Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people. Richie used this simple children's rhyme to introduce the ways people have thought about the church.
Hymn TIS 132 "Holy, holy, holy! Lord God almighty" This hymn is a favourite of mine. Some insightful person has given us the words we need to praise our God with full hearts.
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Richie reflected on our need to praise God and confess our sins to him so as to accept forgiveness. We need to acknowledge our part in this fallen humanity. We may not actually do individual evil things but we support a system where real evil happens even if we do not intend it.
Together: Merciful God, we have sinned in what we have thought and said,
in the wrong we have done, and in the good we have not done.
We have sinned in ignorance; we have sinned in weakness;
we have sinned through our own deliberate fault. We repent and turn to you.
Forgive us, for our Saviour Christ’s sake, and renew our lives to the glory of your name. Amen.
Assurance of forgiveness
…hear then Christ’s word of grace to us: “Your sins are forgiven” Thanks be to God.
Even having taken part in this part of the service, how hard is it to accept forgiveness? That thought is worth looking at. Have we not truly repented? Or do we think we are so bad that we can't be forgiven? If the latter, then be reminded that forgiveness is not earned, it is a free gift.
Hymn TIS 217 "Love divine all loves excelling" A plea for God to come down; to enter our lives and bless us; changing us into the people we can be.
Bible Readings Mark 9:38-50: The disciples were upset because people unknown to them were performing miracles in Christ's name. Jesus' reply, "whoever is not against us is for us" is a simple lesson in tolerance and perhaps an acknowledgement that even people who do not profess faith in God can do his work. Further, Jesus makes it very clear that we should be very careful of putting impediments before others for any reason.
Ephesians 4:1-16. Another lesson in tolerance - "be humble, gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love...keep unity...bond of peace." We have been given the gifts to operate in this way so we should take hold of these gifts so that God's kingdom will flourish.
Sermon: All for one, one for all Richie began by speaking again about the children's rhyme with the elements of church, steeple and people. As church buildings grew from being merely functional to be an ornate tribute to God and his people, they became larger. Height was added using a steeple, making some cathedrals the tallest man-made structures in existence...until the construction of the Eiffel Tower. However, more recently the focus is on the people. We, the congregation are the church. Further, the model of church is changing. Meetings in schools, pubs, cafes are all ways of being church.
Which groups can we think of as church: our local congregation? Our denomination?
Denominations with similar theology? The 'universal church'? Richie's take was: "All who follow Jesus, all around the world. Yes we're the church together." But "following" is just not "having an interest in". "Another way we typically look at the church is to say that it is the body of Christ." Christ is the foundation....the cornerstone...Christ is the head of the Church. In Ephesians "Paul begins by urging the Ephesians to live a life worthy of the calling they have received". We need to act in humble, gentle and patient ways.
But Paul said more: "There is one body and one spirit...one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all."
But we need to be careful how we act as one. Richie spoke about gifts but then nailed it: "And it is by love that Christians are to be known." (John 13: 34 - 35).
There was more but because of space, I think this is a fine note to stop on.
Hymn TIS 457 "The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord" We are the church. Through divisions, uncertainty, heresies and all the rest, we are God's church and he will continue to guide us and bless us.
Musical meditation We considered our own need to turn to God.
Prayers of Intercession
A meditation on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, and how God is present in all the phases of our lives. This reading speaks of there being a time for all things and within our little community here at Marsden Road, at the moment, we are experiencing many of those. Richie prayed for each of the people who were named by members of the Congregation as well as lifting up those in the community not known to us personally.
…Father, hear our prayer
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
…who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, and who taught us to pray: we then joined in the Lord's Prayer.
Hymn: Onward, Christian soldiers Not so much in the martial sense but in the sense of being one unit, striving for a cause that's beyond anyone of us.
As God has called us, let us live up to our calling. Let us be humble always and gentle and patient too. Let us be forbearing with one another and charitable. Let us spare no effort to make fast with bonds of peace the unity which the Spirit gives.
There is one body and one Spirit, as there is also one hope held out in God’s call to us; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
And know that we go out from here, into the world and into the week, with the blessing of God almighty: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.