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Witnessing to Christ Today: Closing Worship Service

Transcript: BBC Radio 4 - Sunday Worship, 6 June 2010. 08:10-08:50
from St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh

Opening Announcement [from Continuity]
BBC Radio 4. It's ten past eight and time for Sunday Worship. We go live to join the Choir and congregation at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh for a service marking Edinburgh 2010, a gathering from around the world celebrating the centenary of the city's historic World Missionary Conference of 1910.

The preacher is the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu and the service is led by the Provost of St Mary's, the Very Reverend Graham Forbes.

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
'Great is thy faithfulness' VERSES 1 + 3


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.

- Presented by Dr Glory Dharmaraj(Director of Spiritual Formation & Mission Theology, Women's Division, Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church USA)

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.
The worldwide nature of church, and the spread of the Christian faith mark a growing diversity.
Therefore, we no longer talk about a theology, a form of Christianity, and just one way of engaging in mission.

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.
It is about seeing the image of God in each other.
It is about sharing the pain and suffering of people.
It is standing in solidarity with the weak and the vulnerable as friends.
May we strive to be friends in our daily life for the sake of the one who chose to call his disciples not servants, but friends, even Jesus the Christ.


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.

MUSIC - Song 1 from African Choir of Edinburgh


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.
22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. 23He said, 'O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand.
27 'But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28Have regard to your servant's prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29that your eyes may be open night and day towards this house, the place of which you said, "My name shall be there", that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays towards this place. 30Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray towards this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling-place; heed and forgive.
Here ends the first lesson. Thanks be to God.



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
'Hills of the North rejoice'


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
A reading from the first book of Peter, chapter 2.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
'See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
'The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner',
'A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.'
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God's people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
Here ends the second lesson. Thanks be to God.

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


"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?
Come and, "be built into a spiritual house." This is our unity in God. And then,
"offer sacrifices that are acceptable to God - that is, our worship."

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,
"I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable, and spiritual worship."

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.
"We thank you for our homes, families, wives and children." 'Amen', they all cried out! "Lord we thank you for our possessions and money, and we offer everything to you." Total silence.

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.

Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum (Taizé)


Let us pray.
Once more, we hold before God all those who were killed in Cumbria on Wednesday; we pray too for those injured in body and mind for whom healing will take much time and need great care and love;

Lord God,
We give thanks for and ask for your blessing on all people and places of healing.
We pray for all who are hurting this day in body or mind or spirit.

Lord God,
We pray for those who have died, for all whom we have known and loved but see no more.

Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum (Sung pp)


Lord God,
We remember with thanksgiving those who left this city 100 years ago to serve you in many contexts and many places.

We pray for our world, for the ruler of the nations, for the gift and blessing of justice and peace for all peoples.


Lord God,
We remember those in our world who have no temple, no food, no shelter. Help us to see in them the face of your Son:


Lord God,
We pray for the land in which your Son was born, for a blessing on all peace makers and peace keepers.

Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum


All our prayers we bring together in the prayer which Jesus taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

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
'All people that on earth do dwell' VERSES 1-4

MUSIC - Song 2 from African Choir - Bayete: God is great

Closing Announcement [from Continuity]

Sunday Worship came from St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh. The service was led by the Very Reverend Graham Forbes and the preacher was the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. The Cathedral Choir was directed by Duncan Ferguson and the organist was Nicholas Wearne. The African Massed Choir was led by Pastor Festus Olatunde.

Next week's Sunday Worship features the voice of BBC Radio 2's Young Chorister of the Year Jacquelyne Hill. And just a reminder that Radio 2 is currently looking for its Young Choristers of the Year 2010. Application forms and full details are available on the Events section of their website.

And if you own an object which has been part of your family history, or has a particular religious or spiritual story associated with it, and would like to share it with the R4 listeners then go to the Radio 4 website and click on "A History of the World" where you can find details of how to add a picture of an object you own to our growing collection.

Click Here: Edinburgh 2010: Witnessing to Christ Today

See Also...
Topic: Ecumenical Women
Geographic Region: United KingdomWorld
Source: None

Date posted: Jun 09, 2010