Ascension – A chapter closes

(Gather 2 volunteers from each year group present. Divide them into teams to do a relay race. I did year 7 & 9 at the east end of the aisle and year 8 & 10 at the west end. They used a tie for a baton)

We’re going to start with a relay race.

Starting with the year 7s their going to run up the aisle, and pass these batons onto the year 8s who will run down and pass them to the year 9s and so on.

3,2,1 GO!

Well done. Thank you.

 

Today is ascension day, and Ascension means to go up.  It can also describe when someone gets more power or more responsibility.  Kings and queens ascend to the thrown when they are crowned. And today we hear of Jesus’ ascension. It’s been 40 days since Easter, and after the resurrection, Jesus continues to work with his disciples and makes sure they are ready for this point.

Because when Jesus ascends, he passes on something very important to the disciples.

St Luke tells us that Jesus ‘opened their minds to understand the scriptures.’ If you remember, one of the titles Jesus had was Rabbi, teacher, and this is what he had been doing with the disciples, right until the end. They have all their teachings, learnt their lessons and Jesus gave them the power and blessing they needed to do what they had been prepared to do.

A little like the baton that was passed between our races, the disciples are given a baton from Jesus to continue the work he started. It’s over to them.

And so when Jesus leaves the disciples, he hands over the responsibility of what happens next to them.

And so today is an odd mix of endings and beginnings, as one chapter closes and another one opens.

And we can understand how the disciples felt.

Because we all go through a similar transition. All of you will be moving soon. Moving into a new year, moving to new classes, moving into GCSE or A-level years, moving away to college or university or moving from school to work.

Especially for our upper sixth and some of our year 11s the end of this term will mark a dramatic change as their time at Townsend comes to an end, the teachers have taught all they can and it’s time for them to ascend take everything they know and to go out into the world and use it.

And these movement our often met with a mixture of excitement, fear, grief, anticipation, joy and dread. Just as the disciples would have felt on that Ascension day.

The disciples went out, and found their way to doing all sorts of works for God, from sharing all they knew about God and telling people the gospel of Jesus, to baptising, healing the sick and travelling all over the world.

And who knows where your journey will take you, but like the disciples, you will not be unprepared, and you will not be alone as you are send out with the blessing of God and the blessing of the school to go and do the work you have been prepared to do.

The Ascension is an odd mixture of endings and beginnings, as one chapter closes and another one opens and as the baton is passed to us. What are you going to do with it?

Two debts forgiven – Children’s sermon

Luke 7:36-8:3

(Two volunteers for props. Get them to stand, arms out holding the bags, one heavy, one light. Get the rest of the children to keep an eye on them to see if they drop their arms all the bags at any time while I’m talking.)

Our readings today give us an important message. It’s a message about living The way that God wants us to live, and what happens if and when we break the rules.

In the gospel Jesus is at a party and a woman has come in, she has done things wrong in her life and the man throwing the party, Simon, was not happy she was there. He didn’t think she was worthy to be near Jesus, or at his party.

Now, there is a lot written in the bible about how we are to live our lives. There are rules written down and there are stories to give us examples. Can anyone think of any rules or commandments they know, any stories they give a message about how we are to live our lives?

Examples – the 10 commandments, the great commandment, parables, letters.

Jesus said that the most important of the commandments were to love God and to love other people. But we know we don’t always treat each other like we love them. Sometimes we cause hurt by the things we say or the things that we do.

And what happens when we break these laws and commandments? What happens when we don’t live like God wants us to live? What happens when we don’t love like God wants us to?

We become sinners. We hurt ourselves, others and God.

And sometimes those things get in the way of our relationship with God. They can create a barrier between us and God, a wall between us and God.  And sometimes other people don’t want to be around us because of the wrong things we have done.

And sometimes the wrong things we do we end up carrying around with us. We keep thinking about them, the shame and disappointment we have in ourselves and the consequences that they had. They become a burden, a heavy weight that we carry around with us. Sometimes the wrong things we do can get in the way of the things that we really want to do. Sometimes the wrong things we do can stop us living. And this is like the woman at the party, whose host didn’t want her their either, because of the things she had done

But God does not want us to live like this. He doesn’t want us to carry a heavy weight around with us. And God certainly doesn’t want us moving away from him or other people. So he tells us that whenever we do something wrong if we admit it and say sorry then we are forgiven. And when we are forgiven we no longer have to carry that weight around, we no longer have to be separated from each other, and we no longer need to be separated from God.

This is what Jesus teaches Simon at the party. He tells the story of two men Who owed money. One owed lot of money, and one owed a little and neither could pay off their debt.

When you’re older and when you owe a debt to somebody else, like when you owe a lot of money, you will learn this can feel like a heavyweight, a bit like the heavyweight of knowing you’ve done something wrong. They are both things you think a lot about and worry about and get nervous about.

Which is why I think Jesus used this image of a debt owed being like sin to teach about forgiveness.

And we have two people who have been holding a heavyweight for a little bit of time now. One holding a lot, and one holding a little. How are you feeling? Are your arms aching? Would you like to let go of your heavy weight?

(Take the bags off the volunteers but ask them to keep standing on their chairs)

Ask them how they feel now? Are they happier? More comfortable? Relieved? Lighter?

Jesus asked which of the two will be most relieved to have the debt paid off, which will be most relieved, to have the burden taken away?

The person who throw the party for Jesus answered, the one with the heaviest weight will be the most relieved.

And he was right.

Jesus then talks about the woman again, because she had sinned, she has done many many things wrong, and this had made her feel guilty and separated from other people. But she wasn’t sinful forever, she was forgiven. Jesus said ‘I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love to me’

We all do things wrong sometimes, we all say and do things that hurt ourselves, that hurt other people and that hurt God.  And the wrong things we do can have serious effects. But when we say sorry, we are set free to do all the good things again, without carrying a heavy weight of guilt and shame around. We are free again, like the woman to Jesus to show each other love.

Let us pray: God help us to love you and each other as you taught us through the Bible. And when we do things wrong, help us to say sorry and receive forgiveness so we don’t have to feel weighted down and so we can love again like you taught us. Amen.

Lord, I am not worthy Trinity 1

We all know that there are times when life is just hard.

Sometimes life feels like something is beating you up, draining you of your life, bringing you to the limit of your despair, to the end of your resources, where you’re holding on by the tip of your fingers. Nothing has worked to help the situation, and nothing can be said to make things better. There is nothing else.

It could be fear, pain, loss, illness, tragedy, exhaustion, or a whole host of other things that have brought you to that place, and it seems like all is hopeless.

This is the place where the Centurion from today’s gospel is, because his much beloved servant was ill and dying and there was nothing he could do, he’d tried it all.

We do not know the Centurion’s name. We know he is a man of great authority who demands the respect of the soldiers under his charge. He gives orders and they are followed. He says ‘Come’ and they ‘Come’, ‘Go’ and they ‘Go’. But you can’t order an ill person to be healed and healthy. He probably tried it.

We also know that the Romans were seen in a bad light by the locals being the invading political enemy and unclean non Jews. They were maybe second only to the Tax Collectors, who were just scum.

But there is something different about this Centurion.

He’d heard about Jesus. He’d heard the things Jesus had taught about, and heard the stories of miracles that followed Jesus around. And so, in hope, and faith, he seeks out a greater authority then his own, and send some of the Jewish elders to speak to Jesus and ask him to come, and heal his slave.

The man who is so use to giving orders and making things happen, hands over all authority to a preacher he has only heard of.

We learn a little more of the Centurion at this stage, because the Jewish elders speak to Jesus and start making a case for him. You quickly get the picture that this is not your ordinary centurion. They tell Jesus that he is worthy, because he’s immersed himself in the culture of Capernaum. He’d show much love for the people there. He’d shown much love for their God too, so much so he has built a new synagogue. And when his slave had become very ill, the Jewish elders had no problems with trying to help him out.

And so Jesus, on the authority of their witness, and inclined also to help, made his way over.

But on the way the centurion seems to have had some sort of realisation. Inviting a holy Jew into a gentile house, making him unclean was not a good thing to do. And so he sends friends to intercept Jesus on route with a message,

‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed’.

This was the convincing factor for Jesus. He was so amazed at this message of great faith in the authority Jesus worked with, a profession of faith he had not heard in all Israel, who were meant to be God’s special people. And so Jesus spoke, and the servant was healed.

These last words of the centurion are the defining factor of this story, which takes it from pedestrian to extrodinany. Such great faith, from a gentile, and a roman, Jesus found this amazing.

And these words of the centurion have had a much longer impact then I’m sure he intended them to. These words have carried through the centuries, and are as powerful today as they were then. They have found their place in our own liturgy, or orders of service, just before we receive communion, reminding us of Jesus’ authority to make us clean and whole with just a word from his lips.

As I read through this gospel, I pondered how my own faith would compare to the centurions. Would Jesus be amazed at my level of faith? Somehow I don’t think so, because, like the people Israel, in my familiarity, I sometimes forget to be amazed at God. I forget to be amazed that he would create this world and everything in it, and love us so much that he gave himself in Christ.

This morning I share in Christ’s amazement at the faith of the Centurion. And I take his words as my own ‘Lord I am not worthy, but only say the word and I shall be healed’.

Because whether you are starting out on the journey of faith, like our baptism candidates are today, have no strong faith to speak of, in the depths of despair or are the holiest Christian here today, we are all, equally in need of Christ’s help and healing to make us whole.

 

‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed’.

Family Worship – Road to Emmaus

Opening Prayer
We need your presence on the long road, Lord.
The road between fear and hope,
the road between the place where all is lost and the place of resurrection.
Like the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, we are in need of your company!
Jesus, stand among us, in your risen power, let this time of worship, be a holy hour. Amen
(From Re:Worship)

Song – In Christ Alone.

Game – I Spy

Theme – If you haven’t guessed by now, our theme for today is all about seeing. We’ll have a story in a few moments about two men who couldn’t see what was right in front of them.
Sometimes we don’t see the things around us. Like our game, we needed more than one guess know what is around us.

To be able to see something, we need to look for it. That sounds simple enough, but we don’t always do it.
I remember when I bought my first car. I was looking at different styles, and even different colours. And after I’d seen a car I liked, I was surprised in the days after how many of the same car I’d seen!!!

It also happened to me in school, when we were learning about something in particular, like birds, or the project we did about litter and rubbish, you start seeing it everywhere.

We need to make a special effort to see what is around us.
Before we hear our reading for today lets (try) and sing our second song (with the words)

Song – God’s not dead.

Story – The Lion Storyteller Bible – The Road to Emmaus

Talk – It’s easy for us to look at these two men, these friends of Jesus as being very silly and stupid. How could they not see their friend?? I’d hope that if I started walking with you down the street, that you would recognise me, and not think I was a stranger. But these so called friends didn’t know they were walking with Jesus.

They thought he was dead. They’d probably seen him die, just a few days earlier. So the last thing they had been expecting was to see Jesus, alive and walking around. Jesus felt very far away for them.

Sometimes Jesus seems very far away from us as well. We know that Jesus is alive and is with us. But we don’t always feel it. And there are many things that can stop us seeing Jesus in our lives. One of the most common problems is that they are too busy.
We have lots of things in our life that keep us busy don’t we. Work, school, families, friends, tv, reading, playing, shopping, gardening, cooking, cleaning, going out, and so on and so on. There are only 24 hours in each day but we like to fill them all up.
And when we get too busy, often the first thing to go, is our time to talk and listen to God. We forget about God, and we stop seeing him around.
Selfishness can also stop us from seeing Jesus around us. When we think only about ourselves and what we want. Or when we think, ‘What can I get from God today?’ ‘What can God do for me?’

This is not the belief that we share because believing in Jesus means that our questions are not about what we can get, but rather, what can I do to give thanks for this world God has given us, and this life, with all its good things.

If we think only about ourselves, we will miss Jesus, when we talk only about ourselves, we miss Jesus, when everything is about us, we will miss Jesus.

Jesus’ friends were so busy talking, and walking, that they missed what was in front of them until they stopped that evening. It wasn’t until they stopped and shared something together that they realised Jesus had been with them the whole time. And it’s not until we stop and listen that we’ll realise that Jesus is always with us.

Jesus told us that we have to love God, and we have to love each other. And when we do these two things, we will see Jesus around us.

So what can we do?
We need to stop sometimes. We need to make time to talk and listen to God. And we need to be reminded of all the things that we have around us. We need to stop and look, and see what is in front of us. And then say thank you.
Lord, help us not to miss you. Help us to stop and open our eyes to you at work in our lives.
Amen.

Song – Open our eyes Lord

Prayers – Post it thank you.

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Song – Alleluia, alleluia

Blessing and dismissal

Sermon Luke 14:1,7-14

Jesus was a great observer of human behaviour. He know us better then we know ourselves, and knows the reasons behind our actions, even when we are not fully aware ourselves.

We hear today that Jesus was at a dinner party, with a Pharisee (boo…hiss). One of the leading Pharisees as well!!! And they were watching him. But I think that Jesus was watching they pretty closely as well. He was watching and waiting for that opportunity to give them a message, to teach them a lesson.

Many people read these passages and only look at the surface. They read it as a lesson in etiquette. In Jesus’ day dinner parties were not just times for friends and family to get together, but there was a prescribed etiquette that governed who was to attend, where they sat and who with, what they were fed and how they were to be served.

But Jesus was not waiting to teach them about cleanliness, or the correct order to serve dishes, or how people were to sit. He was waiting, watching them for his moment to talk about the Kingdom of God, and how different it is to the world we live in.

As I said, there was a strict etiquette to who would attend such dinner parties, there was a great social divide which made some people acceptable, and others unacceptable in society. These occasions showed to everyone who was important and who was not.

Those of the most important got the best seats, the best food, and the very best and most wine. Those less important sat away from the top table, got lower quality food and the cheaper wine.

However, should a person of higher status arrive late, social customs permitted the host to tell a guest already seated to move…not ask, mind you, but tell: “Give up your seat!”

I don’t know about you, but I were asked to attend one of these occasions, I would spent the days before hand worrying about where I would sit, the embarrassment of being asked to move!

Jesus was watching very closely that night, determined to overturn any custom that would exclude or reject and, in his own way, told them a parable to get his message across to them without causing a riot.

“Think about your situation,” he suggested. “Because your way is not the way the Lord.”

“Your table must be open to the last as much as the first.” “The most humble, the ones that anyone of standing would never, left to their own devices, share a meal with…

  • people who are poor, ill, disabled
  • people with nothing left to lose
  • people who are difficult, hard to take care of and need a lot of help
  • people who think differently, believe differently, and act differently than you do
  • people who have no way to repay
  • people who will never be the life of any party

I don’t know about you, but I don’t hold many dinner parties. My house is too small for large gatherings (I only have four chairs). But this is more than just a dinner party. Jesus is talking more generally, about the people in our lives. And those people we invite into it, and those people we exclude, and try to keep away. Who is not welcome to share our table, who doesn’t get an invite? To our tables, to our clubs and groups, to our social gatherings, to our lives, to our church???

I’m sure we can all think of people who we have tried to keep away from, or a type of people that we find it difficult to accept or get along with so we exclude them. I am no exception in this, I’ve never made a list but I know I can think of people who I keep away from or I might not wish to be part of my life, people who scare me, or intimidate me, people who are overly loud and aggressive. Those people who drive too fast behind you on our country lanes and who get frustrated and start swearing at you because you are within the speed limit. Those who ignore you, or talk about you behind your back, and who you believe are making your life more difficult. Those we are jealous of. Those who have hurt us in the past.

If we are honest, most of us can think of people we might put on a ‘do not invite’ list. And I wonder what Jesus would have to say about that?

Jesus watches us just as closely as he watched those Pharisees that night, and I think he might be disappointed that we can feel like this. His message is that all are welcome at his table, all are welcome at the altar, with all of our faults and failings, with all of our fears and pain.

I am grateful that we have a God that does not condemn us for the baggage we carry with us, for our prejudices and fears of other people. But we must try harder as Jesus asks us to. We must try not to exclude within our own lives, because all people are children of God. If we believe the message that Jesus gives us, we are all brothers and sisters together, in Christ.

Jesus wills us to make a difference in our lives, and is asking us, inviting us, and praying that we can put aside our differences, the pasts that weigh us down, those things that put us into darkness, and instead choose to love.

‘Love the Lord with everything, and your neighbour as yourself.’

Let us move from our seats of judgement, go higher, to a seat closer to the Kingdom, closer to Jesus. To the seat that has been prepared for us. Amen.

…………………………………..

Almighty God, whose only Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence: give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Kingdom of God Has Come Near: Luke 10:1-11 & 16-20

Many of you may know what I am about to tell you, but for those of you who don’t know what I am about to confess to you, I hope you don’t think worse of me and that none of you take offence . . . but . . . I don’t like tennis.

I don’t understand the hype, and why it’s taken up so much people’s attention this week. I don’t see the attraction in watching a two people hit a ball from one side of a net to another. I don’t understand how there can be so much money involved in sports, how players can be paid so much for playing a game.

However, saying all this, I can appreciate that some people are very talented at sports and there has to be a huge amount of motivation to train, especially when things are going well.

And I have wondered how some of them keep going when all seems hopeless and they’re failing, but I guess regular motivational speeches and pep talks, fame, glory, money and pretty much anything they want makes it much easier to carry on.

The first missionaries of the church did not have the same motivations or comforts. Today we heard in our gospel the 70 disciples being sent out by Jesus to spread the gospel to towns and villages. They are commanded to go empty handed, without basic provisions necessary for the road. They did not take money, bags or even a spare set of shoes.

Jesus knew how hazardous the work of the gospel could be, but still sent them out with very little to aid them on their way. The disciples knew they would not gain fame, or money or power for the work they were about to do but they were willing to give up their jobs and families to share in the work of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel.

The 70 went out in pairs into the dusty roads empowered in the knowledge that the peace they will give will be the peace of Christ.

This knowledge was all they needed. All the encouragement they needed was to know that the work they were doing was the most important thing they could do at that time.

There is something about the Christian faith that needs to be lived out to be understood.

There are some truths within the gospel that only make sense in streets, in the homeless shelter, and at the hospital bed or anywhere were people are crying out for mercy, bread, compassion and justice. Perhaps this is why Jesus sent out his followers with only the message that the kingdom had come.

At times we might disagree with this message. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the kingdom has come. When we turn on the news or open a paper and scan the headlines it is easy to come to the conclusion that we do not live in the kingdom. Wars rage with little sign of stopping, poverty and hunger claim the lives of so many while others live in great comfort without want or need. Many are unsafe even in their homes while others enjoy security behind walls and fences.

These are not the signs of the kingdom that we would expect. In fact, if the kingdom itself knocked on our door with no sandals, no food, and no money-we might be tempted to ask it to leave us alone.

But Jesus is persistent. The seventy are to proclaim to those who receive them and to those who do not that the kingdom is near. How could they do such a thing? If the kingdom has indeed come near, what are the signs of its coming?

Let’s look again at the instructions Jesus gives to the seventy missionaries: they are to enter a town, and where welcomed they are to stay-that’s Christian hospitality. They are to eat what is given to them-that’s fellowship. Then they are to cure the sick and care for the poor-that’s compassion and care. Finally, they are to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near.

Could it be that in the faithful and loving ministry of the disciples the kingdom of God in fact comes near?

If we use these messages and tools in our lives and try to live them out, can we along with those first missionaries bring and live in the kingdom of God?

Many Christians in our own time speak of the kingdom of God as a idyllic symbol of life as it will never be. But this is not Jesus’ message to the seventy as he sends them out. Instead, Jesus declares that, within the mission and ministry of these believers, in their work going out into the world, the kingdom of God will come near.

There is something about the Christian faith that must be lived in order to be understood. Jesus knew this and sent his disciples out into the world with the only thing they needed.

Some Christians today can use their theology as a bludgeon with which to beat others who cannot share in the faith we have. Some believe that we can make people believe by shouting louder or speaking longer then others. Some never step out of their comfort zones and insist on being that person who shouts the loudest and beat their views into others, but how can we spread the gospel and the good news of Christ if we refuse to get our hands dirty, if we never take that step out of ourselves and share in someone else’s life, if only for a few minutes. How will we ever be able to show Gods love to those around us if we don’t take the time to share our message.

How can we show to ourselves and others that God is here, and we are living in his kingdom?

Jesus has called us to be his messengers in the world, to show the love he has for all by caring for those we meet.

He has sent us out into the world like sheep in the midst of wolves, but we have all we need. We are not without protection, we have all we need, we have the message that the kingdom of God has come near. Amen.