Week commencing Sunday 2nd August

Week Commencing Sunday 2nd August 2020

Call to worship

The Lord heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

Opening Hymn

 

From heaven you came, helpless babe,
Entered our world, your glory veiled; 
Not to be served but to serve,
And give your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

 

There in the garden of tears,
My heavy load he chose to bear;
His heart with sorrow was torn,
'Yet not my will but yours,' he said.
This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

 

Come, see his hands and his feet,
The scars that speak of sacrifice,
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered.
This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

 

So let us learn how to serve,
And in our lives enthrone him;
Each other's needs to prefer,
For it is Christ we're serving.
This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

 

Graham Kendrick

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpwfDXcKrNQ

 

 

Prayer

Heavenly Father we thank you for your mercy and your grace. You saw us in our great need, weighed down by our sins and our troubles. You took pity on us and gave us your only Son. He entered our world, not to be served but to serve and give His life that we might live. Our heavy load He chose to bear, and through His sacrifice He lifted us out of the mud and mire of our slavery to sin. He gave us the Holy Spirit who lives within us and strengthens us within. Father, Son and Holy Spirit You come alongside us to save us. We give You thanks and praise.

You are our light in darkness, our strength in weakness, and our comfort in sorrow. You heal our bodies and our minds; you ease our pain, you lift our anxieties and give us hope. Help us to take your healing love to a world in need, and bring glory to your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reading. Acts 9:19-31

919 Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,[a] but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

Sermon. ‘To Come Alongside’

Our daughter Laura is a great fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For a brief period her bedroom doubled as my study. Every time I sat down at the desk I would look up and I was reminded of Laura’s love of those films. Just within touching distance Gandalf, Aragorn, Frodo and an assortment of other characters stared backed at me from three giant posters!

I remember seeing the films, which I thought were true to the novels, and I marvelled at the extraordinary power of Tolkien’s imagination and storytelling ability. Lord of the Rings has a timeless quality. Even today his work mesmerises the world. So it is all the more surprising when you consider Tolkien stated the following: ‘The unpayable debt I owe to C. S. Lewis was not influence as ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement, he was for a long time my only audience. Only from him did I get the idea that my stuff could be anything more than a private hobby.’ Even a genius like Tolkien needed encouragement.

This Sunday and next I would like us to look at some key New Testament words and their usage in promoting encouragement, with special reference to how these apply to our speech.

Today we look at the word most often translated as encouragement. It is the Greek word Parakalein which means to come alongside. It carries the idea of someone coming alongside us during difficult times.

William Barclay wrote ‘Parakalein is the word of the rallying call; it is the word used of the speeches of leaders and of soldiers who urge each other on…A Parakletos is therefore an encourager, one who puts courage into the fainthearted. One who nerves the feeble arm for fight, one who makes a very ordinary man cope gallantly with a perilous and a dangerous situation…Parakalein is the word for exhorting others to noble deeds and high thoughts; it is especially the word of courage before battle.’

A striking example of this encouragement was shown by the Allied forces during World War Two. Many were trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk. Hitler’s troops were bearing down. The soldiers believed they would be killed, but they still kept broadcasting a message across the English Channel to encourage or rally their families and fellow soldiers back here. The radio message was just three words: ‘And if not…’

It was not a code. It was a reference to the Old Testament narrative of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. As these three men stood before King Nebuchadnezzar and the fiery furnace, they said ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. And if not, let it be known to you, O King, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up for us.’ (Daniel 3:17, 18).

Those soldier understood what they were doing. They knew the biblical background. Those spoken radio words were designed to inspire family and fellow soldiers back home, as well as to put courage into their own hearts and to help them stand strong.

We too face battles in life. Spiritual forces are arrayed against us. We also face temptations from the world around us and from within. But we have been given The Parakletos: the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the one who Jesus said would be ‘another Advocate to be with you forever’ (John 14:16b). The Holy Spirit coming alongside, putting courage into our fearful hearts so we stand strong. He does that chiefly through what He gives us to say:

‘When they bring you to trial and hand you over do not worry beforehand about what you are to say but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit’ (Mark 13:11).

Think of Peter dragged before the rulers, elders and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, but the Holy Spirit gave him words like this: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:12)

The rulers saw Peter and John were uneducated, ordinary men. So where did they get these words? As Peter spoke these God- given words out, they encouraged him and John, and no doubt the whole Church, when they heard of it, to stay strong.

So too in our spiritual battles, the Holy Spirit will give us God’s Word- the Scriptures- to encourage us. The radio broadcast by the Allies at Dunkirk was powerful because it was rooted in Scripture. Peter standing before the Jerusalem authorities also quoted from Scripture; from Deuteronomy 18 ‘the stone you builders rejected has become the capstone.’ He was led by the Holy Spirit to apply that biblical truth to Christ.

Such bold witness with Spirit- given words- the Scriptures- are the only words that can encourage the Church in its witness today; to be bold and courageous rather than fearful and cowardly. Bold not through a personal sense of human power or wisdom, but in humble dependence on God so that He can show His power through the Church’s apparent ‘weakness’, and His wisdom through the Church’s apparent message of ‘foolishness’ (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Such words carry God’s authority. Where Christian leaders, for example, preach or speak about the unique, saving power of Christ as Peter did (See also 10/4, 21/6, 12/7 Updates), rather than timorously ‘ape’ the Culture by saying ‘all religions lead to God’1 or ‘all will be saved in the end’ (See also 19/7 Update)

The Holy Spirit comes alongside us and gives us His words.

But the New Testament also teaches us to learn from the Spirit’s ministry in the way we encourage others.

We too are to ‘come alongside’ others to strengthen them.

Barnabas was such a person. He got alongside others to strengthen them:

We saw how the Holy Spirit was an advocate for Peter; He gave Peter the words to say and was right there with Peter making Peter’s case effective before the Jerusalem authorities. Barnabas was also an advocate; speaking up for others when they were vulnerable and thereby encouraging them:

Barnabas spoke up for Paul (originally called Saul), when no one else believed Paul could have possibly become a disciple. But we read that Barnabas took Paul, brought him to the apostles and described for them how on the road, Paul had seen the Lord, had spoken to Him and how in Damascus he (Paul) had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27). We also notice from our passage a further attempt on Paul’s life after he debated with the Hellenistic Jews, the believers, however learned of this and took Paul down to Caesarea and sent him off to Caesarea. We read ‘Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living In the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.’ (31). It is worth noting that the Lord used the church to encourage Paul in his ministry, and here we have another reference to the Holy Spirit’s ministry of encouragement.

We also see in Acts 15:36-39 how Barnabas was an advocate for John Mark. Paul did not want to take John Mark with him and Barnabas on a further missionary journey because John Mark had deserted them on the first journey. But Barnabas did not focus on John Mark’s past failure. He saw his potential and spoke up for him against Paul’s view. Their disagreement was so sharp that Barnabas parted company with Paul in order that he could take John Mark on mission.

When we think further about applying these truths to ourselves we should realise we can all ‘come alongside’ others and speak to encourage them. 2 Corinthians 1 refers to ‘The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.’ (4).

It is also true that Romans 12:8 speaks of the gift of paraklesis ; the gift of exhortation. Some are specifically gifted in this way and they are drawn to minister as lay pastors or Christian counsellors in the church.

And when we think of the Holy Spirit’s role as an advocate, and Barnabas’s example, then we too can speak up for the weak and vulnerable and be their advocates. When we speak up for the widow and orphan (James 1:27) When we speak up for our children. On several occasions Elizabeth and I have been ‘advocates’ for our severely autistic son Michael. We have presented written accounts on his behalf to try and ensure he will get the provision of care that he needs.

Similarly spokesmen and women for organisations like CARE or Christian Solidarity are a modern day Barnabas. The first supports the vulnerable through advocacy, the second specifically persecuted Christians. Such ministries impart fresh hope, coming alongside and being a voice for others in their need. Advocates who put courage and new resolve into the hearts of those who would otherwise feel overwhelmed and discouraged:

So CARE gives the following as just one example of the work they do in this way:

‘Human trafficking, modern day slavery and exploitation in the commercial sex industry are some of the grossest violations of human dignity. As Christians, God calls us to bring freedom and restoration to those who are oppressed and ill-treated as a sign of our commitment to Him.

CARE believes that every person is made in the image of God and that human trafficking is a violation of that fundamental truth. CARE has been working since 2006 for change through advocacy within the UK Parliaments and Assemblies and in Europe.

Reducing modern slavery starts with putting the needs of victims first. Join us in working to tackle demand for human trafficking, advocating for a longer period of support for victims, and for improved victim care – particularly for children.’ (CARE’s website. You can also receive regular written news and a prayer diary free of charge. Tel. 020 7233 0455).

 

Parakalein- ‘called alongside’. God encourages us by His Holy Spirit. He gives us the words for the fight. We too can come alongside others and speak to strengthen them.

At the end of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ (the first in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) Frodo says ‘I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish that none of this had happened’ and then he remembers Gandalf’s words ‘So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you.’ These words encourage Frodo, they stir him to continue his quest. We too face battles on our Christian pilgrimage as we journey through this life. Christ by His Spirit speaks to us, He comes alongside and rallies us with His words to perseverance and to boldness. He is with us. And on this mission we too are all a fellowship- not a fellowship of the ring- but a fellowship who spur each other on with words of encouragement.

A fellowship who belong to Christ.

1 Nicky Gumbel, the author of The Alpha Course (an excellent overview of the Christian Faith), has written a series of booklets addressing questions people have about the Christian Faith. One of these short booklets is ‘What About Other Religions?’ You can access this booklet through the following pdf link. If you do not have access to the internet I would be happy to get you the booklet. Please call me on 01903 446353 if you would like one. There is no cost.

https://coastalchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2-Other-Religions-Booklet.pdf

 

Hymn

 

1 May the mind of Christ, my Saviour, 
live in me from day to day, 
by his love and power controlling 
all I do and say. 

2 May the Word of God dwell richly 
in my heart from hour to hour, 
so that all may see I triumph 
only through his power. 

3 May the peace of God my Father 
rule my life in everything, 
that I may be calm to comfort 
sick and sorrowing. 

4 May the love of Jesus fill me 
as the waters fill the sea; 
him exalting, self-abasing: 
this is victory. 

5 May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as I onward go.

6 May his beauty rest upon me
as I seek the lost to win,
and may they forget the channel,
seeing only him.

Kate B Wilkinson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_ZBhSxWots

 

 

Hymn

Spirit of holiness, wisdom and faithfulness,
   wind of the Lord, blowing strongly and free:
   strength of our serving and joy of our worshipping
   Spirit of God, bring your fulness to me!

 

1 You came to interpret and teach us effectively
all that the Saviour has spoken and done;
to glorify Jesus is all your activity
promise and gift of the Father and Son:
   Spirit of holiness...

 

2 You came with your gifts to supply all our poverty,
pouring your love on the church in her need;
you came with your fruit for our growth to maturity,
richly refreshing the souls that you feed:
   Spirit of holiness...

 

3 You came to the world in its pride and futility,
warning of dangers, directing us home;
now with us and in us, we welcome your company;
Spirit of Christ, in his name you have come:
   Spirit of holiness...

 

Christopher Idle                               https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-QNMJsks74

 

Benediction

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen

David Barnes 29/7/20