“All This for You”: There is Room for You and Me

As we begin the journey of Advent, the churches I serve are following the theme ‘There is Room’, and in week 1, thinking about how, when God reigns, There is Room for You and Me.

Last Saturday, I had an experience while leading a baptism service that took the truth about how There is Room in God’s story for all to a whole new level.

I’ve done numerous Baptism in the last few years, but always for toddlers. So last Saturday was the first time I baptised a baby.

The baby I was baptising was about 6-7 months old, and as I held this helpless, dependant, innocent child in my arms, looking at his peace-filled, sleeping face, and spoke some of the baptism liturgy over them, I was somewhat overwhelmed…


for you Jesus Christ came into the world;
for you he lived and showed God’s love;
for you he suffered death on the Cross;
for you he triumphed over death,
rising to newness of life;
for you he prays at God’s right hand:
all this for you,
before you could know anything of it.

In your Baptism,
the word of Scripture is fulfilled:
‘We love, because God first loved us.’

Methodist Baptism Liturgy, Methodist Worship Book p.92-3.

I had to take a breath to remind myself I was in front of a room full of people and was leading a service! In that moment, it had become as if it was just me and this innocent baby. Like nothing else mattered but the words of truth I was speaking over them – that the truth of God’s gift to them is that There is Room.

It took the grace of God to a whole new level for me. An innocent baby who cannot yet comprehend or communicate an understanding of God’s grace – yet God outpours his grace anyway. “All this for you, before you could know anything of it.”

I had the great privilege of declaring that truth to them, their family and friends, and welcoming them into God’s family.

God’s grace transcends our human understanding. Transends our western obsession with needing to be deserving, to earn and achieve all we have.

God’s grace is outpoured on the world – through the life and love of an innocent baby, born in a manger. A baby who declares There is Room in God’s Story for you, for me, for us, for all.


Find out more about Advent & Christmas events at Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate Methodist Churches as we declare There is Room .

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Bognor Regis Methodist Church

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Felpham Methodist Church

Advent & Christmas 2022 at Westergate Methodist Church

Live to Serve

Adapted from an address delivered on 16th October 2022
at the Annual West Sussex Trefoil Guild Friendship Service
.


The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, left his marvellous violin to Genoa, the city of his birth, with one condition – that the instrument never be played.

It was an unfortunate condition, for it is a peculiarity of wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay. The exquisite, mellow-toned violin has since become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The instrument that had served Paganini so marvellously is now a useless piece of rubbish.

The deterioration of this unused instrument serves to remind us that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning.

Serving is a way of being that means we live not for ourselves, not withdrawn from the world or our community, but living a life of service for the benefit of others.

Offering what we have – our gifts, skills, and resources – for the good of our community, to bring hope to the world, and to shine light into dark places.

In the Bible, we find a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. The disciples have been wanting to know more about how to live the sort of life Jesus is calling them to live. And within that conversation Jesus talks about serving others.

He says:

When you saw someone hungry and gave them food,
When you meet someone thirsty and give them a drink,
When you see someone outcast and excluded and you welcome them,
When you find someone naked and clothe them,
When someone is sick and you care for them,
When someone is trapped or imprisoned and you are there for them…
When you do these things, You do them for me.

Paraphrasing of sections of Matthew 25:31-46

What is Jesus saying?

He’s saying that the life he is calling people to live is a life in which we live with and for others. A life that serves others. A life that walks the talk and puts word into action.

And through living that way, whether we know it or not, through living a life of service for the benefit of others, we serve Jesus. Because we are serving to share and inhabit the charcter of Jesus who loves, welcomes, and cares for all.

Most recently in the nation’s minds a life of service has been celebrated in remembering the life and service of the Late Queen Elizabeth II. Her life and work as Queen has been described among many things, as one of selflessness service. 

In her 2012 Christmas message, the year of her diamond Jubilee, she reflected on God sending Jesus not to be served but to serve.

“He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.”

The late Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Message 2022

Some of you may not think of yourselves as Christian people. Others of you will. And perhaps others of you aren’t really sure where you are on the spectrum right now.

Wherever we each ourselves on that spectrum,
I believe that our service; our care for others;
our inclusion of the marginalised and outcast;
our advocacy for the silenced;
our openness to one another through our relationships, community and friendships:
serves Jesus – because we are inhabiting the qualities that Jesus taught.

So may we all be affirmed in the service we have offered,
encouraged in the service we do offer,
and inspired in the service we can offer.

As we offer what we have,
our gifts and skills, passions and resources,
to nurture relationships, community and friendship.
To live lives of service for the benefit of one another.


Downloadable PDF available via the below link.

Harvest – a Time of Gratitude

Here on the south coast of Sussex I’ve just journeyed through the joyful season of harvest among the church communities I serve.

At Bognor Regis and Felpham Methodist Churches we invited donations of groceries and cash for Bognor Foodbank, and I was astounded by the generosity I witnessed. We had tables laden with groceries, and almost £500 in donations to support their ministry.

I find Harvest a time which makes me stop and take notice of what I have. To be reminded of the seasons of the year that work together in producing abundance from our land., To see those things to be grateful for that I can otherwise take for granted. To have an attitude of gratitude and praise to God all that he provides.

One of the stories we find in the New Testament is the feeding of 5000 men, plus women and children, with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

The gathering of the huge crowd had not been planned for, it was getting late and food had not been prepared. The disciples suggest to Jesus that he calls time to the event, sending the people off to get themselves some food. But Jesus says no, you find them something to eat.

I wonder how those disciples felt in that moment? It is a wonder to me that the gospel text doesn’t go on to record the mutterings of the disciples ‘who does he think he is, we’ve told him we’ve not food, where are we meant to get the food from?’

All the disciples find are 5 loaves and 2 fish. Little is available, but the need is great. Yet with a push from Jesus what they have is made available to be shared, and with a blessing it spreads much further than anyone could have imagined.

Rather than seeing the challenge of feeding a crowd of thousands with 5 loaves and 2 fish as an impossibility, Jesus showed that with gratitude and acceptance of what we have, abundance can come.

Too often we can fall into the trap of grumbling greed. if we are not careful, society can lure us into a way of life which seeks to look after me, myself and I, gathering everything for ourselves.

But that is not the way God calls Christians to live. God calls us to live lives of gratitude, thankfulness and contentedness with what we have and receive, and to share it with others.

In the disciples sharing, their orienting themselves towards others, many more were satisfied.

“Gratitude begins with paying attention, with noticing the goodness, beauty, and grace around us. The practice of gratitude becomes more central to our communities when we stop feeding the cycles of complaint and orient our lives around praise, testimony, and thanks.

Christine Pohl, in ‘Living into Community’, p51.

Gratitude as a way of life brings us into a greater realisation of the goodness and beauty all around us day by day.

No matter what little we have, be it our time, our money, our energy, our resources, our gifts and graces, what we have in the widest sense of the word – with Christ it can be used to do immeasurable more than we may think or imagine.

To reach many people, to bring sustenance, satisfaction and goodness to people in a world which is in great need of goodness.

May we grow to live lives of deeper gratitude for what we have; lives of generosity to one another; and lives of faithfulness for all that Christ can accomplish through what we can offer.

Seeking justice

An Adaption of a sermon preached at Covenant Services in September 2022 at Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate Methodist Churches.

For my first career I was manager of a Christian Bookshop and Resource Centre in Cornwall. Beyond the selling of books and resources, it was also a space of welcome, care and hospitality. We had a small sofa and coffee table in the shop, offering a place to rest, a free cuppa and, if desired, a listening ear and prayer.

It was a simple, yet incredibly fruitful, ministry. Many people would almost stumble across us, or be drawn in without really knowing where they were or why they had come in. But before long conversation came forth; God was at work.

Through that ministry I heard stories personal stories about many things, including problems and challenges people were facing. Relationship struggles; mental health worries; money concerns; unsuccessful job hunting… the list goes on.

The young man who’s benefits had been cancelled without a reason why…

The woman who had an unexpected bill leaving them without enough for food for the month…

The young female with minor learning difficulties having their social care support hours cut by half due to budget cuts…

It opened my eyes to the inequality that was on my doorstep. An inequality I knew was there but was only now beginning to really know. I was coming to see the world and life from perspectives other than my own.

But at the same time, hearing these stories about inequality, and seeing the pain, struggle, confusion and suffering there were causing, felt somewhat overwhelming. So many different issues, so many people falling through the cracks.

I would often be thinking as I walked home each day about those I had encountered. How can I help these individuals? What support can I signpost them to? Where is the system going wrong? How can I help change the system?

It is through the experience of this ministry that God opened my heart to discover God’s own heart for justice.

‘With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:6-8

Micah is speaking to the leadership and people of both Northern Israel and Southern Judah. Both have been living and being led in a way which was against the covenant with God.

Micah accuses them of rebellion against God, of hypocrisy, talking about God and observing the ritual temple practices, but in ways which were empty, meaningless and was built upon corruption, theft and greed.

This is now what god calls for – this does not honour God’s covenant with them. Ritual means nothing without virtue.
For what does God require?
To Act Justly.
To love Mercy.
To Walk Humbly with God.
That is what is good.

The Methodist Covenant Service has travelled in one shape or form with Methodism for most of its existence, an annual practice bult into our denominational DNA which celebrates the faithfulness of God to us and invites us to publicly reaffirm our commitment to partner with God in mission and ministry.

That wherever we are, wherever God places us,
Whatever circumstances we face,
We might serve God.
That we will be about God – not ourselves.

Methodism also has justice in our DNA. A denomination that was birthed out of a deep desire to ensure discipleship was taken seriously, and made accessible to all people. Much of Methodism’s historical heartlands are in mining communities, communities on the margins, to which this movement successfully brought a gospel of hope and relevance to them and their lives.

John Wesley, one of the lynchpins of Methodism’s beginnings, saw seeking justice in society as a central aspect of what it means to follow Jesus. To work for Justice by both responding to needs that appear before us, and campaigning for change.

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

Attributed to John Wesley.

May we hear God’s challenge, as individuals and as communities, to serve God as we can, as and where he calls. To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. To share the good news, and actively work for justice in our communities.

To do all the good we can,
By all the means we can,
In all the ways we can,
In all the places we can,
at all the times we can,
To all the people we can,
As long as we ever can.

My Justice Journey

First Published June 2022 on Twitter as part of a Conenxional Social Media campaign sharing personal journey’s of justice.

A piece of #MyJusticeJourney.
Learning to be one piece in God’s big picture.

This puzzle piece appeared in our daughter’s room when she was a toddler. We have never worked out where it came from – but through it God spoke to me about being one small part of God’s big picture – and now it sits framed in my office to remind me.

When it comes to matters of justice; migration, discrimination, poverty, and more, I often feel overwhelmed by their scale and great need, or intimidated by the amazing contributions of others who strive for justice. What difference can I make? How can I be good enough?

Reading so many inspiring #MyJusticeJourney threads this week has been overwhelming at times too. But for me, that’s where this single puzzle piece comes in. I am only one piece in God’s big picture – a picture I don’t control or fully see. But that is enough. I am enough.

This puzzle piece reminds me God has not made me responsible for solving every injustice in the world. God has made me me, responsible for my small piece. Offering my gifts and graces, passions and skills as one piece among many that make up God’s big justice jigsaw.

Humbly offering what I can, in the opportunities God places before me, to contribute to seeking justice. One piece at a time. Because I am enough.

Where to find happiness and contentment

Read: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

The parable of the prodigal son may be a familiar one to you. Son number 2 comes of age and asks his father for his inheritance, heads off and lives the high life of parties and frivolity. But then the money dries up, he works and even eats in the squalor of the pigsty and decides to take the emotionally difficult journey back to his father to see if his father might allow him to work for him – not as a son, but a servant.

On seeing his son on the way home, the father runs to meet him, embraces him and throws a huge party to celebrate his return. Son number 1 isn’t happy though, he feels like his brother is being rewarded for deserting them. Son 1 has done everything right, perhaps even borne extra responsibltiy as a result of his brother leaving the family firm.

Th father gets why Son 1 feels this way – but also challenges him. Everything I have s yours, he says, but this is not about the money, it’s about my love for you both. Your brother was lost, we thought he was dead – but he is alive and found.

In the money driven economy of the western world, it can be so easy for earthly riches and our societal and institutional responsibilities to become the focus of our living, activity and even our whole being. But this parable reminds us that what really matters to God is not our earthly activity, but our willingness to come to God, who is a perfect and loving parent, and find welcome and love beyond measure.

Follow Up: Luke 15 tells of 3 ‘lost’ parables – the lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son. We often look at each separately, but there can be value in looking at the whole chapter together too. What threads and themes do you notice?


Today’s reflection is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.

There is always hope for everyone

Read: Luke 13:1-9

Pilate is documented in the bible, and other historical documents as someone who did things that irritated the local Jewish population. Today’s reading connects with one such story, when a group of Galilean pilgrims offering sacrifices in the temple had been slaughtered in the temple by Pilates troops. Human blood mixed with the blood of animal sacrifices that were so central to Jewish worship – the Temple itself was meant to be a spiritual place of worship – and Pilate had polluted and desecrated it.

It’s a gruesome event of history that might leave us wondering how on earth a human in a position of power and resposibility can be so inhumane. But the question Jesus is asked about this event is perhaps just as worrying. ‘Have these Galileans suffered like this because they were worse sinners than other Galileans?’.

There is a danger we all face, as Christian people to think of ourselves as holier than others. As less tainted by sin. History tells us the church has done much damage to itself by having an attitude of looking down its nose at other people, and too often it has resulted in people feeling rejected by the very community in the world they should have discovered a welcome.

Jesus responds with a parable of a fig tree that bore no fruit. The owner of the tree thinks it should be cut down, but the gardener, who knows about these things, says wait a little longer, I’ll give it some nurture and care, and let us see what happens next year.

The parable teaches us that we should never give up on the hope that someone might bear fruit by repenting and turning to Christ. We are called not to be judge of others, but to nurture and care for all the trees in the orchard that is our community, with the conviction that there is always hope for everyone to discover the truth of God’s saving grace.

Follow Up: Who is there in the circles of your life who you long to see discover Jesus for themselves. Make a list of their names and pray for them daily.


Today’s reflection is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.

Protected under Jesus’ wings

Reading: Luke 13:31-35

My Aunt & Uncle have a farm, and at one stage they had chickens in their orchard. During the day the chickens would roam free, but come dusk, they had to bring the chickens into the coup to keep them protected from foxes. But even then, on occasion a fox did occasionally manage to somehow get into the coup and cause devastation.

In today’s passage from Luke, Jesus has been approached by some Pharisees, warned that Herod wants Jesus dead. Jesus responds by saying king Herod is like a destructive fox, contrasted with his own desire to draw all those he cares for under his wings like a hen does with her young chicks.

There were no modern-day chicken coups in Jesus’ day, and while owners of chickens may have developed some protection from foxes and other predators, the hen’s role of protecting chicks would be an exposed and vulnerable one.

That is the role Jesus longs to play for us. Jesus went on to Jerusalem as succumbed to the most horrendous and tortuous walk to Calvary, the place of his public crucifixion. Jesus spread his arms of love on that cross and we believe that through his sacrifice and resurrection 3 days later, we find forgiveness, acceptance and love beyond measure.

Jesus longs to protect us from the evil that wants to destroy the hope in our lives. The evil that says we are not worthy. The foxes that distract us from his immeasurable love. The Pharisees were not willing to receive his protection – not willing to trust in Jesus. Are you?

Follow up: Spend some time in prayer this week.

Ask Jesus to help you to see the evils around you which threaten your relationship with him, and nestle into Jesus’ wings of love.


Today’s reflection is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.