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.


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 »

The Kingdom of God

June 28, 2019

St Aubyn’s 27th June 2019

Reading – Matthew 5:1-10

On 25th October 1967 I was born in Heavitree Hospital in the city of Exeter in the county of Devon. As I now live in Plymouth, I don’t tend to make much of my birthplace, and I am definitely a member of the Green Army. But the place where I was born is important. It meant that right from the moment of my birth I was and always will be a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

And most of the time I am quite happy to be a UK citizen. I think it’s great we have a monarchy headed by a Queen who is definitely a Christian. I cheer when our cricket team does well, I despair with everyone else when our football team fails to live up to expectations. But I realise if I had been born in another part of the UK, I might perhaps be rather less happy about being a subject of Her Majesty’s government. There are plenty of Scottish people who would like full independence, as well as perhaps even a few Welsh and Cornishmen. And who knows? Maybe one day we will have border guards along the river Tamar defending the right to put jam on the scone first.

But generally I am happy to be a UK citizen, with all the rights that it brings. Anywhere I go in the world I know that I have the protection of a democratic government who will defend my best interests. I enjoy huge amounts of freedom in my daily life such as the right to worship, an open press, the ability to say exactly what I think, and in times such as these I think it is worth remembering what immense privileges we have living in this country and not taking them for granted.

Yet being a UK citizen also brings with it responsibilities. For a start I have to obey the laws of the land and be willing to belong to our society. Now we may or may not like the laws we have been given, and we may campaign for some our laws to be altered, but the bottom line is the law is the law, and we are not free to decide whether we live under it or not. I am a subject of my government and my duty is to submit to its authority.

At the same time if we believe and trust in Jesus then we have to understand that we also belong to another kingdom, and live under the authority of another king. That is the point of Jesus’ teaching in our gospel reading from Matthew where he talks about the kingdom of heaven. He wants us to understand that our faith, so to speak, has given us another citizenship, once that is just as real as that on our passport or driving licence, and that we are called to live accordingly as citizens of that kingdom. Read the rest of this entry »

Your story

June 24, 2019

St Michael’s, June 23rd 2019

Readings – Matthew 4:18-25; Galatians 1:11-24

Everyone has a different story.

I’d been to Sunday School as a child … sent, not taken … and occasionally went to my Gran’s church as I stayed with her at weekends from time to time. My Mum had taught me to say the Lord’s Prayer – but didn’t explain it. I went to church on and off through to my teens, but didn’t really like the people there very much, and didn’t learn anything about the Bible or hear anything about Jesus, except at Christmas and Easter.

When I was 13, the Gideons visited my school and gave everyone in my year a New Testament and Psalms (in the King James’ version!). Inside was a reading plan … taking you through the New Testament and the Psalms in a year. I was always a good girl, so I began to read as the plan suggested … a short passage every evening at bedtime. I’d read it through more than once before I got bored, and gave up. Just about that time, a friend at school invited me to her church youth group, and at the end of the evening, we had an epilogue – a short talk on becoming or living as a Christian. It all made perfect sense to me, made sense of what I’d been reading … so I asked if I could also go to church with her that Sunday.

I was 16 when I began to go to church regularly. I joined the Christian Union at school; and aged 17 became chairman of the CU committee. I was 18 when my best friend Hazel told me that she was going to be baptised. I asked her what that meant, and she told me that it was a public declaration of faith in Jesus, of trust in his death and resurrection for your sins, and a commitment to follow him in every aspect of your life. I thought to myself that I could say that, so I was baptised too, just before I left school.

So I don’t know precisely when I first believed, but in my baptism, I made a conscious decision that Jesus would be the foundation of my life. I could go on and on about the ups and downs of my Christian experience, but over 40 years later I’m still hanging in there, still reading the Bible, still learning, still struggling to pray – but he is still faithful. And I can’t think of anything I would do differently.

Everyone has a different story.

In our Matthew reading, we heard how Jesus called Simon & Andrew, and James & John to give up everything to go with him. We know from John’s gospel that they already knew Jesus – Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist – but this was something more. Jesus was calling them to leave their trade, their families and their homes, to go with him on the road telling everyone they met the good news of the kingdom of God (v23).

Paul’s story in Galatians 1 is different again. Paul hated Christians. He was a Jewish prodigy, trained by the best Rabbis to uphold the traditions of the Jews … and he was on a mission to destroy those who called Jesus the Saviour because it threatened everything he believed in. You can read the miraculous story of his conversion in Acts 9 – the original Damascus Road experience – a vision of Jesus that led to a sudden, total reversal of all he believed, that turned his world upside down.

Everyone has a different story … think of some of the characters we met recently in the story of Acts … Cornelius who had a vision and called for Peter to come and explain it … Lydia who met Paul at a place of prayer in Philippi and heard his teaching … the Philippian jailer who witnessed Paul & Silas miraculously released from prison … everyone has a different story of coming to believe and trust in Jesus.

But there is one thing that everyone’s story will have in common. Believing in Jesus changes everything.

James, Andrew, Peter and John became itinerant disciples of Jesus. Lydia opened her home as a meeting place for the church family. Paul was called to take the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles. Some will face opposition from family and friends. Others will be called to serve in the local church, or overseas, or to give generously to support those who spend their time in ministry or evangelism. Everyone will want to tell others the good news of Jesus.

Think for a minute about your story … it might help to think about these four questions …

  1. When did you first start going to church?
  2. When did you first believe and trust in Jesus?
  3. What difference does following Jesus make in your day to day life?
  4. How does belonging to a church family help you follow Jesus?

Everyone has a different story … what’s yours?

At this point in the service, we invited anyone who wanted to, to share their story … either using these four questions, or in their own words. We had a number of different contributions, and would love you to join in by sharing your faith story with us in the comments 🙂