|PS2B1||X||m||(No name, age unknown, minister) unspecified|
 I expect that everyone came to church here, this evening because they knew that it was a communion Sunday, and the sacrament of Holy Communion would be celebrated here this evening.
 But there are many of you here also because this is start of the evening services for the winter.
 And you're most likely, here not just for communion but because it's your custom to come to the six thirty service.
 I do very much hope that I can persuade those of you who have just come for communion, to join with us regularly at this service in the weeks that lie ahead.
 Now please don't think that I'm saying this for the benefit of somebody else.
 If the evening service is to remain a strong service of Christian witness then it needs you, not just the Ministers and the organist and the choir.
 It needs you.
 And I hope that you will commit yourself to come regularly.
 Next Sunday at this time we're going to be having a a service of rededication for the leaders of our organizations.
 And rededication for every individual that cares to come along.
 For the next few months Mr and I are going to home in on a theme for these services.
 And the theme will be aspects of Christian living.
 And we're going to take some perfectly ordinary facets of life and try to address them in terms of what they should mean to the Christian believer.
 How we should respond to them.
 We're going to be talking about things like, the Christian and sin, the Christian and responsibility.
 things like our salvation, our failures, love.
 topics like that.
 Tonight then it's a communion thanksgiving service, but let me just spend a few minutes just sketching a little background on some of life's challenges.
 the challenges which Jesus himself presents to Christians, and the challenges which life presents in a general sense.
 In the gospel of Saint Matthew tonight we read, in chapter sixteen at versus twenty four and twenty five, these words.
 [reading] Jesus told his disciples, if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
 For whoever would save his life will lose it.
 And who ever loses his life for my sake, will find it. 
 Now there's a challenge, if ever there was one.
 Jesus Christ never ever calls people to the little things of life.
 Jesus Christ was big himself, he came into the world to do big things and he calls us to do big things.
 But there's something in even the very best of us which would really prefer to take the easy way out, if that's at all possible.
 But Jesus so often pints the hard way, and challenges us to follow him, through that hard way.
 And so now other course, needless to say, is worthy of the real Christian.
 It is an attractive thing to follow Jesus Christ, but it's no bed of roses.
 His call is perhaps the hardest but it's also the highest.
 Now life's full of challenges, the business person on this world, is challenge to work hard and to make wealth.
 Wealth, sometimes for himself.
 Wealth, very often on behalf of others.
 The professional person is challenged to serve well and to make a name for himself or herself.
 All sorts of challenges, but life's biggest challenge is the challenge that Jesus Christ makes to the Christian.
 So what are the challenges of Jesus Christ?
 ... Well one of them is to show that there is something different about us.
 To show that we do live distinctive lives, and that we try sincerely, however imperfectly, but try sincerely to refrain from the seamier side of life, and to concentrate on everything that's wholesome.
 A good example of that that I read about it was the naturalist who was making a study of snakes.
 And he took a poisonous viper and forced its mouth open, and inserted a glass under its fangs and drew out a couple of drops of deadly poison.
 And when the poison was put under the microscope it seemed to contain the most beautiful colours of the rainbow.
 A most attractive thing, and yet it was a deadly poison.
 ... Sinfulness in life can been seen like that too.
 It looks So often it looks beautiful and it looks innocent, and people are attracted to it, Christians also.
 ... And falling before temptation it's easy to let yourself slide down into things that can be very hurtful.
 Hurtful to ourselves and hurtful to Christ.
 And Jesus says Come out from among these things, come out from among them.
 And some honest Christian people do and some find it very hard to do.
 ... And those who find it hard to reject a sinful situation could often argue that they're above it and no way is it hurting them.
 And maybe that's the case, or appear to be the case but it can be hurting the cause of Christ.
 So one of the challenges t is to be ale to show that there is something different about those of us who are Christians.
 Something that other people can see, something that other people like in us.
 Something that other people can be encouraged to live up to.
 Show Jesus Christ by your personal example.
 And following on from that there's the challenge of being faithful to Jesus throughout life.
 Not just when we find it suitable.
 Someone once asked a shepherd whether his sheep would follow a stranger, and he said.
 When they're well they won't do that.
 they won't follow a stranger, but when they're sick they'll follow anyone.
 Now if you sort of turn that round there's a lot in it as it applies to Christians.
 When things are going well there doesn't seem quite the same need to be faithful.
 Indeed even if you are faithful to the gospel that's the time that you often go off on your own and experiment with this and that, different type of Church, different type of fellowship, something that's perhaps not particularly Christ centred at all.
 But it's different when you're up against it, different when you're spiritually sick.
 The history of the whole of the Church shows that having been full to overflowing in times of crisis, in times of war for example.
 But in peace time, people drift away.
 but Jesus Christ calls his people to be faithful all the time, throughout life.
 Not just when it suits.
 I wonder whether Christ would not rather go to Calvary again than to suffer the unfaithfulness of some of his friends.
 Surely the cross didn't hurt him as much as our unfaithfulness can.
 And following from that there's the challenge connected with seeking Jesus, constantly seeking Jesus.
 How do we seek Him?
 We seek him in prayer.
 Over and over again Jesus says, you pray and I will answer.
 Listen to Saint Matthew's gospel again.
 [reading] Ask and it shall be given, seek and you'll find, knock and it will be opened.
 For every one who asks, receives.
 He that seeks, finds, to him that knocks it will be opened. 
 Well we read about prayer and we know about its power but you know we often don't avail ourselves off it and yet it's plainly written.
 Let me give you a biblical example.
 Don't know if you remember in the Old Testament, the book of genesis.
 A narrative about Jacob and Esau.
 Jacob had not seen Esau since he had cheated him out of his birthright, twenty years previously.
 And he knew that Esau hated him, and he was afraid to meet him.
 And because he was afraid to meet him, Jacob spent the night before meeting him in prayer.
 And that is like an awful lot of us.
 We wait until trouble comes, until trouble is staring us in the face, before we really feel the need of God, and pray.
 Jesus Christ challenges us, okay.
 Then why should we accept his challenges?
 Why not just ignore them?
 Well we should accept them for the sake of our own spiritual growth for one thing.
 It's a great inner joy to feel that you're growing in grace.
 At the end of a year it's good to look back and to feel that you have made some progress in your spiritual life.
 there are many people and probably a few of you here tonight, who have been members of the Church for a long time.
 And although you've grown physically, grown mentally, grown possibly financially.
 Don't feel that you've grown all that much spiritually.
 You feel perhaps you don't know very much more about the Bible than you did, say, ten years ago.
 Well perhaps this is a good time just to take stock and to say I know that I'm not all that I should be and all that I ought to be, but by this time next year I'm going to be a bit better than I am just now, in spiritual terms.
 I'm going to grow spiritually.
 ... So we can accept that challenge.
 We can accept Christ's challenge for the sake of our own spiritual growth.
 And we should accept it also for the sake of our sinful world.
 For the sake of those round about us who don't have whatever commitment we have.
 Just remember that the world is looking at we Christians.
 The world is looking at us.
 I was reading an article the other day in a theological journal about the Church in Korea, an dhow it was growing, and how people were taking their faith seriously.
 And because they were prepared to go out and speak about their faith people were being converted from Buddhism to Christianity in their thousands.
 If our faith is just a tiny part of us then nobody is going to notice.
 But if we act as if we belong to Jesus Christ then we shall be seen to have that plus and others will be attracted to Jesus Christ through us.
 I was speaking a minute ago about Jacob and Esau.
 You remember the time when Jacob wrestled all night with the angel of the Lord.
 The angel struck Jacob on the thigh and Jacob limped for the rest of his life.
 that experience changed him in every way.
 Christians have had an experience with Christ.
 Let us hope that it manifests itself through some outward show.
 As a Christian do you feel that you've been changed?
 Can others see Jesus Christ in you?
 Or in me for that matter?
 I'm not sure how many people are led to Jesus Christ through sermons.
 I'm sure that feeding people the word regularly is a great help.
 It encourages our spiritual growth but the initial step, the initial step which people make is generally as a resump result of something much more simple, much more basic.
 It's often more an example of a good life or a special kindness.
 What we refer to as a good Christian action.
 My friends, let's just remember this night that as we've shared bread and wine together, we've reaffirmed that Jesus Christ gave his life so that we might live.
 For his sake then let us give of our best, in every sense of that term.
 Let us accept his challenge, let us be better Christians, and let us begin it now. [break in recording]
 You find the text this morning in Saint Matthew, chapter seventeen, versus twenty and twenty one.
 [reading] For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to their at it will move.
 And nothing will be impossible to you. 
 ... Last Sunday you may remember I held up something at the start of the service, and it was my mail from the previous day and we homed in on one buff letter which had H M inspector of taxes in it.
 Can you see what I'm holding up in my and this morning?
 ... No of course of you can't because I've got nothing in it.
 And even if I did have and had a mustard seed here, you still wouldn't be able to see it for a mustard seed is no bigger than a pin head.
 It's not quite the smallest of all the seeds, but nevertheless it's small enough to make a proverbial point like tall as a house, or small as a mouse, small as a grain of mustard seed.
 ... And as we heard this morning Jesus told us a parable about a mustard seed, although it's small it grows into quite a large shrub.
 One with a height of anywhere between six and ten feet.
 Almost a tree in fact.
 It's big enough for birds to come and make their nests in it.
 And Jesus said that God's dominion, the rule of Heaven, is something like a mustard seed which starts out tiny and ends up big.
 And Jesus also used the example of the mustard seed to talk about faith.
 Jesus, Saint Peter and James and John had just been on the mountain top at the site of the transfiguration, a high point in the gospel story, and right on the heels of that they descended into the valley below and there was a crowd with Jesus' others disciples.
 And out of the crowd came this man who knelt before Jesus and pleaded for mercy for his son, an epileptic, who suffered terribly, was a danger to himself and to others.
 And the disciples had apparently been unable to help the boy.
 A seemingly exasperated Jesus says, Oh faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you?
 How long am I to bear with you?
 Bring him here to me.
 And then rebuking the demon who's presence is assumed to afflict the epelo epileptic Jesus accomplished this healing.
 And so the stage is set, and the disciples came to Jesus privately, asking why they couldn't cast it out?
 Why could they not heal the boy?
 Well I supposed we'd all like to know the answer to that.
 Jesus said simply that they failed because they had little faith.
 Now I've always taken that to mean that if they had big faith, they would have been alright.
 They should have had greater confidence in their power to heal.
 And I've always heard what Jesus goes on to say in the context of that understanding of the text.
 For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you'll say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it'll move, and nothing'll be impossible.
[155_1] And the way that the text is translated I've always supposed that Jesus must have thought that mustard seeds had a lot of faith.
 Something that starts out so tiny must have a lot of faith to believe that it can become something big.
 And we're supposed to have faith like that, faith that can accomplish something big.
 Now matter how small our beginnings.
 We should even be able to move mountains if we have enough faith.
 Well there's only one thing wrong with that interpretation of the text.
 I don't know about you but I have a hard time believing that.
 I can't believe that if you have enough faith you can move a mountain from here to there.
 Certainly not a literal mountain.
 And probably not a figurative mountain either.
 Now there are some people who have doubtless believed that they an do such grand things, but for the most part they've failed.
 I find it hard to believe that all you need is a big faith for mountains to be moved.
 And then when I was reading the text really carefully, I came to the conclusion that that's not really what Jesus is saying.
 the problem with Jesus' disciples and the point here is that it's our problem as well, is not that we lack a big faith.
 The problem is that we lack virtually any faith.
 The problem is a lack of virtually any faith at all.
 What we need is not enormous confidence that we can move mountains as if they were molehills.
 What we need is not that grandiose.
 What the text says is that we are to have faith as a grain of mustard seed.
 That's what we're to have.
 That's the size we're to have, faith the size of a mustard seed.
 Jesus is calling his disciples to have a little faith.
 Faith as big as this minuscule mustard seed that you can't see.
 And the point of his saying seems to be that with the littlest of faith, the great tasks can be accomplished.
 That's what the kingdom of heaven, God's dominion over the world is really like.
 From the very smallest can come something great.
 This simile of the mustard seed is not to call us to some great Cecil B Demille-like ambition.
 It doesn't require us to believe that anything can and will happen if we believe big enough and hard enough.
 It's simply calling us to have a little faith.
 Faith no bigger than a mustard seed.
 And it assures us than even with minimal faith, God's purposes will be accomplished beyond all that we can believe.
 Now you see in our day and generation, we don't need to be reminded of the importance of little things.
 the more we learn about the atom, the more we're astonished at its complexity and its unseen power.
 The more complex and ambitious our technology, the more we realize the billion pound difference that there can be in a millimetre.
 The further we research into the intricacies of the human genes, the closer we come to the possibility of refashioning human biological existence.
 The knowledge that we now have about fertilization and development of the human ovum speaks to us of the miracle of our existence.
 and as we know can greatly complicate the moral and ethical dilemmas of human sexuality and procreation and abortion.
 We all know, perhaps too well, the great consequences that flow nowadays from very very little things.
 ... None the less, in the realm of human events, the teaching of Jesus still goes against our conventional suppositions, because we all assume that big outcomes need big inputs.
 the logic of human effort, would say that to accomplish great things for God, we've got to have great faith.
 But when Jesus says, faith the size of a mustard seed will do, then we have our doubts.
 Someone once said more people are cheated by believing nothing than by believing too much.
 And I think Jesus would probably agree, believing nothing gets us no where, we can do nothing without faith.
 Faith we're told, is the antiseptic of the soul.
 Now that's an expression worth remembering.
 Faith is the antiseptic of the soul.
 Someone without faith has no prospect, no promise of salvation, no hope of life to come.
 Future is closed.
 But that does not follow that with a great big faith we can anything.
 Jesus teaching is not so much about our faith, it's really about God's power.
 It's not the amount of faith that we can muster.
 What Go what Jesus is saying is don't cut God out.
 Give God the slightest opportunity, open yourselves to the spirit, even to the smallest degree, and you'll be amazed what can happen.
 If you're open to the divine power, even just a little bit.
 That's enough for God to go to work in you.
 That's the miracle of the kingdom of heaven, God will take it from there.
 So we mustn't take ourselves too seriously in this.
 Jesus' talk about moving mountains maybe provided a note of humour.
 It's a ca case of gross exaggeration in order to make a point, and parables are full of that.
 The point is that we will never know what God can do with us until we've ventured forward with a little faith.
 We're probably not the people that we think we are.
 People of modest faith but not enough for the really big challenges of life.
 i think Jesus is saying, don't kid yourself, you've hardly got any faith at all.
 We sceptics when it comes to healing the world's infirmities and redeeming its great sins.
 Far from being only slightly shy of great faith we're almost completely unpractised in the art of letting God be God.
 And of entrusting ourselves in to the power of his mercy.
 How did you get where you are today?
 What started you off, say on the track of your present work?
 If you're married, what are the circumstances under which you and your spouse met?
 Possibly you can't remember.
 Many of the young couples that come here to see about their weddings, when asked, admit that their relationship had a pretty unspectacular beginning.
 Most didn't start out with plans to get married.
 Most of us didn't begin our education or our first job with plans to do what we're actually doing today.
 Most of us have lived long enough to know that you can't say with any certainty, where you might be in the future.
 And part of the mystery of our existence, is if they we If we give ourselves in faith to God, even in the small and inauspicious ways, the consequences of doing that might be enormous.
 Jesus' disciples, with their little faith, were soon to become a small Jewish sect.
 Their leader, whose own origins were inauspicious humanly speaking, was going to die a pretty ignoble death, but those who had gathered around him subsequently discovered that there were depths to experience and power that words can hardly explain.
 That little faith went on to go right round the world and it's here today.
 Faith, my friends, is the prospect that all our relationships can be transformed, it's openness towards a movement of grace, a path to discover just how little life is of our own making and how much of it comes from a gift which is not our own.
 If we would have faith only the size of a mustard seed, how our lives would be enhanced.
 many of the tensions would be resolved, many of the disharmonies dissolved.
 Our world would be a different place.
 because if we did that, we would be much more fully in the hands of God.
 Would we not?
 So have faith as a grain of mustard seed, amen. [break in recording]
 There are two texts for the sermon this morning which, as you know, is on God, the Holy Spirit.
 Since we've been thinking these past few weeks about what Christians believe, the first text would be in the er skeleton outline that we've been taking in the Apostles' creed, which says I believe in the Holy Ghost.
 You'd find that in hymn five four six.
 I believe in the Holy Ghost.
 The other text would be Saint John chapter three, verse eight.
 The last verse that we read.
 [reading] The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes.
 So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit. 
 Now one of these texts speaks about the Holy Ghost and the other one speaks about the Holy Spirit.
 Perhaps that we should get rid of all the wrong associations with the word ghost, which no longer means what it meant, for example, when the apostles' creed was first translated into English.
 Spirit is much more in the language of today.
 God the Holy Spirit that means God's energy or God's power present with us now.
 And energy's a strange thing because you can't see it as such.
 You can only see its results.
 It's been interesting these past few days to watch the energy of the sun through the effect that it's had on the snow.
 Each time I come out of the onto I'm impressed by the fact that the snow has been much more pronounced on our side of the road than on the other, which has cleared much more quickly.
 And of course it's heat of the sun which strikes the other side but which misses our side.
 And if you look at the roofs of a row of houses, a few days after any snow fall, some roofs are free of snow quite quickly, and some take much longer, even although there's no sun.
 And the roofs that keep the snow for along time, do so either because the house is unoccupied or it's pretty cold inside, or it's got a well insulated loft.
 In other words there's not much heat rising from the living area.
 But for the others heat rises through the roof and enables the snow to melt.
 You can't see the warmth that causes that to happen, you can only see the result of it.
 And the result is snow coming off the roof.
 In other words you can't see the power, you can only see the result of the power.
 The Holy Spirit, the power of God.
 God's power resent with us in the here and now, we can't see it but we can feel it.
 We can see though the result of it.
 This word spirit appears in the very first verse of the Bible, where it states that the Earth was without form and void.
 And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
 And that's the Bible referring to the beginning of life, or the movement and the agent of God's activity is the spirit.
 And the Hebrew word for spirit is Gruak and that really has two meanings.
 And the first meaning is quite simply, the wind.
 And that's quite helpful.
 At some time or another most of us will have sat beside the shore of a loch when there's complete calm and not a breath of air.
 And you know, you look at the water and you see in the water a perfect reflection of what there is above.
 And then, almost imperceptibly, the calm surface become ruffled and the clear images blurred, and it becomes colder.
 And it does that because a wind has sprung up, you can't see it but you can observe its effect.
 And that illustration offers the same image of an invisible power, and with this we can begin to see the spirit of God at work in the world.
 The Hebrew word Gruak And the other idea of that word is breath, and that's not really too different.
 God formed man from the dust of the ground, says the book of Genesis, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
 The Old Testament idea of the spirit of God breathing into human beings something of his own life, or sometimes it's something giving a extra quality of living.
 Indeed sometimes this spirit of God comes to specific people to endow them for a particular task.
 For example it might perhaps enable a prophet to speak out fearlessly in god's name.
 In that and in other ways, it's the unseen agency of God's activity.
 And in the New Testament, the word for the spirit there is the Greek, Pneuma P N E U M A, Pneuma.
 And that has the same two meanings really, wind and breath.
 And from that word comes pneumatic,, which simply refers to a pressure of air.
 From that word too comes pneumonia, an infection which we can get in our human breathing apparatus.
 Holy Spirit, the agent of God's activity.
 As i mentioned a couple of Sundays ago, the spirit is creatively active at the conception of Jesus.
 Conceived by the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit.
 And this spirit continues with Jesus thereafter, it descended on him at baptism, it drove him out into the wilderness to be tempted and so on.
 The spirit is the agent of God's activity.
 I believe in the Holy Spirit.
 God in three person, father son and Holy Spirit, and yet one god.
 Baptism, for example, is to be in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit.
 And the benediction at the end of every service, speaks of benefits from father, son and Holy Spirit.
 The third person of the trinity.
 the Holy Spirit ranks equally along side the other two.
 Not subordinate in any way, God's presence with us now.
 Professor James , a former professor of Church history at the university of Aberdeen, has a little story which goes like this.
 he says two men are looking at a sunset, one of them is awed and humbled by the glory of the fiery clouds, and his heart is lifted up to God in gratitude and wonder.
 The other one glances at the sunset and remarks, Ha, it looks like being a wet day tomorrow.
 A revelation of beauty has entered into the one person, but not the other.
 Late afternoon yesterday, my family and I were going up to Dunkil to visit the Bible class who [...] [break in recording] About a dozen deer and one or two stags high on the hill.
 Shortly after that we rounded a bend and there was sheet ice on the bend, and I felt the car beginning to slip away from me.
 When we reached Dunkil we could have done two things, we could have said to the Bible class, We had a marvellous journey up and told them all about the glory of God as we saw him in the mountains, or we could have said, We almost had an accident on our way up here.
 Again it depends on how you look at it.
 The same with Jesus, many people looked at Jesus and saw a village joiner, or saw a wandering preacher, or saw a wonder working doctor, or a political adventurer.
 But a few looked at him and saw God.
 The revelation was there but not everybody had eyes to see it.
 The revelation remained external, it remained outside the hearts of the majority of the people.
 But it did enter the hearts of some.
 And where it did, these people became the power of God unto salvation.
 And the power which set this realization in motion is the Holy Spirit.
 It is the task of the Holy Spirit to take the revelation God as given to us through Jesus Christ, and to bring it home to us step by step, as we're able to grasp it.
 the spirit points us to Christ and reveals what is in Christ.
 And what is revealed in Christ is the mystery of God.
 the God who is above us as creator and father, the God who is beside us as Christ our brother, the God who is within us as God the Holy Spirit.
 It's the one true God who confronts us successively in each of these three persons, he who knows Christ knows the father also, and he who has the spirit has the father and the son as well.
 [reading] Breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do. 
 Some of you here, I'm sure, will have had the opportunity of visiting Niagara Falls.
 And if you've ever been there and taken the trip on the little boat which takes you right in to the base of the falls themselves, you'll have seen that there's a hydro electric station which takes power from the water at night, when some of the force is diverted, and instead of the water going over the falls it goes through the hydro electric station.
 And power which is generated there goes to heat and light the city of Niagara, and some of it goes to cook the dinners in the city of Toronto, and some of it heats the homes in the city of Buffalo.
 And in years gone by, I understand that some of it was used to electrocute the criminals.
 And the whole reason for these falls is that Lake Ontario is a hundred and sixty nine feet below Lake Erie.
 if both of them were on the same level there would be no falls, there would be no power.
 It's something for us all to have power, power from behind, such as our church.
 Power before us, such as the thrill or the hope of a coming achievement.
 Power round about us, like an organization or a culture, but that's somehow power on the level.
 We all need, in a sense, power from on high, the power from the great dynamo of God.
 The power of the Holy Spirit.
 And it's along these power lines from God the Holy Spirit that comes the power which gives light to those who live in darkness.
 It's along these spiritual power lines that comes the power that gives warmth and sympathy and companionship.
 And it's along these power lines that come health and refreshment and spirituality.
 And along these power lines also comes death, for we recall that little bit of power in Niagara which in former days used to rid the state of its criminals.
 And I liken that to the power from above which can execute our sinful selves.
 Because everything that's in our lives and is displeasing to God can surely be put into the chair of judgement, ad the power turn on and they're gone.
 And we're free to live positive and useful and good lives.
 How does one describe the power of the Holy Spirit?
 I'm sure that in itself is one of God's great mysteries.
 Because the kind of earthly and human illustrations that I've been trying to use this morning are all bound to fall short.
 But the spirit generates the faith by which we know Christ, and it's surely that which makes all the difference between the a mere interest in an historical Jesus and our real living faith in our risen conquering son. [break in recording]
 Today we are celebrating the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
 And in that act we believe that in a spiritual sense that we are lifted up.
 Lifted up to a new level and a new nearness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
 We're brought close to him in a spiritual sense.
 God the Holy Spirit at work.
 God with us in the here and now.
 As we draw near to the table in the course of the nest few minutes to meet with our Lord, in the bread and in the wine, let's just remember today that the power, that the energy, that the spiritual renewal comes to us because God is with us and God is with us now, because of the activity of God the Holy Spirit.
 Let us pray. [tape change]
 Well now, there's a fine text to take on a summer Sunday morning.
 Some of us are going on holiday.
 Some of us have been holiday.
 Some of us are on holiday at this very time.
 In fact holidays was the the theme taking by the elders who were taking the family service at ten o'clock this morning.
 And there was a lot of little hands were shooting up when they were being asked where were they going on holiday?
 Rejoice in the Lord always, a great text for carefree days.
 I don't know about you though, it's a text that I have quite often had difficulty with and it's [...] [reading] And again I say rejoice, rejoice rejoice and again I say rejoice  .
 And that's virtually all it says but it goes over the words again and again, as if it's trying to force you to rejoice through learning the words off by rote.
 There are times when some people find it plain hard to rejoice.
 And they're not help particularly by this text which can consume them with a sense of guilt as far as their faith is concerned.
 Because their faith tells to rejoice, but circumstances of life can be such that rejoicing is the one thing that they cannot do.
 And Paul goes on, a couple of verses later to write, have no anxiety about anything.
 And that can seem to rub in this feeling of Christian inadequacy.
 I suppose that the traditional interpretation of this text would be like saying that the beginning of worry or the beginning of anxiety is the end of faith.
 Where faith ends, anxiety takes over.
 Put that the other way round, the beginning of true faith means the end of anxiety.
 No I suppose we've got to admit that that's true, if we really had faith we wouldn't be anxious.
 But there's times in most lives whee faith is weak and anxiety is strong.
 there are times when we think that if we really had faith, if we really believed, if we were true Christians then we would have this peace and serenity about us.
 And because we we can't be like that we feel dissatisfied and we feel that we're less than perfect in our faith.
 ... And so I suppose we must go back and we must say well is is Paul serious?
 Does he really mean rejoice at all times?
 I think that Paul could feel joyful because he felt that his life was nearing its end at the time that he wrote.
 Earlier on in the same piece of writing, in the same letter to the Philippians he had said that for him to die was gain.
 In his letter to the Romans, he wrote that whether we live or die we belong to God.
 In other words Paul didn't fear death.
 More than that he was almost certainly looking forward to it because it meant going home to be with the Lord.
 Indeed for Paul, the Lord was at hand, the Lord was the centre of life.
 When Paul wrote about the source of his joy, he didn't say maybe or possibly.
 He said I am sure I am sure that neither death nor life nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 But here's an interesting point.
 In the second chapter of Philippians, a little bit before where we read, Paul's describing the seriousness of the illness of his friend and companion,Ep Aproditus And even although he had written that the thought of his own death caused him no qualms whatever, when he was writing about his friend, Aproditus being at the point of death, he said, But God had mercy on him and not only upon him but on me also lest I should have sorrow on sorrow.
 Would the death of Aproditus have brought joy to Paul? no it would not.
 It would have brought sorrow on sorrow.
 So being a Christian then does not isolate us from sorrow or from grief.
 To love someone means that when that person dies we can suffer sorrow upon sorrow.
 Rejoice in the Lord always?
 Probably not.
 If we do so we may deny our pain, it would be to pretend that all is well, and that would mean to deny the biblical faith.
 Someone once wrote, [reading] the riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish can lead to life.
 Only grieving can lead to joy, only embraced endings permit new beginnings.
 Newness comes out of pain.
 Articulated grief is the gate of newness. 
 So if we are to think of all of this in terms of Christian joy then we must realize that joy does not come from being immune to everything else that's going on.
 It comes from knowing that no matter how intense a pain might be or our sorrow or our anxiousness, that Jesus Christ is the ultimate victor.
 It mean that we may not be able to rejoice in what is happening now.
 And we may not be able to rejoice in certain things that have happened in our past.
 But we can always have faith that we will rejoice in what is going to happen in the future.
 The joy of the Christian is that when we express our sorrow and our anxiety we shall receive God's peace and we shall receive God's joy.
 Paul said have no anxiety about anything, but he didn't stop there, he goes on to explain how to rid our lives of anxiety.
 He says but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.
 And then the piece of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 That's the joy of the Christian.
 And the joy of the Christian, you know, is found in knowing that God's going to sustain us no matter what the future holds.
 Goodness knows, you hear somebody saying sometimes, goodness knows why he should suffer like that, he never did any harm to anyone.
 Well that may indeed be so, but the Christian faith has never entered into that particular point, because the Christian faith is never in the business of checks and balances.
 When we turn to God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, God will fill us with the peace which passes all understanding, nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God which is expressed in Jesus Christ his son, our Lord.
 God works together for good in all things.
 Some of us here today may not have all that much reason to rejoice right now but God will ultimately lead us all forward in joy.
 Christian joy is found when we hold on to God's hand and when we learn that fabulous certainty with which we can step out into the uncertainties of the coming day.
 When we really dare to trust God, we find that God is really there.
 and even those who stumble aimlessly through life are constantly and joyfully surprised by God's presence.
 Whenever we confess our anxiety, he helps, and as we confess we receive joy and peace.
 [reading] Oh what joys we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. 
 Being anxious is normal, the next stage though is to admit the anxiety and to ask for the faith to see it through.
 [reading] Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say rejoice. 
 To rejoice in the Lord is to have the unshakable confen confidence that he is always at hand, and that you and I are always in his hand no matter what happens.
 That is the blessed assurance.
 The blessed assurance that God is present in every event, that he is present in every circumstance, that he is working with us to save to heal to forgive to reconcile to restore.
 Rejoicing in the Lord is having the assurance that nothing is ever lost, that nothing is ultimately beyond him and his power.
 In any difficult situation we can know that when we have done what's in our power to do, we can place our problem into God's hand and into God's care, knowing that he perhaps has other hands to take up our work that we have done all we can do with.
 So we must take a text like this at face value.
 let us rejoice in the Lord always, in the midst of everyday life for the Lord is always near.
 The parables of Jesus promise that the harvest will come and our constant prayer is that the kingdom will come and that all God's children will be free.
 Thy kingdom come, say it almost every Sunday.
 It will come, maybe not today maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week but someday it will come.
 There are times in the life of our soul and the summer season is respecter of it, times when we're worried, when we hit a difficult patch.
 Times when we all get down in the dumps, but God can always reach deep within us and put us back on our feet again.
 And in any event we rejoice that God is leading us all forward to that day when we shall be with him, when we will be with the one who makes all things new.
 Rejoice in the Lord always, yes for he heals the broken heart, he binds up the wounds, again I say rejoice.
 there are those of us here today who are happy.
 There are even a few who I'm sure don't have a care in the world, although I'm almost prepared to stick my neck out and say that they're in the minority.
 but if you are in that fortunate position then rejoice and give thanks.
 Give thanks and do your best to spread your good fortune around, as the old song goes, spread a little happiness.
 But if, and most of are I'm sure that we've come today with some thorn in our flesh somewhere, some worry, some difficulty or a disappointment perhaps of some kind, then just remember that in all things God works together for good with those who love him, and for that rejoice and give thanks, and again I say, rejoice.
 Let us pray. [tape change]