Mary’s Song

Preached on: Sunday 3rd December 2023
The sermon text is available as subtitles in the Youtube video (the accuracy of which is not guaranteed). A transcript of the sermon can be made available on request. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 1:46-56
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Singing praise
– Singing trust
– Singing the future

Lion of Judah (evening)

Preached on: Sunday 26th March 2023
The sermon text is available as subtitles in the Youtube video (the accuracy of which is not guaranteed). A transcript of the sermon can be made available on request. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 23-03-26e Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Revelation 5 & Genesis 49:8-10
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– victorious over enemies
– eternal rule
– response of praise
– surrender

Showered in spiritual blessings

Preached on: Sunday 22nd January 2023
The sermon text is available as subtitles in the Youtube video (the accuracy of which is not guaranteed). A transcript of the sermon can be made available on request. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 23-01-22 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Ephesians 1:1-14
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– God’s blessings for God’s people
– God’s Son and Spirit for God’s people = security
– The praise of God’s people for the love, grace and glory of God

Ephesians sermon series intro

Preached on: Sunday 22nd January 2023
The sermon text is available as subtitles in the Youtube video (the accuracy of which is not guaranteed). A transcript of the sermon can be made available on request. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Ephesians
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– about our faith
– about Jesus
– about the person and work of the Holy Spirit
– book: Sleeping Giant: A call to the church to awake and arise!

I will praise You (Psalm 148 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 23rd June 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-06-23-Tuesday-Evening-Sermon-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 148
Location: Brightons Parish Church


23 June 2020

Good evening everyone, welcome to Tuesday evening sermon, it’s great to have you join with us as we dig deeper into God’s Word. After tonight we will have our discussion time in our Jitsi room and there will be questions to download from our website, so you just need to go to the sermons page or website and you can get the questions there and if you need the login details for the Jitsi room then just put something in the live chat at the side or drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook and we’ll get you the details so you can join us tonight. This is the last Tuesday evening sermon of this file format probably until after the summer break and so this is the last time to engage in this sort of format. Beginning from next week we’ll be having a program of different events over the summer on a Tuesday evening, giving space for us to be built up in our faith but also time to have some social time together some prayer time together, a variety of different things and we’ll get that information out to you in due course, so tonight – last time for the Jitsi discussion room, join us if you are able or get the questions from the website afterwards so that you can reflect on the passage and its application for your life afterwards. So, let us open our Bibles, open our Bible Apps, turn to Psalm 148 and we hear it read for us once more by Erin Lang. Let us come to God in prayer, let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord our strength and our Redeemer. Holy Spirit draw close; be the spirit of wisdom and revelation for us tonight, that our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, would be opened to what you would have a see and hear and do and be from this night on and forevermore, and all to the glory our God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, for we ask it in His name. Amen So, Psalm 148 – it’s one of the five final Hallelujah! Psalms that makes up the end of the book of Psalms, drawing to that crescendo of praise to God, as we saw on Sunday morning. And so, we saw that there is that clear invitation to all creation to join in the praise of the Lord, Yahweh, as we saw in earlier Psalms, and so that was the focus of where we drew our attention on Sunday morning. But this Psalm is laced with relationships, relationships to one another and relationships to God and, you know, it’s really interesting that Jesus had such a balance of his relationships, He was the only individual ever to live in perfect balance of all His relationships and, let me just take you over into Luke chapter 6 where, in verses 12 to 19, we see these relationships, that are laced there throughout Jesus’ ministry and life, and so we open in verse 12 that Jesus goes up the mountain to pray and spend the night praying to his Heavenly Father, to Father God, and so we see that He has that relationship with His Father and this defines so much of His life, it is His principal relationship, that up relationship, to Father God – but then moving on in chapter 6 to verses 13 to 16, Jesus calls a group of individuals to be close to Him, to have relationship with Him, He has the twelve – He also has the 72 later on in Luke chapter 10, and He also has the three that He spends a principal amount of time with, but He has these relationships, these ‘in’ relationships, we might say, that He invested time in these relationships. And then there is the crowd, there is the world, there are those beyond his circle of close followers and He invests time in those relationships as well – verses 17 to 19 – He goes down from the hill with His disciples and there’s a great number of people needing His help and so Jesus heals them, He spends time with them, He brings the kingdom of God in their midst. He has not only an upward focus and relationship with God, He not only has an inward focus and relationship with His followers, He has an outward focus and relationship with the wider world, and He has them all in perfect balance throughout His life, and one writer helpfully gave this the picture of a triangle, and of the three sides of a triangle being in perfect balance, the ‘up’ at the top of the triangle and in the two sides ‘in’ and ‘out’, and we all need to be in balance just as Jesus lived. We need to have that balance of ‘up’, ‘in’ and ‘out’ but so often, we don’t live that way, we often have an imbalance and, as churches, we often have an imbalance as well. So why am I even talking about this in relation to Psalm 148? Well, as I say, there’s a principle invitation for all creation to praise God – that upward relationship, but there is that wider context of relationship as well, all defining our relationship from God, and if you kind of juxtapose that example of Jesus’ life in the triangle against the Psalm, for me it just opened up the Psalm so very powerfully and so I wanted to bring that for you tonight in this sermon. So let’s start with the upward relationship, the top of the triangle. Clearly that the Psalm is calling us, calling all creation, to turn its attention to God, to give God the praise that is due His name alone, because, as the Psalmist reminds us in verse 5, ‘Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at His command they were created’, at His spoken word of creation everything has come into being, and that includes you and me – as we saw in verses 11 and 12 – but as we saw also on Sunday that He has raised up for His people a horn – a deliverer, a strong deliverer, and for us, now, we see a prophetic word of reference to Jesus, even though at the time it would have been understood in the context of who God had raised up as a king for his people. And so, we have these reasons to glorify God as we saw on Sunday, to praise the
Lord, but we’ve to praise Him alone, in verse 13, ‘For His name alone is exalted’, we’ve to praise the name of the Lord, we’ve to praise Yahweh alone, and so we’ve to have Him and give Him His rightful place as King, that the fundamental claim of this Psalm is that God alone is King, the Lord Yahweh alone is King, and what’s striking about that for us human beings is that, so often we imagine ourselves kind of above all creation alongside God because we are very creative beings, we are very powerful beings, as one of the Psalms says, we’ve been made a little lower than the heavenly beings, and so we often get ourselves kind of confused, we have a false perception of ourselves, and this Psalm calls us to orientate our lives rightly – to worship God alone, yes with our words, but praise is so much more than just what we say, as we saw in the Psalm, that the created order doesn’t utter a word really, but with their lives, praises God, glorifies His name. So, words are important but they are not the whole way in which we praise God. And so, the Psalm calls us to orientate our lives such that our lives, our worship, to the Lord. But what does that look like? What does that look like? How does that affect our time? – how does that affect what we use our money on? – how does that affect the manner in which we live? – the choices that we make? And so, I think that’s where I find that the triangle quite helpful again, because in the triangle there is the ‘out’ and the ‘in’ corners as well, that they’ve all to be in relationship but, in balance, but they are in relationship to one another and so, we define how we live ‘out’ by what God says, because it’s in relationship, it’s a triangle: likewise, with the ‘in’ corner, it’s that idea of what does it mean to tell love our neighbour, to love our brother and sister, to invest and then, again defined by what God says, it’s all in relationship. And when we allow God to be God and have that proper relationship upwards to Him, we heed what He says about these other areas because we are allowing God to be God, and we realize that we are not God, that only He is over creation. So, let’s go first to the ‘out’ corner; and what’s striking about this Psalm, like much of the Old Testament when we dig into it deeper, is that it radically challenges that the wider philosophies, mythologies, traditions, that would have been prevalent around Israel at the time; and so ancient Near Eastern mythologies and traditions, argued, portrayed, had a theology which said that the Sun and Moon were divined, that the great sea beasts were was just as powerful as God, that even the ocean depths were a form of chaos, kind of fighting against God in some way, and yet this Psalm, like all the Old Testament, challenges that theology, and it says that only God alone is divine, that everything else has been created to praise Him, that He is not in a battle of wills, there is no contest here, He alone is exalted – that’s what we see in verse 13, ‘for His name alone is exalted, His splendour is above the earth and the heavens’, His splendour – it’s a picture of His glory, of His Kingship, and what the Psalm is helping us see is that God is not on the same level as everything else, that everything else is under Him, He rules alone, He alone is sovereign, He reigns on high as King, and so the name of the Lord, Yahweh, His named alone is exalted and is to be exalted, His name alone is to be praised. So, what’s the application of all that? Well, two ideas here in the outward area; on the one hand is just as relevant today as it was then, that challenge to the wider plethora of religions (?), worldviews (?), which say that everything is equal, that there are many ways to God, and the Psalm, as with the whole theology of the Bible, says differently; that the Lord Yahweh alone is exalted, that He alone is God over all, and I guess the question comes about how do we share that? – how do we make that known? – and again, that will come down to, how do we go about evangelism?- that evangelism is still just as needed today as ever, and in our culture increasingly so, we are beyond Christendom where it can be assumed that everybody is a Christian or has a Christian worldview. That can no longer be assumed, it is long gone, it is no longer here. Now, I am not someone who is in favour of street evangelism, I actually did that in my teenage years so – not my teenage years, my student years – I know how disastrously it goes often and so that’s not what I’m talking about, I’m not talking about ramming religion down people’s throat, I’m not talking about any number of different ideas of evangelism that we might have, but when we live in a culture that really drowns out and at times seems to just push the Lord to the side, there comes a time when the church needs to say, as it should always have said, how do we make God known in our context, in our place, here? – and it’s not enough just for the minister to do it, it’s not just enough for the minister to be the one calling people to follow God, to turn from their ways – and that’s the basic meaning of repent – because such a small proportion of our congregation, of our parish, come to church on a Sunday, might ever come to church on a Sunday, and so there’s that calling, that invitation, that challenge, for us all to be involved in that in some way, somehow. In some way, somehow, we need to figure out how to be equipped in that, how to go about that, how to do that in our context, in our parish, now in 2020, that people might know the Lord alone is Yahweh, that He alone is exalted. But also in the area of ‘out’ is something around what we quite often call creation care, creation care, because, it’s really striking that this Psalm references so much of the wider creation, as I said on Sunday, it’s almost like the Psalmist is looking out on everything he can see and imagine and he’s astounded by it all and he sees that it’s all there to glorify God and all called to participate in the glorifying of God; and creation alone, the wider creation, excluding humanity, sings in perfect unison and tune, it’s us who are out of tune, but there’s that relationship within the wider creation and it gets me thinking about how we might be getting in the way of what creation is to do, because if everything belongs to God, and He alone is Lord of it all, then we have to look after that because, as his stewards, we were given the responsibility to do that and what is important and valuable to God should be important and valuable to us. And I know that in our kind of branch of Christian theology, we can sometimes struggle with that, we get so focused on the word, and we get so focused on evangelism, that basically that’s all mission ends up being; but there are so many really strong arguments in favour of the need to look after the wider creation, and if you’re not convinced about that – that that’s important for Christians to do nowadays – then can I encourage you to maybe pick up this sizable tome, you can borrow mine if you don’t want to borrow it. It’s ‘The Mission of God’ by a gentleman with the title ‘Wright’, this is one of the books I had to read during my training, Christopher Wright, ‘Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative’, and he has a whole chapter on mission and God’s earth. I just want to read you a small, kind of summary paragraph that he says, ‘To love God means to value what God values. Conversely therefore, to contribute to or collude in the abuse, pollution, and destruction of the natural order, is to trample on the goodness of God reflected in creation; it is to devalue what God values; to mute, to mute, God’s praise and to diminish His glory’. And he goes on to give many more reasons why care of creation is seen as one of the hallmarks of mission, a very challenging, thoughtprovoking chapter and so if you want to delve into that a bit more, then think come speak with me if you want a bit of broader theology on why creation care should be seen within the mission of God. And just get to get really practical on that, I think in the first year I was here in Brightons, I had that all-age talk where I got chatting with the children about how we look after the wider creation. I wonder if any of you have done anything about that. I’m pretty sure I talked with them about biodegradable toothbrushes – anybody got their toothbrush yet? – shampoo? – shampoo as a soap bar instead of having a plastic bottle, plastic not being as recyclable as you might think. Likewise, because of the plastic issue, investing in safety razors – using this for about a year now and cutting myself a lot less, though hopefully that doesn’t change just because I’ve mentioned that now, or what about even in the kitchen instead of cling film and tinfoil getting a reusable beeswax wrap which, when it might eventually -and we’ve had this one for a good wee while now, but when it might eventually no longer become usable is completely biodegradable as well. Just really simple quick practical ways that we can put this into practice but we can embody and partner with the mission of God which includes care and redemption of the wider creation, so as not to mute the voice of creation as it sings its praise to God; and so that’s the other part of the ‘out’ relationship that I wanted to bring today – as we look out and we think about mission, do we think about creation care? – and do we think about evangelism? So, let’s go to the other corner of our triangle, the inward relationship, and at the end of the Psalm, the psalmist is calling the people of God to their place of praising the name of Yahweh. He says, ‘He has raised up for His people a horn, the praise of all His faithful servants of Israel, the people close to his heart’. But, of course, this is all situated within that earlier context of ‘praise the Lord, let them praise the name of the Lord’. There is that call, ‘let them’, it has a bit of an unfortunate, English phrasing, it doesn’t sound – it’s like – well, just let them kind of get on with it, or something quite kind of tame, just slightly permissive, but really the idea is real exhortation! When God said, ‘let there be light’, it wasn’t just a nice – well it would be kind of nice if that happened – type thing, it was ‘let there be light’ It was a kind of – it was a command, clearly. Now, it’s different here, but you get that idea that it’s more than just a nice permissiveness, it is a real calling to say, ‘this should come into being’, that the praise of Yahweh should be core to His people for who He is, that He alone is exalted, that He alone is Lord over all, that He has raised up for His people a horn, a strong deliverer, a saviour, and that his people are close to his heart. And in that inward part of the triangle, the idea there is around how we care for one another? – it is around how we challenge and encourage one another? – it is how do we spur one another on in our faith and towards love and good deeds? – and a couple of thoughts come to mind. Clearly, as I’ve said – there’s that call to praise the Lord, the psalmist is crying out and this would be used in the context of praise and worship and, it would be clear, in the Old Testament about how to go about doing that – in our context, how do we do that? – how do we spur one another on? – what is the means that we have to do that? – because it’s not just the minister’s job, it’s not just the elders’ job, what are the means that we reach out to other and we spur one another on in our faith? I’m having some really great discussions just now with the Discipleship Team about looking at different models for how we spur one another on in our faith, because as it stands, quite a small proportion of our Sunday congregation engage in Fellowship Groups and maybe that’s not for everyone, maybe Fellowship Groups aren’t intentional enough to be expanding and growing – at one point in recent church history there was the ‘cell movement’, the idea that cells multiply and grow, and so we’re bouncing around some ideas just now within Discipleship Team about, well, what models are there? – and what models might we try? So over the summer we’re going to try, as a Discipleship Team, one particular model and see – does this have anything that might be of benefit to have Brightons? – that might encourage one another and provide a means by which we can be drawn alongside our people and saying, ‘Come on! worship the Lord, worship Him not only, as I say, in what we say but in our very lives and orientate much more of our lives around Him and for Him and for His praise and glory. I don’t know how that’ll go over the summer and if we have anything to share you’ll hear about it in due course. But I’m struck by those words ‘the people close to His heart’. It’s striking, isn’t it, that the psalmist comes back to that? – that he describes and he paints this picture of all creation, the great depths of the ocean to the very heights of creation and the heavens itself, with the angelic beings and the Sun and Moon and stars in outer space, the animals on the land, the vegetation, the great sea creatures, and yet he comes down to the people and he describes them and reminds them of this, that they are the people close to His heart. I’m reminded of that lovely story in the Gospels where the Apostle John is resting with Jesus and his head is on the chest of Jesus, and he hears – I can just imagine him hearing the Heart of Jesus beating, the heart of God beating, that he was close to Jesus, he could hear its rhythm, and he knew the wider heart of Jesus, the wider character of Jesus, the wider love of Jesus, and I wonder, ‘Do we know that? – do our people know that? – does our wider parish know that? – that there is that invitation to know the heart – to hear the heart of God beating for you and from me. There’s a part of the ‘in’ of the triangle is enabling that, is facilitating that, facilitating that experience of Jesus that we know His heart beats for us, beats with the rhythm of love for you and for me, because we are near to his heart as the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians chapter 2 verse 13, ‘but now in Christ Jesus you, who were once far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ’. We’ve been brought back into that relationship with God, that God might not just be the old man in the sky, but we know that the living Jesus walks with us now, today, that we are near to Him and He is near to us, and we have that invitation, as I was saying just last week, to hear the voice of God for ourselves – once more and every day. Again, how are we enabling that? – how are we leaning into that for ourselves? – we’ve looked at, in this series on the Psalms, of digging into God’s Word, for example, what have you done about that? – how are you creating space for the Lord to speak to you? But how can we enable that for others? – and again, that’s part of the question I have with the Discipleship Team is, how else can we be equipping people? – and so that’s part of this testing of a model, because this particular model that we’re looking, its principal focus at times, is what is God saying to you now? – inviting us into that dynamic experience with God because we are the people who are close to His heart. I pray that we may know that God close and as we give Him His rightful place, as we look up – that, yes, praise would flow from our lips, that praise would be seen in our lives in the ‘out’ and how we share our faith with others and how we care for creation and see that as an equal part of mission, and how we spur one another on and look out for one another and get beyond the weather and and how are you doing and get into the the real gritty issues of faith and life, and help our brothers and sisters to experience God and to hear his voice for themselves. May we live in praise of God and with these relationships in balance. To Him be all glory, now and forever. Amen. Let us take a moment to pray before we finish up for this evening. Our God and Heavenly Father, You are the Lord, Your name alone is exalted, You alone are in splendour above the heavens and the earth – to Your name alone, the Lord, Yahweh, our Father in heaven, we bring You our praise, we bring it in the name of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, to glorify You and adore You and not only to see that, but to live it out in our lives as well. Father, lead us on, we pray, individually and as a congregation, in how we might live these relationships in balance, that we might live ‘out’ well, that we would be active in the sharing of our faith, that we might grow in confidence in this, that we would yearn for it more, Lord, that we’d overcome fear because we yearn for people to know that You alone are the Lord, that You are there for them, but Lord too, may we be a witness, may we be good ambassadors and stewards of Your creation, to care for what You care for. Lord, show us how we can take those practical steps, but Lord equally, be with us as we seek to draw alongside one another, to spur one another on in faith and help one another know that You are near and we are near to You – that we are dear to You, and that You invite us into much more than just ticking the box and following rules, that You invite us into a life of faith with You which, as we were thinking about, is meant to be full of dangerous wonder. We are meant to experience You, God, and know Your voice for ourselves. Lead us in this Lord, equip us for it better, but may all of it Lord, be to Your praise, be to Your glory, to point to You, to delight and revel in You, our God and heavenly Father; and so hear us as we draw this prayer, this series in the Psalms, and indeed our Tuesday evening sermons to a close for now, as we say together that prayer which Jesus taught His disciples: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen. Thanks for being with us tonight everyone for Tuesday evening sermon. We do have the Jitsi discussion room starting quite shortly after
this, so get in there if you’re able to join with us or download the discussion questions for your own reflection from the website. Next Tuesday evening we have our question-and-answer evening with our group of local scientists, so if you’ve got a question about science and how it relates to our faith, then get a question in, drop us an e-mail, post on facebook even in the live chat just now. Get it in, we’d love to have any number of questions and try and engage with those. So, if you’ve got something that you want answered, something that maybe you’re unsure – how does this relate to my faith? – how do I understand God about this? – how do I understand this in relation to the Scriptures? – then get in touch, drop us a message, we need it by Friday so that we’ve got enough time to record things in advance of next Tuesday, so, I hope to see maybe on Thursday evening with our Thursday evening live prayer, if not Sunday morning either in our pre-service Zoom cuppa or afterwards in the service at 11 o’clock. And as you go from here, may you, your family and loved one, know the blessing of God Almighty, the Lord whose splendour is above the heavens and the earth, this night and for evermore. Amen.

I will praise You (Psalm 148)

Preached on: Sunday 21st June 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-06-21-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 148
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 148 (NIV)
Sunday 21st June 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Good morning everyone – I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s service as much as I have, because all the hard work undertaken by our Sunday School groups has truly provided a time of all age worship and so our thanks goes out to everyone, including the leaders and tech people for all the hours they have put into preparing for today.

Let us take a moment now to pray before we think about God’s Word once more. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls, during lockdown we’ve all spent a lot of time at home. Here are three places we might have spent some time: the garden; the bedroom; the living room.
Which one do you think has been used a lot more… during lockdown? Get up off your seats, come and tap on the screen! (PAUSE)

A lot of people have been telling me about all the time they have been spending in the…garden! So many people have been busy tidying up, playing in or simply enjoying their garden. Gardens are wonderful places to see incredible things and I want to show you a few things in my garden, so let’s go outside. (WALK OUT TO GARDEN)

Well, here we are in the garden, where I’ve been spending time with Hope, Gill and Hector! One of the new things in our garden are these plants – can you guess what they might be? They’re very small just now but hopefully they’ll grow to be much taller over the summer!
Can you guess? (PAUSE)
These are sunflowers, which my dad gave me to grow with Hope, but I’m clearly not as good at growing things as my dad because here’s a picture of his sunflowers, which have grown so tall already! Now, over the summer a beautiful flower will appear on each plant. But do you know that each sunflower is actually made up of over 1000 individual flowers, all held together on a single stalk. That’s incredible, and it makes me marvel at this wonderful world! Let’s see something else in my garden.

(MOVE) Up in this tree, is a bird box, and the blue tits have hatched and flown out. Do you remember Ian telling us about the bird box in his garden? Well, Ian sent me some pictures of the baby birds when they left the bird box, and now that they have, Ian has also been able to look inside the box and see the incredible nest that they built – again, I’m left marvelling at this wonderful world!

I’ve really enjoyed being in the garden during lockdown but I’ve also enjoyed going out for walks – we usually go up into Ercall Wood and again, there have been times when we’ve stopped and marvelled at this wonderful world, even on a windy day, and we’ve also marvelled at the sunset from our study window.

I wonder if that’s why the psalmist wrote the song we read today? Did he look around and see all the incredible things in the world? And knowing that each one was made by God, is that why the psalmist calls upon everything to praise God?

But, how does the sunflower, the bird, the field or sun praise God? Well, there’s actually a clue in the psalm. We read that all the world is to praise the Lord because ‘…at his command they were created… [they] do his bidding…’ (v5, 8) – basically they praise God just by being there and doing what they do! The sunflower, bird, field and sun fulfil their purpose by simply going about their business – as they blossom a thousand flowers, build intricate nests, dance in the breeze or shine with the colours of love – in just being who they are, they praise the Lord, for they are heeding His Word of creation to be a flower, a bird, a breeze in the field and the sun in the sky.

I wonder if the psalmist was looking out on the world around him, seeing how wonderful it all was, but maybe also hearing its collective voice of praise to the Creator, a collective voice where nothing was out of tune!
Beginning next Sunday, we’re going to spend five weeks looking around this wonderful creation and seeing what it teaches us of God. We’ll be learning a new song, which you can hear after the service today. There’ll also be interviews with scientists, dramas and much more.

But we’d also like to hear your questions. For the boys and girls, we are looking to answer one of your questions about science and faith every week in the service, so get someone at home to send those questions into us.

For adults and young people, we’re going to have a
Question and Answer evening on Tuesday the 30th of June, but we need your questions by this Friday – so please get them in and we’ll get our panel of local scientists to talk through your questions.
One reason for doing this, is to help us see that science and faith are not opposed, for this wonderful creation points us to a wonderful Creator. So, get your questions in and join us for our summer services – we’ll also be giving out these books to all children and young people!

Boys and girls, what part of the world, what part of creation, makes you go “wow!” – why don’t you share that with someone at home or think about it just now for
30 seconds. (PAUSE)

There are so many wonderful things in our world, things that make us go “wow!” and the psalmist helps us see that all of these parts of creation sing a song of praise to God, and they sing it in perfect tune and unison.

Boys and girls, the person who wrote this song didn’t just say everything in the sky, and all the plants and animals on the ground, were to praise God – who else is meant to praise God? Who else did he mention in the psalm? Will I read a little bit to you again? ‘…men and women, [elderly] and children’ (v12) – so who else is to praise God? (PAUSE) That’s right – you and me! All of us! We’re all to praise God! We’re to praise God because He made us, but the psalm gives us another reason to praise God as well.

The psalm says: God ‘…raised up for his people a horn…’ (v14) – that sounds very strange! Is it a horn, like on a rhino? No – that’s not what he means! But what does the horn of a rhino do? Let’s talk or think about that for 30 seconds at home just now. (PAUSE)

I think a horn helps to protect the rhino, especially when it’s in danger. The horn also helps the rhino have a good life because with a horn, a rhino can do more things.

But the psalmist isn’t talking about a rhino, the psalmist is talking about a person, a person who helps protect and rescue people, a person who helps others find life. I wonder, does that remind you of anyone? It reminds me of Jesus, because He said: ‘I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10)

Jesus also said, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ (John 10:11) Jesus was saying He would help us receive this eternal life, by dying on the cross, for you and for me.

So, that’s another reason to praise God – because God loved us so much, that He died, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, God in a human body, died on the cross, for love of you and me, so that we could be rescued, protected and given eternal life by coming to know Father God for ourselves, when our sins are forgiven.

When we realise all that God has done for us, we’re supposed to add our voice to the whole of creation and join in praise to God! And when we do that, and only when we do that, are we then also singing in tune to our Creator, the One who loved us enough to die for us.

I pray that all of us, young and young at heart, may add our own voices to the great song of creation and invite others to do so as well! May it be so. Amen.

I will praise (Psalm 16 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 28th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-28-Tuesday-Evening-Sermon-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 16
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 16 (NIV)
Tuesday 28th April 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

In tonight’s sermon I’m going to focus much more on the remaining verses of the psalm, then come back to some of what I shared on Sunday because the all age message focused very much on verses 1, 2 and 7. Nevertheless, the theme of trusting God, even in the ‘dark nights’ (Psalm 16:7 EEV), will be the core of our reflecting tonight, because this psalm is all about trusting God, beginning in v1 and then detailing that through the other ten verses.

I think what this psalm teaches us, through the life and experience of David, is that trusting is having our identity in God, v3-6; trusting is also having our hope in God,… v8-11; and finally, trusting is living consciously before God, as we saw on Sunday.

So, let’s turn to v3-6, trusting is having our identity in God. This psalm is identified as a miktam, a form of prayer, and most of these have a description that tells us they were written whilst David was fleeing as a fugitive from Saul. So, it’s highly likely that this psalm too was written during this period of David’s life, a time when he had to live in the wilderness, far from home, far from the land of his forefathers.

Now, every Israelite clan was secure in their possession of a portion of land, with clear boundary lines determined by the throwing of the lot, and this was seen as their inheritance in the Promised Land. As such, we need to be mindful of this when we hear verses 5 and 6, which said:
‘Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.’

So, the language here would normally be understood in terms of the land and how it was apportioned and valued. But, remember the circumstances David finds himself in here – he is without land, without home, driven away. Normally, this should lead an Israelite to be mournful, destitute, feeling cast adrift and uncertain of their life and value because theirs was an identity tied to the land, much more than any affiliation we might have in our day to our land, whatever our nationality.
Yet, that is not what we see of David. Instead, we see someone who now sees the Lord as his portion; the Lord is his inheritance, and in this, in God, David delights, because trusting is having our identity in God. It is by losing that which would normally be of greatest value to an Israelite, that David is enabled to come into a deeper place with God, to have a greater depth of trust.

As such, we read of David’s resolve to trust only in the Lord, for he said:
‘Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.’ (v4)

What ‘suffering’ David mentions is unclear, though it could refer to realising that these other ‘gods’ are impotent and unable to fulfil the wishful hopes of their followers.

Nevertheless, David’s resolve is to worship, to trust, only the Lord. He will not participate in the ritual pouring and drinking of sacrificial blood within the false worship of these other gods, neither will he call upon their names in prayer, ritual or rites. Instead, it is the name of the Lord, Yahweh, that will be upon David’s lips alone, even though, at this time of his life, those around him encourage otherwise. We reed about this in 1st Samuel: ‘They have driven me today from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, “Go, serve other gods.”’
(1 Samuel 26:19)
But David will have none of this, for he trusts in the Lord alone, and in the journey of loosing his inheritance, this refugee, finds in the Lord a greater refuge and inheritance than he ever knew before.

In my devotions last week, the Lectio 365 app said this:
‘God’s greatest gift is always, ultimately, simply himself.’
(repeat) I wonder, is God so real to us, like He was to David, that we can affirm this notion, and so say with David, ‘Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup’, or as our version on Sunday said, ‘You, Lord, are all that I need…[You are my greatest gift].’ Have we come to that place, where trusting in God means we have found our identity in Him, that He is our truest and best inheritance?

This idea is echoed in the words of Robert Murray McCheyne who said: ‘what a man is on his knees before God, that he is and nothing more.’ McCheyne knew that this life is fleeting, what we have is here today and gone tomorrow, and so like David, he also knew that it is what we have in God that lasts and is of eternal value, we are what we are in that secret place before God. So, are we a people who have our identity in God? Is He our portion and our inheritance? Do we find our security in the Lord, or is our security dependant on things and circumstances? The words of David in this psalm testify that even at the most unstable and threatening moments of our lives – when all other forms of security fail and leave us without defence – even then, the Lord is still our portion, our cup, our future.

And in case that sounds a bit hard to believe, in case that sounds trite or fanciful, or a notion based on a comfortable Western, middle class life, then I encourage you to dig into the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a Protestant Lutheran Pastor and theologian during the Second World War.

Due to his opposition to the Nazi regime, Bonhoeffer was arrested and executed in a concentration camp in the last month of the war. It is said of Bonhoeffer, that ‘even during the privations of the concentration camp, [he] retained a deep spirituality which was evident to other prisoners. Bonhoeffer continued to minister to his fellow prisoners. Payne Best, a fellow inmate and officer of the British Army, wrote this observation of him: “Bonhoeffer was different, just quite calm and normal, seemingly perfectly at his ease…his soul really shone in the dark desperation of our prison. He was one of the very few men I have ever met to whom God was real and ever close to him.”’

Bonhoeffer and David, trusted the Lord and part of that was finding their identity, their security, in the Lord, even in the most desperate of times, and so they would not turn from Him, though advice or circumstance might encourage otherwise. Because although their inheritance was unseen, it was not insecure, and though their portion was intangible, it was not unreal.

The Apostle Paul says something quite akin to this in his writings to the Philippians, he said:

‘What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…’ (Philippians 3:8)

Friends, may we so grow in our trust of God, maybe especially in these times, these ‘dark nights’, that we too can reach that place with Paul, with David, with Bonhoeffer, that we also realise the worth, the inheritance, we have in knowing Christ Jesus, and so through that trust find our identity, our security, in Him.

Secondly, this example of trusting God involves having our hope in God. David wrote:
‘I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ (v8-11)

Trusting God is having our hope in God, maybe especially in the face of death. David speaks of ‘the realm of the dead’, in some translations this phrase is given its technical name from the Hebrew, Sheol. It sounds strange to us, but that’s because we may not realise that Israel’s understanding of what happened after death… was slowly revealed by God over time, there was progressive revelation.

Nevertheless they knew, even in David’s time, that death is the opposite of life, and God is the source of life, and so to die, they thought, was to loose God, to loose His presence and the pleasures of His presence; death wasn’t simply about losing our present existence. The Hebrew understanding of death and its aftermath held out little or no hope of resurrection into new life, regardless of whether they were judged righteous or wicked. That’s part of the reason why the Sadducees in Jesus’ day held to the idea that there was no resurrection, but Jesus put them right when He said, that ‘[God] is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ (Matthew 22:32)

Yet, here, is one of those signs that God by His Spirit was revealing something through David, was inspiring hope of a future beyond death. This allows David to speak of knowing the Lord at his own right hand during his earthly life, and so not being shaken and knowing deep gladness and contentment. What is more, in the same psalm, David speaks of a hope of knowing God beyond death, by being at God’s right hand for eternity, and so of knowing His presence and pleasures. Trusting is having hope in God, especially in the face of death.

It was a trust also echoed in Jesus, who said with His last breath, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ (Luke 23:46) It is a trust found in the writings of Paul, who again said to the Philippians, ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ (Philippians 1:21) To live now is to know Christ by His Spirit, but to die is to go and be with Christ in person.

This hope is only secure because of Jesus. The early church recognised that the language used in Psalm 16 had to point beyond David, because Peter, in his first great sermon recounted to his fellow Israelites these words: ‘I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.’
(Acts 2:29-32)
Jesus alone was not left in Sheol; by His resurrection, He alone was saved the corruption of His body. As such, Jesus our Lord, is preserved by God, given an eternal inheritance, and so He will never be moved nor shaken, for He is secured from death, and ushered into the presence of the Father where there is fullness of joy.

But because of Easter, through faith in Jesus, we too can share in the victory of Jesus, and so, the hope of Psalm 16 becomes our hope as well through Jesus, because trusting is having our hope in God.

This psalm is a really powerful, challenging prayer, spoken by a man under the influence of the Spirit, amidst uncertain times, dark nights, and yet it is infused with confidence and joy, because David has learnt that trusting God is having our identity in God, and it is having our hope in God as well.

But how do we cultivate and sustain that kind of trust? Well, clearly this psalm doesn’t have all the answers, yet as we saw on Sunday morning, it does give us some important ideas, which I’d like to draw on again tonight.

In the all-age message, I spoke of how thankfulness and praise help to keep our horizon filled with God, because as we realise all that we have from our good heavenly Father, and realise who He is and appreciate all that we have through Jesus, then with thankfulness and praise, we keep our focus on God and sustain our trusting in Him.

One commentator said this: ‘trust is not merely a warm feeling or a passing impulse in a time of trouble…it is a structure of acts and experiences that open one’s consciousness to the Lord as the supreme reality of life.’ (James L. Mays, Psalms: Interpretation)

That’s a bit of a weighty statement, but a meaty statement to feed our minds and build our faith. ‘Trust…is a structure of acts and experiences that open one’s consciousness’ – and we might say, keep open one’s consciousness. As we said on Sunday, thankfulness and praise keep God at the centre, they keep Him in focus, by keeping us open to Him and conscious of Him. The great and terrible deception of the enemy is to turn our minds from God, to darken them, and make us believe in no god, or that God is distant and uncaring…
But with thankfulness and praise we keep that from happening, we open and keep open our consciousness to God, so that we live consciously before Him and with Him, rather than God being an after thought or put in His box and kept for Sunday.

In the introduction to the reading on Sunday, I spoke of how Google searches for prayer are up significantly since the start of the pandemic. It would be good to pray that in the midst of this, people’s consciousness of God would open such that they find Him and come to trust in Him. Yet, let’s also pray, that their consciousness stays open, that they go on to live consciously with God for the rest of their lives, bearing a great harvest to His glory.

And let’s take note of that for ourselves as well, that we might be doers of the word and not only hear it, for thankfulness and praise are only a few ways given, to us by God, to help sustain this consciousness of God and keep Him at the centre of our horizon and outlook. If you’re looking for more ideas, you might want to review the sermon and material from 17th March last year, it’s still on our website by the way. In that service I spoke on spiritual temperaments, and if you review the material then you can figure out which temperaments match you, because each one of us will have ways that help us meet with God and keep us open to Him and centred upon Him. I would also encourage you though to try out the other temperaments, just in case you find a surprising new way of building your trust in God by living consciously before Him.

In all of this, it’s worth noting that David’s difficulties did not vanish as he said this prayer. The insecurities of everyday life still remained for him, and they do for us as well. Yet, as we weave in thankfulness and praise, to strengthen and deepen our trust in God, living consciously before Him, we are then empowered through Him to find the path of life, both within and through these painful times, even when we seem to approach the very gates of Sheol itself. I pray that we will be a people who keep trusting in these days, by having our identity and our hope in God as we weave a rhythm of thankfulness and praise into our lives.

May it be so. Amen.

I will praise (Psalm 16)

Preached on: Sunday 26th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-26-Morning-Message-PowerPoint (1).
Bible references: Psalm 16
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 16 (Easy English Version)
Sunday 26th April 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls – adults even: do you find it easy to pray?
Give me a thumbs up for “yes” or down for “no”.

I must admit, I don’t find it easy to pray – even after nearly two decades of following Jesus. And in these uncertain times, when things are hard and life is not normal, there’s a part of me that’s not sure what to pray.

So, I think the Psalms, these prayers of God’s people might help us at this time, their content might help us to express both our joys and our sorrows, our hopes and our fears.
This psalm, this prayer, was written by David – boys and girls, do you remember David from the Bible? I think we put a picture or two on our Facebook page to colour in. When we first meet David in the Bible, what’s he doing? Do you remember? Is he singing a song? Is he looking after sheep? Or is he fighting against Goliath? Which picture would you pick? (PAUSE)

The right answer is: he is looking after the sheep. He’s a young man and no one thinks very much of him, yet God sends the prophet Samuel to tell David that David will be the next king of Israel. But between that point and eventually becoming king, David had a lot of adventures.

Now, boys and girls, how do you think David’s adventures made him feel? Hands up for happy, hands down for worried or scared. (PAUSE)
I think it might have been a bit of both actually. David had some really great times, but there were others which were hard for him. Just because he had been chosen by God to be the future king, did not mean that David had an easy life. In fact, it’s very possible that this psalm was written whilst David had to run away for his own safety.

But in those times David learnt many powerful lessons. Maybe this lay behind his words in v7: ‘In the dark nights, you help me to learn what is right.’ Is David meaning the dark nights of the soul, those dark seasons? Is David meaning that he sits up a night, maybe with worry? But in those wee hours of the night too, he learns, he grows, he is instructed by God to see God, and his own life, and his problems rightly. We don’t really know and that’s part of the beauty of poetry.
Our psalm begins with these words though: ‘Please keep me safe, God, because I come to you for help.’ (v1) It sounds like David is in a tough time, so David goes to God for help, David takes refuge in God.

Boys and girls, have any of you ever been camping in a tent? Why don’t you come out with me just now to my garden where I have a tent? (MOVE)

Welcome to my tent. I wanted to tell you a story about the first time I went camping as a Cub Scout. I was only about 8 years old at the time and I was super excited. But can you guess what happened that weekend? (PAUSE)
It rained – it rained a lot. In fact, one of my few memories of that weekend is that it rained. So, we had to shelter in our tent.
But even though it was my first time away from home and was raining so badly, I did not feel scared or want to go home. I think part of what helped me was that the tent became a refuge but it was the presence of my Cub Scout Leader, Liz Ferguson, who really helped to make it feel like that, and if Liz is watching just now, hi Liz!!

Liz made that tent more than simply a tent, she made it a refuge, a place of shelter, even in the middle of a storm. Her presence, what she said and did, got me through, and when I think back to that experience, the only picture in my memory, is looking out the door of the tent, with Liz sitting near the entrance, and rain falling in the background. On one level I was aware of what was happening outside, but on another, I wasn’t, because that tent and the presence of Liz, filled my horizon, I wasn’t worried, and so I was at peace and I knew joy.
David said, ‘Please keep me safe, God, because I come to you for help…[in you I take refuge]…in the dark nights, you help me…’(v1, 7b). Friends, where are you sheltering in these difficult days? What is capturing your attention and filling your horizon? Is it only the problems, is it only the rain? Or is there space in your life for God? Will you allow Him to fill your horizon?

But how do we do that? Well, let’s go back inside. (MOVE)

So, how did God fill David’s horizon? And how did David allow that to happen? The psalm gives us a few ideas.

V1 – David says he’s in trouble and he needs God’s help. But in v2, he says, ‘You are my Lord’: You are my God, You are my provider, You are the one who gives life says David.
And so David recognises that all the good things in his life come from God, they are God’s gift, and that’s an idea picked up by James, the brother of Jesus, who said: ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…’ (James 1:17)

So, here’s an idea – by yourself or with others, make either a list or begin a mural, of the good things God has given you? We put up that idea for families on the Facebook page, so you might have some resources to hand already. Because remembering God’s good gifts changed the whole outlook for David and it can change our outlook as well, even in tough times.

I had to put this idea into practice recently, because I was wrestling with something, something that I found really hard. But in the song I spoke about before Easter,…
‘Alive and Breathing’, I found words which helped lift my eyes to God and change my perspective. Instead of only seeing the one thing I struggled with, I started to see the good things of God and He began to fill my horizon.

So, maybe this afternoon or this week, write a list, make a mural, find a song, but do something which enables you to remember the good things in your life, each of which is a gift from God.

From this place of trust and thankfulness, the rest of the psalm flows, building to verse 7 where David makes a choice. He says, ‘I will praise the Lord…’ – I will. I wonder friends, have we learnt that lesson, the lesson of choosing to praise God, even amidst our circumstances?
It might not be joyful or happy praise, but we can choose to praise. Our circumstances just now may make us feel worried, scared, even powerless. But you still have a choice: a choice to praise God, to say with David, “I will praise the Lord, who is my Lord, my refuge, my portion” – and when we choose to do that, God again fills our horizon because our focus is then on God.

I remember an occasion about 9 years ago when I was finding life hard. At that time, I was working for the Scouts actually and driving home from the Borders. I had some worship music on, as I usually did, but I was holding back from singing because of my circumstances. Yet in the course of that journey, I chose to worship, I exerted my will, and it was like a door opened for me; as I chose to praise God I came into a new depth of relationship…

with Him, and I began to grow in faith, hope and peace once more. I wonder, do you need to choose praise this week so that God might fill more of your horizon?

The final verses of this psalm are quoted in Acts chapter 2 by the apostle Peter, for he sees in them a foretelling of the resurrection of Jesus, because Jesus was not left in the deep hole of death, His body did not spoil, but rather He was raised to life to be with His heavenly Father forever. We thought of this only a few weeks ago at Easter and that Jesus is our living Lord who gives us hope.

I wonder friends, are we giving the living Lord space in our lives? We may be in the dark night of the soul, but as we find ways to weave in thanksgiving and praise, which are expressions of trust, we create space…
to refuge in our God, and from there He can fill our horizon, changing our whole perspective, and infusing us with renewed hope.

I pray that we would be such a people, because as we give ourselves to God in this way, we will come to share the words of the psalmist, knowing for ourselves that ‘He [the Lord] is close beside me…[He] will lead me along the path of life’ (v8, 11).

May it be so. Amen.