Welcome everyone! It’s great to be with you again and for us all to have the chance for a proper catch-up. Take a moment to think about what you’ve noticed God doing in the last month since we met. Is it something you read in scripture? Is it something you noticed in Creation? Maybe a word someone spoke to you (or you spoke to them)? Did you have an unusual dream or prophetic vision of how the world could or should be? God is speaking to us all the time in many and varied ways – but are we listening? (During the service you will have a chance to share something you think the Lord may be saying . . .)
As most of you know, since we last met in this context, I’ve been fortunate to travel on pilgrimage in “The Footsteps of Paul” through Turkey & Greece. After a couple of days in Istanbul, we traveled first to ancient Antioch (where believers in Jesus were first called “Christians” and from where each missionary journey was launched), then Tarsus (Paul’s hometown), and then visited the various towns mentioned in Acts and the area of Galatia (Side, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra (the hometown of Timothy, Eunice and Lois), Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Ephesus.
On day 9 we caught a ferry and traveled to Greece and journeyed the area called Macedonia in the bible, which included Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, & finally Corinth. One real highlight was visiting the river where Lydia (and her household) was baptised. The water was cold!
The Apostle Paul was just so amazing - so many obstacles - even the intimidating buildings, hostile country and especially the oppressive darkness of pagan (& highly sexualised) religion.
But he had:
- Clear call/encounter with Jesus
- Encouragement & challenge from those further ahead in the faith
- Accountability with the Church
- Many years training & preparation
- Failure & redemption
- High character
Nothing to it really!
“Persistence despite many and great adversities” was the overwhelming impression I had of Paul. Nothing was wasted and everything was used in the promotion of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah (to the Jews) and the one true and living God to the pagans. And his fundamental tools for growing the church were preaching about Jesus, demonstrating his power and living life amongst the households of people of peace. There was not much growth for many years, but in the end his own disciples were planting churches in places Paul had never been to – his message was so compelling.
You will receive your annual report today and I encourage you to take it home and read it and give thanks to God for all that is happening. The work of the Gospel goes on, even here at St Matt’s. For those of you so inclined, please also consider taking nomination forms for Parish Council, Wardens & Incumbency Committee. I’d be very glad to discuss those opportunities with you before you nominate. Our Annual Meeting will be held on Sunday 4th December, after the service and before dinner . . .
God bless, Ian.