Today’s Sermon – They Can’t Hear the Orchestra

1st text:

1 Corinthians 12:12-31:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Main text:

1 Corinthians 3 5-15:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Message for Children:

I’d like to show you a short little video I made 11 years ago, that has a boring name, but is also called “How to Park a Toy Car”

Did you like that? As you saw, the little ball at the start had all sorts of adventures and did all sorts of interesting things before it set another ball going, which started another little chain reaction, and another, then finally the big ball hit the wall that set off the toy car to park itself.

That first ball didn’t see the end result, it just knew that it did its job well. Life can be like that, in that when we do something good for someone, it can seem like nothing has really changed, when in fact we’ve started a process that will end up causing something truly beautiful. So don’t give up and stop doing good things for people, because the good things you do, especially the things you do for God, are much more important than you realise.

Sermon for adults:

Basically, if you remember the children’s message, you’ll get the main point of today’s sermon, but us adults tend to make things much more complicated than they need to be, and like things to be explained in more detail, so let’s try to do that.

Deep down, all of us would like to make a difference in the world. Some of us have less ambitious goals than others, and many have given up on the idea, but ultimately we would like to think that we can make a little part of the world a better place than it would have been without us.

Many of us look at our own efforts and the results from them, and get discouraged. We don’t see crowds of people getting saved in response to something we said, we don’t get people coming up to us to thank us for something we did for them that changed their life completely. Of course, it’s a very good habit to be sure to thank people that have helped you in small ways, it is a real encouragement to them to persevere with acts of kindness, especially when the person didn’t realise how much what they did helped you.

But small acts of kindness can have much more impact than we realise. Someone who has just been shown a kindness, especially an unexpected one, is in a better mood and more likely to then show kindness to someone else themselves and less likely to be needlessly cruel, so our initial act is multiplied, echoing further and further, making more and more of a positive difference the wider the context we take in.

This is multiplied again by the fact that humans are beings of habit. When we overcome our nerves and do something once, it is easier to do it again, and the more times we do it the easier it gets until it becomes second nature and we do it almost without thinking.

The same can be said for speaking important, even painful truths. Openness breeds openness.

Unfortunately, the same is true in the other direction. Cruelty breeds cruelty, and deceit breeds deceit. So it is a great power that we have, a great responsibility, far more than we realize.

So a kind act, a kind word, a small piece of the truth can help another soul along their journey to find God, but a soul’s journey does not end when it gives its life to Christ, it is only just beginning. As God’s children we have that foundation of Christ, and it’s time to build on that. We can help each other practically, we can study together, share our discoveries, offer warnings about dangerous paths, support each other through difficult times and encourage each other to build good habits and grow in character, becoming more and more citizens of heaven down here on earth. We are not all teachers, we are not all prophets or miracle workers, we don’t all have gifts of healing, we all have different skills, talents and opportunities, but what we do does not have to be spectacular to be worth doing, it can still change the world.

Maybe you didn’t like the analogy from the children’s message. After all, you’re not an inanimate metal ball or block of plastic—you can think, you can choose, you can actively participate in or fight against things, so here is a different one, a musical one, from the ending to the film Robots:

When Herb starts playing by himself, even though he is putting all of his heart and skill into it, it sounds awful, like he’s gone insane and is just making random noises. It’s only when the others realise what he is doing and start playing the other parts that it becomes obvious that he is actually playing beautiful, fun and joyful music.

It can be like that with us. When we try as hard as we can to do what is right, serve God, and stand up for the truth, but to the outside world we can look like a fool doing pointless random things, and sometimes the situation can get so bad that we start to see ourselves that way.

But that’s because they can’t hear the orchestra. They don’t see the ripples of influence flowing out, the slow processes that have started, the grand context that will show the true beauty of what we’ve done.

In summary, I’d like to share a poem I wrote back in January for people who saw all the scary currents in the world and were tempted to despair and shut themselves off completely.

[Perception]

So don’t give up, you just can’t hear the rest of the orchestra yet.

Drowning

I barely have the strength to keep my head above the waves,
My face bombarded by a roar of driving rain and spray;
The broken hull of my old ship is sinking out of sight,
Flashes from the thick, black clouds illuminate the sky.

I’m losing vital body heat,my limbs are growing numb,
Cries of rage and anguish pour from my embittered tongue.
I’m sure the sharks are circling below me in the deep;
As soon as one dares venture up, I’m nothing but fresh meat.

I let my head go under, the storm is muffled, faint;
My struggle to survive seems somehow unimportant, quaint;
I am so very tired now, why not just let go
And let my body drift down where the mighty currents flow?

Off to my right approaches a patch of light and calm,
Could it be the peaceful eye within this awful storm?
A chance to feel the sun upon my face one last sweet time,
Float a while, forgive the world, then join the glorified.

I spot a pair of sandals on the surface over me;
The one who lost them overboard evokes my sympathy,
But then a strong hand reaches down from between the two,
Grabs and pulls me up into the clear and crystal blue,

It is the Lord of Life, he came walking on the waves
Through this brutal hurricane my puny soul to save!
He rebukes the mighty storm, the sea becomes as glass;
Every cloud evaporates, the sky is blue and vast.

“Take a breath, get back your strength, be healed and be restored
To the role and purpose you were created for;
There’s still so much for you to do before I call you home:
Many tasks and challenges, and skills you need to hone.”

And so he walks me to the shore,
Where life awaits and so much more,
Invigorated, full of joy and hope enough to share.

From this day I start afresh,
Battling my mortal flesh,
Beginning every morning in grateful, reverent prayer.

When we talk at length,
It gives my soul new strength,
To carry out each worthy work for which I am prepared.

When Our King Calls Us Home

Another song I hope to record one day:




When Our King Calls Us Home.
 
Our squabbles over pottage bowls,
That we disguise as higher goals,
Are worthless when our life unrolls
And our King calls us home.
 
The bitter words we spoke in rage
Can haunt us when we reach old age;
We’re grateful for a fresh, new page
And long to be called home.
 
Kindness shown in little ways
Will sparkle like the sun’s pure rays
When we’ve reached the End of Days
And Our King calls us home.
 
The treasures that we store with Him,
That far outweigh our sufferings,
Will cause our hearts to soar and sing
When our King calls us home.
 
When troubles come and blows we take,
When we feel our hearts will break,
We grow in glory for His sake,
Until He calls us home.
 
So now I make a daily choice,
In the chaos and the noise,
To listen for that still, small voice
When my King calls me home.

Perception

Perception

You might think you’re just a tiny speck within a raging storm,
A thousand different voices screaming at you to conform,
To give up hope, blaspheme your God, and join the vicious mob;
Or stand aside, at least, and let them do their hatchet job.

Defeat is unavoidable, what difference can you make?
What kind of fool would stand there when the dam’s about to break?
Then time itself stands still and you are swept before the Throne,
And He reveals you are in fact a vital cornerstone

To peoples you have yet to meet, besides the ones you know,
Your influence, for good or bad, eternity will show.
A thoughtful act can redirect a life that’s gone astray,
Bring broken souls back from the brink, unfounded fears allay,

Give strength to those so weary from fighting the good fight,
Grant the lame the grace to dance, give back the blind their sight,
As they perceive the holy war that’s waging for their hearts,
Step out from the audience and dare to play their part

In the thrilling drama that decides so many fates,
And takes them in directions they cannot anticipate,
Drawing others heavenwards with every step they take
Along the narrow path, leaving blessings in their wake.

Winter Musing

I wrote most of this this while on a walk yesterday:

Winter Musing

When snowy fields at sunset have turned the world to gold,
Remember truths you must pass on before your heart grows cold:
An empty soul cannot be filled with momentary joys;
A broken heart cannot be fixed with parties, tricks and shiny toys.

Don’t entertain yourselves to death, but reach for higher things,
You do not need to be struck blind or hear an angel’s wings
To witness glory all around in little acts of love,
Appreciate a kindness shown when push has come to shove,

Let the lonely child know there’s a place where he belongs,
Offer words of hope to those whose faith is not as strong:
When darkness overwhelms you and your path is all but gone,
The shadow’s but a passing thing, and you are not alone.

The one who knows your heart and pain,
Who knows your will to rise again,
Who calls the storm cloud and the rain,
Is closer than you know.

So lift your head up strong and proud,
And when before the madding crowd,
Be not afraid to shout aloud,
“In His steps I will go!”

Should they choose to run you through
For staying faithful, pure and true,
Then heaven’s door will be in view,
And joy will overflow.

People Filled with Fear

This is a song that I wrote in April in a doctor’s waiting room, and one that I hope will soon become very dated. It is sung approximately to the tune of ‘When Daddy Let me Drive’ by Alan Jackson.

People Filled With Fear

Sitting in a room of people filled with fear
Don’t want to let their masks slip or get too near.
Everyone so closed off, it’s no way to live;
Welling up inside me, I want to reach out and give

A little gleam of hope, a little glimpse of truth,
There’s more to life than dying once you lose your youth.
You were made to love, you were made to thrive,
I’m determined to be joyful every day that I’m alive,
There’s no need to despair now, the Father is in charge.

So when the news is scolding us that we’re all doomed,
Remember that our Saviour didn’t stay in his tomb.
Whatever life may throw at us, we have at our side
The mighty Lamb of God who chose us as his bride;

We are filled with hope, we all know the Truth,
We’ve found a secret greater than the fountain of youth.
There’s no need to run, there’s no need to hide,
We have founts of living water welling up inside,
So be bold and courageous, with the Spirit as our guide.

My First Online Concert (inc. Without Love, There is No Life)

Two weeks ago, I took part in the fourth Visible Music Weekend at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Prague, in which the topic was live performances and livestreaming music performances, which culminated with a livestreamed music concert featuring songs by all of the participants in the weekend, together with some prerecorded videos, a short sermon and adverts for the two schools involved to give the live participants time to reorganize the stage between performers. The vast majority of the video is in Czech, so might not be of interest to the majority of my readers. (Some technical issues resulted in just under the first 40 seconds of the youtube video being blank). One of the prerecorded videos is a slightly tweaked version of my “Silent Night” video from several years back (21 minutes 23 seconds in), I feature in the backing choir in one song (39 minutes 37 seconds in), and my live section (starting at 56 minutes 26 seconds) is comprised of a bilingual reading of my Bohemian Advent poetry series, followed by the debut performance of a song I first wrote over a decade ago, but whose musical accompaniment was only finalised an hour before the livestream started, then finishing off with A Hope That Burns.

Through a combination of extreme nerves and no chance to rerecord things, I made a number of errors during my live performance, Over the coming weeks I will attempt to record a better quality version of Without Love, There is No Life for you all to enjoy. Here are the lyrics:

Without Love There Is No Life

(spoken)
Love is full of purity,
It shows patience and humility.
Love is not a selfish lust;
Instead, love gives a grounds for trust.
Love gives a child security,
Love gives a thing its beauty;
Because, without love there is no life.
(music begins on life, the rest is sung)

Love is a many-splendoured thing.
Love gives a broken man new wings.
It perseveres, no matter what the cost;
If you have love, you’re never truly lost;
Love, seeing all my flaws,
Love, guided by higher laws;
You know, without love there is no life.

Love simply wants to hear the truth.
Love, it is not eternal youth.
Love is more than soothing noises,
‘Cause love steps up and makes hard choices.
Love lasts through the ages,
It’s written on all life’s pages.
You see, without love there is no life.

It makes the ordinary great,
Won’t mind if you are late,
Won’t leave you to your fate,
This is love.

Love puts you in harm’s way,
Though you try, you can’t always save the day;
Love is there to share your pain,
To weep and help you on your feet again,
Love is a healing flow,
Love gives you room to grow.
You know, without love there is no life.

Love looks you in the face;
Love helps you find your place.
With love, you can forgive the past,
Move on and build a peace to really last.
Love is where you find your worth;
If you’re loved, you’re more precious than the Earth.
You see, without love there is no life.

It shows you you belong,
It admits when it is wrong,
It’s majestic and it’s strong,
This is love.

But love is not every time returned,
Love is not something you have earned,
Sometimes our care isn’t even prized;
Instead our thoughts are utterly despised.
True love goes on caring anyway,
Even when we walk the other way;
It knows that without love there is no life.

Love is how your soul can truly shine,
Through love I am yours and you are mine,
Love expressed is such an open book,
A life of love is worth a closer look,
Can it be, that here is love for me?
Come explore this greatest mystery,
And see that without love there is no life.

When the People Saw Their King

When the People Saw Their King

When the people saw their King
And shouted praises in the streets,
Laying cloaks as offerings
Before the donkey’s humble feet;

The nation’s healing was at hand,
Vain men dared not stem the flow
Of joy their pride could not withstand,
For fear the people might outgrow

Their iron grip upon the minds
Of the faithful, good and true,
And leave their twisted souls behind,
As God poured out blessings new,

And heaven would come down to earth;
All their hopes would be fulfilled.
All would see their own true worth,
Broken lives would be rebuilt.

As He revelled in the cheers
That greeted Him along the way,
Perhaps He shed an inner tear
At what awaited in five days.

The Day is Coming

Another song I might record one day:

The Day is Coming

My friend was mentioned on the news,
Misrepresenting all his views.
As they piled up lie on lie
I shook my head and gave a sigh.

Sometimes it seems like the devil is winning,
But I know in the end that he won’t be grinning

Oh, the day is comin’
So no, I won’t be runnin’.
I’ll stand, not hide or cower,
‘Cause my Lord, He has the power.

The innocent are torn to shreds
Some in the womb, some in their beds
And in the streets as their blood flows
Some celebrate this horror show

They love the darkness, despising the light
But that won’t be me, ‘cause I know what is right

Oh, the day is comin’
So no, I won’t be runnin’.
I’ll stand, not hide or cower,
‘Cause my Lord, He has the power.

In the kingdom that’s to come,
We’ll see the glory of the Son;
With justice that his foes all fear
And mercy for his bride so dear

United in joy that mere words can’t describe
‘Cause He cleared the Way thought His great sacrifice

Oh, that day is comin’
So no, I won’t be runnin’.
I’ll stand, not hide or cower,
‘Cause my Lord, He has the power.

When it Seems…

Another song I might record one day:

When it Seems…

When your nation’s soul is crumbling
As its purpose slowly dies;
A man of principle can’t find
A sight to soothe his eyes.

All around are trace reminders
Of the way things used to be
When honour, fortitude and trust
Were found abundantly.

Now the enemy is laughing
And his power seems secure,
Your allies are collapsing
And it seems you can’t endure:

There’s a hope that will never fail
There’s a power that’s above the sky,
You are part of a wondrous tale
Of love that simply will not die.

When the sickness overwhelms you
And your body’s wracked with pain;
The strength that always got you through
Has been completely drained,

There’s a truth that keeps you going
Through the fury of the storm;
There’s a kindness overflowing
That will all these woes transform

Into scars of pride and glory
In the kingdom that’s to come
As we witness the full story
Of the Father and the Son:

There’s a hope that will never fail
There’s a power that’s above the sky,
You are part of a wondrous tale
Of love that simply will not die.