Reflection – 10 May 2020

Here is Martin Frost’s reflection for Sunday.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. If you want to join in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for details. We’d love to see you.

Mark

London Road Congregational Church 10 May 2020

 Message

Coming out of Lockdown.

Call to Worship: Psalm 121

I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold He who keeps Israel, shall neither slumber nor sleep.

 

Prayer

Father thank you that when we turn to you, you are there and have always been there. Wherever we are this morning, as our heavenly Father, you wait the return of your child into your arms. Thank you for this time this morning to focus once again on you. We lift our eyes and our praise to you and give you, this morning the worship you deserve.

 

Hymn: Where My Feet May Fall. You won’t know it but let it bless you listening to the words.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GGFb6LcX3U

Lyrics for those who can’t see the video:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

 

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

 

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

(x3)

 

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Prayers:

For those who are isolated from family and friends – that God will draw near

For those looking to leave isolation – that God will give them peace in this change

For those caring for the sick and vulnerable – that they will be protected by God

For those working in the community to keep us safe – that God will guide them.

For those making decisions about our communities – that God will give wisdom

 

We pray this morning for each of us as we gather together, that God will be a real presence to us this morning.

We pray for those who can’t be with us, that God’s presence will reach out to them and they will be blessed.

We pray for the deacons and members of the Church as we look for ways to go forward.

 

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy Name;

Thy kingdom come;

Thy will be done

in earth, as it is in heaven:

Give us this day our daily bread;

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive them that trespass against us;

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom,

the power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Message – Acts 8:26-40

The last time I spoke I talked about Thomas’ poor treatment and how sometimes something happens that we can’t deal with that shakes our faith. The disciples and followers of Jesus were locked in a room, fearful for their lives and Jesus met them where they were. We have been going through this period of lockdown and, in different ways, Jesus has been meeting with us, our needs, our spiritual lives and our times gathered together. A lot of people are now talking about a ‘pathway’ out of lockdown and it has struck me that, for us, this is a time when we are seeing changes in the church and perhaps to consider the pathway out of our lockdown. This is an amazing opportunity to look at how we are going to move forward. The theme for the next couple of months is going to be God’s resources and toolkit. So, as the disciples and we come out of lockdown I’d like us to reflect on what we have been left with, what we have been given and how we may move forward.

 

  1. When all has been stripped away, what is left – what’s my tool bag?

 

The fact that we can no longer meet in our buildings has not meant that we cannot gather together anymore. Quite the opposite, whilst some have not managed to join us this way, the people who have connections to the church have gathered in greater number. Perhaps what and who we think of as church needs to be reconsidered.  The church was never intended to be the building, we are blessed with facilities that can be used by the community, but that is not the church. We are the church and we are still gathering. The church in Newark may gather in different buildings but there have been blurring of lines and the fellowship, guided by the Holy Spirit, has shown links that weren’t evident before. When we can meet in our buildings again, we will probably go back to our old buildings, but I think a new understanding of the church in Newark may have begun to emerge. Rather than different churches coming together at times as one church, the one church also meets in different places.

 

The people who are the church have flourished in some ways. I have really enjoyed meeting with brothers and sisters from different groups. I have enjoyed being challenged to think about how we can share fellowship when we can’t be together. When you take away the religion, religious practice and have fellowship with one another what is important, what can go and what can stay. Not to create a new religion, but to help us focus on what is important in our worship.

 

  1. What have we got to rely on – Do our tools have to be special or just specific – label or right for the job?

 

In the story about Philip he is led by the prompting of God, in this case through an angel. Within the protestant tradition there isn’t a big emphasis on angels, possibly as a reaction to certain misuses before the reformation. Just because we don’t focus on angels doesn’t mean God has not provided them as a means of guidance at time. They are there at various times in the Bible when God wants to speak to people. It would be foolish to discount them just because they are not utilised in our tradition. Perhaps we have something to learn from other traditions and not to dismiss them. The fact that there are people who have met with us from these traditions has been an opportunity to re-evaluate what is in our toolkit to help us. At the same time, when it came time for the eunuch to be baptised they did not have to wait for some ‘special’ ‘religious’ water to be used. It was the ordinary things that God used to baptise the eunuch. The key thing was his heart being right with God. We can get caught up in the idea that things can only be done in a certain way, it is in the ordinary, with our cups of tea and sofas that God has met with us. It will be in the ordinary gatherings in the pub, or book club or film club, or choir, or mothers and toddlers that God can meet with us. Not necessarily in a religious way, but in the ordinary. The encounter we have read about wasn’t in a building, it was in the ordinary events of life.

 

But, in that ordinary life, the word became real to the eunuch because it was explained to him. It was shown to be relevant in that situation. We need to think about how we can share the Gospel in the ordinary life rather than hiding it away for Sundays. The worst thing we can do though is to try and do it religiously.

 

  1. Who can we turn to – who can use the tools?

 

It says that Philip went off from there, preaching in different cities until he got to Caesarea. 20 years later we come across Philip again and guess where he was, Caesarea.  Whilst Paul and Simon have various missionary journeys, Philip was told to go somewhere. When he was there, he stayed there and got on with his life. As part of that life he spoke to others about Jesus. Philip was one of the seven who were chosen in Acts 6 to look after the needs of the church so that the other apostles can focus on prayer and ministry of the word – be ministers. Some see this as the first example of deacons. But it goes beyond that as well. There are some who are called to be minister of the word, but all of us are called to minister God’s gifts. One of the things Congregationalists can share is the focus on the priesthood of all believers. We have all been given tools we can use to help people draw close to God. As we come out of lockdown it is a good opportunity to not just look to one or a few people to ‘do’ things in the church, but for the church as a whole to look at what it can do. Philip spent at least 20 years just living and as part of that sharing the Gospel. Philip wasn’t called to the ministry, he just ministered. Not all of us are called to the ministry – we just need to minister and use our tools.

 

Final Hymn: Take Courage

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyKnjSSWSSE

Lyrics for those who can’t see the video

Slow down, take time
Breath in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind

Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

 

Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His Words lead you on
Do not forget His great faithfulness
He’ll finish all He’s begun

 

So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

 

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

 

And You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep, Your promise to me
That I will rise, in Your victory (x2)

 

So take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
And hold onto your hope
Watch your triumph unfold
He’s never failing
He’s never failing (x2)

 

He’s in the waiting (x6)

Waiting

 

The Grace.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all,

now and forevermore.

Amen

 

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