Sunday, March 21, 2021



Speaker Tristan Sherwin

'God’s Kingdom is not about materialism and consumerism, but about communal care and provision.'

Tristan has posted his sermon on his own blog. Please follow the link to read...

Sunday, March 14, 2021


Speaker Helen Jenkinson
I wonder if your family has any traditions? Things that you do that are special to you? They might seem very strange to others but to you they give you a sense of identity, a sense of being connected to the people that you love. When we were kids we used to go to Anglesey every year. And if you’ve ever been you know that as it’s an island you have to go over a bridge to get there. Every time we went over the Menai bridge  mum and dad would wind the windows down and we would cheer (very loudly!) because of the expectation of 2 lovely weeks there. But on the way home we would boo (very loudly!) because we knew that special time had come to an end. Now we have a tradition that Christmas night is spent at mum and dads playing games- Dad’s legendary tray game being our favourite. Who would think that trying to memorise items on a tray that has been covered over with a tea towel would make us happy. But it does! Every country has traditions that are unique to them too. Think about Bonfire night or Thanksgiving in the States. On those days we meet people we love. We eat special food, we do special things. It gives us a sense of connectedness, a oneness.
Now I want you to think about us as the church. What traditions do we have? It might depend on the church you grew up in. In the church we grew up in we would have special weekends to commemorate things like church anniversaries. Do we have a certain way of doing things and when anyone asks us why we do it a certain way we answer “its always been done like that” Traditions are good. They can remind us what is important but sometimes they can prevent us from seeing what God’s priorities are. Because WE think they are important, we assume GOD thinks of them in the same way. And it is this that we are going to look at today.

Remember that our theme for this teaching series is the UPSIDE DOWN KINGDOM. The way Jesus turned on their head the traditions that the culture of his day thought of as normal or the way God wanted things doing. And today we’re going to look at UPSIDE DOWN WORSHIP. Reading the gospels we see that Jesus would come into conflict a lot with the scribes and pharisees, the teachers of the law, because they viewed things differently to Jesus. They assumed they had an insiders view on what God thought was important. And one of the issues that caused the most conflict was how they viewed the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given as a gift from God as the Israelites entered the promised land after they had been slaves in Egypt with no rest at all. So the sabbath was intended to be a reminder that it is not our work that supplies our needs but that our needs are supplied by God as an act of his grace. Fantastic! But in order to make this a priority, this commandment was hedged around by a whole stack of extra rules just in case a person got near to breaking the actual commandment. Who made up the rules? The teachers of the law. Now we always think of the Pharisees as the bad guys in the gospels and often they were. But what started out as an attempt to honour God became a matter of pride and judgementalism against people who they thought were not keeping the commandment as well as them. They considered the man -made law as important as the actual commandment, completely missing the point of why God had given the commandment in the first place.
READ MARK 2:23 - 3:6 link
Why were the Pharisees getting into such a tizz? Because even though the commandment said to keep the Sabbath holy by doing no work, Moses had not given any specifics. It was Jewish tradition that stated  there were 39 forbidden activities on the sabbath and the third one was reaping. The Pharisees interpreted the picking of grain to eat as reaping which they viewed as illegal activity. How does Jesus respond? With a question. He refers back to a story in 1 Samuel 21 where David takes the presence bread that was laid out on a table before God in the tabernacle every Sabbath, eats it and gives it to his companions to eat because they were hungry. Now Jesus (the Son of David) had taken food, eaten it and given it to his disciples on the Sabbath. Here, Jesus is saying that human need is more important than ritual. He’s challenging the Pharisees to choose between human need and religious reputation. Jesus doesn’t defend the breaking of the Sabbath. He just points out that human need is a bigger principle here. As if to reiterate this, we see in the next incident the same principle. Jesus sees a man in the synagogue with a deformed hand.  Jesus’ heart goes out to the man and he heals him. But look at what the Pharisees were doing. Verse 2 says they watched him closely. Jesus was under surveillance! Why? Because the teaching of the Pharisees only allowed healing on the Sabbath if life was in danger. If you weren’t about to die you’d have to wait for a weekday in order for God to show his power by healing you! Had God ever said this? Not at all! Look at Jesus’ question in verse 4:
Does the law permit good deeds on the sabbath or is a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or destroy it?
Jesus exposes the narrowness of their man made rule by asking them if the Sabbath is there for doing good or doing evil? If for good, how can healing not come into that category? He was turning their tradition on its head.
But there is something much bigger here than whether Jesus is breaking Sabbath rules. It’s a heart issue. On another occasion Jesus is at loggerheads with the Pharisees again over ceremonial handwashing. And this time Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. This is how he responds.
Mark 7:6-7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you for he wrote “These people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God”
Can you imagine being told that as a Pharisee? You who are an expert in the law, you who are seen as the religious elite, you who think you have an inside track as to what God thinks as important are hypocrites. Actors. Pretending to honour God but the reality of it is that your heart is far from him. Your worship is a farce because you have put man made ideas on a par with what God wants and in many cases have completely ignored what God views as important in order to make you look good or feel superior. No wonder they wanted to get rid of Jesus.
Do you remember the inverted ladders of the upside down kingdom that I talked about in our introduction to this series a fortnight ago? They are in operation here between man’s tradition and God’s truth. Outward forms of rule keeping keep us in bondage. They tie us up in knots trying to keep them. Inward faith brings liberty through God’s grace. The world’s kingdom makes much of rules, God’s kingdom focusses on guiding principles. The world’s kingdom celebrates outward piety. God’s kingdom is all about inward holiness. The world’s kingdom says “lets make our own rules” God’s kingdom says lets exalt the word of God. See what his word says on an issue.
So when we read these accounts of Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees we’re usually thinking “YEH!! YOU TELL ‘EM JESUS!!! But remember if we point a finger at someone there’s always 3 fingers pointing back at us! We can criticise the Pharisees for their attitudes but do we do the same? Do we consider our traditions or our take on situations as God’s view without actually finding out what God thinks about it through scripture? Or do we bend scripture to make it fit our view? Are we more concerned about the upholding of our favourite rule than seeking to extend the kingdom of God? To show God’s love to people who might be different to us? What about our worship? Do we think because we prefer one style of worship then God must prefer that one too? 
One summer I went to Peru as part of an Open Doors team to encourage believers who had experienced great persecution a decade earlier. Being in a Peruvian worship service was something else! On the way home my friend and I spent a week in Georgia staying with friends of my friend. On the Sunday we went to their church which was very formal and very different to Peru. My friend and I were talking about afterwards and comparing the two and she said something that really challenged me. She said it might be different but if it glorifies God, he likes it all. Just because it was not our preference doesn’t mean that it’s not God’s preference. Or if we like to have a quiet time in the morning do we assume that is the most spiritual thing to do? Or because we like to pray in a certain way we assume God will listen to our prayers in preference to someone else who prays differently to us? Or because we consider our area of ministry to be the most important, do we assume God agrees?
So we can get tied up in our traditions, our ideas and our preferences and project them onto God and what we are really doing is worshipping our own ideas. I asked if we could sing Heart of Worship this morning because I love the background to the song. The song was written by Matt Redman in the late 1990s when his church in Watford was going through a tough time. In the world’s kingdom they were really successful. Big church, writing songs that were being sung all around the world. But they realised that something was missing. So the pastor, a great guy called Mike Pilivachi asked his congregation what they were bringing to God in worship- were they just consumers or were they really worshipping? So for some weeks the music faded. They sang unaccompanied. They had times of silence. They prayed together. And they rediscovered what worship was really about. It’s all about Jesus! It’s not our traditions, or our good ideas, or our man-made rules that matters. It’s all about him. Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting we stop worshipping God through song. What I am saying is that we reassess what our traditions, our ideas, our priorities and bring them in line with God’s ideas and His priorities.
So how can we do that? What is upside down worship? How can we make sure Jesus is at the centre of our worship? How can we make sure it’s all about Jesus and not about us?

The answer is in Romans 12: 1-2 (NIV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In Romans 1-11 Paul has been explaining that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ alone. And now he urges the Christians in Rome to offer their bodies as living sacrifices. What does this mean? In the ESV the word offer is translated as present. It commands a definite commitment. If you are married it is just like what happened when you made your vows in your wedding service. As part of your vow you said that everything you are and everything you have is now your husband or wife’s. So in the context of Romans 12:1 Paul is encouraging the Christians in Rome to give everything you are and everything you have to God. To be completely at God’s disposal. To be willing to obey Him in every area of our life. Giving him the best of us- not our leftovers. Not out of fear, but out of love. To be a living sacrifice means to daily give our lives as an offering to Him. As the verse says- this is our true and proper worship. True worship stems from acknowledging how great God’s mercies are towards us. How much we are forgiven. How much we are loved, despite our desire to run our own show, to project our own ideas onto God and claim them as his. How do we offer our bodies as living sacrifices? Paul tells us in verse 2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This is what the Pharisees weren’t getting in their desire to keep their man made Sabbath rules. They were keeping the Sabbath rules on the outside, while their hearts were disobedient to what God would really want. And they were imposing their superficial holy veneer on others. Paul is saying here that the worldly kingdoms will tell you what to think and how to behave- to CONFORM, instead let God TRANSFORM your mind. The word he uses for transform is similar to our word metamorphosis. Just like a caterpillar is metamorphosed into a butterfly from the inside out, we are transformed into becoming more like Christ.  True upside down kingdom worship means letting God transform the way we think which affects what we do, what we feel, what we say.
So at this point of any sermon I’m always thinking “That’s great, but HOW????” Here’s a suggestion. When we wake up tomorrow morning, before we get out of bed offer to the Lord each part of our body. Our mind- so he can transform the way we think, so God’s wisdom may be imparted to us for that day. Our eyes so we may see people and situations as Jesus sees them. I know I definitely need that when dealing with year 11 tomorrow! Our hands so that what we do is pleasing to the Lord and what Jesus would do if he was living our life. Our mouth so our words are honouring to Him- by what we say and the way we say it and what we don’t say. Our feet- so God will lead us to people who need to experience God’s grace in their lives. Our heart so that we can feel God’s love not just for ourselves but for people we rub shoulders with. 
When Simon and I made vows to each other on 27th December 2008 it was till death do us part. The vow didn’t stop at midnight on 28th December. If we are married, the vows we made on our wedding day have to be continually lived out. To be continually worked on through the stresses and strains of life. And it’s the same with offering our bodies as living sacrifices. It has to be done on a day to day basis. So what happens Monday morning before we get out of bed, or whenever we speak to God has to happen on Tuesday and Wednesday and every day after that. Christ at the centre of our lives, displaying the values of his upside down kingdom. If everyone is doing that- guess what? Christ’s kingdom will be displayed in our church. And then guess what? If we are seeing people as God sees them and loving them in the way God loves them then God’s kingdom will spread into our communities and into our world. Don’t know about you but I’m excited about the possibilities that might bring. The people who could be reached, lives that could be transformed and the glory of God’s kingdom that could be displayed all because a small group of people in Bury decided to offer their bodies to God as their true and proper worship.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

Sunday, March 7, 2021



Speaker Tristan Sherwin

'Instead of grasping for power and imposing himself over others, Jesus is going to exhibit the power of self-giving, self-emptying love.'

Tristan has posted his sermon on his own blog. Please follow the link to read...