Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Billy Graham - change of address

One night in June 1984, I boarded a coach with dozens of others from St Peter's Church, Stapenhill in order to hear Billy Graham preach at Villa Park. He was visiting England for a 3-month long 'crusade' called 'Mission England'.

I can still remember the power of his voice, the persuasive preaching ('the Bible says...') and the warmth of his invitation to 'get up out of your seats'. Thousands responded that night by getting up out of their seats after Billy preached, and walking onto the Villa Park turf -  I'd love to be able say that I responded to his invitation, but I didn't! However, his message made a deep and lasting impression on me, and I responded to the gospel later that year at a Mission England follow-up meeting in Derby Assembly Rooms.

No doubt there will be thousands upon thousands of people with a story to tell in coming days of how this gifted and humble man pointed them to the life giving relationship that they now know with Jesus. Billy has said that the first question he will ask when he gets to heaven will be: 

“Why me, Lord?  Why did you choose a farm boy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what you were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?”

I have no idea why God chose Billy Graham, but Billy unstintingly used the evangelist's gift that God had given him.  The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) reports, "nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries" have been reached through his ministry.

He Billy lived his life simply and with a disciplined determination to honour Jesus in every area of his life. He lived with great personal integrity, never travelled alone with his secretary, and no scandal has ever attached itself to him. 

He once said: 

"Some day you will hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God."

Thanks be to God for the life of Billy Graham. May God raise up another one like him soon.

Billy and Ruth Graham - married for 64 years.

Seeing the Saviour

‘Seeing the Saviour’

At the turn of the century the National Gallery hosted an exhibition entitled ‘The Image of Christ: Seeing Salvation’ – the exhibition involved a wide variety of paintings that depicted Jesus, telling the story of how different generations in church history have ‘seen’ Jesus. I know that a number of people from Holy Trinity went along and, like me, found it fascinating.

In our Lent Series this year we are following Luke’s account of the last days of Jesus' earthly ministry – from the events in the Upper Room to his resurrection appearance on the Emmaus Road.

Each session has an accompanying painting for us to reflect on prior to coming to the Bible passage.  In each case the artist has taken an event in the gospel and presented his own interpretation of it. We’ll spend a few minutes each time looking at the painting, and asking questions about it e.g. How does the artist want us to see Jesus? How does this painting make you feel? Does it bring any other Bible truths / passages to mind? etc.

There will also be bible exposition, time to pray, and opportunity for group discussion during each session.

We begin our series this evening with the events in the Upper Room:  As the disciples eat the Passover meal, Jesus speaks to them of his suffering and betrayal, of his blood 'poured out for you', which point them to him as the perfect fulfillment of the Passover.

I look forward to joining those of you who are able to come along on Wednesday evening, and I pray that each of us will see Jesus more clearly as we approach Easter through Luke’s gospel.

‘Seeing the Saviour’

Week 1         The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-23)
Week 2         Jesus in Gethsemane / Jesus’ Arrest (Luke 22:24-53)
Week 3         Jesus’ Trial (Luke 22: 54-71, 23: 1-25)
Week 4         The Crucifixion (Luke 23:26-56)
Week 5         The Risen Jesus on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:1-35)

Monday, 1 January 2018

Iron sharpening iron (NY resolutions) 

This is a report from Day 1 of 2 resolutions that revolve around 3 Apps:

Resolution 1: App 1 The Bible in One Year. 

This App will take me through the whole Bible in a year - with a Psalm, a reading from the New Testament, and then a reading from the Old Testament each day. 
I’m planning on listening to them rather than reading them - as the first hearers would have done... 
Today’s Psalm was Psalm 1 which includes its own encouragement to draw near to God day by day:

1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

I look forward to my time just listening to the Bible read to me each day by the voice of Poirot (David Suchet). 
I'm not doing this on my own, as a number of others from Holy Trinity are committed to this daily routine. Some of us will be meeting up occasionally to talk about what we’ve read and how God might be changing and challenging us from his word. You can find out more about BiOY here.

Day 1 of Resolution 1 completed! 

Resolution 2: Apps 2 and 3

These 2 Apps involve helping me to continue running (my 2nd NY resolution). 

I began running in August 2017 and have kept it up since, running 5k 3 mornings a week. I’m loving it, and feeling the benefits. Just Do It (if you can)!

I ran my first Parkrun last week - alongside a few others from Holy Trinity -  and think I may be hooked by the enjoyment of running with others...and the competitive element of having your times published online.
I ran the Reigate Parkrun again this morning:  Day 1 of Resolution 2 completed. 

The 5k-10K App is more of a challenge. I began in August by using the superb 'Couch to 5k App' - with Olympian Michael Johnson as my personal trainer! - and this is the follow on to take me from 5 to 10K. 

I’m starting this one on Wednesday, but I reckon it’s the one of the 3 I’m most likely to give up on!

The benefit of all these 3 Apps is that you don’t do any of it alone - you ‘run the race’ with the encouragement of others alongside you. The Bible has a lot to say about that!

Proverbs 27
17 As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another.

Stay sharp in 2018!

Sunday, 24 December 2017

The Youth Minister and the Christingle...

It's a Christmas Eve tradition at Holy Trinity - and we love it!

During the morning service, 370 oranges, candles, squares of foil and strips of ribbon, and 1480 cocktail sticks and jelly babies (plus any that get eaten along the way...) are manufactured into 370 Christingles by a team of volunteers.

The team is gathered from members of the youth ministry plus those who have returned from Uni for the Christmas holidays. 

Once the assembled Christingles are delivered to the church foyer, the team reward themselves by going to Macdonalds for lunch.

This year, the making of one Christingle had begun a week early.

When Lizzie Baker discovered that she was responsible for explaining the meaning of the Christingle this year, she went to town. This was the result...

And here she is in action...

The pews were packed at both services and everyone went home knowing - from Lizzie's explanation and Sarah's talk - that 'God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.' John 3: 16

The music group and vocalists included members of our children's groups, and they led us with real skill and enthusiasm. 

Thanks to everyone who prepared for and made possible these services.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Christmas and a different bed

It's that time of year! 

On Sunday eve we held our Carols by Candlelight services at Holy Trinity and invited regulars and guests to 'in heart and mind go once again to Bethlehem, to hear the message of the angels and worship afresh the Son of God'. 
The candle-lit, beautifully decorated church added to the seasonal atmosphere, and the well-rehearsed musicians and choir led us superbly well.

'Glory to God in the highest heaven' was the announcement that filled the heavens and exploded over the Bethlehem hillside on the first Christmas - and once again it was heard and received in Redhill as good news 'that will cause great joy for all the people'. Thanks be to God for the Christmas message and for the way in which we were able to hear it again on Sunday evening. 

Today, we hosted the Surrey Choices Carol Service  - a Carol Service that had a different feel to Sunday evening but was no less inspiring and joyful. Last year I had been invited to speak at the same service held in the Colebrook Day Centre, but as the Centre has since been closed we made room at the inn and welcomed them into Holy Trinity. I have never sung Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in a Carol Service in Church before today (!), but we also told the Christmas story and sung some traditional carols, before thinking about 'A Different Bed'.

Plenty of hands went up when I asked whether anyone has a very comfortable bed. Everyone loves their bed, it seems. 
A few hands went up when I asked if anyone was sleeping in a different bed over Christmas because they were going to visit family or friends.

Then we thought about Jesus, leaving the riches and wonder of heaven and coming to be born in Bethlehem - to lie in a very different bed!

I wheeled out a bale of straw for the congregation to touch and to judge whether they thought it was a comfortable bed, and one fit for king. No-one thought so.

Q: Why did Jesus do this? Why would you give up heaven to be born on earth and to lie in a manger? 
A: So that one day, as we trust in Jesus, we will be able to enjoy all the riches of heaven that Jesus enjoyed before being born as one of us.  (That's 2 Corinthians 8:9, folks)

And as with all our Carol Services we ended up in the Church Centre with mince pies and drinks. A lively and inspiring service, which I hope we will host again next year. 

Coming soon...

Come and celebrate with us on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Holy Trinity at the Borough council meeting!

To the Town Hall tonight for a meeting of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council.                                                                                                                                I was one of two Holy Trinity members called into action at short notice...                                                                                                                                              First substitution: The Mayor, Cllr Roger Newstead, had fallen ill and so called on his Deputy Mayor - and Holy Trinity member - Cllr Frank Kelly to chair tonight's meeting of the council.                                                                                                                                      Second substitution: The Mayor's Chaplain also phoned in sick and - as if he hadn't got enough on his mind - Frank had to look for a quick replacement. So he called his Vicar.
My part was to open the meeting with 'a few words and a prayer'... 
I chose to read from Luke 2:1-7, which sets the Christmas narrative in the rule of Caesar Augustus  and 'Quirinius...governor of Syria' and sees the business of national and local government taking place as a census is called and people register for the gathering of taxes. 
We prayed that the Council might be part of the greater purposes of God at work in the world, and that members might follow the example of his Son who exercised authority with gentleness and humility (symbolised by the manger).
The agenda was a packed one, with items on air pollution, the welcoming of Syrian refugees into the Borough, a draft policy on identifying land for building necessary new housing, an item on Boundary changes, and the delicate matter of Councillors' allowances. It was all conducted in a very civilised and generous spirited manner. 
Frank did a sterling job - he was a very capable Chair and handled procedures with apparent ease. As Deputy Mayor, he has had a taste of life in the hot seat!
The evening ended with an invitation to mince pies and Christmas Carols in the Mayor's Chamber...though by the time I left, the singing had turned to 'On Ilkely Moor bah't 'at', which isn't very Reigate and Banstead.  

Monday, 11 December 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Carol services and Nativity plays have commenced in Redhill!

Carols in the Belfry 2017

Hundreds of people gathered in the centre of town tonight for the annual Churches Together Carols in the Belfry.

The event brings together churches from across the town - and wider - to mark the season with a joint service of Carol singing, Bible teaching and prayer. 

In addition to carols and readings from the Bible, we had two choirs sing to us, we had a message of welcome from the manager of the (sparkling) Belfry Shopping Centre, and a stirring message from Luke's gospel telling us about One Unique Moment, One Unique Voice and One Unique Hope (thanks to Mike Williams of Reigate Baptist Church!)

It was a great event, and a joy to celebrate with members of other churches across town.

Scratch Nativity

Earlier in the day (at our Sun@9.15, Sun@11 and Sun@4 services), we retold the Nativity story, and thought about 'What are we expecting?' when it comes to Christmas. Members of the congregation had responded well to the invitation to come dressed as Kings, Angels or Shepherds (we also had sheep, camels and stars), and we gradually added to the tableau as the story was told. 
Aneal spoke about the One promised by God through Isaiah:

    He shall be called 
The King on the left has to check his own post
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.

The words of a new song that we had heard earlier in the service summed up the sense of wonder that this Mighty God and everlasting King should be born as a fragile human being:

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
that we could hold God in our hands,
giver of life is born in the night,
revealing God's glorious plan
to save the world
(You can listen to it here)

And in other Nativity news...

We had celebrated with the Under 5s earlier in the week at their Christmas Nativity service on Tuesday, but it was the Friends of Jesus who kicked it all off on the previous Saturday with their Christmas Party and telling of the Nativity!