Take a note of the message

20120914-225356.jpg This year I have chosen mission as my theme to speak about as I travel around the country. Here is a summary of the kind of things I am saying. Mission is at the heart of the church because mission is at the heart of God himself. When we speak of mission we should realise that it is not something the church does as an added extra. It is not something for simply enthusiasts to participate in ; mission is in the DNA of the church it should be as natural as breathing. At the heart of the mission of the church is a call to make disciples of Jesus. The success of the church is not to be gauged by numbers but by the quality of the disciples she produces. Remember the words of Jesus "Go into all the world and make disciples baptising them etc..." How will we be recognised? by our love, by our service, by the fruit of our lives. Too often we settle for second best. Too often I find that congregations have lost their way. Too often they are not sure what they're meant to be doing. The current moves afoot to streamline parishes and reduce the number of Ministers have further exasperated the feeling of hopelessness that I know many people are encountering. What is not been understood is the opportunity that all this creates allowing more people to be involved in ministry. Don't misunderstand me. I think the ministry of Word and Sacrament is essential in the church, but when it is exercised properly it creates and develops more disciples willing to use their gifts for the up building of the church. More people involved in ministry need not devalue the role of the minister of word and sacrament. It should be the opposite. When the word is preached the people of God are more likely to respond in acts of service and gratitude. The challenge for all of us is to allow the word of faith to turn us away from the place of fear and paralysis to the Point where faith becomes a re-energising experience. You might ask how can we pass the faith to the next generation when we can scarcely pass it on to ourselves? When fear looks likes winning. I want to say that these feelings of defeat and failure are not new to the church. Any student of Church history will tell you that the church has always gone through highs and lows. We have encountered days of great trial in the church, days were people we're hiding in fields in fear of their lives. Just take a moment to reflect on the chapters that precede chapter 12 of Hebrews. There the writer of Hebrews reminds the Christians of the cost that some generations have to pay. You know if you read the book of Revelation it only makes sense when you realise it was written to Christians that were under great stress. It's all about God righting wrongs and bringing about his eternal purposes. Alan Bosack one of the South African theologians wrote a very interesting commentary on the book of Revelation, in it he suggests that the book can only be truly understood from the perspective of people under persecution awaiting the judgement of God to deliver them. Bosack suggests that Revelation will being comfort and joy to people in these circumstances and he invites us all to seek justice and fairness for all who live under the rule of tyrants. The writer of Hebrews invites us to look to Jesus and all he endured to fulfil God's covenant of grace towards mankind. He looked beyond the shame and the humiliation of the cross to the glory and the joy that would be brought about through his suffering. In the church it is easy to be focused on the negative and miss the positives. We've also had times of great blessing in the Church. We've had days not all that long ago when it seemed like the power of God could be tangibly touched. Those who have lived through the early 50s talk of the times when the Billy Graham meetings were in the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow and it was not uncommon to be on a tram car and hear the whole compartment singing the hymns they had heard in the service an hour before. Stories abound about the revivals in the Western Isles and if we open our eyes and ears we can still encounter congregations and communities where growth is happening here at home. We also need to remind ourselves of the growing world church. While we see changing patterns in church attendance here in Scotland the search for God is not in decline. There is a deep spiritual hunger in the hearts of 21st century Scots. The growth of festivals and interest in the arts and music all point to a longing to engage with meaning. Never has a younger generation been so aware of the need for justice and equality in the world. While we criticise quite rightly the rise of materialism there is undoubtedly a younger generation who are questioning the whole purpose of politics and economy. People of faith should not think that they are the only people undergoing change, it's across the whole of society. We are generations in transition and technology is at the heart of the changes we are encountering. We need to understand the changes and be willing to adapt. I pray that God will speak to everyone who professes faith in Jesus as the Saviour and that we will rekindle the faith where it has blown cold or where we have allowed the flame to go out or glow dimly. Paul in his letter to Timothy reminds him to stir up the faith that was in his mother and also his grandmother. How do we stir up the faith. Partly by reminding ourselves of what God has done in our lives in the past. By listening and learning to respond to the Holy Spirit as he prompts us to step out of the boat and walk on water. We stir up the gift of faith by banishing fear. Fear seems to me to be everywhere. Fear always operates at the expense of faith. Can I share something with you. When we in the Vine Trust started to think about taking a boat across the Atlantic. We went to speak to a number of Christian organisations including one of the Boards of the Church. We were met with the fear culture. All the problems were raised. Those who could make decisions were powerless. How could we do this? Our resources are stretched! It's too dangerous! Then we had friends and colleagues who advised us against the idea. They told us it would never work. If we had listened, there would have been no Amazon Hope. You know if George McLeod had listened to his critics there would be no Iona today. When people tell us we are dreaming the impossible, yes we need to reflect on criticism, it is required. However it must never be based on fear. We need to banish the culture of fear from the courts of the church. We need to invite the Holy Spirit to draw alongside his people and give us all a fresh wind a second wind. This is not the time for giving up. This is the time to run the race. One of the most inspirational people in the Uk today is Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip. What an encouragement, what an example. She promised to run the race and she has and still seeks to uphold her coronation vows. The thing is the heart of human beings has not changed. We have been made to connect with God and we will never find true contentment until we find our rest in him. We have been made for adventure. it's time for the church to awaken from sleep and live out the dreams of the Kingdom. We are the connectors to bring our children and our grandchildren to faith. Everyone must find it themselves but we are the living Bibles they will read. It is how we live and love that will convince them of the Gospel.
1 Comment

Posted By: Marion Murray   On: 15 Sep 2012   At: 11:14pm

A message that could be shared with each presbytery with a thought that each minister is able to use this as a theme one particular Sunday throughout Scotland.

God Bless you and those lives who are touched by your presence

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