These sermons I hope will help our congregation at Bo'ness understand that we all contribute to the authentic voice of the gospel. If you'd be interested in helping me prepare to preach these sermons or join with me using these themes over the next three months please get in touch.
During the next four months our teaching plan at St Andrew’s Bo’ness is going to explore the following four words that will lead us to consider the ABC of Discipleship. This theme of discipleship will be able to be followed on the Sanctuary First App. This will allow you access to daily prayers and Bible readings which will be integrated into the weekly church theme
The ABC of Discipleship highlights the importance of Acceptance, Belonging and Commitment. These words need to be part of our daily life if we as a congregation are going to grow disciples. I've have chosen these words because more and more Christian leaders and teachers are realising that coming to faith in Jesus Christ is a process rather than an instant experience. Often people make their first attempt at reconnecting with their faith through a conversation with a friend who they feel understands and accepts them long before attending a local church or fellowship of Christians.
We will explore the meaning of 'Acceptance' as coming to explore faith just as you are. Jesus never said to people, you’ll have to sort your life out first before I can be your friend. I find it so re-assuring that Jesus was known as “ The friend of sinners” In other words Jesus often associated with people from the ‘wrong side off the tracks”
Research has shown that when people return to church if they feel accepted they will continue to attend. I’d love to set up an atmosphere here in St Andrew’s that is creating a kind of “Mission Cycle”. For the next four months I’d like us to begin to actively reflect on the process that I believe the Holy Spirit often uses to bring people to faith in Jesus.
During the month of September we’re going to explore what it means to become a community of believers who are open and welcoming to those who come seeking to know or discover the reality of God.
Using the Bible we’re going to explore a number of key passages that will help us understand how Jesus was able to connect with people and draw from them their deepest longings and desires. The Old Testament which is part of the Jewish scriptures encourages communities to welcome the stranger and to accept those who may be different from the norm. ( This might mean that we explore the idea of going out of the church and connecting with people who are qyuite different from us and have different bekief and value systems.)
No doubt this teaching influenced the way Jesus thought and taught about his understanding of the Kingdom of God. He challenged the religious people of his day to be less judgemental. Indeed he said, “Judge not, less you be judged yourself. “ In other words he invited his listeners to live out the gospel and by doing so others would come to understand the joy of living life God’s way.
He was also was able to offer the outcast and the forgotten, hope and meaning in the midst of their search for security and peace in life. In our reflections we will see how the first Christians discovered the importance of accepting people who seemed to them beyond the reach of the gospel. Peter had to take up a whole new position regarding " clean and unclean food"
At the end of September it is my prayer we will begin to understand that acceptance is the first step to understand grace and what it means to live a life of holiness and total trust in God.
being affirmed and come as you are before God
the story of the woman at the well
the story of woman caught in adultery
acceptance means to love one another
be shown the needs by the ‘outsider’ -the Good Samaritan
Peter and the vision re animals
the insider (Peter) and the outsider (Cornelius)
Showing us God’s acceptance
Services during September
September 7 - Communion Sunday
Formal “Acceptance does not mean agreement”
( John 3.1-16)
( SF) “Having a drink can change your life”
( John Chapter 4)
14 “ Saved rather than stoned “
( John 8. 1-11)
“ Love is Patient and kind”
(1 Corinthians 13. 1- end)
21 Harvest Festival
“ The outsider who became the insider”
(Ruth 3 Luke 10. 25-37)
“ Peter’s Change of Attitude”
( Acts 10. 1-33)
28 “The Gospel begins with acceptance”
( Romans 5. 1-11)
“Acceptance is the first step to holiness”
(Romans 12. 1-10
We are told that no one really joins a club or a fellowship or a community until they feel they belong. In fact fewer people in our culture seem to want to join any organisation. People seem to want to maintain loose connections without making commitments.
Often this is the case with people when they start encountering the reality of the Christian faith. They seldom want to become signed up members of the local church, however it is what they see and feel about the organisation that will eventually draw them to the point of commitment.
It is often when someone encounters for themselves “faith in action” that they decide they want to belong to a group. The story of Jesus and his life encounters with first century people in Palestine only help to underline this perception. Jesus lived and moved among men and women who saw the direct effects of his ministry on their community and it was this that caused many to believe.
Did Jesus not give us the proof text for this idea when he said ‘ let your light so shine before people that they may see your good works and come themselves to glorify your father in heaven? The woman at the well invites her friends “ to come and see a man who told me everything I ever did”. Andrew looks for Simon Peter his brother, and says, “Peter, come and see,” the implication is you will want to belong. During the month of October we will explore the idea of what it means to be a community of believers that is creating opportunities to draw people into “longing to be” to “belong” to the family of God.
This feeling of longing and belonging is something that is created in the heart of the inquirer through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit at work in the individual and also in the life of the Christian community. There is a great longing in the heart of 'Everyman' to belong. This yearning to be part of something bigger and greater to me somehow underlines the search in the human heart to encounter God.
October 5 - “ Seeing faith in action creates longing to belong”
( Matt. 5. 13 -16 )
“ Everyone needs a job in order to feel useful”
( Eph. 2. 1-10)
12 “ Belonging starts with an act of service”
( 1 Corinthians 12. 12-26
“ The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares”
( Matt 13. 24 -30
19 The ‘world’ can be exclusive and reject Christians.
(Matt 10. 16-25)
How to live as part of the ‘world’ but not controlled or afraid of it.
( 1 Peter 1. 13-25
26 “The longing to belong is global”
( Matt. 11. 25-30)
“ Longing for intimacy to belong to cry “ Abba Father”
( Rom. 8. 12 - 17
Seeing faith in action inspires us to belong
If we are part of something we are drawn to God
We must find our way to belonging
The inclusive vs. the exclusive in relation to belonging
The ‘world’ can be exclusive and rejects Christianity
Yet the ‘holiness’ of God will draw in and attract the ‘separated’
The longing to belong re quote the village of the football community is global.
For community to be attractive and meaningful it must have the characteristics/intimacy of village life?
How then can we be a church that is welcoming and full of grace, open to the needy and creating an environment where men and woman are professing their desire to belong to Christ and be counted as part of the family of St Andrew’s Bo’ness or indeed their local Christian community ? The answer is simple we need more committed people. People who are willing to spend their lives living out Gospel principles in every aspect of their living. Faith in Jesus Christ is then no longer a set of propositional doctrines but a living dynamic life changing experience. The doctrine is important, don’t misunderstand me, however if it is to be come believable it must be effective and dynamic. By dynamic I mean transformational Remember what Paul once wrote.” we are living Epistles seen and read of all people.” Its not really what you say it what you do.
I think we need to reflect more upon our understanding of commitment and covenant. Christians believe that God has made a covenant with his people. We sing in the Church of Scotland 'We are his flock he doeth us take.' At Communion we are reminded of the new covenant. The words, “ This is a new covenant sealed with my blood .” speaks to us of God’s total commitment towards us. We then are required to return our commitment to him. The taking of the bread and wine is an outward sign of this inward covenant.
After leading in the church for over 30 years I have found there is an almost-perfect indicator that can help us monitor the spiritual life of the church and its willingness to obey the call of Christ . It is the presence, or absence, of the commitment of the elders and those who lead throughout the ministries of the congregation. If our elders are committed their commitment rubs off onto others in the congregation.
Committed leadership is at the heart of any successful enterprise. This means that those who lead need to be willing to make the sacrifices that leadership demands in order to encourage others to follow. Jesus once said, ‘ No one who puts their hand to the plough and then turns back is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.” In other words if you are ploughing a field and you get distracted, you will dig an uneven and squinty furrow. Too often we have been distracted.
So its one thing to feel or say you belong but it is another thing to become committed to the cause. Let me put it another way. A citizen may feel they belong to a country but a soldier who puts his or her life on the line for the country is committed to the country and truly understands the importance of belonging.
You might be thinking If the key for success is to have commitment from leadership why not just work with the elders or leaders who are committed and show that commitment? It sounds simple enough, however in practice so many factors come into play. More often than not leaders can feel committed but overwhelmed by the task and then they seek to find a way out of the commitment.
At the heart of this dilemma is often a lack of training and support from within the team of leaders for themselves and also a lack of understanding of the significance of the bigger picture they have been called to paint. I’m determined this coming session to offer more opportunities for training in the kirk session and within the church as a whole.
The truth is that we who are leaders and elders , all of us, need to be reminded of our calling and first commitment which is to serve Christ in our daily lives and among our families before we seek to lead others in the church.
During the month of November I intend to call the whole church to a greater place of commitment. November is a fitting time to do this as we remember those who sacrificed so much in order that we could live in freedomand create a better world. We will be asking the questions like; what makes us want to commit? What is happening in our world one which is always connected but lacking tcommitment to relationship and things that really matter.? What does it mean to make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ?
Surely, commitment is always about remembering to fulfil that which we said we would do when we least feel like doing it. In many ways commitment is not just about wanting or wishing that something might happen. Commitment is about becoming engaged, emotionally, intellectually and practically to ensure it happens. We need to remind ourselves that is where God can be found.
November 2 - Without commitment nothing can be achieved
( Judges 7. 1-8 )
Which is more important commitment to the cause or the vision?
( Matt 6. 25-34)
9 - The impact and inspiration of a committed leader
( John 15. 12-17)
The leader can never be greater than the cause
( Ezekiel 34. 1-25 John 10. 1-21)
16 We fall in love but our heart holds our treasures
( Matt 6. 19-24
Commitment means time talents and money -
( Luke 18.18-23)
23 Personal commitment to Jesus leads to communal commitment
( Luke 19. 1-10 )
How can we share our wealth as a sign of commitment ?
( Acts 4. 32- 37)
30 Andrew a truly committed disciple -
( John 1. 35-42)
The Commitment of Father Son and the Holy Spirit -
What makes us commit?
A sense of disconnectedness and a desire to be connected
We fall in love, our ‘heart holds our treasures’
personal commitment to Jesus leads to communal commitment
Father/Son/HS is the ‘mirror’ for community commitment
Leading to trust, leads to covenant, leads to 'living promise’ of God and us
God comes to ‘belong’ with humanity, God’s commitment to us