Sunday, October 29, 2006

Someone suggested that, as I hadn't updated this blog for about a million years, that I should put the sermon for the week here, so I will. It's for Bibile Sunday (thanks to The Bible Society for the ideas...) in brief...

Opening illustration: satellite navigation
Start with the common experience of being in a car and lost.
Explain that now help is at hand. Or is it?
� Sat Nav is here.

What are the benefits of Sat Nav?
� Guiding us (giving us instruction)
� Telling us where we�ve gone wrong
� Getting us back on the right route when we stray off the right road
� This could be a picture of the Bible maybe � as Paul told Timothy.

But Sat Nav has its pitfalls!
Tell how �
� Many cars have been diverted from the M5 to a ford in a river in Somerset. The ford is too deep for cars and the local farmer is regularly pulling cars out with his tractor!

� For truly reliable information we need someone with genuine local knowledge alongside us.
� And this, as Paul tells Timothy, is really what an encounter with God�s Word is like.
� The Scriptures are not just �useful for teaching and helping� us know what to do but for �showing [us] how to live� (2 Timothy 3.16, CEV)
Stress that �
� The Bible is more than a programmed computer.
� It is living, �inspired� by God, full of the breath of his life, and capable of setting off a chain of reactions in our lives.

Show how the chain reaction of God�s Word was easy for Timothy to see. How the Scriptures had in turn shaped his grandmother deeply, then his mother, then him.
� And now as leader of the church, probably in Ephesus, they were shaping him and he was experiencing their power.

Illustration � Wilberforce and the anti-slavery campaign

� 200 years ago the big industry was slavery. It was as vital to Britain�s economy as the IT industry today. But it trapped 11 million Africans over several centuries as slaves in cruel conditions.
� Over the next six months or so, churches, cities and many people across the UK will be remembering an event 200 years ago which outlawed the slave trade.
� This came about through a chain reaction when a small group of mostly Christians fought for about 50 years for Parliament to abolish the slave trade. And finally they won.
� What many people won�t realise is that this was all due to a chain reaction that can be traced back to the Bible � which changed the lives of those who led the fight against slavery.
� First the Bible impacted a slave trader called John Newton.
� Eventually he became a minister of a church in London. Here his preaching and life made an impact on the young William Wilberforce who went on to become one of the country�s brightest MPs.
� When Wilberforce began thinking about becoming a Christian, he turned to his old friend Newton. Newton helped him both on his journey to faith and in making it part of his life mission to stay in Parliament and lead the battle against the slave trade. In particular, there were two building blocks from the Bible that especially inspired William Wilberforce. And he built his whole life on them.
� One was the understanding in Genesis (1.26�27) that all people are made equally in God�s image.
� The second was Jesus� command to do to others as we want them to do to us (Matthew 7.12).
Wilberforce was not alone.
� Fellow anti-slavery campaigners Granville, Sharp and Clarkson and freed slave Olaudah Equiano were also a part of the bible�s chain reaction.
� The �force behind Wilberforce� � the Bible�s principles guided and sustained Wilberforce through to the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807.
Wilberforce and his associates continued to press for the release of all those who were oppressed. In 1833, a few days before he died, Wilberforce was given the last piece of news to reach him from Parliament � the law to liberate slaves in the West
Indies had been passed.
So we can see that �
� The Bible has the power firstly to change each one of us very deeply.
� If we let it go on shaping us, it will change our whole way of looking at life, how we think about and treat other people, the goals we have and the difference we can make in the lives of others.
2. The chain reaction � how it happens
Pose the questions �
� So how should that transforming life-changing reaction occur for us?
� We may never be a Wilberforce but how can we be transformed as we encounter the Bible?

First, we need to be encountering the Bible ourselves � alone or with others, by reading or listening.
� Second, we need to encounter it with an openness to being changed and shaped � in our attitudes, values, choices, priorities and actions.
� Third, we need to begin to respond to what we hear � one Sat Nav direction at a time. And some times this can mean retracing our steps.
� Fourth, do it with fellow passengers � because there is safety in numbers. Are they hearing what you are hearing? Can you help each other find the right road?
� For Wilberforce, following Jesus wasn�t just about fighting the slave trade. He also committed to getting his daily living right.
� One of the first steps was to rebuild his relationship with Charles Fox, a leading opponent in Parliament. Before this, Wilberforce had used his killer wit and no-holds-barred criticism to defeat Fox and seriously hurt
him in the process.
� Now, as a Christian, Wilberforce determined always to treat his opponents fairly and with respect.
� Just like Wilberforce it is about our daily living as much as the big things � taking notice and being a friend to the neighbour or the new student at school/college going through a hard time.
� Thinking about how we use our money � does it go straight on the latest music downloads, holidays, house improvements, or are we asking God how we can use it?
� It is this powerful, never-ending, transforming power of the �God- breathed Word� that equips us to live in the right way day by day at home, at school, at work and wherever.

Rwanda � making peace through the power of the Bible
� Adele lost her husband in the terrible violence that ripped apart communities across the east African country of Rwanda in 1994.
� Her husband and many other members of her family were some of the one million people who died.
� But Adele has found healing for her bitterness. Searching for a way to deal with her pain, she turned to the Bible.
� Remarkably, she found through God�s forgiveness there that she was able to forgive her husband�s killers. But it didn�t end there. Through the Bible, she also heard God calling her to take this healing to many of the killers of her tribe.
� Adele started visiting the prison in Ntsinda and talked to the men there about the Bible and how it had healed her life and could heal theirs.
� One prisoner who gave his life to God during this time asked to see her. When Adele arrived at the prison he broke down. He told her he was her husband�s killer and asked for forgiveness.
� To his relief, Adele immediately forgave him. There was another amazing sign of the chain reaction of God�s love still to
� When the man was released from prison he had nowhere to go and Adele took him into her home and took care of him.

My voice has gone tonight - can barely speak! Feel a bit got at right now and there is a small issue that is in danger of becoming a bigger issue. Spoke to a couple of people about what to do today - have formulaed a plan...

Anyway, good services today. The sermon above came from thae baptism service for George Hawes and there must have been a congregation of 200! What follows came from my address at the Thanksgiving and Remembrance for the Departed Service in the afternoon... very moving...

It is natural to feel the absence of someone we love because they have died. This gap in our lives is often felt most keenly at obvious times such as family celebrations when there will be one less person at the table. It can also be felt at the times we least expect - whilst watching the tv or in the supermarket. Either way, at times like these we wonder where our loved ones are and why they are not here with us now.

Despite that, Paul , the writer of those words, does not want us to be sad today. Death is one of the most painful realities of life, and yet there are some things that even it cannot take from you - the memories and stories that you will always treasure about N. All those stories and memories if told and shared would give a very varied picture of N�s life and they explain why you love them, why you treasure them, why you will always miss them.

Paul, who wrote the reading we heard, wants that gaping hole of sadness that we may feel filled with hope - a hope based on Jesus� own death and his rising again.

Jesus� death and resurrection are at the very heart of what all Christians believe. Christians believe that for those who place their faith in Jesus, death is not the end of life - leaving pain and emptiness for others - rather it is a welcome return to the loving God who created all things. Jesus� death offers each one of us hope in the face of death if we place our trust in him. Jesus� resurrection offers each one of us life with God for all eternity if we place our faith and trust in him.

God isn�t waiting to embrace us in love just at the end when we die. He longs every day, every hour, every minute, every second for each one of us to turn to him. God loves like a parent should love their child - no matter who we are, where we are, or what we do - God goes on loving us; in times of joy, in times of great sadness, even whether we know it or not.

It is my prayer that you know something of that love today and every day. It is a love that Jesus showed throughout his life by bringing wholeness and healing to the broken, joy to the downtrodden, salvation to those bound in the troubles and trials of the world, and life to the dead.

It�s that love that reaches out to us still in Jesus. It is that love that love that will, I pray give you the resources you need in the times ahead. It is that love that offers the hope that Paul writes of - even in the face of death, and it is to that death-defying love that we commit N today. Amen.
Based on 1Thessalonians 4:13-18

Cheers it's good to be back!