Celebrating Disciples past and present

Jesus called us to be disciples – that’s what the Great Commission says. “Go and make disciples.” Make disciples – makes me think of playing with playdough – being moulded and made into disciples. Jesus also says that we have to give up our lives in order to receive true life. Discipleship is kinda hard work and it is no wonder we want to run away and let someone else do all the hard work. Perhaps that is why we got Ministers – let them be made into disciples and lead us or perhaps it was control the Ministers and slow down the disciple making????

However discipleship is a great adventure and I would fully recommend it (though getting a dog collar and Reverend added to your name is not compulsory!). This Sunday we celebrate a saint, a disciple who journeyed in the family of Forth St Paul’s and went to be with Jesus this time last year. And we welcome two new members by profession of faith and promises that will shape them and make them disciples. Three promises – the UP focussing on developing their relationship with God just as Jesus did; the IN focussing on developing their relationship within the Christian family just as Jesus did with his disciples and the OUT focussing on developing their calling in the mission field of God’s world.

As the summer rest period continues take time on the UP to listen again to God, to abide in his presence whilst the IN element slows down and the OUT element continues to wrestle with the problems of the economy and welfare state. Listen for God’s healing words, feel his gentle touch and be aware of how he is making you grow and thrive in the environment he has placed you. You have a purpose. You are here for a reason. God is making you more of a disciple with every moment that passes. You are unique. You are loved. And God believes in you.

Dare you be made into a disciple today? And what will you do to make more disciples?

God bless your faith journey today and grant you answers.
Love Sarah

Saved for what?

Many of us see Easter as a time when we are saved. Saved perhaps from an angry God. Saved from eternal damnation. Saved from death itself. But have you ever wondered what you were saved for? Most of us know what we are saved from but few ever contemplate fully what we were saved for. The disciples didn’t get set free from their mission and sent home when Jesus rose again. If anything their workload increased.

We have been saved from eternal damnation but in the process we have been saved for a purpose. We all have a common purpose but not the same calling. Some of us are apostles, some evangelists, some prophets, some teachers, some pastors, some deacons, some elders – all working towards to the great commission.

We have been saved but not for selfish gain. For God so loved the world he sent his one and only son…you know the rest.

As we ride the joy of Easter lets have the confidence to find out what we have been saved for not just from…

God bless,
Love Sarah

The Easter Cross

The road to the cross was long and bleak yet with sparks of light bursting through. Jesus spoke of his death often yet always with a promise of something spectacular to come. In the story of betrayal by Judas a moment of beautiful worship is also recorded balancing the positive with the negative. At a point in time when Jesus must have felt so alone along comes Mary with her jar of expensive perfume. Peter denies Jesus three times in the courtyard yet he was there – his attempt, however flawed, to be there with Jesus. Even in the face of fear and certain death Jesus gathered with his friends around a table in Jerusalem – the heart of the lion’s den.
Imagine for a moment if Pilate had listened to his wife who told him to have nothing to do with Jesus. Imagine if Pilate had said no to the crucifixion…there would be no cross. Even Pilate had to carry a cross for God.
Sometimes we must pass through the valley of the shadow of death before we can witness God’s awesome power and love. For when we hit rock bottom and allof the world appears at least to have turned its back on us, God is still there. To know joy we must know suffering. To know love we must know hate. To know life we must know death.
Yet even in death God is there. He never leaves us nor abandons us. Jesus may have felt abandoned by God on the cross for there is only so much the human form can take. Jesus understands the absence of God – those times when we wonder if God is even present.
Yet even in death God was there – as creation herself mourned the death of her creator in the earthquake and the sky. Human religion – a structure built upon the premise of God was torn in two as the curtain split. All mourned the death of Jesus on the cross as did we on Friday night.
Yet the cross is the heart of the story – an important part without a doubt. We cannot follow Christ without taking up our cross and following the plan God has for each and every one of us. But we are not called to carry our cross alone…
Jesus needed the help of others with his cross and he too helps us carry ours. Mary helped to carry Jesus’ cross with her perfume. Simon of Cyrene carried the physical cross. Peter help to carry the cross with his loyalty for with his sword and in his tears was the gift of loyalty. We too helped Jesus to carry his cross as we remembered that fateful day.
However if we believe that we must carry the cross we must also believe in the resurrection for why else would we even contemplate carrying the cross.
The cross is a promise fulfilled
– a gift of redemption offered willingly and without prejudice to the whole world.
A gift of life – not earned with good works, martyrdom or money but a gift given to all who would recognise that God is the one true God and there are no others like him.
A gift of hope – that this is not all there is. Yes like Jesus we are called to make better what we have through sharing the gifts of the spirit, healing the sick, bringing good news to the poor, reaching out with hands of justice and love. This world is not to be left to go to rack and ruin but rather to be enhanced by all who have witnessed God’s great love for us.
We hold onto the cross as the symbol of our faith because the cross reminds us that the path we are called to walk, the narrow way is a path that may be littered with suffering, stress, frustration and betrayal but it is also scattered along this path is light, peace and life.
We celebrate an empty tomb with an empty cross. We look to Jesus and know that the marks are still on his hands and feet – an eternal reminder of his gift of life.
Will people see the nail marks in our hands and feet and know that we too have received the gift of life, and that we too carry our cross?
Without the resurrection there is no hope, no peace, no life. Without the resurrection all is for nowt and there is no point to any of this. Without the resurrection there is no eternal refuge for any of us.
But with the resurrection there is hope, peace and life. The Fall as we understand it separated us from God and there was nothing we could do by ourselves to fix it. God himself rewrote the rule book in our favour and made it possible for us – creatures made from dust to once again experience the fullness of the divine relationship.
Jesus was able to lay down his cross as he left the tomb. We too will lay down our cross when we leave the tomb. But until then we live confidently as Jesus did knowing that it will be worth every heartache, every struggle, every moment of joy to walk once again in the garden with God.

Spot the BOND titles…

Reflection: Hero-Worship

 

Within this reflection is a small challenge issued to everyone who cares to accept it.  Dotted throughout it are the titles of Bond movies and you are invited to spot as many as you can.  So for example in the course of this you might hear me say Octopussy and mentally or with a pen mark it off.  There are about 19 titles. 

In the course of planning this service I have heard so much about James Bond that I thought it might be worthwhile exploring this theme.  Is Jesus the ultimate secret agent?  He might not come with guns and explosions but he has certainly left his mark. 

Jesus came not from Russia with love but from heaven in love.  God had a plan ever since the dark angel fell and tried to take the earth for himself.  It wasn’t so much on her majesty’s secret service as a plan made public through the prophets like Isaiah or Micah, in the writings of the psalmists and there to be decoded throughout the Old Testament.   God has never gambled in the Casino Royale with our future.  He has always been in control and despite his somewhat mean reputation as Dr No he simply wants to provide us with a quantam of solace.

Yet Jesus’ time on earth wasn’t easy. He was born in a stable, then a refugee and in his early 30s sent out on his mission.  He came almost as a secret agent because despite being open about who he was the ministers, the Pharisees, the lawyers – those who should have known him didn’t recognise him.  When Jesus spoke with the children he was at his most visible for he was for their eyes only.  Only those with the faith of a child could truly see him for who he is. Thankfully though Jesus wasn’t put off his mission and kept going, taking the disciples on an adventure that at times scared the living daylights out of them. 

The religious authorities were in a sense the bad guys – the characters in the Bond films that we are wary off and want James Bond to beat.  They had a view to a kill because Jesus was dangerous. He threatened their very existence, or so they thought.  Judas, the spy who loved Jesus was the one to break his heart when he betrayed Jesus in the garden.  And the disciples disappeared for they knew that they had to live and let die if that is what it took.  Of course they didn’t want to and they hoped and prayed that Jesus had an escape plan.  We always hope that the good guy has an escape plan – and that is usually when the gadgets from Q come in handy.

But for Jesus – he went in alone.  He faced trial and met the one who had a licence to kill – Pilate himself.  All seemed lost.  Our secret agent would surely die and there was nothing that could be done.  It appeared that even God had forsaken him as he hung upon the cross.

How was this mission to be fulfilled now?  The dramatic music reaches a climax and silence falls.  Has it all ended like in die another day? Or is there a twist in the tale?  All good stories have a twist – something that keeps us on our toes, perhaps even a bad guy who finds love and forgiveness like Jaws in Moonraker.

Jesus had said that the temple would be destroyed and in 3 days it would rise again.  Turns out that God really had thrown a thunderball.  Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death and allowing all of us to meet God personally and without fear.  God’s greatest desire is for us to live with him, for him and in him.  Through Jesus Christ he made it possible for us to believe that tomorrow never dies – we have life eternal through Jesus. 

The challenge for us though is that we have to say that the world is not enough.  We get so caught up in the mundane of life that we forget that we are not of this world.  It is understandable of course.  But what happens when the sky falls and we are left to stand before Jesus and tell him what we have done for him.  Do we tell him that we got good jobs, built nice homes and led comfortable lives?  Or do we tell him that we lived our lives knowing that we would only live twice – once in this broken world and once in his beautiful perfected one? Do we put more value in earthly goods for as we all know diamonds are forever?

And as we have listened what have we heard more of – film titles or the good news of the Gospel?  Let’s listen as hard for God’s word to us as we have listened out for film titles. 

If we truly want to be secret agents we need to read our bibles, pray, worship, and live lives of adventure.

What is the point of putting on armour if we are not going to fight?

It is not an easy fight but then if James Bond had it easy would we really want to watch the films.  And just as James gets his rewards we know that we too will receive ours, especially if we don’t quit. 

Just as James Bond was once a child so was Jesus.

Just as James Bond had a mission so did Jesus.

Just as James Bond had to save the world, so did Jesus.

The difference is that James Bond is a fictional character, made up by Ian Fleming.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He is real and he has called you and me to carry on his work until the day he returns and there are no excuses.  You are never too old or young to fulfil his mission – so never say never again and be God’s agent today.  

Imitation – easier than you might think? 

Recently I reminded my congregation that Christian means “little Christ” and that we are called to be like Christ. We don’t like many other major religions have a distinctive item of clothing or jewellery that marks us out as Christians. Yes I know we have crosses but they are worn by lots of people for non religious reasons. Yet when people meet us they should know we are Christians by our attitudes and demeanour.  But we are human and it isn’t always easy to know what Jesus would do.  However the more we get to know Jesus the easier it becomes. At first we start out by simply copying him until we reach a point where we can take the initiative. Watching Jess and Teagan play made me think about  what it means to imitate Christ. The two girls hadn’t met before. Teagan was about 6 yrs old and Jess is 3. For the first 15 mins the children said nothing. First of all they watched each other and worked out whether they were compatible. Then Jess as the younger one copied the older one.  Wherever Teagan went, Jess went too. Teagan taped a pole, so did Jess.  Teagan danced over the bridge so did Jess. Jess did not dance as well as Teagan but she tried her best. And it was good enough for Teagan.

Eventually the girls spoke and started to work together to achieve common goals. They took it in turns and though Teagan allowed Jess to contribute Teagan remained the leader. 

It struck me that imitation doesn’t require language, nor accuracy, simply copying and a recognition that we won’t be as good as the original to start with. Given long enough Jess would be able to dance as fluently as the one she was copying.

When it comes to copying Christ do we give up too easily? Or if the steps are too difficult do we sit the dance out? Do we think we have to know it all first? Perhaps we simply need to start copying, enjoying the dance and know that the longer we spend with Jesus the easier it will be to become like him.  Immerse yourself in the Gospels, and what you see Jesus do, you do, maybe not perfectly at first but he will welcome the attempt and encourage you.

God bless

Love Sarah

The Glass Jar of Life

Today’s theme in church was time and how God achieves all things in his time and not ours.  We are not always that good at letting him work in his time or acknowledging that he sees the bigger picture.  What do you fill your time with?  Worry or Joy?  Do responsibilities crush you or lift you?  Remember this wee story –

When things in your lives seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions–and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else–the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first–the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Ah but where is God in this wee story?  God is not another thing to do or a responsibility.  God is the jar holding everything together.  And if you don’t recognise that the jar will crack and everything from the small to the large will come flooding out. 

Jesus said:  I have come that you might have life, life in all its fullness.  John 10. 

May your time this week be richly blessed especially in this holiday season (and not too wet!).

God bless

Love Sarah

 

Prayer of Re-orientation

With my posse we discussed the Lord’s Prayer.  It is a prayer that we use every Sunday but I wonder how often we actually think about it.  The Lord’s Prayer is not a mantra but a model of prayer.  Rather like ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication) the Lord’s Prayer is meant more as a teaching prayer than a prayer to be recited week in, week out.  However not only does the model of the Lord’s Prayer contain adoration, confession, supplication but it is also a prayer of re-orientation.  When we become selfish in our faith thinking that it is something private and personal the Lord’s prayer reminds us that we are part of something much much bigger.

Our Father – not My Father, but our Father.  We cannot selfishly hold onto God for he belongs to us all.  When we pray Our Father we remind ourselves that we are part of a family, and God is the Parent, the one we rely on.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done – We are pointed back to God’s kingdom and not our own kingdom.  All of us are guilty at some level or another of kingdom building whether at home or work or even in the community.   We put our family, our work, our life first and save for a rainy day, rather than work for God’s kingdom.  Think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He prayed not my will but yours be done.  Sometimes God’s will is far more challenging than we imagine.

On earth as it is in heaven – The angels and archangels are already doing God’s will.  We pray that we would be willing to submit to God’s will as well.  And it is important that we do it now, not just when we get to heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread – Do we trust God to provide for us or do you find yourself worrying about what you will eat or wear?  When comes to working for God do we trust him enough or are we waiting for the day when we have everything?  Our daily bread, our manna from heaven cannot be stored up but is enough for the day in hand.  Don’t worry about tomorrow for it will have enough troubles of its own.  And God will provide the courage, strength, peace, grace, mercy, love, patience, and whatever else we might need.  Just remember you might be the answer to another’s daily bread provision!

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors – Did Jesus know the poison that bitterness and anger brings?  I am sure he witnessed it and the most powerful words said were his – Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Forgiveness is a necessity for healing and letting go of all that will hold us back in God’s mission fields.  We cannot preach a forgiving welcoming God and then be miserable with the burdens we carry.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil – The world is messed up but we have to play by its rules (wise as serpents and gentle as doves).  With God all things are possible but as Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 there are more things than we can imagine in the spiritual realms.  We pray that as we engage in spiritual warfare we won’t be distracted from our calling even when it costs us much.

For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory for ever Amen – We work not for ourselves but for God.  And as we finish our prayer we are reminded of his power, glory, eternalness and purpose.

It is not God’s job to make us feel important.  We are his subjects and we worship him.  However God is so loving that he allows us to call him Father – a personal term of love and relationship.  This is a powerful prayer and we dare not take it lightly.  It is a prayer of surrender, commitment and acknowledgement that God is in all things and through all things, and we are his.  Jesus lived his earthly life in constant submission to God his Father and we are called to follow his example (read John’s Gospel).  This prayer demands it.  Are you ready for everything this prayer will bring about?

God bless you and your journey with him. Comments and reflections welcome.

Love Sarah

Pondering Jesus

Some musings below from my recent readings and ponderings.

We live in what the experts call a change of era as opposed to an era of change.  We stand upon a precipice that is as dramatic as the change of era that wiped out dinosaurs,that brought about the agricultural age, the industrial era and the enlightenment.  We live in a post modern, post Christendom era that has new markers and needs new language, methods and leadership. These change of eras are happening more frequently and for some these changes have occurred within your own life span.  What once took hundreds of years is now taking decades.  The advance of technology, the rise of the tower of Babel as globalisation takes hold, the increasing search for nirvana whether through spirituality or addictions, and our own increased sense of ego give rise to this change of era.

The change of era challenges us and the church to question how we engage with the people God sent us to love.   Some would say “why reinvent the wheel?” or fix something that isn’t broke.  Folks we are tricking ourselves if we think that we can continue as we have done for the last 17 centuries (since Constantine formalised the Christian religion).  We cannot assume that everyone is naturally Christian or that they will know the basics of our faith.  We cannot assume that our role is to convert the Muslims or the Hindus or the Jews like missionaries sent into foreign lands. Our mission field is our community, the one on our doorsteps and we are being sent out like missionaries of old into this field.  When Jesus said the harvest fields were many and the workers few it wasn’t an excuse but a challenge.  Once we are harvested for God we become the workers.

God wants us to pull together and work for him in the harvest field he has given us.  And what a harvest field we have.  But we have issues of credibility to deal with. How far have we drifted from the Gospel? How caught up have we become with the institution of church that we no longer have the courage to challenge it? Are we modern day Pharisees? And yes I know that’s a tough question and it is one I have to answer too.

If Jesus came and lived out the Gospel in Forth or your village what would that look like? Take a moment to reflect on that question – be inspired! Write down your answers and then look at what we his body are actually doing.  Challenging isn’t it? And if it isn’t what are you missing? Seriously stop now and write down a few thoughts.

We are not reinventing the wheel – we are mending it.  The wheel of the Gospel needs to be reclaimed by the Church, by you and me and then put to work.  The wheel of the Gospel will bring about the following in our community:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18, 19 NIV)

because we are Christ’s body in this place.

If we are truly to be disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ we have much to learn and much to seek forgiveness for.  The amazing thing is that just as Jesus engaged with the fallen when he walked this earth he still engages with us today. Discipleship is about more than building up the lives of the faithful, but about journeying with God.  Remember we only plant the seed, it is up to God how he makes it grow.  Nor can we judge others from what we see for only God knows our hearts.

Too often we ask the question – how do we improve the church? How do we make the church more welcoming? We focus on buildings and technology and music and the right programmes (and yes these have a role to play) but perhaps if we put Christ back at the centre we would be welcoming far more into God’s kingdom.  Jesus said that he had nowhere to lay his head yet he touched the lives of thousands. Peter was terrified of the authorities yet when the Spirit came he preached the Good News without fear.  And history since then abounds with tales of the miraculous. I do believe that all things are possible with God.

But in order to receive we must ask, in order to find we must search and in order to move forward we must signal our willingness by knocking on the door.

We readily quote the verse Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever as if st means nothing has changed. Jesus hasn’t, but have we?

Christianity minus Christ equals religion! Especially now when we enter the post Easter/Ascension/Pentecost time of the year, let’s make an effort to put Christ at the centre of all we do, are and be.

God bless

Love Sarah