After a stash load of notices, into a time of worship with Vicky and the band.
Danielle Strickland is sharing with us this morning, on the theme of Final Surrender. Beautiful One is a powerful song which for Danielle has become more real seeing it applied into a lady called Lois and how her life changed.
Nothing on earth is as beautiful as them, really do you believe that, including chocolate. We spiritualise surrender, but have we really given up. William Booth: the power is in the person’s surrender. Our strength isn’t in what we achieve, but in what we’re prepared to give up.
After a youth conference trying to stop chocolate slavery a 17 year old came up to Danielle saying how horrific it is, and how she was struck to the heart, but could never give up chocolate! The disconnect is huge “I surrender all” to give up chocolate, live in a slum, no pay, over-time – I don’t think so! We are enslaved to ourself but just sing about slavery and whilst that happens we will never be free.
Rather than just talk about surrender again we’re going to talk less and do more! We have to lay things down: our traditions, our religion, our Christianity. Augustine had a massive encounter with God and then went back to his old place, he met a prostitute who he knew well, she asked if she remembered him, he said “oh Augustine died, I don’t know who you are – sorry”. How many of you struggle with specific sins, your special friend – e.g. lazy, pity, and so on, there needs to be a point at which we said it died, it was surrendered, and in their place is a new life.
This is what happened in the appointment of the nuns, Agnes from Albania entered the convent as she encountered Jesus. She spent years searching for him, and when she was ready, they had a funeral, a death station, she laid down and assumed a death position, symbolising that they are dying to Christ, putting themselves on the “altar”, she entered and died as Agnes, died for her dreams of marriage, her dreams of Albania, and her aspirations. She died to the posture of sin, her own self, her own desires, wills, and selfishness. She literally said goodbye to Agnes. They covered her with a black cloth to symbolise death. Agnes would declare herself dead to her self, to sin, and to the world. That spells freedom, you become free to do something new. Freedom is just another word for nothing to lose.
Freedom enables the new person, in the church we need to stop talking and get on with dying to self, and arise, free and ready to change the world. These new lives are ours, not to care what others think, not be taken easily to our sinful desire, but to live for something greater than this, to die for something greater, to be something more. Jesus’ words for Peter: now you know I’m the living God, I’m going to die. Peter said nooooooooooooooooo don’t do it, that’s not the way. Jesus says you’re not getting it, it’s exactly the way to get newness of life. Isn’t it beautiful.
We choose to die, and raise in newness of life, Agnes became Theresa, you get a new name, new clothes. She lived for her new identity and purpose – this is very biblical – people being renamed and given a fresh mission and purpose.
We’re going to be invited to do this ceremony, this isn’t for everyone, but he’s calling some of us to give everything up and to do this as a symbol, to participate in this. We’re going to set up 10 death stations, play funeral music, and re-enact the ceremony of death.
“when God bids a man he bids him to come and die”
When Bonhoeffer died at the gallows his jailer said it was the end, Bonhoeffer said no it is just the beginning.
Doing this, surrendering, leads to a transformation in the world, people meeting Jesus, the revelation of God but it begins with death. Augustine, Bonhoeffer, Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II and so on have all modelled this, taken this path and shown us the life transformation, but the ultimate sacrifice is Jesus. Through him we can surrender all.
Today is a day to begin something far beyond what we could imagine as we surrender, as we die to self.
Around the room hundreds of people are dying to self, and starting new life.
Newness of life means we have a joy. Romans 6:5 onwards being read out over each other.
Into a time of worship and now the really important thank yous.
Now time go home in celebration, in newness of Christ, who knows what will happen now! Closing in prayer and then more celebratory worship.