Sermon at the closing of 9:00am service


The 9am service at Holy Trinity closed on Sunday.  The danger of closing services is that people only see decline, believers can be discouraged and mourn the loss of another aspect of traditional worship patterns.  But Psalm 77 gives us a great perspective on the goodness and faithfulness of God to his promises.  This is what I said on Sunday morning:

Psalm 77

“All good things must come to an end.”

And this morning, the good thing which has been the 9am service at Holy Trinity is coming to an end. There was once a time when every church had three Sunday services, morning prayer or Mattins, the main communion service and the evening prayer or evensong.

And Holy Trinity is the last but one church in West Bromwich to have an early morning service. We have kept this tradition alive longer than others, and yet this good thing now comes to an end.

The end of this service might create mixed feelings,
sadness for the need to change and the loss of rhythm to Sunday morning;
thankfulness for the good memories of people and this place;
anxiety about the future of the church;
praise to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who does all things well.

I have chosen to speak this morning from Psalm 77, because in this psalm we gain a proper perspective of the Lord’s work.

A mourning for days of past glory and song
Courage based on events of the past
Faith in the Lord, for the future

One of the stories I’ve heard many times since moving to West Bromwich is what a lovely town it once was. Marks and Spencers and Debenhams in the High Street.

The settled community, where everyone was born and grew and worked and married is long gone. There is a mourning for the days of past glory and song.

I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:

7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favour again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

The 9am service must carry with it a sense of the former days.
And so we might like to acknowledge the collective grief of this town.
It’s alright to cry out with the psalmist, though his language may be too strong for us today
Perhaps his grief was more urgent and immediate
Less long term.
He sings:
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint. S
It’s okay to feel sad about today and to remember the former days of glory and of song.

But it will never do to dwell on the past, and wallow in it’s nostalgic value.

We can and should learn from the psalmist who drew courage from past events.

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.
13 Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The psalmist remembers the mighty deeds of God of long ago
He meditates on the works of God.
We’ll see in a moment that the psalmist remembers how
God rescued the people of Jacob and Joseph from
Egypt.

And we have the benefit of living this side
of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ
who rescued us from a different sort of slavery.

The point is the same,
When things in the present look bleak
The people of faith look back to past wonders and miracles,
Back to the cross.

And so, as we close this service today
We’ll give thanks to God
For past miracles and deeds.
We’ll thank him for every person who has played a part in this service,
And grown in knowledge and love of God through this service.

But above all, we will leave with Faith in the Lord, for the future

When we think of the descendants of Jacob and Joseph,
We should remember the people of Israel in slavery in Egypt.
We should remember the Pharaoh’s edict to kill every new born baby boy.
Pharaoh wanted to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

But God had promised Abraham that his children would be more numerous than the stars in the sky.
God had promised Abraham that he would be the Father of many nations.
God had promised Abraham that he would be a blessing to the world
And that through his offspring the world would be blessed.
God promised a land, a place, where he and his people would dwell together
In safety and peace forever.

And so, as often happened, the people of God were hanging by a thread
And God’s promises looked like they might fail.
Again and again, a remnant of faithful people looking like they would be wiped out,
And then God would act in power and might to bring glory to his name.

Pharaoh, who wanted to kill all the babies, ended up with his firstborns dead, his soldiers drowned and the people of God free, as they multiplied to become as numerous as the sand on the seashore.

This is not the first time that the people of God have been reduced to a small remnant in a place.
It will probably not be the last.
But we can do nothing except leave with Faith in the Lord, for the future.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is growing and multiplying all over the earth.
God did not risk the death of his dear Son on the off-chance that the church would grow.
God is faithful to his promises and we will one day see Holy Trinity Church
Filled with many children
And being a blessing to the nation.
It just might not be at 9am on Sunday morning.
Let us pray.

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One Response to Sermon at the closing of 9:00am service

  1. Richard Huss says:

    Time to update the church web site, which is still showing the 9am service…? We are approaching a similar time in our parish life, too (over in Solihull). Mixed feelings – thank you for your reflections on this.

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