Gerard Kelly preached on the first evening in the Big Top – here are my notes from his sermon:
Niagara Falls – never been but apparently a good place to go on a honeymoon but slightly confused, thought a good room would be a good place! The River Slava running through Slovonskibrod and now on border of Serbia after being ripped apart during war.
Rivers play a big part in our life wherever we are. By the way don’t do a river cruise go on the ocean, do a proper cruise!
Every river you pass begins somewhere else, quite often unexpected. Stand in the mountains next to something that looks inconsequential, but after a 1,000km this might be a huge great river. Rivers have a source. The source of the Nile is very famous as no one knew where it came from. During the 19th century people were fighting through the jungle and climbing hills to find the source. That’s the adventure we’re going on this week, where Jesus is the source of our faith surprisingly. We make the faith into a big colossal movement which bubbled away at the source as Jesus.
The name of Jesus still produces huge reaction in our culture as there is a sense in which it matters. There is moment in the gospel where Jesus talks to his closest followers and talking about who people thought he was, chatting through the rumours, and then he looks them in the eye and asks “Who do you think that I am?”. Time to do that and take it out of the gospels and bring it to us. What do you think about Jesus, not others, not the media etc., but who do you think He is.
That is where the root of your faith has life. Lots of us have very complex faith lives. Have to obey a lot of rules, obeying Christian trends. Sometimes it is really good for us individually to return to the simple question “Who do we think He is?” and what has he done in our life. Maybe allowing some of the complexity to wash away, and reconnect with the reality of our faith.
Have friends who he’s known for years, but have watched them recently falling apart. Christian friends saying really hurtful things. Saying things that suggest you’re not a Christian. Why have we got to the place where we say my part of the church is so important that I can justify excluding people from the church. Bogging is great but when you write a blog post, the stronger it is the better you feel about yourself. People are saying things that they wouldn’t say if everyone was in the same room. We’re showing non-Christians a confused message. We’ve got different routes, and rooms like the tributaries.
Maybe if we all thought about where we started, we would discover powerful things. at the time that Jesus cam there were no Baptists! No Roman Catholics, or Orthodox believers, no Pentecostals, no Charismatics, no denominations that were adding something before and after the word Christian. The first church was a Christian church, they didn’t add anything like the word first – that came later! There is a call to our faith that is separate from our denomination. Equally you shouldn’t hate it, some of you don’t need our encouragement, especially the church leaders!
You can be really involved in that denominational structure, but don’t believe that that is Christianity – that it is the only bit, come back to the source and see that God is is bring people to his church as Roman Catholics, as Orthodox Christians, there are about 3,6000 denominations in the world. It’s like the lottery, there are 3,6000 denominations, and God worked it out that you were in the right one.
What unites us is our commitment to Jesus, that is what makes Christianity – it is the movement of those who follow Jesus Christ. If you will confess that Jesus Christ is the son of God you are God’s children and boy shouldn’t God’s children love each other.
It’s okay to have distinctives, but don’t worship your distinctives then you are in serious trouble. If you idolise your distinctive then you are in serious trouble. If you worship together you have a much happier life.
Jesus in the Gospels; what does Jesus in the Gospels look like, is that the Jesus that we’re talking about in our churches. If not who moved? Do we need to refresh our understanding of Jesus. Are we honest enough to say to people that it is because of Jesus that we do what we do – some of us have got too cool to say that. But people are moved by that.
The Apostles connected Jesus to the story of God, looking at the kingdom of God. Showing that Jesus is Good News. The Good News is not about Jesus, Jesus is the Good News, the Gospel.
Be Say Do – Good News is who Jesus is, the words that he spoke, and the actions that he did. These are the things we are therefore also called to.
We get our identity from our calling to God – that changes everything, and then allowing God to change us. God doesn’t have much use in the 21st century for spiritual space cadets. If you walk three feet above the ground open a theme park or a freak show as you are not much use to God or anyone else. God wants us to be utterly present with our family and friends. We are listening, engaging and involved in their lives.
What does it look like to speak Good news? How do you talk about your experience of Christ? How do you explain it, as in 1 Peter, how do we explain our hope. How do we share our personal words, those awkward moments over the photocopier. What happens when there is something that tangibly smells and feels like Good News and have space for people to hear. People have done surveys of those who don’t like the church are things that we would claim are not part of our church – against women in society, not deeply homophobic, but people think our churches do because of how we act in public, and those who appear to act on our behalf say that, so there is a lot about how we communicate this publicly.
Doing Gospel ministry, done in unity. Amazing things happening, e.g. Redeeming Communities, XLP, Street Pastors, and so on. 100 young people went and blessed an old brethren chapel by redecorating it. Three old people had to decide what to do with the chapel when it’s life came to an end. They hung on for the property, and in the end decided to make it a Christian community centre called The Hub. The woman from this decision weeped with joy as the young people entered to help renovate this chapel. How do we make a genuine difference. We thin, being distinctive Christian is the problem – if you wash their feet and iron their curtains no one is upset if you do it in Jesus’ name, they are upset when you poke them with a stick in the eye.
Pope Francis is showing us this, washing a women’s feet, and she was a Muslim. Showing unconditional love as they are a person and not for any other reason. We need to catch up with the programme. We can’t proclaim one thing and do another.
John 3:16 God so love us that He sent Jesus. The coming of Jesus is an expression of God’s love, and is transforming us.
Women runs a prayer room in a small town. Her daughter was married to a Marine who was killed in Afghanistan. She was left with a young child. The woman prayed, their daughter is bringing up her son on his own. How can we make it not horrible, how can we redeem it, asking for God’s opportunity to bless Afghanistan. Teaches TEFL, a local secondary head had two teenage Afghans as mother was killed, coming to live with father. They were being horrifically bullied. She teaches them English, brings them into her home. They hear they’ve been living in temporary accommodation, so they were homeless, and asked her to be their mum. She’s now fostering them. When her grandson who lost his dad to the two Afghans he plays on their laps as they are his friend. That is God’s love in action.
We can’t love each other, how do we love other people. Love goes in the opposite direction to hurt. She felt blessed as God had answered her prayers through all of this. We dream that as we encounter Jesus we would be those kinds of people.