The timing couldn’t haven’t been better with the late afternoon sun making an appearance as we gathered outside at St John’s to enjoy an afternoon Valley Worship. The band led us in worship, Tim gave a wonderful talk which you can read below, Peter was interviewed for Every Day Lives and Julia led our prayers.
Unfortunately, there was a problem with the sound quality of the recording but Tim’s talk can be found below if you would like to read it.
This is the bible reading:
18 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
So we continue on our journey through Acts and find Paul on his second missionary journey a trip of some 2,800 miles traveling through Turkey and across into Greece. We find him in Thessalonica with Silas and Timothy where the Jews chase him out of the city and he moves by night to Berea but the Jews in Thessalonica were so annoyed they also chased of this city and he moves to Athens, a city described as one full of idols. Paul debates with both the epicurean (hedonist) philosophers and the stoics and he then gives his famous “Unknown God” speech at the Areopagus or Mars Hill and we see Dionysius and Damaris following God.
Paul then left Athens and moves to Corinth where he stays with Aquila and Priscilla tent makers and we work with them during the week and then reasons in the Synagogue on the sabbath with the Jews and Greeks.
Again the Jews become abusive and Paul goes next door to the Synagogue to the house of Titius Justus where Crispus the ruler of the Synagogue comes to faith and joins them.
I would like us to focus on verse 9 this afternoon
The Lord speaks to Paul in a vision. “do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent for I am with you and no one is going to or harm you because I have many people in this city. I have many people in this city suggests that Paul was unaware of these people.
Such a clear command to Paul who must have been through quite a tough time. A real word of encouragement. Interesting for us to think of that in the context of this valley!
On Monday we had our first ministry meeting with Peter and we had the opportunity to read this passage together and share our thoughts and pieces of the passage that resonated with us. Lavinia pointed out the words in verse 9 when the Lord spoke to Paul “Do not be afraid”. We commented on Paul not being a character who we particularly associated with fear but here is the Lord speaking to him, comforting him, and encouraging him. This is the same Paul who persecuted the Christians earlier in the book of Acts but is now in fear and need of comfort.
But why should we be surprised by this? Paul had been to Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens and clearly, the reception had taken its toll.
Do not be afraid or “Fear not” is the most numerous given command in the bible. The King James translation contains 103 “Fear not”.
Joshua 1:9 do not be afraid, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you
Psalm 188 the lord is with me I will not be afraid
Psalm 23 I will fear no evil for you are with me
Deuteronomy Do not be afraid or terrified……for the Lord your God goes with you
Mark 6 Take courage it is I Don’t be afraid
Luke 2 Do not be afraid I bring you good news
And the verse that I woke to this morning – Isaiah 41 – For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
We can go on and on and on and the message is the same “There is no need to be afraid because God is with us” We do not need to fear because God is with us.
After the ministry meeting, the message of do not be afraid stuck with me and on my journey home the lord hit me with an understanding that I had not thought of previously.
Last weekend I was getting ready to go out to Peter’s licensing practise when I received a phone call from the Christchurch youth group. George was attending an activity there. “George has had an accident and we wondered whether you can come and get him”. The message came with a tone of voice that instantly made me concerned. “Is he ok? Is it serious?”. Yes, he has quite a nasty cut on his chin. Trust me this was a moment when I needed my sporty Golf R and yes race mode was applied. When I got to the church these big heavy doors were locked and I wrestled to try and get them open and frustrated I started to run to the rear of the church “are you Georges Dad” I then heard as the doors opened. I just turned on my heels to find George behind the doors bloodied, scared with tears rolling down his face. Safe to say we had a huge hug. “I’m sorry Dad”. I didn’t care what had happened just that he was going to be ok. But this moment has hit home for me as a father I wanted George to be safe and the same applies for us with the Lord.
The big church door – Romans 3 Behold I stand at the door and knock. Knocking suddenly seems a little tame for me. Maybe it should be beating? Luke 15 and parable son explains this point so well “but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.
Do not be afraid, I am here. The Lord has his arms around you and he is so excited. So take courage.
Our God has loved us so much that he has sent his son to die. He loves us that much so do not be afraid.
But let me also challenge you all today as the Lord goes on to say “carry on speaking”. This is an amazing message – A God of love yet we are often afraid to speak this truth. I can say this as I include myself in this stat.
At university, I can still remember this guy who ended up being my brother in law inviting so many people to come to church. There were queues for the bus. He was amazing but I couldn’t seem to do this. He ended up being ordained – probably was taught by you Peter as I think he went to Wycliffe. I had Christian friends who just seemed to be so well better equipped than me. The alpha course has helped me enormously and I have realised that I don’t have to be a street pastor to speak to people about Jesus.
So let me encourage you with 2 examples – the office and the supermarket queue. Tomorrow morning we will greet our colleagues. It will go like this “Hi, how was your weekend” your answer can be great went for a walk, saw family nothing wrong with that. You can also choose to add went to church in the afternoon. Afternoon? I didn’t know the church was in the afternoon and so the conversation will start. You might like to add that the preacher was particularly good!!
The supermarket queue is also a good one. Whilst on holiday I was particularly blessed by finding some wonderful beer. There was one particular one that has caused much fun and enjoyment through the BCM community namely the said “Rev James” beer. Named in honour after the senior Rev James Buckley “saviour of souls and satisfier of thirsts”. You see there has been an ongoing leg pull between the BCMs each suggesting that the other should go for ordination. Clearly, this beer is a sign that James Greig or James Wright are next in line, lets face it one is a son of a vicar and the other has a theology degree so it is very clear to see. Well, what does this have to do with supermarkets? I was in the queue in Waitrose – yes James you can buy this beer locally in Waitrose and the cashier commented how she liked this particular beer and I explained about the leg pull and I was buying some for my church friends. “I went to church last weekend, well I don’t go often, just with my Mum at Easter, Christmas and Mothers day”. Have you heard about Alpha – no what is that and we had a great chat whilst I was packing my bags. Maybe nothing will come of it who knows but I was brave this time!
I just urge and pray that you open your hearts and let Jesus use you and give you opportunities to have some great conversations.
Recently at BCM commissioning service the Rev Canon Gary Philbrick from Avon valley churches spoke – he shared about the calling on Jonah to Ninevah and that the word of the lord comes to us all whether we think we have many gifts or few, whether we are extroverts or introverts, sometimes it comes as a mighty rushing wind or sometimes as a still small voice. Perhaps we resist maybe we are unwilling or too shy but God can speak through us when we respond.
Do not fear – carry on speaking
I do want to encourage you this afternoon as well. Our response can come in our pastoral care, the way we show love for others. I cannot tell you how many messages of love I have received this week about George. Emails, texts, WhatsApp you have all been amazing. I have felt so loved and cared for it felt like you had put your arms around us as a family. Of course, we know that God also uses this – Dan and Lulu’s story at Alpha had us all in tears when Dan shared with us – it seemed like the men had particularly leaky eyes that night. Lulu felt she was in Jesus’ hands when everyone was praying for her. The love we show for others is so important.
A work colleague was recently discussing church and alpha (my new favourite topic) and she said to me of her church-going elderly parents who live on Sky – “you know what not one person from the church has been to see them through the pandemic”. She had been to Sunday school, she knew what God expects from us and she was really upset. It’s really important. Particularly now
Chris got me onto the ZOE Covid app where you log your status every day. You get a weekly update from Dr. Tim Spence and also recently there was a mental health survey. The results are worrying: 61% fewer people engaged in clubs, 91% people have less face-to-face time with family and friends, 40% sleeping less well, 82% spending more time on screens. You may have also seen my august post in valley news on this subject.
The need is now, there will be people in our villages, on our roads struggling, in our clubs, in our work in need of someone to talk to or a friend.
So I urge you to open your hearts today and think about this message. No need to be shy or to fear as God is with us, he has your right hand, he has his arms around you
If you feel the Lord is speaking today then maybe you will say these words from Isaiah chapter 6 vs 8 with me
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Let me leave you with the question Bishop Debbie asked the BCMs at their commissioning service
“Will you shine like stars in your Neighbourhoods and networks offering the love of God in deed and word”
Do not fear – carry on speaking