Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Sunday 2013

Like many churches we had a wonderful turn out to our Easter Sunday morning service .
It really is one of my favourite days of the year as it really is such a powerful message, that because Christ is Risen -Everything is different !
One of the blessings of leading services these days, is that there is so much good stuff you can show on the video/projector, and when we lost the services of Liz due to illness, who was going to do our children's talk, we were able instead to use a very powerful bit from The Miracle Maker series.
I love the Easter songs, both old and new .(and we sung a variety!) At the end of the sermon I gave people a chance to reflect again on the difference Easter makes and as they did so ,played this video,which a number of people commented on ,so I said I would link to it on this blog;so here it is .Happy Easter! He is Risen!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Good Friday 2013 at Central

Over a 100 people came  to  our Good Friday Service at Central.
We wanted to give people an opportunity both to reflect on the events, and respond to the message of the first Good Friday.
We provided this opportunity in most of the usual ways through the bible readings and through  the songs we sung (both ancient and modern), & through use of the video projector and we shared communion together giving people the chance to be prayed for individually ,or as families as they came forward to receive the bread and the wine.
 I always find this point in the service moving as having been around for a while now in Shrewsbury I know both the joys and the struggles many of our people have. 

Instead of a sermon Beryl shared a story she had written imagining what it would have been like to have been the centurion in charge of the execution of Jesus Beryl has a real gift for these stories and brings out many of the parts of the story that are in the Bible but which we often miss
(I have offered to put her Lent series on this blog but she is going to publish them in a book so look out for it!)

We concluded with the wonderful and powerful hymn "And can it be " before sharing the grace together

We then took chocolate and hot cross buns out onto the local streets together with an invitation to join us on Easter Sunday 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Induction Jon Edwards Middlesbrough

I had a  long journey but a wonderful day in Middlesbrough,where I spoke at the induction of Jon Edwards
at South Bank Baptist Church.The church is not placed in an easy situation but it does have enormous potential, and by Gods Grace will grow .The people were very warm and welcoming and as usual there was a huge amount of food afterwards ! I thought I would put the notes for my sermon on the blog
Jon Speaking

It has been a long journey here and it will be a long journey back but let me tell you a secret
We would not have missed this occasion for the world
It is a joy to be here!
I have known Jon longer than he has known Liz
I have known Liz longer than she has known Jon
I admire them both enormously
They are not perfect but they are deeply committed 

They have exercised a committed servant ministry and they will be deeply missed in Ludlow and indeed in Shropshire
Indeed such was the shock at their leaving that the Walls of Ludlow castle collapsed;)  and the pope resigned

Today I want want to say some things to both John and Liz and the church
Don’t be a kind of  miserable religious club

Be the chosen people ,the royal priesthood the holy nation you belong to God

The local Church is not a building full of people it is a people full of God
The church is the people of God called to display his goodness of His reign to the world
The church is the bride of Christ brought into being by Jesus death on the cross
The church is a community of grace energised and empowered by The Holy Spirit
And my challenge to you today as you begin a new phase in your churches life is to become  who you are
Don’t be a religious club

Yes I know you have had a long interregnum,that some of you are probably tired that you may be worrying about money that the building may not be in great shape that the mission field is tough but  Southbank become who you are

You are a living cell in the Body of Christ  Southbank /Jon and Liz we charge you on this special day  become Who  you are
Do not consume time and energy trying to recreate a past that was no doubt good- perhaps at times very good,  but is also long gone

Be the people of God here today right here and right now    
Now Peter was writing to Christians on the margins of their culture
He was writing to people to took a bit of abuse for their faith in Jesus

He was writing at a time when most people in the society would never have dreamt of going to church
This is a missionary document
He was writing to a society a bit like ours!There may have been a time when all you had to do was to ring the bell of the parish church and the faithful (and let’s  be honest not so faithful) would flock to church  That day has long gone
Read v 9-12
Now the word church is first used of the people of God on Mount Sinai  the people of God gathered around Mount Sinai are to live in such a way that they commend the Living God to the Nations

In these verses as Peters readers would have instantly understood Peter is recalling them to Mount Sinai to the place of intimate encounter with God that is where all ministry must begin I often thinking churches including the one I lead could do with less meeting and more encounters for  apart from anything else you will never attract people to Jesus unless you are passionate about Jesus yourself
I have sat in meetings where the things people have got passionate about are what colour should we paint the church doors , should we have a basket or a bag to take up the offering, and should there or should there not be a cross on the church building
How about some passion for  following Jesus rather than for club issues
Give Jon the time the space so he can encounter God He is the source for all ministry Jon you need to make sure you have a Passion for  Jesus

and  having encountered The Living God the church is to live in such a way that they commend God to the Nations by their lives
I have never been here before but I can speak for Shropshire and Herefordshire and I can speak for Glasgow where I spent 8 years and in my experience in our society  very  few people are argued into The Kingdom of God they are usually loved into The Kingdom of God
It doesn’t mean we don’t have to speak the gospel but it does mean that our life in the the community outside the building and indeed the quality of our relationships are to give substance to our words They are to underpin the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to be people that everyone would love to have as their neighbours A people who bless others
This is an austere world for many people I know the North East is not exempt from that
We are to live in tough times so that others will ask the reason for our hope

Nor if you are a Christian this has huge implications  for how you spend your days how you use your time
I used to think my task was to invite people to evangelistic events I am learning that my life is to be an evangelistic event
Mark Greene makes a point we church leaders would do well to listen to
He said tells the story of a  teacher who said to Him I spend one hour a week teaching Sunday school and my Church hauls me up the front to pray for me I spend  the rest of the week being a full time teacher and my church has never prayed for me ..That says it all!
So Jon part of your task is to equip and disciple others to live for Jesus wherever they are  but I want to make a point to the church too and it is this
Don’t keep Jon too busy  to build quality relationships here  Governors
Give Jon the time  ,the space, the permission to put down deep roots in this community, as he did in Ludlow  support him ,encourage him as he shares  his life with the least ,the last ,the lost
Better still join him in that ministry  indeed it is essential that you do for as The African proverb says” If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others.
There is a great deal of criticism and scepticism around these  days I
In the early centuries of the church Christianity grew not because they build big buildings or because they had great conferences or worship bands Christianity grew because Christians cared for the poor ,the widow ,the terminally ill those in prison and even those condemned to death
In times of plague when pagans fled Christians stayed  sometimes at the cost of their own lives No wonder pagan priests spent a lot of time  whinging about the good reputations Christians had

How do you measure a great church The size of its congregation ,the size of it offering the quality of its  worship band ,how many services it has ,how many young people it has how good the preacher is.How big the building is?
That’s all great but we need to change the scorecard for the church
For Jesus judges a church by how good our lives are ,how much we bless others in His name =How much we show His love to a pain-filled and hurting world How well we serve others
I know Jon and Liz are passionate about these things ,they have demonstrated that in powerful ways in Ludlow and elsewhere support them in their passion for people
Indeed I am confident you will
I am not sure if there is such a thing as an average Baptist Minister but if there is let me tell you Jon is not it
But we have heard you have felt led to call him here and he and Liz have felt strongly called to come and I am looking forward to hearing great stories of God working here

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Radio Shropshire Pause for Thought March 17th 2013

It is a few decades ago that, as a spotty teenager, I used to go the Saturday night dances at the old Wem Town Hall

I kidded myself that I looked like Marc Bolan, but on reflection I probably looked more like a youthful Mr Bean

A few weeks ago though I put on my best pair of jeans and a comfy t shirt and I went dancing again

The music was amazing all the old favourites were played, Dancing Queen ,ymca, etc etc alongside the incredible gangham  dance

The DJ was superb but what really made the evening was not the music or the DJ or the lighting but the company.

Some of the dancers were in wheel chairs ,others had Down’s Syndrome ,or epilepsy ,cerebral palsy or autism but my goodness they knew how to have fun in joyful and uninhibited ways …to use a dancing metaphor……. they were having a ball

In the middle of this joyful ,noisy musical chaos ; my attention was drawn to a man who I knew could not speak, and who obviously found communication very difficult. I watched as he walked slowly from one side of the room to the other , over to the most damaged child at the disco ,a child confined in a wheel chair with severe and profound learning difficulties, and with a caring look on his face, that man took the child’s hand and held on tight .

I have to tell you I learned something about love that night was for me a Holy moment 2 damaged human beings sharing love, and I can only marvel, and as one of your colleagues puts it Mike ,Take my hat off to humanity

I have been desperately sad to read stories about what happened not far away at Stafford Hospital or at Winterbourne View ,or stories of abuse in church ,or of killings in Syria stories of the inhumanity human beings are capable of showing each other
This is wrong

The very first book of the bible – Genesis – declares that every man and every woman bears God’s image; that the whole of humankind enjoys this indelible privilege and responsibility. That is a very radical thought

Everybody, every human being is made in God’s image and therefore every human being is of infinite value to God and therefore every human being has value and we should treat each other well

The strange thing is that as my experience at the disco proved very often the people society would regard as damaged have understood and indeed celebrated this profound truth in a way that more intellectual and more powerful people often fail to do.

As someone put it we are in danger of moving from a society that values people and uses things to becoming a society that uses people and values things

We can change that if only we will learn the lessons my friends at the disco were teaching me

Whatever you are doing today

Whether your shopping or playing football ,spending time at home or walking in the countryside How will you treat your fellow human beings ?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Quiet Worship at Central

Long before we reopened our Central press here building we were asked" Are you going to have worship there?"
Our reply became a mantra" we will, but it will be different!"
I think we have been as good as our word and just one year in we have had a whole variety of different services at different times,on different days, to mark different occasions
People have told us how helpful they have found this range of services
Yesterday we had a service of quiet reflection which included prayers (,both silent and spoken) ,a solo , a wonderfully moving testimony and a chance to meditate on scripture 
Our theme was "suffering and a God of love" which we had chosen because we are in Lent
Instead of a talk, I simply read this short passage from the writing of John Stott which I find both powerful and helpful as I think about The Cross

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross.' In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. 'The cross of Christ ... is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours....' 'The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.”

John R.W. Stott, Cross