Thursday, 20 November 2014

The power of a word from God


So, I love to pray for people. It is an absolute privilege to be allowed into someone's life, to walk with them in prayer, in some cases for just a few minutes, others in an ongoing relationship. And something I find happening more and more is receiving words for people from God. 

Now I know the skeptical will say 'oh that's just your imagination', or 'you are just perceptive', however I don't believe that is the case. Words from God, often called 'words of knowledge', can be so specific that they speak right into the heart of someone's situation without any prior knowledge. It's great as an evangelistic 'tool' as to approach someone to speak about God they are more than likely to tell you where to go, but if you explain that you have something to share with them, and then speak into a situation they haven't told you about, then automatically they are more receptive.  And let's not forget, Jesus did just that with the woman at the well, in John 4:

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 
John 4:28-30

He told her everything she ever did and he had just met her...



So as I said this is happening more and more to me, and I find it so rewarding. One particular example happened when we were on holiday in France this summer. As a family we were eating outside in a restaurant when I felt drawn to a man sitting near us. Although there was nothing that really stood out about him I just had a sense of deep sadness over him and that was was in the military. I saw a brightly coloured band on the floor which was so bright it really stood out against the dark ground even though it was tiny, and God gave me the the actual word I had for him through that, which was was: that God had made him to be someone who stands out, who people look to for guidance. Often that is the way God speaks to me, through circumstantial things. So I told my husband I was going to talk to him (he's quite used to me doing this now so it wasn't strange that I was going to speak to another man!) and approached him. Now of course this isn't always easy, how do you tell someone you feel God has given you a message for them without sounding totally bonkers? and of course we were in France and I had no idea if he even spoke any english (and my French is pretty basic to say the least!). But in my experience, if God sends you to speak to someone then he will find a way... in this case the man was english so I needn't have worried!

So I went over and just said (this is my usual staring point) 'Hi, I wonder if I could talk to you for a minute, I know this sounds crazy but I am a Christian and so I believe in God and sometimes I feel that he gives me a word for people and I think I have something to share with you' - usually this is enough for people to at least hear me out! and as yet no one has told me to get lost... (famous last words!).

He was looking at me like I was a bit bonkers I have got to admit, so I very quickly gabbled off what I felt and was about to retreat, saying, 'if it doesn't mean anything to you, that's fine just forget I was here', but as I went to stand up he suddenly opened up, telling me that he was blown away. I am not going to go into all the details, but the short of it is that everything I said to him during that conversation was spot on and apparently absolutely perfect timing (funny that). We ended up chatting for some time (by which stage my husband had paid our bill and him and the kids were ready to go!) and I prayed with him before we left.

I haven't seen him since and I don't know anything more than his first name, and I don't know how what we talked about has impacted him or the decisions he had to make, but the thing I am absolutely certain of is that God sent me to talk to him that day. Not only that but he gave me exactly the right words, and I do mean exactly, he gave me enough detail to start the conversation but also guided me through it, revealing more to me as we chatted. 

Sometimes people need to meet with God and often that happens through us, if we are open enough and bold enough to be used by him. So often people are not interested in the church, or skeptical or even completely anti, but God is not the church (much as I love the church) and if we can enable people meeting him personally, then what a difference that makes. It cuts through the anxiety, the past experiences, the intellectually thought through arguments, and brings God right in front of them.

 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Storm Meets Jesus / Luke 8:22-25 // Talk 16/11/14 The Point Church



Talk from The Point Church, 16th Nov 2014. As always, these are from my notes so might not be exactly what I said but gives you the main message.

INTRO

I wonder how many of you feel like there is a storm in your life right now?

The thing about storms is they can vary so much can’t they, and our descriptions of them vary too. I mean this week we’ve had torrential rain! But a storm might include any number of things: Thunder, Lightening, Hail, Rain, wind. Could be a terrific thunder storm or it could be a howling wind or just a lot of rain. Storms can vary hugely. 
And it’s the same when we describe our own personal struggles, our own personal storms isn’t it. We might describe them in many ways, what it means to one person might mean something else to another. We might say we are struggling, we are stuck, we are suffering, we’re having a tough time or we are really going through it… So I wonder what you might say are the storms in your life right now?

xxxxx

So as I was prepping for this talk this week, and praying, I was really struck by the title. ‘The Storm Meets Jesus’ not ‘Jesus calms the storm’ as it appears in most bibles but The Storm Meets Jesus… You might think it’s not really any but you know when I was preparing I really felt it was significant. You see Will sets these titles months in advance usually, and when I was praying this week, I felt like God was saying it was prophetic – ie: from God – because that’s what he wants to do here today – that Jesus is going to meet us here and the storms that we face are going to meet Jesus. He wants to work through those storms today.
The difference really is that notion of meeting Jesus. It’s not just a process of calming or commanding or praying or declaring, the change happens when we, when our situations and, when people meet Jesus.
So I just had a real sense that that’s what God wants to do today, that he wants to not only meet with us, but meet with the things we are going through, the challenges we are facing, the storms we are stuck in. And by that I just mean, whatever you are facing right now. Whether you think it’s a gigantic squall or a little gentle wind, those storms are going to meet Jesus today.  Because look I can stand up here and tell you what I have learned about this passage, what I have prepared and prayed about yes, and that’s part of my role, but what is the point in me teaching on Jesus calming a storm if we don’t actually give him the opportunity to do it right here and right now. Right?!

So I am going to do a bit of teaching but then we are going to take some time and invite Jesus in to meet our storms. So is that ok?

xxxxx



So there’s really just two things I want to focus on here. One is Jesus (obviously! Kind of goes without saying) and the other is Faith. This passage highlights who Jesus is, but he also highlights the faith of the disciples, his followers.

So let’s start with Jesus. And I might get a bit theological but I hope it’s going to all make sense, just shout if it doesn’t ok!? Bit of audience participation is always good!

xxxxx


So when I read the bible, I love to really imagine myself in the story, in fact I really recommend it. Sometimes you can skim over passages without really understanding what they are all about and this I think is a classic example of that. It’s actually quite a simple story, basically Jesus performs a miracle. But there is so much more than that.
I did think about doing that this morning, dramatizing it but we haven’t got time ad I want to keep time to pray at the end, so why not go home and try it yourself! Prayerfully!

But in doing that myself one line really struck me: that ‘Jesus fell asleep’.  I mean he’s God, right, but he’s just there asleep in the boat? Doesn’t that seem a bit odd? Well one thing I have learned over time is that if something in the bible seems a bit odd then its probably saying something important. Well its all important obvs…

So here we go with the theology… so just keep that thought in your mind for a mo.

So this term at college we’ve spent some time looking at the Trinity and the Incarnation. So the Trinity – God is 3 parts – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And Incarnation – Jesus was incarnated, became Human, on earth,

So we believe, and we sometimes say or here we often sing The Creed – in the song:  ‘I believe in God the Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit, Our God is three in one, in much of the Anglican church they declare it each week in the Nicene Creed.

One of the hardest things to get your head around is that Jesus is both fully God and fully human. We can’t separate out the bits that were human and the bits that were divine, so we cannot say that here the human bit is sleeping, then the Godly bit wakes up and calms the storm. He is both at all times. It’s a ‘paradox’  Which is part of the mystery of faith, part of the tension we have to hold on to in our faith. And it is something that has kept theologians and academics in work for years so don’t dwell on it too much!  But in relation to our passage here I think the very fact that we see Jesus asleep helps us to understand that he knows, I mean he truly knows, what it is like to be human, the bodily needs but also the emotional ones. He knows what it is to suffer or to be in pain, he knows what it is to be filled with joy and laughter and as we highlighted last week, with our Remembrance video – John 11:35. He knows what it is to mourn.  Jesus Wept.

He knows what it is like to be us, to be me, to be you. He knows.

xxxxx

But this passage gives us such a sharp contrast doesn’t it?! he’s asleep one minute and performing an amazing miracle the next!

But if we understand this, in his divinity… as God…. he doesn’t sleep.
He doesn’t leave us, he doesn’t sleep when we are in trouble, he’s right there in it with us. Just as he was on the boat. He hadn’t left, or abandoned them in their hour of need, he was right there with them. Just as he is always with each of us.

So. He’s human but he’s also God.

It is not an easy concept to get your head around… but I think its helpful for us to know that Jesus understands whatever it is we are going through.

xxxxxx

Atmosphere

Do you know that when Jesus is present the atmosphere changes?

So here’s the thing, do you know what happens when a storm forms? In a very basic form (and if there are any amateur meteorologists out there you can correct me - but not until I’ve finished ok!) a storm happens  when there are differences in atmospheric pressure coming together.

So when Jesus calms the storm, he is literally changing the atmosphere. And that’s what he does, when he comes, the atmosphere changes. Spiritually and physically, the atmosphere changes.

What the disciples realised that day that, we know already. Jesus is Lord over all.
I just love their reaction, I mean can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like? They are on the verge of drowning then Jesus just commands it all to stop – I mean we see in the passage, the disciples are like: who even is this? The wind and the water obey him – what is that all about?!

Well we now have the benefit of the bible and the bible tells us that Jesus is the Lord of creation, it is under his command. Colossians 1 says this of Jesus:


15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.


So that’s:
: The fullness of God dwells in Jesus.
: In Jesus all things hold together.
: All of creation is under his command.

If he can command the wind and the waves, what is there that he cannot do?


So we’ve got:
Jesus is human and knows what it is to be human, what we are going through, living with, but Jesus is also God, and Lord of all creation. Everything is under his command.

Xxxxx


So, we know who Jesus is, yes?

So then what about us? What’s our role?

Faith.

I love how when the disciples wake Jesus up, the passage just says ‘He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters… it’s just sounds so chilled out doesn’t it.  I’m not sure it was as simple as that, I mean when I wake up it takes about half an hour to get moving, and then I’m not even properly awake.
Not only that they were going to drown, the boat would have been lurching from side to side, rocking, filling up with water. And he just ‘gets up and calms the storm’. Now I don’t know about you but if I get woken up, I’m pretty grumpy about it. I don’t do waking up well. And I don’t know, but Jesus seems pretty grumpy here doesn’t he, I mean it is a bit harsh, the disciples obviously thought they were going to drown and he’s like ‘where is your faith?’. Well, derr, I mean I’m not sure how many of us could be in a situation like that and just be calm about it. What did he want them to do? They did actually call on him, they woke him, so what else did he expect them to do?


Well do you want to know what I think? Well I’m gonna tell you anyway….
I think the point here is that they even took their gaze off him at all.

Hebrews 12 tells us – ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.’

Faith is not just about believing in Jesus, it’s about being truly and utterly focussed on him, in all things, at all times in all places. In fact Hebrews 11:1 tells us that: faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Sometimes it isn’t even about believing, it’s about trusting. And there is a difference.

Listen we can spend all our time focussing on the things that distract us, whether they are little niggly things or great big boulders that block our view, they take our gaze off Jesus. I heard someone once say that even something as small as 1pcoin can blot out almost your whole view, if its right in front of your eye.
But if we get fixed on the stuff, on the rubbish, we shift our eyes from the one who is right there with us in it all.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. Focus on the truth.

If we focus on the storm, we will drift, we will be swept along by the tide, we will be tossed and turned by the waves.

I don’t know if any of you have ever danced but you know when you see dancers ballet dancers particularly, not sure if you will see it on Strictly! – perhaps ask Karen, she can tell you! – anyway when they do lots of spins on the spot, to stop themselves getting dizzy, or falling over or drifting, they keep they eyes fixed on a spot on the horizon, so if you watch they move their body but the head stays still and flicks at the last minute, keeping their eyes fixed on one spot…

So I think that’s why Jesus was asking them ‘where is your faith?’ because they were so focussed on the storm, I think they probably even forgot he was there. I mean how easy would that be, you can imagine it, they were probably all running around grabbing ropes, trying to slop the water out of the boat, or hanging on to something to avoid getting washed out of the boat. Would one man asleep in the corner be grabbing their attention.

But then we forget – they had travelled with Jesus, for weeks if not months, they have seen him do extraordinary things, healings, raise someone from the dead!! they have given up everything to follow him. And yet, here he almost withdraws slightly and at the first hurdle they panic!

Is that we do? Are we so fixed on Jesus, UNTIL something comes along to distract us?

You know that’s why things like discipleship, small groups, reading your bible and praying regularly are so important. We need to have Jesus and our faith so ingrained in us that when the proverbial hits the fan, we are still set firm on the rock of Jesus, So that in the midst of the storm, we can still fix our eyes on Jesus. That he can be our focus in all that we face
xxxx




So, here’s what you need to remember:

Jesus is fully human – he really knows what we are going through, from the every day stuff to the real challenges.
Jesus is fully God – He is Lord over all, nothing is too great for him, he even commands the wind and the waves. He can perform miracles.

And us – well we have to play our part. Where is our faith? We need to focus on him, fix our eyes on him, even in the midst of the storm.



Prayer:

 So I said at the beginning I really felt God wanted to meet us this morning, the storms are going to meet with Jesus. We should have plenty of time to pray.  Couple of things I want to say first:

Sometimes, especially in really challenging situations we can feel let down by God, we don’t understand why things happen, or why he doesn’t heal, or why he hasn’t answered our prayer. That’s ok. But this morning let’s focus on who he is. If you have a storm, or a challenge or a situation that you need help with, or you need healing, I encourage you to bring it before him. We can’t always understand, that is so hard, I know, but we can make a choice to fix our eyes on Jesus. So let’s try and do that this morning.

And secondly it’s ok to get angry with God. He wants to know you – all of you – the Psalms are full of David getting cross with God and then praising him all the same! You can be cross with God or not understand where he is or what he is doing, and still have your eyes fixed on him! So that’s ok… and hey if you need to shout at God this morning, this is a safe place! Go ahead!



  Followed by Prayer and ministry time...

Friday, 14 November 2014

Share the Hope



So for the second year running I am overseeing the Share the Hope Project which came out of an idea to 'reclaim Advent' from the craziness of Christmas prep that has swallowed it up. I mean let's face it, it's just the second week of November and we are well into the consumer hype aren't we? Christmas trees are up (and in my local supermarket it has been for weeks!), the dulcet tunes of tinny Christmas carols are filling our high street stores, the Tesco cracker hat is already adorning their logo, the Christmas ads are upon us (lovely though they are) and the dreaded conversations about who is 'having Auntie Marge this year' are once more upon us. 

I don't know about you, but from about September onwards, as hard as I try otherwise, my thoughts are drawn to Christmas. To the hosting, to the meal planning, to the presents, to the entertaining, to Christmas cards and decorations and so much more. It is so busy that by the time Christmas arrives I'm a bit fed up to be honest. Which is crazy isn't it? One of the most special times of the year, spiritually and otherwise, and we get too caught up in the preparation to enjoy it properly. If anyone does notice Advent it's usually just about the chocolate in the calendar (although at least now we can get some good Christian ones - plug here for the Real Advent Calendar...).  My kids love Advent as it's the only time of year they get to eat chocolate before Christmas!

So last year I came up with the idea of trying to encourage people to spend just a few minutes each day thinking about the hope that Advent is really all about. It is about preparation in a way, but not preparation for just one day, but preparing for the coming of a King.  And, so last year we launched Share the Hope, a sort of online Advent Calendar for the digital age, sharing a message of hope each day from 1-25 December (yes I know Advent starts on 30th November but we are going with the masses ok?). And I'm so excited that we are back for a second year! 

Just like a traditional advent calendar, each day will tell part of the Christmas story according to Scripture, but will have an added reflection on hope for people to think about. These have been given by a range of people across the wider Church, including Vicars & Pastors, an Arts Chaplain, an International blogger, a Charity director and the Bishop of Lewes to name just a few. It promises to give a really varied view of what Christian hope is all about and will hopefully encourage people away from the hectic Christmas preparation for just a few minutes!

So I encourage you to go and sign up! The reflections will be published daily and you can sign up to receive the daily doses of hope online at: www.sharethehopeuk.wordpress.com  or on Facebook: Facebook.com/Sharethehopeuk  & Twitter: @sharethehopeuk 



And don’t forget it’s all about sharing the hope, so get sharing and please help us spread the word by going and telling someone about it! Thank you :)

Monday, 3 November 2014

#CNMAC14 - Otherwise known as The Christian New Media Awards & Conference






It's funny how you can go to the same conference year after year and have such differing experiences. Well in this case actually it was only twice as circumstance had conspired against me in the past but I was very pleased to be at CNMAC14 this year in my second visit to the conference. The Christian New Media Awards & Conference run by Premier (which BTW seems to be taking over the digital Christian world - anyone else noticed that?!) is all about celebrating, promoting and encouraging the use of all things digital in the Christian world. Part conference, part awards ceremony it seems to attract a wide range of people from across the breadth of the church.

The theme this year was 'Transforming Church, Transforming Society' a title I could have written myself as I seem to be banging on about this theme rather a lot. Although I suspect that's more about 'being on trend' (hideous phrase that it is) in the church world, rather than any particular brilliance on my behalf or that of the organisers. Joking aside, it is a theme that is so important to the church right now (and I refer you to my previous post on the future of the CofE)...

This year I thought there was a much older age range of visitors to the conference which may of course be my own inaccurate observation, but I have to admit to a rather uncharitable chuckle at two older chaps in front of us struggling to take a selfie with their iPad... In all seriousness, though it is nice that it isn't just the young hip metrosexuals who are keen on the digital age, it is essential for the whole church to embrace this 'new' technology, not just a few. And I use the quotes as one of the repeated phrases this year was 'but is it new?' What we are talking about is not really that new anymore is it, it's becoming main stream. I mean the stats on the numbers of Facebook and Twitter users staggered even me, a seasoned Soc Med user and fan - there are literally billions! and not just that but social media is responsible for getting the real news out from places where journalists are banned, it enables charities to raise thousands of pounds with no overheads, and creates a form of communication for those who often cannot communicate. One of the best seminars I went to looked at the #ALSIceBucketChallenge and #AntiHomelessSpikes and looked at the way those hashtag 'campaigns' created such a stir. I was rather amused when one woman asked at the end what a hashtag was?! but again it made me think how good it is that people who don't 'get' the whole digital thing, can come to somewhere like this conference and ask those questions.

I have to admit though, the above example aside,  I'm not sure I made the best choice of seminars this year, which just goes to show that my Father-in-Laws old adage ' time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted' is one to remember at all times. In my defence, in advance I had looked at the list but then left my choices at home and arriving late at the conference I seemsed to run from one thing to another. However there were highlights of brilliance and challenge which I scribbled furiously into my journal. The seminars that perhaps were not the best choices, were not because they weren't good, just that I felt that it was telling me stuff I already knew, perhaps for next year a guide to each talk on level of competence/difficulty or experience might be helpful for the organisers to add. But then at the same time it's good to know that one is on the right track too.

One of the best things though this year, for me, was the networking. Pre-arranged get togethers via Twitter meant meeting up with old online friends and some new ones too, which was really lovely. I know there is an ongoing debate about whether the virtual world is 'real', but it was great to meet people who I know online, for real, as well as cement friendships with some I'd met before. 

I think one of the things that challenged me most was Pete Philips talk (from CODEC), the title of which I have already forgotten, but gave us a glimpse into the future of the digital world. In something that resembled the kind of world that we were warned the 21st Century would be, he posed the question 'are we already cyborgs?' taking about the evidence for the human race being one that adapts to every environment and talking of chips under ones skin and goodness knows what else. However, somewhat freakish as it was in parts, I love a good challenge and it really made me think, I am someone who calls herself a 'pioneer' and wants to be at the forefront of the church trying new things, but am I really at the forefront or just feeding off other peoples ideas? It's not good enough looking a few years ahead, we need to look decades ahead and plan for the kind of world we will be then. If we just face the challenges of now, what are we achieving? we will always be years behind! Again my memory fails me, but one of the speakers yesterday said that the church needs to be the forefront of invention/society/new things and in the past that was always the case. 300 years ago the church had oodles of money, with patrons who funded work in the arts, sciences and other areas, the newest ideas, inventions, the best artwork and sculpture was at the hands of and for the benefit of the church, well for the glory of God actually. So the thought I am left with is: Isn't it about time we got to the fore again?




Sunday, 26 October 2014

Saving the Church of England

Photo via Wylio, copyright: Bengin Ahmad

Someone wise once said to me 'don't go into the Church of England trying to save it, because you will die trying'. At the time I was quite taken aback as actually I think that is part of my calling, well, not to save the CofE single handedly of course, but certainly to make a difference, to be part of the future, to definitely see change happen. Not just for the sake of change, but in order to see the church grow into the future rather than wither away. Every now and then when I get really wound up by the CofE (which let's face it for those of us working in it can be a regular occurrence) I remember that phrase and I remember how it made me feel: it made me think 'well so be it, that's no reason not to try'. (And I should say it is not my life's work to save the CofE, my life's work is to tell people about Jesus).

Over the last few decades (well probably longer) there has been continual talk of the decline of the Church. Every now and then it wanes a bit and then it builds up again, usually based on someone, somewhere mouthing off about the church. Either way, it is true, the CofE as we know it, is in decline and if we want to see it in our future then we need to act. This is not a surprise of course, people have been saying it for years, but in recent times the pressure has certainly been on. 

Right now there is a lot of hope in the CofE. Certainly the appointment of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury has pleased many both in and outside the church. There are lots of exciting things going on and people in high places talking of the future. However... in the last 20 years or so there has been a lot of talk, but not enough action, and not enough money put where the mouth is. And there has been a lot of people sticking their heads in the sand. There have been some fantastic ideas but no backing. Pioneer Ministry is a prime example - fantastic idea, training people to actively get out there and do new things, thinking of new forms of church - exactly what we need if we want to survive - and yet there are not enough funded places for Pioneer Ministers, hardly any in fact.

Of course it is not just about pioneering new things, a recent (and excellent) report, 'From Anecdote to Evidence' highlighted the fact that growing churches are not necessarily new ones, although they did feature a lot, but they are places that are committed to what they do and know exactly what their style is.

This week Bishop Julian Henderson said outright that we need radical change. Archbishop Cranmer's blog commented on this: 
"Bishop Julian is right to focus on the young, but the real job is to convince churches that they seriously need to take a long hard look at what church is and should be. Unless a church fully understands the need for mission to be part of its culture and is actually willing to do something about it, then the battle has already been lost."
He also goes on to talk about how obsessed we are with Sunday services and how we need to get beyond that. It is an excellent post so do go over and read it. 

I really hope that this increase of talk about the future is the start of something new and not just talk. We have seen enough of that with not enough action. The danger is though, that we are essentially still a democratic church. We saw with the vote for women Bishops, that initially it was scuppered by the 'lay' vote - i.e: the people in the pews. The media speculated with "quotes" from Justin Welby apparently saying if need be he would force it through or even change the way Synod worked. Whether they were accurate or not remains to be seen but thankfully it wasn't necessary and we are well on the way to seeing women in mitres in this country. But it does go to show that if we want to see change we need to get the wider congregation on side. I can think of countless conversations I've had with people frustrated by traditionalists digging in their heels and refusing to make change, even in some cases at the detriment or demise of their own churches.

And I would like to say, as I have said countless times before, I am not anti-tradition, in fact I'm all for difference, after all God made us all differently and it makes sense that we would meet with him or want to worship him in different ways. I'm not saying we need to turn every church into an all singing all dancing 'show', not at all. But we do need to be open to change, open to trying some different things to reach people who are not being reached.  
Today on the way home from church I had to pop to the supermarket (Lord, forgive me!). As I drove in, I was amazed at how busy the car park was - busier than at any other time I have been in. Sunday morning and Tesco was heaving, all tills open, even the self serve checkouts (an invention I'm sure put into place to drive us all round the twist) had big queues. That says it all really. We are no longer a nation where Sundays are sacred. They are just another day. Tesco is more popular than church. So what does that tell us? Well it says to me that if we want to see people meeting Jesus, it we want to see the church continuing to play a part in our society, then we have to think differently about what that means. We cannot sit comfortably in our pews (or less comfortably on plastic stackable chairs) on a Sunday morning and be happy with what we are doing. We have to do something different...

As always, I'd love to know others thoughts so do comment below...

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Encouraging the Spirituality of Children



Photo via Wylio / Ivan David Gomez Arce
So last weekend at Vicar School we had some excellent teaching on stages of development and on stages of faith development. I was really fascinated by the teaching on children's spirituality and how open they are to things of a spiritual nature. Open that is until we shut them down.

(and when I talk of spirituality, we had a whole discussion on what that means to different people, but essentially I mean here, in referring to matters of a spiritual nature, things that are outside of this world, seeking something outside of ourselves)

We learn from a very early age what we share with others and if the response is negative we learn very quickly not to share that again. Even as an adult I am careful when I share my own beliefs. I mean, I am a natural evangelist so I talk about Jesus all the time, but when it comes to things of a spiritual nature, for example, believing God can heal through the Holy Spirit or that I can feel God or in referring to 'spiritual warfare' then I test the waters first, because let's face it can all sound a bit bonkers. And none of us want people to think we are bonkers do we, because then people won't listen to the message we have to share...

So as children, it doesn't take much for them to be shut down and yet research shows that an openness to spirituality is far more evident in children. In fact one research study showed that 50% of people have had a 'spiritual experience' and it mostly happens in childhood. 

I like to think that in this house we are pretty open to hearing from our kids on spiritual matters, in fact we try and encourage it, encourage them to be open about it. But even then, this week I was telling my youngest about the stuff I had been learning last weekend and she told me an example of someone at school (she's just 8 by the way) whose friends thought she was lying because of something she said she had seen. Even at 8, they question things, even at 8, they learn to keep quiet, even at 8 they are wary of who to talk to. And I find that so sad. 

As parents we have a key role in listening to our children's experiences, especially when they are younger, so often they just talk and talk don't they, and so often we just switch off! Or if it something we are unsure about ourselves, we doubt what they say, or we try and explain it in our own adult terms.

So how can we encourage our children to be open to these things, to encountering God in real and personal ways, to understand that it is ok to have these experiences even though the world doesn't always recognise them? and how can we be more open, listening, hearing...

That's something that I really want to do with my own children. As I said we are pretty open and we have a once a week bible or prayer session with them, where we do different things or activities. In the past some of the best times we have had have been just waiting on God, giving them pen and paper and seeing what they feel God is saying. They have had amazing words and pictures that are way beyond their level of understanding. They have had words of knowledge for people who are really struggling and have spoken so directly into the situation without really knowing anything about it.

Sometimes we just have to allow them to be open, to listen, to hear and to see without questioning.

I would love to hear others experiences - have your children had spiritual experiences, seen angels, had words from God...? Or do you a have great ideas of how to encourage your children in this area? do get in touch...




Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Talk from Hurst College Chapel // All Age // 9/10/14

All Age talk from Hurst College Chapel Prep School Service

The parable of the wedding banquet

22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”






Intro to me

So I thought Id better just introduce myself – as you heard my name is Jules. And I expect some of you will recognise me because I have 2 kids here in the prep school. But I also work for a church in Burgess Hill called The Point Church and I’m actually training to be a Vicar in the Church of England. Which is why I am here because I need to get some practice in speaking and helping in services in places like this. So that’s me…

So we’re going to look at the Gospel passage we just heard from Matthew which talks all about a big wedding banquet, or party doesn’t it? So how many of you know that when you read the bible you get two kinds of meanings, one is what we call contextual – but really means its talking about things at the time and the other is how we can use it today – what does it mean to us today?

So here in this passage Jesus is talking about a wedding banquet and he would have been describing a big Jewish wedding as it was back then, and they were pretty full on parties let me tell you. They would spend months preparing and once it was ready they would be huge, amazing lavish parties, the kind that everyone would want to come to. So then, I am sure lots of you have been to big parties, so if we were going to have a party here what might we need?

Got some bits in my bag here, but I need some help, what might we need…

Food (crisps/ biscuts etc)
Decorations streamers / party poppers / balloons
Nice clothes – bling – necklace, tiara
Music – ipod/ instrument? Drum?
Band – organist !

( see what other options they come up with)

What do you think? Is this going to be a great party? Ok so what if this was your party and you wanted all your friends to come – invites – we need to invite people –  who wants to be a servant and give out our invites? (2 people)

Give out 6 invites – servants to hand out. (don’t open them yet)

So what happened to the people in the passage – did they come to the party? No, not only did they say no, they killed and ill treated the servants didn’t they.

Obviously were not going to do that to our servants are we?! Don’t worry servants you are ok – ok so what could we do to symbolize not wanting to come to the party?
Whose was given an invite – stand up – ok I want you to rip them in 2 – just in half – once is enough.


Ok well the thing about our passage is its not just talking a out a wedding banquet or a party is it? There’s a line at the beginning that tells us – Jesus said ‘the kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared  a banquet…
In the Isaiah passage today it says this:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
  a feast of rich food for all peoples,
 a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.

(ok well we haven’t got wine and meat but were almost there)

So what this is really about is the Kingdom of Heaven – now the kingdom of heaven doesn’t just mean the place where we want to go when we die. It means Gods kingdom, where God is and he is all round us isn’t here, he is everywhere.  Wherever we are.

And God's kingdom is far better than the best party in the world. I can tell you from the moment I choose to accept Jesus into my life, my life has been one extraordinary adventure. Not to say it is always great, it isn’t, not to say nothing ever goes wrong of course it does, but having Jesus in your life makes everything so much better and easier and more peaceful and more joyful… it is a little bit like being part of a big exciting party with lots of friends around you.
And the thing about God's kingdom, is who is invited? What happens in our passage – some people get invited don’t they and they don’t want to come, so the king sends out the servants to invite everyone. It says ‘ all the people they could find, good and bad…’ Everyone!!

Everyone gets invited to God’s party.  We are all, every single one of you can get to go to this party if you want to.

So who had the invites earlier – what do they say on the front (hold up)
RSVP – what does that mean – (response from kids)
Yes you have to respond…

So imagine if you held an amazing party and no one came, no one replied none of your friends or the people you loved – how would you feel?
I think that’s how God feels about us, he longs for us to come to his party.

And so do we want to be people who get to go to his amazing party? Do we rip up the invitation and push him out of our lives? Or do we want to say yes, I want to be part of this amazing kingdom?

How could you respond to Jesus invitation if you wanted to?
Ask them and see what responses

 then:
...or you could very shortly come up and receive communion or have a blessing, whichever you choose. Because when you come up and do that it’s a bit like saying, you know what, I want to know more about your kingdom, I want to know more about you in my life Jesus, I want to come to your party.

Ending..

So just remember that invitation is always open to you. And you can accept it any time you like… and you know what Jesus would just love to have you at his party…

Amen…