Archive for September, 2010

Bible Study – 23rd September

Friday, September 24th, 2010

This was moved from the Wednesday night at the last minute so unfortunately only five of us were able to attend. But it was really good to be back, we left this for too long last time we took a break.

We looked at Matthew 23, in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the New Living Translation (NLT)

We all agreed that Jesus’ harsh words directed at, and about the religious leaders of the time, could be applied to each one of us today.  But in particular they might be directed at religious leaders.

We talked about religious titles such as Father, Reverend, etc. and whether they can be justified in the light of verses 8-12. We also reflected on what Jesus says in verses 2-3 about obeying their teaching even though they are hypocrites and ignorant of the true meaning of what they teach, (or rather they fail to follow their own teaching). There can be times, we agreed, when a preacher talks for too long, has a boring voice, or is just difficult to warm to, and yet there can still be something in their message or the readings that speaks to us. We might even think that the person preaching to us doesn’t practice what he is preaching, but that shouldn’t  stop us hearing the message he or she is giving us. We go to church to hear the Word of God preached, and it can sometimes reach us in spite rather than because of the preacher!

Verses 16-22 were interesting but  a bit complicated too. They carry an important message, though, and I think I might make this the basis for a sermon in Sunday worship in the near future.

I was going to start a series of Bible Studies on worship, but I’ll start that next time when there will be more people present. In spite of there only being a few of us, we had a really good discussion and I felt that I had drawn closer to the message behind this chapter as a result of the hour and a quarter we spent talking about it.  See the church diary on the main website for details of when the next one is.

Sunday Worship – 19th September

Friday, September 24th, 2010

The worship was led by the Reverend Sarah Walsh.

Sunday Worship – 12th September

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Our worship today was led by Russell Blackwell, a lay preacher from Hallam Methodist Church in Nethergreen.  Russell is a regular visitor to Tapton and the theme of the service, which was very well received,  was humility.  Afterwards Russell joined us for tea and biscuits in the ‘school room’.

Sunday Worship – 5th September

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I led the service today. The readings were taken from the lectionary and had three messages.

1. Based on Luke 14: 25-33

Thinking about those of us starting a new year at school or university I focused on what Jesus says about counting the cost of what you are embarking on.  Of course Jesus is talking about Christian discipleship but we might also see what this says to us about the new ventures we start throughout our lives.

Thinking about what the year ahead will demand of us might make us think about giving up before we’ve even begun. But most of the time we have an inner drive that won’t allow us to do that. So we have to think about three things.

First, what will we need within ourselves. What reserves of courage, organisation, discipline, calmness, patience and so on will we need to find from our own resources? When challenged in this way we generally find that we have more about us than we realised – we are like a teabag; you don’t know how strong we are until you put us in hot water.

But when we look at the road ahead we will also conclude that we can’t do it on our own. This leads to the second question. What am I going to need from my friends and family? It does no harm to think in advance what practical and emotional help you’re going to need to get through the coming year. When will you need those around you to be understanding, consoling and encouraging?  Why not speak to those you are going to need in advance about what it is that you are going to need from them?

Last, but definitely not least, think about what you are going to need from Jesus.  Even with all the human help in the world there is no substitute for his presence throughout all the ups and downs of 09/10. Why not make this commitment now: through all the good times and bad times I’m about to go through I’m going to talk to Jesus and so receive from him what only he can give me.

2. Based on Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18

Some people are hard to get to know because they shut others out.  It’s a shame when this happens because knowing and being known by others is one of the greatest pleasures in life.  Most of us can think of someone who really knows us in a way that no one else does; and we like to think that we can know others too in such a special way.

One of the aches of bereavement can be that the person we have lost knew us in a way that no one still alive ever will. That’s one reason we feel so terribly alone, because we are now less known than we were when our loved one was still alive. And what will become of our special knowing of that person now that they are no longer around?

Sometimes when a relationship fails the hurt that we feel is because we have become separated from a person who, whatever else has gone on, still knows us better than anyone else. And sometimes at the end of a relationship we burn with anger because we realise all of a sudden that we gave our heart to someone who never even knew us.

And it’s certainly true that different loved ones know us in different ways  no one gets the total picture.  It would take a combination of our partner, our best friend, our parent, our siblings to get close to a full picture of someone. That’s why biographers try to talk to as many different people who knew their subject as possible.

Humans can never know another human perfectly but God can. We love to be known because it’s part of being loved. Some of the calm and joyful manner that we observe in deeply spiritual people comes from the contentment of being completely and utterly known by God.  And that’s what the Psalmist is writing about in this excerpt, the profound feeling that comes from the realisation that God knows you in the most intimate, loving and secure way.

3. Based on Jeremiah 18: 1-11

In this passage Jeremiah is made to meditate on the fact that God can do what he wants with him or anyone else, just like the potter does as he or she pleases with the clay.

But Jeremiah is also made to think about the misfortune that befalls the nation as having happened by the will of God.   With the memorable phrase ‘I am a potter, shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you’ he expresses this uncomfortable idea. It’s uncomfortable because we hesitate to make God the author of evil events, yet we don’t want to think that he is unaware or powerless to prevent evil.

The later verses say that God is reacting to our own folly and evil, and so we are the author of our own misfortune – an idea that asks as many questions as it answers. Perhaps the book of Job is a better place to look for an answer to the question why bad things happen to good people, but Jeremiah certainly raises some interesting questions.

Without wanting to get into the  theological quagmire that is ‘the problem of evil’, I would say that verse 11 challenges us to look for where God may be at work when bad things happen to us. I’m not saying that every misfortune is a punishment from God, nor do I dismiss the presence of evil in the world that has a source other than God: but sometimes there is a wisdom in our suffering and there are a times when we reflect that terrible events have led us to a better place. This wisdom in our suffering is something that, through prayer, we might learn to perceive  even as our world seems to be falling apart.