By Faith Alone

As a church we describe ourselves as both Reformed and Anglican. As we celebrate the reformation over the next few weeks we’re going to run a series of blog posts seeing how these two aspects of our doctrine relate to one another and why it matters for us today.

Let me begin with two quotes, the first from Martin Luther, the second from the 49 Articles of Religion:

“Faith alone, when based upon the sure promises of God, must save us; as our text clearly explains [John 6:44-55] …And in the light of it all, they must become fools who have taught us other ways to become Godly.”

Martin Luther, On Faith, And Coming To Christ. 

“We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the homily of Justification.”

Article XI, The Book of Common Prayer

Salvation by faith alone underpins both the truths rediscovered in the Reformation and our Anglican doctrine. The emphasis is on the ‘aloneness’ of faith for justification, rather than it somehow being combined with what we do or deserve.

Practically, whilst there being nothing we can do to influence our salvation can be a difficult pill to swallow – we always like to feel we’ve contributed or earned what we get – as article XI says it’s actually a real comfort. If we are justified by faith alone then nothing we do can make God consider us righteous, but also nothing we do makes God consider us unrighteous either.

Salvation by faith also is full of comfort because it is based on Jesus’ righteousness rather than our own attempts at being righteous. And whereas our righteousness is always found wanting, Jesus’ righteousness is perfect, and by faith alone it is counted by God as our righteousness.

sola5.jpg

Starting work at Christ Church Walkley

A little bit of my story

Christ Church Walkley-4.jpg

The journey of coming to work for Christ Church Walkley (CCW) began quite a while ago, when life was quite different. CCW wasn’t even at the planning stage, Jen and I had no children, I was studying Physics at uni and Jen had just started work as a doctor. I honestly can’t remember whether I approached Tim (the minister of Christ Church Central, CCC) or he approached me to discuss doing an apprenticeship at CCC. But, as we sat on Devonshire Green I vividly remember him saying that if I did become an apprentice then it needed to be with the genuine possibility of heading towards full-time Christian ministry. 

The idea had been on my mind on and off for a couple of years, but that moment felt like a fork in the road for Jen and I. Seek out a job in the world of physics, or start down an unknown and unpredictable road towards vocational ministry. We chose to head down the path of an apprentice, and God has been good to us as we’ve walked that road; Christ Church Walkley was born a year later, an opportunity and the funds to study at Oak Hill from Sheffield arose and our family has grown to 4. For much of this time we’ve had little idea what coming next, but we’ve learned to trust God.

About a year ago I finished training at Oak Hill and CCW began the process of seeing whether we could find a way of me working in a ministry capacity full-time. By the generosity of the church family, and a trust, we’ve pretty much got there so I started this September.

So what am I actually doing?

Ephesians 4:11-12 gives the broad principle behind what I hope to do as a shepherd-teacher:

"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd-teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ."

In the first instance the particular equipping that I’ll be focussing on is developing pastoral care within CCW so that the church family is more able to care for those inside and outside the church. Pastoral Care is an area I’ve increasingly become interested and experienced in, mostly through walking together with broken people in a broken world where we all need God’s word to do its work in our lives.

This applies to both Christian and non-Christians – we all need to be pastored with God’s word. At a recent conference evangelism and pastoral care were linked like this:

"Evangelism is just pastoring non-Christians. Pastoral care is just evangelising Christians." (Glen Scrivener)

So, my hope is that I’ll be able to equip the church to pastor one another so we grow in maturity, and to pastor our friends so they come to know Jesus.

For the first few months this means I’m starting to put time into developing some of the good things that are already in place. Including training and looking after small group leaders, and others, who have an interest and gifts in this area. I’m doing a course on Biblical Counselling over in Liverpool to learn from the wisdom and experiences of others with a view to seeing how we could use this evangelistically. This is alongside the regular things of prayer, preaching and teaching, and general overseeing that comes with being an elder!

Get in touch with Kenny Larsen here.

S6 Foodbank Visit

Jen Rawling recently visited the S6 Foodbank and tells us about it here:

As a church, we love the community that we live in. As part of this love for those around us, we recently decided to start supporting the S6 Food Bank. It is part of the Trussell Trust, and exists with the purpose of 'helping people in crisis'. It is able to provide food packages to people from the local area who, for a variety of reasons, are struggling to feed themselves and their family. We were invited along to find out more about how it works, and came away incredibly impressed.

The Food Bank is open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11am-1pm, so I turned up one Friday at the end of August with Chris and Caroline, ready to see how it works. We were quickly welcomed by the volunteers there, and made to feel like part of a team. Before opening, the volunteers were divided into two teams: those to sit at tables, and those to collect the food packages. It wasn't long before a steady stream of people in need of food started to arrive. As they came through the door, with their referral slips in hand, they were directed to a table. At that point, they were offered a hot drink before the volunteers at the table went through a 'shopping list' to see what food and toiletries they needed that week. When the list was complete, it was held in the air for the food packaging team to collect.

The food packers then disappeared with the list to the store room, and filled shopping bags with the requested items. Meanwhile, the table volunteers were able to have a chat with those who had arrived in need of food: about the weather, their weeks, their background, the various community events that were being organised... until the food packers returned with their week's food.

The sense of community that this format gave was inspiring. Everyone who came through the door was shown love through the way they were spoken to as well as the through the practical support that they were given. This is an incredibly simple and effective way of supporting those in crisis on our door steps. Sadly, the Food Bank is often short of, or runs out of, particular items. This is where we come in! There is a collection box in the office on Howard Road for you to bring non-perishable food items or toiletries. If you want to know what our local Food Bank needs each week, there is a free app you can download from Google Play / the Apple Store. The box will be available at any point that you are in the office, with the monthly prayer meeting offering a regular focus point for donations. 

Sheffield-S6-three-color-logo-e1460625307558.png

'Be killing sin, or it will be killing you'

Each and every single Sunday when we hear God’s word together it is a moment of immense spiritual importance. That said, as I get ready to preach there are some parts of the bible that seem to stand out as of particular relevance to our church life at that time. 

The sermon on Romans 8v12-17 from a couple of Sundays ago was like that. This was partly because of the way v13 urges us to engage in a lifelong, sustained and continuous battle with our sin:

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
— Romans 8:13

Here are just three of the many reasons this verse, and the sermon on this passage, are of such importance:

1. It’s not familiar

The call of this verse is repeated elsewhere in the bible (for e.g. Colossians 3v5) but it’s not one we hear all that often these days. We are so used to either ignoring or winking at our sin, and even using God’s grace as an excuse for doing so. But the life lived by God’s grace is a life of putting sin to death.

2. It’s both realistic and hopeful

v13 assumes the presence of sin in the life of Christians - there’s no fanciful notion that we will ever be free in this present life from the need to engage in this struggle. At the same time Paul speaks in such a way as to raise our expectations of being able to achieve real progress in the battle. We are not held captive by sin anymore. We can, by God’s grace, experience change. 

3. It’s a must

This is what a Spirit-led life looks like. This is what those who are headed to glory do on their way there. And a life of unchecked sin is headed down a very different path. This is a struggle we must be engaged in. 

If you weren’t in to hear this particular sermon I’d encourage you to make the time to listen. In fact, I’d encourage each of us to listen to it again with the bible passage open in front of us. 

bokeh-blur-blue-white-158658.jpeg

Vicky Howard in Ethiopia

It was just over a year ago that I stood at the front of church and was commissioned to go as a missionary to serve God in Ethiopia. I vividly remember how nervous and uncertain I felt as I looked out over all of the smiling faces of people in the congregation. Was I mad to leave my home, job, family, friends, and safety to go and work in a developing country that was surrounded by war torn countries and was itself going through political instability?! But I felt certain of God’s call for me to go and serve Him and felt so encouraged by my church family to go and fulfil Jesus’ call to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:10). So, with one giant leap of faith I got onto the plane to Ethiopia. 

I went to Ethiopia to volunteer as a teacher at Bingham Academy in Addis Ababa. Bingham Academy is an International Christian School whose aim is “to provide quality Christian education within a multicultural community, developing students of integrity who can change the world for God’s glory.” The school was originally set up 70 years ago to provide education for the children of missionaries in order to help them continue their work in Ethiopia. Before the school was established, missionaries had to leave their children back in the UK/USA/Canada for 5 years or more at a time. Can you imagine?! The school has now grown immensely and provides education not only for missionaries’ children, but for the children of diplomats, aid workers, and Ethiopians also. It was amazing when I asked each student that I taught what their parents did. In my A Level class alone, my students’ parents’ jobs included being a vet for poor farmers, doing Bible translation for remote tribes, running a set of schools for orphans in rural areas, being head spokesperson for the African Union, and being a famous preacher who was leading a revival in the south of Ethiopia. It was such a privilege to be able to support the work of each of these parents through educating their children. The school also had its own mission field as many families and staff were not Christians so we had the wonderful opportunity or sharing the gospel every day at the school also. 

Living in a developing country certainly had many challenges. Just simple tasks like shopping, food preparation and washing clothes took a lot more time and effort. I never got used to having to bleach my fruit and vegetables for 20 minutes, before washing them in drinking water that I had to collect from the school water fountain across the yard! It certainly made me realise what a convenience culture we have here and how much just having “choice” is a sign of affluence. I still feel overwhelmed now when I walk into a supermarket in the UK! And don’t even get me started on the unreliability of the phone and internet! Sometimes we had to go without internet for days, even weeks, and regularly had power cuts and no running water. These are all things that we take so for granted in this country and should be more grateful to God for. 

It is also very challenging to be surrounded by so much poverty all the time. As soon as I stepped out of the school gates, I was met with shoe shine boys, beggars, children in rags, and disabled people dragging themselves along the floor. It really did break your heart to see the conditions that many people lived in and the immense struggle that just living day to day can be. Addis is very overcrowded and there is not enough work available but still thousands of people flock from the famine-ridden countryside to the capital in pursuit of a better life, and are sadly often left disappointed. There was one horrific incident whilst I was there where the main landfill site collapsed, burying alive hundreds of people who lived and scavenged on it. The stories that came from Bingham’s parents providing aid at the site were devastating. Sometimes the only way that I could cope was to become numb to the poverty and suffering that I saw and it was sad how quickly it just became normal to see. But God’s heart is for the poor and I saw so much wonderful work being done to provide aid for the people of Ethiopia. I was often humbled by the amazing faith and joy that the Ethiopians had; they found happiness in the smallest things and worshipped God with such passion. My favourite days were Wednesdays when I helped run an outreach project after school, Yetesfa Birhan, for poor girls from the local area. Just seeing their smiles as we fed and played with them, and being able to tell them that God loved them was so special. 

Ultimately, my time in Ethiopia has helped to strengthen my faith. There were certainly times this year when my faith was tested. I did not always trust that God would answer our prayers or I just tried to do things in my own strength. But time and time again, God provided for us and protected us and answered so many prayers. When I looked back at the prayer requests I sent to church in the UK, I realised that every single one was answered! I also witnessed and worked with other Christians with such incredible faith in God’s power and purposes who really encouraged me, and I saw God at work across Ethiopia. God has done amazing things for me this year and for Bingham. I am so glad that I took this leap of faith and stepped out of my comfort zone to serve God abroad. I would strongly encourage others to do so as well and to see how our God is the God of all nations.

The Spirit and Christ

One of the things we will inevitably keep coming back to as we make our way through Romans chapter 8 is the work of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, this is a subject that can be a cause of confusion amongst Christians. 

One of the reasons for that is because we separate the Spirit’s work in our lives from Christ’s work for us. We sometimes focus on issues of particular gifts the Spirit gives, or certain experiences we ascribe to the Holy Spirit. But the big picture of the Spirit’s work is that he is all about Christ; making Christ known, conforming us to be like Christ, putting into effect the salvation Christ has won. 

This is something we’ve seen even just in the first 11 verses of Romans 8, for example:

Jesus achieves what the law could not achieve (v3) in his death on the cross but this becomes ours through ‘the Spirit of life’ (v2). 

Christ died so that we might live a new life of obedience to God, but this new life can only be lived by walking according to the Spirit (v4)

The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ and it is impossible to belong to Christ unless the Spirit dwells in us (v9). 

Jesus rose again for our salvation but his resurrection will actually becomes something we share in and experience ourselves because of the Spirit who dwells in us (v11).

In other words, Romans 8 shows us that what Christ has achieved objectively for us in his life, death and resurrection, is applied and made real to us personally by the Spirit. 

This blog post is related to the recent sermon on Romans 8v5-11 which you can listen to again to by clicking here

bokeh-blur-blue-white-158658.jpeg

Why bother exploring Christianity?

Candi recently attended our 'Uncover' course & very kindly wrote a blog post to tell us about her experience...

"If you’re anything like me, you may well be wondering what you can expect from an evening course on Christianity…  Do you need to be a full-on Christian or is it OK if you aren’t sure what you believe?  Will they expect a lot of background knowledge of the Bible or can you learn as you go?  Is there an expectation of regular Church attendance once you’ve been on the course?  I can’t pretend I wasn’t a bit nervous before my first session, especially as I’d missed week one because of a work trip!

It turns out that the simple answer to all of those questions (along with any others you may have) is that there’s no expectation at all… There were only three of us taking the course when I attended, and Pete didn’t seem at all bothered by the fact none of us was what you’d describe as a ‘solid’ Christian.  Each of us had our own reasons for attending, for example wanting to understand the beliefs of close friends/family or simply a deep interest in the subject of Christianity.  

For me it was both of these.  A close friend of mine is a member of Christ Church Walkley, and talks often and openly about her faith.  In return I bug her with random Christianity questions on a fairly regular basis and at some very random times of day!  She mentioned that this course was about to start, and it seemed like a nice opportunity to learn more.  The other thing was, despite attending Church every Sunday for most of my childhood I don’t know exactly what I believe and to what extent.  I know that I have some belief in God, but in the words of one of our group I’ve never been ‘zapped’ with that sudden and absolute certainty of faith that some people experience.  I also don’t feel like I ever really explored what the bible has to say.  I can quote various Biblical stories, but I’ve never really thought in any detail about what they actually mean and what message they’re trying to get across.  The Uncover course seemed like a nice chance to revisit these stories with a more critical mind.

So what does it actually involve?  The basic format was to show up and read through a short passage from Luke’s gospel, before working through a set of structured discussion points.  Pete did a really great job of making sure we completed the week’s task but also allowing room for us to go off on a tangent when one of us had questions.  I got the impression the three of us taking the course were all quite similar in that we could easily be put off if even one small detail didn’t make sense, so being able to bring up questions when we had them really helped. 

Pete’s knowledge and understanding not just of the Biblical stuff, but of its historical context as well, made a real difference to my enjoyment and understanding of the passages we covered.  Who else would be able to explain that a grown man running was likely to be a subject of ridicule, or why a curtain ripping in a temple was such a big deal?  Certainly for me his breadth of knowledge really helped bring the passages to life much more than simply reading them.

In terms of practicality there was also very little time commitment (I think we were scheduled for an hour and a half per week for six weeks), which was reassuring at the start – no fear of letting people down if it turned out not to be for me!  (Having said that, all three of us have already signed up for whatever comes next, so you may find yourself hooked once you start).  There was also no ‘homework’ as such, so you could read around the subject more if you wanted, but with no pressure to do so.  

Hopefully that gives you some idea of what to expect if you sign up for this or a similar course…  If it’s something you’re considering, I’d say just give it a go – at worst you have a good chat and something sweet to eat (did I mention that the regular Church folk sent homemade cakes and biscuits to each session?!) and at best you’ll discover the urge to keep on finding out more!" 

To find out more or to sign up to our new Explore Course, click here.

nasa-53884.jpg

Why read the Psalms?

Recently we returned to regularly reading through the Psalms together on a Sunday. For some people this might seem like a strange practice. Aren’t the psalms a little bit random and archaic, and isn’t it confusing to be reading parts of the bible that we’re not then going to have explained?

Well, here are some brief thoughts of mine to help us understand why we’re reading through the Psalms and to help each of us engage with them as we do so.

It is good for us to have plenty of bible in our gatherings

If we believe that the bible is the word of God, then our Sunday gatherings should contain plenty of reading from the bible. This is part and parcel in fact, of creating a culture of ‘total bible saturation’ in our church. In fact it is a little bit odd that often churches like ours, who say they take the bible very seriously on paper, have often devised services and gatherings with a minimum of bible in them. Someone could get the impression that our words to God are far more important that his words to us, which surely is the wrong way round? Punctuating our gatherings with plenty of scripture can and should take many forms – reading whole passages of the bible, including those that aren’t going to feature in the preaching that day, is one of the ways we can do that and demonstrate that the words of God, and not our words, have first place in our lives.

The psalms are significant for piecing the bible together

In some ways the Psalms is like a theological reflection on the history, laws and wisdom of the rest of the OT. Therefore it’s no surprise therefore that the Psalms is one of the most-quoted books in the New Testament. The psalms are fundamental to our understanding of Jesus’ life and mission.

The psalms are a help to us in the reality of life

The 150 songs and prayers in the Psalms cover an incredibly broad range of circumstances and emotions. This makes them of immense value pastorally, helping us work through anger, loss, fear, doubt, joy, sickness within covenant relationship with God our Father.

The psalms are important for prayer and worship

(Almost) unique amongst the whole of the bible, the Psalms aren’t simply God’s words to us, many of them are also words given to us by God for us to say back to him. As such the Psalms are the prayer or song book of the bible – the place where God teaches us how to speak with him. It is no surprise that for centuries the Psalms have been pretty crucial to the corporate worship of God’s people.

We may find the Psalms odd and unfamiliar at times, but part of how they get to work in our hearts and minds. By inviting us, daring us even, to take their words and ideas and expressions on our lips, the psalms change us and shape the way we relate to God.

For all these reasons, and more, the psalms have usually played a significant part in the corporate worship of God’s people. Getting to know them and praying them together is very worthwhile.

valentino-funghi-146040.jpg

A few extra thoughts from Deuteronomy 23:15-24:7 (Part 1)

In a passage such as this one, where there is so much going on, it was always going to be hard to say everything on a Sunday. So I hope these thoughts will help you to get to grips with some challenging bits of scripture.

I was asked on Sunday, how 24:1-4 fitted into the wider idea of care for Israel/ the church family that I was talking about. 

When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

The key is found in v1 really – when you read it closely you see that it is the wife who looks to find favour with her husband on discovery of whatever the “indecency” is. So the responsibility is then passed onto the husband to care for his wife – as indeed he should. Instead he casts her out, into another marriage where the same result ensues. Instead of being lovingly cared for in her pain, she is potentially turned out onto the street without the support network of husband or father to care for her.

We have to remember that, unlike today, women were very much reliant upon the men in the family for their care and survival. Whilst this is not the case today, the need to look after those in church family who need love and care remains. In a throw away culture, we must reflect the love and care that we have been shown through Christ, to cling on to, support and not discount those in our family who need it.

One of the ways we do that is thinking through what marriage is, and this passage helps us to do that and I’ll say some more in part 2!

michal-grosicki-216658.jpg

A few extra thoughts from Deuteronomy 23:15-24:7 (Part 2)

Continuing to think on about Deut 23&24, I was also deeply struck by the call to watch our tongues in 23:21-23

21 If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.22 But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. 23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.

We don’t really make vows in the same way as perhaps Israel did – it isn’t part of our culture. However, I think v23 points us towards watching what we say all the time – not to mention Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:33-37

33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil

and then also James refers to it too. So there is a real imperative here to think about what we say and how we say it!

I was mainly thinking though about marriage vows. Both from the perspective of those of us who are married, but also those of us who are not. I was also thinking about marriage here because there are the other bits in the passage that relate; divorce in 24:1-4 and also being newly married in 24:5.

For those of us who are married, life is not always a bed of roses! Things can be hard, two sinners (or more when there are children around) living under the same roof is hard. Re-reading the marriage vows (which is the first time I really have in 6 years), in context with the challenge here in 23:21-23 begs the question of how do we look after our marriages? How do we protect them?

What is also clear is that within the context of the passage but also the vows themselves this is not just an issue for the married couple themselves but also for the whole community. In the marriage service the couple are called to “make your vows, in the presence of God and his people.” and there is also the chance for the people to respond with a “We will” when asked whether the marriage will be supported.

So whether we be married or not, part of the community’s role is look out for those who made solemn vows to each other and to the Lord.

I have been challenged by the vows I made when I got married. We live in a culture which is sadly marked by broken marriages and homes – much more so than at any time previously. When things are hard and when there seems to be an easier option round the corner, being challenged and held accountable about what we promised to do seems like a good way to allow people to grow.

When I said to my Wife “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to serve, till death us do part;” I didn’t say “until things become difficult, until I’m bored or until I get a better offer”, marriage was never sold as easy and in some ways it is a good thing that it isn’t easy. It allows us to grow.

When you pair this with the other challenges that the bible throws at you; Ephesians 5 in particular, I was really challenged in how I lead our marriage. Not too well is the honest answer. I’ve never been good at making sure we set aside time to read the bible and pray together, brief spells of good practice have been just that, brief. If I am to live up to the vows I made to the Lord and to my Wife, then I need to be encouraged and challenged to do that more. The call on me as a husband (and all husbands) is to serve our wives sacrificially, not to have the family serve our own agenda.

A huge part of my service to the Lord, is how I keep my promises to Him and to my Wife and that has deeply challenged me in the last week. If I am to keep the promises I made, then spending time in prayer and worship together is going to need to be key.

I talked on Sunday about the need for our humility in admitting we need help, about being open with each other and allowing the church family to care for us. Marriage is between two people, but it is a relationship within God’s wider family, are we humble enough to let others into our marriages?

michal-grosicki-216658.jpg

A few extra thoughts from Deuteronomy 23:15-24:7 (Part 3)

I’d like to continue on the theme of marriage and the wider church family in this last post!

24:5 also helps us think about how we view marriage

When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home for one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.

and I think that there is a real call here to protect fledgling marriages. Those newly married couples within our community need time to grow and strengthen their love and care for each other. They need time to argue about what toothpaste to use and what to do with the toilet seat! Because as I’ve said, marriage is hard. By allowing couples to solidify their relationship, without the pressure of doing too much extra, will only benefit the community in the long term.

Whilst this does discount going off to war, we should be careful to remember that these laws fit into a community who would worship together. And so whilst we should love and care for those who are newly married and not put too much pressure on them – this shouldn’t mean that the doors are barricaded and we don’t see them for 12 months, but that the new family unit is given the chance to work out how best to serve God and the wider church family together – and in the context of this part of Deuteronomy I think that that means the family can play a part too. Helping, guiding, listening, praying with the new couple. As grown up and “on it” as we all think we are, the church family – even ours – is blessed with older, wiser people who have seen it, done it and worked through it before.

We were helpfully reminded during the summer about being able to rejoice in all things. That in all situations we should be more reliant on God to provide for our needs. We have great depth in our church family, let’s not be too proud to use it!

Marriage is important to how the church family works. But it is not the be all and end all. God’s people are not all married, and nor should they be. But strong marriages do seem to play a part in how that community stays together – and grows, spiritually and physically.

If you are single reading this please, PLEASE, PLEASE do not see it as a rallying call to all who are married at the expense of those who are not. It is far from that. It is a rallying call; but one for greater openness, greater honesty, greater humility and most of all greater unity. Whether married or not, if we call ourselves Christians, then we have a role to play in keeping our church family together, strong and united.

Whether we are married or not we are all saved in the same way. We all come before God’s throne as broken sinners in need of salvation. We all need the help of God’s Spirit, God’s word and God’s people to help us along the road. I said on Sunday that with the trials that will surely come, we need to strengthen the bonds between us, so that we can stand together, united around Christ, His cross and His words.

michal-grosicki-216658.jpg