Ralph’s sermon on Sunday night was based on Psalm 91:
‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” ‘(Ps 91:1-4)
Abiding under the shadow of the Almighty provides divine protection and provision and results in our delight. The psalmists knew what it was to abide in God: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Ps 17:8) Living with God’s presence is not something we should take for granted, but just as the Israelites experienced the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night to guide them through the wilderness, so we too can walk in the light of God’s presence, becoming, as a result, a feasting and a fighting people.
God provided food for His people in the wilderness: daily manna, quail, water even in the desert. Jesus is the Bread of Life who feeds us daily. Just as we need good food to keep us healthy and strong, so we need good spiritual food to keep us spiritually strong.
The journey in the wilderness was not all about food, however. There were enemies to fight, such as the Amalekites at Rephidim (Exodus 17). Moses prayed and the Israelites fought and the Amalekites were defeated. As a result, Moses built an altar called ‘The Lord is my banner’ (Exodus 17:15) There is victory in abiding in God.
Antony preached last Sunday evening on the fact that faith conquers all fear. He spoke about trusting in the Lord who will help us overcome our fears and that fears are only conquered when we step out in faith.
That reminds me of the song ‘The Voice of Truth’ by Casting Crowns, which looks at the story of David and Goliath and Peter walking on water. The voice of fear tells us we will never succeed: “Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed… boy, you’ll never win, you’ll never win.” But the voice of truth, the voice of Jesus singing over us, tells us a different story. Things don’t look the same when we step out in faith:
“But the stone was just the right size to put the giant on the ground
And the waves, they don’t seem so high from on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles when I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
singing over me”
Prayer helps us to face the challenges ahead. Fears are conquered when we understand that Jesus is there with us to face whatever lies ahead.
This was the title of Dave’s sermon last weekend (or so he tells me… I was away in Somerset then, but it’s great to be kept in touch!) He talked about how an ordinary day holds the possibility of miracles and how in fact there are no ‘ordinary’ days in the Christian life.
Take, for example, Noah. There he is working on his boat, as he has done for the last few years. It was his project and he took great pains to make sure that it was the best it could possibly be. Then, one morning, it began to rain and this resulted in the great deluge that flooded the earth and destroyed every living thing apart from Noah and his family and animals on the ark.
Or what about that morning in the Sinai desert when an 80 year old shepherd named Moses, who is looking after his father-in-law’s sheep as he had done for 40 years, comes across a burning bush that won’t go out? As a result he becomes the one who leads his people out of the slavery of Egypt.
Or how about a young Jewish teenager named David, tending his father’s sheep on the hills of Judea, who hears his father call him to meet the man of God, and by sunset that day he would learn that he was to become the king of Israel? Indeed, that very day, he is anointed to that very position.
Or what about that day when a young virgin in Nazareth, going about her normal day, meets with an angel who tell her she is to be the mother of the Son of God?
More alarmingly, Dave also spoke on the parable of the rich fool, who built his barns but had no thought of God… the story of a man who was brilliant, but who forgot the one inevitable certainty that stares everyone in the face, and that is that we’re all going to die. He was ready for anything and everything … except that.
And it seems that God just stands back amazed at the folly of a person who would cover every base, and plan for every contingency (no matter how remote), and then forget about the one inevitable certainty, and that’s death.
We may not know what each day will bring (except the certain knowledge that each day has enough trouble of its own!), but we do know that there is a need for us to be prepared to meet God. Let’s not be fools, but let’s acknowledge our need for God, believe in His way of dealing with that need and commit ourselves to following Him. It’s as easy as ABC…
Yes, we are now officially a church!
Oh. You thought we already were?
Well, I guess that’s the thorny question of ‘when is church not a church?’ Or, more officially, when is a church building recognised as a church building?
Because, let’s face it, the church is not actually a building. It’s the people.
Under the provisions of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, a place of meeting for religious worship may, if the congregation wish, be so certified to the Registrar General. The certification is arranged by applying to the Superintendent Registrar in the district where the building is situated. Many of you may remember Dave talking about this a few weeks ago and members signing the official form which told the Superintendent Registrar that we did, indeed, so wish to be certified.
The official letter has now been received saying that the building is registered as a place of worship and has also been registered as a place where the solemnisation of weddings can be held.
So, in the eyes of the law, we are legally a church and people can legally get married in the building.
Some people may find all the legal jargon confusing. It’s perhaps good, therefore, to fix our eyes more on how God describes His people than on the actual buildings we use:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
“Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Hebrews 3:6)
Did you guess the identity of the hands?
After the games and quizzes about hands, Garry preached on ‘the hand of God’- which is powerful and protective. God upholds us with His righteous right hand (Is 41:10) and our times are in His hands (Ps 31:15), so we can live with confidence and trust.
Perhaps, though, at times the hand of God can be hard to recognise… which means we have to spend time getting to know God if we are to recognise His hand in the same way that those who did best at the quiz obviously were observant and knew the people well.