Click here to ePlease read Matthew 22 v34-40 Lockdown has been tough. Many people have not been outside their front door for weeks or and no one knows when this will end. It’s had an impact on our sense of hope. For many of us the thought of lockdown stretching out indefinitely into the future is difficult. A lot has been said about people’s mental health, deprived of normal human company, feeling anxious and the strap line ‘It’s OK not to be OK’ has come into its own! The reality is that I’m as vulnerable as the next person and being a Christian doesn’t make us immune to physical illness (including Covid-19) or mental illness. So what about our Christian hope? Last time (May 24th) we considered how God is in the business of changing our state. Water is turned into a gas when heated and power is released! This illustration is reflected in scripture as (Gen 2) God breathes life into the lifeless body he has formed from the dust and he becomes a living being. Similarly, on the day of Pentecost, God sent His life-giving Spirit on a group of frightened, bewildered disciples behind locked doors and they were transformed and emboldened! I want to affirm today, from scripture, that there is hope in the Christian Good News! Hope that is available to you, right here, right now. Our source of hope is Jesus himself. In being born, Jesus entered fully into human experience - good and bad. Jesus’ death on the cross is at the centre of the Bible’s story but the Bible doesn’t dwell on the physical suffering and horror of crucifixion, rather it talks extensively about the meaning of His death. Paul writes “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 1 Cor 5 v21 So Jesus took upon His own shoulders the sin, brokenness and cost of us all so that you and I are made new. God created you and He loves you! He has a purpose for your life to be ‘the righteousness of God’ – That is to live in a right relationship with God and to do amazing things with Him! In the bible reading Jesus is faced with a trick question. The intention was either to get Jesus entangled in a bitter debate that would silence him, or else get him to voice a command he could be accused of disregarding. Jesus cuts through and with clarity, wisdom and from scripture, he puts love for God and love for one’s neighbour at the heart of Christian hope. In our Vision 2023 we want prayer and service to be right at the centre of our values. So we say ‘We are dependent on prayer. All our works are steeped in prayer’ and ‘We are committed to our community. We want to be known for our service to those across our town and beyond’ (Vision 2023 p3) Hopeful Prayer Do you pray? Many people do even if they don’t attend a church or even identify as Christian. Research by Tearfund has revealed a massive spike in people saying they are praying and accessing online acts of worship and that younger people are strongly represented. Psalm 25 v4-5 says “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in
your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long”. Here the Psalmist reaches out to God in prayer for guidance, wisdom and truth. Perfect – just what we need! Hopeful prayer flows out of the relationship we have with God through faith in Jesus. We can think of prayer in two ways. First the time we set apart for prayer, whether together in prayer meetings, acts of worship (and Zoom!) or privately on our own. The second kind of praying is ‘prayer without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5 v17). This is the kind of prayer that seeps into every corner of our lives. Imagine the disciples of Jesus travelling together, eating, resting, telling jokes singing songs, sharing troubles and all the while Jesus is right there with them. “What do you think of that Rabbi?” “Where are we going now Jesus?” “Wow, look at that sunset, isn’t it wonderful?” “I don’t feel great today, I have no confidence. I’m so glad you’re here for us”. Do you get it? Our prayer life doesn’t stop when we say ‘Amen’! Our life with Christ doesn’t stop at the end of a prayer meeting or when we go our separate ways on Sunday! We take Jesus with us and our whole life becomes a platform for prayer. The good, the bad and the desperate. The school run; the hospital appointment; he difficult meeting at work; family life. All the light and shade of our inner lives. All these become the place of holy prayer without ceasing. Hopeful Service When ‘lockdown’ was announced and we were no longer able to meet, I designed a poster for the church notice board. It says ‘The Church has left the building’. Churches were never intended to be shut up in buildings! Of course we have fond memories, and are privileged to have a beautiful building. Since 1834 it has been the home of GSBC - but home, not a trap! So what happens when the church leaves the building? I’ll tell you what – loving service to the community around us. Look at Acts 2 and 4 and there we have a couple of ‘cameo’ pictures of the church at prayer, worship and crucially, generous service. Locally ministries like the Bury Drop In, Christians Against Poverty and Town Pastors add weight and substance to the witness of the church. Individually we can get involved in hopeful service by helping our neighbour, ‘going the extra mile’. Here’s a question to prayerfully ponder…What hopeful service is Garland Street Baptist Church known for? Points to take away · Have you firmly rooted your hope in Jesus yet? You can – today. · How is your hopeful prayer life going? On your own, with others and ‘without ceasing’ · What is the Lord saying about hopeful service? What isGSBC known for or could be known for? A prayer of faith in Jesus Lord of hope, Jesus Christ, I put my whole trust in you today. On the cross you paid the penalty for my sin and offered yourself to me as Lord, Saviour and friend. I now, wholeheartedly, I give myself to you as your follower. Thank you for your Spirit who gives me life. Amen.dit.