Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 12 September 2021 - Church Anniversary

by Rev Jacky Quarmby 12 September 2021

Good morning and welcome to worship today on our Church anniversary. 

Sing to the Lord a new song
For he has done marvellous things.
Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth
Shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Hymn: Great is thy faithfulness

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Opening Prayer
In the gift of this new day
In the gift of this present moment
In the gift of time and eternity intertwined
Let us be thankful
Let us be attentive
Let us be still
And let us be open to what has never happened before.

Making all things new
This Sunday we come together to celebrate Newmount Church Anniversary.  There is always a danger with Church Anniversaries that we spend all our time looking backwards … saying do you remember when … and wasn’t it so much better back then …

But church anniversaries are not about lamenting the past – they are about celebrating what God is doing now … and looking forward with hope and anticipation to all that is to come …  for God is making all things new … everything is in the process of change …

This is what Jeremiah says in the Book of Lamentations (Lamentations 3: 22 – 23)
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
Great is his faithfulness.

Every day of our lives is a wonderful new experience – because God’s mercies to us and his blessings on us are NEW every morning.  Let’s praise and thank God for that now …

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Loving God,
We thank you that every day is a new day full of new experiences and possibilities.
We thank you for the beauty we see around us
For the infinite variety of your creation
For the unexpected and the surprising
Which add richness to our daily lives.
Lord, we thank you that your steadfast love never ceases

Loving God,
We thank you for your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ
For the example of his life
The truth of his words
The wonder of his death
The power of his resurrection.
We thank you that his love has set us free from our burdens of sin and guilt
Lord, we thank you that your mercies never come to an end

Loving God,
We thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit,
Given to reveal your truth, to inspire our faith
And to nurture Christlike fruits in our lives.
We thank you for the church and our place within it
And for those members of the Church who have shown us day by day
What it means to be transformed by your Holy Spirit.
Lord, we thank you that your gifts are new every morning

Loving and generous God,
Accept our thanks and praise for all your gifts to us
And lead us onward with hope and expectation
As you continue to change and renew us.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

Song: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases

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Put on the new self …
The writer of Ephesians says this in Ephesians 4: 22 – 24  
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness

Prayer of Confession
Merciful God,
Your word tells us that you offer us vibrant new life in Christ
But we choose to shut your Holy Spirit out of our hearts and our lives
Preferring to live in our own way, playing it safe and struggling on dutifully in our own strength.

Merciful God
Forgive us when we are content with the old self …
When we are half-hearted in our worship and selfish in our prayers
When we think only of ourselves and fill our lives with trivia
When we are ungrateful for the gifts you have given to us
When we lack generosity in sharing our time and our money
When we give in to despair and fail to hope in you.

Merciful God,
Forgive us and help us to be made new in the attitudes of our minds …
To be thankful for all that is past
To find joy in all that is happening now
To look forward hopefully to all that is still to come.
In Jesus name we pray,

Reading:  Luke 5: 33 – 39 

Sermon: New wine and new wineskins
I’d like to begin with a story …
Once upon a time in a land far away there lived four little characters, who spent their days running through a maze looking for cheese.  Two were mice called Sniff and Scurry – and two were little people (about the same size) called Hem and Haw.  Every day the little mice and the little people would get up early, put on their running shoes and set out in search of cheese.  The maze was a labyrinth of corridors and chambers with many dark corners and blind alleys, but most days they found cheese and went home happy.

Then one day they all discovered a huge supply of fresh cheese at the end of a corridor in Cheese Station C.  Every morning after that the mice and the little people put on their running shoes and headed straight over to Station C.  It wasn’t long before they each established a routine.  Sniff and Scurry would get up early and race through the maze to Station C.  But after a while the little people decided that since the cheese was always there – they could get up later and wander over at a more leisurely pace in their slippers – bring a deckchair – open a nice Cabernet Sauvignon and relax – it all became rather comfortable.

Then one day something happened.  When Sniff and Scurry arrived at Station C – they discovered there was no cheese – they sniffed and scratched and scurried around – but it had definitely gone.  Well to be fair, they weren’t that surprised – recently the supply had begun to dwindle and it had definitely been going a bit rancid.  Well – they would just have to find new cheese – and the little mice sniffed the air and scurried off in search of a new supply.

The morning passed and Hem and Haw arrived – they had not been paying attention to the changes that had been happening each day.  They had just taken it for granted that the cheese would always be there. They stood in horror and disbelief, clutching their Jacobs Cream Crackers.  “What no cheese” yelled Hem, “No cheese, no cheese!” as though, if he shouted loud enough someone would put it back. “Who moved my cheese!” Haw was stunned – he had made plans on the basis of the cheese being there – it was not the way things were meant to be. “This should not happen to us,” said Hem, “It’s not our fault the cheese has gone – we deserve compensation.”

That night Hem and Haw went home hungry and depressed. It was just not fair.  But the next day, and the next and the next, they went back to Station C – surely the cheese would be put back soon.  And each day they returned home disappointed.

Meanwhile Sniff and Scurry had scurried through the maze discovering little bits of cheese here and little bits of cheese there – they had wandered down blind alleys and stumbled across many empty chambers – it was tiring but they were determined to find new cheese.  Then one day they found themselves in a part of the maze they had never been before – and there in front of them – was a huge pile of new cheese – not just cheddar – but Roquefort and Wensleydale.  Cheese Station N. They could hardly believe their eyes. It was the biggest store of cheese they had ever seen. It would keep them busy for days, weeks, months. They squealed with delight.

Weeks passed. The little people were hungry and irritable. Haw wondered what had become of the mice. “I know”, he said, “Let’s go and look for some cheese” “I’m not going anywhere,” said Hem, “I’m too old to go running round mazes - what if we got lost? Ridiculous at my age. No. Sooner or later they’ll put back the cheese. You mark my words.” So Hem and Haw “ummed and aahed” and did nothing.

But no cheese arrived. And the little people got weaker and weaker and weaker. “It’s no good sitting here,” said Haw, “We have to do something. I vote we look for cheese.” “Go if you like,” said Hem, “But there may not be any new cheese, and even if there is you may never find it! It’s safer here. It’s what we know.”

Haw was afraid – very afraid.  But he took off his old comfy slippers and put on his running shoes and set off into the maze.  It was scary – but not nearly as scary as he thought it would be.  He just wished he’d set off earlier, when the cheese had first disappeared, then he wouldn’t be so weak and tired. And every day he found little bits of cheese to keep him going – and every day he grew in confidence – and was glad that he had begun to take control of his life after sitting around for so long.

Then one day, quite by chance he found Cheese Station N.  And there were his friends Sniff and Scurry – who by the size of their fat little bellies had been there some time. Haw was thrilled – he ate and ate and ate.  When he was full to bursting, he gathered up some delicious pieces of new cheese and set off to find his friend Hem – who was slumped against the wall of Station C looking very sorry for himself.  “Look, I’ve found new cheese,” he said, “Have some.” Hem looked at Haw and sniffed the new cheese suspiciously. “It’s kind of you, old friend,” said Hem, “But I don’t think I would like new cheese. It’s not what I’m used to. I want my old cheese back, and I’m going to sit here until I get it.”

Haw put his cheese back in his pocket and walked sadly away. Maybe someday, Hem would change his mind – maybe someday Hem would realise that in life, just as you’re getting comfortable, someone always moves the cheese.
adapted from "Who moved my cheese?" by Dr Spencer Johnson

The Pharisees and religious leaders were comfortable.  They had their religious rituals, their fasting and their set times of prayer.  They had status and authority - people looked up to them – and they liked it that way.  

Then Jesus came along – with his strange teaching and his ill-disciplined disciples who didn’t fast but spent their time eating and drinking with unsuitable people.  Jesus didn’t obey the rules – he didn’t do things the way they had always been done.  And the religious leaders didn’t like it one bit.

And Jesus said to them, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins – for the new wine will burst the skins.  New wine must be poured into new wineskins.”  In other words, Jesus is saying, “I haven’t come to patch up the old religion – to make little improvements here and there.  I am here to tell you about something radically new and different – something that can’t be contained within the old structures and ways of doing things.”

And then Jesus adds, probably with a rueful smile, “And none of you after drinking old wine wants the new, for you say, “The old is better””  And here Jesus recognizes that age-old problem – the human resistance to change.  Even if the new could be better – people would rather miss out than give it a try – because the old is what they know.

In the last two years, someone has “moved the cheese”.  Our churches have been shut for months at a time.  The things we used to do – church lunches, fayres, messy church, fellowship meetings, outreach activities – have all come to an end.  And only now are we beginning to tentatively reopen and think how we can start meeting again.  

But difficult as it has been, this break in all our activities gives us an opportunity to reflect on what is important to us.  We don’t have to go back and do everything the way we did it before … we don’t have to be like Hem in the story and say, “The old is better … it’s what I know.”  There are things we can let go off … there are things we can do differently … there are new avenues to explore … there is delicious new cheese to be found.  And in the weeks ahead we will be thinking about the things that are important to us as a church, that we want to continue doing … the things that are no longer important that we can let go off … and the new directions that God is leading us.  It is an exciting time.

In our reading from Luke’s gospel, Jesus promises us “new wine”, a new way of doing things that is not about rules and rituals, but about relationship … a new way of doing things that is not about living in our own strength, but in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  Receiving the Holy Spirit is life-changing … because we have the power of God within us to strengthen us, to invigorate us, to give us joy and hope and courage.

The lovely word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek words “en theos” … in God. Enthusiasm is a quality which comes from being “in God” and having “God within” in the person of the Holy Spirit.  To be enthusiastic is to find delight in things … even in the ordinary and menial and dull … to see everything as an opportunity to serve God and to bring God glory.  There is no more effective witness to Jesus, than a Christian who is radiant with joy and full of enthusiasm.

So at this time, when the news is so gloomy and the prophets of doom are determined to spread fear and misery – let us not become disheartened. Let us not sit around like our old friend Hem and say “I don’t think I like new cheese, the old is better, it’s what I know.” Let us instead be like the little mice Sniff and Scurry, boldly stepping into the future, full of enthusiasm and hope.  And may we each know in our hearts that God is making all things new – and it is going to be great.

Let us pray …
Loving God,
On this our church anniversary we pray for renewal.
Give us the courage to change and be open to the work of your Holy Spirit.
Guide us as we seek to serve this community in your name
And help us to respond to your call with enthusiasm and joy.
In Jesus name we pray.  Amen

Song:  Holy Spirit we welcome you

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Reading:  Revelation 21: 1 – 5   

Prayers of Intercession
Loving God, 
As your people we will work and pray for the renewing of the earth.  We are saddened by the devastation caused to our environment by pollution, over farming, deforestation and destruction of the ozone layer.  And we pray for all those people whose lives are affected by climate change and the damage that we have done to our environment … for those affected by flash flooding in Mexico, Europe and China … for those rebuilding their lives after devastating forest fires in southern Europe …
Lord, where your people are suffering
Make all things new.

Loving God, 
As your people we will work and pray for the renewal of communities throughout our world that are shattered by violence and paralysed by fear.  We pray that those who are bent on war will yield to the determination of all people of goodwill, working together for a peaceful future. We pray today for the people of Afghanistan …
Lord, where your people are suffering
Make all things new.

Loving God, 
As your people we will work and pray for the renewing of our community.  We pray for our local schools, that they may be safe and enriching places for the children.  And we pray for the staff that they may find joy and satisfaction in their work, despite all the extra demands that they are faced with at the current time. We pray that our church here will be a place of welcome and hospitality, alive to the work of your Spirit and open to change and renewal.  We pray too for any known to us who are ill or sorrowful, anxious or bereaved …
May they know the renewing power of your Holy Spirit bringing comfort, healing and reassurance.
Lord, where your people are suffering
Make all things new.

For we ask these prayers in Jesus name, Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Generous God,
All that we have is yours and of your own do we give you. Use our gifts and our lives we pray To make all things new in this church and community. Amen

Hymn:  Go forth and tell!  O church of God awake!  

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The Blessing
God of light, shine on you
God of peace, dwell in you
God of love, enfold you
And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all evermore.  Amen