Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Body of Christ ... in this place

A sermon preached at 10:30am Service Sunday 24th January
May the words of my mouth and the mediatations of our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O lord our strength and our redeemer – Amen.

The Human body is an amazing creation … just some facts about it gleaned from various sources


In our epistle reading this morning Paul writing to to Corinthians goes to great lengths in his imagery to portray a vision of fully functional, active and co-ordinated church community. Where each member is playing their part and where all are working together in common purpose

If you look at the passage – you will see the background of church members is not important –
Jews or Greeks,
slave or free – they were all baptised into one body.

Then we have the working of this body – because one is a hand, it can't say because I am not an eye I'm not part of the Body

If we look at the Human body when all parts are functioning well the whole body is healthy and active.

As we all know when something is up – even with a very small part it disturbs the other parts.

From personal experience in the autumn after my accident on my bike in my elbow … it stopped me from doing some things. When you are sick – it impedes you from fulfilling your potential. Part of my job entails me going into hospital and visiting those who are ill. Usually when people are in hospital there is a bit of frustration of not being able to do whatever they are used doing.

But on the other hand when you are fully healthy and active – the human body is able to do amazing things – Just think of the accomplishments which have happened in the last 100 years

Astronauts in space
Usain Bolt set a new 100m world record by clocking 9.72 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix meeting in New York. 2008
Sir Edmund Hillary -29 May 1953. Everest

And not just the physical – but in the world of thought, science, technology.

The body is an amazing creation – it can accomplish much.
The challenging part to all of this is we are called to be a part of a body ourselves … every single one of us. We are all called. The question is are we prepared to play our part.

In St. Columba's here today we see people using their time and their talents to serve.

When you came in you were greeted by sides people & Church wardens,
the organist was playing,
the choir sang,
a reader read the epistle,

Behind the scenes – we have a select vestry, fundraising, glebe wardens, parish secretary, committees who run various organisations, prayer chain praying for those who are ill

lots of people playing their part in their own ways. And that is great. The Body is working well in St Columba's

The challenge for each one of us is how we can improve, how we can encourage others who are part of this church to get themselves involved. There is a part for everyone to play. And it should be all our vision to encourage each other and those outside to get involved.
Today as you will see from your Pew News – our church is the focus for the diocese prayer and we have asked for prayer for three very important aspects of our ministry.

The first: For all involved in the ministry and witness of St. Columba's as we serve God in our parish and community

It is vitally important that we acknolwedge all the really great work that is going on in this parish and pray for each other.

In the confines of this parish we have a rich variety of gifts, talents, experience. Day by day parishioners here have links to so many different people. Each of us has the potential to change lives – to speak words of encouragement, to show our Christian Faith in action.

I wonder how on a daily basis do we use our gifts and our circumstances as followers of Christ?

The second prayer which people are praying for us today is - For God's guidance and direction as we reach out to those parishioners outside parish life

In our reading we cannot say to another part of the body we dont need you –
there are many people in our parish who are on our list but are not taking an active role in the body – and this is sad …

...can you imagine if your foot our even your little finger decided to stop working … for no reason or if there was a reason would you not want to get it looked at?

In St Columbas there is room for everyone, imagine if everyone played their part. We have around 650 families on our books could you imagine what we could do as a church if everyone got involved and used their skills, talents and their insights.

At the moment, as you will see from the Magazine the Rector and I are visiting all houses – whether they be active members of the body or not. We can only do so much.

It is the responsibility of everyone to talk about St. Columba's, to encourage and to invite your friends, your family along, to come up with ideas as to what we can do to reach those parishioners outside parish life, to get them involved. So much in our world today is about personal recommendation and experience.

The third prayer point is around fundraising for causes and for the upkeep of the parish - For our fundraising initiatives as we support Mission and Charity work at home and overseas and raise money for our Building Fund

All of this is so important, that the body all of us play our part in the ministry and mission of the church here in St. Columba's and beyond.

As we come to celebrate Holy Communion today, at the heart of this sacrament is the knowledge that we are all parts of the one body, whoever we are, whatever we do during the week, we are all different yes but we are all called to work together for the well being of each other.

Let us celebrate being together, let us also encourage those members who are absent for whatever reason.
And let us remember that we can be answer to the prayers which people are praying this week.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Good News v's Bad News

After Christmas – Good News v's Bad News … Sermon preached St. Columba's Sunday 3rd January 2010 - Evening Prayer

It is great to be back to some sort of normality after Christmas, with shops back open at the normal times, and life back to some sort of routine. On Monday I came up to Belfast to have a look at some of the sales and the town was completely manic … I queued just to get onto an escalator and when I got up to the menswear department there were only two rails of sale items left … why the rush?.

Before Christmas … people were rushing around getting all the preparations done.
At Christmas … people were rushing round doing the last minute things.
Then After Christmas ... there is more rushing around buying things in the sales.

The pace of life is indeed hectic to say the least... hopefully you will have had a little bit of time over the holidays to sit back and relax and enjoy a bit of space for yourself.

In church life, we have come through advent, a time of preparation, a time when we prepare ourselves once again to hear the message of good news, On Christmas day we celebrated that good news -the Birth of Christ, the Baby in a manger and directly after this we are presented with some really bad news in our reading

We have good news until King Herod comes in and decides to slaughter the boys in Bethlehem under two. Its not a story we like to remember, its not a story which is usually mentioned in the Christmas Nativity plays we sit around and watch in schools and churches. It is polemic to the good news of the angels, star, the shepherds and mary and Joseph, inn keepers, wise men. But it is very much part of the story of humanity - Good and Bad experiences existing together in tension with each other.

The slaughter of the Holy innocents as it is called, the church remembers only 3 days after christmas, year in year out, continually reminding us that – where God is active there is always someone/thing out to twart the plans. We see it here, we see it throughout Jesus ministry, the opposition of many, ultimately at his death. However it doesn't stop there - for his followers throughout the book of acts & in historical record where Jesus' Disciples are plauged with persecution.

This episode in the gospels does not fit into a nice fairytale ending … young boys are killed because the ruler does not like what God is up to. Does this sound familiar? Hopefully the answer is yes!

Looking back the things which Matthew writes in the passage we read tonight does echo some of the greatest stories in Israels past
Flight to Egypt
Dreams of Joseph
The killing of the first born (Moses was saved)
Call out of Egypt (Moses)
Working within David's Line

Yes God was up to something new with the incarnation, God becoming Man, God with us but it certainly was in continuity with the past, and Matthew was at pains to ensure that his readers were made aware of all the references which had gone before.

So what does all of this mean for us today?
We are here at the start of a new year – 3 days in. New year is traditionally a time when we start into thinking about what has gone before, and what is about to come.

I was amazed on New Years eve to watch the fireworks on TV at the London Eye – an amazing spectacle on BBC, just before they started – the presenter gave a run down of the decade years beginning at the millennium → The good, the bad and the ugly
nature of our news bulletins.
Non-event of the Millennium Bug,
through the developments in technology,
the big news stories of the decade 9-11,
war in Iraq and Afghanistan, London Bombings, President Obama,
the mix between Good and Bad news.

In the Belfast Telegraph likewise, last week they had a countdown of 50 monumental news stories from the decade – good news and Bad News all mixed in together – a Decade that has seen so much progress and life in Northern Ireland Change – images such as the big wheel at city hall, changes in the police, stormont assembly, 11+, developments in infrastructure and new shopping experiences. But again and again we are living in the tension between Good and Bad. It has been there from early days.

But now that we are living in the time post the birth of Jesus – the hope that that little baby provided and the means that that child provided humanity with to restore the relationship we have with God allows us to be confident with the future.

Before Christmas … many were running around preparing all sorts of things
At Christmas … there were many Jobs to be done
Now that Christmas has past us by for another year … why not, at the beginning of this new year … Stop and reflect on the past, how it relates to the present and how things can be different in the future.

God is a creative God, the story of the israelite nation is one of good news of the relationship they have with God, how that relationship is sustained even in the tragedy they find themselves in and how he delivers them. In this story this evening we see Good News, we see Bad News, but above all we see the greatest hope of all – Jesus safe and well.

All of us I am sure can relate to the Good News stories of life, and all of us I am sure have had Bad News stories affecting us at one time or another. One thing is for certain – God is able to walk with us through them all. That is the good news of the Christmas Gospel which is able to sustain each one of us when we have to walk through the Valley of the shadow of death as the psalmist puts it. He is with us.

At the beginning of a new year as we reflect on our relationship with God and with one another, as we think of the good and the bad things of our lives - if we were to think over the past decade, if we were to choose 10 or 20 events from the past ten years which have shaped us as people what would they be? And as we think back then how do we move forward?
are we prepared to do something new, are we prepared to do things that God wants us to do?,
are we prepared to journey with God into new places, into new situations, to use what he has provided for us, are we prepared to trust him, wherever he may lead. Are we prepared to step out of our comfort zones?

If you don't know what that involves why not ask? … who knows what sort of adventures God has planned for you?