Friday, April 22, 2011

Maundy Thursday

A sermon preached on Maundy Thursday 2011 in St Columba's Parish Church at 1030 Holy Communion

May my words and our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer.

Here we are on Maundy Thursday, a day when we remember what Jesus commanded, we follow his example as we celebrate communion.

Do you know where the word Maundy originates from? ... I didn’t, until I prepared for this sermon

It is a powerful statement - Loving one another as Jesus loves us. This speaks about a sacrifical love, a love which is reaches beyond what is expected, it is a love which goes the extra mile.

It is love that is at the very heart of our faith... When I was ordained as a deacon, The Bishop reminded us that Service and Love is at the very core of all ministries of the church ... we See Jesus modelling it and we are reminded in our reading today that we are all called to serve God and each other humbly and without regard for our status.

If we look carefully what Jesus did that day ... he took a towel, he took a basin and he washed his disciples feet ... now these I am sure were not previously washed feet, they were not feet which had socks and enclosed in comfortable clarkes breathable shoes ... but rather they were undoubtably dirty, smelly feet which had been on the go from early morning, they were dirty, walking through city streets which wouldn’t have had the benefits of Belfast City Street Cleaning, nor Northern Ireland Sewage System!

The great thing about Jesus is that he is not afraid to deal with the muck, with the dirty things of life, he was display a wonderful example for us.

It is so humbling, so amazing when we think ... here is the creator of the universe ... as a servant to all.

He is instructing us that we need to have the same attitude.

In our society we see people pushing themselves forward, fame, glamour, profit ... however our attitude has to be the same as that of Jesus ... Humble, Loving, service.

Over the past few days I have been sitting in Knock Methodist church at lunch time listening to people we may well recognise ... Paul Clark from UTV, Chief Constable Matt Baggott and ... from ... they were speaking on what the Cross means to them in their walk ... it was great to hear from people who have influence on all of us saying that they are humbly walking with their God day in and day out... and it was also great to see how they genuinely spoke to those leaving the church ... conversing with them as Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Isn’t that so true ... its not always what is said but what is done that counts

As a church we aim to try to display these characteristics love, joy kindness ... we try to show love by our welcome, by our concern for all parishioners, by our visiting ...all of us are called to display these characteristics as we go about our daily lives.

A few years ago I was in Africa, a similar custom to that of feet washing was in operation ... the lowest in the household ... a child, or the youngest would have got out a basin and a towel before every meal, they would have gone around and made sure that each of us were able to wash our hands before the meal, then they would have offered us a towel.

At one particular meal in a school the Bishop of the Diocese which we were visiting saw that the bowl and jug had not been passed around so he set about doing this... it was a wonderful illustration of this story. The idea of servant leadership. The idea that all of us are called to serve each other. After that illustration members of our team then began to ask the locals if they could bring the bowl around to serve them.

There is a challenge here for each one of us

Firstly ... what jobs do we not like doing?, what people do we not like speaking to? ... are there things we don’t think we should be doing? ... all of us are called to step out in humility and grace and go the extra mile!

Secondly ... are there areas where we don’t think God should be in our lives? he washed the dirtiest, the messiest, smelliest feet ... why not allow him into those areas of our lives to clean them up and to restore them to fullness

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On the verge of Holy Week

In the church it is traditionally a very busy week, a week of services marking the run up to the events of Good Friday and Easter Day.

The seasons of the church's year provide a structure where all sorts of emotions are expressed. In this week of weeks see all sorts of emotions expressed. From the joy and adoration of Palm Sunday, through the betrayal of Jesus by a close friend, to the denial of Peter, from the Agony in the Garden, to the celebration of the last supper, the trial, to the pain on the cross and then the Hallelujahs which will ring out on Easter Morning.

This year as a parish we are going to be celebrating Holy communion Sunday to Thursday in church, in nursing homes and in homes of the housebound. At Lunch times we are going to be hearing what the cross means to individuals in our community

As I/we prepare for this week under the shadow of the cross we do so in an environment which knows much about suffering, which knows a lot about the need for the cross. It is my prayer as we hear again the familiar stories of the events of this week we will come afresh to the story and find in it a sure foundation for faith a ground of hope and the expression of God's Love for us.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Knowing God ... Week 5

A blog of random thoughts prepared in advance for Study Group in St. Columba’s Parish Church on Wednesday 13th April 2011. (Week 5, Chapter 3 of J.I Packer’s Knowing God)

One of the most basic questions we can ask ... and what lies at the heart of all human life is the question what is our purpose?, what is the meaning of life?... and here is the answer right at the top of this Chapter!

This is where those who grasp this will see fulfillment in life, upon which all other things hang and upon which all other things come.

“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord”

What a profound, truthful statement.

But that is not enough, we need to know what “knowing God” involves

we can know someone in front of us ... “Oh Yes i know Trevor!” we may say or we may “know french” to a greater or lesser extent. through learning, through experience, through relationship.

But how do we dare to say we know God?

Packer points out the idea of Covenant partner

“The relationship in which sinful humanuty knows God is one in which God, so to speak, takes them on to his staff, to be henceforth his fellow workers.”

Knowing God Packer says involves

  • Listening to God’s Word
  • Receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it in application to oneself
  • noting God’s nature and character as his word and works reveal it
  • accepting his invitations and doing what he commands
  • recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has shown

How do we know Jesus?

When we think of how the disciples knew the living breathing Jesus... they knew him by his teaching, by his claims, by his actions.

However there are differences today

  • His Presence with us is spiritual not bodily thus invisible to the physical eye
  • The Christian, building on the new testament witness, know the complete story

Knowing Jesus remains very much the same as for those disciples as for us.

Hearing his voice and responding to it is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Packer then goes through the personal nature of knowing God

  • Knowing God is a matter of personal dealing
  • Knowing God is a matter of personal involvement
  • Knowing God is a matter of grace

Being Known by God

We need to know that not only do we know God but also that he knows us

When we take this truth under our thought then things do indeed get exciting.

“There is unspeakable comfort!”

Not merely that we know God but also that he knows us.

questions comments welcome from all readers of this blog ... comment on blogger, on facebook or via email



Monday, April 11, 2011

Vestry Commissioning ... The Joy of Love

A short address at St. Columba's on Sunday 10th April 2011 Compline Service

Let us pray

May my words and our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer.

Seaside Rock - the minty sweet which is a tradition in the UK to bring home and share with loved ones - Rock Usually a red case white centre and lettering contained within which has its location right through it .... cut Blackpool rock anywhere and you see blackpool ... unmistakably through it.

What is at the centre of seaside rock defines what it is, where it is from ... no questions as to its origins.

It is impossible once it is set to remove what is at the heart of Rock Candy

In our lenten series we are looking at the theme ... rediscovering the joy of coming to church and today we are looking at the Joy of Love. I would suggest that at the heart of church has to be love

I wonder do we display that quality of love in all circumstances ... right to the core of our being. Is our church, our lives defined by love.

Love is an amazing gift which the church can share with the world. We are called to live unconditional love in our lives.

Love has to be one of the values which underpin our personal lives, our relationships with friends, family, it has to be the value which underpins our discussion at vestry, in our staff meetings, bible study, youth group.

Love is expressed in what we say and how we say it.

Things go horribly wrong when love is replaced with negativity, with hatred, suspicion.

To define what Love is one simply has to look at 1 Corinthians 13 ...

I read this from a contemporary Paraphrase The Message

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.

Love doesn't strut,

Doesn't have a swelled head,

Doesn't force itself on others,

Isn't always "me first,"

Doesn't fly off the handle,

Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn't revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end

The more I hear of and experience St Columba’s today it is great to know that we are indeed a church which does have love at the centre of all that we do. Having said this we cannot be complacent

Our love is centred around what happens at worship every sunday, at Holy communion, morning and evening prayer, compline, all age worship.

But doesn’t end there - it extends by each of us loving those we come in contact with day in day out, it is there when the stranger enters our building and receives a welcome, it is there in homes right through the week, it is there in how we interact with each other, in clear communication, it is there when we meet at vestry, it is there at choir practice, mums and tots, ladies guild, mothers union

Love has to define who we are day in day out.

We are called to love God first and foremost

and then we are called to love others as a response to how God has loved us.

It is my prayer that we may always be a community who love God - by doing this we find the joy of love

We come here this evening as we commission the vestry it is my hope and prayer that mutual love and affection which has defined who we were in the past year will continue to grow and continue to define who we are as vestry members, as parishioners this coming year. Not just love between us, but love which reaches out, which looks after our whole parish.

The vestry do set the tone for the parish ... If our business is carried out in love that will be evident for all... We are called to be a family looking out for each other, encouraging each other in love. The kind of love which is genuine, serving others as our Gospel reading reminds us to do day in day out.

We are called to spread that love in all that we do, in all that we say and all that we think. When we replace the centre with anything other than love and care then we are in danger of going down some really unhelpful and complicated side roads.

May we be people who keep love for God first and foremost and then love for all at the very core of who we are individually and corporately as a church.

May the vestry, and this church as a whole be a church where people, wherever and whenever they encounter us see our love for God and for them as the defining marks of everything that we do. May we continue to Grow in God’s Love and Share that love with others

Let us pray

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Holy Week Services ... for Reference Purposes!

St. Columba's has lots on over Holy Week this year. We are working in partnership with Knock Methodist ... Our services which have just been posted on our part of the diocesan site look something like this! They are posted here for reference purposes! All are welcome of course :-)

Palm Sunday 17th April

8:15 Holy Communion

9:30 Family Communion

10:30 Morning Prayer -

Preacher The Revd Dr. Ron Savage (Minister Emeritus of Stormont Presbyterian Church) “The Joy of Forgiving”

7pm - Joint Service in Knock Methodist Church

Monday in Holy Week

10am Holy Communion

1.15- 1.45pm Lunch time service in Knock Methodist. Speaker Paul Clark (UTV)

8pm Evening Prayer Preacher The Revd Dr. Inderjit Bhogal - “An Empty Tomb”

Tuesday in Holy Week

10am Holy Communion

1.15- 1.45pm Lunch time service in Knock Methodist. Speaker :To be Announced

8pm Service of the Word P

reacher The Revd Dr. Inderjit Bhogal - “A Group of People”

Wednesday in Holy Week

10am Holy Communion

1.15- 1.45pm Lunch time service in Knock Methodist. Speaker Stephen Baxter (Manager of Crusaders Football Club)

8pm Late Evening Office

Preacher The Revd Dr. Inderjit Bhogal - “A Story”

Maundy Thursday

1030am Holy Communion for our housebound parishioners

1.15- 1.45pm Lunch time service in Knock Methodist. Speaker Naomi Long MP

8pm Holy Communion according to the Methodist Rite

Preacher The Revd Dr. Inderjit Bhogal - “A Meal”

Good Friday

12-3 The Three Hours Devotions

Conductor: The Rt Revd Harold Miller

8pm Reflections for Good Friday Evening

Preacher The Revd Dr. Inderjit Bhogal - “A Power”

Easter Day

8:15 Holy Communion

10:30 Holy Communion Preacher Rev’d Canon Ken Smyth

7pm Holy Communion