Our minister Rev. Trevor Dixon led worship on Sunday 25th January at Wesley Chapel. Worship began when we sang, ‘One shall tell another.’ He then led the opening prayers of adoration, thanksgiving and confession before we sang, ‘One more step along the world I go.’ Trevor then read Psalm 62v5-12 followed by 1 Corinthians 7v29-31. We then sang, ‘Jesus calls us o’er the tumult,’ before the sermon.
Trevor explained that he had been a full time chaplain to industry in Manchester; he was chaplain to Public Transport Providers and was one of 7 chaplains in Manchester. Three colleagues were chaplains at the airport. One of those chaplains had been appointed as the President of the International Airport Convention. That entailed organising the conference of world chaplains, where chaplains heard lectures and shared their experiences. They were all standing awaiting the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s welcome to Manchester. Amidst the crowd of chaplains Trevor overheard the comment of one American chaplain to another in disbelief that the Mayor was a Muslim! Before Trevor became a minister he was a teacher and at one time took a group of 146 children to see the Tower of London and the day before a bomb had exploded in the White Tower but that did not change what Trevor thought about the Irish.
This is a hymn written by Andrew Pratt in response to the Paris shootings.
Hopeless to help in this violence, this crisis,
Here in the focus of bloodshed and fear,
Common humanity binds us together,
Love at the centre, not hatred’s veneer.
Jewish and Christian and Muslim together,
All the world’s people, we each have a place.
Love is our purpose when those filled with hatred
Break down relationships, nullify grace.
Give me your hand, then let peace grow between us,
Let us rebuild what distrust might destroy.
Now in this moment we’ll make a commitment,
Love is the weapon we’ll use and deploy.
Love is the weapon we’ll use and deploy. The readings today show the reactions of individuals and groups to crisis situations. Trevor took snapshots for these crises. The Psalmist was having a personal crisis and felt battered and a victim of a group. He felt so weak that he felt with one push he would fall. We don’t know if he deserved the criticism levelled at him, or if others were jealous of him or they had a plan to bring down a person of prominence. That situation is seen in the government today ministers talk like that about opponents and now even after the death of Leon Britten there are still questions being asked. Did the psalmist think he could buy his way out of trouble? Whatever the crisis was he realised that only God could be trusted whether he was in the wrong or not. He had come to understand the reality of God’s constancy.
In the second snapshot Paul had received a letter from the Corinthians asking a number of questions including one on marriage. Paul encouraged them to be celibate not get married. In the days of the early church they expected the return of Jesus in days or weeks. However as time went on they realised God’s timetable was different from theirs and they had to revise their ideas of relationships. Paul at that time told them to forget marriage, mourning or owning property as nothing else was of significant value if the end was coming so soon. Every crisis makes us evaluate what happened. Is the church today facing a crisis? Is our chapel facing a crisis? Here at Wesley Chapel we need to consider what tasks have priority. Do we need to hang onto jobs or be ready for something new? Do the needs of society give us clues as to what to do? We now sit comfortably on our chairs from the changes we have already made but what new strategies are now needed?
When the Sunday school closed in the 1980’s in one chapel, the time was changed to Wednesday after school and children began to come again. Other churches have ‘Messy church’, where it is a different form of worship with family groups, mixed ages, cooking, singing, storytelling, acting, sticking, or generally being creative. Is the church ready to change in crisis circumstances? Young people like to talk about religion or faith; if only we could join in the conversations or listen and be challenged and learn from them.
His third snapshot is a group snapshot. Trevor remembered a photo where he was wearing a jumper as he paddled in the sea on sunny day. It is unlikely that Jesus came out of the blue when he called the four disciples; he was insistent in his call for the fishermen to fish for people. Jesus’ call to action was immediate and the disciples were expected to follow him. A crisis forces people to face reality, assess priorities and demands action.
We sang ‘Dear Lord and father of mankind’, before Trevor led the intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘I the Lord of sea and sky.’