Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sunday School Fun

I think it is really important for local preachers for develop a good rapport with the youngsters who attend our Churches and as such I have volunteered to speak with the senior group in the Sunday School.  Today I went back at their request which was a real benefit and meant I must have said something of value the last time I paid a visit!!

I was asked to talk about the "Armour of God" today so we started the session - which was quite time limited due to a number of issues - by reading Ephesians 6 and Luke 22 where Jesus talks uncharacteristically about grabbing swords  if they have any.  

We opened a discussion as to what people think of when they hear the phrase " The armour of God", and the youngsters had some interesting ideas.  The underlying idea of course is that Paul was being metaphorical when talking about military clothing, and that Christianity is not about power or military might.  In fact perhaps Paul was using that Metaphor because he was living in an Empire that was rule with a very strong and merciless military might.  Jesus' invitation to the disciples to arm themselves is clothed in irony of course, and isn't an instruction that is ok to defend ourselves with weapons.  See what happens later, when one of his disciples use one of their swords - reckless to say the least when surrounded by the Temple guard - and Jesus commands them to put them away and heals the High Priest's servant's ear.   The last documented healing miracle of his life.

We then moved on to discuss how one can put on an armour that is invisible and intangible, and one the group piped up that it is about relaxing in God.  Wow, out of the mouths of children........

So we talked a bit about how important relationship with God is, and how it is OK for people of all ages to talk to God freely, sometimes even get cross with God, after all it is better to talk in a relationship that to stop talking and listening.  It is when we do the latter that the relationship is bound to suffer.

Look forward to meeting with these young people again!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Psalm 139 for today

We had a local arrangement today at our Church.  For those of you who don't know, a local arrangement is when there is no minister or local preacher in attendance, and the church fellowship arrange and create a service of their own.

The Church in question Gillingham Methodist Church welcomes a mixed fellowship in age, gender, race and social demographics, which is part of what makes it such a welcoming place.  This morning there were about 100 people in  attendance.  The service was led by one of the stewards who is undertaking a worship leaders course.  She was supported by the full worship group and other members of the congregation in the delivery of the service.  The theme of the service was created around Psalm 139.  The service followed a normal pattern of a mixture of worship via music starting off with "Lord I lift your name on high" and "Light of the World".  Prayers of adoration were provided by one our Prayer ministry ladies, followed by an inspiring rendition of "Potters Hand".  During this song, I took the opportunity of looking around the Church and witnessed several people engaging in the song in a very emotional way, opening their heart to the Spirit.

Psalm 139 was provided as the Reading, using the Message version, offering an insight delivered in contemporary language, followed by a video of the Skit Guys (based on Psalm 139) which filled the traditional Sermon Slot.  These two guys are highly talented in their delivery offering humour as an introduction to delivering a very serious message.  I find the approach of the Skit guys very refreshing for use in Church, and it is an approach that is not only useful for the younger age group in the audience but also for those people who may have been attending a Church for the first time.  They provide a resource which can be a very helpful evangelical tool.  Unfortunately, this morning, the Junior Church had already left for Sunday School hence they missed this very enlightening part of the service, which was a shame in some ways.

After some more worship in music, there was a time for reflection, which the leader led very capably, bringing a personal story of how Psalm 139 had had an impact on her life and encouraging the congregation to reflect on their own life journey; including a story of how she found a prayer by Thomas Merton in a Norfolk Church, and how this led to her learning more about this hugely inspirational monk;  via the use of small crosses provided to the fellowship to either write on and place at the cross, or prayerfully think about and take away with them.  This was followed by an opportunity for the Church to join together in meditatively offering a response in song with the Hymn, " We fall down".

Following the prayers of intercession and a corporate rendition of the Lord's Prayer, we finished with a well known Hymn, "Great is thy Faithfulness", after which the service closed with the saying of the Grace.

Thinking of the impact of this service, I was left thinking that it was a very useful use of video technology which successfully engaged the congregation in the theme of the service.  The service flowed well, and the theme was resonant throughout the service.  Using members of the congregation allows those who do not normally speak up in services to have a voice, and can often unwrap a calling from God in their lives.  I remember distinctly that the very first time I gave a sermon was in a local arrangement, so this style of service always holds a special place in my heart.  I was left reflecting on the message of today, that God is with us through all experiences, that he knows my innermost thoughts and emotions, and wants me to open my heart and mind to him to allow him to lead me further into an awareness of my true self.  The self that God created, and not the one that I have.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Churches can be perplexing places sometimes

I went to my home Church today as a member of the congregation with my family.  It was a fairly traditional service led by our minister, no doubt in part due to the majority of the worship group being away on a visit to a church up in Norfolk, East Anglia.

The service was a Communion Service and during the sermon, the minister made some really good points about how Luke pointed out equality between men and women, something new and v challenging in the Roman Empire and 1st Century Judea, often by counterpoising men and women in his stories, thus providing women with a voice and giving them a presence.  He also pointed out, that people don't get killed for spreading love.  Jesus challenged the world view of his time, which is why he was lynched.

Of course God had other ideas, and 3 days later his Son came back!

And then onto the funny happening.  or not so funny depending on your viewpoint.  I was grabbed by someone from the pew behind me who started to rather berate my for being quiet and reserved when I come to Church.  I think the message was that he rather expected me as a local preacher to spread myself around the church more readily.

He may be right in his request of course, and I promised to give his opinions full consideration.  It does and has given me cause to reflect.  What was he asking?  And Why?

One thing I do know is that Jesus never let his behaviour be dictated by those around him.  He listened to the voice of his Father, and his Father alone.  There are plenty of times in the Gospel when we see Jesus seeking solitude and going in a path that his followers were not expecting.

I am reticent by nature, though firmly believe I have a calling to preach, and when I do, I believe I pass on what God wants me to say.

Is there a pressure within churches today to be more extrovert, and if so are we in danger of creating a barrier to those like myself who are naturally more introvert and shy by nature?

Churches of course a filled by all types from the community, but does that mean that as a preacher we have to become all types to all people, even when we are a member of the congregation and not there as a preacher?  Paul argued that he tried to become all types to all people, but history also suggests that Paul was always ready for a an argument, and normally got himself into some sort of affray.

It remains for me an interesting and perplexing point to ponder.

I have opened this blog for comments from anyone, since I noticed the other day that it is being read throughout Europe and the USA - well that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I was surprised that anyone would read it at all.