Witnessing to Christ Today: Closing Worship Service
Transcript: BBC Radio 4 - Sunday Worship, 6 June 2010. 08:10-08:50
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION - Very Revd Dr Graham Forbes, Provost of St Mary's
Good morning and welcome from Edinburgh. Recent days have witnessed harrowing scenes just across the border in Cumbria: we hold those who have been killed, those injured, all who mourn, the people of Whitehaven and its neighbouring villages in our thoughts and prayers, as the nailed hands of the Crucified God hold all of us - we remember them with prayers now and later in our service:
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, shine upon all who are in the darkness of suffering, or grief, that in your light they may receive hope and courage, for your love's sake.
100 years ago, about 1200 Christians from the English speaking world gathered here in Edinburgh to think about the world wide mission of the church. It was an historic gathering - a climactic event of the 19th century missionary movement, and inspired generations of Christians to work together through turbulent times. It's being remembered at several international conferences this year, including here. So 100 years on, we've gathered again, not as some kind of action replay, but to be challenged once more to discover how to proclaim God's love in our day. So joined here in Edinburgh by people who have journeyed from all over the world, we sing our first hymn - Great is thy faithfulness.
MUSIC - HYMN Choir & Congregation
GRAHAM INTRODUCES GLORY DHARMARAJ
Now, to tell us more about the purpose of Edinburgh 2010, we are joined by Dr Glory Dharmaraj from the United Methodist Church of America.
GLORY DHARMARAJ: REFLECTION ON EDINBURGH 1910/2010
Greetings to you! Peace to you in the name of Jesus the Christ.
One hundred years ago, at the historic Edinburgh World Missionary Conference in this City, the Rev. V S. Azariah, one of the observers from India, said to the participants, "You have given your goods to feed the poor ... You have given your bodies to be burned ... We also ask for friends ... Give us FRIENDS!"
I happen to come from the same community Azariah came from, and I happen to speak the same language, Tamil, which Azariah spoke.
The past is a different place-
In the last 100 years, the face of Christianity has changed.
Mission is from everywhere to everywhere. Many of us are familiar with the hymn, ""We have a story to tell to the nations." Today, a hundred years later, "We have a story to hear from the nations."
Today in our war-torn world, during this period of economic uncertainty and instability, people look for hope, stability, and community. We need to shift our attention from the problems of community to the possibility of community.
Kosuke Koyama, a famous theologian, used to say what the global north needs today is not theology but neighborology.
As we have prepared for this landmark 2010 conference, women from all corners of the world have put together a huge quilt at the United Methodist Women's Assembly in St Louis, USA,on which each woman drew or wrote her own thoughts about what mission means in today's world. I have brought the quilt from the USA to Edinburgh, where women from the City of Edinburgh Methodist Church World Day of Prayer organisation have added to the quilt. This community quilt is an object which is precious to me, and you can see it on the Radio 4 History of the World website. Anyone can go to the website and add photos of their own precious objects, perhaps things which are significant for them spiritually and missionally. The community quilt is precious to me because of what it symbolizes about the love and friendship which grassroots women engaged in mission wish to share across the globe.
Communities around us are still asking for friends.
Mission today is about relationships. It is about crossing boundaries.
It is about seeing and embracing all of God's creation.
GRAHAM INTRODUCES AFRICAN CHOIR
The 1910 conference was largely western, white and male in attendance. This past week's gathering has been a very different picture, with participants drawn from across the range of Christian traditions, and a deliberate emphasis on the fact that the worldwide Church's centre of gravity has shifted southwards.
The Athens of the North, Edinburgh, now has several African congregations of its own, and we're now going to hear the African Massed Choir gathered from these churches. They sing a song of praise, Jesus for life.
MUSICÂ - Song 1 from African Choir of Edinburgh
INTRODUCTION TO OLD TESTAMENT READINGÂ - Graham
King Solomon had a vision of God's glory and responded to that vision by building the Temple here on earth. Our first lesson is read for us by Dandan Hao, a member of the Church of Scotland from Beijing.
DANDAN - READING 1: 1 Kings 8: 22-30
A reading from the first book of Kings Chapter 8.
Our next hymn reflects the global outlook of this weekend's Edinburgh gathering, calling the whole earth to become a temple of praise to God, and ending with the promise that 'In Jesus all shall find their rest. 'Hills of the North rejoice'.
MUSIC - HYMN Choir & Congregation
INTRODUCTION TO NEW TESTAMENT READING - Graham
Just as King Solomon built the Temple, the House of the Lord, with stones hewn from rock, so St Peter points to the living stone which is the Christ and how each of us is to be built into a spiritual house.
The New Testament lesson is read by Olga Oleinik from the Belarusian Orthodox Church.
OLGA - READING 2: 1 Peter 2: 4-10
GRAHAM Introduces Dr Sentamu
St Mary's Cathedral and the visitors gathered here are delighted to welcome our preacher this morning, the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu.
SERMON - Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu
THEME: A SPIRITUAL HOUSE
"Come to him, a living stone, ... chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house ... to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:4f).
St Peter, in his first letter, describes the church as a gathering of living stones, built into a spiritual house, vibrant with life.
If you arrived here at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, and found a gaping hole in one wall and a heap of stones under it, you would know not only that the stones were in the wrong place but also that the building had been weakened by their absence from the wall.
We are not to be like that, but joined together, united with one another, committed to one another, otherwise we will cause others to be less effective than they could be.
The unity of this spiritual house is vitally important. Party spirit, or some other sin can destroy it.
Similarly, a cohesive, safe and generous community - like a building whose bricks have been randomly hammered out - is weakened, traumatized and violated. The 12 murders by Derrick Bird and the injury of 11 others in West Cumbria has had the same effect. What that community now needs is space and careful rebuilding. And those of us from outside West Cumbria must pray and give time for that tragedy to do its work. We must not short-cut the process of grief by over-demanding media reporting. We must live out the African proverb which says, "When a tiny toe is hurting, the whole body stoops down to attend to its pain."
So, St Peter invites us all to come. But come and be, and do what?
The New Testament describes three sacrifices which make up our spiritual worship.
The first is the sacrifice of persons. In Romans 12:1 St Paul says,
The sacrifice of persons, where we offer our whole being to God. That is our worship.
Secondly, in Hebrews 13:15, it is the sacrifice of praise. The writer says, "Through him then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess and glorify his name."
This is more than just singing. It's acknowledging, confessing and glorifying God for who he is: a Holy, Righteous Creator, Redeemer, and Life-giver.
So, worship is the sacrifice of persons, the sacrifice of praise. Thirdly, the sacrifice of possessions.
Hebrews 13, again, and this time verse 16. "Don't neglect to do good, and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are well-pleasing to God."
Generous sharing. God is more interested in our savings after we have made our offerings to him, as the story of the widow's mite vividly reminds us.
A charismatic preacher, at the end of his sermon on generous giving, invited the congregation to respond. He said, "Lord we thank you for our lives." 'Amen!', they all answered.
God invites us to come and be built up, in the power of the Holy Spirit, into a spiritual house in order to offer sacrifices of persons, praise and possessions, which is our worship.
God also invites us to come, "in order to proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:10).
And this is our witness in both word and deed, in the power of the Holy Spirit: "You shall receive power - the ability and might - when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses ... to the very bounds - of the earth", so said Jesus (Acts 1:8).
It is wonderful to be a Christian, being built up into a spiritual house where God lives, where God's power is displayed because this community worships God - every member offers themselves and their possessions to God; and every member constantly acknowledges, glorifies and praises God. This is a community that is empowered by the Holy Spirit to witness to God's marvellous acts in Jesus Christ. Yes, a worshipping and a witnessing community to the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.
As King Solomon declares in his prayer of the dedication of the first Temple, even the highest heavens can't contain God. Isn't it amazing that, though the heavens can't contain God, he is willing to live in the hearts of those who love and obey him?
The God of the universe takes up residence in his people. In the likes of you and me: wonder of wonders! And his greatest miracle in us is his constant forgiveness. Forgiving us our past sins, offering us new life in the present and hope for the future.
So I bid you all this morning, to come to Jesus and be built up into a spiritual house, in order that you may declare the mighty acts of God who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light, and then offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. It's to this that you are being invited.
To become a people of prayer, a people of praise, a people of service, a people of worship and witness, a people of Godly power because the Holy Spirit of God dwells in you as individuals and more so as a body of Christ.
The Lord is with us till the end of time. Let us, therefore, obey his greatest commandment to love, and his great commission to make every nation his disciples; and teach them to live the way of Christ.
As we celebrate a hundred years of the 1910 World Mission Conference, which took place here in Edinburgh, Christ is asking us to give our lives as a sacrifice to him; and to let him fill us with the Holy Spirit.
God forbid that our response to come and let Christ be at the centre of our lives would be like that of a caterpillar, who was enjoying eating the leaves of a tree when a beautiful butterfly flew past. "Hah!", he said, "You'll never catch me flying in one of those trendy things."
God in Christ invites us to participate in the very Life of God, which transfigures us into Christ-likeness, from glory to glory. So come and be transformed. AMEN.
MUSIC - ST MARY'S CHOIR
Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum (Sung pp)
We pray for our world, for the ruler of the nations, for the gift and blessing of justice and peace for all peoples.
Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum
All our prayers we bring together in the prayer which Jesus taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven
MUSIC - ST MARY'S CHOIR: Rutter 'Gaelic Blessing'
BLESSING - Dr Sentamu
Go forth into the world in peace; Be of good courage, Hold fast that which is good, Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the fainthearted, Support the weak, Help the afflicted, Honour all people, Love and serve the Lord, Rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit, And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you always.
MUSIC - HYMN Choir & Congregation
MUSIC - Song 2 from African Choir - Bayete: God is great
Date posted: Jun 09, 2010