Sunday, February 28, 2021


Speaker Helen Jenkinson


Do you remember those days when you could go on holiday? On those things called aeroplanes?! 

In order to go anywhere abroad you have to show your passport. Your passport proves that you are a citizen of the country that you belong to. In our case, when we show our British passport it says that we are British citizens. And being a British citizen means that we have certain rights and responsibilities as a citizen of this country. On the front of my passport it says British Passport United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And we know what that means. But if our passport said ‘Passport of the Kingdom of God’ would we be as clear in our understanding? Would we know what the phrase Kingdom of God really meant? 

Jesus turned the status quo on its head during his ministry by talking a lot about the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God, but what was he really talking about? That’s what we are going to look at today as a way of introducing our teaching series for the next few weeks that is all about The Upside-Down Kingdom.

Our first question today is: 

How can we can gain entry into the kingdom of God?

A few months ago Andrea took a British citizenship exam (which she passed with flying colours!) Passing this exam means that she now has the right to become a British citizen. To have the same rights and responsibilities as a person born in the UK. Because of God’s grace we don’t have to pass any exams to gain entry into the Kingdom of God. 

This is what Nicodemus found difficult to understand in John 3. He was a Pharisee, keeping all the law of Moses (and lots of extra ones too!) He was assuming that this was his equivalent of taking the British citizenship exam. If I keep the law, then I’ll pass God’s exam and I’ll be ok. But what does Jesus tell him?

John 3:3 I tell you the truth, unless you are born again you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven

Jesus is saying - Nicodemus, unless you enter into a new relationship with me you cannot be part of the kingdom of God.

And over 2000 years later, entry requirements haven’t changed. The only way we can be part of the kingdom of God is to have that relationship with Jesus. To be born again. We can’t engineer entry into the kingdom by our own good deeds. It is purely by God’s grace that he invites us into relationship with him through Jesus.

But the kingdom of God is much bigger than just us and God.

Our mission as a church is Jesus at the centre of everything. How does the kingdom of God relate to this? 

In the gospels Jesus is continually talking about the kingdom of God but the way he describes it is could be completely different to the way we, and his disciples, presumed a kingdom should run or what it should be like. What Jesus describes is an UPSIDE-DOWN kingdom. One that is different to the earthly kingdoms but not disconnected to them. 

The kingdom of God is not just another way of describing heaven. It is God’s rule on earth not only in the future but in the here and now. And as kingdom people we have certain rights and responsibilities to demonstrate the values of God’s kingdom to the world. So over the next few weeks we are going to unpack what this upside down kingdom is and what we should be doing to advance it.


I want you to imagine that we are together in church. A local lad gets up to speak. We haven’t seen him for a bit. We heard that he’s been on a gap year but we know his parents and his siblings. We know where he lives. We know he’s a trained carpenter. We think he’s just going to tell us what he’s been doing in his time away or read a psalm for encouragement but as he starts speaking, this young man quotes the old testament as though he wrote it himself. You are perturbed by the nerve of him - who does he think he is? But something in what he says and the way he says it makes the hairs on the back of your head stand up. He speaks differently to the other speakers that have spoken before. That’s what I want you to imagine as we read this passage today.

READ LUKE 4: 16-30

Any Jew worth their salt listening to Jesus would immediately have their ears pricked listening to this passage because Jesus is reading from Isaiah chapter 61. 

Isaiah spoke of God’s servant-messiah restoring and healing the marginalised in society. To proclaim the Lord’s favour or Jubilee. You can read about Jubilee in Leviticus 25 and we’ll learn more about it in a few weeks. But very briefly, the year of jubilee was given by God to the children of Israel as they entered the promise land as a sort of re-set button every 50 years. In that year they were to leave their fields bare so the soil had a rest from producing crops. How were they to survive in that year? The Lord would bless the land in the year prior to it so they would have enough to eat. The children of Israel needed to trust that God would provide for them. In the jubilee year people who had had to sell property due to poverty received it back and slaves could be released and return to their families so the poor or marginalised in society would be treated fairly. 

In Isaiah 61 Isaiah makes the connection between the year of jubilee, the Lord’s favour and the servant-messiah. In verse 1 it uses the expression ‘proclaim freedom’ which is the same command used in Leviticus to proclaim liberty in the jubilee. So what Isaiah is saying is that the servant–messiah will usher in a time of grace, a time of release. 

Fast forward 700 years and we see a young girl who has just been told by an angel that the power of the holy spirit will come upon her and she will conceive a child who will be called Son of the most high. His kingdom will never end. After she gets over the shock, this is what Mary says:  

Luke 1:52. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.

Said in another way - through this child conceived in me, God is pressing the re-set button.

Fast forward another 30 years to the synagogue in Nazareth.  By quoting Isaiah Jesus is saying that what Isaiah prophesied is here! I am the fulfilment of it. The servant’s mission is my mission. I am the servant Isaiah spoke about. I am the one who will usher in the year of the Lord’s favour.  I am the one who will push the re-set button because I invented the year of jubilee. What you think of as the norm does not have to stay like that. I am going to show you a new way of doing things. What your present kingdom thinks of as normal, acceptable or just the way things are I’m going to turn on its head.

At first the synagogue worshippers were excited about what Jesus was saying. Yes, that’s what we want. We want Jubilee - freedom from Rome, freedom from oppressive regimes. We want our society to be fairer. We are God’s chosen people - freedom is what we deserve. But then we read that the congregation’s attitude towards Jesus changes. They become angry. Why? Because as Jesus read from Isaiah 61 the people thought they knew what he was going to say. However, Jesus stops just before the punchline. It’s like the end of a film or tv programme ending on a cliff hanger. It’s like the times when you think your spouse or your child will say one thing or react in one way and they don’t. You think you can predict what’s going to happen but you’re surprised. So they get furious because of what Jesus misses out of Isaiah 61. Verse 2 of Isaiah 61 says

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favour has come, and with it the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

Have you noticed the difference between that and Luke 4? The last statement is missed out -

 and with it the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

What? They’re thinking - Jesus, are you not going to set us free from Rome? Aren’t you about liberating us from oppressive regimes?  But to top it all off in verses 25-27 Jesus dares to bring Gentiles into the discussion. Let’s read what he says.

Verses 25-27.

Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.

Their reaction? Verses 28-30.

When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way

The Jews assumed that the year of the Lord’s favour was their right, their inheritance. The thought that Gentiles could also receive the same favour enraged them. But that was Jesus’ mission - to declare the good news of God’s kingdom is for everyone - the rich and the poor. The in-crowd and those on the edge. Male and female. Jew and Gentile. 

Here’s a question for us. Do we sometimes think like the Jews in that synagogue? We rejoice in the fact that we can enjoy the Lord’s favour, but what about people who we don’t like? People who are different to us? People who are not the same age as us? People who we clash with? People who ridicule our faith? People of other faiths? People who have committed crime? People who we consider less moral or less spiritual than us? Are we a bit reluctant or outright indignant to think that the good news of Jesus, the good news of the kingdom is for them too?

So as I said, over the next few weeks we’re going to look at how Jesus was revolutionary in the way he viewed people. In the way he viewed society. In the way he viewed religion. Be prepared to be challenged!

Question 2: What is the Kingdom of God?

As we’ve said already, Jesus talks a lot about the kingdom of God. But what is it? Is it a place or a thing? Or just a state of mind? 

Put simply, the kingdom of God means the rule or reign of God. It represents God’s government, authority and ruling power. It’s dynamic. Always spreading and growing. The kingdom is present wherever people submit their lives to God’s authority. Jesus at the centre of their lives. Sound familiar?! 

But kingdom living is not just a personal thing - between me and King Jesus. It involves being in relationship with others in the kingdom and others outside of the kingdom. Jesus at the centre of our church, our community and our world. Sound familiar? 

When we learnt about Jesus being at the centre of our church we learnt that we are new creations (Ka-hee-nos) and our role as new creations in the kingdom of God is to demonstrate the values of the kingdom in the world we find ourselves in. Why? So people around us can experience Jubilee. The Lord’s favour. So they see another way of living. So they want to be part of God’s kingdom because it’s so different to the worldly kingdoms that they are used to. So their hearts are changed.

Question 3: Why an Upside Down Kingdom?

Earlier I mentioned that the kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom. What does that actually mean? 

Throughout all Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God, Jesus took what was considered the norm and turned it on its head. He inverted it. Like we’ve already said, he pressed the jubilee re-set button.  We can think of this like 2 ladders stood side by side. Something highly valued on one ladder ranks near the bottom of the other. 

The gospel portrays the kingdom of God as inverted or upside down in comparison with ancient Palestine but it is also upside-down in comparison to our modern day life. However, Jesus doesn’t see the kingdom as geographically or socially isolated from society. Nor does he see there being 2 separate worlds, the spiritual and the secular. 

For Jesus, kingdom action takes place in the middle of society’s playing field but it’s a different game. Kingdom players follow new rules. They listen to another coach. Kingdom values challenge patterns and attitudes in modern day life that are taken for granted to be the norm. Kingdom habits don’t mesh smoothly with what the media or our culture might say. In fact, they might look a bit foolish to the world.

Let’s look at a few examples of how things high up on the ladder of the world’s kingdom compare to the ladder of the upside-down kingdom of God.

Does this sound familiar in our society today? You are master or mistress of your own destiny. Be whoever and whatever you want to be. As long as it makes you happy. We hear it so much in all sorts of guises that we can agree. Yes, it is my right to be who I want to be. To be true to myself. But in the upside-down kingdom Jesus says,

Luke 14: 26-27. If you want to be my disciple you must hate everyone else by comparison- your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes even your own life. Otherwise you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me you cannot be my disciple

That doesn’t sound very much like the Whitney Houston song the Greatest Love of All which says ‘Learning to love yourself it is the greatest love of all’ does it? Don’t get me wrong. To have self -esteem is right but our self -esteem needs to be rooted in the fact that we are precious in God’s sight. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Not that we are masters of our own destiny. In the kingdom of God, Jesus is the one who calls the shots. Not us. Not what Instagram or snapchat or you tube says we must be like either. Obedience to him, not our own desires or other people’s opinions is what is high on the ladder

Let’s look at something else high on the ladder of worldly kingdoms. Don’t get mad- get even. Take revenge when someone hurts you- you have every right to retaliate. But in the upside down kingdom Jesus says in Matthew 5: 44

Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.

How does this play out in practice? A person really hurts your feelings. You are tempted to use facebook or twitter to have a thinly disguised rant at them but your kingdom values dictate that it is better to go to that person in love to try and restore your relationship.

What about this on the world’s ladder? The more financially secure you are the better. The bigger the promotion, the better it will be for your kids as you can give them the type of life they want and you’ll be set up with a good pension so you can enjoy your retirement.

The kingdom of God’s response? Matthew 6: 25

 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Verse 31

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying that promotions or pensions are wrong. What Jesus is saying here is that it’s a heart issue. Who or what are we trusting in to supply our needs and that of our family? Ourselves? (being masters of our own destiny like I mentioned earlier) or trusting our heavenly father to supply what we need?

Or what about this that rates highly on the world’s ladder: ‘Push yourself as hard as you can. Your body is a machine. Rest is for wimps!’ Guess what you’re really saying here- I am in charge of my body. Who says I need rest? I’m so important, with so many important things to do, the world will stop working properly if I slow down. And people are admired for it! When did workaholic-ism become normal or even desired? Jesus’ kingdom response:

Matthew 11: 28-30

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”


Trust me enough to keep the world turning while you have rest. I control the world not you.


Do you see the connection between all these situations? An acknowledgement of the lordship of Christ in every part of our lives. Jesus is the king of the kingdom of God. Remember we are called and chosen like I spoke about a few weeks ago when we looked at Christ at the centre of our service. We don’t call the shots. Have you ever heard the phrase Jesus is either Lord of all or not at all? Let us repent of the desire to be kings or queens of our own kingdoms. Or situations where we don’t want Jesus to call the shots. And let us proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour- the values of Jesus’ upside down kingdom to our families, friends, work places, community, our world.

Let’s pray




Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Speaker Tristan Sherwin

"We are to enhance creation, care for it, help it function and flourish—that’s our mandate as stewards under God. Our mandate does not permit us to exploit it, plunder it, or rape it."
Tristan has posted his sermon on his own blog. Please follow the link to read...


Speaker Tristan Sherwin

"In many ways, we could describe a priestly life as one that is both immersed in God and immersed in humanity, for the sake of humanity"
Tristan has posted his sermon on his own blog. Please follow the link to read...

Questions to ponder
1. What was your first experience of being taught to ‘other’ someone else? How old were you, and what was this ‘othering’ based upon (colour, neighbourhood, football team)? How did this change your behaviour towards them? 2. Have you ever been on the receiving end of hatred or apathy? How did this feel? How did you respond? 3. Colossians 3: 12-13 says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (NLT‬‬). Which of these “garments” do you struggle to wear most, and who with? 4. How can we help each other as a church to enact kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience—not just with each other (which is also necessary), but with our society? 5. In today’s sermon, Tristan said ‘Jesus never added to any cultural or political rhetoric of hate’. Do you agree? What ‘rhetorics of hate’ do you hear today, and how do we resist these?


Speaker Helen Jenkinson


If you remember last week we looked at a part of Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Remember that we learnt that if we are in Christ we are new creations and we are to model God’s design for this new creation in our own lives and in the church. Why? So people can have a foretaste of what God’s kingdom looks like.  Remember what he wanted them to focus on? Unity, love, encouragement and service. Today we’re going to look at another aspect of service that is essential if Christ is to be at the centre of our church. It's where we fit in to the plan that God has for his kingdom. If MCC is part of God’s kingdom, what is our role in seeing ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ as we say in the Lord’s prayer.


I remember when we were teenagers (it's getting a foggier memory every day!) we learnt that if a sentence starts with therefore we need to see what its there for! And this is how Paul starts chapter 4.

Chapter 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for serving the Lord. What has he been saying beforehand? Well Ephesians was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome and he sent this letter to the church in Ephesus that he had planted. 

Chapter 1 heaps statement upon statement about what is our inheritance if we are in Christ. We are saints in Christ (v1) blessed in Chris t(v3) chosen in Christ (v4) adopted by Christ (v5) lavished with love in Christ (v6) redeemed and forgiven by Christ (v7) participants in God's good plan (v11) glorified and sealed with the Holy Spirit (v12-13). 

And that’s just in chapter 1! What’s the common denominator? Is it because we are deserving of all this? NO! Everything is centred in Christ. We can do nothing to deserve every spiritual blessing that becomes ours when we enter into a relationship with Christ. Now we may think - well that is probably true for heroes of the faith like CH Spurgeon, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, David Jenkinson (!) but I don’t feel that I have every spiritual blessing. And I certainly don’t live in the truth of it. Well if that’s us this morning Paul has good news for us. 

If we are in Christ, if we are Christians this morning it says in verse 3 of Ephesians chapter 1 that God HAS blessed us with every spiritual blessing. It's not God WILL bless us if we get our act sorted out. It has already happened. At the moment we accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour we became heavenly rich beyond our wildest dreams. How often do we take these gifts for granted? Or think about our earthly riches much more than what are heavenly inheritance is?  

In chapter 1:4-5 it says 
In love he chose us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ. 
As a Christian we are an adopted son or daughter of God, a prince or princess of the king of the universe! In Paul’s day an adopted child had all the rights and privileges of a natural born child. The Roman court recognized an adopted child as a new person. All your debts and obligations from your former life were wiped out. As an adopted child of God we have a fresh start, a new beginning, a new life. Exactly what we learnt about last week with the word KAINOS (Kahee-nos) - new in terms of form or quality. Of a different nature from what is contrasted as old.

So back to chapter 4. Have you noticed in verse 1 Paul talks about us being called to a calling?

Therefore, I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to live a life worthy of your calling for you have been called by God

The Greek for calling is 'Klesis' which means a call or an invitation. The NT uses this word 'Klesis' to speak of Jesus’ invitation to follow him, to be his disciple. Think about that for a minute. Often we talk about people ‘making a decision for Jesus’ but doesn’t that make it all about the person? If we ‘make a decision’ we can still call the shots. If we still call the shots we may want to pick and choose our conditions of service. We might think ‘Well Lord, you’re really lucky that I’ve decided to do this or that for you’ We’d never actually articulate that but that’s what we feel deep down. Do we sometimes think that we’re doing Jesus a favour? Or we might think ‘Lord you can have this from me - but that I want to keep for myself’ 

In Luke 14: 25-33 Jesus talks about counting the cost of being a disciple. What Jesus is saying is that if you become my disciple you give up your rights to call the shots.

Luke 14:26. If you want to be my disciple you must hate everyone else by comparison- your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes even your own life. Otherwise you cannot be my disciple.

Now obviously Jesus doesn’t mean we have to hate our family. That would be against everything else that he teaches. But he is saying that if we are his disciple, if we are followers of Jesus then he is the boss. He comes before anything else. 

Have you noticed how things work? Jesus is not saying Come and Join My Club. Club rules specify church attendance every week, 15 minutes bible study a day and at least 15 minutes prayer time. He’s saying deny yourself and come after me. You follow me. You see what I do and do the same. You see the way I view things and do the same. You must give up your own rights to follow me. 

We didn’t just decide to become followers of Jesus. We were called by God himself.
Think about what Jesus says in John 6:65. He has just made one of his I AM statements. I AM the bread of life. This is then what he says:

People can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me

Just think about that for a moment because we know it so well it loses its impact. We have been given to Jesus by God himself. The king of the universe, the creator of heaven and earth has called us to be his disciple. Does that sound like anything is on our own terms? It’s pure grace. Not only that, but we are adopted into his family. Therefore, Paul is saying because we are an adopted son or daughter, because we have been blessed beyond measure with every spiritual blessing in Christ, walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.
At secondary school I really lacked confidence in maths. And I remember on the morning of the dreaded maths test - or even worse the day when everyone’s results were read out to the rest of the class - my mum would say as I left the house “Remember you’re a Greenhalgh” to try and impart something of our family’s resilience and backbone into me before I grappled with trigonometry! 

And this is what Paul is saying here - remember that you have been called. Remember whose family you belong to. You belong to the family of God. The equivalent of my mum’s 'Remember you’re a Greenhalgh' statement is in verse 2.

What are the traits of a member of God’s family? Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Making allowances for other people’s faults.  Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Sound familiar? Sounds like what we were learning about last week about the love that we should be showing for one another doesn’t it? Why should these characteristics be evident? Because we’re members of the same family and members of the family have things in common. 

Look at verse 4 and 5: One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father. We all have the same Father. Therefore, the family DNA should be evident.

At Christmas we got the lovely gift of Timmy’s first school photo. We took one look at it and immediately could see that he is the image of Steve at the same age. The Greenhalgh DNA is strong in Timmy! (I just hope he’s better at maths than his Auntie Helen!!) Shouldn’t that be the same with us? Our Father’s DNA should be strong in us if we have been called. Chosen. Adopted into God’s family.

But have you noticed that in the passage Paul speaks about unity NOT uniformity. And that’s what we’re going to focus on today. How we can bring different giftings and abilities to enhance the unity that is already there through the things that we all have in common, through our shared DNA as God’s children.

So we’re going to look at the who, what and why of using our gifts for the unity of the church.
1. Who Gives the Gifts and Who Gets Gifted?

Look at verse 7: However, He (Christ) has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.

Before we look at the gifts we need to look at the giver and the beneficiaries of those gifts. Who gives? Christ. The gifts are not of our own making, neither are they to make us look good. The whole purpose of Christ’s gifts to the church is to enhance the unity of the body of Christ. We can be desirous of the gifts, but we can never force Jesus’ hand or bribe him into giving us the gifts through good performance. Every gift is an act of grace. No one is deserving of them. 

But look at how generous the Lord is. Each one of us has been given a special gift. Each one of us. There’s not one of us here this morning, if we are in Christ, that hasn’t been given a gift to use to enhance the unity of MCC. Have you ever given someone a gift and seen the lukewarm, underwhelmed reaction on their face as they rip off the wrapping paper? And you know it’s not really wanted because the gift is never used, never worn, never played with. Now imagine Jesus giving us our very own special gift. We open it, or even worse, leave it wrapped up, and never use it. How must Jesus feel?

So the gifts that we’ll speak about in a moment come totally out of the loving heart of Jesus- none of us are deserving of them. But more than that - each person is given a gift. It is our responsibility to unwrap it and start using it for the benefit of the body of Christ.

2. What are His Gifts?

In his letters Paul mentions 4 lists of gifts, none of which is comprehensive. Here the gifts mentioned are focusing on gifts of leadership in the church. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. 

But then in Romans 12: 4-8 Paul also adds serving, encouraging, giving, and showing kindness. 

In 1 Corinthians 12: 8- 10 he mentions wisdom, special knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, the power to perform miracles, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues. 

But Paul never meant this to be a definitive list. Think about people who have organisational gifts like administration or a financial brain, or who are gifted in the world of computers? Hospitality? Musical gifts and technical gifts? Serving others? I don’t want to go into detail about each of these gifts. I think that is for another time. But the main point of it is that God promises to gift the whole church with these gifts. It means each individual in it gets a gift that can benefit the church. It’s our job to find out what our gift is, thank God for his grace to us, unwrap the gift and start using it. Why? To build up the body. Not to make us look good or super spiritual. 

On being reminded of these gifts you might think “Well isn’t everyone supposed to do or be these things? Like faith, showing kindness, being hospitable?  And yes, being part of God’s family does mean that we should be seeking to be all those things but when someone has been given that gift especially it’s as though it just oozes out of them. People who just know the right word to say to encourage. People who just ooze kindness in their actions - sometimes just small things that make a huge difference. People who are so gifted at pastoral care. People whose faith astounds and humbles us even when they are facing awful circumstances in their lives. 

And you are a member of the family at MCC who God has given a wonderful gift to. But the most wonderful thing is that the way you use it is unique to you. The way you show kindness can be different to someone else, but it’s still building up the body. Or the way you encourage might be different to someone else but when people receive it they are blessed by both. God’s diversity of gifts brings unity.
Don’t you long for us to be a church family where each person is unwrapping their gift that God has given them and is using it to benefit the other members of the family? 

The world expects people to use their giftings for personal gain. For promotion at work. To get a pay rise or to get in with the boss. As God’s ambassadors of his new creation, his kingdom, we are to use them to benefit others. The result? The kingdom of God breaks through and people see that we’re different and that God is in our midst.

You might say ‘Well its ok for the people who know what their gifts are. I don’t know what my gifting is.’ Well firstly, ask God to give you a passion for something. And when an opportunity arises ask yourself ‘Does that opportunity grab my attention?’ Or even ‘I’m not sure whether this is an area of ministry or gifting that God has given me but I’m going to try it out’. There is no shame in realising that’s not God’s gift for you. God loves it when we have hearts that are ready to serve him. And if it’s not for you, then that’s ok - keep asking God to reveal his gift to you.

So the gifts are not like a Christmas list our kids write where we tell God which gift we want. They are totally his prerogative. Likewise, we can’t win them - they are given totally through grace. And each of us has been given a special gift. No exceptions. Also have you noticed that there are no age limitations on the gifts? There’s no cut off point where God says ‘Ok your time is up. You’ve outlived your gifting? Or ‘Well what do you know - you young whippersnapper! Wait till you’re older!!’ No! The gifts are for you whatever age you might be if you are in Christ. The way you use them might change as you get older but God wants to develop his gifts within us. Why? That’s what we’re going to read next.

3. Why Does God Give His Gifts to the Church?

Look at verses 12-16.
God’s gifts are to build up the body of Christ. This passage talks about the giving of pastors and teachers to the church in order to equip the church for ministry. Not so they lord it over the church but so that they encourage each person to use their gifts for the benefit of everyone else. So everyone becomes mature in the Lord (v 13). 

Maturity is a long process isn’t it? We see it in our children. It doesn’t happen overnight but little by little, bit by bit. And there are degrees of unity that will develop over time. But Christian unity can only grow when each person grows and trusts in the knowledge and love of God more and more. The more we grow, the more we become like Christ. The more we become like Christ the more we demonstrate his new creation and what his kingdom people are like. 

What are the benefits of growing maturity? Look at verse 14:

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We won’t be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth

It’s a graphic image isn’t it? Imagine a small boat being buffeted by the wind and rain. Large waves overcoming it. That’s the image that Paul uses here. Paul uses this analogy to describe Christians who are influenced by each new idea. Instead of knowing what God says in the bible, they have itching ears and try to latch on to the latest YouTube preacher or the next great book. Don’t get me wrong, YouTube is great for listening to great teaching and books are fantastic for explaining the truths of scripture. But neither of them is a substitute for getting to know the Lord more through his word. As we know God more through his word we can more quickly detect whether the person we’re listening to or the book we’re reading is in line with what scripture says. The problem is it that in our culture we want everything instantly. We want a quick fix of YouTube without having to sit down and study for ourselves. 

So if being unsure of what the truth or scripture says is a sign of immaturity what is a sign of maturity?

Verse 15-16: Instead we will speak the truth in love growing in every way more and more like Christ who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

When I hear the phrase ‘speak the truth in love’ it takes me back to being a child in church and knowing that if someone started a sentence with ‘I’m speaking the truth in love’ you knew that whoever they were talking to was going to get a tongue lashing! 

But the verb used for this expression is not just about speech. Literally it means ‘truthing in love’ and includes the notions of maintaining, living and doing the truth. Truth becomes hard if it’s not softened by love and love becomes soft if it’s not hardened by truth. Like the tough love that we sometimes have to give our children! We need to know we are loved before taking what someone says. Likewise, we need to show people that they are loved before we tackle them about something.

Paul loves his body imagery doesn’t he? In a near repeat of what he says in 1 Corinthians 12 he talks about the church being a body of many parts. He is the head, and each of us are a vital part of the body. Each of us have been called. We don’t call the shots. Each of us has a special gift, given to us by the Lord - not earned, but completely by grace - that we need to unwrap and use. For what purpose? To build up the rest of the body. 

The result of a church with each member using their gifts? The other parts grow in maturity, love and we have a healthy church. So we can become a holy huddle? NO! So we can demonstrate God’s Kingdom to our families, friends, people at work. To the people who live around our church. Which is what Dave is going to look at next week. Christ at the centre of our community.

Questions to ponder

1.    Eph 1: 3-14 How are we blessed in Christ?

2.    Luke 14:25-33 What does it mean to really be Christ's disciple?

3.    Eph 4 What you think your gift is? How can you use it to build up the unity of MCC?


Speaker Helen Jenkinson


This week we’re continuing our series on Christ at the centre of everything. Olivier has spoken about Christ at the centre of our lives. Today and next week we’ll look at Christ at the centre of our church. 

The way I imagine our mission statement is a series of concentric circles. Christ is at the centre. The first circle is our lives. That could include our personal life, our work life and our family life. Then the next circle is our church, then going a bit wider our community and the biggest circle - the world. 

I wonder what first comes into your mind when you think about the phrase Christ at the centre of our church? Do you think about lots of activities for every age group? Fantastic worship? Every seat filled on Sunday mornings (in a post covid world!)? People coming to faith on a regular basis? People being miraculously healed? Today and next week we’re going to look at what Paul wanted 2 New Testament churches to focus on. This week we’re going to look at the church in Colossae.


So what is the background to this passage? Paul is writing to the Christians at Colossae which was in what we would know now as Turkey. He had never met them personally but Epaphras, who was probably from Colossae, had become a Christian through Paul’s ministry and had started the church there. Paul was in prison in Rome and Epaphras had come to see him to serve him but also to get advice on false teaching that was creeping into the church there. In short, the false teaching was that what you REALLY need is to have knowledge of deeper, new-fangled teaching and you weren’t ‘in’ unless you had it. 

How did you get this deeper knowledge? By performing certain rituals. What we would know now as a ‘7 steps to spiritual enlightenment’. And Paul is saying NO!! You have everything you need in Christ. You don’t need any of these extra things. Christ is enough. 

And then he goes on to give that wonderful passage in chapter 1 that talks about the pre-eminence of Christ - the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation.  Chapter 1:19 says He is head of the body, the church. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. In verses 21 to 23 he tells the Christians that through Christ’s death on the cross we are made holy and blameless. We are made righteous.  

But then as in all Paul’s letters, after theology comes application. If we have everything we need in Christ, if Christ is the be all and end all of all things then how should that change us? How should that impact our personal life and our church? We have been made saints- so start behaving like them too! So this morning we’re going to look at what a church with Christ at the Centre should be focused on.

In verse 2 Paul tells the Colossians to set their minds on things above, not on earthly things. The false teachers were saying that deeper knowledge is what’s needed and the way to get this is to participate in certain rituals, but Paul is saying set your focus on getting to know Christ better and all that belongs to living with and for him. 

This includes seeking first the kingdom of God as Jesus taught in Matthew 6 that Olivier talked about last week and living a life that is worthy of Him. He tells them to put to death - make a break with - the sins of their past. 'Put to death' has a lot of finality to it doesn’t it? And he goes on to mention a whole range of attitudes that should have no place in a Christian’s heart and life: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, malice, rage, malice, slander, obscene talk, lies. He tells them to take them off like you would a dirty coat. Those things belong to your old self and put on your new clean coat, or as Paul calls it your 'new self'. 

He uses the ideas found in 2 Corinthians 5:17, 'If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation'. The Greek word used here is KAINOS (Kahee-nos) which means new in terms of form or quality, of a different nature from what is contrasted as old. It’s the same noun as John uses in Revelation where he talks about 'a new heaven and a new earth'. When Paul talks about having put on your new self he’s talking past tense. It has already happened. We are new creations. But we need to start living in the truth of it.  This is the process of sanctification. As we know Jesus more we become more like him. The old self is replaced by KAINOS. 

You may think that’s all something we do on a personal level - and that is true. But Christ is doing something even bigger. If the church is made up of new creations, then the church is a new society with a new way of living.  What Paul is keen to point out is that putting off our old selves will have a positive impact on the whole church. If everyone is seeking to know Jesus more and to see his kingdom come, that’s obviously going to change the way we view each other, the way we treat each other and the way we serve Christ as the boss of the church. That’s us too at MCC! 

Don’t you want to be part of a church that is demonstrating God’s new creation, his new society to those who don’t know him yet? You bet I do!!! And so will others. 

So what does a church who are new creations make sure they are spending their time on?


1.    UNITY v 11

Here is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and Scythian, slave or free but Christ is all and in all.

The church that has Christ at the centre cannot have deep division based on nationality, tradition, geography or social and cultural status. That’s what the world sees as normal and often promotes. But look what Paul says - 'Christ is all and in all'. Christ is all that matters. If we belong to Christ we are no different to someone who has had maybe a different upbringing or has a different job. As Paul says, Christ is in all. 

I love going to Keswick Convention. Thousands of Christians all together. I always get a foretaste of what the new heaven and earth will be like. Keswick’s motto is All One in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28) There’s no one asking you what type of church you belong to when you enter the tent. You don’t have to explain your view on election or the gifts of the Spirit. You don’t have to say where you are from or what job you do. You could be sitting next to someone with a completely different background to you but that never enters your head. 

One of the most moving times I’ve ever had was at the end of Keswick 2019. It was the last evening of the convention and the last time Keswick would be in the tent on that site.  3-4000 people all singing 'And Can It Be' unaccompanied. 
You can actually watch it on You Tube. But You Tube doesn’t show you just how many people there were and the volume of the singing. All one in Christ Jesus, singing his praises for the salvation he brings. 

The world experiences division - you only have to see recent scenes in America to notice that. Or get people talking about Brexit! Or lockdown! But the church needs to show the world that we are different because we are the new creation. What message does it send out when people in the church are fighting or struggling for supremacy? When one church belittles another? Christ is all and in all. 

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, on the night before his crucifixion this is what he prays for -

Verse 22: The glory that you have given me I have given to them that they may be one as we are one. I in them, you in me. That they may become perfectly one.

Why? So we can become a holy huddle? NO! 'So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me'. Our unity is a witness to Christ’s love for them. Is Christ in you? Is Christ in the person sitting next to you? That should be enough for us. I love watching 'The Blessing' You Tube video. And every time I see it, I get a lump in my throat. I don’t think it’s just because it’s a great song. I think its because when each person sings their church is written underneath. All these people from different backgrounds all praising God. 

I’m reminded of Psalm 133: 1  How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) dwell in unity

That’s why Bury Churches Together is so important. But on a more personal level - when brothers and sisters at MCC dwell in unity.

However, you might be thinking. Well that sounds great but does it mean we always have to agree? Is Paul promoting a church where different opinions are quashed? Where we are not taught to think for ourselves? Of course not. We are all made differently and sometimes think differently but the key to unity is keeping the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

How do we do that? By focusing on our next characteristic of a Christ centred church
2.    LOVE v 12-14

In the Old Testament God chose Israel to be a people for his own possession. Was it because they were worthy of that title? Not a bit of it! God set his love upon them to show his love to the world, to show all people what he was like. In singling Israel out he called them to be a holy nation. 

Now Paul uses the same titles to describe the Colossians in verse 12. The titles that had been given to Israel are now given to the church - chosen, holy and beloved. Just think about the transformation that must have had to take place in Paul’s thinking to call Gentiles chosen, holy and beloved. Paul who actively sought to annihilate Christians. What or who could have caused this transformation? Only him knowing Christ. 

But just as God’s intention for Israel was to demonstrate God’s character and love to the world, here Paul names the qualities that should be evident in his people, the new Israel, who are chosen, holy and beloved.
Verses 12 and 13: compassion, kindness, humility. Gentleness and patience. Forbearance (Bearing with one another) forgiveness.

These were the qualities that God had demonstrated to Israel and that he demonstrates to us in his work of salvation and sanctification. So what Paul is saying is that as God has demonstrated all these qualities in relation to you, you need to demonstrate them in relation to each other. If the Lord has done that for you then you must do that for your brother or sister in Christ. 

Has Christ forgiven you? Then you need to forgive your sibling in Christ. Is Christ patient with you? Then be patient with your Christian siblings. This is often really difficult to do isn’t it? People rub us up the wrong way. We take offence by what people do or say (or don’t do or don’t say!) But Paul is saying. Look - you are demonstrating God’s new society to the world. The world is used to people holding grudges, flying off the handle, promoting themselves. You need to demonstrate a different way. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Do you remember the teenager Anthony Walker who was murdered in an unprovoked attack in Liverpool in 2005. I always remember his mum being interviewed on North West tonight and Gordon Burns who was interviewing her asked how she felt about the person who had murdered her son. You could tell her response caught Gordon off guard. This is what she said: "I can't hate. We're a forgiving family and it is extended to outside, so it wasn't hard to forgive because we don't just preach it, we practise it.” 

Gee Walker was demonstrating the characteristics of Christ’s new kingdom in the most horrific of circumstances. Paul is saying here, put on - dress yourself in - these characteristics, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, forbearance and forgiveness, because in doing so you are showing the world what Christ is like. 

In 2 Cor 5:20 Paul talks about us being 'Christ’s ambassadors, reconciling the world unto himself'. An ambassador represents the country they are from. Their primary role is to uphold and protect their country's national interests in the country where they are posted. So if we are Christ’s ambassadors, our role is to promote the kingdom of God’s interests in our families, at work and as a church in the local area. To model the values of the kingdom that we are serving. Anywhere where we can have influence. To make us look good? To get us in the papers? To get a medal off the queen? NO! Because we are seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness as Olivier was talking about last week.

So a church that has Christ at the centre is focused on unity and it’s focused on love.

Let the word of God dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one other in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

From this we see that the church who has Christ at the centre is a church who encourages. But there is a basis for that encouragement- our encouragement is from the truth of God’s word. But before we can encourage someone with the truths of scripture we need to know scripture ourselves! Last week Olivier mentioned the verse in Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied. Those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness will be hungering for more of God in his word. But what should we do with that? Keep it to ourselves and stay warm and fuzzy? NO! Pass it on! One of the loveliest things to come out of lockdown is the WhatsApp groups that have started up. The ones I belong to are always full of encouragement. Thankyou. Last week Cynthia put a verse on the ladies WhatsApp that I had just been reading and God was speaking to me about. So Cynthia, allowing the word of God to dwell in her richly and passing it on was a real encouragement to me as it confirmed what God was saying. I was reading the other day about our need to feast on scripture. But then to take what we feast on and use it as snacks during the day! How about asking God to reveal a particular verse to you in your daily devotions then having your bible open at that verse during the day and keep coming back to it? Or writing it out on a piece of card and sticking it somewhere you will look at regularly? You could do the same with your favourite hymn. Then pass it on to encourage others. Make use of the discussion questions that have been published. In that way the word of God starts to dwell within us, and we can show support and encouragement to others using words of life.
So a church with Christ at the centre is focussed on unity, love, encouragement and finally

4.    SERVICE v 17

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This verse must be taken in context with the previous verses that talked about unity. It is the name of the Lord Jesus who unites. 'Whatever you do' takes in our words which will include our teaching but also our deeds which is our plans, decisions and activities. And that is what we are going to focus on next week. If you have time this week it’d be really good if you could read Ephesians 4:1-16 so the word of God can take root in you this week before next Sunday.
How does Paul end this section? By reminding the Colossians of all they need to be thankful for. Thankful people appreciate how great their salvation is that is theirs in Christ, and that in turn draws them into a deeper appreciative fellowship with other members of their church family.
In the last lockdown Keith recommended to me a fantastic book called ‘In His Steps.’ It’s a true story of a group of people in a church who decided to take the What Would Jesus Do motto seriously. They hungered and thirsted for His righteousness and instead of just agreeing with what Jesus says, decided to put his words into practice, regardless of the personal consequences. The results of ordinary people taking Jesus at his word brought extraordinary results.  

Do we want to see God’s kingdom come in Bury? Do we want to demonstrate God’s new creation? Let’s be a church that actively puts Christ at the centre. A church who are focused on unity, love, encouragement and service.
Let us pray
Let there be love shared among us, 
Let there be love in our eyes, 
May now Your love sweep this nation, 
Cause us O Lord to arise. 
Give us a fresh understanding 
Of brotherly love that is real, 
Let there be love shared among us, 
Let there be love.

Questions to ponder

1. Col3: 1-17. We are new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) How can we demonstrate God's new creation, His Kingdom in our church?

2. v11: How can we promote unity within our church and with other churches?

3. v12-13 Is God speaking to you about any of these characteristics of a loving person?

4. v16: How can we encourage each other?