Easter 2019

Easter will soon be here, and we have lots of services and events in the build-up and over Easter weekend. If you want to know more about what Easter is about or if you want to come and worship the risen Christ, then come and join is at any (or all) of these events.

Minister’s Letter – March 2019

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2nd Corinthians 5 NIVUK)

In recent weeks, I have been very aware of the reality of conflict in our world.

As you know, I am an amateur student of history. The year before I was born (1990), the Berlin wall fell, and Germany was reunited. In the early years of my life, Apartheid in South Africa ended. When I was 8 years old, the Good Friday agreement was signed, and peace (however tentative!) was established in Ireland after decades of conflict.

I look back on these, the events of my childhood, and I reflect that the general sense I have is that this was a relatively peaceful time. Perhaps I am being selective in my memories, or perhaps I was simply a naive child; either way, this was my perception.

As I write this today, this sense of peace has vanished. Instead of tearing down walls, we have a President who is threatening to build one. Instead of encouraging greater acceptance of others, we are shown statistics which state that attacks motivated by racism are on the rise. And, due to breakdown in trust, there has been no functioning government in Northern Ireland since January 2017.

And then, of course, there is Brexit. The deadline is marching ever closer, and our politicians and the general public seem entrenched in their opposing views: no willingness to compromise, no desire work together. I have never known such deep and vitriolic division, and I find it deeply disturbing.

These divides seem so insurmountable that I think it would take nothing short of a miracle to overcome them, bringing about reconciliation.

In the passage above, Paul describes something impossible. He describes how God, because of His love for us, reconciled us to Himself, through Jesus Christ. Now, despite our continued sinfulness, we are counted as God’s children, because He has adopted us through Christ. That is truly miraculous reconciliation!

And God calls us to a ministry of reconciliation. So, while I look at the world and think, “reconciling these divides seems impossible”, God prompts me to remember His reconciliation, and to take the attitude, “with God, all things are possible”.

We are all called to model God’s reconciliation. I hope, therefore, that you will take this ministry of reconciliation seriously, especially as our world seems to become more divided.

God bless,

Stuart

 

The Beatitudes/Sermon on the Mount

Minister’s Letter – February 2019

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1st Corinthians 10:31 NIVUK)

I was really struggling to find inspiration for this month’s letter; but thanks to a walk, God gave me some!

I had to pick up a parcel at the local Royal Mail Depot. I thought about jumping in the car, and the journey would have taken around 10 minutes in total. But, it was a nice day (sunny, but cold) and the combination of a quieter-than-usual morning plus a serious need to improve my health meant I decided to just walk there any back.

On this walk, not only did I achieve over 7000 of my 10,000 daily-step target, but I also managed the following:
· Bumped into and caught up with a couple of congregation members;
· Helped a lost lady find the place she was looking for (with some assistance from my smart phone!);
· Invested in a local business by picking up some messages on my way past;
· Spent some time in prayer (with my eyes open, of course);
· Planned the structure of the sermon for Sunday coming;
· Planned this month’s congregational letter (in my head, and which I am now typing);· Oh, and picked up the parcel, which was my whole reason for being out!

As I reflected on all this, I was reminded of our verse of the year: “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”. So much of my walk had involved God: in those chance meetings with people, to the time I was able to spend “in His company” thinking and praying about things. It was, for me, a tangible example of one thing I hope we can realise this year: that we can and are to glorify God in all things we do.

Yet, this walk also reminded me that this also happens “in the other direction”, so to speak. Not only are we to glorify God in all that we do: God can and will use even the most ordinary circumstances for His glory!

I don’t think it was a coincidence that I decided to walk to get that parcel. I believe God lead me to that decision, and in doing so, used my ordinary walk for His glory: as I spent time with Him, but also encountered others along the way, hopefully showing something of Him in our interactions.

I want to, therefore, encourage you to continue to seek to glorify God in all you do, but also to realise that God can use all circumstances and situations, even the mundane and every-day, for His glory. Don’t ever believe that you are too insignificant or dull to ever be of use to God: He can and will use all things and all people for His glory – even a walk to pick up a parcel.

May God bless you,

Stuart

Church Teams

Verse of the Year: 2019

Minister’s Letter – January 2019

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1st Corinthians 10:31 NIVUK)

The question, “why?” is an important one.

It is often one of the most basic questions a person can ask. Children will ask things like, “why is the sky blue?”. The question, “why?” is frequently an attempt by one person to understand something. Granted, frequently asking the question over and over can become annoying (again, I am thinking of children), but it is nonetheless an attempt to gain understanding.

How we respond to the question, “why?” is also important.

We could respond dismissively; “because this is just the way it is!” That may well end the line of questioning, but it will often leave the questioner dissatisfied. Indeed, if we think about it, we haven’t really answered the question at all!

As Christians, I believe the question “why?” is one we should continually ask: of ourselves, and of the Church. Why do be believe what we do, or behave in the way we do? Why does the Church do certain things in worship and in service?

Equally, how we answer these questions truly matters. If the answer is, “because it’s always been this way”… well, that’s not good enough! We are not called to be unthinking automatons who mindlessly follow: we are the People of God, redeemed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and we should know why we do what we do – seen as we are meant to be doing it in His name!

I, therefore, encourage the question of “why?”. By reflecting on why we believe or do certain things, we will either reinforce that we are doing the right thing, or challenge ourselves to move toward the right thing. It is for this reason that our over-arching theme of 2019 is that question: Why? It is an invitation for us all to reflect on our Christian living, and on the life of our congregation, and to ensure we are doing the right things for God.

Because, ultimately, that is what matters. As we ask, “why” and reflect on the answer, we should eventually reach the foundational answer: we do this for the glory of God. It is the glory of God alone which should matter most to us as Christians, and it is His glory we should seek in all we do.

If we are confident that what we say/do/believe glorifies God, then let us do it all the more. If what we say/do/believe does not glorify God, then we would do well to set it aside, so we can concentrate more on the things which do bring Him glory.

I pray God’s blessing upon you as we begin this new year of reflection, asking the question, “why?”.

God bless,
Stuar

Advent Prayers