Tag Archives: worship

Sermon

I’ve been learning how to be a local preacher since November and today (well, yesterday now) I delivered my first sermon since starting training. I hope to post a selection of the sermons on here as I progress through my training so I can see how I’m developing. I hope there will be improvement and any comments would be appreciated if you’re mad enough to read the whole thing. So here goes…
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Readings: Acts 10:44 – 48, 1 John 5:1 – 6, John 15:9 – 17

Do you ever have those days when you just end up really annoyed at someone? It doesn’t matter what they have or haven’t done but you’re still annoyed? I know I do. Not often but it still happens. It was after one of those days that I ended up on the phone to a friend of mine whinging about it. He’s great at calming me down in these situations by using a mixture of understanding and sarcasm. Do you know what he said about it? Ever sympathetic, he said:
“Don’t worry Jo. You aren’t asked to like everyone.
You’re asked to love them.”
It’s a good thing that you can’t see a scowl or withering look down the phone line – even if it’s in response to a semi-sarcastic comment!
Despite my immediate reaction, this seems an interesting way to start to look at the theme of love. Love is something fantastic, brilliant, wonderful and forms the target for all Christians, to love one another and to love God. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
But what does this mean for us?
My friend pointed out that there can be difficulties and times when this really isn’t easy to do. The story we heard from Acts suggests that the request to love one another can really push our comfort zones.
In the story, we hear of Peter preaching to a congregation of circumcised and uncircumcised people. The circumcised people, former members of the Jewish community, are surprised by the way the Holy Spirit is poured upon the Gentiles. At the time, early Christians were still trying to establish whether they thought that the Gospel was only for people of Jewish origin and this very clearly, very publicly, very unashamedly proves that it’s not. What else can we learn about life at the time? Peter, himself, had just had a vision which challenged his own opinion. He was a man who had never profaned himself and obeyed the laws of the Jewish community but had just been told that they no longer matter! In the Christian community, these laws just don’t apply! Peter was confused by this image and didn’t know what it meant, then he met Cornelius. Cornelius was a Roman Centurion (albeit a respected one) and a Christian, but not only was he not Jewish, he was Italian – an invader and a gentile. This framed Peter’s vision and led to him welcoming Cornelius into the community and into his home. Gentiles, Samaritans, Italians and others like Cornelius were outsiders. The country had been invaded by the Romans but was still allowed comparative freedom. The Jewish authorities were still in charge of their communities and so the Gentiles and others were people who fell outside those laws. Including ‘outsiders’ in the new Christian community had the danger of further alienating the Jewish community many early Christians had grown up in.
To believe that ‘Jesus is the Son of God’ as John said in his letter, cost followers everything. Even if they weren’t actually killed for it, they were being asked to give up everything they knew, their communities, their life; to join a new, different, radical, dangerous movement. And they were asked to love, welcome and accept all the members, regardless of who they are or were before becoming Christians – just as Cornelius was welcomed by Peter. Sounds like rather a challenge, doesn’t it? However much an invading soldier was respected, he was still an invading soldier. If Cornelius could be welcomed, then it showed that anyone could. Regardless of anything that had defined a person before becoming a Christian, all were welcomed. None of the old rules apply and we’re invited into a new way of living. Peter is reported as saying:
“You yourself know that it is unlawful for a Jew to be associated with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”
This is a fantastic aspiration, to say that nobody is profane or unclean. As Christians, most of us don’t hold to the laws of the old testament – we eat shell fish, we wear mixed fibres, we don’t have the same views of what is clean but we do still have ideas about what forms acceptable practice. The old rules no longer apply, but have we made new ones?
Does the Christian community welcome everyone into its fold regardless of background? I’m sad to say that I don’t think we do. If you ask people outside the church, and some inside, to describe it, I doubt many would use the adjectives ‘welcoming’ or ‘inclusive’. That falls to each of us in turn to live out and most of us have one group of people or another that we are uncomfortable around. Each of us is likely to have a blind spot. I welcome everyone! Except…
Blind spots are a problem, but not an insurmountable one. That’s why when I was taught to drive I was asked to acknowledge them and learn to work around them. Blind spots are the areas we can’t see in our mirrors when we’re in the drivers seat. If we can’t see what’s coming up behind us, we just don’t know. When we acknowledge our blind spots, we can address them. When we’re driving, we know that we won’t hit anything or get hit ourselves. When we think about ourselves, we need to think about what we are unwilling to admit or try to hide. What are we unable or unwilling to see? Our challenge is to consider who it is who pushes our comfort zones. Who makes you feel uncomfortable? Who is in your blind spot? Is it an individual or a group of people? It could be rich or poor, young or old, people defined by their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality? People from different social backgrounds or geographical locations? Only you know. well, only you and God. We may try to convince ourselves and those around us that these blind spots are nothing of significance but God knows in our hearts. In his first letter, John says:
“Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him (Jesus).’ but does not obey his commandments, is a liar and in such a person truth does not exist.”
We need to learn to accept our blind spots and work around them. Hiding them and denying them is not acceptable. John says that to not live out this love is as bad as not believing in Jesus at all! Not an easy challenge but we’re already responding and sharing our love with those we welcome and include. The difficulty comes when we have to demonstrate our love to people outside this group. How do we learn to do this? John suggests that we should “love not in word or speech, but in truth and action”. He is teaching us a way of living out the commandment – intention and belief are good but not enough. It’s through the actions and truth that we live out the commandment best.
This is a reflection of God’s love for us. God’s love has been repeatedly demonstrated through actions – sending Jesus to live amongst us being the biggest and best of all. Jesus – the truth – calls us to love him and to love one another as he loves us. He set us the example and an example that seems impossible to live up to. His love for us is unconditional and beyond comprehension. We have been chosen by Jesus and welcomed into his love. This is a love that overcomes everything. We are loved. Each of us. Nothing can separate us from this love. *This* is the love we are united in and the love we are challenged to share with those around us. There is nothing that should stop us from loving each other, just as there is nothing that can stop Jesus loving us. He says, himself,
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”
We are still asked to keep the commandments – to love Jesus and to love one another – but that is not supposed to be a chore. We heard it in our reading from 1 John earlier. It may not be easy to love everyone, we still have our blind spots, but that is not the same.
John says,
“Since God loves us so much, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us.”
Through Jesus’ love and by living out the commandments, God’s love is perfected in us. Jesus tells of the joy that this brings when he says,
“I have said these things to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
As we remember these messages of hope, love and joy, let us think back to those people who challenge us. Let us spend a few moments reflecting that there is nobody outside the love of Christ. Think of the people who we love and welcome. Think of the people we shun and exclude. As we bring these people and ourselves to God we ask that we are strengthened as we try to share his love. Whatever the situation, whatever the location, whoever the person, let us live out this love as faithfully and as honestly as we can.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Amen

General update

The only thing that I’ve really dropped by to talk about lately is the state of my flat. Fortunately it is not the whole sum of my life and I have been really quite busy with other things – local preaching, w*rk, flat hunting, social life…

Local preaching
I’ve been involved in leading services since December and I have been given the date of the first sermon which is some time in the future (obviously). I *might* tell you when it is, nearer the time, but I might not as it will be quite scary. Mothering Sunday is a bit daunting too but at least I don’t have to do the sermon. Things progress with my tutor and progress is being made – I hope. I’ve also survived my first local preachers’ meeting and really didn’t find it too traumatic.
It’s also all a good excuse to find out more about Methodism (which I’m a relatively late convert to) by asking many of my (poor, unfortunate) friends. Fortunately the ones I’m thinking of don’t read my blog, to the best of my knowledge… I had a really good chat with one of them today which was really nice. It’s good to be able to do these kind of things which aren’t related to w*rk. Which leads nicely to…

W*rk
On the whole I don’t discuss too much about w*rk, so I hope you’ll tolerate a brief update only. As ERG has already blogged about and mentioned by Blonde, there was a conference recently. It’s also been hinted that I was involved in it… It was a very good but hard work weekend. I really did manage to enjoy it too, which is a bonus. The atmosphere just seemed so lovely and I’m really glad and relieved it turned out okay.
About a month ago, I went to an interfaith conference. It was absolutely brilliant. I got to learn so much more about Islam, Judaism and the Ba’hai faith. It was really enjoyable and I’m so lucky to be able to do things like this as part of my job. Woohoo.
There is another residential coming up at the end of the month and it’s probable that there will be more than one wiblogger there too. It’s always nice to catch up with wibloggers, especially when they come to my city. He he he.

Flat hunting
I’ve now started flat hunting. I’ve seen… one. Unfortunately it was too small but at least I’ve started. I cancelled todays appointment as I didn’t like the agent. The one advantage of the current situation is that there is no real urgency to leave so I can pick and choose. I’m not looking forward to the next stage of the war with the landlord. The agency are best described as… not all that helpful. They want to hold a meeting in my flat with me and the landlord present. I’m really not looking forward to that at all and I hope to recruit someone to keep me company. It’s possible that it will be a long and drawn out war but that’s what it now is. I’m going to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau on Thursday and I hope that they will be some help. Anyway, all I need now is somewhere new to live…

Social Life
I’ve recently developed one! It’s great. I’ve been to a birthday do each weekend for the last three weeks! Mum reckons I should get friends who live closer together as I’ve been to Leeds, Manchester and London for the events. I guess it’s a good thing that I live somewhere in the middle of all those places. It’s been really nice to catch up with folk, and it’s been an entirely different set each weekend – me being the the only point of overlap. I’ve seen uni friends, church friends and w*rk friends. It’s fantastic.
During the last weekend, I did get accused of drinking a little too much (alcohol). This was just my luck as I had only water but it entirely goes to prove you don’t need alcohol to have a good time. It was so much fun… Singing along merrily to Abba, Grease and a whole bunch of other cheesy music. I think there should be more evenings like that.
This week I should be going to see someone I know through work in a play. That should be good fun too. I’m not really trying to spend time outside my flat, honest. 😉

Well, I guess if my life is just *that* hectic(!) I should get to point (5) on the things to do list (below)… Go to bed.
Night all.

Flat stuff again and smiles

Today I feel just great.

Okay, I’ll do the negative stuff first – I still haven’t finished sorting out my flat or even managed to email the agency. Oops. I need to make some progress today as some people have invited themselves round on Tuesday. *exasperated* I’ll get there but currently I’m procrastinating.

Today is such a lovely day. It’s the kind of weather I like – cold and sunny, but not too cold. There’s blue sky and not much wind. It’s lovely. I was involved with a service this morning and I thought it went really well (considering). We’d been planning it over the phone as both of us were far to busy to actually meet until this morning. Oops. 😉 There were also very few people there but it was such a great atmosphere.
It’s the first service I’ve done where it’s actually involved what I think in the planning for the whole service rather than just the bits I’ve been allocated or chosen. It was true team-work and was great. I came out of the service really buzzing despite still feeling anxious at midnight having not finished writing the prayers.

I’ve also had the opportunity to catch up on a good number of blogs this morning so I can see what people have been up to (or not). That was nice, then I went for a wander to a new pub for lunch (my reward for doing services). It was brilliant just having the opportunity to wander around, have a nice lunch and start contemplating two of my next three services. As a friend said, it’s amazing how productive procrastination can be.

Now for decisions, do I carry on knitting said friend her scarf, or carry on planning services, or tidy up, or have an afternoon nap? Maybe I’ll let you know later? Who knows?

Curses and Swearing will be omitted (or at least hidden). Honest

If you’ve heard me rant about housemates before, please switch off now. The events are different but the person is the same!

I really wish some things would be left to lie. Some of my house mates I was sad to leave behind at the end of last year, others I was hoping I’d never hear from again. Even to let me know they were dead, assuming they ever are. Since then some I’ve wished to keep in touch with, I don’t ever get round to talking to and others who I don’t want to hear from are still trying to talk to me. Do they not get the message.

Last night I decided to go swimming. A good move, and I swam 40 lengths and then waited an hour in the snow for the bus. Brrrr…. That’s why I didn’t blog last night. I was frozen. It was a good session, and hopefully next week I’ll manage 50! It had been a long day at work and I was bleary eyed from filing over 1000 sheets of paper, so I went swimming to help me sleep. When I got back I collapsed in front of the telly. It was the first time I’ve watched it in ages (although I watched it again tonight – shock!).

When I came up to settle down for the night I saw that I’d been phoned, and didn’t recognise the number so texted to find out who it was. This was my stupid mistake. The ******* started playing silly bees with me and wouldn’t give me a straight answer. Saying that it only took two replies from the other end to let me know who it was, at which point I denied all knowledge of myself. We’ve had big problems via electronic media twice before and I NEVER EVER want to see this person ever again. I tried to convince the person at the other end that they had the wrong number but it didn’t work at all. I received all sorts of horrible message and the phone wouldn’t stop ‘ringing’ (how can a silent phone ring?) until well into the morning. I know that this is a convent and we go to bed (comparatively early, honest) but I’m hardly going to be able to talk at that time of night! We have a time at which silence is required, and it’s definately BEFORE midnight.

As a result of this **** I contacted the service provider to try and get the number barred from calling me, it upset me THAT much, but apparently they don’t do that. They advised that I report the incident to the police but that seems something of a harsh response when the person was probably drunk or stoned. Anyway, the git would probably have even more of a go at me if the police got involved, so I’m left with the hope that I never hear from them again. I can dream.

On a more positive note, w*rk is going well. Or at least I think it is. I’ve come up with a cunning plan for not wasting so many trees, I’ll make CD’s instead. This proposal has gone down well. I forgot to take my timesheet to the agency today so I’ll have to go tomorrow. Oops.

I also went to a good alternative worship thing this evening, complete without tv’s, computers and anything particularly complicated. We had a little music, some stones, pens and paper and some sweets. It was nice. It was also in the chapel so I didn’t have to go too far.

Anyway, gtg. Night all.