Monday, October 25, 2010

Bible Sunday Sermons ...

Yesterday we were celebrating Bible Sunday


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.

A Story is told of a young couple who went on honeymoon and due to a flight delay arrived at their hotel in the early hours of the morning

when they eventually woke they complained to the manager that their room was ridiculously small, had no windows and was furnished by a single bed settee. Having booked a honeymoon suite they’d been given a box room.

The manager accompanied them upstairs and asked if they had noticed the double doors, which the couple assumed was a wardrobe. He opened them to reveal a sumptuous room complete with four‐poster bed, a balcony with a sea view, flowers and bottle of champagne in an ice bucket. Mr and Mrs Glum had spent their wedding night in the lobby of the best suite in the best hotel in the country.

It can be the same with our Bible if we have never effectively sat down and read it properly. we might have experienced a few of the stories or books but never explored beyond what was sunday school stories we we taught in our youth. We haven’t discovered the treasures of the whole of scripture - of this book which sits on our book shelves

We might look at the Bible as a big heavy tombe that seems in-accessible to the ordinary person but actually there are many, many tools we have access to today which break to the Bible down into managable chunks, lots of Bible reading notes, lots of courses, lots of books which help explain what is going on in the passage.

In church here there are sets of Bible reading notes which you can sign up for, in any of the christian book shops there are many sets of notes which you can use - wether you are starting off, going deeper into the Bible. We all need help - so ask for it.

In this parish we have our Parish Bible Study to discuss the Bible each wednesday evening. Myself and the rector are also happy to chat to people, to share resources which we have found helpful - I know in my study there are many books which have helped me in terms of apply the Bible text to various situations I have found myself in over the years.

As I have chatted to parishioners over the years both in this parish and also other parishes - I have heard the comment that they find the bible difficult to understand in terms of Language it uses. As I have chatted to them I have discovered they have been using an older translation of Scripture. If you are interested in reading the Bible - why not treat yourself to a modern translation with study notes included. Some of these have maps and modern links included in them.

Recent surveys highlight that there are difficulties in reading scripture

27% of churchgoers say they read the Bible at least once per week outside of church attendance.

57% of church goers believe the Bible should shape their daily life ‘a great deal’.

In the Lord’s prayer we pray - give us today our daily bread - that bread is of course physical provision but it is also much more - it is the spiritual food. We sit down and have meals what importance are we placing in the spiritual food of Bible reading?

Whilst I was growing up my home rector used to quote a chinese parable - a Book unopened is but a block of paper. Are we content in leaving the Bible unopened? or are going to try and step into the Bible as source of wisdom, as a rule to apply to our lives, of getting into an adventure of discovering who God is and how he can use each one of us?

Remind yourself that the Bible is a Library of books - different writings, written over a considerable period of time

Why not set yourself a challenge over the next while and begin to read a book of the Bible. Perhaps begin with a epistle or gospel, perhaps read some of the psalms. If you need help ask us or any friends you know who are reading.

Nike has a great slogan - just do it - On this Bible Sunday why not commit this week to open your Bible and start reading a wee bit over breakfast, at coffee break, over lunch time or whenever suits in your day.

As I conclude we remind ourselves why we read the Bible at all .... from our epsitle reading today ... For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”


You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

The first and greatest commandment as Jesus told his followers. At each Holy communion service we revisit it - But it is a complete challenge to us today - it is saying that we need to place God as number one in our heart (that is the seat of our emotions, our soul deepest part of us and our mind - that is our intellect, the part that does the thinking).

This evening, being Bible Sunday I would like to think about our Scriptures as having an impact on our whole selves, not just on our heart, not just on our mind, not just on our souls but on every single part of us intertwined

We can read the Bible as we do a newspaper - nice stories but no impact, we could read them as a piece of ancient literature - studying it with our intellect as we would any other historical text - but the words not going deep into us, not apply the truths to our lives, or we can read the stories of scripture as things to make us happy - a set of spiritual writings taken straight off the page - but not actually making any impact on our minds, not asking any questions of the text. None of these should sit contently for us as Christians.

How should we read the Bible so that we satisfy our whole selves? Mind, soul and heart - Each passage we read should cause us to ask questions

  • What did this passage mean to the original audience?
  • What links are there between the original audience and us?
  • What does this passage mean to me as I read it today?

To answer these questions takes a lot of work on our part - we need to set time aside, we need to read, we need to work, we need to be honest, we need to be open and prepared to make changes to our lives on the basis of what we discover. We may need to repair relationships, we may need to apologise to people, we may need to make life changing decisions. That is the adventure of reading God’s word and applying it to our lives.

When we take a passage of scripture - there may be things which we do not understand - that’s OK! (after 3 years of theological trainning, and many many years of reading for myself I will be the first to put my hand up and say that there are lots of things in the Bible I don’t understand), perhaps we find difficult, perhaps words, phrases disturb us, perhaps they challenge us to change. When we read the Bible we do so not as dispassionate observers but people looking to find out what God is up to , what God was and is saying to his people. in the past. present and indeed future.

I remember clearly one such time, in third year, sitting in the Lecture theatre of Banbridge High School - when all the teachers were telling us why we should choose their subjects for GCSE, why art would be necessary for this or that, why geography is the key to the future etc etc. At that time I remember clearly recalling a passage of scripture which I have taken and owned - That of Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

Yes I knew it in my head - I had memorised this verse from Sunday School years before but once it impacted my heart then I knew throghout my whole being that God did indeed have plans. The adventure is living those out every day.

The prophet Jeremiah, wrote those words long ago to a people needing comfort, a people needing direction. But God, by the Holy Spirit still uses those ancient words today - To encourage, to direct, to guide his people

In our Old Testament reading this evening we have been reminded The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.

We are so fortunate here that we have so many resources for studying the scriptures - Bible reading notes, Bible Translations, courses, study groups and other methods. This morning I was speaking on the same topic - that of the importance and as people were going out various parishioners asked me about Bible notes and Bible Translations which would be useful to them. I hope to have a chat about Bibles with them.

If anyone here would like to find out a bit more about Bible study notes please do get in touch with me or E P who is the Parish rep for Bible Study notes.

If we do neglect our Bible Study, we are missing out on a huge part of God’s Blessing - can I encourage you to do what we prayed in our collect today -read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the pages of the Bible - so that your relationship with God may grow. Yes you will be challenged, yes you may well come up with questions which you never thought of before. But as a people whose worship is centred upon word and sacrament we need to take the Bible seriously in order to grow.

But also remember that it is not just head but also heart and soul as well.

Let us pray...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Persistence in Prayer

A sermon preached in St. Columba's on Sunday 17th October 2010 at 1030 Morning prayer - Based on the text of Luke 18:1-8 The Persistent widow

I wonder if you have ever had to keep going at something ... thinking about it day in, day out, pehaps getting others around to help. Perhaps a project, perhaps an essay, perhaps a gardening idea, perhaps it was trying to get money back from a company ... whatever it may have been.

It takes a lot keep going when others may be asking ... are you wise?, or sure it would be much easier to give up.

This week on our news headlines we have seen what happens when people refuse to give up, when people people are persistent in their hopes and dreams, when others are persistent in their work.

The Chilean miners were this week brought out of the mine.

The word persist according to the oxford english dictionary is a verb with the meaning ... continue in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition:

Our gospel reading this morning speaks of the persistence needed in prayer, to keep at it in spite of difficulty or opposition

At our Family communion this morning I brought along a wind-up toy and said that there are times when we pray when things are difficult, when troubles come then people do pray but in the ordinary times of life do we come before God in prayer - we don’t seem to have the energy, the time or the inclination, or perhaps we just do not know what to pray for.

In the ordinary-ness of life how can we be persistent in prayer?

To answer that question we need return to ask two related questions

Firstly Why should we pray? and then How should we pray?


If we catch the importance of something then we are more likely to integrate it into our everyday life. For example if in consultation with the doctor we have a discussion about fatty foods we are more likely not to order the belly busting fry when we next go to our favorite restaurant, or if we are told that we need to reach a certain fitness level we are more likely to make our daily walk, gym session a priority.

Prayer is a conversation with God, it is setting time aside as a priority, saying your relationship with him is of importance to you.

That relationship is key to who we are as Christians as it cuts to the core of life and indeed eternity itself. Prayer brings us into the seat of the king of kings and the Lord of Lords.

How should we pray?

There are many, many ways people have found helpful. In today’s world we know that we are faced with many choices. Go into a coffee shop - size, blend, latte, cappuccino, syrups etc - all of us are getting used to having things our own way.

There are many, many different ways to pray - formally, informally, walking, over coffee, at the side of the bed, in bed, at the office, in the car all of us. wherever it may be. Writting your prayers in a journal wherever - with music on, in silence, in church, at home, up a mountain, by a river

All of us can pray

"One prayer routine that is balanced and easy to remember is found in the word ACTS, an acrostic whose 4 letters stand for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

We can pray scripture - the psalms are a place where prayers have been written down.

When we look around a church, it may seem that every person here finds prayer easy or indeed second nature - but actually from chatting to people, if we are honest many of us, and I include myself in this - praying is a struggle.

We struggle with it for various reasons:

  • It takes time
  • We often don’t see the results of our prayers
  • We often don’t know what to pray in a certain circumstance
  • We wonder about the effects that our prayer has

These are indeed things we do struggle with but this is where the persistance needs to come in. We need to catch a vision of the richness of prayer, we need to then integrate prayer into our lives. Setting time aside each day to pray also can have other effects as well

"Prayerless people cut themselves off from God's peace and from his prevailing power, and a common result is that they feel overwhelmed, overrun, beaten down, pushed around, and defeated by a world operating with a take-no-prisoners approach."

Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not To Pray

Taking those few minutes out of our busy schedule helps remind ourselves who we are and also the importance of our faith in God.

There are many, many ways to structure our prayer to God each day. One ancient way which we can persevere in prayer - is with the daily office - Take a look at the front page of the prayer book ... a daily prayer structure ... richness in prayer.

It is available on the internet... check out the worship section of the church of ireland website!

We are called to make prayer a priority - In our parish there are loads of things you can pray for - take a look through the parish magazine - pray for the leaders of the organisations, pray for your neighbourhoods, pray for police

Many many things to pray for - lift one of the sheets at the back of church with ideas which were created orginally for children but which can be easily adapted for adults.

It then gets to a stage when we just need to sit down and pray - having that balance of ACTS helps greatly in our prayers.

In our parish Bible study on wednesday evening I recalled how recently I was at a funeral of a friends father who died in his 90’s - all his sons and daughters got up to pay tribute to him - one of the things they said that spoke volumes about what he believed was that every day he got down on his knees and prayed for each of them as they were growing up. They also knew that as they got older wherever in the world the kids went - that they had a father at home who was praying for them.

It got me thinking - is my habit of prayer so in-ground that I am persevering in prayer for people here in the parish, for my family, for my friends, for parishioners, for those who I promised to pray for.

Now there is a challenge in all of this - this week how are you & I going to pause and pray for ourselves and for others in the busy-ness of work and family life?

Praying & prayers

N:gage with Sunday Mornings

First steps to pray & keep going ...

An ideas sheet prepared for St. Columba’s parishioners by Rev’d Robert Ferris

Much of the prayer of St. Columba’s is corporate, that is to say we do it together and this is reflected in much of what you will say when you come along to church on a Sunday Morning - wether it be Holy Communion, All Age worship or Morning/evening prayer. Yet there is another side to our prayer life, our own individual prayers, as we try to share in Christ's prayer to his Father, that his will be done, his kingdom come.

The advice we provide here was originally written for a children's book. However, whether you are a child, young person or an adult, prayer is easier than you might imagine! Millions of people of every age pray every day.

You don't have to know any prayers if you want to pray - in fact, words can often get in the way. Picture Jesus, and then say what is in your heart, what you feel.

God hears every prayer - but not all prayers are answered in the way we might expect or desire: we don't always pray for his will to be done!

'Arrow' Prayers
can be offered to God anywhere, at any time.

But thankfully we don't live all our lives in moments of extreme crisis. What about day-to-day praying? We need to come closer to God, to experience His love for us and to try to make sense of where we are in the world. Prayer is the way we do this.

pastedGraphic.pdfHow to start?

Use your hand.
Your fingers can be used to bring to mind different things to pray for.

this is the strongest digit on your hand. Give thanks for all the strong things in your life, like home and family, relationships that support and sustain you.

index finger
this is the pointing finger. Pray for all those people and things in your life who guide and help you. Friends, teachers, doctors, nurses, police, emergency services and so on.

middle finger
this is the tallest finger. Pray for all the important people who have power in the world, like world leaders and their governments, members of parliament and local councillors, MLA’s, the Royal Family, other world leaders and their governments.

ring finger
this is the weakest finger on your hand. It can not do much by itself. Remember the poor, the weak, the helpless, the hungry, the sick, the ill and the bereaved.

little finger
this is the smallest and the last finger on your hand. Pray for yourself.

When should I pray?

Traditionally, prayer times have been morning and evening, but you can choose a time which is best for you. It helps to be somewhere quiet, where you can have some time for yourself.

Do I have to kneel?

Kneeling is the traditional posture for penitence and standing for praise, but you can pray anywhere - walking, standing, sitting, whatever feels comfortable.

What else do I need to know?

Be creative - use music, a stone, a feather, a flower, or a candle to help you focus - if you are very young, or elderly, be careful with candles!

Prayer activity is a discipline - it can be difficult at times, just like keeping fit, being on a diet, or keeping weeds down in the garden! Little and often is best, but don't give up! No prayer, however inadequate you may feel it to be, is ever wasted or of no value.

What next?

Build up a collection of favourite prayers and sayings -anything that speaks to you. You can find them in greeting cards, cuttings in the press or bookmarks and prayer cards. You could make a scrapbook for them.

Visit your local church bookshop and have a browse.

Why not start with the prayers in the Green - Book of Common Prayer - Daily prayer pages ...

If you want to know more about prayer why not get involved in our parish Bible Study group or speak to a trusted christian friend or member of the clergy?

Many other ideas include

  • Prayer Journals
  • Giving thanks to God
  • Prayer walking / driving
  • Arrow prayers
  • praying with others
  • 24/7 Prayer stations
  • posit notes
  • lecto divina
  • Pray, read, think, pray, do as a bible study method

Source: Adapted from Church of England Website:

The prayers this morning were structured around ... fingers topics

God our heavenly father, we give thanks to you for all those whom we care about because their lives are closest to us and their love is strongest. In a moment of silence we pray for our families, asking God to bless them at this time wherever they may and holding before him any issues which are on our hearts concerning them.


Living Lord,

We hold before your all those provide direction and leadership in our communities. We pray for teachers in our schools, clergy, vestry and all involved in leadership in this parish, we pray for bosses and all involved in trainning those in workplaces. Help us all in our learning to be dilligent in study and help us all to be the best we can be. We ask this in Jesus name Amen

God of all authority

We pray for those who hold authority in this community and in the nations of the world.

At home we pray for the PSNI as the seek to maintain justice and peace in the midst of threats of violence. We also pray for our politicians both MP’s and MLA’s as they seek to guide the population through difficult economic situation.

In the wider world we give you thanks for the good news stories from Chile this week, for the miners who have been rescued. We thank you for the evidence, that when people work together the common good can be achieved.

We pray all these things in Jesus Name Amen

God of the weak and the poor,

We hold before you those known to us and those in our community who are struggling -

  • struggling to pay the bills at home
  • struggling to see a future for themselves and their loved ones
  • struggling to come to terms with news they have been given
  • struggling to come to terms with physical / mental illness
  • struggling to come to terms with addictions
  • struggling with the pressure of work commitments

You are a God who has always been concerned with those on the edge of society, You are a God who is a help to the helpless, lover of the unloved, you turn noone away. Help us as individuals when we see those whom we know are in need to reach out to them, to be your hands, your feet, your voice in their circumstances.

We ask this in your name Amen

We pray for ourselves

In a moment of quiet reflection, we remember that we are called to be a people of persistent prayer, never giving up but a people who worship, confess, thank and ask our heavenly father for all his many blessings.

We take a moment in the stillness of this place to bring before God our own prayers for our concerns before God this morning


We conclude our prayers as we pray for each other in the words of the Grace ...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Despicable Me

Last Night - our Youth Group went to the cinema to watch Despicable Me.

It was a good, light hearted Family Movie - we watched it in 3d

Trailer below

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Prayer - An Adeventure with God wk 2

In our Bible study in chruch we are looking at the adventure with God that prayer is

Last week we looked at Abraham’s Intercession with God Genesis 18:16-33

we looked at how in any relationship we need two way communication, how there are different types of prayer - intercession, thanksgiving, asking, praising - all of these are crucial to maintain our relationship with God.

We looked at how Abraham was desperately seeking God to save the city in which his nephew lives

Recently I was at a funeral of a father of a friend whose life was devoted to being an intercessor for his children. What an amazing tribute his Children paid to him when they said “wherever they were in the world they knew that their father was at home praying for them” how amazing that was to hear - can you imagine a better tribute?

Defined by prayer!

As we look at prayer this evening are there issues / questions we have as we study scriptures about prayer?

How does God speak to us in prayer / how is he changing you through prayer?

What changed as a result of Abrahams encounter with God- Why did these changes occur?

Prayer today

One of the great things about a Bible Study is that it allows us to share experiences of prayer ....

Formalised prayer: Daily Office - Book of Common Prayer, our liturgy

Less structured:

Prayer Journals

Giving thanks to God

Prayer walking / driving

Arrow prayers

praying with others

24/7 Prayer stations

posit notes

lecto divina

Pray, read, think, pray, do

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pause and reflect

A Short address at A Late evening office in St. Columba's Parish Church on Sunday 10th October based on John 15:12-27

During this past week, the rector’s car and my Green machine have been busily going around the parish - delivering fruit and vegetables, flowers and cans of food to our housebound parishioners all of whom were very appreciative of the gifts which many other parishioners provided as their harvest offering which decorated the church last sunday.

The green machine has also been picking up clothes from various shops for the fashion show which happened last week.

It has also been taking me to various nursing homes, meetings about the creche, services here in church, home visits, rehersals, shops.

Life in the parish is busy - it is a real blessing to be in a parish where there is lots going on as well as lots of parishioners actively involved.

During the course of this week I also had cause to pause and reflect as to life in ministry - life in the busy-ness of parish work.

So often we are caught up with the concerns of today, the worries
about tomorrow that we do not pause and reflect on where we are, on how God is working through us and
what he is teaching us.

So let us now pause ...

A couple of weeks ago I ventured in my car up through North belfast to Cave Hill Country Park. I got on my walking boots and set off one clear friday morning and walked up right above belfast zoo. It was beautiful. to see the dynamic nature of the city. Down below was the hussle and bussle of the city streets, the aeroplanes landing and taking off, the ships rolling in, the buses, cars all busy going about their business. Seeing the hospitals, and looking out towards the east of the city seeing the familiar streets from a different perspective.

Whatever we are doing, wether we have a clergy collar on or a barristers wig or sit at a teachers desk, or work with a shovel or whatever we find ourselves doing.

The gospel reading this evening should invite us to pause, to think about three things

  • Firstly we are called friends of Jesus
  • Then we are called to bear fruit
  • Ultimately we are commanded to love

Directly before this passage, Jesus speaks of the importance of being connected to the vine - You cannot produce fruit without being connected to the branches, once away from the vine fruit die. Friends who never communicate, who never meet up for a coffee, the friendship is in danger of dying.

Jesus said in our reading today “but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” We have that relationship - the first challenge is a very basic one - how are you and I sustaining the relationship with God?”

How is our prayer life?, Are we reading the Bible?.

As I pause here - I mention our Bible Study Group - there is an invitation on a wednesday night to come along and get involved in studying God’s word. down at the back are the books we are using this term. Myself and the rector are leading it. Why not give it a chance if you are not already involved?

Then We are called to bear fruit

I am amazed as to the diversity of the things a curate is called upon to do - so much diversity in life - I love wakening up and wondering what is going to happen today? we are all called to live life in all its fullness. In Galatians we find out what we should have as the fruit of our lives - the things we should be producing - Love, Joy, peace, patience ...

How is that in our lives, are there things we do need to cultivate?

Recently the Bishop of our diocese has been speaking to clergy about our own support mechanisms, about the people we are able to chat through things with, about our own spiritual formation.

Every single person needs those people who are able to tend to us, those whom we can confide in, those who we can talk to about prayer, about the Bible, about faith, those who will pray for us.

Ultimately we are commanded to but also encouraged to and indeed cannot do any thing else but love.

Christian Love is expressed in many ways

The “How are you” telephone call

The “lets meet up for a cuppa”

The “I just called to see how you are”

The meal brou

ght round to save you cooking

The prayer for those whom we dont know

The “can I do anything for you”

Every single one of us can show love by what we say, by what we do and even how we do it portrays love or lack of it.

Let’s recap

We are called friends of God - how is our relationship with him?, how are we sustaining that relationship? - what practical ways could we feed that?

We are called to bear fruit - how are we producing the fruit of the spirit?, what do we need to consentrate on?

We are called to love one another - how can we do that this week?

Church should be a community where we support one another as we make mistakes, as we grow together, as we live out these values. Not one of us has got it all sorted ... I am sure that many of us find it difficult to pray... that many of us find it difficult to read the Bible each day ... but as Brothers and Sisters we spur each other on, we encourage each other, we are there for one another.

The practical out working of this passage is how we are going to live this week, how we are going to interact with those whom we meet- are we going to get angry or are we going to show grace, are we going to ask a “how are you really?” question and be prepared to listen for the answer, are we going to show love to x or y ?

It is now important to get on with the work, Let's do it ... John 10:10 "Life in all its fullness"