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.


The God who changes lives

September 9, 2019

St Michael’s, 1st Sept and St Aubyn’s, 5th Sept 2019

Readings – Matthew 9:1-13; Acts 9:1-19

I was twelve years old when I committed my life to Jesus, and if you do the maths, that now seems a very long time ago. I was brought up by wonderful Christian parents, went with them to church every Sunday, even worked my way through the Bible reading notes they gave me. But it was when I was twelve I realised I needed to make my own decision as to whether Jesus would be Lord over my life.

My testimony is not dramatic or particularly unexpected. I was away on a youth weekend with my Sunday School teachers, and for the first time I understood for myself that Jesus died on a cross to forgive my sins. At the end of the meeting I asked for a copy of the booklet Journey into Life and later on, I prayed the prayer of commitment at the end.

But my actual conversion only took place about six months later. You see, although I prayed that prayer, I didn’t really grasp what difference Jesus would make to my life. I didn’t feel any different nor did Jesus seem any more real or personal than before, so for the next six months I carried around big questions about the Christian faith.

What made the difference was going away to a Christian holiday centre in Yorkshire called Scargill, a sister community to Lee Abbey. It wasn’t that the youth leaders there said anything new to me, indeed I can’t remember any of their teaching. But it was the love they showed to a precocious and rather obnoxious teenager which showed the reality of Jesus to me. So when I got home from holiday, I prayed that prayer again and this time I knew that Jesus was real and that He was my Saviour.

Why do I mention this? Very simply, because to me the most compelling evidence that Jesus has risen from dead is found in the simple fact He still changes lives today. He changed my life nearly forty years ago. He has changed the lives of many of you sitting here this morning. And I believe He is in the process of changing lives even as I speak. Read the rest of this entry »

Building a community of love

September 2, 2019

St Aubyn’s 22nd August and St Michael’s 25th August 2019

Readings – Galatians 6:1-10; Matthew 7:1-12

I don’t think anyone here will argue that love has to be at the heart of our life at St Barnacles. Love is the basis on which our faith is built. It is the theme which runs through our service of Holy Communion this morning, right from the summary of the law to the giving of the bread and the wine. God is love. He has revealed that love to us through His Son Jesus. And He commands us as His church to love one another as Jesus first loved us.

And whatever else we are called to be or to do at St Barnacles, our primary task remains to build up a community of love. After all, we live in a world which knows so little of God’s love. There are people living and dying all around us who have never had the opportunity to meet the God who made them and cares for them, who have never encountered a Saviour who died for them. So building a community of love is not something nice to do if we have the time, or something we can leave to others in the church. It is a gospel imperative for each and every one of us, to show our family, our friends, our neighbours who Jesus is by our love one for another.

So how then do we build this community? Well, before we go any further, I think it’s really important to be clear what we do and don’t mean by this term “love”. Read the rest of this entry »

Two ways to live

August 21, 2019

St Aubyn’s 15th August and St Michael’s 18th August 2019

Readings – Galatians 5:16-26; Matthew 6:25-34

Many years ago Lynda received a phone call on her mobile from an unknown number. It turned out to be from a garage telling her that her Ferrari was ready for collection. Just to be clear – we have never owned a Ferrari, and Lynda did have the grace to explain it was a wrong number. But I have to admit the thought did cross our minds that perhaps we ought to find some way of turning up at the garage and claiming the Ferrari as our own.

All of us, one way or another, know the struggle we face between doing what we know is right and doing what our heart is telling us to do. Some of us have funny stories of temptations that come our way, some of us have quite sad and tragic ones. And the point that needs to be stressed is that this struggle doesn’t grow any less when we become a Christian – in fact if anything it becomes worse. On the one hand we want to do what pleases and honours Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. On the other we want to carry on doing what we have always done, following our own desires and doing what everyone else around us is doing.

Now in the 19th century there were some Christians who had the strange idea that somehow we could reach a state of perfection in this life and never sin. That particular idea has died out, and with good reason, because experience tells us it simply ain’t so. As the apostle John wrote in his first letter, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. To think we can somehow say we have become totally pure and totally sinless is only to kid ourselves, and to blind ourselves to the fact we need Jesus Christ to save us and to help us. Read the rest of this entry »

Adopted by Jesus

July 29, 2019

St Aubyn’s 25th July and St Michael’s 28th July 2019

Readings – Galatians 3:26-4:7; Matthew 6:5-15

I want you to imagine this morning you are a Roman citizen. You’ve lived a good life. You have become wealthy and prosperous, and your name is known and respected everywhere. You feel you’ve achieved your ambitions and you’re comfortably enjoying the present. But you just have one problem – you have no heir. When you die, everything you have worked for will be lost, your name will soon be forgotten and you will end up at best as just another footnote in history. So what are you going to do?

In the time of Paul, the answer was simple. You’d find a young man of no fame or fortune and you’d adopt him into your family. He would inherit your wealth, your estates, your property, and in return he would take on your family name so you could be certain you had not been forgotten – at least, not for another generation.

Now to us the idea of suddenly being adopted into a rich and wealthy family is the stuff of fairy tales, but to Paul’s hearers it was something they would have known and understood. It was part of the Roman way of life. Paul therefore uses this idea of adoption to remind the Galatians, and indeed ourselves, what being a Christian is really all about. And although this stuff about Roman families may seem remote or irrelevant to us, actually what Paul is saying is just so important.

You see, so many people think the Christian faith is just about your own private belief or opinion, or something you happen to think is true. However, if we really have taken on board what Paul is saying in these verses we will see that our faith is so much more than that, and we will have a radically different and exciting understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »

Dealing with Disagreements

July 15, 2019

St Aubyn’s 11th July and St Michael’s 14th July 2019

Readings – Galatians 2:11-21; Matthew 5:13-20

Today I want to tackle one of the most painful and most personal issues in the life of the church – the whole tricky subject of how we handle, and if possible, resolve, disagreement.

In many ways it’s not a subject I want to talk about. I have this wonderful vision of the church as a community where we all getting along, growing in love for another and helping one another live out our faith in Jesus Christ day by day. But you know, I know, the reality on the ground can sometimes be very different. As a vicar I once knew put it: “To live with the saints in heaven, O what glory… To live with the saints on earth, well, that’s quite a different story.” There are times when with the best will in the world, we fall out, have misunderstandings, say and do things we later regret. So what do we do when that happens?

Well, I’ve seen a number of different responses over the years. Some people don’t tell anyone they’re upset, they quietly withdraw and maybe even leave the church entirely. Some people tell their friends and best buddies and so create a climate of rumour and gossip. Some people go right to the source of the problem and aren’t satisfied until the situation is resolved to their satisfaction. And all those in their own ways are perfectly understandable human reactions. But is there a better, more Biblical way of dealing with our differences? The opening couple of chapters of Galatians tell us there is. And I think if we are to be a flourishing gospel community of love and grace we need to take on board the principles Paul outlines here in this letter, not just for the health and wellbeing of our church, but for our witness to the wider world.

So to start with, let’s go back to the beginning and ask ourselves a very simple question: why did Paul write to the church in Galatia in the first place? Was it because the church there preferred, say, a different worship style? Or Paul felt threatened by other leaders now doing his work? No, it was because the very good news of Jesus Christ was at stake. The other leaders were turning the Galatians away from simple faith and trust in Jesus back to old-style religion with complicated rules and regulations. And this was an issue of supreme importance. You see, if faith in Jesus is not at the heart of a church’s life, something is seriously wrong. Lives and souls are in danger. Action needs to be taken immediately and urgently. Read the rest of this entry »

Revd Tim 20th Anniversary Sermon

July 5, 2019

St Aubyn’s 4th July 2019

Readings – Ephesians 4:1-16; Luke 10:1-12

On Easter Sunday 1989 a painfully shy language student was sitting on a log in a forest somewhere in South-Eastern Austria. He had been working as a language assistant in a local school during his year abroad and the whole experience was enough to convince him he didn’t want to be a teacher. So what to do after leaving university? As he sat and thought and prayed, he began to have the sense God might possibly be calling him to be a vicar, whatever that meant.

So later that year he chatted with the curate at his local church in Cambridge and ended up shadowing a vicar for a week in Tooting. The vicar there was completely overworked and the parish he served was enormous, but by the end of the week this was what I knew I was called to become.

But so far I had no experience of life outside education, and little understanding of what made people tick. I needed to have some experience of the real world, so to cut a long story short, I trained and qualified as a chartered accountant, specialising in the accounts of used car dealers. I certainly learnt a lot about human nature along the way!

However, there eventually came a time when I had to test out my initial calling. I was by that stage married with a family on the way, and I had to decide whether to stay with my day job or not. So I went through the selection process of the Church of England, and much to my surprise I was selected for ordination training and finally ordained deacon on 4 July 1999.

There’s much more that could be said about my ten year journey from a wood in Austria to a service in Chelmsford cathedral, and I would be glad to field questions later. So much happened in that decade and there were so many changes, most, but not all of them positive. But all the way through there was one passage of Scripture that kept guiding me, and helped me discern my sense of calling, and it was this passage from Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 1-16.

Now although there is a lot going on in his reading, at its heart is a simple and essential truth, that Jesus has risen and ascended as king. He sits in the place of honour at the Father’s right hand as Lord of heaven and earth. That not only means that He reigns over all, but that He gives gifts of grace to all who believe and trust in Him. So one way or another, all of us need to work out what those gifts might be.

In my case I embarked on a ten year journey of exploration that led to ordination, and I don’t expect any of you have a story like mine. But Paul tells us in verse 7: to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. And if it is true, that the risen Lord Jesus has given to every single one of us some particular gift then it stands to reason we find out what gift we have received. Because, as we shall see, it is as each and every person uses their gifts that the church grows and matures in a way that honours and glorifies the Lord. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Mission Action Plan

July 3, 2019

St Michael’s and St Barnabas 30th June 2019

Readings – Galatians 2:1-10; Matthew 5:1-10

There have been a few times over the past seventeen years when the Lord has done a new thing in the life of the church, and you know St Barnacles will never be the same again. Last weekend was one of those times. It was so humbling and so moving to hear so many people come forward to give their testimony, and a real encouragement to see how the Lord has been so powerfully at work in so many lives.

And as I sat and listened to all that was being said, I couldn’t help reflecting on the part the church played in each story. For some, the church had been a great help in getting to know Jesus. They had clearly heard the gospel preached, they had been welcomed and accepted into the church family, and they had been helped to grow as followers of Jesus Christ. But for others their experience of church had been far more negative. They had not been made to feel welcome. They may have heard stories about Jesus but never really discovered who Jesus is. They certainly experienced nothing of the Holy Spirit, and the church seemed more interested in promoting things like jumble sales rather the good news of Jesus Christ.

So as I reflected on the role the church played in all these testimonies, the phrase that came to mind was “Signpost or stumbling block?” Are we a signpost pointing others to a living relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Saviour? Or are we a stumbling block that gets in the way of them discovering who Jesus truly is? Read the rest of this entry »