Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Carol - Midnight Communion

A Sermon preached on Christmas Eve in Inniscarra

Christmas past present and future.
A sermon for Christmas Eve Holy Communion. 
He was born in an obscure village, the son of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter's shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he became a wandering preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn't go to college. He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was executed by the state. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of humanity as much as that One Solitary Life.

This evening we come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nathereth, The Christ, The Son of God. We do so remembering that this one solitary life brings together all things earthly and heavenly.
That things changed for good the night the angels sang the first Christmas carol.
I wonder for you what does this annual remembrance mean?

Charles Dickens in his book A Christmas Carol --- brought together 3 aspects of life … to get Ebenezer Scrooge to look back, to look at his present life and reflect on the future. By doing so life changed for him so incredibly

Is it a time to look back ? – a time to remember the past year or years …  a time to think about happy times as family, a time of fondly remembering those things which you have enjoyed.
Christmas has always been for Christians a time of good news and great joy for all the people. However we must admit that at times the joy is sometimes marred with pain as we remember loved one who are no longer with us. As we deal with issues in families and with friends. 
As years go on … the importance of remembering and looking back, of learning from our experiences is so vitally important. But we need to remember that the Birth of the child in the manger has changed things … has opened up for us a way to understand life and death, purpose of living and hope beyond the grave.

As we look back - Have we grasped the amazing message of Christmas … that in the Child whose birth we celebrate … it is possible to understand amazing truths of the triumph of Light in the darkness, hope over despair and life over death

Is it a time for you to look around now?  - A time to enjoy the moment … tomorrow/ or today … a time filled with expectation, of loving those who gather at the table, a time when all will be well with your world?, a time of celebration, a time of relaxing and feasting.
And rightly so … In the gospels there is an amazing picture of the Kingdom of God as a feast, of enjoying life … life in all its fullness.  Christmas is a time to remember … Immanuel God with us.
I wonder as you look around … where do you see God with you? … do you see God with you in your work … in your home … in your friends …wherever you may be. As we pack into this church this evening we do so as family of God in this little corner of Ireland … Not simply to remember an historical event … as historians remember, or to re-enact a battle as actors do … but we are here to worship the Living God, to receive strength and to commit ourselves to following through.
Christmas is a time when we gaze in wonder of the events of that first Christmas in Bethlehem … far from us both in time, geography and culture but it is a event which still challenges the powerful and the weak.
 As you look around you this evening … who is Christ to you?

Is Christmas a time to look to the future? – In the angels message to the shepherds … the message is for all the people … we are included in this message … the question is what are we going to do with this message?
Are we content with simply seeing Christmas a nice tradition or are we prepared for the adventure of following this Christ Child … of taking his radical and life changing message and allowing this message to transform our thinking, our speaking, our doing not just for one or two days but for the rest of our life.
In the Dicken’s book Scrooge is given a bleak picture of what his life & those around about him could be like in the future if things did not change.
But he was given a chance to change … and change he most certainly did.
The good news of Christmas, the good news of Christians is that Change is possible … yes we cannot change the past, we can decide how we are going to react in the present and we certainly can change our future.

In his Christmas message the new Church of Ireland Archbishop said “In this Christmas season, we are each challenged to connect or reconnect with our family, friends and others who are without friends, but also to connect or re–connect our lives with a faith that tells us we are each loved in Jesus Christ, and that calls us to carry Christ’s love into the dark and lonely places of this world, near or far”.

This Christmas… it is my hope and prayer for all here that we enjoy this Christmas time but also that we allow Christ to change our hopes and mind, that we are able to change what needs to be changed in our lives … and live our lives for him.

Let us pray

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Purpose Blog #2 - It's not about you

Rick Warren begins his book with a radical statement as he sets out in looking at purpose of life ...


Then the question has to be asked ... "What is it about?"

As I have been thinking over some stuff over the past few weeks, and been reading various books it seems to me that the frameworks which we build in our lives are so vitally important.

Sometimes those frameworks stand the stresses and strains of life ... and sometimes they buckle under pressure. I remember, I think it was technology in High School when we were given the task of building bridges out of straws to span a certain distance. How those straws were arranged dictated how when weight was applied the straws would buckle.

'_IGP2629' photo (c) 2008, Samuel Mann - license:
Engineers also tell us how structures are arranged in big buildings dictate how they behave if there is excessive weight applied, if winds blow, if heat is applied, if cold is applied, if the earthquakes come.

Similarly as this picture shows sometimes structures can protect but sometimes those structures do fail.

Thinking about these things and building in structure into our lives is so vitally important, or strengthening the structure which we already have is something vitally important. Not only for the storms and rough times of life. But we gotta remember that Jesus said that he has come so that we may have life and life to it's full.

All structures in our world have a purpose

If the purpose of your life is not you what then is it? to answer that question we need to build a structure.

Examples of some of these structures
- Time out with friends & family to do fun stuff ... striking a balance
- Prayer Time ... time out with God
- Time to reflect, evaluate, say sorry and move on
- Time to read & study Bible
- Meeting with other Christians for Bible Study / chat
- Regular worship with Christian Community
- Living out the lessons of Bible Study
- Remembering to have a sense of humour!

For some reading these things might be thinking these are not part of anything you've ever done ... but do give them a try ... they do indeed work.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Purpose Blog #1 - some things to listen to

It's amazing how things work out ... The first set of readings in Purpose Driven Life .. the book which I set out out on this week to look at (See previous blog) are under the title of "What on earth am I here for?"

Truth be told over the past few days I haven't managed to sit down and read anything! But I have been listening to a few things during quiet time which have been very helpful in looking at the question from 2 people and I share these with you simply as reminders of what God is up to and what he might be doing in our midst and we're not even aware of it... they are all linked to purpose and living out John 10:10 - Jesus said A thief comes to kill and destroy ... but I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly. A very important lesson for all of us today.

Both of these audios are from Willowfield Parish Church recently - The first is from someone who is working with Christians Against Poverty who has seen their life transformed by God.

The Second is a sermon preached by George Newell ... who is seeing lives transformed by God in community in East Belfast

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Purpose Driven Life

It has been great now to be getting settled in here in Blarney, to meet loads of people from all sorts of backgrounds and positions in society.

Over the next few months I hope to work my way through a book which many of the study groups / home groups have been working their way through and simply fire some thoughts onto the Blog ... looking my way through some very important questions of faith, life and things generally. I do this combining Scripture and Church life,  the text of Rick Warren's book as well as through experiences.

If you wish to join me on this ... what  Rick calls Journey please do feel free to email me, comment on the blog, on facebook or invite me out for a coffee!

I hope to start tomorrow but it will not be an everyday affair ... as things around here are busy but I will try my best to keep up with reading and blogging.

The Structure begins with the fudalmental question ... a basic one which lies in all of us ...

 "What on earth am I here for?" I wonder how you would answer that question?

Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Community at Christmas

What a great time of year to be starting out in a community.

 I write this blog just after the Blarney Christmas tree lights have been switched on ... It was great to meet ... retailers, community reps and loads of people involved in so many ways in and around the community.

 I look forward over the months and years to come to get more involved in the work and witness of this community as it supports one another and welcomes visitors from all over the world.

 At this time of year there is so much going on, so many things happening in this community.

Based on the number of photo's that were taken this evening ... there will hopefully be a few to be linked to in the days ahead :-)

 PS ... I love the wand that was used ... instead of the traditional button ... The creativity and ingenuity of members of this parish knows no bounds! ... Well done Kate & Co!