Sunday 21st March 2021.
Hearing, Seeing and Responding to God
Welcome to Elmwood Congregation Sunday Worship.
Thank you for joining us. Our message this morning is by Mr George Jones. George was due to preach at Elmwood in November 2020 but due to lockdown was unable to do so. George is an Elder in Local Leadership at Abbey Hill United Reformed Church, Kenilworth.
Our thanks to George for his message. Our thanks also to Elders Eileen (opening prayer) Roy (bible reading).
Call to Worship: Claudette & Cel
Hymn: The Kingdom of God is justice and joy
Opening Prayer: Eileen/Claudette
O Lord, our God, you are worthy of all our praise. You are the God who never fails to keep his promises. We thank you that in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we see your love, justice, mercy, provision and victory. You are the God who lifts up those who are weighed down.
You are the God who provides for your children. Our desire is to praise you as long as we live. May the words that are spoken today be those that You want us to speak, may the words that we hear be those that You want us to hear, may we live to Your glory. May the words of our mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Hymn: How Deep the Father’s Love
Good News, Inspiration, Birthdays, Anniversaries and how God has blessed us.
Hymn: Man of Sorrows/What a Saviour
Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Hymn: Speak Lord I’m Listening
Message: 'Hearing, Seeing and Responding to God ' – Mr George Jones
Hearing, Seeing & Responding to God - 1 Samuel 3:1-10
One of those unlikely headlines appeared in the press a couple of weeks ago, I wonder if you saw it? The Daily Mirror headlined on their front page, ‘Prayers for Prince Phillip.’ This was after he had been moved to a different hospital for what was called ‘a procedure.’ Obviously, the prayers worked because the Duke is now back home at Windsor Castle recuperating.
Interesting to me, because I’ve believed for some time that the nation is still interested in Spirituality, but we have driven them away from church, for all sorts of reasons.
I have just finished reading a book by Dave Tomlinson, ‘Re-Enchanting Christianity.’ I thoroughly recommend it to you. Dave is a Church of England Vicar in a poor part of London. It’s a book I would like to have written, because it says it’s okay to have doubts and different views to others. It challenges us to reimagine (NOT reinvent) God and Jesus in today’s world. And it suggests that each generation should look at the Bible and work out what Jesus was saying in his time and how it relates to the needs of the day.
For instance, Dave’s church, like many, have a food bank and are serving the poor in this way. But with a difference. When they serve the food, they call it communion and they are offering the body and blood of Jesus to all who receive. No need to go to church. No need to make a statement of beliefs, or to adhere to whatever the ritual of any denomination. Just receive, freely given, exactly as Jesus gave his life for all. Freely and willingly.
A true sign of God working in this world today, satisfying the needs of the time through his people.
The Old Testament reading we heard, you will know well; the story of the young Samuel hearing God’s voice calling him, and after talking with the wise Eli, eventually says, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’
What does God’s voice sound like? How do we recognise God’s voice? What do we do when we hear God’s voice? Do we recognise it? And what about if it is not a voice but a sign from God? What signs have you seen? The one real positive I have taken from this pandemic has been the unbelievable number of stories of self-sacrifice that have come out.
For instance, in Kenilworth where my church is, we have over three hundred volunteers collecting and delivering prescriptions for people who either can’t get out, or who are afraid to go out until this pandemic has passed over. Not just medicines either, but groceries and other things that folks regard as essential.
Not all of them are Christians either, but people of other religions or of no faith at all. But amongst them, Christians have the opportunity to evangelise in the way I believe Jesus called us to do it. Freely give, treat all equally, ask for nothing in return and show nothing but good and kindness to people. Let them make their own mind up rather than see our mission as converting everyone we come across.
There is no doubt in my mind that God is at work in the world today. There are plenty of signs of it and many have heard His voice.
But I want to tell you a slightly different story; not one of self-sacrifice, but of someone experiencing doubts about their faith and looking for reassurance. My daughter Emilie does not mind me sharing this story with you. You may know she is a Performance Poet, amongst other things, a very good one in my biased opinion, but this is supported by facts. She is now busier than ever and is starting to make a decent living from what she does. On stage, she looks confident and in control. However, she suffers panic attacks, has done for some years now, caused by a chemical imbalance, and had a rough time at the start of the year.
One of her biggest fears was, ‘what if God does not exist?’ aligned with a fear of death. I was able to point her in the direction of all sorts of helpful Scripture passages and she is now receiving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy courtesy of our wonderful NHS.
About a month ago she met someone at London Road Cemetery in connection with a project she is being paid to take on connected with the City of Coventry Year of Culture 2021. Emilie has been commissioned to write a number of poems about this historic and interesting Victorian resting place, the chapels, and other features.
If you don’t know the place, it is regarded as one of the foremost examples of a Victorian Cemetery, with many local and national celebrities interred there. James Starley for instance, who is credited with inventing the modern bicycle. Also, the first Chairman of Arsenal FC is buried there. Similar in many ways to Warstone Lane or Key Hill Cemeteries in Hockley.
But back to Emilie. The person leading the project said she wanted to finish the trail around the cemetery at the end of a particular path and had picked the grave of someone unknown to finish. This out of probably ten thousand graves there.
The grave is in fact that of Donald Parsons, Superintendent Methodist Minister of the Coventry Circuit who died in 1999, based at Coventry Central Hall. There are no words on the grave other than a name and year of death. He also happens to be Emilie’s Godfather!
If that isn’t enough, there is a follow up. Emilie as I said is a Performance Poet and is often asked to perform and paid for the privilege. She also runs workshops for young children, people with learning difficulties and also works with people for whom English is not their first language.
As part of the Coventry City of Culture, Methodist Central Hall applied for and have been given a substantial sum of money to put on multi-cultural events at the hall. They decided to have four ‘artists-in-residence’ as part of this, for three month periods, allowing the artists to work with people in whatever skills the artist has, encouraging people to try their hand and then putting on events to exhibit their newly-acquired skills.
The Central Hall advertised these posts both locally and nationally and not surprisingly had a huge response from a very talented and wide ranging field. To cut the story short, Emilie applied, made the short list and was told only yesterday that she is one of the four successful applicants.
Her idea is to offer the opportunity to a wide range of people to work with her on modern Psalms and poetry from the Bible which will be published both electronically and in print and left as a legacy for all to access. This as well as putting on performances at the hall which seats around a thousand people.
Emilie has more certainty around her faith as a result of a project that started in a cemetery. She now has an opportunity to share that faith, share her talents with others whilst opening up to them the wonderful literature of the Bible. As well as showcasing that work to literally hundreds of people to the events that will be put on attended by family and friends of all those benefitting from Emilie’s skills as a writer. Modern evangelism indeed!
Now you can make what you want of this story. But a bit like praying, coincidences only happen when God intervenes in my experience.
So, maybe next time you hear the voice or see the signs, say ‘speak God your servant is listening’!
Hymn: Freely, freely (God forgave my sin)
Prayers of Healing/Intercession: Claudette
Hymn: How Great Thou Art
Blessing: The Lord Bless You and Keep You.