On Sunday February 8th worship was led by David Hunt at Wesley Chapel. We began worship as we sang, ‘To God be the glory.’ David then posed the question which was the theme of his service; ‘Why are we here?’ The screens were being used in our worship and on the screens was the picture of a church with people going in the church or walking past the church; are they part of the community of the church or just passers-by, David wondered? David reminded us that the world live in today is very different from the time more than 150 years ago when our chapel was built. Also 21st Century Yorkshire is very different from 1st Century Palestine when Jesus lived there. Life in the past has no comparison with life today and yet there is a thread continuing through the centuries of stories of communities meeting the living God. How can we be part of God’s mission today? If we are part of a living community we must be open to new opportunities which present themselves to enable us to move forward. We are only temporary custodians; generation after generation the baton is passed on.
Genesis 1v1-5 shows God in the beginning bringing order out of chaos and light out of darkness. Following the reading we sang a new hymn, ‘God is with us: Creator, Father’; I was particularly struck by the final verse for its appropriateness:
God, Transcendent, far beyond us,
Closest Friend, unfailing Guide:
Through the ages, wronged, affronted,
In your poor, still crucifixed!
God with us: condemn, forgive us;
By your holy love destroy
All that hinders peace and justice:
Fill this aching world with joy!
God is with us in the everyday of all our lives and still transforming us. In a world so full of ideas, freedom of the individual and individual rights seem to be greater than personal responsibility; the church is increasingly powerless against this backdrop. We need to face the challenges and remain confident of where we are going; God is with us and his power still needs to move to bring order out of chaos. We sang ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord,’ as we remained sitting and I felt a deep sense of worship. The next reading was from Hebrews 13v1-16. The Hebrews were told to hold fast to what they know, as Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
In his sermon his focus was on what is it all about? In the scriptures there are stories of people encountering God, like Abraham, Moses, and Paul. Individual lives are being transformed and they have an impact on those around them. The history of the church shows how people come to know God at a deeper level. The focus of all we are and do is God. In all the busyness of church life it is too easy to forget what we are here for.
Firstly we need to look UP to God; we need to focus on our personal faith and corporate worship. Courses such as the Alpha course or our ongoing activities like the Guild, our worship, our prayer life, all present opportunities for individual conversations on a daily basis and provide the opportunities to Look Up to God and focus on our personal faith. Are we open-minded when we come to worship? What is God doing in our lives today? Do we put God at the centre of all things? We need to praise the Lord continually for the great things he has done.
Secondly we need to look into one another and see ourselves as a living community. It is important to play an active part in God’s community to be a partner with God in his mission. How can we make the good news of Christ visible? Surely the good news becomes more self-evident by the way we as a community love each other. It is our ability to listen to one another and how we handle our differences of opinion which show the strength of the community. It is the values we share and the way we interact with people. When people meet us do they see an image of God in us and our community?
Thirdly we need to look out and engage in God’s purpose in the world, both personally and as a community of faith. What is our view of our purpose in the world? Greek and Roman gods required a belief in fate or power; in Christianity God is present in the everyday. God is still active today, demonstrated in the Lord’s Prayer; working through activities of the church to bring in the Kingdom of God. Some in the church seem to withdraw from the world, but we need to look outwards to the world. Those three aspects of the church are not separate units, but looking UP, looking into each other and looking out to the world are intricately framed together. Who are we and what are we about? Can we recognise our strengths and our weaknesses? What is God calling us to do as a congregation? Our calling is to nurture a deeper relationship with God, one another and the world around us. We belong to God in all our experiences and all aspects of our life.
Following the sermon we sang, ‘When we are living, we are in the Lord’ before the prayers of intercession. Our worship concluded when we sang, ‘Thou God of truth and love.’