One of the local preachers and a valued member of our chapel Mike Greenberg led worship on December 11th at Wesley Chapel. The lighting of the Advent had the theme of the need to repent and receive God’s forgiveness and be baptised by John the Baptist. We sang a verse from ‘Deep in darkness’ to complete the Advent introduction to worship. Mike’s prayers included prayers of intercession for Christmas and the Lord’s Prayer. We sang, ‘Colours of day dawn into the mind.’ Members of our congregation read the readings from Isaiah 35.1-10, James 5.1-10, and Matthew 11.2-11. It was our gift service.
Matthew had to put John the Baptist in the context of when it was written. There are warnings of judgement now; what are we doing now and how we behave. Judgement comes to us all the time; do we know when we are doing right or wrong? When we stop humiliating or bullying others, love, compassion and kindness brings us peace. James in his letter believed that salvation came to those who fed the hungry, and cared for the homeless. We sang ‘Praise to the God who clears the way.’
Mike discussed the Wesley sermon on the use of money with the phrase; gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can, as his theme. It was associated with a certain time and place when it was written. Not everyone agreed with John Wesley then. Money is a gift from God; if it used well as food for the hungry or drink for the thirsty. Earn as much as you can with skills and talents without damaging health. Save all you can in a bank. At the moment people are not saving adequately, especially as people are living longer. Families are more widely dispersed so cannot rely on family so much. People need to save for pensions, so they don’t need to fall back on society. It is not necessarily a good thing to have no savings at all. Saving all you can means not spending on unnecessary things. Mike challenged us in asking us questions suggested by John Wesley. Why bother to decorate your homes when it is not necessary? There is no need for flowers unless they have medicinal function. It is not necessary to have nice clothes and jewellery. There is no time for leisure or pleasure; all our time should be used usefully. However I feel some of those ‘unnecessary’ luxuries can lift us up. What about life style shops with expensive price tags, or beauty salons or hairdressers? There are no easy answers about what we judge as unnecessary. Many other people in the world are worse off than we are. At Christmas we should be conscious of how the rest of the world live, when some people spend £300.000 on a car which can do 200mph, more than the cost of a house. A luxury pushbike costing £12.000 is surely absurd, when many have so little. Mike reminded us that giving all you can is not about generous Christmas presents to those who already have so much. Give away everything once you have spent on necessities to the poor in and outside church is what John Wesley advocated. John Wesley raised the status of the poor in the church; they were not made up of the deserving and the undeserving poor. Poor need help as they are poor. John Wesley criticised the rich for stealing from the poor, so he was very unpopular and was stoned, shunned or driven out ot town as the rich were not happy about his viewpoint. I do feel it is important to use our money wisely and not waste it, but I need to take time to rest and relax as I have a tendency to have a strong protestant work ethic and need treat myself on occasions or I get overdone. It is important to give to those in need too.
We sang, ‘Jesus Christ is waiting,’ before the intercessions. Mike reminded us of the Benevolent fund which used to be collected so it could be used for crises or someone in need. We need to support the poor and those who are too ill to work, or lack the ability to find work. For Gift Day our Advent appeal was for the Methodist Mission in Britain fund. The Mission is in action on poverty and justice; the use of church premises for local issues. The Methodist Mission in Britain fund was highlighting a Methodist Drop-in centre in Swansea for homeless, asylum seekers and those who are shunned as they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. We aim to show Jesus’ love to others. The poor will always be with us but we can do something about it.
Mike suggested we focus in our prayers on good things happening such as the Swansea project, the Homeless project here and apparently 10 billion pounds is given annually to charities in the UK All who contribute to our chapel in various ways is something to give thanks about. Can we do more to be a part of our chapel? We can support in prayer if we can’t do or give more.
Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Cradled in a manger meanly laid the Son of Man his head’ and said the Grace to each other.