This week we bring a report on the Sunday morning meeting at Strood which was led by Major Karen Smith.
The meeting began with the song ‘Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven’ following which Major Karen asked the congregation ‘What do you praise God for? Prayer time included the song ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God’ and scripture chosen was Mark 10:46-52.
‘Throwing his cloak aside….’ was the title of the message for the children in which Major Karen spoke about how Bartimaeus threw aside everything that hindered him getting to Jesus for healing. Unfortunately there were no children present (something to do with changing of the clocks we believe!) so we missed the fun of seeing children run up and down the hall, first with much baggage (clothing, etc) and then with just their regular dress. They would have been timed to illustrate the significance of Bartimaeus throwing off his cloak.
The song ‘Be thou my vision’ helped to concentrate the meeting on the receiving of divine sight. Major Karen gave her message (Blind Bartimaeus receives his sight), saying (summarised):
Picture the scene, a blind man sitting on a mat at the roadside where he has been for many years. Place yourself in this picture and ask yourself what it mean to you.
Bartimaeus already knew how to deal with people who tried to silence him. He had an active faith which is what drove him to approach Jesus. It was an unrelenting conviction that Jesus would restore his sight.
First of all he is able to grasp who Jesus is. Son of David, he calls him and no other person does that in all of scripture. Only through the inference of the Holy Spirit could he have known that. He sees Jesus as God’s designated agent, a very important person. This uneducated man can understand, through faith, who Jesus is so there is hoe for all of us.
Jesus was often asked for mercy and when so he always stopped and met the request made of him. Bartimaeus persisted and surmounted all the obstacles encountered in coming to Jesus. This is a feature of Mark’s gospel and there are several examples of it. We, ourselves, encounter obstacles in life which hinder us from approaching Jesus so we must keep trying and show persistence just as Bartimaeus did. Don’t let others put their needs before yours. Bartimaeus knew how to do this and this can only be by the Holy Spirit.
It is important to realise that Bartimaeus expected a change. He threw off his cloak because he expected Jesus to be able to see. How else could he find it again! He discarded everything that would hinder him.
Finally Bartimaeus asked Jesus for the right thing. Jesus asked him ‘what do you want me to do?’. He replied ‘I want to see’. This was a simple and confident request, fully consistent with other examples in Mark’s gospel. He did not ask for special privileges as some others had done. He just wanted to be made whole. This simple understanding, not to hold ourselves up for special treatment, is what is required for us to be able to follow Jesus on the road of life.
Bartimaeus was not the first to ask for something from Jesus but he was the only one who then followed him. This is both possible and powerful. ‘Go in faith and sin no more!’ This is the requirement Jesus has of us. May we have our eyes opened so that blindness will be gone.
The favourite song, ‘Amazing Grace’, was used as a solo and the meeting concluded with a grand anthem, ‘In Christ alone’.
For the evening we move to Chatham where the meeting was led by Major Judy Schultz on the theme of Bible Sunday.
‘Break thou the Bread of Life’ was the song chosen to begin the worship, followed by a chorus, the B I B L E, and the reading of Psalm 1. Major Judy continued by introducing the theme followed by a quiz where people were asked to list the books of the Bible in order of appearance (amazing how difficult that is!!). A time of ‘meeting and greeting’ then took place.
The song ‘Tell me the story of Jesus’ preceded the showing of a video about the Bible Society following which people were invited to bring their own bibles to the Mercy Seat for re-dedication. Major Judy spoke briefly about how the ‘best seller’ of a bygone age has, for many people, now become ‘a book of useless information’. The musical ministry of the Songsters was ‘My simple prayer’ and formed part of the ‘dedication’ of the Bibles on the Mercy Seat.
In her message Major Judy said (summarised):
It is lovely to see a large range of Bibles here on the Mercy Seat. Thank you for bringing them.
As we look at our scripture portion we see part of the story of the prophet Ezra, in particular the account of reading of ‘the book of the law’. The people listened, standing, for six hours because they valued the scripture of the day.
There was unity amongst the people as they came together to hear the reading. People from every walk of life were there to hear what God had to say.
There was attentiveness. The people were hungry for the word. They came together to listen, not to boast amongst themselves about anything. Even today, all over the world people are longing for the word of God and they will respond and worship as they did in those far off days.
What do we understand the Bible to be? How significant is it in our lives? We must live out the teachings of scripture day by day because ‘the joy of the Lord is our strength’. Please share the word of God with at least one person this week.
The song ‘How firm a foundation…….is laid for your faith in his excellent word’ brought the meeting to a close.
This weekend has marked the end of the local school half term holiday and a number of our families have been enjoying a short break in Holland. We are pleased to welcome them back and trust that they have enjoyed much fun and fellowship together. The next few weeks will be busy ones as families and churches begin to prepare for the Christmas period. Please pray for God’s blessing on all that will be done in his name.