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So far Richard Hill has created 11 blog entries.

Psalm 120

2021-06-21T13:59:47+01:00

Psalm 120

Introduction

I wonder what your routine is when you are about to set off on long journey. Deciding what choice of music, audiobook or radio station to have on. Or maybe yours playlist is ‘are we there yet?’ on repeat by the backing singers. It was much simpler when all you had in the car was the cassette tape because we had limited options; looks like it’s Bruce Springsteen or The Archers!  Now it’s “Alexa, play…” and let the argument or the indecisiveness begin.  Getting started is sometimes the hardest part of any journey and not just the choice of music.

We are starting our series on the Psalms (or Songs) of Ascent; these Psalms were sung by pilgrims travelling over the nation of Israel for three of the major festivals throughout the year; Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of tabernacles.  You could say this was the Pilgrims’ mixtape.

The meaning of these Psalms has been interpreted in a few different ways.  Jerusalem was, topographically, the highest point in Israel so wherever you were travelling from you would be going up. But it could also be seen as a metaphor for moving towards God; as Eugene Peterson puts it the trip to Jerusalem acted out a life lived upwards towards God from one level to another developing maturity.  As we move through these Psalms over the Summer, we will see in these Psalms a journey from distress to power and to security in God.

The Journey Begins

Track one in the playlist is one of distress; the Psalmist is asking to be rescued from lying lips and deceitful tongues.  The psalm starts with distress and ends with war; it is not a happy psalm. But it is the start of the journey. The psalmist is looking around and does not like what they see and where they dwell and basically saying “get me out of here, I do not belong in this place!”.

When I first became a Christian and my journey began, I recall greatly how painful the start of that journey was.  At 15 years of age, I had encountered God, felt his presence and for the first-time unconditional love with a desire to live, love and serve Him.  That was easier amongst those who also believed but not so with those who do not.

Turning away from old behaviours and attitudes at school which made me an alien and target; shunned even more in what was a particularly challenging and difficult homelife. The start of the journey was hard, but I remember praying most nights, blessed me your name and, like the Psalmist, Lord get me out of here.  And you know what, He did just that. A year later I was living with caring and nurturing foster parents that still to this day walk with me.

Our walk as disciples as followers of Christ can and will make us aliens in the land that we live but we walk these dangerous and challenging roads in the confidence of who God is and what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross and because of that we live differently and as John rightly pointed out last week that our lives should point to Jesus and that people will see Jesus in us; some will be attracted and some will be repelled.  Our journey is one that is counter-cultural in an ever-increasing hostile culture.  The great thing for us here and now is that we can turn to God on that journey and that by his Spirit we can be guided through the difficult parts of the journey and to also be excited about how God may use us on our journey for his Glory.

Turning to God on the Journey

The psalmist shows us at the very beginning and throughout the journey we too can turn to God, cry out and asked for deliverance.  Our walk with Jesus was never going to be carefree because we live in a world where there is danger, injustice, and temptation. A world that the psalmist in v5 likens to Meshech and Kedar.  It was unlikely the psalmist was in these places physically but rather they were metaphors for one being a remote place and another being hostile.

We may find ourselves working and living in places that sometimes seem so distant and detached from God; where we dwell among those who hate peace.  The journey can and will be messy, it can take different turns and people from all over will join on the upward climb. We become more like who God wants us to be as we continue this upward walking with Him.

When I find myself in conversations with people about God’s grace and that all who honestly believe and repent can be forgiven this can cause offence because it His grace is remarkable!  You only need to look at the media to see how well received forgiveness of people’s mistakes is; to forgive and move on is incredibly counter-cultural yet it is at the heart of God’s saving works.

Working in the prison education I am constantly in discussion with people about why we do what we do and battle with people (some that work in prisons) about whether people can change or not.  What grieves me, what distresses me is that I see and work with so many people that did not have a good start to their journey in life and as a result end up on the wrong side of the law.

This is then reinforced by remaining stigma; one learner of mine said to me “Danny, once a prisoner always a prisoner in the eyes of society”. It breaks my heart because I believe and trust in a God that can and does change hearts and minds; that turns people’s lives around.  Yet, I find that I dwell amongst people who reject this. The world does not dictate our journey and as we are reminded in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, those who are lost can be found. And I get so frustrated because I just don’t understand why people do not want to champion people’s recovery in order that they don’t reoffend and get stuck in a vicious circle; it pains me.

I know that many of us right now feel distressed, are tired and are restless as a result of the last 15 months of going through a journey in our society we are still yet to finish.  The journey has been a challenging and frustrating one whereby people have felt much pain, loneliness, and detachment from loved ones.

It has been a painful journey on top of all the other things in life that concerns us individually and corporately, our past, our struggles with others; our issues at work; financial concerns; health concerns; and the issues of injustice in the world and we think ah! how can we make this journey?  We do this one step at a time with God who is faithful and will walk with us; He is our living hope.  Day by day, step by step, let us continue to walk with Him and together; this journey is to be walked as a community.
What has been encouraging is how people have journeyed together online, onsite, homegroups and so on.  As well of those who have joined the journey during this time.

Conclusion

I wonder what your Meshech and Kedar is right now; whether be work, family difficulties strained relationships, I encourage you bring these places before God and be assured that God can make his presence known.

What we can take from this psalm is that it teaches us that is it okay to express our frustration, our weariness, our anger at the injustice we see in the world around us and look to God the who gives us hope and strength for the journey.  This journey both physically and spiritually is about journeying towards God.

Unlike the psalmist, we do not need to travel physically to be where God is but by his Spirit he can and will make his presence known.  And that we can take his light into the World and others will see Him and join his journey.

Psalm 1202021-06-21T13:59:47+01:00

Shining with God’s love in our community (1 Peter 2:4-12)

2021-06-14T13:21:54+01:00

1 Peter 2:4-12

1 Peter 2:4-12 is one of the key passages for me in understanding what the Church is and what we are here for. As we conclude our short series looking at St Jude’s vision statement by reflecting on “Shining with God’s love in our community”, it seems appropriate that we come here.

There are hundreds of things that we could draw out of the passage. Here are three of them.

1. God makes us to be a people for others. Throughout the passage, there are loads of statements about who the church is. And all of the metaphors have a few things in common – they are all about Jesus determining our identity; every picture is something that is true of Jesus that also becomes true of us because of him. All of them are singular – they are something we are together rather than apart. But all of them are also about being there for others. Temples are there so that others can come and worship. Priests (in the Bible sense) are go-betweens between people and God. God’s holy nation and chosen people are meant to be conduits of God’s blessing to the whole world (e.g. Gen 12).

2. The light we hold out is Jesus. We’re not about making ourselves or the church look good. We’re about holding out Jesus. And some people are going to be attracted to him, and others repelled by him. But Jesus is the cornerstone – he’s the one we base everything on, and who we shape everything around.

In the present culture wars, where it is so easy to offend others, that means we need to be careful that when we as a church offend people, it’s Jesus doing the offending. Jesus offended people by going to parties with people whose lifestyles he shouldn’t have approved of, who therefore presumably found him good company. He was known for being someone who was kind and generous to those who didn’t fit in with his moral standards. People were also offended by his claims to authority and exclusivity. After all, if we say that Jesus is the king of kings, ultimately that means that all over authority is relative to and less important than his. He claims to be the only way to know the Father and to have the right to say how his people should live. And so if people are offended because we refuse to bow the knee to Caesar or agree with whatever the latest fad is, or because we say that ultimately there is only one way to God, they’d be offended by Jesus too, so that’s ok.

Now there’s an important caveat here, which is about how Jesus’ lordship works out for those who don’t follow him. If Jesus is Lord of all, should the church insist that non-Christians follow Christian moral standards? The answer is “no”. Jesus will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, but it is not the church’s place to bring that judgement forwards.

For example, the world of the New Testament was horrible and frequently cruel. In Luke 13:1-4, Jesus doesn’t bother ranting about Pilate’s evil. In 1 Corinthians 5:12, Paul writes “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? God will judge those outside.” The light we hold out is Jesus. And yes, some people will be offended by his grace and generosity, some will be offended by his power and authority. But let them not be offended by us being judgemental or jerks. Let us instead be corporately like Jesus, be a people for others. Third, let us shine with God’s light.

3. Let us shine with God’s light. V12 says “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” We should be a church that people in our community see as good news. Because when we start to look like Jesus in this world, when we shine with God’s light, then people start to see Jesus in us, and some of them respond in faith and love.

God has made us a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light. So let’s shine with his love in our community.

Shining with God’s love in our community (1 Peter 2:4-12)2021-06-14T13:21:54+01:00

Growing together as the family of God (Colossians 3:12-17)

2021-06-13T10:15:40+01:00

There’s a stereotype that Christian ethics is just about “how great it would be to be nice to people for a change”. But as we consider our statement about what we are about as a church, focusing on the line “Growing together as the family of God”, I think it would be helpful to look at Colossians 3:12-17, one of the classic “be nice to people” passages, and see why it isn’t just about being nice to each other.

  1. It is rooted in what God has done for us. It begins with “therefore” – looking back to chapters 1 and 2. Specifically, that we are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved – therefore we don’t need to try to impress others or bolster our own sense of identity, and we can look at each other as chosen, holy and dearly loved too – hence all the qualities that follow are about our attitudes to other people.

We see the same in v14, 15, 16 and 17 – it’s all about responding to what God has done for us. Paul’s argument is “this is who God is; this is what he has done for us; this is who he has called us to be. Therefore this is how we should live.” So if we want to grow in those qualities, we do so by coming back to what God has done for us and for others.

  1. It recognises that it is hard. v12-13 shows it as a deliberate process, with lots of elements to pay attention to – like getting dressed up really smartly for church. In v13, we see that it is often difficult and we need to “bear with each other” and show grace to each other, just as God does to us.

That doesn’t mean for a second that we just ignore sin or fail to speak out to protect others; it means that even when we correct and discipline people, it is done in a genuine spirit of love and grace, just as God does with us.

  1. It’s all about Jesus. It’s about present relationship with him. So in v12-14, our character comes to reflect Jesus’ character more and more. In v15 we let peace rule – that’s not the peace of sweeping things under the carpet, it’s the peace of submitting it all to Christ who loves us. It’s the word of Christ too in v16, that we’re called to let dwell in us and transform us, leading us to be able to teach and admonish one another.

How do you feel about sharing God’s word with other Christians? Maybe it’s saying something that helped us in the last week, or something we were struck by as we read the Bible. Maybe it’s asking questions about something we don’t understand, or helping other people understand when they ask us. That’s partly why homegroups are really important – it’s hard to do the horizontal dimension of church well with current restrictions.

That’s especially true when it comes to singing. Our songs are meant to be so saturated with the Bible that singing them is sharing God’s word with people (v16). It’s meant to be a corporate activity of together offering our thanks and praise to God, so that the word of God dwells among us as well as with us, and we can’t do it together at the moment.

It’s also about doing everything in Jesus’ name – doing them as his representatives in this world. Everything we do, whether it is picking up litter on a Saturday morning or getting a vaccination to protect other members of society, or trying to shop more ethically, we do it as representatives of Jesus, as people who show the world what he is like.

Growing together as the family of God (Colossians 3:12-17)2021-06-13T10:15:40+01:00

Worshipping God and listening to His Word (Isaiah 6:1-8)

2021-06-13T10:15:01+01:00

We’re doing a short series of sermons where we let the Bible shed light on our church’s identity statement. Today we’re focusing on “Worshipping God and listening to his Word”, and I thought it would be good to go back to Isaiah’s vision of God in chapter 6, especially at three emotions that Isaiah experiences.

First, awe. The whole vision is awe-inspiring. A throne that is far above anything else – the train of his robe filling the temple; firey creatures flying and calling to one another in voices that makes the whole room shake and fill with smoke. This truly is an amazing vision, but the heart of it is Isaiah seeing the one who sits on the throne – the awesome Trinitarian God himself. But Isaiah never tells us what the Lord looked like; all we see are people’s responses to him.

Even the terrifying seraphs cover their faces and cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” “Holy Holy” means “the very holiest” And God is far holier than that. Do you ever get the feeling we’ve lost something of a vision for how amazing God is? Isaiah sees him, and is filled with awe.

But there’s more than that – it’s fear too. God’s holiness is “not a quiet, anemic thing to be received with stained-glass voices and simpers. The holiness of the sovereign Lord is tremendous, vivid, and dazzling.”
Isaiah knew that all too well. You see, King Uzziah in 2 Chron 26 had thought that because he was a strong king he could go into the (1x) holy place to burn incense to God. But God struck him with a skin disease which meant he had to live as a recluse for the rest of his life and couldn’t go near the temple again. So how is Isaiah going to cope with being in the very presence of God who is holy, holy, holy? And as the young prophet realises where he is, he realises what must happen. And that’s what we get in v5 – it’s a funeral lament for himself, because he expects to die.

In Rejoice and Tremble, theologian Mike Reeves, points out that fear, in the sense of feeling so overwhelmed that we shake, is the right human response to God. But there is a right fear of God and a wrong fear of God. The right fear of God finds him overwhelming but attractive, and falls down on our faces towards him, and leads to joy. The wrong fear of God flees from him in terror. But either is a better response than just apathy.

And what makes the difference between these two types of fear? It is the third emotion we see from Isaiah – the emotion of being welcomed! (v5-7)
He is welcomed through sacrifice – the coal from the altar touches his lips. And in the same way, we’re told that Jesus, the perfect and eternal Son of God, died and took our punishment so that we can be clean instead of unclean, so that our guilt can be taken away and so that we can stand in the presence of God. And that does not decrease the fear we should feel of God – it does not lessen the trembling; it does not make the unbearable brightness of the vision dimmer. If anything, it makes it brighter still, but it also makes it beautiful instead of terrifying.

So what does this mean for us?
Isn’t it obvious by now that we need to worship God and listen to his Word? After all, what is worship but enjoying how amazing God is, and telling him, ourselves, and others, how much we see and love and adore and tremble before him!

And surely, given who God is and how awesome he is, and at what cost he welcomes and accepts us, we should long to listen to his word and seek to obey it, just like Isaiah does at the end of the passage we heard?

Sunday services (whether onsite or online) are a major part of that. They are an opportunity to remember who God is and who we are, and to reset ourselves so that we see the rest of the week in the right perspective – we don’t need to spend the week searching for other people’s validation and approval, because we already have the acceptance of the one who makes the whole earth tremble.

But as well as driving us to fall on our faces in awe, this kind of holiness affects our whole lives. Christian leadership thinker John C Maxwell says this: You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.

And over this last 15 months, we’ve all changed our routines quite a bit and several times.  I’d like us to take this opportunity to evaluate the habits that we have, maybe ones that have changed over the past year or so, and to take control of them – to say “What is helpful for me in following this awesome God? What isn’t?” and then seek to modify them accordingly. There’s a helpful sheet to help us do that, with some suggestions of good and bad habits.

Worshipping God and listening to His Word (Isaiah 6:1-8)2021-06-13T10:15:01+01:00

Sermons After Easter

2021-05-31T12:01:55+01:00

The program card for our sermons after Easter has just been published.

Sermons After Easter2021-05-31T12:01:55+01:00

Live Lent 2021 Presentation

2021-03-15T15:06:31+00:00

Matt Oliver gave an excellent presentation to St Jude’s over Zoom on 25th February 2021, exploring forty ways in which we can get involved with, and support, FairTrade and Traidcraft.

If you would like to view the presentation, please click here.

Live Lent 2021 Presentation2021-03-15T15:06:31+00:00

Electoral Roll is being updated

2021-03-15T15:06:31+00:00

The Electoral Roll is due to be updated. If you would like to join the Roll, please email the church office (more…)

Electoral Roll is being updated2021-03-15T15:06:31+00:00

Spring catalogue available

2021-03-15T15:06:31+00:00

A new Spring 2021 Catalogue is now available from Gill Peto. (more…)

Spring catalogue available2021-03-15T15:06:31+00:00

Sermon series during Lent

2021-04-05T14:59:19+01:00

The program card for our sermons during Lent has just been published.

Sermon series during Lent2021-04-05T14:59:19+01:00

Lent book group

2021-04-05T14:58:21+01:00

Why not join a home group to study “Living His Story” during Lent?

Lent book group2021-04-05T14:58:21+01:00
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