Peter: workplace worship and witness (Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 6th April 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Luke 5:1-11 & Matthew 9:9-13
Location: Brightons Parish Church

TEXT YET TO BE FULLY EDITED

Well it’s lovely to be with you again this evening and um I wasn’t going to ask I’m going to ask anyway I wonder if you did your homework I’m not asking any questions about that we’re going to be looking at a very different um area of Peter’s life but not only Peter we’re going to do a wee bit of a tour into some old testament characters but first let me just pray

father we thank you for your love for us we thank you for open bibles that you’ve given to us and we just pray that as we walk through its pages and learn from your servants of old that you would lead and guide us in our thinking in our personal lives in our church life and just ask that you would open this your word to all our hearts in Jesus name amen I’ve got two bible readings there’s actually will be three shown up on them on the screen but I’m not reading from the third one at the moment I might later on it’s Matthew 14 but let’s look at Luke chapter five Luke chapter five verse one one day as Jesus was standing by the lake of Genezaret the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God he saw at the water’s edge two boats left there by the fishermen who were washing their necks he got into one of the boats the one belonging to Simon and asked him to put out a little from the shore then he sat down and taught the people from the boat when he had finished speaking he said to Simon put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch Simon answered master we have worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything but because you say so I will let down the nets when they had done so they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break so they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink when Simon Peter saw this he fell at Jesus knees and said go away from me lord I’m a sinful man for he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken and so were James and john the sons of Zebedee Simon’s partners then Jesus said to Simon don’t be afraid from now on you will fish for people so they pulled their boats up on shore left everything and followed him and then our other reading taken from Matthew chapter 9 just from verse 9 down to verse 30 verse 13. as Jesus went on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth follow me he told him and Matthew got up and followed him while Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples when the pharisees saw this they asked his disciples why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners on hearing this Jesus said it is not that healthy who need a doctor but those who are ill but go and learn what this means I desire mercy not sacrifice for I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners I was not brought up in a Christian home even a church going home we never went to church in fact that’s not strictly true the only time I went was when we went with the school and every Christmas eve when I went alone with my mother it was sort of more a tradition than anything else my parents lived in Edinburgh they lived in Johnson Terrace in a tenement it’s the street or the road that runs down the side of Edinburgh Castle and while they lived there my mum my mum was actually pregnant at the time with me next door to them they had two lady Salvation Army officers

perhaps just perhaps and I don’t know this if this is true or not they prayed for that unborn child I don’t know but it was through the Salvation Army that I became a Christian it was through the witness of three salvationists that I worked with and then I became a Christian actually in the Salvation Army hall in Leith in Edinburgh mind you luthers wouldn’t like to be called people from Edinburgh but anyway you’ll know what I mean but that was the first time in my office that I actually met people who followed Jesus

you ever think about it the most place or the place that most of us spend most of our time most of our days is in the workplace not the church

i don’t know about you but perhaps at the most we may spend one two perhaps three hours a week in church but then again for those working or have who have worked it could be 38 40 50 perhaps even more hours at work and we’re amongst unbelievers mostly not church people I know you’re looking at the whole area of church within not only your own church but the churches in the braze and that’s great to look at it but remind yourself even as you go through that that church is not the final place that you will be witnessing in worshiping in many of you will also have the place of work now I haven’t done this or planned this in the light of what you’ll be looking at yourselves but the workplace needs to be taken account of they say that 90 of believers never witness to Jesus Christ in the workplace

it’s a difficult place to wash to work in it’s a difficult place to witness in and we’ll look perhaps a wee bit later as to why last month we looked at Peter and the first impressions we had of him and now we’re going to briefly look at Peter in his workplace that wasn’t where he first met Jesus that’s in Luke chapter 5 but it’s where he saw the power of Jesus it’s where he was called to follow Jesus I can imagine that he and his brothers and his friends James and john were good at their jobs but church is often where we think that’s where people meet with Jesus but see beyond the church building it’s very important and has a very important place in our lives but we need to remember where we meet most people who are not Christians you might almost say that actually the workplace the boat Peter out fishing was his comfort zone this was his domain as a fisherman yet see how at this time again going back to Luke chapter five and later on in um Mark Matthew chapter 14 his whole world was turned upside down by a carpenter so let’s briefly look at Peter’s feelings because this place that was his comfort zone was taken charge of by this carpenter by someone else to the shock of Peter now remember let me remind you if you need reminding that Peter wasn’t a big religious figure he wasn’t a leader in his synagogue as far as I know but the shock he was about to experience was in his workplace

it’s a place I think many of us enjoy going to but the thought of witnessing there well that’s a non-starter for many of us but for Peter it’s where he really got out of his depth literally a number of times it happened when storms arose now I’m sure as a fisherman he was used to storms but whether this was a different storm it’s certainly terrified him and of course he had gone through the night fishing and that had been a big disappointment to him I’m not a fisherman the rod kitten or any kind but he had caught no fish that night that was uh pretty bad for him because that was his livelihood that’s where he made his income no fish and then this storm arose but I think it was I don’t know if he was annoyed but the fact that a carpenter then tells you look throw your net on the other side now one it was the wrong time of day two it was the wrong side of the boat so what does a carpenter know about fishing well this one certainly did but it was bringing Peter out of his depth out of his comfort zone and as you perhaps start to think about your comfort zone the church and for many of us it is a comfort zone think about that place of work where you meet many people who are not believers or not church goers and remind yourself as to who they are let’s just briefly then turn to Matthew for a moment as far as um the other disciples are concerned we’re not really sure what a lot of them did burden James and john but here was Matthew the tax collector now you’ll probably know this he had been hated and despised as all tax collectors were because they were often thieves and con men they were robbing the people and they were really lackies of the Roman conquerors now we don’t hear much about what Jesus said in fact we hear very little he just simply said follow me there was no big demonstration of his power to Matthew at this time but notice what happened not only did Matthew leave his workplace but he then went home with Jesus and had a house party with his friends

the same type of despised people as he was now I don’t think his idea was he had started to follow Jesus I don’t think his idea was how am I going to get these people to the synagogue or we would say to church that wasn’t his thinking his thinking was to invite or they invited themselves the other tax collectors because they would know one another it wasn’t to bring them under the preaching of the minister it was to bring them to the preaching of Jesus now let me remind you about your own workplace as it was my workplace where I met with people who knew Jesus but it’s that little phrase again in in Matthew chapter 9 when Jesus said it’s not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are ill but go and learn what this means I desire mercy not sacrifice for I’ve come to call the righteous not the righteous but sinners so when you go into your place of work it’s not like going into the church where you meet with like-minded people mostly it’s not a place where you need to think too much about I wonder who I’ll witness to today it may be I wonder who I don’t know and I’ll talk to today but there is a comfort there’s a there’s a safety in the church that you don’t have to worry about your evangelism too much but that’s very different when you then on a Monday or whichever days you go to work you’ve got to think that these people that you’re going to be working with are just like what I was still am but what I was in my workplace I was one of those sinners that knew nothing about Jesus I believed there was something or someone up there but that’s as far as it went but here is your community where you will spend most of your days most of your time with non-Christian folk we have a problem often within the church within our own Christian life is the division of the sacred and the secular in other words what we are as a Christian and what I do as um as a person at work so for Peter his secular life was he was a fisherman and as we as you read on we would find that Peter’s sacred life was he was an apostle now we mustn’t divide up the sacred and the secular we have responsibilities in the church our place of worship we have responsibilities to people out with the church whether it be in our workplace or our neighborhood who are not believers Matthew he was a different kettle of fish he we don’t really know very much about him baron the little there but he obviously had a big change in his life are following Jesus but he was also a hated man I don’t know how long we don’t know how long it took him to overcome the feelings of hatred that people must have felt towards him the workplace but I want to digress quite a bit not from the workplace but these stories of people in the workplace of Peter and of Matthew are really not unique they’re not unique to bible stories

we’re going to look at just different places not and with a great sense of degree but in the university

in the government civil service in the palace monster hierarchy or perhaps on the building site now you may work in some of these places and so it’s recorded in the scriptures about a number of people from the old testament who worked in such places who witnessed in such places now let me remind you if you need reminding that the recorded stories are not just for exciting stories or not just to teach children though they’re important to teach children but they’re about people’s lives and these people are in the workplace so the person at university was young Daniel you find this in Daniel the book of Daniel chapter one now he was there because he had been brought into exile taken away from his home taken away from his family and taken to Babylon and there he would go through a very thorough teaching it would be as good a teaching as any of our universities and of course in some ways it would also be as Godless a teaching as many of our universities it wouldn’t be a Christian university it wouldn’t be where he learned about God but in another sense while he was there he learned very much about God his story of course you’ll probably know if not take time to read chapter one that he was this young man and he was a young man probably just a teenager he was taken away from his home from his family and brought into this Godless empire and it was Godless and he was set to training but he took his stand immediately he took his stance with some of his friends that were there because he had to eat things now there’s a dilemma sometimes he was prepared to have his name changed from the Jewish name to um Babylonian name and he didn’t seem to have a problem with that he would obviously learn things that were true but he would also learn many things that were ungodly but the thing he had a problem with was the food he was offered was his dietary needs they offered him the best the richest and he totally refused it because it went against his beliefs and he took a strong stat he could have lost his life by doing this but he stood firm he stood fast in his workplace for that time and it’s obviously a reminder to each of us that our young people who go to university it can be a very difficult place very difficult place for them to stand up and believe and tell others that they’re a Christian but that’s their workplace for a certain amount of time and then we move to his older life to Daniel who moved from being in the university and you have to read the whole book to find out where he went to actually being in the government and very high up in the government probably next to the king he was in charge but it didn’t mean to say life got any easier for him even though he had got older he still had to take his stand and this time was against idolatry

now many of us live and realize we live in a world that’s full of idolatry we’re okayish in the company of other believers within the church but go outside and perhaps you don’t even realize how often we are faced with the Godlessness of our society and Daniel was definitely faced with that and he had to take his stand and that would have cost him his life if God hadn’t intervened we read about in Daniel 6 Daniel in the lion’s den so his new job I don’t know how long he’d been in it probably quite a while and the government was going to lead to his demise even though his boss the king didn’t want it to happen but he couldn’t even change the law so there you have one man in two different areas of his life in his workplace having to take his stand and what about you what about me I can’t say I was an expert at being um a witness in in the workplace when I worked and I was a civil servant for my sins um but I’ll tell you this in some ways it um it was very different than being a minister very different sorts of um problems different sorts of background but you still had to take your stand that’s where these Salvation Army people now one young girl particularly who was only going to be there for a few months because she was going on to train to be a Salvation Army I had never met anybody that was quite as vocal and she was vocal she was quite weak firebrand for Jesus the other two were well one was like the core sergeant major that had been like the chief elder I suppose um lovely man but he wasn’t as outward in his place of work but everybody knew he was a Christian and that was my first encounter with people so remind yourself that as you go into your place of work you have a witness to do now often it’s through our lives but at times it needs to be through our mouths as well and then we move on to someone you can see I’m going through these quite quickly then you move on to someone who was in the palace and that was the story of joseph he hadn’t always been in the palace at the time we’re looking at just now he had become the prime minister again someone that really moved up through the ranks from being a prisoner to being a prime minister quite a story but again you need to read that for yourself in the book of genesis that um but you see how people took their stand and witnessed to this person called our God called the lord and we know also as Jesus

and they’re amazing stories their amazing stories not of what on of what the people did but of how God moved in power as they yielded their lives to him and the last one is the butler who became a building site manager Nehemiah he had been the butler that was his job in in um Babylon I think it was Babylon SCOTT keep me right if it’s not he’d been a butler but he had head of the terrible plight of God’s people in Jerusalem and he yearned to do something about it and the lord led him to Jerusalem and his boss let him go the testimony must have been incredible these things just didn’t happen but here was someone whose job changed very dramatically and that happens within people’s work lives but in both places they had to be witnesses to who the lord God of heaven is and was to them now we haven’t got time to go into it all but if you read through them each of these men were in a place where actually they didn’t want to be they’d never asked to be Daniel had never asked to go to Babylon joseph had never asked to go to Egypt Nehemiah had never asked to go back and rebuild they were in a place that was not really of their choosing but the lord had led them so think about it your place of work may be the place you really don’t want to be and sadly a lot of people are in that that they’re in a place they don’t want to be but if that’s where the lord’s led you to you seriously have to think how does he want to demonstrate his power and lives through you now one of the other things that you read um through these stories and through Peter stories is that there were battles there was trials there were difficulties in the workplace and I’m sure that is perhaps why many of us find it very difficult to witness there’s a sense of fear what will people say well I overstepped the Mark after all I’m there to work I’m there to work for my employer I’m not there to be a preacher or a teacher but we don’t all I was going to say we don’t always do our work 24 hours a day or eight hours a day if we’re working there can be very hostile places and with some people and some believers that are extremely hostile and you would almost be terrified to even mention to even suggest that you went to church never mind even witness about Jesus the church is a very different place than our workplaces but let me remind you again the workplace is where we spend more of our time here was young Daniel a slave in a foreign country and as a young teenager stands up and was counted he wouldn’t go against his principles now he had favor with the other servants that were looking after him uh I think they were probably dreading and fearing that they would lose their heads if it was found out that they weren’t he wasn’t following the instructions the orders of them of the king and it was the same with the lions’ den people trapped him they conned him they betrayed him they were determined to get him and boy they certainly went out of their way to do it you might say they were whistleblowers in one sense your majesty you remember the law you made remember what you said if people do not bow down and worship this idol of you they will be thrown to the lines they were whistleblowers

but you know not even the king could rescue him it was a law that was unchangeable so as you read the story and we know the story of Daniel and the lion’s den so well it’s almost unbelievable it’s almost incredible but here was the power of God seen as he shut the lion’s mouth and perhaps you might be in a place where you might see the lord shutting people’s mouths that you want to witness to but it’s fear isn’t it it’s the same with Nehemiah the hostility now he was on the lord’s business and yet the hostility that he faced as people undermined him undermined his work but he stood firm and it it cost it cost probably him a reputation but you know he stuck faithfully to that word and Peter going back to him well he had a bit of a bumpy ride through his life he wasn’t always the big dynamic bold Peter he had tremendous disappointments but you remember the story I think it was another one later on where Jesus was walking on the water and Peter opened his mouth and Jesus had said to him Luke come because Jesus uh Peter wanted to follow him

what a fully get out of the boat and walk on water and he did until he saw the waves and he started to crumble now that in one sense was in his workplace amongst his um his other friends and disciples or apostles I often wonder what they used to think I think you know here he goes again you know putting his big foot in it but he did it he did it and even though he fell even though he had these bumpy rights and of course later on he’d have a very bumpy ride and denying that he ever knew Jesus so the workplace as life can be a very bumpy place to live in but we can’t stay in the security of our churches and amongst God’s people and forget that there are people out there need to be reached we haven’t looked in Moses but um just in the passing do you remember when um he thought he was doing the people of God a favor by going to the pharaoh and asking that his people could go out and worship and all that resulted was that they were given more work to do and harder task masters to follow slave drivers I wonder if you feel a bit like that in your work a bit of a slave driver and then the company starts to um dismiss people so you’ve got a smaller workforce but still the same amount of work the quotas still have to be met that’s your story that’s your story their quotas still had to be met they were stretched to the limits and they complained and they were discouraged but the lord helped them to build so many stories around the workplace not within the church but it’s there in these situations that God displayed his power to them and to a Godless world and let me remind you that when you become a Christian you’re a person who has been set free from sin to follow the lord and to allow him to show his power to you his people I don’t know if you’ve read the book I’m sure Scott’s probably read it by a man called John Ortberg if you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat of course there’s an illustration of Peter if you want to walk in water you have to get out of the boat we have to get out of the safe place and to get into the area where it can be bumpy where we can feel we’re going to think where we have all sorts of fear in our hearts and our lives but we need to do it

and you may come into church and be amongst the people who mostly are believers but remember what Jesus said in Matthew sorry yes in Matthew chapter 6 that he came to call

not the righteous but sinners

I’ve been a Christian for many years so it’s hard to look back on the days where I didn’t go to church where I didn’t learn about Jesus where I didn’t meet with God’s people but what it’s not hard to forget I’m a sinner but I found the savior but you’ll be working with many people who are sinners but have yet to find the savior and you will be reaching people day by day that Scott will never reach because he’s not in your workplace he has a different job in a different role in a different workplace but we need to be reminded that we are a people who have to go out and win sinners for our savior so as you start to look at the role of the church what the church is just let me remind you to have a look also at what your workplace is too let’s pray father as we come before you we do thank you for the many people that we rub shoulders with day by day either in our neighborhood or in our workplaces we thank you that that you’ve placed us there to be your witnesses through the way we live through the way we act and through the way we speak so help us lord because we can be and are often a fearful people we feel safe in the church we feel comfortable in the church but we pray that you might help us to launch out into the deep and see souls one for Jesus we pray in his precious name amen

our thanks to Gordon for opening up God’s word to us this evening and bringing both a message of encouragement and challenge reminding of us of our high calling to be ambassadors of God’s kingdom messengers and witnesses to those around us who are who don’t yet know Jesus and we’ve to somehow share that with them both through our actions and through our words now many folks in our congregation and the wider brace churches would count themselves as being retired you don’t have a job but all of us have a vocation even in retirement it may be through friendship circles it may be through areas of service it may be with family or local groups that we’re a part of it may be simply with neighbours and these are all contexts and contacts through whom God is calling us Gordon said in his message that sometimes we’re placed in a difficult position and what might God want to do with us there to show and reveal his power and the same is true if you would count yourself as retired you are in a context a place God has you there so how is he calling you to show his power and share his message with the people around you so don’t write off tonight’s sermon simply because there was a lot of talk about jobs and work everything Gordon said is just as applicable to anyone listening to and we hope we’ll all engage now Gordon has left some questions for us to think about and we’ll put these on screen and in the description below the video to get us thinking and taking the principles into the week ahead and even the month ahead who knows he may ask us next month have we done anything about it and hopefully we will thanks for joining us for Tuesday evening sermon we look forward to sharing and worship with you again soon

The Inner Room- Tacking (Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 3rd February 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no Powerpoint pdf accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Act 15
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Good evening everybody and welcome to our Tuesday night input here on our Youtube Channel for Brightons Parish Church kind of dubbed it The Inner Room.

Wasn’t really sure what else to call it to be honest, because tonight is a little bit different from what we’ve done on other occasions, and it’s a bit like, I guess, a mini message, but at the same time I hope it to be have a little bit of a kind of bible teaching element

and as well, as just a little bit more of sharing, I guess, what’s going on inside me about what maybe the Lord has been saying to me, or what I think He’s saying

and so, I kind of just want to share a little bit from the heart. I in that way I just want this to be kind of a safe space and a place where it’s just that “inner room”. It’s the kind of an inner sanctuary, the safe place where I’ve been able to be real and honest, in one way or another with you, So, The Inner Room.

If it ever happens again it might get a new name, but I had to come up with something so that’s what I came up with.

Welcome, anyway, to this time together and it’s really great to have you. Please do say HI! if you’re there on the live chat, and have the means to do so, and if you’re listening back to this on a recording or on a telephone, thanks as well for putting in the time to tune in and have a listen or watch to this particular video.

So, tonight, as I say, is meant to be a little bit of a heart-to-heart, a little bit of sharing from the Scriptures.

I guess, what has led to this has been a journey for me over the last well six to eight weeks. I guess it started before Christmas and I think was prompted a little bit by being aware that towards the end of January I’d be coming up to the end of my second year, going into third, and there are developments on the go with the Braes Hub and there are lots of changes coming for us as a Congregation, as an area, Even things being planned or put on hold because of Covid, and lots of different things, kind of on the go, and so, I guess, it got me in a bit of a reflective mood, thinking “I wonder what is next Lord?”, because what’s been really encouraging for me is to be able to look back over the last two years and see some of what we’ve changed, what we’ve done differently, some the impacts that we’ve had in different places.

If you want in the live chat and feel free to put up things that you see or you’re aware of, for what you would give thanks to God for.

The things that come to mind for me are seeing people come to faith – I’ve been so encouraged by that one guy who got in touch recently saying he came to faith during one of the sermons in January – someone came to faith during the Alpha Course – we saw other people come to faith along the way in previous year’s Alpha Course and different things like that.

I am so encouraged when people say “I have chosen to follow Jesus” and that’s great to see, because not every Church is seeing that. It’s a great encouragement.

I’m encouraged also that and we’ve made some changes in some of our identity and things.

So, we’ve said part of what our Purpose is to “invite, encourage and enable all ages to follow Jesus Christ” It’s really clear, it’s really bold, and it’s really deliberate, and it’s really biblical, So, I’m super excited about where that might take us on a journey together,

and as part of that we’ve also said well here are four Values that go with this, that kind of put some flesh on the bones, and that kind of say well this is part of our DNA. We know what our Purpose is but what’s also part of our DNA, what’s some of the essence of Brightons and where we’re going within that broad purpose, and so we have our four Values and it’s been great fun just to tune into to that, to talk it through with the Teams and the different Teams we have in our Kirk Sessions and Deacons Court, as well as to hear people’s hopes and dreams for 2021.

We’ve also started the Pastoral Groupings, and that’s a big change for us moving from the Pastoral District to the Pastoral Groupings, There’s many more besides.

A Scripture Union group starting up at Wallacestone and the input in classes picking up again and since Murdo’s time, I know that he did that,

and there have been lots of things like Belong starting in the last two years – and Yes, okay, we’ve not been able to continue that and lockdown, like many things, but it got started. It gave us a flavor of things.

I was so encouraged just before we went into lockdown that we had our first Sunday morning where we had Prayer Ministry in the morning Service. I thought that was a huge step for us and it felt like we were in a good place as a Church family, because I didn’t feel like people were thinking or feeling “Not sure about this, Scott!” because I remember two years ago and I was asking you to respond to the Word and I did some things that were a wee bit out-there, even for me to be honest! A few of you, or probably a lot of you, were like “I’m not sure about this!” but a year on you allowed me to lead you into Prayer Ministry, and about six or seven people came forward that morning to be prayed for in the morning Service, about some really personal things and that’s just amazing! Amazing!

There’s much more besides and you can feel free, as I say, to put some things up in the live chat that’s encouraged you.

So, I’ve kind of been reflecting a little bit on the last two years and thinking about some of what’s been achieved, but there was a growing sense within me that there’s something else around the corner, and Yes we’ve done all these things, Yes we’ve seen Huddle start, an initiative through the discipleship team and you’ll hear more about that in the coming weeks so, listen out for Huddle, but my sense was there was something more, that and there’s more around the corner for us as a Congregation and part of what I want to share tonight is around that.

This is unscripted, other than some bullet points and notes, so we’ll see what comes but before we get into that before we turn to God’s Word let’s pray okay, let us pray.

My God and Heavenly Father, we do give You thanks for all that we’ve seen of You in the last two years that, even in the midst of lockdown and a pandemic, Lord, you’ve been at work in us and through us, and before this time, Lord, before this season, You were at work in ways that were great and so worthy of praise. And so, we want to lift our voice up and glorify You and give You the thanks and the honour.
But Lord, we’re on a journey, we’re on a journey together. That’s part of one of our Values of being Family – community journeying together towards wholeness – Lord, we’re never complete this side of heaven, so there’s always more, there’s always a next step, there’s also always something around the corner.
So, as I share, Lord, from Your Word and what you’ve been, I think, saying to me, Lord, give us ears to hear You, let me help us to hear You. As John said, John the Baptist, “May the speaker decrease and Jesus of Nazareth increase”, for we do say and pray all this for His glory and in His name, Amen.

So, if you will turn with me in your Bible, whether hardback or electronic, to Acts chapter 15, Acts chapter 15.

Prior to this point the Church has been going through phenomenal growth. Peter’s had that vision where how this has led him to Cornelius’s house the church has grown Peter’s miraculous escape from prison Barnabas and Paul have been sent off on a missionary journey and they’ve seen God do incredible things, and the Church has grown in different places and then they come back and to him to Antioch and they’ve spent quite a bit of time there and so, chapter 15 verse 1 we read this:

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

And then we’re going to jump on to verse 24:
Prior to this in the in between time they’ve done a report and there’s been lots of debate and conversation and then James gets up and he says in response to this that and he thinks they should do certain things and say certain things to the believers in Antioch, and other areas, who have come from a Gentile background and so they decide to write a letter and what we’re about to read is part of that letter, verse 24:

“We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul – men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:”

and then detail some things and say Farewell, well and send these gentlemen off back down to Antioch with the letter and it brings great encouragement to the people if you read on into verses 13 and 31 so, Amen and thanks be to God for this reading from His Word.

I came across this passage as I was reading a book about discerning the will of God together. It’s by a lady called Ruth Haley Barton and I’d encourage you to have a look at it. It’s a phenomenal read in quite a revolutionary way really of doing discernment as a congregation. A lot to share. Not something you could implement straight away. I think it would take some time, months if not years, to get to that place as a community where you could put it fully into practice, but it gave me quite a bit of food for a thought.

And she points out in her book that in this passage, that circumstances arise which God utilizes for the furtherance of His mission, for the spread of the Gospel, for the building up of His Church, and it arises in the midst of a very difficult situation, even conflict, and yet it’s used, and it’s in the midst of that, and trying to decide how to respond, and what’s next, what’s the right way.

We were thinking about, in Jim’s preaching on Sunday, what is the way of Jesus? They were trying to think, what is the way of Jesus for these Gentile believers? and so they discuss and, I presume they pray as well, because in their letter and I think it’s also there in the earlier passage which we skipped over we get this these words “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”, I just think that’s incredible what they say. They have real sense that the Holy Spirit was teaching them, leading them, in that way and in the way of Jesus and guiding them in that moment.

I and Ruth Haley Barton says that we come across many situations in life, in Church life, where something arises, and we discuss, and we pray, and we wrestle about it, and, in the midst of that, God does something that we might discern the mind of Christ together, and move forward in His way and into His purposes for us,

and my sense is that we are coming into a season of trying to discern some of that, or at least I am, but I think it will involve many of us, or that should involve many of us. I’m not quite sure what that will look like or be like but I’m excited about it!

I was listening to a podcast and went out walking Hector, I think maybe during my Christmas break, and it’s a leadership podcast – really helpful – but, actually, this particular episode, was from early on in the pandemic maybe the Summer time, I’m not exactly sure, maybe June/July time, but in that podcast the speakers talk about how even at that stage the pandemic was what they called an accelerator and a revealer, an accelerator and a revealer, and what they were meaning by that was the onset of the pandemic has accelerated certain things, for example it’s accelerated the use of Zoom and virtual communication, and has accelerated issues within the NHS or within us as a nation, and even as a world, it has accelerated within the Church, it has changes too.

That we went online and I can remember having conversations with our IT guys, I said Well we eventually get to that in four or five years time! and not knowing what was around the corner, and I’m sure you can think of other things that have been accelerated – if you want put it up in the live chat.

It’s also been a revealer. It has revealed where we’ve maybe put our trust and, for the Church, has it really been in God? or has it only been in the good times. It has maybe revealed the insecurity of life or the fragility of life. Has maybe revealed just how insecure certain structures are within our nation and across our nations.

So much has been accelerated and revealed and, again if there are things revealed that could pop up for you then please do again share it in the live chat.

And what Barton was saying, what these folks were saying in the podcast, and I think tied-up together in Acts chapter 15 here, that things are revealed for the Church here. Revealed that there’s a kind of change needed and it’s really interesting that in Acts chapter 10 the Disciples already knew that things were permitted and certain practices were to go, and when Paul & Peter got that revelation from God by the Holy Spirit and went to Cornelius’s house, and the Gentiles came into the faith, and things have been revealed but I’m not sure exactly how much change.

Yes, Paul and Barnabas went out but they hadn’t pinned down, they hadn’t made some decisions yet, and that lack of communication, the lack of decision, the lack of kind of concreteness, ushered in some of these issues, and so, it kind of accelerated change, accelerated the need for a decision.

I think it also revealed that need to make a decision. It also revealed what were to be the Church’s priorities for Gentile believers. They hadn’t pinned that down before, they hadn’t pinned down What are we going to pass on from our Jewish roots to these new believers, and they were still wrestling with those things. They hadn’t figured it all out and so, there were things revealed. There are things accelerated in that story, and, as I say, this time of pandemic has accelerated and revealed things for us.

But, I wonder what’s next because?

Hopefully, at some point this year in the not too distant future, we will be able to return to worship in person,

But.

I wonder whether we will seek to simply just return to what was and, remember that sermon where I quoted the Moderator the Church of Scotland, and he said we all yearn to get back to normal and he kind of questioned Why do we yearn to get back to normal, when normal was Church membership going off a cliff in churches without children. And then I don’t think it was that sermon but I think it was a Tuesday Evening Sermon in December, if you didn’t see it maybe go back and have a look, where I talked about the Brightons situation that, Okay, Yeah, we’ve seen people come to faith and we do have a number of contacts with children and families, but if you look at our demographics we are declining. Even within Brightons our membership is going down compared to what it was. Our demographic is getting older and if you look five, ten years down the road, unless things change dramatically, we’re gonna have some really tough times, and we’re going to have to think about what are we going to stop doing, because we just can’t sustain what we are doing just now. And so, maybe again, that’s part of why I was thinking What’s next Lord? You’ve taken us this far, we’ve reached this stage together what’s next?

and I don’t have an answer to tha.t I don’t know what you expect of my leadership as the Minister.

I’m certainly not what you’ve maybe had before, clearly. You’re certainly not what you maybe hoped or expected for.

I’m not someone that’s going to steady the ship. I’m probably going to rock the boat more often than not, because that’s what I think is needed in the Church just now nationally, never mind just here in Brightons. But I hope, within that rocking, I can also be a catalyst.

I talked with the Nominating Committee, I think, about wanting to be a catalyst, that, rather than being the answer-man, I would be a catalyst, kind of question-man.

and again I was influenced by a book I read called Canoeing the Mountains, and the Elders have read a good chunk of that along with our Deacons, and we’ve not finished it yet, we might come back to that at some stage, who knows, but it’s been almost a year since we last dipped into that together, but that book again influenced that kind of way of thinking and I find great freedom in that, that I don’t have to have the answers myself, that this can be a team effort, a family effort, a community effort, that we all you all have a place to play in us, and I can act as a catalyst alongside the Kirk Session and the Team Conveners and the different groups that we have in the ministries we have within the congregation. So, you’re not going to get from me a grand vision – Oh, this is the vision for the next year or the next five years, you’re not gonna get that from me. Sure, you’ll get some principles and foundations which is probably in part what has led to our Purpose and Values but I didn’t come up with all that on myself, again it was a team effort, and it was taken to the Kirk Session and unanimously voted on by the Kirk Session, that these should be our Purpose and Values.

So, I want to be a leader that enables and champions ideas, rather than the one has to come up with all the ideas.

Nevertheless, I do think as part of that catalyst part of my job is listening out to the Lord so that both in the preaching and in other ways of leadership and influence, I can be part of kind of steering us forward. Because in crisis, not just in the pandemic, but let’s be honest folks, as a Church, as the Church in Scotland, not just the Church of Scotland but the Church in Scotland, we’re in crisis largely, falling numbers, as I say in bits and pieces and again in this podcast I was listening to, he said it is tempting to hold on to what makes you feel secure and what is familiar, in times of crisis, rather than pivot or innovate.

So, in crisis, it’s tempting to hold on to what makes you feel secure and what is familiar rather than pivot or innovate, and I know places that have Churches that have really struggled in this time and Yes, we all have, but in some ways, they’ve struggled more because their ministers their members have not been able to innovate and or pivot in these times,

and the sense of isolation is much greater than what we have, and I think folks are so hungry, much more than we might be, hopefully, because we’ve been able to do certain things and provide certain things. We haven’t got it perfect clearly, there’s always things we can do better,

But I think this is in my thinking because this crisis makes us want to turn in and feel safe, and I wonder what happens later on in the year when we get back and Yes there’ll need to be a time of coming together, of being family, of reconnecting and of celebrating that, and valuing that, but the danger would be that we then get comfortable again and don’t look at what we need to be looking at, and even in this time now, to be looking out and I’m thinking “Well where next God? Where next?

and in all of this, just last week actually, I believe it was only last week, and I was sitting in this chair, I just read the bit, I think it was Mark, final chapter of Mark wasn’t it last Monday and I knew it was my Spiritual Director the next day and I thought he’s going to ask me if I’ve been spending some time in prayer and listening to the Lord, which is an exercise that I do every so often, and sometimes I’ll maybe get a picture or maybe get a phrase that’ll come to mind, and it’ll really help with my leadership. Actually, of late, it’s been really helpful for leadership. He can speak in other ways but I find, most often, nice speaking, into me about leadership,

and so, like the last two years there’ve been different things for my three or four months block so, I had my Bible reading, jotted down my thought or my prayer for the day, as I encouraged you in the Mini Message. I thought Right, I’m gonna spend some time preparing to see God says anything and he did! Surprise, surprise!

and I normally get a picture but this time it was more a phrase, and the phrase was “It’s time to tack” and I knew it was about sailing and tacking and I didn’t really know why this had come to mind.

At first I thought God was correcting me and that’s a bit of my own insecurity that I think as a young leader I’m till guessing half the time. I’m probably, like most ministers even with 30 years experience, probably still feel that they’re guessing, but I definitely feel that I’m guessing half the time, and that’s experimentation, and it’s life of faith and all that,

but Yeah, it kind of feels like I’m guessing half the time and with guesses can come wrong things, and Imake mistakes, and I have made mistakes in the last two years, and so I thought I’ve done something wrong, He’s correcting me. It’s time to tack. It’s time to change direction. It’s like What have I done wrong? What needs to change? but I decided to do some a searching on Youtube, actually, we’re all on Youtube aren’t we to some degree or another? and you get some nonsense on there, but I went looking for tacking, because I didn’t really know anything about tacking at all.

But I watched a couple of short videos about tacking and about the physics of sailing and some really startling and interesting things came up!

So, tacking is when the boat changes direction so as to be able to keep moving forward in a particular rough direction. So, if you’re wanting to go that way, you’re kind of tacking different angles to keep going in the rough direction but you’re cutting across and the rough path, so that you’re doing a kind of zig-zag to eventually get there,

but what’s interesting with tacking is, you’re sailing into the wind which I didn’t know you could do, like sailing into the wind just sounds mental, How is that even possible? but apparently it is, it’s apparently possible because the boat has a keel and forces and vectors, apparently, apply and the result of that is that you go forward!

A couple of things that jumped out to me that people said:

you can actually go forward faster than the speed of the wind when you tack. So, you’re going into the wind but because you’re going at a particular angle and all the forces and physics that are involved, you can actually go faster than the wind. I find that crazy! And you can go faster than the wind being blowing behind you. Which I just thought was really startling!

What other things kind of jumped out at me and just the general idea that it’s into the wind, faster than the wind, and it’s still going in a rough direction. You’re keeping your course but you’re changing slightly so as to catch more of the wind, and because you’ve maybe run out of distance, you’re getting near the shore, or you just need to change direction slightly, so it’s not actually about having done something wrong, it’s about keeping your course, but catching the wind so that you can do that, and you can maintain kind of maximum speed almost, and so, when thinking about this, talking about a few others, the sense of that it’s about aligning, it’s about God directing and guiding rather than correcting came to the fore, because he wasn’t seen to change direction completely.

So I think we’ve got our Purpose and Values. We know our overall direction but it’s time to tack, and that will feel difficult because, when you tack then, notes tell me, you go through what’s called the no-go zone.

Basically when you’re turning into the wind and that’s when the sail starts flapping because the wind’s on both sides of it, is not properly catching the sail, and the rigging is swaying a little bit, and you kind of lose a little bit of momentum, but then you keep going round and eventually you get past 45 degrees and you start picking up the wind again, and you go forward, and it sails and the rigging pulls taut, and you go forward in your direction with your crew, and you pick up speed to hopefully travel faster than the wind.

And, this next season, my sense is that there’s a season of perhaps three months maybe more where we need to do that tacking, and it might feel a bit awkward and the sails might flutter a bit, and we’re not really sure what’s happening, and we don’t really feel comfortable.

It was interesting reading a blog about the analogy of tacking with ministry and I’m often encouraged, the encouragement was that’s a time to be still and be in God’s presence, and you know what I’ve been talking about with my Spiritual Director, the need for retreat, the need for solitude, and silence, with God, and to grow in that discipline, and just how many things can come together at the one time – I was just blown away!

and so, I feel like God was just saying, It’s time to tack! and it’s funny, I had been talking to the Kirk Session back in December and thinking Well, I’m not quite sure when next I’ll share with them directly so I’ll give them their New Year’s message before Christmas, and the message was there’ll be more change on the horizon and who was to know that God would give this Word at this time to tack, that in my reading I would come across Acts 15, that in my time off I would listen to a podcast talking about this time being an accelerator and a revealer, and in times of crisis we want to buckle down and feel safe, but actually we need to pivot, we need to tack, we need to innovate, and just all that’s coming together,

and I want you to know where I’m at as your minister, as your leader, and some of you will find that really hard because you want a pastoral leader, you want to be made to feel safe, and there are times when I can do that and do do that, there are times when I bring a measure of encouragement, or try to at least, but we also need to pivot. We need to tack, we need to innovate. We’re not out of this as a Church, Yeah, we’re not out of our time of crisis even when the pandemic goes away, we still are faced with the situation that our membership numbers are going off a cliff. We’re barely seeing anyone come to faith, numbers of children are dropping, it’s going to be even harder. Younger people and children have been away from Church and Church groups for so long – Will they come back? – who knows. Will the adults that we’ve been reaching out to come back? Who knows.

So, it’s not time, I don’t think, to buckle down and feel safe. It’s time to tack, and we do that together.

As I say I’m not going to be your answer-man. I’m not going to come up with a grand plan. We need to do this together.

What does that look like? Here’s a couple of ideas:

I was chatting with some folks recently kind of about the bits and pieces of this and one part of the conversation led to send to someone You know if you’ve got ideas and you want to contribute to the life of the Church, then get involved in some of the Teams and in the Church, and I think that’s an avenue If you want to help shape the life of the Church, if there’s something that’s bugging you, or if you see that there’s an opportunity, then get involved in the Teams of the Church and those teams.

There are teams on the Kirk Session: Pastoral Care, Discipleship, Community Outreach and Up-and- Coming which looks after the under-25s. Information about all those Teams is on our website on the Get Involved page. So, go and have a look there.

There are also Teams within Deacons Court: Communications, Property, Finance and a few other minor pieces, but those are the kind of major teams. Maybe you could lend some of your support there, to help us move forward.

So, or it might not be one of those bigger Teams. It might be a team that reports to one of those teams for example the Sunday School Leaders Team

or it might be within, as I was saying recently, your Pastoral Grouping. Remember I talked about this recently in a sermon. Getting involved there, speaking to your Elder and saying How could I play a part in this Pastoral Grouping? Are there some people that I could phone or I could visit? And are there ways that we could be together?

My Pastoral Grouping and one of the people said
Well in a previous existence in time we had this thing where we would do like a kind of trip around people’s houses and share one course together and then you’d move on to someone else’s house for the next course

Clearly we can’t do that just now but let’s have a Zoom call, and an hour of fun, and we’ll do a quiz, and maybe do some games, and bits and pieces, and there was quite a few a party cracker jokes, Christmas cracker jokes. It was a great hour! Someone else’s idea, largely organized by other people, and I just facilitated it, and it was such an encouragement to be together, and I have a sense within my pastor of grouping that we’re becoming a bit like a kind of mini family within this wider family of the Brightons family. I’m really enjoying seeing just how that’s kind of growing.

Maybe you could lend your time and your love and your gifts there, if it’s not part of one of the wider teams.

Another idea for you is that hopefully you’ve watched the video from the start of the year, I think it was the second week in January, where we shared some hopes for 2021 from different people, and maybe there’s some stuff that’s resonated there, for you. I’ve certainly taken notes of things to pursue potentially, pursue the year ahead, but you might, you may have a hope for 2021. We couldn’t ask everybody. So, get in touch, send a message to our Facebook page or drop us an email, and say Hey, I was listening to this message and Scott invited us to share one hope around one of the values maybe, and this is what I hope for in 2021,

and clearly if it’s the same as what’s been repeated in that video, there might be no need to email, but if there was something different, or else you wanted to add to someone’s idea, again, drop us an email saying this is one of my hopes for 2021 for the Brightons Church family, and again we take that on board,

and I’m not saying that we’ll pursue all these ideas but it’s starting to do that discernment together of What does it mean to tack? Where is God calling us to tack in these coming months that we might be ready to catch the wind as we come out of restrictions, and hopefully come back together.

Yes, we’ll come back, and we’ll celebrate, and we’ll love seeing each other. I really miss you, I miss you all. I miss that Sunday morning –

one of my favorite points on the Sunday morning was around about half past 10 to 10 to 11, I go around and I talk to people and that people had come early so, if you never got that opportunity you clearly know that you didn’t arrive in time, and for that I’m sure you’re right on time for the service just not in time for me going about, and I really loved that time, it was just a really special time. I’ve missed that. I’ve missed that. Live Chat doesn’t equal it, not everybody’s on there that I would normally talk to at that point. I’ve missed that and I’m looking forward to that starting back as I say.

As many people are saying if we don’t allow God by Sis spirit to work amongst us so that it reveals and accelerates and that, so that we pivot, so that we tack, then we are just gonna run aground or we’re gonna just get comfortable and kind of bunker down or we’re gonna get kind of stuck in that no-go zone and the sails just gonna flutter and we’re gonna lose momentum,

and we really can’t afford to because, we have a community, we have a Parish that needs to know Jesus, needs to know that He’s real and living and active, needs to know the love and grace of God, and we’re called into that ,we’re called to invite others to share, we’re called to encourage one another in the way of Jesus, we’re called to enable all ages, the youngest to the oldest, to follow Jesus, and to know what that means, and to know and play their part.

So, I look forward to the next year, to the next two years and more, and I wonder what’s on the horizon for us next, as we tack,

and there’ll be more tacks along the way, but we’re entering into that season of tacking. Now and I pray that we would have the boldness, and the courage, and the sensitivity that the early Church showed in Acts 15 as well, and then from that see the Church of Jesus flourish in this place, and the Kingdom come like we’ve never known.

May it be so let us pray

My God and Heavenly Father, we thank You that You promised to never leave us nor forsake us, to journey with us by the Spirit. Jesus You promised that Your sheep will hear Your voice and that the Spirit will lead us into truth and into life, that He will reveal You and Your way.

Help us Lord, to be sensitive to the Spirit and to hear what You’re saying to us as a community, to us individually, by Your Word, and in the place of prayer.

Lord, where things have been of me, just pull them away, let them not linger in our hearts and minds, and cause unrest, or lead us in the wrong direction. But where things have been of You Lord, take it deep, keep it safe and bring forth a harvest that would be to Your glory.

Lord, we seek Your way and Your will. Help us to be bold where we need to be bold.

We ask this in and through the name of Jesus, Amen

Friends, thanks for being with us tonight. I realize it’s a bit of a longer message or session than normal, that’s the danger when I don’t have notes or detailed notes, and I just kind of keep going a bit, but I’m excited and passionate about what’s coming. So, hopefully, forgive me in the midst of all that.

It’s been really good to share in this time together. Look forward to our next time and in one way or another, and next week we’ll have Testimony Tuesday, so join us then, as folk share about their faith journey, and various different ways and forms. We’ve got our Thursday Prayer back on Zoom this Thursday as well as well as on our Youtube Channel and then I’m back in preaching this Sunday morning, as we continue in Philippians.

So, as we go from here, the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you, my dear brothers and sisters, this night and forevermore. Amen