Living for God:
Living Sacrifices, Living Together, Living to Bless
Trevor introduces our New Year preaching series
Twelve months ago, none of us could have predicted the disruption which has impacted the lives of us all as a consequence of the Coronavirus. It’s been a challenge of each of us, individually, to come to terms with Covid and the changes brought about by it have raised many questions for us as a church. What does fellowship and worship look like in a situation where we can’t physically gather? How do we witness when our buildings are closed? And how has God been at work during this time of loss and isolation from each other?
During 2020, we reflected together on a range of biblical texts as we journeyed through the highs and lows of lockdown, a summer of greater freedom and then the introduction of new restrictions. After Easter, the combination of honesty and trust found in the Psalms was immensely helpful as we all came to terms with the shock of the pandemic. We then spent the summer reflecting on Jeremiah and Isaiah, considering how God’s word to Israel in exile might also be a word to a church ad-justing to a new normal. At the end of the year, our series on Romans has made us think again about how the gospel is lived out by a diverse community of people with little in common apart from their faith in Christ.
At the beginning of 2021, we’ll begin a new series which we hope will be a means of building on what we’ve learnt in recent months.
As I’ve reflected on Romans, there are three particular phrases which have stood out for me, exhortations found in the closing chapters of the book which we’ll delve into more deeply in the com-ing months. My hope and prayer is that this might be a series when we learn more about what it means to be:
A church pursuing ‘true and proper worship’, 12:1, both as we gather on a Sunday and during the week, in songs we sing and as we renew ourselves through study of God’s word. Paul speaks of this worship as that which is costly (we offer our bodies as ‘living sacrifices’) and which results in lives that are radically different to those around us (no longer conformed ‘to the pattern of this world’). We’ll take time to consider how a more intimate encounter with God can be the means by which we are changed into more mature and loving disciples of Jesus.
A church ‘accepting others as Christ accepts us’, 15:7, a group of people committed to walking with each other, seeking deeper relationships and pursuing reconciliation which is a witness to God’s love that contrasts with the divisions found in our society. Clearly, we live in a time when racial injustice and other tensions are becoming more stark, so we’ll think together about how SBC can be a church which shows our community how Jesus has come to break down barriers between people.
A church ‘blessing others and not cursing them’, 12:14. We’ll reflect on what it means to be people who are good news for Selsdon, considering what love of neighbour and outreach to our community look like in a post-Covid world.
Those of us who think less in words and more in terms of symbols and pictures might find it helpful to think of the first statement as describing life at the centre of our church, and the second two as a way of thinking about how we relate to others, both receiving and giving: we receive others with a warm welcome and embrace while also wanting to give generously, blessing those we meet through words that speak of Jesus and actions that show what his kingdom looks like.
We’ll think about these themes by way of reflections on passages from the gospels and from Acts, considering how these values were demonstrated by Jesus and how they lived out in the early church. Let’s pray that this series might also be the means by which we learn more about how the same values can be lived out in Selsdon in 2021.