A warm welcome to another edition of Brooklands Digital Church.
The message is given by our Pastor Karl Stanfield, and can be listened to as audio using the LISTEN button above. An audio MP3 is also available via the SAVE button.
The Bible readings are taken from John 10:1-10 and Acts 2:42-47.
The service starts with a 15 minute countdown, where we share some news and announcements. Please use the scroll bar to skip straight through to the service/message if desired.
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We are approaching that day in the Christian calendar when we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into glory (Thu. 21 May). We make a big thing of Christmas and our celebration of Christ’s physical coming, but we don’t make a big thing about his physical departure from earth.
His physical presence amongst us ended with his ascension into heaven. When Jesus ascended into glory it was the last time the apostles were to see Jesus in the flesh. The Lord would still be with them all, of course – albeit in different ways. I now want to look at some of those ways.
Where is the presence of Jesus in this Lockdown? Here I am talking about the presence of the Lord whom we cannot see – and for almost two months, we have all been missing our families; longing to give our loved ones, our children, or grandchildren a big hug, or maybe enjoy a wonderful Sunday lunch together around the table! I am starting to feel hungry just thinking about my usual request in more normal days to Dean to pass me another ‘Yorkshire pudding’ please, or roast potato!
Psalm 23 speaks of the Lord’s ‘shepherding skills in the valley’, and how, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’ – What? ‘I will fear no evil, Why? for YOU ARE WITH ME; your rod and your staff they comfort me…’ I had never thought of it before; how abrupt it must have felt – the sudden lack of the physical presence of Jesus. Jesus’ physical presence was gone, but there was no grieving! My first observation…
1. The Church Grew
His physical absence was not the end of the church – the very opposite, in fact. The body of believers grew in phenomenal ways! It was the teaching ministry of Jesus in those early days that was so important. It is referred to later in the phrase, ‘The Apostles Teaching’.
The remaining eleven apostles, who had spent the most time with Jesus, were a great source of instruction. The four aspects of, ‘teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer’ were part of what the Presence of Jesus meant for them!
Back then, their homes or wherever they met became their sanctuaries. They were not limited to a physical temple built by hands! In those early days, they also enjoyed the ‘favour’ of all the people. Their growing community also included their abundant ‘Praise to God’ for what Jesus had done for them.
So then, this marvellous summary paragraph tells us that, despite Jesus not being physically among them, they were growing every single day! It’s an important part of our own Brooklands church’s Mission Statement: Loving, Growing & Serving!
It was a valley for them in that they could no longer see, follow or listen to Jesus in a physical sense. But they had discovered a new and higher sense of His Presence among them. Not only did they Grow, but …
2. The Holy Spirit blessed
We are at around day 41 since lockdown started. It didn’t happen for fifty days. In the first forty days, they saw Jesus intermittently – on one occasion by over 500 witnesses! Then, after Jesus physically ascended to glory, there were crucially ten days of prayer.
It was then that the Apostles discovered the REAL Presence of Jesus in a new and powerful way!
Here is a great way to describe this growth and blessing by the Holy Spirit – it was ‘Exponential’! That’s a great word! There came times when growth would be steady, but in those early days, and at other later special times since, there was an explosion of rapidly increasing ‘exponential’ growth and blessing; it was all down to the Holy Spirit moving amongst them!
It was the Holy Spirit upon them that signified “The Real Presence” of Jesus amongst them! Historians have referred to these times as ‘Revivals’. The only way to succinctly describe these times is to say people felt the Presence of Jesus – through the Power of the Holy Spirit!
Last Monday, two dear friends in our fellowship, Ann & John, sent me a text saying, ‘Still together as God’s people, even though we are physically apart. Thank God for the Digital Age’, they wrote.
They referenced an old song; I will read some of the words… ‘There’s a quiet understanding when we’re gathered in the Spirit, It’s a promise that he gives us, when we’re gathered in His Name. There’s a Love we feel in Jesus and a Manna that he feeds us; it’s a promise that he gives us, when – we gather in His Name’.
3. The Good News spreads
Everyone who confessed their belief in ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ as LORD was spreading this Good News of the Gospel. The amazing thing was that – every believer took up this cause and ‘gossiped the Gospel’ in an effective kindly way – everywhere. Jesus was in their hearts, in their actions and way of life, and in their acts of kindness to needy people. It was quite literally good news to everyone.
The Good Shepherd was – before them and knew the Way ahead. The Good Shepherd walked – beside them in the Valley of the shadow of death (death no longer held fear, for its power had been defeated). The Good Shepherd was – amongst them by the Holy Spirit both in the miracles that happened and the apparent tragedies that occurred too.
An obvious tragedy was the stoning of Stephen as he testified to the Lordship of Jesus. When Stephen fell, a giant of an Apostle (Saul, later Paul, who was there) was raised up in Stephen’s place to proclaim the same Gospel that Stephen had spoken of with his final breath. And what a breath it was! ‘Though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him’ (1 Pet. 1: 8).
Jesus is amongst us! Amen