Worship at Home Sunday 14th June

Welcome to our Worship at Home for this week. It should have been Lonsdale Road’s Church Anniversary this week, so we have made a special service focussing on that.

Today is also MHA Sunday. There is a service being streamed at 2.45pm this afternoon so follow this link for more information:

Click the button below for the order of service for this morning’s service.

A Time for Hope

Based on Romans 5: 1-8

Hello. As I haven’t had to preach recently I thought it was about time I gave Andrew a rest – so here I am.

Like all of us, I’ve had a lot of time recently to reflect. Firstly I have reflected on my home. I’ve looked at all the stuff I’ve  got and wondered how much of it I really need. Where does it all come from?! I’ve finally had time to tidy my study and it’s now a place where I can work and not just a dumping ground for all the stuff I constantly bring back from church! I’ve also given it a lick of paint meaning it is now the only room in my house that is not magnolia! And I’ve reflected on how blessed I am to have such a big garden to enjoy, even if it does mean a lot of work.

I’ve also been reflecting on life in general. Given all this time, what do I really want to do with it? What do I really enjoy?   What am I missing?   and what am I glad I don’t have to be doing at the moment?

And then I’ve been reflecting on church and my job as Community Outreach Worker. What does my role look like when I can’t physically ‘go’ to work? What does church look like when it doesn’t meet in a building?

These past few weeks have given many of us the blessings of time and space, but for many others they have been a time of suffering. They’ve brought illness and death, stress, exhaustion, anxiety, loneliness, economic hardship and despair.

So, where does our faith stand in the midst of suffering?

In our reading from Romans we read 

‘Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.’

Here we are reminded of the great message of our faith, that Jesus died so that we could be forgiven, so that instead of getting what we deserve for our sins we are shown mercy. In addition we are showered with grace and peace, great gifts which we have done nothing to deserve and yet which are lavishly bestowed upon us by a God who loves us more than we could ever begin to imagine.

Paul says that they boasted in this message, sharing the glory of God and the good news. I find myself challenged by this because I wonder how much I boast about my faith and thus share the good news with others.

But Paul goes on to say that they didn’t just boast when times were good. They held fast to this message even in times of suffering.

He said ‘We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.’

They knew that the message could not be tainted by suffering, that mercy and grace and peace would continue to be theirs whatever the situation.

In fact God would use the situation to bestow other gifts upon them, the gifts of endurance and character and hope.

During lockdown I can certainly see these gifts amongst myself and those around me. We have all had to endure the current situation but we have done so with God’s help. We have all, I am sure, thought more about the sort of people we want to be and our characters have been built up accordingly. And we have all lived with hope. Hope for the end of lockdown, hope for a vaccine and cure for the virus, and hope for the emergence of a fairer, greener and more caring world. 

As a circuit staff we’ve been meeting every week via Zoom (a video conferencing platform). It’s funny to think that most of us didn’t even know that Zoom existed just a few weeks ago. One of the things that we have been reflecting on in recent weeks is the question of what we want to go back to. When we are finally back in our buildings and life has regained some level of normality, what do we want to see happening in our churches? 

As members of the church we all have things we are missing and are longing to return to such as worshipping together and sharing fellowship with one another. But there are also things we have been secretly glad not to have to do. This time away from our buildings gives us an opportunity to consider whether all the things we left behind need to continue when we return or whether it is time for some of them to be laid aside. 

But there is another aspect to thinking about what we want the church to look like when we return, and that is to consider those things that don’t currently happen but that we would dearly love to see – our hopes and dreams. In the day to day busyness of church life it is easy for our dreams and visions to be crowded out. We see a vision of what the church could be doing but between Sunday worship, social events and meetings our dreams get crushed. There is little time to explore them and even less time to make them a reality. 

But now as Paul says ‘our suffering has led to …hope, and hope does not disappoint us.’ 

Now is the time to hope. To see visions and dream dreams. In being away from our buildings we have been given a wonderful opportunity to imagine a new future and to return to churches that are more like those we, and God, would want them to be. 

Let’s make the most of it.

Julie Biggs 11th June 2020

Published by andrewpbiggs

Methodist minister currently serving the Gloucestershire Circuit. Married to Julie. Enjoy reading and playing the guitar badly.

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