Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A Modern Take On The Prodigal Son

A modern retelling of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), acted out by some of the children at Messy Church at St Martin's

Not long ago there was a rich man with two sons.  

The rich man was busy working in his factory office when there was a knock at the door, and Luke, his younger son entered.  “Son, it’s great to see you! What brings you home from university?”

“Well, dad,” the young man said, “I want to enjoy my life while I am still young.  I don't want to be like Mark and finish university and work here with you.  There is a great big world out there and I want to see it, I know that I will come into a lot of money when you die, but I don't want to wait so give me my share now."  

His father looked sad. “But, son, have I not given you everything you have ever needed.  Why do you want to do such a thing?"

His son became angry. 

“I want to live my life my way, I have my own plans and I want to stand on my own two feet."  The son always dreamt of having fast cars.... fast women..... and lots of parties.

Surprisingly the rich man gave his son what he asked for, even though it broke his heart to see his son walk off.  

Now that Luke had a lot of money, he set out to enjoy himself.  

He was doing all the things he wanted to - holidays abroad in the sun, a brand new car, he worse the latest fashion.  He certainly had the best of all that life could give him and he was one popular guy.  So much was happening now that he didn't have time to think of his family. 

However, the money started to run out and when that happened Luke found that his friends also ran out on him.  

He tried to get a job but with so many people wanting work he soon found that it wasn't easy.  With no money, the only place he could find to sleep was in a doorway of a shop, with cardboard as a mattress.  

The only food Luke had was what he could find in the bins around town.

One particularly cold night Luke was woken up by a not so friendly policeman.  “You can’t sleep there, haven't you got a home you can go to?”  Luke paused a moment and remembered home, how he wished he could be back there.

“I can’t go home, my dad will never forgive me” Luke told the policeman as he got up and left.

Over the next few days Luke spent a lot of time thinking.  He knew that he had caused so much hurt by what he had done which he could never put right.  However he knew that his father was a good man and treated all the people who worked in his factory well.  

Maybe there was a possibility that if he could say the right words his father might let him work at the factory.  Luke wasn't really bothered about what work he could do, anything was better than this.  So the decision was made to go home, he was sacred of what might happen and he practiced what he would say to his father over and over again.

As Luke approached the family home, his father was looking out of the window, as he had done so every day since Luke had left home, always hoping.  When he say Luke coming down the road, at first he didn't believe his eyes, but another look and he recognised the shabby looking person.  He rushed out of the house.

“SONNNNNNNNNNNNNNN” the father yelled at the top of his voice, and before Luke could get out a few words of the speech he had prepared he found himself in teh biggest hug from his father.

“Dad I'm so sorr......” Luke tried to start again but his dad wasn't listening.

"Luke I though you were dead but here you are alive!" the rich man cried.  "Welcome home, come on in and get out of those clothes, have a bath and we will have a big party to celebrate your return."

The rich man invited his whole family and all his friends to celebrate the return of Luke and he said to all who were there, "The son I thought was dead is alive.  I thought we had lost him forever, but now he is safe at home with me."

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Work Matters

Sermon preached by the Revd Phill Ball at St Martin's on Sunday 10th June 2012

In Christian Discipleship Work matters
But when we think of Christian work, or ministry, we tend to think of it in terms of the activities we do in or for ‘church’. 
For instance being a home group leader, running children’s groups, cleaning the church building, reading the bible, the flowers, or being a warden or a member of the PCC.
And there is nothing wrong with any of that, these are forms of Christian service.  But how many of us think of what we do Monday to Saturday as our Christian work, is part of our Christian service and ministry? 
In effect our lives work? And does it matter?
So this morning I want us to think about ministry in the work place, at life’s coal face as it were, and wherever that is for you individually!
And with all the  challenges, and the opportunities that we all as Christians will all face. 
And at this stage, for those who are retired or don’t go to work, listen up,
For What I want to say this morning, isn’t just restricted to those who are in paid employment, it relates to all of us.  Every last disciple of Christ is called to work for God, and it does really matter!!!
Because if you think being a Christian is just something you put on for Sundays, then leave it hanging in the wardrobe for the rest of the week, then I have to tell you, this is a seven day a week job being a Christian, whether at a factory, an office, at school, at home with our neighbours, on the bus, in the car, at the shops, indeed anywhere!
In fact we come to church on Sundays to prepare us for the next six days, and each of the exits from church should have a sign saying:
Please note it starts – not ends as you leave church.
That’s why it Matters.
That’s Why Work is Important

We only have to look at the opening chapters of the Bible to see how important work is in God’s scheme of things.   First of all we see that God is a God who works. The Bible describes all creation as the work of God. For six days God works, and on the seventh he rests from all the work he has done.  God is a worker and it is something he chooses to do- it is part of his plan. And although it is perhaps counter cultural in the 21st century to say so, Work was part of God’s gift to humanity in creation; it was part of his original plan. 
God has created us for his work, and this work is given to us as a blessing, as we heard in our first reading, and From the Garden of Eden to here in Walsall, that has not changed, whatever we are called to do as that work.
For example the Bible talks about the importance of working in order to support those in need, or working in order to improve the life of the community as a whole, that is our work we are all called to, sisters and brothers, to support those in need, and improve people’s lives, even if it’s only with a smile or a kind word. 
And in the New Testament Paul calls upon Christians to do their work for God, and as we heard in  Colossians this morning  “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 
Our Christian work is always one of the ways in which we serve God, as disciples of Jesus, wherever that is, whether paid for it or not.   
Its all our callings, yours and indeed mine, and its all our jobs and ministries, to be Christ’s   voices and workers in the world.
Even the Church of England in 1945 said : “We are convinced that England will never be converted until the laity use the opportunities daily afforded by their various professions, crafts and occupations.” 
As Christians God has called all of us to be his workers and witnesses in the world. 
The greatest mission field in the world today is right on our doorstep amongst our friend’s, our neighbours , our work colleagues, at the school gate or at the shops. 
Remember much of Britain today is a largely a post-Christian society. 
Fewer and fewer people are attending churches; the level of Christian knowledge in our society is at an all time low. 
We; that’s me and you, are the Christian example, of a disciple of Christ, wherever we go in todays world. That is our Christian Work!
This Work Matters because it is the place where we spend most of our time, not at church; for six and a half days a week we are in this place of work, every single one of us! Whether paid or not!
In this workplace Christians and non-Christians are able to meet and are subject to the same cultures, and the same pressures. 
This work place is one of the few places where a non-Christian can actually see the difference that knowing Christ can make to a life, week in, week out. 
And through this workplace we all inhabit, we will all know many people, and have many friends, and we will all be in contact with people at important points in their lives.
For instance when people are facing divorce, illness, or bereavement, unemployment, redundancy, and when their joyful with marriage, new babies, whatever the situation is,  they’re all our workplaces for every single one of us as Christians.
So Let’s all see the wonderful opportunities that we have as Christians to minister to those we work with, and all those we meet, wherever the place is that we work as Christians, in paid employment or not;
They are all our workplaces; and all our places to minister; whether at the office, factory, shop, or on the bus, indeed wherever we are!
So lets remember in our busy working week as Christians:
  • We need to be ministry,  that is to say  Christian work minded - because we can so easy just smile and go on our own way.
  • Instead; because often, if we stop and listen, and see  the other person’s need, and act if we can, we can potentially totally transform that person’s mood and day.
  • Time is always on our side- the opportunities will come. We don’t have to create situations in which we can minister or work- they will happen by themselves.  We simply need to pray and then be alert to respond to them, as all our Christian work.
Remember our work & Ministry is to individual people-  We need to care for people and love them as individuals. Ministry doesn’t demand- it gives!  We should expect nothing in return.  Our expressions of love for others shouldn’t have any strings attached.

We need to be sensitive and distinguish between the opportunities to serve and the opportunities to communicate the gospel verbally. They are both important because as followers of Jesus, his work always Matters. 

So Sisters and brothers, whatever we do from Monday to Saturday, we all do it as Christians, thinly disguised as Accountants, Teachers, Librarians, office workers, the retired, as shoppers, car drivers, bus passengers, or whatever we do; Remember: Our work as Christians always Really Matters!!  So challenged, as we will be, and as we should be, in  following Christ, let us all see that sign over the Church Door as we leave today:


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Celebrations - Video Report

St Martin's Diamond Jubilee celebrations feature a lot in this video report from the Express and Star.  To view photos of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations please click HERE.


St Martin's News Letter Article: Sunday 10 June 2012

Last week, along with  millions of other people in this country and around the world, we joined  in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.  It has been a remarkable few days when people of all faiths and cultures have come together in support of the Queen, holding Street Parties and Big Lunches in many venues  despite inclement weather.  We have all seen the pictures on the television and in the press of the sheer numbers of people waving flags, dressing up for the occasion and generally having a good time. Wherever the Queen has gone there have been crowds of people cheering, waving and singing The National Anthem, all wanting to be there to see the Queen.  In particular the crowds of people in the Mall when the Queen and her family appeared on the Balcony of Buckingham Palace.

So what have we been celebrating—a remarkable lady who, from a very young age, has devoted her life to serving this country faithfully following the sudden death of her father.  Someone who has never wavered from her responsibilities for the past sixty years.

When I saw the pictures in the Mall I was reminded of the crowds who came out to cheer and wave palm leaves and shouting Hosannah when Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But by the end of the week the mood changed and people were then shouting for him to be crucified.  We all celebrate Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead and one day we will have the opportunity to celebrate when Jesus comes again.  In John ch. 14 Jesus tells that he is coming back for us to take us to a place he has  prepared for us. This will be a time for us to cheer and give thanks for what Jesus has done for us.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Queen's Diamond Jubilee - Short Talk

Today is a very special occasion in the life of our nation, as we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Only one other British monarch has celebrated a Diamond Jubilee and that was Queen Victoria in 1897.

On her 21st Birthday in 1947, Princess Elizabeth said in a broadcast to the British Empire, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”

And as we look back on her 60 years as Queen, who can deny that her long reign has been devoted to “service.”  What an incredible marker for a monarch!  Not power, or wealth, or prestige, but “service.” 

And at the age of 86, when most people would be thinking about putting their feet up, and taking things more easy, the Queen continues to show an extraordinary sense of duty and service.  In a speech given to both Houses of Parliament in March of this year, she rededicated herself to "the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come."

The Queen is not simply Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth, the Fount of Justice, Head of the Armed Forces, the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.  She is also patron of over 600 organisations and charities, 400 of which she has held since 1952.  In her sixty year reign she has made 261 official overseas visits, including 96 state visits to 116 different countries, and in the typical year she hosts more than 58,000 people at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions & Garden Parties. 

Routinely, Queen Elizabeth II is referred to as this country’s greatest public servant.  A sovereign who serves.  What’s her motivation?

In her Christmas message of 2000 she told us:
For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.
The Queen is following the example of Christ: the ultimate Sovereign who serves. 

It is the example of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to be serve, which underpins the Queen’s continued commitment to the people of this country and the Commonwealth. 
And the call to serve others is the responsibility of all who follow Christ.  Jesus set us an example of what Christian service should look like, when at the Last Supper he got down on his hands and feet and washed his disciple’s feet – a job normally reserved for the lowest servant in the household.  

In doing this, he showed us what it means to be a follower of Christ.  It is that willingness to serve others, to be prepared to get our hands dirty, to love one another, without expecting or demanding anything in return. 

We are called to selfless service.  As we look at the Queen’s long reign, we can see how her life has been dedicated to the service of our nation.  As Dr Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury recently said, the Queen, “has a profound sense of vocation, not simply stepping into a role exercising function but actually becoming a certain kind of person, which is what vocation is about”.

So today, as we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, let’s pray for the Queen in her vocation to serve the nation, and let us also rededicate ourselves to the service of others, because Jesus reminds us that when we serve others, we are actually serving him.  ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)