From now on
It all started when Jesus asked Peter if he could borrow his boat. Jesus told him to push the boat a short way out from the shore to give him a safe place to speak.
Then Jesus told him to push out into the deep water. What happened next would change Peter's life forever.
A few years later Peter would stand before a huge crowd and announce the resurrection of Jesus. Thousands of people believed. Peter had become a 'fisher of people'* just as Jesus said he would.
Jesus sometimes asks us to do things that seem small. My advice is that you do them. You never know when Jesus will want to do something big. You never know how Jesus wants to teach you or shape you. A little obedience can lead to big things.
Practice doing small acts of obedience today: hoover the carpet, pick up some litter, lay out the chairs. You never know where it will lead. Peter didn't start by preaching to thousands; he started by letting Jesus borrow his boat, and pushing it a short way out from the shore. It was this small act of obedience that led to the encounter that changed his life.
* or 'fisher of men' but the Greek word isn't gender specific
The church that loves each other
Your body is amazing. It sustains itself and grows. It heals itself. It can do amazing things. Better treat it well. Eat well. Exercise. You know it makes sense. The Bible says that physical exercise is of some value. Let's treat our bodies as the amazing things that they are.
We are the body of Christ. It's an amazing body. It sustains itself. It grows. It can do amazing things. Better treat it well.
There are useful spiritual exercises you can do on your own. You can pray, meditate and fast. But real growth only comes when you are properly connected. The Bible tells us to love one another sincerely from a pure heart. Avoid any desire to hurt. Don't pretend. Be truthful. Don't envy your brothers and sisters. Don't slander. This is your spiritual exercise and this will help the body to grow.
Physical exercise builds up muscles. When we exercise it triggers amazing processes that make us strong. Spiritual exercise makes the body of Christ strong. It triggers amazing processes. We barely understand them but they work. We grow as individuals. The body grows.
The thing Jesus prayed for
This Sunday we are at St Leonard's in Miiddleton. For one Sunday only there is no service at Mills Hill.
Why? Because church unity matters. We could have organised a united evening service as we've done in the past but that wouldn't be much of a sacrifice. We're going to do something that proclaims that we are one.
It's not a Sunday off. It could be the most important Sunday of the year. Jesus prayed for his church to be one so that the world will know that he sent us. Jesus prayed that we would be one, with each other and in him, so that the world might believe. And that's what we are going to act out, in a small way, this Sunday.
It won't be perfect but it will be, I hope, a step in the right direction. Every fracture in the church delays the day when the world believes. So this Sunday let's love the broken body of Christ. Let's forgive one another. Let's love one another so that people will recognise us as the disciples of Jesus.
In his love
Am I really meant to love Jesus?
"Though you have not seen him, you love him." (1 Peter 1:8)
When you come to our church you may see some things that as seem pretty weird. We sing to someone who doesn't seem to be there. We talk to him and try to listen to him. We talk about eating his bread and drinking his blood. I don't mind if you think these things are weird; it shows you are paying attention.
This Sunday we're going to explore what it means to love Jesus. And yes, that does sound weird.
The text above was written by Peter, one of Jesus' closest friends. He spent a few years travelling with Jesus, and he loved him. He said so and most of the time he acted it out. That's not so weird; people today claim that they love politicians and Peter saw Jesus in that sort of light.
The weird thing is the Bible's claim that Jesus and Peter had a deep conversation about this love after Jesus died. I'm not talking about a vision or a dream but a solid face-to-face encounter. Years later Peter wrote the words above. Jesus was a present day reality for him. He loved him.
We talk to Jesus because he is alive. We love him as one who is alive. I don't mean alive in the 'you're not really dead if someone remembers you' sense of the word. I mean resurrection, as Peter says in this chapter.
So this week I want to encourage you to love Jesus. There's lots of things you can do. You can sing to him (not as weird as it sounds once you get used to it). Even better, you can try to live as he wants you to. You can ask him to fill you with his Spirit (a great move). You can study the ancient books about him. You can praise him. Actually, if you love anyone today I suggest you take some time to praise them. Speak to them. Send an appreciative email. Try to do them good.
I haven't seen Jesus, but I do love him.
The great city
God cares about his world. He wants us to care too.
On Sunday we are going to look at the biblical book of Jonah. There's a lot of exciting stuff in this book about storms, big fishes and trees that suddenly shrivel up. But it's really about a city that God cared about and a man who didn't agree with him.
Jonah knew that God was compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. The problem was that Jonah wasn't.
Nineveh was a great city. It was the centre of a great empire. God thought it was great. We know this because it says so in the book of Jonah. Three times. Jonah hated the city. He wanted God to condemn it. History tells us that he may have had good reasons, but Jonah was not looking through God's eyes.
So here's my advice today: love the place where you live and work. And if God has called you somewhere: love that place too. Decide that it is great. Think of it as a place that God loves. Show God's compassion. Be slow to get angry. Try to love the place as God does. There's lots of practical things you can do, but work on your attitude as well.
Manchester is a great city. Oldham and Rochdale are great boroughs. God thinks so. Let's agree with him.
In his love