December 13, 2008

st-bm-combiWelcome to the ministry pages of St Barnacles website.

St Barnacles is the website of St Michael’s & St Barnabas churches, Devonport.

This is where we publish sermons and other bible study materials for further study.

You can browse or search all our published resources using the sidebar to the right of each page.

Please do use the contact page or comment options to share your insights or questions with us.


Where everyone matters

August 28, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 26th August 2018

Readings – Colossians 4:7-18; Luke 10:1-20

So this morning we are coming to the end of our teaching on the book of Colossians. It’s been quite a journey and to me this has been one of the most significant sermon series in the sixteen years of my time at St Michael’s and St Barnabas. I know that many of you have been away over the summer or missed some odd Sundays, but I really would urge you to spend some time catching up online with what you’ve missed and going back over the book again. We have learnt so much that has been directly relevant to our lives both individually and even more importantly as a church, and I hope very much we will keep coming back to Paul’s teaching in the weeks and months ahead.

And as we reach the end, I thought it would be good for a moment to go back over the letter to remind ourselves just far we have come. As we saw, Paul had never actually visited the church at Colossae; he only had reports of what was going on there. It wasn’t a perfect church – in fact in many ways it was like our congregation here at St Michael and St Barnabas. It had all kinds of challenges, and it was particularly under threat from a form of false teaching that threatened the good news of Jesus Christ. Yet God was at work, and the evidence was in the faith that this little church held onto despite all the challenges they faced, and the love they had for all the saints. So before Paul goes any further, he tells them how much he thanks God for them, and he encourages them that what is happening there is only part of a growing, global movement called the church and that, as he says in verse 6, all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing.

But this church also needed prayer and encouragement. So Paul also tells the church how he is praying for them. Chapter 1, verse 9: For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. For, if the church at Colossae was to be the church God intended them to be, then they needed to know what God wanted them to do. That is why Paul continually prayed for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that they could indeed live a life worthy of the Lord. He wanted them not to rely on their own wisdom and on their own understanding but to discover what the Holy Spirit was calling them to do, in order that their plans and their priorities were God’s plans and God’s priorities and they could truly please Him in every good work.

And as we saw at the time, what Paul prayed for the church at Colossae should be very much how we are praying for our church here in Stoke and Devonport. After all, just as the church in Colossae faced many complex challenges, so do we also today. There is the challenge of outright persecution and hostility, and let’s not forget Paul was in chains as he wrote this letter. There is the challenge of false teaching inside the church, which may seem less obvious, but is nonetheless a real, if subtle, threat. There is the challenge of simply knowing how to apply our faith to our daily lives, and what it means to live for Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »

Faith in the workplace

August 20, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 19th August 2018

Readings – Colossians 3:22-4:6; Luke 11:1-13

The issue

For six years I worked as a chartered accountant in a small practice in Gloucestershire. The company in which I worked concentrated mostly on the motor trade and I could tell you many stories about the used car dealers who were on our books! I certainly learnt a lot about human nature, and I hope something of my experience helped to shape and mould my ministry today. I learnt about the pressures of running a small business, and all the paperwork that’s involved. I learnt about putting in a full day’s work and the strain of commuting each day. I learnt how to read a balance sheet and complete a tax return. And probably the most important lesson of all, I learnt how hard it can be as a Christian in the workplace.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think I had any real idea how to apply my faith to the nine to five routine. I had grown up with the teaching that if you are a Christian, you needed to tell everyone about Jesus, and if you didn’t, you were doing something wrong. Well, in my experience the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus came up very, very rarely and even if it did, I only thought of the right thing to say about 15 minutes afterwards. So on the whole I kept quiet. I went along with whatever was going on around me, yet all the time worrying I had somehow compromised my faith.

So looking back now after some twenty years in ministry, I sometimes wonder what advice I would give my younger self about sharing my faith? First of all, I would point out that in the New Testament there is no such thing as a lone ranger Christianity. To be a Christian in the workplace, you need to be part of a fellowship that is supporting you and praying for you on a regular basis. Secondly, only a very few people are gifted as evangelists. Of course we should all try to talk about Jesus when we can, but only a small minority of Christians have the spiritual gift of sharing their faith openly and easily. And thirdly, and most importantly, the New Testament says surprisingly little about evangelism. If you look at the teaching of Jesus or the writings of Paul, for example, the emphasis is far more on living in such a way that people sit up and take notice, and hopefully then go on to ask questions about what we believe.

So far in the book of Colossians Paul has presented his hearers with a wonderful, breathtaking vision of Jesus. He describes Him in Colossians 1:15 as the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. A few verses later on he calls Him the one through whom God chose to reconcile all things to Himself and the one who brought us peace by dying on a cross for us. That may sound very abstract, theoretical teaching but all the way through the letter Paul wants to show us that such an understanding of Jesus should have a direct, practical impact on the way we live our lives. Those who place their faith and trust in this Jesus have in a spiritual sense already died and been raised to new life with Him. We have been given a new relationship with God as our Heavenly Father, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and we have a wonderful hope stored up for us in heaven.

The challenge

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Loving our nearest and dearest as ourselves

August 13, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas

Readings – Colossians 3:18-4:1; Luke 10:38-42

In one sense the Christian faith is very easy to understand. It is about the love of God which He has shown us in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, and it’s about our need to respond to that love in faith and in action. Now you might well want to add a few more details but in essence that’s it. The Christian faith is about knowing the love of God in Jesus Christ and sharing that love with others. That’s why Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments are to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’… and to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ And even though we might have a few questions about what these commands mean, the overall sense of what He is saying is pretty clear.

But in another sense the Christian faith can be very hard. Loving your neighbour as yourself sounds fine in principle, and in general I don’t have a problem loving my neighbours. I see them from time to time, I smile and say hello, and we get on pretty well. The issue is, however, that our neighbours also include our wife or our husband, our children or our parents, our brothers and our sisters, our boss at work or our colleagues. And to keep on loving like Jesus day in day out, well that can be incredibly hard. We simply know each other too well. And even the most devoted couple or the most loving family comes with a history that alongside the many special memories also includes things we may find hard to forgive; words that cannot be unsaid, no matter how much we wish we could take them back; patterns of behaviour we find hard to break.

Let’s name a truth here: sometimes loving our nearest and dearest can be incredibly tough. I don’t imagine there is a single person here this morning who has never had problems with this whole messy, complicated business of love. It’s the most real and the most pressing challenge that many of us face with our faith, and yet as I stand here this morning, I wonder how many of us have ever really had that much teaching and preaching on the subject. I realise of course that this whole area of love is also one which has caused so many of us an awful lot of pain and heartache, so please, if there’s anything I say this morning which you want to take further with me, do talk with afterwards. It’s high time we brought the subject of love out into the open, and took a long, hard look at what the Bible says on the subject. Read the rest of this entry »

Dying and being raised with Christ

August 9, 2018

St Aubyn’s 9th August 2018

Readings – Colossians 2:20 – 3:4; Luke 9:28-36

I always love it when people tell me their life stories. I love it when they tell me what it was like growing up as a child or how they met their partner, and I am fascinated when they describe the places they’ve been or the people they’ve met. But the part of their story that always interests me the most is when they tell me how they’ve come to faith. I always count it a real privilege to listen to the work God has done in a person’s life, and I am constantly amazed by the variety of testimonies I hear.

For some, if not most, people their stories seem quite ordinary. Maybe they’ve always been coming to church and always known Jesus as their Saviour. Maybe they gradually realised over the years that they could trust Jesus and so made some step of commitment. Other stories, however, are rather more unusual. I have one friend, for example, who met God in the car park of an accountancy training college, and I know someone else who just slipped into church one day to get some peace and quiet and whose life then changed forever. The one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that there really is no one single way in which God brings people to faith. Our stories of coming to faith are all different because we all have been uniquely made in the image of God, and His work in our lives is deeply, deeply personal to each one of us.

But although the way we come to faith differs from person to person, we are all nonetheless united as brothers and sisters in Christ by the one common experience of what God has done in us. Now again the way we might describe that experience may vary from person to person, but ultimately whatever words we use, I would hope we can all tell how our lives were changed for good when we accepted Jesus into our lives. And as we go on in our faith and the years pass, it is also sometimes good to be reminded of that change, and to realise afresh how precious and wonderful it is that Jesus has become our Lord and Saviour. Read the rest of this entry »

Letting the word of Christ dwell richly

August 7, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 5th August 2018

Readings – Colossians 3:5-17; Luke 10:25-37

A few weeks ago we looked at a story Jesus told about a farmer going out to sow some seed. We saw how the seed the farmer sowed fell onto four different kinds of soil – can anyone remember what these types of soil were? And to illustrate the point Jesus was making I planted some nasturtium seeds into four different pots to see how they would grow.

Since then, the weather has been challenging to say the least, and I have been very much hoping that my experiment would actually yield the right result. So let’s see how the seeds have been growing …

Can you see the tiny plant in among the rocks?!

As we learnt at the time the point of the story is that the seed stands for the word of God. The challenge Jesus sets us is to make sure we are like the seed sown on good soil, that we not only listen to the word of God, but actually live by it, and so produce the fruit God wants to see in our lives.

So how exactly do we this? Well, I hope you will agree that Beth provided at least some of the answer in her testimony this morning (see here).  Read the rest of this entry »

Continue to live in Him

July 17, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 15th July 2018

Readings – Colossians 2:5-19; Luke 9:18-27

Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in a place called Colossae. Although it was written nearly 2000 years ago, we have seen there is so much that this letter can teach us today, about the way the good news spreads and grows, about the way a leader should care for the church, and above all about the identity of Jesus Christ, whom Colossians 1:15 tells us is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. And I very much hope that if you haven’t been here, you’ve caught up with the sermons online, or if not, will ask for a copy after the service.

The one thing this letter doesn’t tell us, however, is how the church in Colossae received Paul’s letter. All that we know about Colossae is mentioned in this particular book of the New Testament, and we hear nothing about it anywhere else in the Bible. So when Paul’s messenger, a chap called Tychicus, turned up and read out the letter, we can only guess at the reaction. Did some walk out? Did some cheer and applaud? Were some completely distracted by the latest sporting news? We simply don’t know – only that someone somewhere decided it was worth keeping this letter, and for that we must all be profoundly grateful.

But we do know rather more about the sister church of the Colossians which was in a place called Laodicea about 10 miles along the valley on the banks of the Lycus River. This church was probably also founded by Paul’s fellow-worker Epaphras mentioned in Col 1:7 and we do know Paul considered the churches in Colossae and Laodicea as having some special connection. That’s why in Col 2:1 he tells his hearers: I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea and we learn later on from Col 4:16 that the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians was also to be read to the Laodiceans. In modern Church of England jargon, they were one mission community serving the same region with the one aim of making Jesus known.

So what happened to the church in Laodicea? Well, if you were turn over to the book of Revelation, written perhaps a generation later, you will find these words in Revelation 3:14-16: To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. That’s a very different tone and a very different message from the warm words Paul wrote to the Colossian church. Jesus, the ruler of God’s creation, is issuing a stern warning of judgement against these believers who have over the years have become lukewarm and half-hearted in their faith.

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The marks of a true apostle

July 9, 2018

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 8th July 2018

Readings – Colossians 1:24-2:5, Luke 9:1-6

If you were here a couple of weeks ago, you will know we had a fun All-Age worship looking at the parable of the sower. I planted a load of seeds in four different pots and ever since then Lynda has been regularly watering them in our back garden. My plan is that in a few weeks’ time I will bring the pots back here to St Michael’s and I am just hoping it is the seed that was planted in good soil which will actually be growing!

Four soils – week 1

As we saw back then, the seed Jesus is talking about in this parable is the word of God. God’s way of growing his kingdom is by spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in our hearts, and creating communities of faith and love called the church. But as Jesus makes clear in other parables God is not the only one who goes around spreading His word. There are in every age and in every generation false teachers who plant their own message and build their own types of churches.

It might be the false teaching of a cult like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons who change the message of the Bible. It might be the false teaching of a theologian or scholar who blinds us with their learning. It might be the false teaching of some website or Facebook group which pops up on our search engine. But in whatever form it exists, it is important we recognise false teaching and know how to deal with it. Because although false teaching looks like the real thing, although it may promise much, in the end it cannot change lives for good, and it substitutes human wisdom for the power and glory of Jesus Christ.

It was precisely in order to counter false teaching that Paul wrote his letter to the church at Colossae. From what we can gather, it seems that some had come along claiming to promote a higher and better form of Christian religion, and they were undermining the work that Paul’s friend Epaphras had done to plant and establish the church. And in all the confusion that was going on, there were no doubt believers who were questioning whether Paul was the real deal, and were unsure whether the version of the faith Paul was promoting was the right one. Read the rest of this entry »