Thursday, August 28, 2014

The message ?

September is the start of a new School Year ... and in some ways it is the start of a new Parish year... yes I know the Church year begins with Advent but for all intents and purposes it is September which sees new things happening in the parish.

It's also a time when we can look around and question the things we are doing, and ask about how effective we are being in ministry and mission.

Over the past little while I've been reading and thinking, discovering and pondering. As a parish we've been looking at our mission and what we're doing - but in a microcosm of this, as a team in Messy Church (which we run once a month) we're going to be looking at our message and how we communicate that message to those coming along to Messy Church.

At the heart of all communication is a message ... and I wonder what message we are communicating? As a church to the surrounding culture.

What is the heart of the message for us as Christians? ... That could take a lifetime to sort out or it could be done in a few seconds.

It could be done in various mediums, ways and techniques but we need to find ways of Just Doing It!

It needs to be done simply and straightforwardly, unashamedly but also sensitively to the culture into which we are speaking.

We have a message to proclaim ... good news in the midst of a world of bad news ... news of hope and a future for all.

God doesn't want a people who are sitting on the fence ... he wants a people who know him to tell others about him. Simple and straightforward people.

So the question i'm asking over the next while to Facebook friends, fellow bloggers, Messy Church Team ... What's The Message?

and subsequent followup questions ...

  • how is it best communicated?
  • what prevents us from sharing The Message? 



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Update from Blarney ... Sowing Seed

As anyone who stops by here infrequently will know that I am definitely an infrequent blogger ... and that is definitely the case. I go through phases of blogging and not-blogging. The excuse I tell myself is that i'm busy ... but so is everyone ... but anyway ... here's an update for friends who are interested

Things are working out really well here in Blarney ... over a year and a half in now to this parish and theres good things happening ... Recently in sermons we've been reflecting on the parables of the sower and the seed as well as the parable of the good seed. I do think Jesus had a lot in just these two stories. Just today at Staff meeting I was reminded about Jesus' parables and the layers that it takes to explore its depth  ... so as Shrek  might say ...

 

And certainly over the past weeks and months We've been looking a lot about the seed we sow and how we sow it! and all the layers of those stories

As a church we're called to be sowing seed ... some of it will grow and bear fruit and some of it might not ... and that's all OK its all part of the story.

It has been great to see growth in all sorts of areas, Its been an encouragement to see new people commit to the parish, to see new people find us through social media, the website, word of mouth invites and various other means. It's our prayer that the church family would be built up

Its also been a great encouragement to see lots of people grow in discipleship and bearing much fruit.

After Easter I was asked to take on Messy Church Co-ordinator Role in Ireland and I'm really excited about that as it's helping me to see the real benefit of Messy stuff for reaching those on the edges of church and bringing them into an environment which they can interact with Bible and faith issues in an informal environment. Looking forward to seeing what opportunities this raises over the months and years ahead.

Over the next week we're really looking forward to welcoming lots of kids and team members to our Holiday Club and then their parents to a great Big Messy Church Celebration on Saturday.

It is so good to be part of a community which is working hard to helping each other wherever we can.

As we sow seed ... its my pray that the seed we sow will take root and be a blessing and also share the blessing wide and far.

:-)


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sermon ... Thomas The ...

Sermon Preached in the Church of The Resurrection on Sunday 27th April 2014 at A Service of the Word

Lets Pray ... Speak to us through your word today

Covenants ... Old and New ... God's Plan

Today we're looking at Thomas

Thomas is a very interesting character that we are looking at today.

He gets really bad press … His name is forever known as the Doubter but theres more to him than that … Let’s look at the scene we have this morning … He hasn't be there when Jesus has appeared, he’s heard all the talk, he’s wondering if its true or not … he’s not going to settle for anything less than the facts … he’s not going to be willing to die for something that there is no evidence about… he’s not going to be fooled … and he means it

Thomas...  the one with real courage … real Tenacity 

The first is in John 16 … its the that is used at many funerals time Jesus was teaching about going to prepare a place for them, a heavenly mansion. It was Thomas who scratched his thoughtful head and asked, “Jesus, we don’t know where you are going and so how could we know the way.”
Thomas did not understand what Jesus was saying and so he asked Jesus the questions. None of the other disciples raised their hands and expressed their curiosity. Thomas did.
The other time in the Gospels when we encounter Thomas is the religious people had attempted to kill Jesus at least twice (Luke 4 and John 10). Then Jesus got word that His good friend Lazarus was sick, along with the request to go heal him. The only problem was Lazarus lived within sight of Jerusalem, and Jesus had already told His friends that Jerusalem meant death. While guys like Peter tried to say they would never allow that to happen to Jesus, Thomas simply said, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

… if he says something he’s prepared to put his money where his mouth is… he’s not going to settle for anything but the best

Thomas the one who is completely Honest… Somebody who doesn't beat about the
bush … says it like it is even if its not what everyone else is saying … or like to hear. Even when everyone else has faith, has been assured that Jesus is really there … Thomas doesn't go and say thats great … yeah for you… he says Look I haven't been here … I wont or cant believe the way you do … but I want to … but the only way that is going to happen is for me to be convinced .. and when I am … then I’ll believe

Thomas the one who is content with difference in the community …This is vitally important … he is not someone who is willing to run away, shut himself off from the others or even pretend that he is someone he is not. He is someone who was called to be a disciple… he is one of the ones Jesus taught, he knew that something was happening, he couldn’t say that he believed. but he was not prepared to give up simply because he hadnt seen Jesus alive He needed to own his faith for himself… and to be perfectly honest …all of us at one stage and another need to be people who do the same - questioning our faith, grappling with paradoxes we find and struggle with. Wonder how faith and life go together.
Actually … all those pre meeting Jesus were skeptics … the women … tell me where youve put the body!

From Thomas’ life we’ll highlight a few things for us to think about !

Thomas’ questions and doubts were struggled with in community - And this is the best place for these things to be aired, people with various experiences of the risen Christ … people who love< us and who have walked with us are able to assure us that what we are going through … they’ve gone through, going through or know that there will be a time when they will go through … The Christian community is made up of a diverse range of people … we just need to look around us, ages, life expeinces but somehow God has called us together to share life together!
Thomas was someone who was completely and appropriately honest - he was able to share that he was struggling I suspect that there was much prayer in that community that week … O Lord wont you come back and meet Thomas … we want him to have the same faith we do … and thomas is probably praying a similar prayer himself … Lord want to believe, help my unbelief
In his honesty he was able to find answers to his deepest questions
We also see that Thomas’ Courage then allowed him to do some amazing things for God
The Chruch Historian Hippolytus records that Thomas was an active missionary, and that he met his fate in India: before which Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians, and was killed with a pine spear at Calamene, the city of India, and was buried there.

Faith is scary sometimes ... Indiana Jones ... Stepping out in faith ... sometimes we are called to do something as radical ... as scary for us as it was for Indie!



I Conclude with Jesus’ own words to Thomas

“stop doubting and believe.” There is a time in all of our lives where God says to us, “It is time to stop your doubting. It is time to move past your doubting. It is time to believe and experience the power of belief.”

In the Book of Job, Job went on doubting, complaining and questioning God for thirty eight chapters and God finally got tired of Job’s doubting and said, “Be quiet Job. I am tired of your wailing and doubting. Be quiet and believe.”

Yes, there is great power in a life that believes in Christ, loves in Christ, walks in Christ.
And so we come to the end of the sermon and the end of the story of Thomas. Thomas, after all that questioning and doubting and skepticism, came to the time when he fell on his knees and he said. My Lord and My God.

One of the Hymns from this morning's service

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday Sermon

Sermon Preached on Sunday 20th April 2014 in Church of the Resurrection - Blarney 
 
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


Today we celebrate the power of God to change everything ... Completely and utterly everything

  • ·         World Views changed .... From what we see to the potential of eternity
  •        Identity changed ... Sin and death has been removed from our identity and we are now one with God ...
  • ·         Mission has taken on a whole new emphasis


In a song we sang both on Thursday and Friday night ..."History was split in two "

And this is what indeed did change ... Life itself fundamentally changed

Before Christ and after Christ ...

 When we think about our identity ... And how God sees us as individuals and us as a church. The cross and the tomb are crucial this.


What happened that Easter Day is crucial ... Sin was defeated on the cross ... And death was  defeated in the garden tomb the consequences of this 


This morning I would like to take a look at 3 particular changes

... Hope has been restored
... Life takes on new significance
... Love has a new definition


Hope has been restored.


The disciples hopes and dreams were shattered on Good Friday ... Life as they knew it had come to an end ... What they thought would happened didn't ... Who they thought he was... He wasn't
They were in fear, they were so distraught ... What was it about ... They withdrew ... They had let him down. Life couldn't get any worse ... They were without any hope whatsoever.


I don't know if you've been in that place ... Can't see any light in the darkness ... Or worse ... Can't see the potential of light ... No source of any hope from any quarter. It is not a nice place to be at all. If you've been there ... You were in good company ... The disciples, countless saints ancient and modern have all stood there.
The dark night of the soul

But wherever that place in our lives is...  Easter bursts in ... There may be pain, there may be emotional turmoil ... There may be despair ... There may be grief... There may be fear But there is surprising hope ... And the only place that this sort of hope rests ... is in the creator God who created us and who can put in a plan to sort this sort of despair out.


Life Takes on new significance

The disciples themselves are part of the evidence of the fact of the resurrection ... From cowards to  fearless proclaimers of the risen Christ ... From deniers to being prepared to face death and persecution themselves. The apostles who are sent go and take the message from Jerusalem, the ends of the earth.


When life takes on new significance ... Life becomes a gift from God ...  Which he has given each person unique passions, gifts and opportunities. He gives us a general task and specific plans. It's up to us how we fulfil those with the decisions we make and how much we involve him in those is up to us. But within the resurrection we see the out working of Gods plan for the church and for individuals within that just. In today's reading we see bereaved women being changed into the first apostles sent to tell the disciples that Jesus is on his way!


Yes there may be pains from the past ... God doesn't take those away ... But he can redeem them ... He can weave them into an even greater plan ... Look at peter ... We'll see how Jesus is able to weave his denial into a greater relationship opportunity and commission to go and do greater things.



The new significance is that life eternal begins now ! ... Eternal life is not pie in the sky when you die ... But a renewed creation here and now ... With life potential right here right now. So what are we going to do about it


Love has a new definition


... This is crucial ... We see this in the facts of the past few days ... Love is God serving humanity ... Jesus the servant washing the disciples feet, Jesus the messiah willingly dying in our place, speaking so tenderly to Mary ... Forgiving those who were killing him


We also see this definition being worked out as Jesus appears to the disciples and helps them through their unbelief, their own issues ... Cleopas ... Thomas, Peter and the others



These three things are so vitally important to us as we sit here in Blarney this morning ... Whoever we are we need to know

In Christ ... Hope is restored ... Whatever ... And I mean whatever we're going through now or whatever the future holds

Easter reminds us that there is always hope ... Whatever the disaster ... Whatever the situation ..

In our generation there seems to be such a loss of perspective ... People loosing hope ... In Easter we proclaim that there is always hope ... We are a people of hope

Life's meaning ... Our purpose ... What we are here to do ... What life is all about are huge questions ... The Easter message confronts us with the God of mission ... Who has created us humans ... Fearfully and wonderfully made ... Who has given us passions, things we are good at, things that fire us and places where we can do those things. He wants us to flourish ... Yes we might stuggle sometimes but he wants what is the very best for us.


Love's definition has changed to a whole new level of meaning ... Jesus died for us... He died for you and for me ... Not because he had to but because he wanted to ... God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that who so ever


So with these 3 things what do we do?
Hope, Life and love 
I finish with a story which appears in  “The Gospel according to Starbucks

There once was a rather rough, uncultured man who for some reason fell in love with a beautiful and hugely expensive antique vase in a shop window. Eventually, after saving for a considerable time, he bought the vase and put it on the mantelpiece in his room. There it became a kind of judgment on its surroundings. He had to clean up the room to make it worthy of the vase. The curtains looked dingy beside it. The old chair with the stuffing coming out of the seat would not do. The wallpaper and the paint needed redoing. Gradually the whole room was transformed.


God wants to transform into the people he would have us be … none of us are a finished work
But we need to work with him in this process … he will never force us to do anything.
In our questions, in in our doubts in our work and in life he is working his purposes out   

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sermon - The greatest Man. Heb 2.5-18

This sermon was preached on Sunday 26th February 2014 in Church of the Resurrection in Blarney. This is the Second in our current Hebrews Series 

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
Last Sunday we gazed upon the Glorious Son of God … in all his splendour … above all powers, above all thrones, we recalled how all creation worships him … seated on the throne.

Today we get another view of Christ … the one which we remember at Christmas… the one who is born, lived and died and rose again for us. The Incarnate Son … the God who is with us.

This is a dense text this morning … Take a look at Hebrews 2:5-8 – in this Jesus has been given the crown of Glory and honour … and every thing is subject to him … but not all is as it should be yet

This is pointing to living in the inbetween stages of the kingdom now and the kingdom not yet.


This passage is dealing with the realistic world …  concerning that bit when the rubber hits the road, when the painful days come, when there is pain and suffering, when the medical tests come back positive … when we were hoping for the opposite … highlighting that life wont be the same again.

When we need to be able to turn to God and get the confident answer that he’s there … he’s been there, he’s here right now and he’ll always be there.  So let’s see the reasons for this confidence.

The word confidence … appears in Hebrews so many times … There are things which knock our confidence … things we encounter, challenges we face and all sorts of experiences we have.

The same was true for the hearers of this letter … things were there to knock their confidence … people, events and culture around them but the writter is calling them back to basics … and the basics have not changed in 2000 years

The writer of this letter wants to explain that despite living in the in-between times we do know that Jesus has been effective & things have changed forever.


There are a few we can look to as reasons for the God plan of the incarnation from this passage .

We’re looking at the Effects of Jesus coming among his people … Basically its the So what ? of Christmas

This Passage suggests 4 Things …




1. Liberate us from Fear of Death … Death and taxes cannot be avoided … its part of the human experience. Jesus is the one was the one who tasted death for everyone. This is the good news we proclaim on easter day … at funerals and at bedsides.

But there’s more to this … It doesn’t say that he’s liberated us from Death … but from the fear of death – part of the whole restoration of Christ is there in verse 15 “Free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

This fear of death causes huge issues for humans …
  • We fear a real loss of control
  • We fear incompleteness and failure. Especially for those who have enjoyed life and sought certain achievements, whether personal or professional, life can hold a great deal of joy and fulfillment. There exists a stark finality to death
  • It leads us to place we’re unfamiliar about.

That’s’s the fear … but let’s look at the Christian Hope …

Elisabeth Elliot tells of an occasion in the jungles of South America when, as she and her native guide were traveling a primitive path, her trail suddenly dropped into a ravine. The only means across was a fallen tree. The guide nimbly jumped onto the tree and started across. Elliot, who confesses she was mortified at the prospect of falling, hesitated.

Her guide, perceiving her apprehension, came back across, held out his hand, grasped hers, and led her across safely. The stability of one who had obvious mastery of the situation gave her the needed confidence. Paul tells us that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), an agricultural image that speaks of the initial produce of a crop to ripen. As the first to come through death, Jesus gives us confidence and stability as we face our own
Our sense of incompleteness and failure is counterbalanced with hope of an eternal future—a future bought by Jesus’ sacrificial death

2.     to make us holy through the forgiveness of sins
The implications of  the incarnation in this passage is … the making the way for us to be Holy through the forgiveness of sins. Sometimes we’re so familiar with this that we don’t listen to it … Its what I say sunday by sunday but actually when we get our heads around it … something changes

And this is huge … all of us at times feel guilty … we know we’ve messed up … we know that we’ve done and said things we shouldn’t have and we’ve not done things we should have. There are times that we’d just love to have a clean sheet to start over again.

That clean sheet is something which we have through Jesus’ work on the cross … That new heart is possible. and we are called to simply be part of that

3. The Destruction of the Devil

We see in this passage … that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

By dying he destroyed death and by rising he restored life.

Again this is the in-between times … Kingdom now and future. The devil is still at work … but Christ is above all things and he is in control… we see evil is still at work … The war is over but there is still those skirmishes.

But we see through Jesus’ ministry how evil was cast out and how things changed forever.



4th Things is that the Jesus is here to help us
This help comes in a number of ways …

v16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.

v18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

This help that we get from God is practical … its what we need and its from expereince.

Today we’re thinking in this service of what we need, of the thing we’re facing day and daily … and we’re asking God simply to meet us where we’re at … in our fraility, in our struggles, in the issues which face us.

Healing and wholeness is something which we all struggle with from time to time sometimes day and daily… whether it be health concerns, family issues, our own faith or whatever.

God is close to us … closer than a brother … and we’ve been grafted into his family… as we catch a glimpse of what this one relationship with the almighty does then it gets really exciting

Let’s re-cap

·         to liberate us from the fear of death,
·         to destroy the devil,
·         to make us holy through the forgiveness of sins
·         to give us help,

And that’s what God is up to in the incarnation and in our lives to this day …

And its not just theory but a new reality which we as the church declare to the world.

This is the Gospel in a nutshell … but the challenge is we’re called to respond to this

An Illustration … Climbing rope … trusting it … you’re only going to trust it by using it & putting it into practice … trying it.
Time and again Christ has been trusted and we can see that he is faithful … becuase of who he is and what he’s done.

Are you going to trust him? in the small things and in the big things?

Are we prepared to trust his words? are we prepared to trust him to see us through our fear of Death, trust him to forgive our sin, trust him to help us in all things, and trust him that he’s defeated evil?

BUT ALSO …

Trust him that he’s given us a new identity as sons and daughters of God.
Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin,
Jesus puts himself in the same family circle when he says,
Even I live by placing my trust in God.
And yet again,
I’m here with the children God gave me.

So If he says this … and he means it … we are CHILDREN OF GOD!
As the chorus of Praise my soul says …
We are … “Ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven

Sunday 26th  January - The greatest Man. Heb 2.5-18
Big Idea: Jesus became a real human being and suffered death so that he could destroy deaths power and free us from it’s slavery and reconcile us to God. (Jesus divinity).

Jesus has been tempted, in every way, and can help those who are tempted (2.18). Struggling with suffering? Jesus the author of our faith was ‘made perfect through suffering’ (2.10).

·         Why would verses 8-9 be comforting to suffering Christians?
·         What stops be from believing that nothing is outside the sovereign control of Jesus? What can help me rest in this truth?
·         How should a Christian view of Death be different from others, according to this passage?
·         V17 – In what way is the word Brother a helpful term for understanding Jesus and the relationship Christians have with Him?