Previous Sermons

Spiritual Crop Farming & The Propagation Of The Gospel !”

 

Preached by The Revd Michael Blades at Parish Eucharist on

Sunday Fifth Sunday after Trinity

 

Text: Matthew 13:3. (KJV) 'And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, 'Behold, a sower went forth to sow!'”

 

I was taught in Sunday School that 'a parable' is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning! Our Lord 'spoke in parables', in 'Illustrations'; and when his disciples asked him: “Why do you talk to the crowd in parables?” He replied, “Because you have the chance to understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not.”(Matthew 13:10.) I have a pre-school childhood memory of being taken, for a walk with my grandmother. Into the country, passing a field in which 'A Man went out to sow!' I recall my grandmother, telling me; 'You see that man, Michael?', 'That's Mr Norman Miller and he is sowing his field with corn seeds!' Years, later I was to become acquainted closely with Mr Miller as a Wesleyan Local Preacher. I can tell you that he was just as assiduous in 'the propagation of the gospel'; as a 'Sower of the Kingdom' in the pulpit. As he was in 'the propagation of seed' in his meadow!

So this morning I want to look at the gospel I have just read to you. Asking what it teaches us about: 'The Propagation of The Gospel!' and the principles of 'Spiritual Crop Farming!'

The Noun (Propagate) has two meanings: (i) The growing of a seed (ii) The wide spreading or promoting of an idea.

This morning’s Gospel makes use of both meanings. Because in the Spring when 'we see the young shots of corn'. We realize that is only happening because. 'A Sower went forth to sow!' (Matthew 13:3.) But that was but the beginning of a process that will lead eventually to The Harvest. Given the experiences in the 'Agricultural World ' of recent years, its apposite to recall the words of the Psalmist, 'He that now goeth on his way weeping and beareth for good seed: shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him.' (Psalm 127:7.) Our Lord did not tell this Parable of The Sower as an 'Agricultural Objective Lesson'. He spoke it to teach his original hearers and us today - the principles that lay behind: 'Spiritual Crop Farming.'

I want to Apply those Spiritual Crop Farming Principles to our Mission here at The Church of St. Francis.

The First Principle is:

  • The Sower Is An Outdoor Worker!

It is so plainly obvious that all the activities involved in 'Crop Framing' are 'Outdoor Tasks'. The Sower may have been to 'Agricultural College' but he is not 'A Drawing Board Farmer'. The Harvest that he 'Sows in Hope' is not some 'Virtual Reality Harvest', it is the product of much hard Labour, even if he has that which his Victorian ancestors could only dream of to assist him in the Process of Crop Farming. There are those within the Christian Church who are 'Indoor Workers' rather than 'Outdoor Workers'. They are quite content to keep 'The Bag of Seed' in the vestry and simply pray in the pew for the Spiritual Revival they hope will come in as A Spiritual Harvest, that they have not sown for! They therefore ought not to be surprised when our Gospel this morning spoke of 'Other seeds fell on the rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up since they had no depth, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away.'(Matthew 13:5-6)  There is another verse in (Matthew 13:28.) 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' The Sower replied 'An enemy has done this!' The point being where -The Church of Christ is faithfully 'Propagating' the Gospel - The Enemy (The Evil One) will be 'Sowing his Weeds'.

 

The Second Principle is:

  • The Ploughman Precedes The Sower!

Last Sunday we heard about John the Baptist, 'Preparing' the way for the arrival of our Lord. He was indeed Christ's 'Ploughman'. The Crop Farmer knows also, that if his land is not 'Drained' well. His 'Seed Sowing' will be in vain, because it will not grow in 'Soggy Soil'. So he will labour until the land is drained of that which will 'Prevents Growth'. There are Churches that 'need to be drained' of all that is 'Toxic' to The Kingdom of God. Before that 'Glorious Harvest' becomes a reality in their Church! Ploughing is necessary. The land must be 'turned over' and prepared for the sowing of the seed. That is what lay behind the words describing the Mission of John the Baptist last Sunday; that he 'Turned the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just!'

The Third Principle is that:

  • The Cultivator Follows The Ploughman!

If you were listening to the reading of this morning's Gospel, you will have by now realized that out of the Three Growth Areas mentioned in The Parable Of The Sower: (i) The Rocky Soil, (ii) The Overgrown Thorns and (iii) The Good Soil. Only one brought forth A Harvest Crop! Why was that the case? Because the Crop Farmer knew, so long as the land is

hard, the 'Seed' has no chance to get the 'Nourishment' by which it 'Grows' into the 'Full Blade' of Corn ready for Harvesting. Listen to what our Lord has to say about 'The Good Soil': 'As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.'(Matthew 13:23.) No Christian Evangelist has done his work thoroughly, he who fails to use 'The Rake' as (a Cultivator); its not enough to 'Spread the Gospel'. Then ignore the 'Cultivation' of the 'Sown Seed'. We are going to sing as our closing hymn, the Harvest hymn: 'We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land'. I would draw your attention to the fact that this hymn is as much about 'The Spiritual Harvest of Revival' as it is about 'Harvest Festival'. It is as much a foreshadowing of what Theologians call 'Eschatology' that which will happen at our Lord's 'Second Coming'. We can only sing that hymn if we have been 'Actively Involved' in 'Spiritual Crop Farming'

 

In Conclusion:  Propagate For The Harvest Banquet! For in a moment we shall hear the 'Invitation' to our Lord's Supper in words;

Jesus is the Lamb of God

who takes away the sin of the world

Blessed are those who are called to his supper 

The Propagation of The Seed of The Gospel is about - A Saviour, who like the 'Seed Corn', 'Died for us and for our Salvation'. He 'Rose again according to the Scriptures'. In this Eucharist we have 'A Foretaste of His Heavenly Banquet!' The Greatest 'Harvest Home Supper' that is yet to come. Let our Lord have the last word: 'There is a great harvest' (he told them), 'but only a few are working in it which means you must pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send out more reapers'. (Luke 10:2.) Are you 'A Sower'?, because he proceeds - The Reaper!

Amen.


“ Receiving And Rejecting God's Peace !”
 

Preached by The Revd Michael Blades on the Third Sunday after Trinity
 

Text: Matthew 10:40. (RSV) 'He who receives you receives me, and he who receives
me receives him who sent me.'

At my Ordination to the Presbyterate on Saturday 21st March 2015 I was given by one of my brother clergy, A Pastoral Ministry Companion. This little book that contains the Order of the Service for Holy Communion to the Sick and House Bound. The Order of Service for Holy Communion in a House begins with the words spoken by the minister: “Peace to this house and to all who live in it.” The 1662 Book of Common Prayer in its Order for The Visitation Of The Sick. Has a very specific instruction: 'When any person is sick, notice shall be given thereof to the Minister of the Parish; who coming into the sick person's house shall say': 'Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell in it!' When I worked in the East End of London I was invited to visit a Jewish Family during their 'Shiva'. Which is the Seven Days of Mourning that a Jewish Family keeps when a family member has died. On this occasion their young brother with a learning disability had died at the age of 30 years. As I had been involved with his care, I considered it a great honor to share in what was a family affair. As I entered the house I repeated the words: 'Peace be unto this house and all who dwell in it!' Wearing a Skull Cap handed to me, the sister of my former patient asked quite excitedly: 'How do you know those words?' From 'The Scriptures' I replied and I became her friend for life.

In (2 Samuel 7:29) we read, 'Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant that it may continue forever in your sight'. Its the prayer spoken by King David. In the earlier part of the 10th Chapter of St. Matthew's gospel we read these words: 'As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is unworthy, let your peace return to you.' (Matthew 10:12.)

So what of Receiving and Rejecting God's 'Peace':

  • Receiving God's Peace - Shalom!

The background to my text from this morning's Gospel reading. Is our Lord's Instructions to the Disciples. As they are sent out on their Evangelistic Mission to the 'Lost Sheep' of the House of Israel. Their message is the 'The Kingdom of Heaven is near!' They are given 'Authority' to 'expel evil spirits and heal all kinds of disease and infirmity' (Matthew 10:1..) They are 'Apostles' the word means 'one sent with a message'. I recall after my Ordination receiving a letter from Canon Noel Procter (former Chaplain at Strangeways Prison Manchester),  as a Church Army Evangelist, he had conducted the 'Parish Mission'. When I as a teenager had 'Give my life to Christ' I recall what Canon Proctor wrote: 'Now you have been given 'Authority'. As a Lay Reader I had been 'Commissioned'. As a Presbyter I had been given 'Authority'. I can still hear Bishop Paul Hunt's words: 'Take thou Authority to preach the Word of God,and minister the holy Sacraments in the Congregation, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto'. (BCP The Ordering of Presbyters). That 'Authority' is that which comes from Christ. That is what is at 'the heart' of our Lord's 'Ordination Charge' to the Disciples: 'He who receives you, receives me,and he who receives me receives him who sent me' (Matthew 10:40.) They are 'Now Christ's Ambassadors, as though God were appealing directly to you through us.' As St. Paul puts in (2 Corinthians 5:20.) There is a saying in the Hebrew writings 'A man's Ambassador is like the man himself'. One of my relations was in H.M.'s 'Diplomatic Service' although never an Ambassador, he was by virtue of being 'Attached' to the British Embassy in France a representative of HM The Queen! He was seen as 'Her Majesty's Man' by the French! 
These Disciples are the 'Representatives' of the 'King of King's' and they are to say 'Peace' when they enter anyone's home. But this is not just a polite /casual greeting. The Disciples are carrying into that house/home 'Shalom'. The 'Peace' that as St. Paul puts it is, 'The peace of God which passes all understanding' (which) 'will keep your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4:7) In Hebrew it mean 'Completion' without 'Shalom' there can be no 'Peace'. It means a 'Peace' with God, with our Neighbor and with our selves. As when St. Paul says, 'Since then it is by faith that we are justified let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1.) The second part of (Romans 5:1.) tells us why we are able to have this 'Peace'. Because as Canon J. B. Phillips' translation puts it. Its 'Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace...' These Disciple/Apostles are been 'sent out' to call 'the lost sheep' of the House of Israel into a 'New Shalom' (a New Relationship) with God and to enter into 'The Kingdom' now.

But what of the rejection Of God's Peace!?

When I was at college and went out on Parish Mission. One of the Methods of Evangelism we engaged was House to House Visitation. I always remember being in Brigg in Lincolnshire. One lady at whose door we knock wanted to know if we where: 'that lot who were against drink'. She then went on to tell me that when she and her husband had a sweet and ice cream shop on Skeggness Seafront. The Free Church Council had made an official complaint that 'they where selling saucy postcards'; and that is why she didn't 'go to church'. I also recall that within the local 'Church Congregation' the minister's wife was 'far from sympathetic' and accused us of being 'Too Emotional' in our presentation of the Gospel. As she failed to attend any of our Evangelistic Services. That told us more about the state
of her soul than our Evangelistic Preaching!


In the Context of our Lord's 'Ordination Charge' to his Disciples;we are left in no doubted that there is an 'Eternal Consequence' for those who 'deliberately refuse to accept' the Disciples; and their Message of the 'Shalom' of the Kingdom of God! As one New Testament Scholar puts is: 'To turn the disciples down is to place oneself under God's wrath and judgment'. Our Lord instructs them thus, 'And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.' (Mathew 10:14.) So the 'Consumerism' of our 'Present Age' in which we 'Pick and Mix' even in our religion is certainly not upheld by Scripture.

In conclusion, I believe this morning's Gospel has Three basic Charges for us here at Church Of St. Francis:

(1) Do we Individually Have/Receive Christ's 'Shalom' in our lives? Or are we just Members of the Church Club?

(2) Do we know that - We are called to be Christ's Ambassadors? That people will either Receive or Reject Christ on what they see of Him 'In Us'!

(3) Are we concerned that others know - The Shalom of Christ?

I close with some words written in a Church Report seventy-two years ago: 'The aim of evangelism must be to appeal to all,within as well as without the church, for that decision for Christ which shall make the state of salvation we call conversion the usual experience of the normal Christian' (Towards the Conversion of England Commission on Evangelism - The Church Assembly 1945).


Amen


 

“Jesus At The Door!"

A Sermon preached by Revd Michael Blades at The Church Of St. Francis

Fourth Sunday after Easter 2017, Morning Prayer Service.

 

Text: St. John 10:9. “ I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

In this very hall to your left hand side. To my right side you have 'A Door'. It leads into the secure and safe residential accommodation owned by Southern Housing that we all know as Milward Court. I learnt very early on in my ministry at Church of St. Francis that only those who 'live within Milward Court', may pass through that Door! Yes, others may be allowed in. But they must first be 'Admitted' by a resident. Those who live within may pass 'In & Out'. Because they posses their 'Own Key'. There is 'No Door Keeper!' In this morning's Gospel we hear of 'Jesus At The Door'. Saying some very amazing things and making some amazing claims about The Door, not of Milward Court but about the importance of A Safety Door in 'Sheep Farming'. Its significant that one of our Lord's last words to the Apostle Peter after The Resurrection are 'Feed my lambs' (John 21:15.) But being a Shepherd in Israel was very different in the time of our Lord. The Ninth verse of St.John's Gospel, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved." The Primary meaning is one of 'Safeguarding' rather than 'Salvation'. Secondly the 'Voice' of the Shepherd is Central to the 'Life of The Sheep'. Thirdly the 'Role' of The Door Keeper is 'Vital' to the 'Identification' of both 'The Good Shepherd' and 'False Shepherds'! If we this morning, apply this Gospel passage to 'The Sheep Fold' of our own Church, imaging 'Jesus At The Door', just as (Revelation 3:20) says he is, "See ,I stand knocking at the door. If any one listens to my voice and opens the door, I will go into his house..." Then I believe there is a personal message from Jesus for Church of St. Francis concerning: The Safeguard Of The Sheep Fold! (The Church of Christ). Jesus at the Door says in (John 10:2.) "The one who enters by the gate is the Shepherd", yes but he says in (John 10:9.) "I am the gate". In the East nothing got into the sheep fold without the Shepherd knowing about it. Furthermore, if a sheep fold housed more than one flock, each Shepherd would come to the gate and call his own flock into the pen by name. When all were gathered in the Shepherds would lay down at The Door and Safeguard The Flock. To those who first heard Jesus speak of The Shepherd as The Gate, the words of (Psalm 121:4): "Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep"; took on a deeper meaning. This verse from the Psalms is very pertinent to both our Local Church fellowship, to our branch of the Anglican tradition and to the Universal Christian community. It is always a sadness when one sheep decides to leave The Sheepfold because they don't like the other Lambs. The late Dr Donald English, a leading Evangelical Methodist, once told a conference of ministers that "The reason for our belonging to one another is not large scale doctrinal agreement: it is being in Christ. That is the ground of our accepting one another." The Safeguard of The Sheepfold is in the hands of The Good Shepherd because He is The Gate! 

The message this morning for Church of St. Francis and for the Free Church of England who will in June celebrate its 90th Anniversary Is: 'The Safeguard Of The Sheepfold' (The Church of Christ) is in the hands of 'The Good Shepherd' who is The Gate! The Voice Of Shepherd (The Listening Church) in (John 10:2b.) Jesus says,"The Sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own by name...". One of the Difficulties that I experience along with others is 'Hearing Correctly'. Its a problem that has been around in the Church from the beginning. In Revelation (the last book in the Bible) we hear the 'Voice' of Jesus from The Courts of Heaven; say to Seven Churches in The Ancient World: Let every listener hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. He said that on 'Seven' separate occasions. The point of both John's Gospel and Revelation: is that 'the recognition' of 'The Shepherds Voice' continues as The Sheep follow-The Shepherd to whom they belong. The failure to listen to 'The Voice of The Shepherd' lies at the 'Root' of poor Spiritual Growth. At the Center of every argument in the Local Church. The Cause of every Great Division in The Universal Church. Yet it should not be so, Why?, because as our Book of Common Prayer calls us to do 'when we assemble and meet together ..we are to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul'. The Role of The Door Keeper (Discerning The Will of The Lord) In Psalm 84:10 there is the most evocative exclamation: 'I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked'. If this scripture is read alongside (John10:2-3a.) 'but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens...' We are to understand 'the role of the doorkeeper' is to act as a 'Watchman'. Who knows the 'Shepherd' from the 'Robber'. We are back to 'Safeguarding'. The Primary role of The Doorkeeper is to 'Recognize' The Good Shepherd's Voice! If you were to enter a Greek Orthodox Church. You would find The Sanctuary is 'Closed Off' by a set of 'Doors. Covered with Icons of the Saints in heaven. Then, there is a moment in the Orthodox Liturgy. When the cry goes up, 'The doors! The doors!' and the 'Gates' are opened. It Indicates that only the Baptized have the spiritual vision to see God revealed in the Eucharist. If we turn our mind back to (Revelation 3:20 ). To that scene of 'Jesus At The Door' of the Church in Laodicea. There,the cry needed to go up 'The doors!, the doors!'; because The Spiritual Life in that church was very low indeed. The 'Doorkeeper' at Laodicea delivered: 'A Personal Message from Jesus' In which Jesus tells the Church to 'Repent' of their 'Luke warmness' in their Christian life. Jesus in (John 10:9.) says ' I am the door;anyone who comes into the fold through me shall be safe,He shall go in and out and shall find pasture.' Applied to us at COSF it is a promise of The Good Shepherd that he will Guide us. Provided we recognize His Voice and fling wide the doors open for Him to enter. To the FCE its a counsel to discern the will of our Lord in all her Commissioning/Evangelizing and Shepherding. 

So every time you enter this hall and see 'That Door' remember the that Jesus says, 'I am the door;if any one enters by me,he will be (safe) saved!'; because the reason why Jesus is 'The Good Shepherd'. Is that 'He laid down his life for the sheep'. As the Canticle proclaims: “For he is the Lord our God and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand”

Amen.

 

 


“ Nicodemus - The Religious Man”

What did Jesus say to him ? - You must be 'Born Again'.

A Sermon preached by Revd Michael Blades at The Church Of St. Francis

(The Free Church Of England - Reformed Episcopal Church)

Shoreham-by- Sea -The Second Sunday in Lent 2017

 

Text:John 3:3.(KJV.)“Jesus..said unto him' Verily,verily,I say unto thee,Except a man be born again,he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

Introduction

Today's Gospel reading is an absolute gift to your preacher this morning. Why?,because as a 17 year old Methodist Local Preacher (In Training) this was the very text that I took. When I preached my very First Sermon in the little village Wesleyan Chapel of Gainford on the North Bank of the River Tees in County Durham. I still possess the SermonOutline - 'The New Birth' & Nicodemus'. Do I this morning at age 71 years stand by that which he preached as a 17 year old? Absolutely and more so. Because after 36 years in the Mental Health Service, I know that it is only through a New Creation Experience can the Human Personality be 'Transformed'! You see the 'New Birth' isn’t about 'Turning Over A New Leaf'. Its much more 'Radical' than just 'Human Determination'. In this morning's Gospel Jesus tells Nicodemus why it is so. I want to look at this Encounter of Nicodemus with our Lord Jesus Christ from Three Perspectives.

1. Nicodemus - The Religious Man!

He was a Pharisee, he was devout and well read in the Theology of Judaism. Indeed our Lord calls him 'A Teacher of Israel!' He is well versed in the Teaching of Moses, he recalls that Moses had promised that 'The Lord your God will raise up a prophet from among you like myself, and you shall listen to him.' (Deuteronomy 18:15). Here in this morning's Gospel, we read: “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Council,who came to Jesus by night.”(John 3:1-2) He came clandestinely (in the 'Closet') because he knew that his Fellow Pharisees 'Hated Jesus'. But Nicodemus was 'the exception to the rule'. He was intrigued by 'Rabbi Jesus'. Because he says to Jesus:“Rabbi,we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou do est,except God be with him.” But perhaps Nicodemus wasn’t untypical of his colleagues, because else ware in John's Gospel. Our Lord says to the Pharisees:“You search the scriptures,because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life”. (John 5:39)

The Majority of the 'Theologically Educated', the 'Devoutly Religious' refused to 'Come to Jesus'! But Nicodemus did come, and what is the first thing our Lord said to him? “Believe me”,... “a man can not even see the kingdom of God without being born-again!” Did this 'Teacher of Israel' understand what Jesus meant by the 'Second Birth'? He certainly did not. He says to Jesus ,'How can I go through the process of being born-A Second Time?' But as St. Paul told the Corinthians:“The un-spiritual (Natural) man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God....because they are spiritually discerned”(1 Corinthians 2:14.) So Nicodemus was A Religious but A Spiritually Ignorant Man! But...

2.Nicodemus Was An Inquiring Man!

Nicodemus came to Jesus as an Inquiring Man. In this Third chapter of St. John's Gospel, in verse 7 we hear what Jesus said to this 'Teacher of Israel': 'Marvel not that I said unto thee, 'Ye must be born again'! (KJV)Canon Phillips translates it,'You must not be surprised that I told you that all of you must be born again'.The NEB says, 'You ought not to be astonished,then when I tell you that you must be born again.' Nicodemus,did 'Marvel',he was 'Surprised' and certainly 'Astonished'. And he was 'Theologically Educated' devoutly 'Religious' and a 'Teacher of Israel'.Sometime ago I heard of a clergyman of the Church of England. Who admitted that he had 'never had an experience' that could be described as -A New Birth! He was a 21 century Nicodemus; though one might say, 'he had yet to come to Jesus'. But the the present Archbishop Canterbury knows what it is to have a 'New Birth' Experience: Because Dr Justin Welby tell us “ I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics!” That is precisely what St Paul said 'For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether-the past is finished and gone,everything has become fresh and new.' And...

3.Nicodemus Became-A New Man!

When Nicodemus left Jesus that night-He became -A New Man because the process of his 'New Birth',had begun. Those of you who are Mothers or Midwives will understand that. And yet here in this morning Gospel we hear our Lord say to Nicodemus: In truth in very truth I tell you,unless a man has been born over again he can not see the kingdom of God' .Clearly our Lord is speaking 'Metaphorically' and 'Spiritually'. Even so Nicodemus was never the same after that Encounter with Jesus. That is made clear in Two subsequent references in John's Gospel. When -The Jewish Council are seeking to find a way to do away with Jesus. Nicodemus speaks out, pleading 'Does the law permit us to pass judgment on a man unless we have first given him a hearing and learned the facts?' (John 7:51) The gospel writer gives a specific detail:'Then one of their number, Nicodemus (the man who had once visited Jesus )' (John 7:50.) That means Nicodemus had become a 'Disciple of Jesus' but a 'Secret Follower' of our Lord. Then again when Jesus is laid in the Garden Tomb purchased by Joseph of Arimathaea,we read 'He was joined by Nicodemus (the man who had first visited Jesus by night),who brought with him a mixture of myrrh and aloes,..'(John 19:39) This 'New Man' followed his Master to the end;and presumably became transformed by 'The Resurrection'. But then disappears from the pages of the New Testament.

Conclusion

Many within the Church think as Nicodemus once thought being 'Religious' and 'Devout' is The Way into The Kingdom of God. Our Lord says there is only One Way - A New Birth. Either the 'New Birth' is essential to everyone or Jesus Christ is a liar?,because our Lord maintains that it is. Also if you go to Revelation 3:20.you will hear Jesus say to the Church at Laodicea, 'See, I stand knocking at the door. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will go into his house and dine with him,and he with me.'This verse is the very verse which began the process of 'New Birth' in my life as a 14 year old teenage fifty-seven years ago. As I gave my life to Christ. Previously, I had been very Religious. I was Confirmed and I was very Devout. But the moment I opened the door to Christ I became 'Born Again'. And yet I have to tell you that Jesus is telling 'The Church' in this verse; that Church of Laodicea needs to be 'Born Again'. The Church in our day needs to be 'Born Again'. John Wesley speaks of Three Marks of 'The New Birth' as having taken place in a 'Believer's Life'. He says ordinarily they are 'Annexed' to Baptism,because our Lord says to Nicodemus 'I assure you'...'that unless a man is born from water and from spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God' (John 3:5.) That is what our BCP means when we read in The Infant Baptismal Service, 'This child is grafted into the body of Christ's visible church..'.As J.I. Packer says -Infant Baptism should 'commit' to Conversion'.We don’t know if Nicodemus became 'baptized' Disciple The First Mark in those 'Born Again' is according to St Paul: Faith 'For through faith you are all sons of God in union with Christ baptized into union with him' (Galatians 3:26.). According to St. Peter Second Mark is Hope: 'Thank God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in his great mercy we..have been born again into a life full of hope' (1 Peter 1.3.) The Third Mark-Love: “Such a hope is no mockery, because God's love has flooded or inmost heart through the holy Spirit he has given us” (Romans 5:5)When Wesley spoke of 'The New Birth' some Churchmen accused him of 'inventing' -A New Doctrine'.When in fact he was simply stating the 'Plain Teaching' of both the 'New Testament' and 'English Reformation'. The Principles of which -The Free Church Of England stands for in an -Anglican Tradition. But how do we obtain this Spiritual 'New Birth'? The way Nicodemus obtained it - “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus - who came to Jesus!” That is THE WAY' Come to Jesus'. As you come to His Table in Faith rejoicing in the Hope of Christ. Open to the flooding of the Love of God. Come without delay in Full Surrender! To the Lordship of Christ. Amen.

 


Homily For The Patronal Festival of

The Church of St. Francis

Shoreham-by- Sea

Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

 

Written and delivered by Revd Michael Blades 04.10.2015

 

Text: Hebrews 1:1.(RSV) In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.

 

Introduction.

Today is our Patronal Festival here at the Church of St Francis. 'We don’t worship Saints!', but we do 'Celebrate' their 'Life of Faith' and 'Witness To Christ'. As it says in the Psalms; “Let the heavens praise your wonders,O Lord your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!” (Psalm 89:5.) But, what is 'The Assembly of The Holy Ones'?; not the angels, not the congregation of Israel, but the 'Saints' those faithful prophets, such as Elijah and Enoch who, we are informed were “....promoted to the eternal world without experiencing death.” But even to this day, members of The Salvation Army who die 'In-Christ' are said to have been: “Promoted To Glory! In churches where The Creed is regularly recited; The Communion of The Saints is 'celebrated'. In Churches where The Creed is infrequently recited; there will always be ignorance as to who make up of The Communion of Saints!

Right at the end of this morning’s Epistle we hear these words, “..It was fitting that he,......in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10a)

The little girl who when asked to define - A Saint: replied 'A Saint is one who lets the light in!' She got it absolutely correct; Saints 'reflect light', because The Cross of Christ; has 'Enlightened' them. They have been Transformed by The Experience of Calvary! They have been 'Perfected' by The Saviour at Calvary.

 

As Charles Wesley speaks of that Calvary Location:

“Where saints in an ecstasy gaze

And hang on a crucified God;

By love for a sinner declared”

 

And;

 

  •   St. Francis was Drawn To The Cross of Calvary!

 

The Epistle to Hebrews, says “God,....spoke in times past....”(Hebrews1:1a)

 

That was precisely the experience of St. Francis, our Patron, when he was drawn to The Cross in an old derelict church near Assisi in Italy. His biographer records 'Francis, prostrating himself before the Crucifix, gazed upon the Lord's Cross. When he heard a Voice from The Crucified, saying “Francis go and repair my house.” That was the beginning of Saint Francis' Life of Consecration to Christ.

Francis was called by Christ to 'Rebuild' The Church 'Spiritually'. He knew that it was by The Perfect Sacrifice of Christ. Which we are Celebrating in this Eucharist; that his life was 'Restored'/'Redeemed'. Because, Christ loved Francis and gave his life for him, before Francis Consecrated his life to Christ. Before he was drawn to The Cross of Calvary!

In the Experience of Calvary: Christ Became St. Francis' Companion!

When Christ spoke to Francis from The Cross, Jesus became his Companion. Charles Wesley describes that Companionship:

“My spirit to Calvary bear.

Tis there I would always abide

Or rise to be hid in thy breast;

Tis there I would always abide.

And never depart”

 

Those of you who came to our Church Away Day will recall the story of the little boy; who said to his Minister father 'I can't understand it Dad, How can we live in Christ and Christ live in us?' In other words 'Have Christ As Our Daily Companion - 'be hid in his breast!' Remember what the boy's father did?' He filled an empty bottle with sea water, corked it, and threw the bottle into the sea. Then he said 'There it is son!', 'The sea is in the bottle and the bottle is in the sea.'

And so it was for St Francis, he was 'In Christ' and 'Christ In Him'.

And; 

  • In Francis there was - Conversion of Life!

Those of you who were at the Church Away Day will recall that the Fourth Rule of Life that I gave was: Conversion of Life - Through Conveying The Light of Christ, in our daily lives.

St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks of '...Reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord', and that is what saints do. Francis gazing on his Lord, became a Mirror in which the 'Likeness of Jesus' was clearly seen!

When I first became a 'Consecrated' Christian we used to sing in the Christian Endeavour meeting:

“Turn your eyed upon a Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face;

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.” 

          Conclusion.

         So on this Patronal Festival as you come to Communicate in this

'Means of Grace', come to 'The  Cross of Calvary' and Consecrate yourself to Christ! Come to Christ as your Life Companion. 'Live in Him'  let 'Him Live in You'!

In coming To Calvary this morning, Gaze on That Wonderful Face and be Converted through - The Mirror of Perfect Love:

“ Love Divine,all loves excelling,

Jesus,thou art all compassion.

Pure unbounded love thou art;

Visit us with thy salvation

Enter every trembling heart.”

Amen.

 


Lenten Lecture

Part Two of Two

by Revd Dcn Michael Blades

 

The Secret of Radiant Life

 

In the second part of the Lenten Lecture the overarching Question: Can Spiritual Health Be Achieved?, is repeated.

The answer lies within the New Testament word Sanctification.

St Paul uses Sanctification in two ways:

  1. As Our being Sanctified (Spiritually Healthy)
  2. As Our having been completely Sanctified (Full  Spiritual Health)

Our Salvation (Transformation) is a process of our:

  • Having been  Saved (Past Tense)
  • Being Saved (Present tense)
  • Being Completely Saved (Future and Final Tense)

The New Testament teaches that Spiritual Health depends on Our being ‘In Christ’. A phrase which St Paul uses 164 times.

William Law (a contemporary of John Wesley) said “A Christ not in us, is a Christ not ours”. Meaning that our Lord Jesus Christ is:

  • Able to live in your life
  • But He comes by your invitation
  • Your Spiritual Health depends upon His Occupancy
  • Optimum Spiritual Health equals His Radiance in your life.

The Effect of Radiant Life upon our lives is to make us, different (sanctified) but not Sanctimonious:

  • God’s purpose is not our happiness but our holiness (Sanctification) transformation.
  • A Radiant Life because Christ occupies Our Lives.

St Paul states explicitly, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification!” (Ref: 1 Thessalonians 3.2)

William E. Sangster said, “God would have sinners become – Sanctified Saints”

The aim of this Lenten Lecture (Part 2 of 2) has been to look at the New Testament theme of Sanctification. To define it as ‘Spiritual Health’  and ‘Entire Sanctification’ as ‘Complete spiritual Health’ (Full Salvation). What lies behind our ‘First Class’ journey to ‘Full Salvation’ is that Our Lord Jesus Christ – paid with His life for our first class ticket, He calls us to A Radiant Life.

Will you:

  • Accept God’s Salvation, taking Jesus Christ as Your Lord?
  • Offer yourself by God’s grace to Serve Jesus as Christ the King?
  • Maintain your Spiritual Health through Christ’s Radiant Occupancy of your life?

 

Rev Dcn Michael Blades 17.03.2015

 

 

Lenten Lecture

 

Part One of Two

by Revd Dcn Michael Blades

 

A Spiritual Check Up

 

In the first part of the Lenten Lecture the need for ‘Spiritual Fitness’ has been explained. The optimum for Spiritual Health and Full Christian Maturity (Entire Spiritual Health) has been laid out.

I defined Salvation as: A process that begins now, which gives us victory over sin and death and is completed with God in Heaven.

Our Growth in Christian Discipleship depends as to whether we are travelling with Christ; in First-Class or in reality travelling Second-Class.

Below is a simple ‘Spiritual Check-Up’ questionnaire. It is for you to ponder and pray over during the season of Lent. Take time over each question. Don’t be in a Rush.

 

Q1. Do I know the Lord Jesus Christ is My Saviour?

Q2. Do I experience Christ’s Saving Power in my life?

Q3. Am I spiritually unfit?

Q4. Is the answer to Q3 caused by me travelling 2nd Class? When my Lord wants me to travel first.

 

After having completed the questions, make an act of commitment to Spiritually Work-Out:

 

  1. I accept the Lord Jesus Christ as My Present Saviour.
  2. I vow by God’s grace to be Spiritually Fit for whatever service Christ calls me to.
  3. I promise by His grace to:
  • Keep a daily quiet time with God
  • Read the Bible daily
  • Join fellowship with other Christians
  • Regularly receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion

 

Rev Dcn Michael Blades 24.02.2015