Hello everyone! Today the service at Wesley Chapel was led one of our own members Ken Dransfield with the assistance of a lovely young man Daniel Sudron, who goes with him every time he preaches. It was as always a thoughtful and worshipful service. We began the service with the lovely hymn of praise; ‘Let all the world in every corner sing,’ which was a favourite hymn of my father and always makes me think of him. Daniel led the opening prayers and did the readings from Isaiah 40v1-8, then Luke 3v1-9 and Luke 3v10-18 whilst we sang hymns in between the readings namely, ‘Go tell it on the mountain,’ and ‘My God, I thank thee, who hast made, the earth so bright.’ Ken led the intercessions and then we had the pleasure of Pam from Kearby chapel singing of her love for the Lord Jesus. As the readings had been describing John preaching repentance and baptism in the Jordan River, Pam had also described how moving she found it to be baptised in the river Jordan. We all then sang ‘Thou didst leave thy throne’ before Ken preached.
Ken took as his theme the good news; after Jesus had read that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him appointing him to preach the good news his ministry proper began. Ken saw that focusing on the good news was a good way to start the New Year, when there is so much bad news in the news and in the newspapers. Luke’s reading began with a quotation from Isaiah of one who was to come to prepare the way for the one who was to come. It was not a straight forward offer of salvation as there was judgment implied when the Messiah came; the chaff would be separated from wheat using a kind of shovel and the chaff would be burnt off. Who were the sinners John was addressing? They were the tax collectors, soldiers, Pharisees and they were often taking too much money and failing to care for those around them. God’s chosen people included those suffering unemployment, ordinary shepherds, fishing, some like Joseph in trade in small towns. There were also subsistence labourers; the return for their labour was very low. Would salvation have been a priority for such people? Yet the good news he preached would have meant something to them?
John Wesley preached salvation too as well as visiting the sick, the prisoners and promoting the education of children. Jesus had grown up witnessing the state of his people but he preached the good news of salvation, liberty for captives, sight for the blind and healing for the infirm and despised. It was assumed at that time that their problems were their own fault or their parents’ fault but Jesus came to bring freedom for the oppressed. What if we had been alive at that time Ken wondered, how would we have reacted? How could an ordinary man make any difference? He could not! There were difficulties from those in power whose comfort zone was challenged; at first they sneered at Jesus in contempt, then hatred which inevitably led to his death on the cross. That was not the end of Jesus, which the religious authorities had hoped for as Jesus’ disciples received the courage and power of the Holy Spirit to continue Jesus’ work; others too have felt called to proclaim salvation sharing the good news of Jesus.
Ken then told us of a missionary teacher, Phoebe who was in charge of a girl’s school in Africa through the CMS. When she had to retire she returned to England but she could not settle, so she returned to Africa, only returning on one occasion to recover from an illness, and ended her days in the country she had grown to love. He remembered 30 fellow missionaries who had been murdered on the mission field. Those people gave their lives proclaiming the good news Jesus came to bring. Ken reminded us of how blessed we are in this country with education, the NHS and the safety net of welfare. I only hope that will still be the case after the massive cuts and reorganisation of NHS and the far reaching changes in the benefits available for people.
Ken felt that the priority for this country is salvation. We have so much to feel thankful for. We are free to worship here and have freedom from oppression. The final hymn was ‘O Jesus, I have promised’ as a hymn of our recommitment to follow our Lord.