On Sunday May 21st our minister Rev Trevor Dixon led worship at Wesley Chapel. Worship began when we sang ‘How shall we sing that majesty.’ Trevor led the opening prayers of praise, confession and thanksgiving before we sang, ‘Father in heaven.’ John read the reading from Acts 17.22-31 about Paul in Athens and Les read about suffering for the early church from 1.Peter3. 13-22. We sang my favourite hymn, ‘And can it be that I should gain.’ Trevor read John 14.15-21.
Trevor said that anyone on a soapbox who talks to a crowd can be vulnerable; maybe not so much in Harrogate. Paul in Athens was inviting a reaction so his speech was provocative; some argued with him; some ridiculed him; others walked away. If sin is confronted then the outcome could be death. Jesus assured his disciples that the Holy Spirit would be with them, even though he realised that a short time later that Peter would fail him and deny him. For years Peter tried to follow Jesus in his own strength before things changed when he was empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. 1 Peter recognised the suffering faced by the early church.
Before he spoke Paul prepared well as he walked around the city of Athens, talked, using the language of the people, listened and tapped into the world of Athens. He argued with anyone who would listen. Paul quickly gathered crowds who enjoyed a religious debate; especially discussing a new religion. Paul took culturally sophisticated wisdom and as his starting point he talked about their altar dedicated to the unknown God. Paul said it was a waste of time building an altar to God, as God did not live in any house, nor did he need sacrifices. The Epicureans or stoics saw God as a remote and detached from our world. Paul confronted that belief. Paul explained that their unknown God was the Creator, not indifferent to the world but compassionate towards His creation. God brought justice into the whole world; the justice proceeded from self-giving love and Spirit.
Trevor reminded us that it was the 500 year anniversary of the reformation. Jan Huss 1369-1413 challenged the Roman Catholics of his day and barred them from conducting the mass or funerals, so imprisoned them and tortured them. The Inquisition felt God’s truth was upheld when those who were against the Roman Catholics were sentenced to death and burnt at the stake; from that came the reformation. Confrontations arise in life when we need to take a stand. Christ’s people are bound to suffer for doing right; they are not to be afraid, but be ready to make a defence when challenged and keep a clear conscience before God. May God give us the ability to do so?
We sang, ’I cannot tell why he who angels worship’ before Trevor led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer. Worship concluded when we sang ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.’