Church at Home

In light of recent circumstances our church activites are suspended until further notice. However, we can still be church together. We will be keeping this page up to date with thoughts, prayers and other items from our Pastor Ian. Check back regularly to keep up to date with 'Church at Home'.

 

Click on the link below to be taken straight to that Sunday Thought:

Sunday 12th July 2020 - Jesus Shows Us How To Live - Travelling Light

Sunday 5th July 2020 - Jesus Shows Us How To Live - Walk The Talk

Sunday 28th June 2020 - Jesus Shows Us How To Live - Being Rock Solid

Sunday 21st June 2020 - People Who Saw Jesus - A Healing, A Declaration and A Prediction! 

Sunday 14th June 2020 - People Who Saw Jesus - Jesus Calms The Storm

Sunday 7th June 2020 - People Who Saw Jesus

Sunday 31st May 2020 - Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Sunday 24th May 2020 - People Who Saw Jesus

Sunday 17th May 2020 - Faith in Action - Plain Sailing?

Sunday 10th May 2020 - Faith in Action - Troubles Ahead

Sunday 3rd May 2020 - Faith in Action - Friends Forever

Sunday 26th April 2020 - Faith in Action - A Friend in Need

Sunday 19th April 2020 - Faith in Action - An Offer You Can't Refuse!

Sunday 12th April 2020 - Easter Sunday - A Cry of Assurance - Jesus is Risen

Friday 10th April 2020 - Good Friday - A Cry of Victory

Thursday 9th April 2020 - Maundy Thursday - A Cry of Betrayal

Sunday 5th April 2020 - Palm Sunday - A Cry of Hope

Sunday 29th March 2020 - Mission Close To Home

Sunday 22nd March 2020 - Mothering Sunday Thought

 


 

Sunday 12th July 2020 - Jesus Shows Us How To Live - Travelling Light

Welcome to this week's Church At Home. We are continuing to look at 'Jesus Shows Us How To Live' with this week's theme being 'Travelling Light'. Like previous weeks, songs are linked to a YouTube video allowing you to listen to that songs, when pressed. If you would like to view this week's edition of Church At Home - click here or to view a version designed to use less ink when printing - click here

 


 

Sunday 5th July 2020 - Jesus Shows Us How To Live - Walk The Talk

We continue our new series 'Jesus Shows Us How To Live' in our 16th week of Church At Home. This week's theme is 'Walk The Talk'. Like previous weeks, the underlinded songs are linked to a YouTube video which can be viewed by clicking on the underlined text. If you would like to view this weeks edition of Church At Home - click here or if you want a version designed to use less ink when printing - click here.

 


 

Sunday 28th June 2020 - Jesus Shows Us How To Live - Being Rock Solid

Welcome to our 15th week of Church At Home. We are beiginning a new series this week entitled 'Jesus Shows Us How To Live'. This week's theme is 'Being Rock Solid'. Like previous weeks, all underlined songs are linked to a YouTube video allowing you to listen to that song. We hope that this is informative for you and engaging. If you would like to view this week's edition of Church At Home - click here or if you want a version designed to use less ink when printing - click here.

 


 

Sunday 21st June 2020 - People Who Saw Jesus - A Healing, A Declaration and A Prediction!

This is week 14 of Church At Home. All songs are linked to a YouTube video allowing you to lisen to songs by simply pressing on the underlined song. We hope that these services are informative and engaging for you. If you would like to view this week's edition of Church At Home - click here or if you want a version designed to use less ink when printing - click here

 


 

Sunday 14th June 2020 - People Who Saw Jesus - Jesus Calms The Storm

We are now in the 13th week of our Church At Home. Like previous weeks, all songs are linked to a YouTube video allowing you to listen to songs by simply pressing on the underlined song. We hope that these services are informative and engaging for you. If you would like to view this week's edition of Church At Home - click here or for an alternative version designed to use less ink when printing - click here.

 

If you enjoy our Church At Home, then why not have a look at our Monday Prayers. At SNBC we believe that prayer is important. So we can't think of anything better to start your week with. If you want to join in our Monday Prayers - click here

 

Why not check out our Bible Study this Wednesday where we are looking at the book of Hosea. If you haven't joined us on this series, don't worry, you can read all of the previous weeks as well. Click here to take a look. 

 


 

Sunday 7th June 2020 - People Who Saw Jesus

This is the 12th week of Church At Home. The Song Suggestions are linked to a YouTube video that can be visited by tapping or clicking on the underlined song. We hope that these services are informative and engaging for you. If you would like to view this week's edition of Church at Home - click here or for an alternative version designed to use less ink when printing - click here

 


 

Sunday 31st May 2020 - Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

Welcome to the 11th week of Church at Home. In this weeks edition we are thinking about Pentescost and the Holy Spirit. Like most weeks, the Song Suggestions are linked to a YouTube video that can be visited by tapping or clicking on the underlined song. We hope that these services are informative and engaging for you. If you would like to view this week's edition of Church at Home - click here or for an alternative version designed to use less ink when printing - click here

 

Don't forget to visit out Bible Study where we are looking at the book of Hosea. This Wednesday will be our 4th Bible Study so check back then to view it. To view our previous 3 weeks - click here

 


 

Sunday 24th May 2020 - People Who Saw Jesus

This week is the 10th week of Church at Home. We are beginning a new series entitled People Who Saw Jesus and this week we are thinking about John the Baptist. The Songs under Song Suggestions are all linked to a YouTube video allowing you to listen to that song by clicking on them. If you would like to view this weeks edition of Church at Home - click here or for an alternative version designed to use less ink when printing - click here

 


 

Sunday 17th May 2020 - Faith in Action - Plain Sailing?

Welcome to this weeks Church at Home. We hope that the format that these are being produced in are helpful for you. This week, our theme will continue with Faith in Action and is called Faith in Action - Plain Sailing. The Songs under Song Suggestions are all linked to a YouTube video allowing you to listen to that song by clicking on them. If you would like to view this weeks edition of Church at Home - click here or for an alternative version designed to use less ink when printing - click here

 

Last week, we started a new Bible Study following the book of Hosea. The overall theme is entitled: 'God's Persitent Love'. If you would like to read last weeks edition visit Bible Study under Church Life. They follow a similar style to our Church at Home with a digital verision and a printable version. Keep an eye out for the next one in the series coming this Wednesday.

 


 

Sunday 10th May 2020 - Faith in Action - Troubles Ahead

Our theme for this week is: Faith In Action (Troubles Ahead). We are continuing to use our new style Church At Home. The songs under Song Suggestions are all linked to a Youtube video allowing you to listen to that song. We hope that this makes it more interactive and useful for you. Keep an eye out for our Bible Study arriving on Wednesday, which you will find under 'Church Life' in the navigation bar. To view this week's edition of Church At Home - click here or for an alternative version designed to use less ink when printing - click here

 


 

Sunday 3rd May 2020 - Faith in Action - Friends Forever

This week we are continuing to look at our theme of : Faith In Action (Friends Forever) in our new style Church At Home. We hope that this format is more interactive and useful for you. The songs under Song Suggestions are all linked to a YouTube video allowing you to listen to that song. To view this week's edition of Church At Home - click here or for an alternative version designed to use less ink when printing - click here

 


 

Sunday 26th April 2020 - Faith in Action - A Friend in Need

Starting this week, the Church At Home Sunday Thoughts are being published in a different format. We hope that you like this new layout, and that they will be more interactive and useful. To view this week's edition of Church At Home - click here or for an alternative version designed to use less ink when printing, click here

 


 

Sunday 19th April 2020 - Faith in Action - An Offer You Can't Refuse!

 

We are now into our 5th week of our 'Church at Home' thoughts. Today we are beginning a new series of thoughts that we have entitled: 'Faith In Action'. We will continue with this series until 17th May 2020 on our church website, or if we come 'out of Lockdown', in the church.

 

 

Each week, we will be producing a short order of service to accompany our 'Church at Home' thoughts, and we hope that you will be able to engage with God through what is produced.

 

May God richly bless you today as we worship our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

 

Order of Service

Songs - MP (217) 'He Is Exalted...'

MP (254) 'I Am A New Creation...'

Prayers of Adoration

Song -  MP (502) 'O Let The Son Of God Enfold You...'

Bible Reading - Acts 9 v. 1-25

Sermon - Faith In Action - An Offer You Can't Refuse!

Song - MP (633) 'Thank You Jesus...'

Act Of Communion

Intercessory Prayer

Song - MP (249) 'How Lovely On The Mountains...'

Grace

 

All of the songs in the Order of Service can be found in either Mission Praise Book 1, Songs of Fellowship Books 1, 2, 3 or can be found via YouTube.

 

Bible Reading - Acts 9 v. 1-25

 

Church at Home Thoughts

As we begin a new series, which we are calling: 'Faith In Action'; we begin by looking at Saul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9 v. 1-25).

 

The passage itself seems to divide into three main sections:

  • Saul's (Paul) experience on the Damascus road (Acts 9 v. 1-9)
  • Ananias' ministry to Saul (Paul) (Acts 9 v. 10-18a).
  • Saul's (Paul) final confirmation of his conversion through his bold witness in the Jewish synagogues of Damascus (Acts 9 v. 18b-22)

 

Saul's Experience

As an ardent Jew, we find Saul travelling to Damascus in order to persecute the Christians there. We see that Saul's overriding passion in life was not merely upholding the law, but seeing that it was upheld by others.


As he neared his destination, he was suddenly blinded by light from the risen Lord Jesus. Blind and helpless, Saul was led by his companions to Damascus in order to wait for further instructions from God. We see that it was for 3 days, that he neither ate nor drank; and it would appear that Saul was forced into a time of rigorous self-examination.

 

Whether or not our moments of decisions occur with a blinding revelation or just a small quiet whisper, we all must come face to face with our own sinfulness. It would appear that our spiritual renewal begins when we are willing to see the truth of our sins, confess them to God, and then allow him to change our lives forever.

 

The truly dramatic part of Saul's story, however, is neither the great light from heaven nor the mysterious voice nor even his temporary blindness, but a radically transformed life - the great persecutor of Christians (and of Christ) becoming the greatest persuader for Christ.

 

When you ask a couple how they got together, you will find that there are numerous responses that will come from the question. Some couples will say 'love at first sight', others reminisce about how friendship gradually blossomed into love, while still others may laugh over 'hate' turning into love!

 

What really matters, though, is not how a couple comes together, but the quality of their relationship when they come together. The same is true of our relationship with the Lord. Our 'close encounter' with the Lord may not have been as dramatic as Saul's; it may have been as quietly inconspicuous as the dawning of a new day. But what really matters is what happened afterwards. 

 

Therefore, let's ask the question: To what extent have we allowed God to transform our life?

 

Saul's 'conversion' was not a rejection of either his 'Jewishness' or his personality, but a joyous acceptance of Christ.

 

Saul did not abandon his journey to Damascus, but proceeded there with an altered agenda. His encounter with Jesus left him a transformed person, someone with the same all-consuming passion, the same grim determination, the same unflagging zeal, but now, harnessed for such different purposes.

 

Jesus does not meet us and greet us in order to crush our individuality. Rather, an encounter with Jesus serves to bring our passions under his control and harnesses our energies for his purposes.

 

Ananias' Ministry

During Saul's intense self-examination, God sent Ananias to befriend him, pray for him, and restore his sight. God's call to Ananias to go to Saul must have been a very difficult one for him to accept, but, while voicing his doubts and concerns to the Lord, Ananias also displayed a willingness to listen and obey God's Orders.

 

In Acts 9 v. 13-14 we see that Ananias was initially afraid, because he wasn't sure that Saul had really changed. However, when he met with Saul, he discovers that no one is too far gone, that God is not able to change them.

 

By coming to Saul, Ananias discovered an important truth: When we reach out to others and share the Good News, God not only uses us to help them; he also strengthens our own faith as well.

 

Donald Coggan, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, once said: 'Really to pray is to stand to attention in the presence of the King and to be prepared to take orders from him.'

 

To pray with sincerity means to be willing to have our priorities, plans and perspectives changed by God. For Ananias this meant being obedient to God's request.

 

I wonder if this also applies to us; do we spend most of our prayer time telling God what we want?; or do you focus on asking God for what he wants of us. It does make you think though, how willing are we to take orders from the King?

 

Saul's Final Confirmation Of His Commitment

Having confirmed that Saul was his 'chosen instrument' to spread the Good news among the Gentiles, God also warned of the suffering this would bring (Acts 9 v. 15, 16). Saul quickly joined the Christians in Damascus and began to share the Good News of salvation that comes through Jesus with them. In this way, Saul was demonstrating that his transformation was indeed genuine and real. All were astonished at the remarkable change in Saul.

 

However, the Jews quickly turned against him and sought to kill him, but his new Christian friends helped him to escape. (Acts 9 v. 23-25).

 

We too may experience opposition and rejection from our old associates when we truly surrender our lives to God, and begin to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. They may begin to feel guilty about their own sins, or they may just be afraid that they are about to lose our friendship with them. Whatever the reason, they may try to frustrate your spiritual growth.

 

This is where we need to develop strong relationships with other believers, in order that they might protect and help guide us through difficult times. 

 

The cost of commitment to Christ may be high - in terms of physical, social or financial well-being, but a promise is made by God, an offer that we can't refuse, and it is this: He will be with us wherever we go, he will guide us and he will defend us no matter what. 

 


 

Sunday 12th April 2020 - Easter Sunday - A Cry of Assurance - Jesus is Risen

 

We are continuing our Easter 'Church at Home' thoughts today by remembering the wonders of the Resurrection.

 

Today as we gather to be 'church at home', I have put together another small service for us to share in our own homes either on our own, or if we have others with us, together. In the Order of Service there is reference to another song; please play it if you have access to the relevant CD or you can find it on the following link here.

 

May God richly bless you today as we celebrate Easter Sunday together. Halleluia! What a Saviour!

 

Order of Service

Call to Worship - Psalm 27 v. 1, 4

CD Music - The Best Worship Songs CD2 - Track 17 (See What A Morning)

Responding In Praise

Song - 'Alleluia, Alleluia...'

'Low In The Grave He Lay...'

Peace of Easter

Bible Reading - John 20 v. 1-23

Song - 'King Of Kings, Majesty...'

Easter Thought - A Cry of Assurance - Jesus is Risen...

Song - 'I Will Offer Up My Life...'

Prayer Of Intercession

Song - 'Thine Be The Glory...'

Benediction

 

All of the songs in the Order of Service can be found in either Mission Praise Book 1, Songs of Fellowship Books 1, 2, 3 or can be found via YouTube.

 

You might want to begin this week by starting with a prayer: Why not begin sharing The Lord's Prayer and focus on why Jesus gave us this prayer to begin with.

Bible Reading: John 20 v. 1-23

 

Responding in praise

People say that God is dead,

Let us praise the Lord,

We know we can shout instead,

Let us praise the Lord,

Mary looked inside the tomb,

Let us praise the Lord,

Left confused full of gloom,

Let us praise the Lord,

Jesus came to her to say,

Let us praise the Lord,

'I'm alive! It's Easter Day',

Let us praise the Lord,

All the facts reveal it's true,

Let us praise the Lord,

I believe it! What about you?

Let us praise the Lord.

 

Easter Sunday Thoughts

Psalm 86 v. 10, 12, 13 (GNB):

I will praise you with all my heart, O Lord my God;

I will proclaim your greatness forever.

How great is your constant love for me!

You have saved me from the grave itself.

For you are mighty and do wonderful things;

You alone are God.

 

Setting The Scene

Whenever you buy an Easter egg it always seems to come in bright colourful packaging. You anticipate that there will be something exciting in the wrapping or even in the centre of the egg, but what would happen if, when you open the box, you found there to be no egg or chocolates, but only the empty wrappings?

 

Surely, there would be disappointment or even anger and shock that what you thought would be there is no longer there.

 

Compare this disappointment with the shock that Mary and Peter must have felt on first discovering that the tomb in which Jesus had been laid was empty. No Jesus, just the empty grave clothes just lying there inside the empty tomb.

 

Maybe their thoughts were that the authorities, who had been cruel to Jesus in life, had been even more callous in death. What they did not realise was that something had happened overnight which was to change their disappointment, anger and shock to joy completely and forever.

 

That is what we will all celebrate on this glorious Easter Day.

 

The tomb was empty when Peter and the others found it (John 20 v. 3-7), but many people, including Mary, saw Jesus unmistakably alive that day (John 20 v. 14-16).

 

One of the main character's in John's resurrection narrative is Mary Magdalene, and as we trace her emotions through the story we need to ask two questions:

 

Firstly, why was Mary Magdalene the first to visit the tomb?

It was custom to go and 'anoint' the body, and so Mary and a few others went and purchased burial spices in order to put them on Jesus' body. It is also possible that she was expressing her intense love and gratitude to Jesus. On more than one occasion, she had encountered Jesus. On one of those encounters, we are told in Mark 16 v. 9, Jesus had healed her of seven demons. We also know that Mary had supported the ministry of Jesus financially (Luke 8 v. 2-3) and was a faithful follower from early on in Jesus' ministry. Her faithfulness was honoured when the risen Christ appeared to her and spoke to her before he spoke to anyone else! Her response was that she went and told the Disciples the Good News. When we finally realise the power of the risen Saviour, we too can pay our debt of gratitude to Him by doing as Mary did, we can share the Good News with others as well.

 

Secondly, why did Jesus reveal himself first to Mary before anyone else?

The other disciples may have been more involved with the practical details of how Jesus had disappeared, e.g. Who did it? How did they do it? But Mary was more concerned that she had lost her beloved Saviour. The disciples didn't see any angels or hear any voice, but Mary did. They were not approached by Jesus, but Mary was. Her response was to acknowledge Jesus as her Rabboni, meaning teacher, and then to go and share with the Disciples the message that he had given her.

 

As the story of the Resurrection Moves along in John 20, 21 we see that the disciples who had been distraught and terrified at Jesus' death were being transformed into people bubbling with courage and joy (John 20 v. 20). Maybe our question needs to be: Are we bubbling with the joy of knowing the risen Lord Jesus?

 

A number of different theories have been given to as why the tomb was empty, but in each case, the theory does not fit:

 

One theory is that: The disciples stole the body. Surely not though, as they would have had to have found enough courage and weapons to fight off a detachment of soldiers (Matthew 27 v. 65, 66). The religious Leaders of the day feared that Jesus would come back to life, either in face or through a rumour, and so they got permission to seal the tomb and guard it while Jesus was inside.

 

Another theory suggests that: The disciples only had visions or dreams that they were seeing Jesus. Surely this can't be true either though, because Jesus was able to eat, speak and breathe on them (John 20 v. 22 and John 21 v. 1-14).

 

A similar theory suggests that: They made up a story about Jesus appearing to them in the subsequent years. Surely the Disciples wouldn't have done this either, because if they had to go to their deaths defending the Resurrection and their association with Jesus, they would have come up with a better story than the ones we find in the Bible.

 

Only one aspect of the evidence that John in his Gospel presents fits with what we find in Scripture - It is the piece which says 'JESUS IS RISEN'.

 

The fact is that Jesus had conquered death once and for all on that glorious day. He was and is really alive. That makes all the difference, because it means that we will live forever more with him as well.

 

What wonderful news on this EASTER SUNDAY!

 

He is always near, but to see him and feel him in all his resurrection power may well depend upon our sense of his forgiveness and the level of our devotion.

 

How does this equate with our experience and belief in regards to the resurrection of Jesus?

 

In the resurrection, Jesus came forth in bodily form from the death condition, and appeared to his disciples before ascending into heaven. It is as mystifying and profound as it is simple.

 

With this in mind let's ask ourselves two questions:

What do I really believe about the resurrection?

Why do I believe in the resurrection?

 

The phrase 'Christ is risen' was the first creed of the Christian Church. As we picture and trace the growing certainty of the disciples faith in the resurrection and they had one experience after another, their faith and belief became stronger and sure enough to provide the foundation upon which the church has been built.


Our faith and belief in the resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday must provide the foundation upon which our whole life is built this day forward.

 

Prayers of intercession

  • Ask Jesus' forgiveness for times when we doubt him, ignore him, or behave as if he meant nothing to us.
  • Pray for rest and assurance during these uncertain times.
  • Pray for all who understand what the disciples felt like after Jesus' death because they are lonely, afraid or in pain.
  • Pray for those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. (A family member, a friend, a neighbour, or someone else)
  • Pray that others may see the difference that trusting in the risen Jesus makes.

 


 

Friday 10th April 2020 - Good Friday - A Cry of Victory

 

We are continuing our Easter 'Church at Home' thoughts remembering the wonderful sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross.

 

Today we are 'virtually gathering' together in these short reflective thoughts for Good Friday. As we gather to be a 'church at home', I have put together another small service for us to share in our own homes either on our own, or if we have others with us, together. Today you will find a short Order of Service, Good Friday Thoughts and a Time of Reflection. In the Order of Service there is refernce to 2 songs; please play them if you have access to the relevant CD or you can find them on the following links:

Meakness and Majesty

Such Love

 

May God richly bless you today as we anticipate Easter Sunday. Halleluia! What a Saviour!

 

Order of Service

Psalm 23 v. 1-6

Song - 'Where You There When They Crucified My Lord...'

Bible Reading - John 19 v. 1-16

CD Music - More...Best Worship Songs CD3-Track 14 (Meakness and Majesty)

Song- 'On A Hill Far Away...'

Bible Reading - John 19 v. 17-27

Song - 'When I Survey The Wondrous Cross...'

Bible Reading - John 19 v. 28-37

Good Friday Thought - A Cry Of Victory - It Is Finished!!!

Prayers of Intercession - (Reference to Easter Prayers on the Church Website - here)

Song - 'How Deep The Father's Love For Us...'

Reflection - God Is Involved In Our Sufferings

CD Music - More... Best Worship Songs CD1-Track 17 (Such Love)

 

All of the songs in the Order of Service can be found in either Mission Praise Book 1, Songs of Fellowship Books 1, 2, 3 or can be fond via YouTube.

 

Good Friday Thoughts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crucifixion is such a terrible death that, even at Easter, we don't want to think about it too deeply. To cope with the horror of the cross some people have sentimentalised it, as in the old hymn 'The Old Rugged Cross', where others focus their attention on a beautiful gold or highly polished wooden cross.

 

As we have seen from Old Testament references, the Jewish law for blasphemy demanded stoning the offender to death. But two points stand together here - the first, being that under Roman occupation, the Jews had no authority to carry out capital punishment, so Jesus was condemned to a Roman death. Secondly, notice how subtly the charge against Jesus had changed.

 

The high priest condemned Him for blasphemy (Mark 14 v. 64), however, in Luke 23 v. 2, it becomes clear that the charge before Pilate was subversion and treason. The Romans would have had nothing but contemt for Jewish blasphemy laws, but subversion and treason had to be stamped out.

 

In Jesus' mind, the mind of His family and disciples, as well as the Jewish crowd, crucifixion was the ultimate tragedy; cursed by God.

 

However, the rulers of the Temple could only be satisfied that Jesus of Nazareth would be no more trouble to them because it was impossible for the real Messiah to be cursed by God!

 

As we read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, we recognise them as eye-witness accounts. Each Gospel has slightly different emphasis, as would any account from three different people, and it is precisely because they are not identical that their authenticity is underlined.

 

However, the reason all four Gospel writer wrote about Jesus was that people should believe in Him as God's Messiah.

 

When we are afraid, ridiculed, rejected or abused, that is the time to look up - to Jesus' experiences leading to the cross. Jesus suffered the shame and humiliation of being mocked, crowned with thorns, and struck in the face. He was shamefully exposed on the cross, yet he held his head high enough to cry out those immortal words: 'It is Finished!' (John 19 v. 30).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all that is going on around us, we too, are able to hold our heads up high, all because of the great victory that Jesus won on the cross of Calvary. It is here that our sins are forgiven, and a new hope is realised. Through Jesus, our sins and shame are removed, and we have been offered the chance of new life in him.

 

John does not include the beautiful words of forgiveness (Luke 23 v. 34), nor does he evoke symbolism of darkness (Matthew 27 v. 45; Luke 23 v. 45; cf. Amos 8 v. 9) and the torn curtain (Matthew 27 v. 51; cf. Exodus 26 v. 31-33). Yet, in the midst of degradation and grief, John gives us the tender picture of Jesus entrusting His mother to the disciple 'whom he loved'.

 

Jesus must have had much on His mind as he hung dying on the cross. The pain that He was enduring must have been killing Him - literally. He no doubt yearned to rejoin His heavenly Father, for He knew that His earthly job had been finished, that he had accomplished everything that his heavenly Father had ordained him to do.

 

Yet, Jesus is also acutely aware of the shock that those around him must have been feeling. He must have been still stung with grief over Peter's denial and Judas's betrayal. Only God knew what he must have been thinking while on the cross. 

 

As Jesus looked down from the cross, he saw the needs of the people around him, especially his mother.

 

Sometimes, we get so emersed in the importance of the work that we are doing that we neglect to see the people around us and the commitments that we have to those we love the most. If anyone could claim that their ministry or job is their top priority, it would have to be Jesus. However, even in the midst of his most important act of ministry, even while enduring the most unspeakable physical and spiritual agony, Jesus cared enough about those around him, especially his mother to ensure that she would not be left vulnerable and alone. 

 

It is at times like this, during the course of this unthinkable Pandemic that is sweeping this world, that our thoughts need to be with those who are closest to us. We can thank God at this time for those who are caring for and looking after those who are seriously ill and dying often without family and friends nearby or with them.

 

May we, too, like Jesus, remember to care for those we love and care about, even while we carry out the other work that God has given us to do.

 

By naming a couple of the women, John brings out the poignancy of how close relatives endured their loved ones' last hours.

 

It is awesome to realise when staring at the crude, squat reconstructed crosses in the Scripture Garden, that the crosses were not tall with the prisoner removed from the crowd.

 

Jesus' mother, Mary, stood only yards from her son's broken and naked body, comforted by her sister.

 

Some scholars believe this could have been Zebedee's wife, the mother of James and John. (If that supposition were correct, it would put John as Jesus cousin, a highly likely scenario.)

 

Those moments were intensely harrowing and moving. When John mentions the hyssop stalk, is he directing the memory of readers to Exodus 12 v. 22, when Moses told the people to dip a bunch of hyssop in the blood of the Passover Lamb and daub it on the lintel of their doors?

 

John saw Jesus as the perfect, sinless Passover Lamb, who dies without His bones broken (Exodus 12 v. 46).

 

This was the Lamb of God whose blood would redeem the world.

 

Notice that John does not mention the famous cry 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mark 15 v. 34).

 

Perhaps John's Jesus was the Good Shepherd who willingly gave up His life for His flock (John 10 v. 18).

 

Have you ever asked the question though: 'What did Jesus finish?'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The underlying word in Greek is tetelestia which also means 'paid in full'. Jesus on the cross finished the work he was sent to do (John 17 v. 4) and fully paid for our sins (1 Peter 3 v. 18). In the greatest act of love in history, and in fulfilment of a complicated, centuries-old system of sacrifices, Jesus became the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1 v. 29 and Hebrews 8 v. 1-10 v.18). The miracle of the Resurrection (John 20 v. 1-9) confirms that Jesus is the Saviour of this world who can and has brought forgiveness and New Life to us all.

 

Therefore, we can understand that final cry 'It is finished!' not as Jesus' life ending in faint defeat, but as the obedient Son of God triumphantly completing His mission - it was 'accomplished'!

 

Jesus paid the highest price possible for your sin and mine, that we may be reconciled to our Father God and know His forgiveness and love forever.

 

Halleluia! What a Saviour!

 


 

Thursday 9th April 2020 - Maundy Thursday - A Cry of Betrayal

We are continuing our 'Church at Home' thoughts remembering to 'Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives'.

 

Today is Maundy Thursday and we are 'virtually gathering' together in this small Maundy Thursday Communion Service. As we gather to be 'church at home', I have put together a small service for us to share in our own homes either on our own, or if we have others with us, together. The idea is that we virtually gather together at 7.00pm in order to share together. If you wish to do this, then you will need, if you have one, a candle (real or artificial), some bread and a small glass of red juice (wine/fruit juice, squash etc.). The words for the Maundy Thursday Reflection and Communion are meant to be said out loud.

 

Order of Service

Lighting of Candle

Song - 'As We Are Gathered...'

'To Be In Your Presence...'

Communion

Song - 'My Lord, What Love Is This?...'

Bible Reading - Mark 14 v. 10-46

Song - 'Come And See, Come and See...'

Reflection - Gethsemane

Prayers For Easter

Maundy Thought - A Cry Of Betrayal - Greetings, Rabbi...

Song - 'My Song is Love Unknown...'

Silent Prayer - Focusing on centre candle

Blow out candle and leave/end silently

 

All of the songs in the Order of Service can be found in either Mission Praise Book 1, Songs of Fellowship Books 1, 2, 3 or can be found via YouTube

 

Maundy Thursday Reflection and Communion

Although we are not physically together, we remain one church in faith and love, and so we prayer and celebrate Communion as one body.

 

Have ready bread and wine (or juice), perhaps light a candle and spend a few minutes concentrating on it or listen to a quiet worship songs to prepare yourself.

 

Take time to just be still.

 

Help us Lord, to calm our hearts,

To slow our thoughts,

To pause, to breathe in and out,

In the stillness to come once again

To here the familiar stories

And in them to find you.

 

Surely not I?

Surely. I would never betray you, never deny you. Surely?

Beloved, give me the faith to doubt my righteousness.

Give me the assurance to question, to examine myself honestly, to ask.

Give me the confidence to wonder how I might betray your perfect love, to see.

Give me grace to confess how my promises are broken, my heart broken.

Give me the peace to be troubled by my smugness, and repent.

Open my eyes to see that you see, you know, and knowing, you keep right on eating with me.

written by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

 

Pause a moment

 

Invitation to the Table

(based on 1 Corinthians 11)

This is for you, but it might change you

from one wo is anxiously concerned about their own redemption

into one who knows that Christ's body is the earth

and all who walk upon it, are one in Him

 

into knowing that we are not redeemed

by our being good but by our being connected

 

into knowing that daring to eat

at the table of Jesus Christ has unimaginable consequences

 

So come, come to be made whole,

and to participate in the work of making us one with Him and each other.

written by Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality Centre.

 

Pause a moment

Take and eat the bread

Pause a moment

Take and drink the wine

Pause and give thanks to Jesus in your own words

 

Prayer

Lord, in these sombre days

We recall the dark days before your trial

We pause to remember your suffering,

Your anguished prayers

As you faced death

And once again we are so thankful

That even though we did not deserve it

You drank the cup of suffering

Mocked and beaten

Crucified for us

In our place

Because you love us

We are so eternally thankful

Saviour, Lord Jesus we give you all our praise

Now and forever.

Amen

 

Gethsemane

It is a cool evening,

refreshing after the intense heat of the day.

We have left the city with its noise and smells

of feasting and food.

The path to Gethsemane seems so peaceful.

The sky is a great velvet curtain

dotted with gleaming silver stars,

some alone, some in huge clusters.

They seem so close, as if they were almost within reach.

 

The meal we had just had together was different from others.

Jesus seemed reflective, almost sad.

Now we have come to this special place among the olives,

these huge trees, twisted by time.

 

Only eleven of us are with Jesus

Judas has gone off by himself,

leaving before the meal was over.

Jesus is telling us to rest here,

but he wants James, Peter and John to go with him.

 

The four of them climb to a place where the ground is steeper,

the rocks larger and the trees more sparsely spread.

Jesus tells the three to stop and keep watch.

They don’t know what he means,

but he seems so intense that none of them can ask.

Like the time they went with him to another high place.

Then he shone with light. But this is different.

He seems so sad,

so preoccupied and weighed down.

 

Jesus has moved on, but the three can still see him.

He lies down, with his face to the ground.

They can hear his voice, but not all the words.

He's agonising about a cup and doing his Father's will,

They have seen him pray before, but not like this.

 

It's warmer than they thought

and they all wonder if... wonder if...

 

Suddenly they wake up. Jesus stands before them.

He asks why they could not pray with him for just one hour.

They want to with all their hearts, but they are just so tired.

 

They promise to try again, and Jesus goes back to his place.

They see him praying so intensely

that the sweat gleams on his face in the moonlight.

All three begin praying hard... praying hard... praying...

 

Suddenly there's a lot of noise and lights.

A huge procession is entering the garden.

Jesus is telling us, shouting almost, to get up.

He says the hour has come.

There's Judas.

What on earth is going on?

 

Maundy Thursday Thoughts

We are often shocked by the story of Judas's betrayal of Jesus. Since Judas had spent about 3 years in close friendship with Jesus, we can wonder what could have prompted him to act as he did. Yet if we are honest as we should be, we can see the same potential in our own hearts. Whenever we refuse to give Jesus authority over a certain area of our own lives, we act like Judas. Whenever we promise to do one thing and then do another, we act like Judas.

 

Matthew, Mark and Luke in their Gospels have all conferred infamy on Judas and his traitor's kiss. Such a terrible, wicked act by the most trusted of disciples, the treasurer, the one who only hours earlier had received bread from Jesus' hand.

 

We might say 'Whatever possessed him?' John tells us - 'Satan entered into him'.

 

Before the meal ended, Judas the only non-Galilean disciple, slipped out into the night - he knew where he would find them later.

 

He knew that Jesus was heading for a favourite place among the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14 v. 26) This was an easy place where the soldiers could arrest Jesus well away from the city crowds.

 

Also in Mark 14 v. 27-31, we see that Peter (one of the Disciples), wasn't honest with himself when he promised that he would stay with Jesus no matter what the cost. He still didn't realise that following Jesus would lead him to the foot of the cross. So when things got tough, Peter backed out of his commitment.

 

It makes me think, that we too often do the same thing. We should be wise to consider the difficulties that we may face along the journey that we are travelling with Jesus, for Jesus never promised us an easy journey when we decided to follow Him.

 

After the Passover meal, the little group would have wound their way down from the hustle and noise of Jerusalem, over the Kidron Valley and up onto the slopes of Gethsemane.

 

It is here, in the olive grove of Gethsemane, the Jesus opened His heart to Peter, James and John. In Mark 14 v. 34, we hear Jesus say: 'My soul is crushed with  grief to the point of death.' It is here that we see Jesus demonstrating qualities that we need to cultivate in our own lives as well: honesty, transparency, and trust. It seems obvious that Jesus needed others for support in this greatest hour of need shortly before His death.

 

If Jesus needed human support in order to face His trials, the surely we need it even more. It is important that we develop a strong network of relationships, such as family and friends, in which we are held accountable to or promises and commitments.

 

When we develop and maintain these strong meaningful relationships, we are creating a network of support that will help us sustain and grow our spiritual walk with God.

 

When Jesus asked them to 'keep watch' with Him, they were too drowsy and fell asleep. The verses preceding the betrayal hold great pathos as we read how Jesus was so overwhelmed with anguish that His sweat was like drops of blood as He prayed (Luke 22 v. 44).

 

In the passage (Mark 14 v. 35-36), Jesus expressed his true feelings as He prayed for his father to remove the impending suffering that He was about to face. However, Jesus never rebelled against God's will. He was willing to suffer and die so that we could experience the total forgiveness from sin that God offers us through Jesus' death and resurrection.

 

Even though we might want to escape from certain occasions of suffering or the situations that we might find ourselves in, we must surrender and submit all such desires to God's will. God may lead us into some tough experiences, but painful as these may be, we can be totally assured that He has our best interests in mind.


We can also be sure that He will stand with us throughout the whole process. The following poem called 'Footprints in the Sand' helps to make the point more poignant.

 

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

 

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many time along the path of my life,

especially at my very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

 

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord all about it.

"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You'd walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life

there was only one set of footprints.

I don't understand why, when I needed You most, You would leave me."

 

He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you."

 

Three times Jesus found the men sleeping - they really had no idea of the danger closing around them.

 

This was the first betrayal. Have you ever thought that actually, Jesus was betrayed twice.

 

First by Judas's kiss, then secondly by the fickle crowd shouting 'Crucify Him!' And, although not a betrayal, He was also failed in His hour of greatest need by his disciples. 

 

Matthew and Mark both recorded all the disciples ran away. If only they had understood Jesus' warnings they might have been better prepared but, faced with an angry mob brandishing 'swords and clubs' no wonder they fled!

 

With cruel irony, the name of Judas and his kiss of betrayal, has passed into the language.

 

Judas is famous for this one action and although Jesus had told them one of the group would betray Him, nevertheless, right up until Judas found Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he disciples obviously had no idea it would be Judas.

 

The danger didn't register - with the celebration of Passover, wine and a good meal, their eyes were heavy with sleep.

 

We shall never know whether Judas expected Jesus to suddenly turn on the soldiers and give them orders to fight them, or raise an army to send Roman forces of occupation packing. What we do know is that he approached Jesus with despicable hypocrisy; a sneaking rat who had deceived them all, gave Jesus the customary kiss of greeting.

 

Matthew, Mark and John all allude to Jesus taking this situation as a fulfilment of Scripture. We glimpse the single-minded commitment of God's only Son, gaining strength from the prophets even in his hour of betrayal.

 

Now let's look at the betrayal by the crowd.

 

In a matter of a few short days, the jubilant crowds who had shouted 'Hosanna!' were to cry out with menace 'Crucify Him!'

 

Where were those who had been healed? Those who had listened spellbound to the parables and the visionary teaching? Where was Lazarus?

 

Jesus may have been turning over in His mind Isaiah 53 v. 8: 'By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for transgressions of my people he was stricken.'

 

As we have already said, He meekly accepted the role of God's suffering servant, offering no resistance, totally obedient to what He saw as the Father's will.

 

But we need to ask, what about the other 11 Disciples. We are so familiar with Judas that we rather gloss over the disappearance of the other Eleven.

 

Mark put it coldly: 'Then everyone deserted him and fled.' Everyone. (Mark 14 v. 50)

 

There was no one left to speak up for Jesus, to be His witness. Jesus had sadly predicted that they would all scatter (Mark 14 v. 27).

 

We all have betrayed God in one way or another. Maybe it's at times like this that we should use Judas's failure as an opportunity to take a hard look at our own lives; and then ask the question: 'In what ways have we betrayed God?'

 

May God bless you and keep you during these testing times. May His unfailing love provide you with hope as you trust in Him.

 


 

Sunday 5th April 2020 - Palm Sunday - A Cry of Hope

We are continuing our 'Church at Home' thoughts as we still find ourselves as individuals and as a nation in restricted movements as we seek to 'Stay at home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives'.

 

We are now into week three of not being able to gather together as a church as SNBC, and it seems likely that this will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. As we gather together on this Sunday, Palm Sunday, to be 'church at home', I have been attempting to gather some thoughts as to how we can best be grateful to God for all that is around us. If you know someone from SNBC who doesn't have access to a computer or other electronic means, or you know someone likely to be sad or scared at home without a chance to meet, why not give them a ring to chat, encourage and offer prayer. You could even spend some time sharing with them over the phone these Palm Sunday thoughts that we are producing. 


For this week's Palm Sunday Thoughts, I have also produced a small 'Order of Service' that you could use as a way of worshipping God where you find yourself.

 

Order of Service

Call to Worship:- Psalm 117

Song:- 'Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna In The Highest...'

Bible Reading:- Luke 9 v. 28 - 40

Songs:- 'All My Days I will Sing This Song Of Gladness...'

'Make Way, Make Way For Christ The King...'

'You Are The King Of Glory...'

Bible Reading:- John 12 v. 12 - 19

Song:- 'Ride On, Ride On In Majesty...'

Palm Sunday Thought:- A Cry Of Hope - Hosanna!

Reflection:- Meditation Of Simon The Zealot

Song:- 'King Of Kings, Majesty...'

Prayers of Intercession

Grace

 

All of the songs in the Order of Service can be found in either Mission Praise Book 1, Songs of Fellowship Books 1, 2, 3 or can be found via YouTube.

 

You might want to begin this week by starting with prayer: Why not begin sharing The Lord's Prayer and focus on why Jesus gave us this prayer to begin with.

Things you might pray about during you Prayers of Intercession: The ongoing situation around the world due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. For World Leaders and Politicians. For the NHS, Police, and Fire Brigade. For vulnerable friends and neighbours (which may include yourself) during this time of 'Lockdown'. For scientists who are seeking to find a vaccine to combat Covid-19. For teachers who still need to be in schools, in order to look after those children who are vulnerable and whose parents are 'frontline workers'.

 

Bible Reading: Luke 9 v. 28-40 and John 12 v. 12-19

 

Palm Sunday Thoughts

Jesus would have attended the synagogue each Sabbath to hear the rabbi read from the Torah, the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books were repeated over and over, so that, in oral learning culture of that time, it became ingrained on the heart and mind of every devout Israelite.

 

This was not only on the Sabbath, but there would have been synagogue prayers twice a week on the market days of Tuesday and Thursday. It seems highly probable that Jesus may have received extra tuition to become a rabbi, for the Gospel accounts record Him being called Rabbi, Teacher, Master and Lord. For example, Nicodemus addressed Jesus as 'Rabbi' in John 3 v. 2.

 

So, as we take a closer look at Jesus, we see this man of God, soaked in holy words, a prophet-cum-healer who, within His ministry, gaining the reputation for challenging His critics with profound words from Scripture.

 

And, as the prophets before Him, when words were insufficient for the point He wished to make, Jesus dramatically enacted His message. So, on this Palm Sunday in 2020, we see Jesus, demonstrating those actions, and fulfilling Scripture (Zechariah 9 v. 9) in the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

 

Jerusalem was a place bursting with thousands of pilgrims gathered especially for the Passover Festival and Jesus and His disciples were part of the festival.

 

The historian Josephus wrote that on one occasion there were over two million people packed into the city and suburbs, but that is perhaps a slight exaggeration!

 

However, people from all over the known world, three times a year, turned the City of David into a vibrant, cosmopolitan meeting place for commerce and for worship.

 

And Passover was the biggest of all the festivals.

 

HOSANNA!

The closing verse of John chapter 11 makes it plain that Jerusalem was now a dangerous place for Jesus. The chief priests and the Pharisees had their spies mingling with the crowds, ready to pounce at the first opportunity to arrest Him. Jesus had become too popular.

 

He longed for people to see that they could worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4 v 24) without the pomp and ritual sacrifices that burdened the poor and lined the pockets of the priests. Time and time again, Jesus sought to focus the people's minds on God; to bring them back into the trusting, loving relationship the religious legalism of their day had blunted.

 

Jesus' teaching showed His followers how to put into practice the high moral and ethical demands of Scripture, not as a cold duty, but in response to God's eternal goodness and love.

 

Several times in the Gospel narratives we see Jesus taking a deliberately low profile and even telling people not to speak about things they had witnessed Him doing.

 

In this story, however, we have a spectacularly high - profile Jesus. By riding down the Mount of Olives and up into Jerusalem on the back of a humble donkey, Jesus ensured all eyes were directed on Him, and after Jesus had been glorified they might remember Zechariah's prophecy, the king riding on a donkey was the hope of a re-established Davidic kingdom (Zechariah 9 v. 9-10).

 

Also, the display was a loaded reminder from 11 BC when Simon the Maccabee rode into the Holy City on a donkey and cleansed the Temple from the Syrian desecration.

 

Careful arrangements had been made to accommodate Jesus' purpose of using a young donkey in order for Him to enter into Jerusalem. At Passover time everybody in Jerusalem was looking for a lamb but Jesus comes looking for a colt.

 

I just wonder what unlikely request Jesus might be asking of us in these unprecedented times?

 

There were no buses or taxis in Jerusalem, so just imagine how inconvenient loaning a young donkey might have  been to the owner especially at such a busy time as Passover.


Whatever does Jesus want with an untamed colt? Jesus doesn't always offer a detailed explanation to his servants. Is there a desire to encourage a deeper level of trust?

 

We may not know or even understand what the reasons are that lie behind Jesus request of us at the moment, but we need to ask the question: does it matter of some of the details are not yet revealed?

 

The answer that is given to the colt's owner is simply: 'The Lord needs it' and that is meant to be enough. No questions asked, other than on whose authority. No reasons given. No conditions laid down. No payment offered. Just 'The Lord needs it.'

 

The fact that the incident took place at Bethany, a place Jesus often visited, suggests that Jesus and the unnamed supporter were maybe known to each other and that a bond of trust and respect had arisen between them.

 

The colt was ready and waiting, and the servant was ready too.

 

Being led by the Spirit can, and usually does, mean a careful and thoughtful approach to the commission we have received from God.

 

And so it is, with supreme courage, Jesus, by now a 'wanted man', was making an emphatic visual statement. He saw Himself as God's Anointed, the King of Peace whose kingdom would never end.

 

The crowds seemed delighted to hail Him as King, but on their terms, a King who would rid them of the Roman occupation. The Messiah they wanted was a King to lead them into battle against their enemies and then they would live happily ever after!


So, they chanted their 'Hosannas', meaning 'Save!' - lifted directly from Psalm 118 v. 25, one of the psalms recited at the Passover Festival.

 

It was also the part of the Hallel, sung each morning by the Temple choir during the Feast of Tabernacles, and therefore would have been a familiar song of jubilation.

 

When the choir reached the 'Hosanna' part, it become a tradition for worshippers to wave lulabs - a few shoots of willow and myrtle tied with palm - the similar to the tradition of standing for Handel's 'Hallelujah Chorus'.

 

Sometimes, these lulabs were even called 'hosannas'.

 

When Luke records that the crowd 'spread their cloaks on the road', it was not just a romantic expression such as Francis Drakes for Queen Elizabeth 1, but an ancient honour in acknowledging a king. (See what happened to Jehu in 2 Kings 9 v. 13.)


We also need to recognise the potential political implication of the palm branches. Waving a palm branch was like waving the national flag.

 

The palm was such a popular national emblem that it was used on Jewish coins.

 

In the context of an occupied nation, entering the city waving palm branches was blatant and defiant nationalism.

 

The statement he makes is unambiguously Messianic. He was determined to fulfil in himself the Father's preordained and revealed purpose.

 

Therefore, Jesus calculated action causes us to ask some questions:

Was Jesus deliberately rousing a volatile and potentially explosive situation? And, if His prophetic actions held such clear scriptural, Messianic overtones, how was it that the people were blind to His message of justice, peace and compassion?

 

How could the meekness and majesty portrayed by Jesus in that triumphal entry into Jerusalem have been so badly misunderstood?

 

What steps do I need to take in order to know the will of God for my life and how deliberate am I in seeking to fulfil it?

 

Can we see in Jesus a pattern for the way we approach the days that lie ahead?

 

May God give you strength and assurance in the week that lies ahead.

 

MEDITATION OF SIMON THE ZEALOT

You should have heard them! What a noise! What a sight! What a welcome!

 

I'm telling you, I've never seen the like, not in all my born days, and there's been a few of those.

 

We've had kings here, governors, would-be messiahs, and they've all had their, moments, their fans out in force to greet them, but nothing like this, nowhere near it!

 

They come in their thousands, waiting to meet him, the news of his coming having raced before him.

 

And it wasn't just his followers, it was everyone, men, women and children plucking branches from the trees, tearing off their cloaks, carpeting the road before him, their voices hoarse with shouting.

 

'Hosanna!' they cried. 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'

 

It was treason, of course, and probably heresy too, but no one cared - devil take the consequences, this was a time for rejoicing, and rejoice we did.

 

Yet if that was unusual - the abandonment, the jubilation - there were stranger things to follow, for just a few days later, less than a week in fact, the scene was so very different.

 

The same people by and large, once more part of a crowd, but this time not love but hatred in their faces, not welcome but rejection, their waving hands suddenly shaking their fists, their 'Hosanna to the Son of David' all at once 'We have no king but Caesar'.

 

I wouldn't have believed it possible if I hadn't seen it for myself, but the sad fact is I not only saw it, in my own way I was part of the whole sorry business, for when the crisis came I was found wanting, concerned only to save my skin with no thought as to his.

 

It was a chilling lesson, and one that I, like so many others, learned the hard way - the lesson that it's easy to call someone king, much harder to actually serve them.

 


 

Sunday 29th March 2020 - Mission Close To Home

This is week two of not being able to gather together as a church here at SNBC so once again here is a simple reminder - church is us, the people, not our building. As we gather together on this Sunday to be 'church at home', I have been attempting to gather some thoughts as to how we can best be 'a living witness' to those around us. As you are all probably aware by now, the UK Government has placed us in a 'Lockdown' situation, with limited travel and access to each other. With this in mind, it would appear that the delivery of these thoughts and other materials that we might produce will be very limited and maybe even impossible to do. So, if you know someone from SNBC who doesn’t have access to a computer or other electronic means, or you know someone likely to be sad or scared at home without a chance to meet, why not give them a ring to chat, encourage and offer prayer. You could even spend some time sharing with them over the phone the Sunday Thoughts that we are producing.

 

It's very easy to be distracted at home - the dish washer needs emptying, the washing needs sorting, there's a pile of ironing, other people! There is encouragement however, in knowing you are not alone in your worship! If you do have a computer or smart phone and internet access, the Baptist Union is holding regular live prayer events, why not take a look at their website www.baptist.org.uk to find out when these are scheduled for.

 

This week, for Sunday Thoughts, can I suggest the following to you as a way of worshipping God either as an individual or as a family:

 

You might want to begin this week by starting with prayer: Why not begin by sharing The Lord's Prayer and focus on what each phrase might mean for you and your neighbours today

 

Songs you might sing/listen to: Father I place into your hands; All things bright and beautiful; Dear Lord and father of mankind.

 

Things you might pray about: For vulnerable friends and neighbours (which may include yourself) during this time of 'Lockdown', for health workers and scientists seeking to care for and treat those who are sick and dying, for teachers who will still be teaching but also taking on all kinds of social work roles for which they are not trained, for world leader to be wise and people to heed the advice they are given.

 

Things you might praise God for: That there is enough of everything if we share, that we are able to care for each other, that He (that is God) never leaves or abandons us, that we have a hope and love that is stronger than death, for the love of our families and friends.

 

Bible Reading: Luke 24 v. 44-53

 

Someone once wrote about a family that they met at church; the writer wrote: 'I first met Kristina when she was seven years old. She had just joined the church Brownie group and decided that she should also come to Sunday School. She was the youngest of three children in a family with no church background. In common with the majority of those living with them on their estate, they had no real knowledge of the good news of Jesus Christ.

 

Before long both her parents and her older sister were coming to services - not just to the monthly Family Service, but to all of them. Eventually they were confirmed, and her father become one of our church wardens. Neither did it stop there! Kristina had an ambition (which she didn't quite fulfil) to bring along everyone known to her: all those who lived in her street and friends from school. She once said to me that she would like to be a missionary when she grew up and go and tell others about Jesus. I believe she already was a missionary!'

 

In the days that we are finding ourselves in, this little story speaks volumes. At present we may not be able to get to our local place of worship, but we can be the 'voice' of Jesus in the places we find ourselves in. He always calls us, though, to start where we are: in Jerusalem or on an urban housing estate or wherever we may live. I wonder what God is calling you to do as we find ourselves in 'isolation'. Maybe the Lord is asking you to be His witness in your neighbourhood. We can do this in a variety of ways; by telephone, e-mail, Skype or even friendly chat over the garden fence!

 

After all, just as in Jerusalem (Acts 2 v. 5), there were not only those born in the area, but also those from far away. In many of our towns and cities today there are those who have come from many countries, as well as many people, like Kristina's family, who had never really heard the Good News. So, whoever we are, young or old, well-educated or not; wherever we are, we need always to be ready to share the Good News (1 Peter 3 v.15), realising that it is God Himself who empowers us to do so, through his Holy Spirit.

 

Of course, we must know what the Good News is! We need, indeed, to have experienced the power of the message for ourselves.

 

The centre point of this Good News is Jesus. Through Him forgiveness for or sins are available to us, and to others, through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2 v.38). So, how do we know about the forgiveness that Jesus brings.

 

Firstly, it begins with obedience. The disciples had been told to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the empowering of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1 v. 4). So, the day of the Pentecost found them waiting together. They were waiting for God to act in order to enable them to act. It was God himself who gathered the crowd together, but the disciples did not miss the opportunity they had been given. Instead, Peter stood up and addressed the crowd (Acts 2 v. 14) The apostles had not only been obedient in waiting, they were also obedient in acting and speaking. It was through their obedience that the good news was able to spread both within Jerusalem and out into the wider world. In the same was, it is only through our obedience today that the message will continue to be spread to those around us. For each of us, when our sins have been forgiven, then it is our privilege to share with others the Good News of Jesus.

 

How then is the Good News to be shared? You can spread the good news...

 

THROUGH YOUR COMMUNITY (Luke 24 v. 47)

The gospel was to spread throughout the world, but it began where the disciples were - in Jerusalem. The Christian mission is the first to be representatives of Jesus in the places we happen to be - our families, our sports clubs, our workplaces, our pubs, our colleges. Mission starts not with speaking, but with being!

 

ILLUSTRATION

Rupert Higgins, quoting Carl George:

If we picture our local mission as a field of wheat, there are two ways of dealing with it. Either you can try and devour this field with a one-ton dinosaur, trying to munch it by one big mouth biting away. Or you can use one-ton of mice, each mouse chewing the four or five strands of wheat around it in order for the field to be devoured.

 

The one-ton dinosaur is the traditional model of 'the church engaging in mission'. The ton of mice is the New Testament model of 'me engaging in the mission that God has given me through my unique God-given community'.

 

Remember that the dinosaur is extinct, but mice live on!


Like the disciples, we are called to know unchurched people (and that is no small challenge to some church-trapped Christians), to like unchurched people (and that may come as a shock to some as well), and to be a source of compassion for unchurched people. That is what Jesus was like!

 

THROUGH YOUR STORY (Luke 24 v. 48)

Explaining what is in the Bible is a great, life-enhancing revelation for those who know Jesus (Luke 24 v. 45). But for unchurched friends, a greater revelation is the story of our own lives. Seeing and hearing the difference that Jesus has made to our personal life-story is the most powerful from of evangelism, because it has an integrity that can only come from one God.

 

ILLUSTRATION

The Alpha Course is one of the mission tools available to churches to give an introduction to the good news to unchurched people. This extract from Alpha News (reproduced by permission of Holy Trinity Church, Brompton) illustrates the unspectacular and threating way in which Christians can become missionaries among their own friends and families. Jane freeman of Kent, England, writes about the role of a friend of her husband:

 

Both Jim and I had poor upbringings. Jim hated his mother... We were married in our late teens - me to get away from my mother; Jim because he had to find new lodgings. It was not the best foundation for a loving relationship to grow and over the next twenty-three years we had a very volatile marriage - harsh words spoken and deeds that can never be undone.

 

In April, a company rep called Mick who Jim has dealt with for years invited both of us to a social event. Jim put Mick off on several occasions, but Mick kept asking. Eventually Jim told me the night before, I agreed, and we all went.

 

While we were there, the pastor explained there was a meal followed by a short talk, then a chance to ask questions. The evening was an introduction to Alpha which was starting the following week. Our lives have not been the same since that night.

 

The following week Jim and I attended the first Alpha meeting [with Mick]. I had to leave early to get to work, but Jim stayed. That night he accepted Jesus into his life.

 

I was very angry and sceptical when Jim told me. But overnight my husband's personality changed - the hardness and aggression seemed to have gone and he seemed calmer. I kept telling myself it was too good to be true... (After a weekend away on which the subject was the Holy Spirit) we arrived home and Jim had a sudden urge to see his mother, which was amazing... Thank you, Lord, for the new life we have found through you.

 

That is what Jesus meant by being witnesses (Luke 24 v. 48)

 

THROUGH YOUR JOY (Luke 24 v. 52)

Evangelism is sometimes described as a sharing of gladness. It certainly featured in the lives of the first Christians (Luke 24 v. 52). A joyful congregation or individual celebrating God's loved and involvement in their lives not just on Sunday, but from Monday to Saturday as well. It changes lives!

 

THROUGH YOUR CHURCH (Luke 24 v. 53)

When the Good News began to spread, people needed a place to go - to learn more, to pray and worship together, to support one another. For the first Christians there were only two choices - they gathered either in the temple or in each other's homes (Luke 24 v. 53; Acts 2 v. 1, 42). At the present moment in time we are not able to gather in our churches because of the Coronavirus. We are, however, able to gather together in spirit. We can do this through the use of modern technology and the advancement of media.

 

As well as individuals Christians living like Jesus in community, the church needs to be a place of open doors - teaching, praying and caring for the community as Jesus did. This is something that I believe will be even more relevant for the Church when the time comes, that the Church will be able to gather together once again physically.

 

May God richly bless you all in the week that lies ahead.

 

Remember you are not alone. We are praying for you daily.

 

Here's a 16th Century Prayer which is particularly pertinent at present:

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you.

All thing are passing;

God never changes.

Patient endures attains to all things.

Whom God possesses in nothing is wanting.

Alone, God suffices

St Teresa of Avila

 


 

Sunday 22nd March 2020 - Mothering Sunday Thoughts

This is week one of not being able to gather together as a church here at SNBC so here is a simple reminder - church is us, the people, not our building. We are church today as scattered people, just as much as if we were gathered together. Each week I will try to prepare some materials (ideas of songs to sing or listen to on CD or online using YouTube or similar, prayer pointers and a reflection) that you can use at home on Sunday to be 'church at home'. I am working out how we can best print copies off for those without computers and safely deliver them to you. That may take a week or two to organise and put together. So, if you know someone from SNBC who doesn't have access to a computer or other electronic means, or you know someone likely to be sad or scared at home without a chance to meet, why not give them a ring to chat, encourage and offer prayer?

 

It's easy to be distracted at home - the dishwasher needs emptying, the washing needs sorting, there's a pile of ironing, other people! Perhaps to help you focus, you could light a candle to show you are setting aside time to be with God in a distinct way, or find some other way to mark this set aside time as special. It may be that this material doesn't suit you. In that case can I encourage you to watch Songs of Praise at 1:15pm on BBC1. There is encouragement in knowing you are not alone in your worship! If you do have a computer or smart phone and internet access, the Baptist Union is holding regular live prayer events. One is scheduled for this coming Sunday (22nd March) at 7pm. There is also a national suggestion that people praying at home might put a candle in their window at 7:00pm, to show lights in the street and offer hope to those stumbling in darkness.


This week, for Mothering Sunday, can I suggest the following to you as a way of worshipping God either as an individual or as a family:

Songs you might sing/listen to: What a friend we have in Jesus, When we walk with the Lord (Trust and Obey), How deep the Father's love for us

Things you might pray about: For vulnerable friends and neighbours (which may include yourself), for generosity rather than greed, for people going shopping, for health workers and scientists seeking to care for and treat those who are sick, for teachers who will be teaching but also taking on all kinds of social work roles for which they are not trained, for world leaders to be wise and people to heed the advice they are given, for parents and carers at home to be patient when their children seem to be driving them mad!

Things you might praise God for: That there is enough of everything if we share, that we are able to care for each other, that He (that is God) never leaves or abandons us, that we are surrounded by a beautiful creation that we can enjoy, that we have a hope and love that is stronger than death, for the love of our mothers, whether they are still with us or not.

 

You might want to pray the Lord's prayer and focus on what each phrase might mean for us and our neighbours today.

 

Bible Reading: John 15 v. 1 - 17

 

Life is rather upside down at the moment. Life is not as we know it, and the future looks rather uncertain. This may be new to us, but it is not new to generations of Christians who have gone forward in the faith before us. The Bible has many stories of where this has happened and our brothers and sisters in Christ have faced massive uncertainty before. From Noah living on the ark, to Joseph being flung in a pit, and then in an Egyptian jail. From Daniel in wth the lions, from Peter watching Jesus being arrested and the disciples on Easter Saturday wondering what their world would now look like. And there are plenty more that we can think of.

 

In the Old Testament, the vine fequently represents the people of Israel - planted and nutured by God.

 

The image is often used to show the difference between God's ideal for his people and the reality of their unfaithfulness.

 

In the New Testament, Jesus' claim to be the 'true vine' is therefore very striking!

 

He is the one whose life has demonstrated perfect obedience and utter reliance on God. In this passage, Jesus calls his disciples to share the life he has in the Father (John 15 v. 37), and so become one people in HIm. God desires that our lives be like fruitful branches of a grapevine. The only way to be fruitful is to remain connected to Jesus, the vine, and to allow God the gardener, to prune our lives in ways that will stimulate growth and fruitfulness. It is God's cultivating, weeding, and pruning in our lives that brings forth spiritual fruit. Just as sustenance for the desired fruit comes through the vine, so fullness of life comes through faith in Jesus. We need to stay close to God in Jesus, the source of our spiritual growth and fruitfulness.

 

The disciples had been deeply worried when Jesus told them he would be going away. Some boasted of their determination to follow him, wherever he went (John 13 v. 37). Others wanted to know more about the likely direction (John 14 v. 5)! Jesus assures them that he will not let them down (John 14 v. 3) and promises to send the Holy Spirit - the 'one called alongside'.

 

His words of reassurance continue through the following two chapters and the activity of the Spirit is further explained in John 15 v. 26 - 16 v. 15. It is the Holy Spirit who makes it possible to respond to Jesus' call to remain in him - to be part of him as the branches are part of a vine.

 

At the heart of the Spirit's activity is the bringing together of all who share in the love of Christ. The vine is not cultivated for decoration, but for the practical purpose of producing grapes. The gardener (v. 1) has a clear intention - that the branches should bear fruit. And what is the best expression of that fruit?

 

As Jesus puts it simply: 'Love each other' (v. 17). This week of uncertainty has helped me realize that the world we live in needs each other more than ever. It is at times like this that we need to support each other in so many different ways in order that when 'normality' does return after this Pandemic that the world will see the need to live differently. 

 

Genuine, unconditional love overflows from the abundent love God has shown us. Only when we experience and remain in God's love (shared by people that we trust and respect) can we genuinely love ourselves and others. God's joy is made complete in us when we experience his love in our lives.

 

I will leave you with this though:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ's compassion to the world; Yours are the feet with which he is to go doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

St Teresa of Avila, 16th century

 

May God richly bless you all in the week that lies ahead.

 

Prayers of Hope

Everlasting and faithful God,

Truly dust we are, and to dust we shall return;

And truly yours we are, and to you we shall return.

Help this time be a time of turning round and beginning again.

Through this time of Lent and time of uncertainty,

help us to follow you and to find you:

in the discipline of praying and in the drudgery of caring - 

In whatever we deny ourselves,

And whatever we set ourselves to learn or do.

Help us to discover you

In our loneliness and in our community,

In our emptiness and our fulfilment

In our sadness and our laughter.

Help us to find you on the journey to Jerusalem

To the waving palms of peoples hope

To their rejection, to the cross and empty tomb.

Help us to perceive new growth, amid the ashes of the old.

Help us, carrying your cross, to be signs of your Kingdom. Amen.

Rememeber you are not alone. We are praying for you daily.

 

To gauge the number of people who are reading his thoughts and prayers - please select this link to let Ian know that you have had a look at his sermon.

 


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