Having just retired recently from paid work, I am now beginning to catch up with my blogs. At first I was too shattered to do much and I am now starting to set up a routine. I enjoyed a week off work from Saturday June 14th till June 19th after celebrating my beloved’s 70th birthday on Sunday 15th. Local people and friends popped in to share the celebration, which was lovely. The tutor, Kath French, at the Acorn Centre where I volunteer had kindly made a special cake for Malcolm’s birthday, which was lovely and beautifully decorated by her. It was great that Cathy was home at that time so that she and Beth could both join us on the day. As usually happens it was also Father’s day so Malcolm had a double celebration as their stepdad and having his special birthday. Fortunately my beloved was in good form and enjoyed the day.
On Sunday June 22nd our worship was led by our superintendant minister, Mark Godfrey. He was glad to preach downstairs in our hall as our alterations were being done in the main chapel. Our opening hymn was ‘Praise my soul the King of heaven’ followed by opening prayers; after which we sang ‘I sing the almighty power of God’ before we heard the readings from Revelations and Matthew 10v24-33. Following the readings we sang ‘Lord for the years your love has kept and guided’.
Mark preached about Christians who faced difficult circumstances where significant decisions have to be made. The early church faced possible imprisonment, torture and death. It was a very dangerous time to be a Christian. Emperors used the church as a scapegoat and tried to wipe the movement out. Dangers are still faced by Christians today in some parts of the world. More Christians were killed for faith in the 20th Century than all the previous centuries and are still persecuted today in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan. There are parts of the world where it is very dangerous to be Christian, especially if they try to evangelise. Jesus encouraged the disciples not to fear those who kill body but cannot kill the soul. God will look after us beyond the earthly life. The reality in Britain is that others may ridicule Christians sharing the faith but our lives are not under threat if we do. The vulnerable church puts our faith to shame. There was a warning in Matthew about the consequences of our response to Jesus now, if we reject it; we will face an uncertain future. Revelation gives a powerful and optimistic vision at the climax of the Bible of a new heaven and a new earth; a new creation. In that vision God will dwell with us in a new way and this gave encouragement to the Christians who were trying to hold onto their faith; God would have the ultimate victory. That did not mean that they would not face problems and difficulties. At times the reality of life can be very difficult and depressing for us and the vision in Revelation can give us something to hold on to, but that may not be a helpful vision to us. There is more to life than what can be seen or felt, but we live in the present here and now and cannot live in the future. We are to live in the here and now but we do need a vision of the reality and truth of God. The future lies with God and Jesus pointed out that the soul, spirit and truth cannot ultimately be destroyed, so although we face struggles daily we know God will be with us as he is today. He will never leave us.
We then sang ‘the church’s one foundation’ before the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded as we sang ‘Will you come and follow me.’