Our minister Trevor Dixon led worship at Wesley Chapel on July 13th and it was a significant day as it was the first act of worship held in the chapel itself since the pews had been removed and the first chairs had arrived. The refurbishment has made our chapel look even better and it felt, although there was still work to be done, it has been transformed and now is a place that could be used by the community; just what we had planned. Worship began as we sang, ‘God is here! As we his people meet to offer prayer and praise’ before the opening prayers. We then sang ‘Lord God your love has called us here’, before members of the congregation read from Isaiah 55v10-13 and Romans 8v1-11. Before the sermon we sang, ‘One shall tell another.’
Trevor wondered how people were watching the World Cup; he saw a woman watching it on a tablet using ear phones totally lost in her own world. What would the pioneers of broadcasting think? They may have thought that such a medium of television would show nation speaking peace to nation, united in purpose and culture and being entertained and informed. High standards of talk and drama would make more people tune in. Now there is a proliferation of channels in the multiplied stations, as people respond to increased satellite and digital broadcasts. Now whole box sets of serials can be purchased and there is a choice of hundreds of channels, especially when people sign up to more channels as they pay for ever increasing choice with Cable or Sky television channels. What about the original ideas and purpose of broadcasting? Now there is narrow casting targeting market niches, particular age groups and interests such as film channels, sport channels, children’s channels, natural history and even shopping channels. Now the family sitting watching together is a thing of the past; one member can be on a tablet or iPod or laptop whilst others play games on mobiles or text endlessly to each other, even whilst they are ‘together’ watching television! How many people talk at work about the latest tragedies in soaps such as Eastenders or ‘reality’ programs such as the X Factor or Bake off? Maybe public service broadcasting is lost for ever?
In the parable of the sower Jesus described the tried and tested method of sewing seeds; it was skilful and tedious, going up and down and left to right sewing the seed as equally as possible. However carefully the seed was sown, rocky areas and the paths could also be accidentally targeted and some of the fertile soil missed, so seed would be wasted. There was too a chance that some seed would also be choked by weeds as it sprouted and grew. That method of sowing seed was in the hope that most survived. Nowadays with all the technology crops are grown perfectly. Jesus was talking about the word of God and another way of broadcasting to make some point. He broadcast to spread God’s word over all the earth; Psalm 19 showed that God did not want to broadcast to individual groups but to everyone. Why? That gave the people the freedom to respond or not. It is a sign of God’s overflowing love and it involves risks; there can be distorted signals. If there is a distorted signal we are the booster station to boost the signal; repeater stations to amplify the message and proclaim the gospel in all generations to ensure it is not distorted. There is another risk that even the most powerful signal cannot be received if the switch is turned off or the television set is pointed in the wrong direction. Paul knew the weakness of flesh. There is a risk that a broadcaster can slip to the back of a schedule and not be heard. We all have clickers, a black box zapper and some choke the word as they flick from channel to channel without really watching. In our post modern era with the pick and mix of messages they can blur into one so messages are missed. People focus on Christmas and the incarnation but not the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Yet despite all the risks of the distorted messages God persists in sending out the broadcasts through us. Cable or Sky or Freeview television can be in any home and now our church is based in a building prepared so that its facilities can be used by the community now being run by a Trust. Some come to see tables in church and God’s perfect program is at work for the world to see. We can work out our salvation with bread and wine, which shows the mystery of God’s love laid bare and all may join. May we join in the Spirit, listening with both ears, seeing with our eyes and tell the world what God has done. People can return to a pub bringing bottles for refunds and that way be drawn into the community of the pub life. The refurbishment of chairs and tables in the church brings people through the doors if only to look. Let’s not waste the opportunity when they are here; it is what we are called to do.
Trevor led the intercessions and we shared the peace in preparation to receive the bread and the wine in communion. We sang ‘As your family see us here’, before the consecration of the bread and the wine in communion. Our worship concluded as we sang ‘You will go out with joy.’ It was a challenging and uplifting act of worship.