But its also the most challenging thing of all … and takes us on a change process which has the potential of  a change of a complete mindset and world view if we take it to heart 

we show mercy because we need mercy, we love because he first loved us, we can give only what we already have been given. 

This is not a works salvation,  … not at all … but it is a response which we do out of gratitude for what we’ve been blessed with. 

Remember the opening line of psalm 23 … The Lord is my Shepherd … I shall not be in want 

Its because the Lord is our shepherd … we’ll not be in want 

We have been given his love, his grace, his forgiveness, the bounty of creation and 
we’re called to show love, to share grace, to give forgiveness, to share the gifts of all of creation 

So what does that look like? 

What does it look like on a Monday Morning for you … in School, in Work, in your family situation, what does it look like in church? … what does showing mercy and not favoritism look like, what does not judging someone. 

I said at the start 

we could fall down the hole of condemnation and heap up a whole mountain of guilt upon ourselves which isn’t useful nor healthy  - woe is me! of looking at all the times before we’ve failed … we need to remember we’ve got second chance … we have been shown mercy 

or we could fall down the hole of defence and say actually this doesn't apply to me at all or trying to justify our actions and the walls of defence go up - then we’ve got to admit that actually we might be able to do better next time 

Mercy > Judgement 

Where do you and I need to show mercy … where before we’ve shown judgement ?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Men's Alpha Blarney - Week 2 - Why did Jesus Die?

Over the next 9 weeks members of the churches in Blarney are running  a Men's Alpha Course ... A course which looks at the fundamentals of our faith and allows men to ask all the difficult questions about God, Church and life

last week we looked at who is Jesus,

This week we asked the question ... why did Jesus die?

So we looked at the cross - why it is a sign of our faith and asked loads of difficult questions about the Christian understanding of sin, forgiveness

We said that if the cross is the solution what is the problem it was trying to solve.

We looked at sin through various lenses
  • Pollution of sin 
  • Penalty of sin 
  • Power of sin 
  • Partition of sin 
A Similar talk to that given tonight can be found here - why not take a watch of it ... feel free to add comments below or message me if you have any comments

What's your initial reaction to the talk?

What is your understanding of sin?

What other questions do you have?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Frontline ... where? and what does fruit look like?

At our young adults group this term we're looking at Mark Greene's book Fruitfulness on the front line ... or to be more specific we're watching the DVD and discussing it with the Biblical passages being discussed.

This evening we looked at the basic questions of what does frontline look like and what character traits does God want to create in us ... where we are and whatever we're doing.

This stuff is hugely important and being accountable to one another for the things we do has the potential to change the church and in turn the world.

We were asked a few questions:

When in the last week did we display Christian Character?
When in the last week did we not display the fruit of the Spirit?

We then were challenged about the importance of keeping close to God to allow his Spirit to produce in us the fruit of his Spirit. When we read Galatians 5

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other.

We see that we're called to walk by the Spirit and in turn the Spirit produces the fruit ... we're called to not strive but to walk in step with Him.

Lots of challenges but great to be challenged! :-)

What does your front line look like ... where is it? ... who do you come in contact with on a daily, weekly basis? how can you display godly Character?

What's the book about?