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 29th March 2020 - Mission Close To Home

Sunday 22nd March 2020 - Mothering Sunday Thought

 

 

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.

 


Printer Printable Version