Yesterday morning saw the first outdoor All Age Worship service – summer holiday style – in the beautiful garden of Nick and Lavinia Owen. We were just under 30 in number, with lots of young children, as well as some more senior members of the congregation too. Tim led us in some songs, which were sung with much joy – the novelty of being allowed to sing again is still very real!
Nick Owen read Romans 12:1-2, and Julia Wright then spoke about this passage, where Paul encourages us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and not to conform to the patterns of this world (the text of her talk can be found below). Isla and Florence Hunt then led us in prayers very beautifully, with no assistance from their parents. It was wonderful to see the next generation already stepping into leadership so ably!
After the service, the Owens generously opened up their pool to everyone. There was a huge amount of fun, laughter and a great deal of splashing. Definitely a step up from the usual after-service coffee and biscuits. And then when tummies were rumbling, everyone settled on the lawn for picnic lunches. Throughout the morning the sun shone down on us – nothing short of a miracle given the track record of recent weather.
It was a hugely enjoyable morning, and it felt truly special to enjoy fellowship and worship together again, after the Covid drought.
With very many thanks to Nick and Lavinia for all their hospitality.
In two weeks time, there will be a similar style service for Valley Worship, on 15th August, hosted by John and Nicky Barber. Please see the relevant website postings for more details.
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Who here knows that feeling, when your mum asks you to come and tidy up your toys, when all you actually want to do is run around in the garden, or flop in front of the TV.
But somehow, you manage to drag yourself inside, and start putting away the toys.
Or maybe some parents might feel this way when it’s the end of a long day, you’ve finally said good night to the children, and then you come downstairs and see the kitchen is still a bombsite, there are still piles of laundry to put away, and you still need to answer a load of emails.
At times like these, it might feel like we’re being a living sacrifice.
Does anyone know what the word sacrifice means?
It means, giving something up.
I’m sure we can all think of times when we do something that feels really hard work. It feels a sacrifice to do it – because we’re having to give up what we’d rather be doing.
And even though we’re still alive, it might feel like part of us is dying a bit.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites often made sacrifices to God.
Does anyone know what kind of sacrifices they made?
Sheep, cows, goats… (hold up animals)
The Israelites would prepare a fire, then find the animal – which had to be clean and pure. Then they would kill the animal, and burn it on the fire.
It was called a sacrifice and the death of the animal was how the Israelites asked God to forgive them for their sins.
It sounds quite strange to us now. We don’t usually see animals being killed, let alone kill them ourselves.
Does anyone know why we don’t sacrifice animals anymore?
Can you think of something far more amazing that we have so that God can forgive us?
That’s right – Jesus died for our sins. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. Wooden cross
The verses that we heard Nick read to us, come from a letter that Paul wrote to some Christians living in Rome.
Paul tells these Christians:
“To offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”
He isn’t telling us to find a sheep to sacrifice, instead he tells us to do something much harder.
He tells us to offer up our bodies, our whole being, our life, as a sacrifice.
A different translation of the Bible, called the Message, describes it like this:
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work (or school), and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.
Take your everyday, ordinary life, and place it before God as an offering
So that’s everything we do each day:
…from waking up, having breakfast and going to school,
to how we talk to our parents and our siblings,
how we do our homework, and how we play with our friends,
…with all of these things, we need to do them in a way that would make God happy.
With everything we do, we can see it as a present to God, a sacrifice to God.
I don’t know about you, but I often find the things we have to do for other people, can be really very boring.
Things like washing up, folding laundry, cooking, cleaning…
Or maybe for the children here, it’s things like helping your parents lay or clear the table, or helping tidy your bedroom, or sharing your last chocolate with a sibling.
But, if I think of these boring jobs as a way of pleasing God, then it totally changes my attitude. When I realise that I’m loving God, by looking after people and serving them, then suddenly I want to do these jobs and I can even do them joyfully.
If we manage to live our lives like this – as though we were serving God – then our lives might end up looking quite different to the lives of everyone else.
This is why Paul also says, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world”.
That simply means, don’t copy what everyone else is doing.
As human beings, we are very good at copying each other.
As you know, I have 4 children. And I’ve noticed that they’re very quick at copying each other’s bad habits.
When Barny was learning to talk, one of his first phrases, I don’t know why, was botty head, and then poo poo.
Nearly everyone was called botty head, and many things were just poo poo.
And even though all his siblings were older than him, they also picked up the habit of calling things botty head or poo poo.
I apologise to anyone here who might have been called botty head recently.
Or the cross noise. I don’t know if any other children make this noise, but if one of my children is trying to do something and they get interrupted, they make this kind of noise ….
And of course, the others have started to copy that.
Thankfully, they can also copy each other’s good habits, and that’s always much more pleasing.
But it’s a very clear example to me of how humans easily copy each other.
That’s why Jesus often told stories about sheep. Sheep don’t think too much about what they do. They just follow the sheep in front of them.
And human beings can be very like sheep, just copying what everyone else does.
Think about fashion – we all tend to wear clothes that everyone else is wearing.
We want to fit in and look similar.
If we look around everyone today, all the men are wearing rather sensible shirts and trousers.
And sometimes there are really weird fashions, and people just copy them because it’s what everyone is doing.
Like high heels.
Have you ever tried walking in high heels? It’s very uncomfortable, and it’s very hard to walk normally. But so many women wear them.
Anyone who knows me, will know that I think trainers are a much better choice!
But not just with clothes – in many other areas of life, it’s very easy to just do what everyone else is doing.
To take the easy option.
To not really question why we’re doing something.
But – if we want to follow God wholeheartedly, we must be willing to be different.
Paul says, “do not conform to the patterns of this world”
We don’t need to be weird.
We just need to live life in a way that is completely shaped by our love for God and our love for others.
When people meet Jesus, their priorities change.
When we experience God’s love, then relationships become the most important thing in life. More important than anything else will be:
our relationship with God, and our relationships with other people.
God’s love will affect every area of our life.
- It will affect how we treat people.
We won’t want to join in with teasing other people. Instead we’ll love
- God’s love will affect how we treat our money. We won’t just keep it to ourselves, but we’ll want to share it with others, as a way of loving people.
(Give £5 to a kid).
- God’s love will also affect how we spend our time.
We won’t do things only to make ourselves happy. (Open magazine and a bar of chocolate)
But we’ll start to think about others first. (give the chocolate and mag away)
And if we go back to the verse we heard, Paul says we should “offer our bodies as a living sacrifice”.
So as well as our time and money, we give him our bodies.
What would it look like to offer our ears to God?
What kind of things do we listen to?
Does the music or the podcasts we listen to feed our souls with God’s truth?
What about our eyes?
What do we watch on television? What books and magazines do we read?
Are we watching things that are good and helpful to us?
Or when we look at others, do we judge them by what they look like?
Or do we try and look at their heart, and love them as God’s precious creation?
What about our hands?
Do we use them just to take things, or do we use them to give, to serve others, to show kindness and love?
And then our mouths – the words that we say are powerful. They are either powerful for good, or powerful for evil. We can use words to bless people and build them up, or to hurt people and tear them down.
Words are one of the simplest ways we can change someone’s day, even their life.
Being a living sacrifice – living in a way that is pleasing to God – can be easier said than done.
And it can feel hard to be different, to live in a way that’s different to those around us.
But the secret to being able to do it – and actually, the only way we’ll be able to do it – is to keep coming back to God.
Imagine I am this sponge, and the water is God.
Without God, I become dry. I have nothing to give.
Trying to love other people when I’m dry, is such hard work. I get pretty grumpy about it.
But, if I spend each morning soaking in God’s love (sponge in water),
…by sitting quietly in his presence, reading about his love for me, listening to worship – then I am filled up with His love. I soak it up.
And then God’s love can pour out from me. (hold up sponge)
It becomes a joy to love others and serve others.
It isn’t hard work, because it’s God’s love in me that’s flowing out to others.
The more we soak in God’s love, the more our minds will be renewed, and the more we will know how to be a living sacrifice – not to be a sheep that just copies everyone else – but instead to live in a way that brings glory and praise to God.