The Church is the people of God, and although we are physically separate, we continue to worship together with one heart and mind:
- Many of us are praying at 10am every Sunday
- BBC1 10:45am: Sarah Bradley leads a service for the First Sunday after Trinity from Manchester’s Holy Trinity Platt Church, where the preacher is the Rev Dr Paul Mathole.
- Songs of Praise (1:15pm)
- Revd Graeme Holdsworth takes Holy Communion at 6pm, in his study on behalf of our community
- Morning Prayer is said every day
Helen Royston has graciously recorded the rather long Bible reading today, and due to the weather we’ve had, I was stood at a social distance in the rain. This has led to a bit of background noise for which I apologise. The rain here in the Colne Valley is remarkably soft: when the weight had eased off a bit I found myself caught in gentle rain later in the day and it was unexpectedly refreshing. Today’s Bible reading is Matthew 9:35 – 10:8-23 which can be found, together with the Old Testament reading, here. Please also look for the reading in your favourite translation of the Bible.
God of truth,
help us to keep your law of love
and to walk in ways of wisdom,
that we may find true life
in Jesus Christ your Son
Transcription of the Sermon for those who prefer to read…
May I speak in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Over the last few week’s sermons I have been prompting you to think about your faith, your relationship with Jesus, and the nature of the church. I haven’t offered too many answers. Our faith grows when we are curious, and all faith, no matter how experienced, has room for growth.
It gives me immense joy every time someone calls me, or writes back to me and says, “you helped me think”, or, “I learned something new about myself”, or “about Jesus” or “about the Church”.
Over the past few weeks:
- I have heard people tell me about how they came to faith and how it has made a difference in their lives.
- I have heard people tell me that thinking of Jesus as a Syrian refugee has really changed the way they think about Jesus.
- I have heard people tell me that they’d never thought of themselves as ‘the Church’ and always thought of Church as something that they went to. That ‘being Church’ has already made a difference to the way they think about worship, or Sundays, or the Church’s role in the world.
- I have also had people tell me that no one has ever encouraged them to ask questions before. That asking questions is a sign of weakness and admitting in front of others that you didn’t know the answer.
But when we admit to ourselves that we don’t know the answer, and when we admit that in public, we give permission to other people to admit that they don’t know either. It is a sacrificial act to admit your uncertainty, because there is a risk that people will make fun of you, there is a risk that unscrupulous people will use it to gain power over you, but the gift of admitting that you don’t know the answer is that other people who feel uncertain are encouraged by your humility. Encouraged by your weakness.
- In your weakness, God’s glory shines out
- Through broken pots of clay, the love of Jesus shines out
- God’s glory is found not in the strength of human endeavour – but in the powerlessness of the widow and orphan
Which brings me to the role of our church in the world today and the Gospel we’ve just heard.
In Jesus’ ministry, he has called people to follow him. He has taught them about the Good News of the Kingdom of heaven. Some have believed and some have doubted. Those who have followed his teachings he calls his disciples, and he sends them out to bring this Good News to others.
The Church is simply a gathering of the people of God, wherever they are in their faith: certain or uncertain. Our gathering serves a few purposes, two of which are; to grow in the knowledge and love of God, and to invite others to join us in this growing understanding. There are other reasons, but these are two. I am praying for this growth. I hope you are joining me in praying for this growth.
If we see people join us, will we recognise this as an answer to prayer?
If we see people join us, will we be able to share the Good News with them?
I have asked you many questions and now I’m asking you what the Good News is. Are you curious? What do you think the Good News is? Jesus talks about it all the time, “Good News! The Kingdom of heaven has come near!”
You may want to pause this audio recording now and make some notes about what you think the Good News actually is.
The Good News is: that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus came to live among us. Therefore God took the essence of humanity into God. We, humanity, have the empathy of the Creator God: God knows what it is like to laugh, cry, joke, eat. Jesus’ first miracle was a response to embarrassment – and it was a generous over abundant response of far too much wine at a party that had finished off the first lot of drink already. God understands what it is like to have a close friend get sick, or die. God knows what it is like to be tortured and executed like a convicted criminal. Jesus has taken all this physical experience into God and then God has shown, in Jesus, that death has no more power over humanity.
The Good News is that God, knowing what humanity is like, still loves us completely, no matter how far from God we turn. God doesn’t Lord it over us, showing his power and making us cower at his majesty: instead God the Creator, puts humanity’s needs before God’s own needs.
God doesn’t look at the rich and famous and say, “Well done.” God looks at the world of injustice and says, I stand with those who are oppressed. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are those who suffer injustice. I say so, says God. I say they are blessed.
What does the good news mean to me? That I don’t need to be afraid anymore. That lack of fear brings me here to the Colne Valley with an uncertain job and an uncertain future.
- I am uncertain I have the right words to help and I am uncertain I know how to grow the church, and despite that, I am not afraid
- The world may contain people who would laugh at me, mock me, but I am not afraid
- The world may contain people who would bully me, or try to exercise some kind of power over me, but I am not afraid
I am liberated by God’s love, liberated by the Good News and I have a passion for seeing all those who are oppressed experience the same liberation. What does the Good News mean to me – that I can live life to the full today. The Kingdom of heaven has genuinely drawn near, where every tear is wiped away, where there is no more mourning and no more suffering.
I long to see the people of these villages experience the same liberation. I long to see everyone within our church communities be able to articulate what the Good News means to them personally
- Why is the Kingdom of heaven drawing near to you?
- How is Jesus life and death Good News in your life?
I can share with you what I believe, but I don’t want you to learn my answers. We are all individuals, and we each have our own life experiences of laughter, joy, sorrow and pain. It is into these experiences that Jesus bring the good news in a way which respects the experience of your life. And I pray once again:
help us to grow in the knowledge and love of you
and of your Son Jesus Christ.
Help us to grow as a church.
Help us to recognise anyone who walks through our doors
as an answer to prayer.
Help us to lead others to Jesus
and learn of the liberation of the Kingdom of heaven
in all our lives.
Lord hear us
Lord, graciously hear us