Images of Heaven???? Swedish House Mafia and the Mothers Union

I did a talk last week for the Mothers Union, a further post, or posts will follow about that.

I was showing them some secular music which had either a religious or spiritual message, or talked about the artists faith. I showed them this video from Swedish House Mafia ‘Don’t you worry child’ and the first comment I received was ‘That’s what heaven will be like, all of us gathered with the lamb on the throne’.

Then another pitched in ‘but where are the harps???’ Then the giggling broke out.

But I thought this was a point worth dwelling on a little longer. We’re told that heaven will be a place where “all flesh shall come to worship before me” (Isaiah 66:22,23) and that it will be a place of great joy, where there will be no pain or tears (Revelation 21:4).

One of the things that struck those who watched the video was how happy people seemed after the gig. People spoke in love and there is the iconic picture of someone making a heart with their hands at the end.

I thought this was an interesting image of heaven……

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Here is my introduction and some reflections that were made.

This song is called ‘Don’t you worry Child’, and it was released towards the end of 2012. It became one of the big dance anthems of 2013.

There isn’t a ‘normal’ video to this song, the video they made was filmed in one of the big festivals in the UK. they also used this song to announce that the group were splitting up and this would be their last song together.

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Over riding message that we are all here for a reason.

Going from happiness and security, when we thought we were in control, losing that and coming back.

Possible interpretations
1) Childhood to adulthood
When you’re a child you are care free, secure and unaware. With time come knowledge and responsibility, everything changes. But we find comfort n our fathers words ‘Don’t you worry, heaven has a plan’.

2) Song sung by Adam (of Adam and Eve)
Remembers the beautiful days of paradise in Eden. At the fall everything changed – sin banished them from the garden and the closeness he experienced. But God still loves them and comforts him that there is a bigger plan.

We’re all God’s children – confused, ignorant, scared, but God is giving us a message, not to worry.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6. 25-34 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,* or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Mark 14: 46 – A Faceless Crowd

Mark 14: 46 - A Faceless Crowd

A faceless crowd. Harsh, accusing, out for blood. The giver of truth being condemned by a lie.

A traitor. A kiss.

A crowd of traitors. How many people in that crowd were also crying ‘CRUCIFY!!!’ just days later?

How many times have I stood in that crowd?

How many times have I accused, condemned, rejected? Turned my back because the truth was too hard to take? Gone along with the energy and hype, to be part of the ‘in’ crowd?

When we are accused, how often do we feel like we are being faced by that crowd?

Surrounded by darkness, pressured and pushed around, asked to be something you are not? Mistreated, abused, kept on the outside; rejected.

A faceless crowd of accusers, focused on the result rather then the truth. The greatest pain and injury we can feel comes not from our enemies, but from those who are closest to us.

Psalm 55: 12-14

It is not a enemy who taunts me –

then I could bear it;

it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me –

then I could hide from him.

But it is you, my equal,

my companion, my familiar friend.

We used to hold sweet converse together;

within God’s house we walked in fellowship.

Baptism sermon of Asa Shay Court Williams

Asa Shay

What we hear about ourselves, and what others tell us affects us. It helps shape us. Sianny read beautifully that well known poem ‘If a child lives with …’  (below) it’s a poem that is important to her and to how her and Kev bring up both Asa and Logan, and it an important message to hold onto for all you who are parents. But I don’t think the message is solely about what affects children, because it can apply to us all.

Through what we are told and the way people behave, we are either built up, or torn down, little by little.

How many messages do we hear every day, from the people around us, tv, radio, advertisements:

You’re too old, too fat, too tall, too young, too skinny, too short.
That you need to change the colour of your hair, the way you dress, the car you’re driving, your mobile phone.
To don’t do that, and don’t do this……..

Imagine how different life would be if we heard more positive messages, and affirmation of who we are.

God says in the writings from a chap, a prophet, called Isaiah
“Don’t be afraid, 
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you won’t drown.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    I’ll show you the way to go—
Because I am God, I am YOUR God,
you are precious to me and I love you,

And this is what God thinks of us, that he wants us, he’s there for us through thick and thin, and that he loves us.

When Jesus was baptised, God told him that he was special, that that he was pleased with him. And we believe that the same is true for Asa that he is special, and that God is well pleased with him.

And there are so many bits of the bible that tell us over and over again of how fabulous God thinks we are, and how much he loves us.

We’ve all made promises this morning, we’ve all promised at this service that we will be part of the process of reminding Asa of how important, and loved he is, despite all the other messages the world will throw at him throughout his life.

Jesus was told that he was loved by God before he’d even done anything. He’d not preached a sermon, or healed anyone yet, he’d not even turned water into wine! But still God loved him.

This has been called the ‘first love’,
It’s the love that is not depended on anything we do, or who we are, it’s the love we don’t have to earn.

It’s the love God has for us.
It’s the love that Sian, Kev and Logan has for Asa.
Asa has not done anything to gain this love, they love him just because he is Asa.
And likewise, this first love is how Asa loves Sian, Kev and Logan, not because of anything they’ve done, although I’m sure they’ve done plenty between changing nappies, dealing with baby sick and the occasional crying session, but he loves them just because they are who they are.

It is my prayer that as Asa grows, you will remember your first love for him, and as he grows, and makes mistakes and learns about the world you all will remember the promises you’ve made today so that with your tolerance, encouragement, praise, acceptance, approval, recognition, honesty, fairness, security and friendliness, he will grow up to be patient, confident, appreciating, loving, liking himself, having goals, knowing truth and justice, trusting and knowing what a nice place the world is to live in.

Knowing how important he is, not just to us, but also to God who will be there for him, from his first steps, till his last.

The messages we hear about ourselves are important, they help shape the view we have of ourselves and of the world. Remember this, not just for today, and not just for Asa, but remember that you are important and what you say and do matters

.

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“If a child lives with………” Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive.

If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilt.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative.

If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with recognition, he learns that it is good to have a goal.

If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to trust in himself and others .

If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live
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Sermon St David & Lent

St David/ Sunday before Lent.

I feel very spoilt this morning. First of all because I get to be here, in this group of churches this morning, I was really happy to be asked to come here this morning/ afternoon. Secondly I feel spoilt because there was such a range of things I could have preached on this morning. Of course yesterday we celebrated St David’s Day, and we continue the celebrations this morning.
In the church calendar it is also the Sunday before lent, and the celebration of the Transfiguration, and many churches will be hearing this morning from Matthew 17 of how Jesus and a few of his disciples went up to the mountain and Jesus’ appearance changed, and Jesus’ true nature was reviled, and the figures of Moses & Elijah joined Jesus and they had a little chat. And then if you remember Peter, in his typical clumsy way, wanted to build three dwellings.
(I love Peter and some of the things he comes out with, he is one of my favourite disciples and I could talk about him for ages, but you’ll have to invite me back to preach if you want to hear more..)

I struggled a little while thinking about what I was going to say to you, I sometimes have a problem with making decisions, especially when faced with so much choice, but today I want to talk about Lent and St David, because for me this year, they have a strong link,

We all know the stories and legends of David, and you probably know them better than I do. It’s unfortunate that the first ‘biography’ of him wasn’t written until about 500 years after his death, so we cannot be certain which legends and traditions are true. But even so, there is still a lot we can learn.

St David is believed to be the son of King Sant, and St Non, he was ordained a priest, lived the life of a monk, and was made bishop and archbishop of Wales. He founded many monasteries and he lived a very simple life, eating only bread and herbs and drinking only water. This lifestyle even earned him the nickname of ‘David – the water drinker’.
David made some very specific choices about the life he was going to lead. There was no one forcing him along this path, these paths of faith and service, and the life of simplicity, it was a deliberate choice, and the way he believed he should live.
As a result, he has been remembered in the pages of our history books, of our tales and legends and in the heart of our nation. This was not his intention, but just the result of his faithful discipleship, and having the courage to follow what he believed was right.

In our gospel today, Jesus is asking us to make a deliberate choice, to take up our cross, and to follow him.
I consider these some of the hardest words in the gospels, and yet some of the most exciting. Because in these lines, Jesus is asking us to make a choice about our lives, these are challenging words and they have the power to be life-changing.
Jesus at this point is talking to only his disciples who have gathered around, he is talking to a group of people who have already made the choice to leave everything behind and follow him.
But thought the scriptures, he is also talking to us gathered here.
And it might seem that Jesus is setting the bar a little too high. If we were to read this passage away from the rest of the bible, especially the other teachings of Jesus we could easily be lead into believing that our only hope for salvation and being a disciple of Jesus would be that if I was somehow able to discern what in fact losing my life for Jesus’ sake meant; and then actually losing it.
Thankfully we have the rest of the context, and just before our verses today, we know that Jesus just spoke of His cross, and how necessary it is for Him to accomplish His purpose. We then know that as followers of Jesus we can only do what he has called us do.
In verse 23 Jesus scolds Peter for not achieving what in our passage He says that all of his disciples must do;
Jesus said, ‘“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”’
Peter failed, he got things wrong, as I am sure each of us fail; daily!
Peter failed to meet Jesus’ calls, and he is scolded for placing too much on earthly things and not trusting enough in God. But instead of pushing us away, we are brought closer to Jesus, and through this, we can learn that our cross is nothing without His cross.
That we could never carry our own cross; if we try, if we try and do things in our own way, when we try to live without God, we will fail.
We can only do what he has called us to do. And we are at the most perfect time of year I think for discerning what this is.
For too many people, Lent has become a time of year when we MIGHT give up on of life’s luxuries, maybe chocolate, or alcohol. But if that is all you do, I fear the point may have been missed.
Lent, is a time of preparation, it is the time we remember Jesus in the wilderness and his temptations, and it is a time when Jesus prepared to do what God has called him to do.
Likewise, Lent should be a time when we can take stock of our lives;
What are the good things?
What are the bad habits?
What are the things we do that pull us away from what God has called us to do?
What stops us using our gifts and talents?
What separates us from the people around us?
What stops us from following Jesus?

This does not just apply to church, but to the whole of our lives.
For me, I find two big problems, money and time. I spend too much money on things that just are not important. If I want something, I will buy it from amazon or ebay without a second thought. If I have a craving for something, I often don’t think twice about jumping in the car and driving to the shop.
And I fill my time with business, and I get caught up in the doing of things that I fail in taking time to appreciate what and who I have around me.
And so this year for the 6 weeks of Lent, I am going to try and change these.
Firstly with money, I am going to try and live off the budget set by our local Foodbanks which is £14.33 per person, per 3 days. So roughly £30 a week for food. I am also cutting out internet shopping, completely, because those things I think I NEED in those moments of weakness, I actually don’t.

I am also going to try to follow those famous words of St David, ‘Be joyful and keep your faith…Do the little things that you have heard about and seen me do.’
To do the little things, is to appreciate each moment, and give thanks for the blessing that are around us. To do the little things, means you have to slow down, otherwise those moments are quickly gone.
Lent is a time to prepare for what God has called us to do.
What has God call you to do? And what is stopping you from doing them?