This week's message  - 2021

Short of time? 

Here we provide a bite-sized summary of the Minister's or the Local Preacher's Christian message, which may include a 'call to action' for you to think and pray about...

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April 11th - Believe the unbelievable

Local Preacher Peter Walsham speaks here about St Thomas, one of Jesus' original disciples or 'Doubting Thomas' as he is often called.

 

Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to His disciples after the Crucifixion, refusing to believe until he saw Jesus for himself.

 

We don't know much about Thomas but earlier, when Jesus had travelled to a potentially dangerous place, Thomas expresses loyalty saying, “Let us all go that we may die with Him!”.

 

And so in grief after the Crucifixion, he had missed Jesus' appearance to His disciples. We can all sympathise with missing something important and can only imagine how Thomas must have felt! Had he felt excluded, no longer part of the group? Or maybe jealous and frustrated for not being there?

 

So like the comic character Victor Meldrew saying “I don’t believe it!”, Thomas cannot 'believe the unbelievable' saying “Unless I see the scars of the nails and put my hand in his side, I will not believe”. Many things today seem ‘unbelievable’ so when we are confronted with the evidence we are often lost for words!

 

I'm like that when I see the view from the top of a mountain. All I can think of is to thank God for making this beautiful creation so when eventually Thomas sees Jesus all he can say is, “My Lord and my God!”

 

Nowadays many people find Jesus' story unbelievable. In visiting the disciples when Thomas was absent, Jesus offers hope to us, to those who have NOT seen Him in the flesh.

 

When Jesus does meet Thomas He says: “How blessed are those who believe without seeing me” Amazing changes occur within us when we believe in the risen Lord Jesus.

 

Later, we know that Thomas took the wonderful Good News of God's love for us all through Jesus, to India.

 

And like Thomas, we are called to bring new people to that Good News through our words and actions, bringing them to Jesus' empty tomb so that He can confront each one with the challenge to believe the unbelievable!

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Easter Day - He is risen

Today is the great celebration of our faith, the transforming truth that changes everything for the whole world, THE epoch moment in history. What we could not do for ourselves Jesus had done by defeating death and evil. Making right what was wrong.

 

On this Easter Sunday, Rev Alf Waite turned his attention to the post-resurrection story of Jesus meeting His disciples on the shore of Lake Galilee, as they return after a fruitless night fishing.

 

Jesus had appeared to them before, but they are still lost - which is why they'd returned to their old way of life as fishermen.

 

Against all their experiences as professional fishermen, Jesus invites them to recast their nets and they are rewarded by a miraculous catch. Then He tells them that from then on they would catch people, not fish, reminding them of their journey with Him over the last three years.

 

This a lesson about trust. As with the haul of fish back then, in following Him today we need to trust Him to equip us for our task of love and service, offering the salvation and New Life that Jesus has won, to others.                                

 

As Jesus invited His disciples to breakfast on the beach that day, Easter Sunday is confirmation of our invitation to the eternal feast with Him.

 

We are a mixed group, all kinds of characters with limited talents, but God accepts us and has work for us to do. Just like Peter, who despite denying Him before the crucifixion was restored as the leader of the Church, Jesus never gives up on us saying as He did to Peter "feed my lambs, feed my sheep".

 

You may feel lost, confused or inadequate. You may have gone back to your old haunts or still be working things out. Just know that the Easter hope is that God can be trusted and invites you to His feast. He wants to dine with you! He has things for you to do. There is always a new start on offer.

 

The Lord is Risen. Hallelujah!

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March 28th - God comes humbly

Local Preacher Jean Shotton considered Jesus' humble entry into Jerusalem to deliver His message and asked if we are prepared to similarly offer ourselves to Him.

 

The disciples knew that Jesus intended to go to Jerusalem and they weren't keen - they were aware of the threat from both the Pharisees and the Romans but Thomas said to the other disciples ‘Let us also go that we may die with him’ (John 11 vs 16). 

 

Was Jesus brave or foolish? He knows that he will be rejected and as He makes his approach He weeps - not for Himself but for the people. Zechariah Ch 9 vs 9 says, “Rejoice greatly, behold your King comes to you: triumphant and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey.” 

 

The crowds specifically link him to the central figure of Psalm 118 shouting 'Hosanna'. It's what they expected to say to the Messiah whenever he came because the word means 'save us'. They wanted a warrior King!

 

Jesus was determined to see things through knowing that He needed to take His gospel message and declare it in the great Jerusalem Temple. There'd be no turning back! Yet He went humbly, without arrogance or the trappings of power. 

Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem as King but what kind of a king? 

 

Sometimes His kingdom is hard to see and easy to miss, because God comes humbly. Often, the most powerful revelations don’t come with great gestures. The people who do things without fanfare, surprising you with generosity and humility, little acts of love done in the name of Jesus for His sake. God comes humbly - but He is still God.

So they laid their coats before the King on a donkey - as we lay down all that we have in praise of Him.

 

Lord, teach us Your ways of peace so that we may show Your glory to our neighbours and bring Your kingdom to the world.

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March 21st - Talk about Jesus

Today Rev Dawn Brown asked us how we might respond when asked about Jesus.

 

Everyone prefers a story to a lecture and the more personal it is the better. The Gospels, which tell of Jesus' life on earth, are full of tales of how people saw and experienced meeting Jesus and how that special unique relationship changed their lives.

 

In John Ch12 vs 20 - 21, some Greeks ask to meet Jesus. Right from the start, there were foreigners who wanted to live moral and ethical lives and found Jesus' teachings attractive. So wanting to know more, they needed someone to introduce them to the man Himself.

 

So they come to Philip one of Jesus’ disciples. ‘Philip’ is a Greek name, so perhaps there's a sense of connection. They say some of the most beautiful words in the gospels: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”.

 

But Philip isn’t sure, so he consults Andrew who has no hesitation: “Let’s go and tell Jesus” he says. In life we often need 'introducers' so they needed Philip and Andrew, to introduce them to Jesus and all the live changing opportunities that await those who call upon His name.

 

Does the way you live, act, speak or smile reflect the beauty of Jesus, and demonstrate your relationship with Him? Would a person come top you to introduce them to Jesus?

 

Can we tell others what Jesus is to us personally? Of His love and gift of Life? His influence in our lives and His Promise of our home in Eternity with Him and how through Jesus we can conqueror any situation.

 

As we move out of Lockdown, people will be seeking, longing, searching and if they ask you how to see Jesus, what will you tell them? Pray that the Holy Spirit may be set free to share what Jesus has done for you.

 

Be ready! The time has come!

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March 14th - Look Up

Rev Dawn Brown told us that Lent is a journey of reflection and discovery and when on any journey you need to look around and UP.

 

We use UP in so many ways. Speaking UP, calling UP friends, locking UP the house. Confusingly, we open UP a drain when it is blocked UP or open UP a shop each morning and close it UP at night.

 

In good times, we say “things are looking up” and when trying to change someone’s negative focus, we say “look up” because people look down when they feel depressed, discouraged, worthless or ashamed.

 

Looking UP changes our lives, It's a positive thing, giving direction and purpose.

In John 3 Jesus says, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up." Jesus is referring to the Old Testament story in Numbers 21 where Israel had come out of Egypt, and wandering in the wilderness had complained against Moses and God doubting God's promises. As a punishment, God sent a plague of snakes and they began to die.

 

Yet even then the opportunity for salvation was given to those who looked up because God told Moses to “Make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole, and everyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” It was God’s saving Grace to all who LOOKED UP.

 

Remarking on that story Jesus says  that the Son of Man (meaning Himself) must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life and that opportunity for salvation applies to everyone, including you and me.

 

So LOOK UP and receive God’s saving Grace. Ephesians puts it like this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."

 

Be lifted up all the way to heaven when your work on Earth is done. Looking down is not where you want to go!

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March 7th - Temples

YOU are the temple of the Lord was Rev Alf Waite's message to us today, recounting the Jesus story of when He drove the commercial traders out of the Jerusalem temple, told in John Ch 2.

 

John, one of the original 12 disciples, places the incident at the start of Jesus’ ministry because he is preparing his readers for one of the big questions: What is your heart like? Are you fulfilling the purpose God made you for?

 

The Temple was both symbolic and central to the Jews. It was seen as the place where God resided but it had become corrupted so it needed cleansing. But Jesus was also taking this understanding of 'Temple' to another level, moving it from the building to His own body and John is setting out the central theme of Jesus' death and resurrection that would redeem humankind.

 

After that, the meaning of 'Temple' changes again when St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you ... You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.”

 

We are the temple of God as He dwells in us by the Holy Spirit. As we walk around the earth, we are the presence of God today.

 

There is a danger here for Christians even now. Are we more concerned about our churches than we are for the purposes of God? The buildings are but catalysts for bringing people into that loving relationship for which Jesus died.

 

As temples of the Holy Spirit we can be defiled when we give into things that displace God’s number one place in our lives, so now a question.

 

Where does Jesus fit in your world? Is He the light that shines out of you, like the morning star? Or is He a sideline to something which in the end will always be found wanting?

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February 28th - One Way

For the second Sunday in Lent Local Preacher Judy Tasker took us to the heart of Christianity - Faith and Discipleship.

 

But what is Faith? Well, it's about believing and trust. In Romans Ch 4 St Paul speaks of Abraham whose faith was the key to his life. Abraham believed and trusted God to keep His promise that although old and childless, he would yet be the father of many people. And it's this faith that is required to be a disciple of Jesus: believing and trusting that His way is the only way, even when it's difficult.

 

In sharing the Good News of Jesus, St Mark's Gospel makes sure the reader knows what is important in God’s kingdom, who Jesus is and what we need to know about being His 'disciple'.

 

Over His three year ministry Jesus taught and showed in action just what discipleship meant. His way wasn't the way of War, as a mighty and powerful Messiah leading the Jews into battle against their Roman oppressors, Jesus had already rejected such methods, it was the way of Peace, demonstrated through Love.

 

And yet it was only after the Resurrection that the disciples began to understand. Just as St Peter had had to realise that his dream of a conquering Messiah wasn’t God's chosen path, we too are required to follow, copy and live in the way of Jesus.

 

It’s a challenge for us to work out what we need to do. Some things are easy, others harder! For example, buying Fair Trade produce makes life better for Third World  farmers and their families, but speaking out against injustices can be challenging, leaving us exposed to insult or abuse.

 

Our journeys may not be easy, but there's only One Way and remember that as we walk with Jesus, strong in faith and true in discipleship, we know He’s been through it all and there’s help for our journey from our Lord and Saviour through His Holy Spirit.

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February 21st - Come and see

Local Preacher Maureen Simpson's message on 21st February was to ask us to come and see Jesus, as Philip had invited his friend Nathaniel in John Ch1 vs 43-51.

 

People have stressed lives searching for inner peace and many try to find peace in the wrong way. Shopping maybe, or through drink or drugs...

 

Philip had found that inner peace! He was bursting with it and like us when we have an exciting experience, he wanted to tell everybody! Philip wanted to share what he had discovered about Jesus with Nathaniel. Well, Nathaniel was a chilled out sort of person. At first he didn't want his boat rocked or to be pestered but eventually, Jesus and Nathaniel found each other and Nathaniel 's life was changed for ever.

 

As Christians we all want to share Jesus with other people but unlike an outright gift, sharing is a two-way thing. Think of sharing a box of chocolates, you get some and somebody else gets some.

 

Belief as with friendship has to be two-way. We cannot make people believe. We can give sympathy, compassion, love and companionship but not belief. People have to believe for themselves and sometimes, as with Nathaniel, it takes a while.

 

In a world full of fake news, folks are suspicious, so how should we share Jesus with people seeking a better life? We have to get to know them first. Meet someone for coffee perhaps and try to understand their life whilst sharing some of your own. Find a volunteering role maybe.

 

Jesus didn't just busy himself with a small group of followers, He reached out, saying to Nathaniel, as He says to all of us, “Come and see".

 

So take stock of your life. Look at how and where you can connect with God and then with others.

February 14th - Where Faith leads

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This morning, Local Preacher Alison McCleod reminded us of the death of the great Old Testament prophet Elijah who was lifted into heaven on a chariot of fire and of Jesus' transfiguration, when during His ministry here on Earth He took three of His disciples with Him to pray on top of a mountain, and asked how our faith and loyalty to God has transformed us?

 

When Elisha witnessed the vision of Elijah’s ascension, it confirmed everything he had come to believe. Then reading of the experiences of Jesus and the disciples on Mount Tabor, we see confirmation for Peter, James and John of their calling and their growing understanding of Christ.

 

Jesus had spent the weeks beforehand preparing the disciples for his imminent death and so the transfiguration is a glimpse of His future glory, beyond the suffering and tragedy of the crucifixion. The disciples saw Jesus bathed in light talking with Moses and Elijah two of the greatest figures in Israel’s history. And then comes God's voice affirming everything for them, making sense of it all - that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

Many people feel closer to God in Nature, but God doesn't just dwell on mountains or in churches. God is all around us, in every place and in the people we meet.

 

Where do we glimpse the glory of God? Is God revealed to us through preaching or the Bible? Or through prayer and the knowledge of His love for us? Or seeing the actions of other faithful souls?

 

And so I leave you with this to ponder on. We know where the disciples love for Jesus lead them but where does our love for love of Jesus lead us in service to God's world and His people?

 

Let Jesus' love for you transform your life so that His glory may be revealed to others in all you do and say.

February 7th - Unity

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Today Rev Alf Waite explored the need for all Christian people to be unified with God and with each other, quoting John Ch 17 vs 22 & 23, Jesus' prayer that his followers in every generation be united as the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is united:

 

"... I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

 

There are many divisions in the Church and it takes the Supernatural power of God's Holy Spirit, as poured out at the first Pentecost, to put differences aside for the good of God's Kingdom. For example, major doctrinal differences existed between George Whitfield and John Wesley, two of Methodism's founders. They believed different things but the Word and Spirit of God enabled their love for Jesus to draw them together. It's not easy to put aside strong differences. We need the Spirit of God to lead us into unity with our Christian brothers and sisters.

 

In Acts we are told that the first disciples loved one another and this attracted other people to become Christians, so the results of unity are Tangible. With all the different forms of Church it is important that we show the love of God in the world by working together. All over the world Churches are praying and working in unity to clean up their streets whether of rubbish, drugs or violence.

 

Such Christian unity is Evangelical because the way we live expresses the good news of Jesus in our communities. When unity is seen in church, between churches and in everyday life, it speaks volumes of the love of God for all people.

 

Do you want to be part of the work of Jesus today? Then seek unity with all who seek to follow Jesus, using all that you have and are to spread the Good News letting the Holy Spirit work through our words and actions.

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January 31st - God's authority

This week, Local Preacher Joan Murray looked at the authority of Jesus. In Chapter 1 of Mark's Gospel the healing of the ‘The Man with an Unclean Spirit’ wastes no time in introducing us to the real Jesus who Mark wants us to know and follow.

 

Back then Jewish people would have been brought up in a strong religious/legal environment. Listening to the teachings of the Scribes was a duty but verse 22  says Jesus wasn’t like the teachers of the law because He taught "with authority".

 

Although the Scribes had the authority to teach, were they doing this to the best of their ability, accurately and without prejudice? Or had greed and self-gain crept into their work?

 

Mark speaks of the immediate effect Jesus had that day. The power to deliver and make a difference! Jesus is open, honest and unafraid of who or what He comes up against. He doesn’t disguise or promote himself. Whenever Jesus heals, he does so with authority and backs it up with positive action. Salvation for all starts right here!

 

In the Old Testament, Moses gained authority as a leader through positive action, leading his people out of Egypt to the promised land. People understood him, because he used familiar words. He did what it said on the tin!

 

As does Jesus, who stands fearlessly before God on our behalf!

 

We long for genuine authority. Whether it’s climate change or dealing with the economic fallout from Coronavirus, we hear experts speaking with authority on their subject but sometimes we have no idea whether the person speaking is an expert or whether it's just ‘Fake News’.

 

Christians recognise God’s authority and we look to both the words and actions of Jesus to reveal it. If someone claims to have authority today, do their actions match their words? And what is the fruit of those words?

 

Be honest, open and pure in how you treat others. Follow Christ with truth and integrity and you too will be saved.

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January 24th - The Promise

Every year Methodist people renew their 'Covenant' promise with God and today, Rev Alf Waite reminded us that the earlier covenants God made with His people pointed to the final covenant that came with Jesus.

 

God's covenant, or agreement is His promise that if we accept and renew our covenant with Him then we will never be alone and we will receive new life.

 

Deuteronomy Ch 29 shows us God's intention to fulfil the promises He made to the Jewish people whilst Jeremiah Ch 31 tells us a day is coming when a new covenant will be made and intimacy with God restored for all generations and every people, reaching right down to us.  

 

Then in the New Testament we see it fulfilled when He comes Himself in the form of Jesus to enter a covenant with the whole of broken humanity. Jesus shows us what a relationship with God looks like. In His death and resurrection, the covenant is sealed, He becomes the sacrifice and we receive new life. In Christ we are delivered from the penalty and bondage that comes from being part of broken humanity. That is the Good News of Jesus.

 

Romans Ch 12 vs 1 invites us to go further: "Therefore... present your bodies as a living sacrifice... it is your true and proper worship." It basically means total commitment to the New Covenant that God has made with us. This Covenant promises that God will be with us especially when we feel alone or vulnerable, weak, or hopeless and much, much more. Being in Covenant with God also brings a transformation to our lives. We can find out who we really are, who God believes us to be.

 

Do you want to enter into the Covenant and promise to put your trust in the living God? Will you be one of His people allowing Him to be your God? If you have questions then do not hesitate to be in touch with us or another Christian that you trust. 

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  January 17th - God calling...

Recounting the stories of the prophet Samuel's call (Samuel Ch 3 vs 1 - 21) and the story of Jesus' call to Zacchaeus (Luke Ch 19 vs 1 - 10), Local Preacher Peter Walsham asked us 17th January if we'd heard God calling, and if so what our response was.

 

The 12 year old Samuel didn't know God despite sleeping in the Holy Place where God might be expected to speak and Zacchaeus was a sinful tax collector, called by Jesus from the crowd as Jesus passed by. Neither were expecting God to call them.

 

When God speaks, it’s a personal and intimate experience. Has God spoken to you? Have you felt God’s presence in the still of the night like Samuel, or does He speak to you during the busyness of your day as He did with Zacchaeus?

 

For each of us it’s different. The fact is God might speak anytime and anywhere. But more importantly, do you put yourself in a position to recognise it and when it comes, how do you respond?

 

Samuel spent his time surrounding himself in the things that brought him close to God, praying and studying the scriptures and offering his work as a dedication to God, trying his best to be good, true and kind.

 

Jesus, who often sought solitude to pray, instructs us to do so in private because God blesses what He sees us do in secret (Matthew Ch 6 vs 6). Often, it’s totally unexpected when God calls us into His Kingdom of Love and Service, just like it was for St Paul, called by Jesus on the Damascus road.

 

God gives us free will. Samuel, Zacchaeus and Paul, like so many others called by God, said 'yes'. Countless others have said 'no' but if we truly want God’s blessings we have to respond positively saying “Lord here I am!”

 

Make it your goal in life, to listen for and obey God’s call and prepare to receive His richest blessings. 

January 10th - Witness for change

Local Preacher Jean Shotton focussed on John the Baptist's ministry today, 10th January. John is understood as the one who according to Isaiah Ch 40 vs 3 was to come before Jesus and make a clear path for Him.

 

After urging people to put their lives in order and walk the straight and narrow, John quickly turned to what he came to do. He would challenge the status quo, both people and ‘establishment’, providing us with a model of courage. “Speak truth to power,” John would tell us now, “and when you do, shout out your message no matter what the consequences.” John's words were his sword. He was an agent of change.

 

We must never underestimate the power of the spoken word and today there are many issues to be challenged! The media sometimes makes disreputable behaviour look acceptable and even within the church we face situations that can limit our effectiveness as Christian witnesses. “Don’t rock the boat” some will say but we have to listen for the word of God, then speak out and be the instruments of change.

 

In becoming effective witnesses the scriptures invite us to choose our words and actions carefully, to bring comfort, heal, soothe, work for justice and work for peace. So a word in the right place… inviting a friend to ‘tune in’ to the online service perhaps, may change a life. A word spoken in someone’s defence may right an injustice. A word about Jesus may save a soul.                                                                                                                           

We recognise, through the role of John the Baptist, the part we can play in proclaiming God’s message, communicating in a way that those who hear us can comprehend. But first, we must look at our own lives and clean up our act. Then, like John, we will be ready to “Prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight"

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      January 3rd  -  Rise and Shine

Citing Isaiah Ch 60 vs 1 - 6 Rev Dawn Brown called us all to action in our first service of 2021, inviting us to 'Arise and Shine' and become the people we were created to be.

Isaiah's vision of hope and restoration, was a wake-up call not just for the people of Israel, but for all nations. It offers timeless images of majesty and power, with God’s reign breaking into everything.

 

Waking up and getting moving is what the Wise men who followed the Star did, risking everything to travel so far to kneel before a baby born of poor parents in a small town. They must have talked about this for the rest of their lives. It changed them, or rather, made them who they were meant to be. 

 

Following Jesus and relying on His Grace is not easy. Above all, it is costly. It cost God the life of His Son and what has cost God so much cannot be cheap for us. God experienced our sorrows, difficulties, and temptations and it cost God everything dying the death we deserved to save us.

Isaiah tells us that God breaks into our world and illuminates our very existence. Look around, he cries, and pay attention! God is here! Jesus Christ is alive and present in our world here and now. Don’t crawl back under the covers, this is news worth getting up for!

 

Can you take a new direction with your days, beginning with an eagerness to find out what God is doing and wants for your life? How might our days be different if we looked for God and His guidance each morning? 

 

So friends, untangle the bed sheets that may be holding you down! Jesus the light of the world has come and there's work to do. Let your journey, to become who you really are, begin. Use your gifts and together with God, change the world! Arise and Shine this New Year!

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Sunday Service 10.30 am