Fr Martin Magill’s Ecumenical Tithing: Rosemary Presbyterian Church
When I used to live in North Belfast, over 15 years ago, I was a regular visitor to events at Rosemary Presbyterian church. I returned there, this time to the church halls, for evening worship. I spoke to a number of people I remembered from that time.
The service itself began with a word of welcome which included a particular mention of me. The minister of the congregation, Rev Philip McCrea, then led us in prayer. This was followed by the singing of a number of hymns including, “Bless The Lord Oh my soul”.
Philip then read Mark 8:31-9:1. The offering was then taken up during which we sang the hymn “Cornerstone”. This was followed by prayer.
Philip took the theme of discipleship for the sermon and began by reflecting on a quotation which referred to a healthy church and a concern for spiritual growth. He explained this was about wanting to get better at following Jesus. Philip pointed out that a disciple was a learner, someone learning in the presence of the Master, seeking to be more like him. Central to the learning was a relationship with Jesus through faith which had to be worked out in everyday life.
Philip pointed out how Jesus transforms us as we follow in his footsteps. As a disciple, the learner by studying the life of Jesus, matures and grows in faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus chose men who were teachable. They lived with him and were taught by him, they could lead others. In the same way, Paul and Barnabas spent time with people. The disciple relates to other disciples and the community. Philip then used a phrase which referred to how in church Christians are to love and be loved, forgive and be forgiven. Disciples need to be intentional in their relationships which would include “embrace the repulsive and accept the weird”.
He then quoted the words of Jesus: “I will build my Church, the gates of hell will not stand against it”. He also developed what Jesus meant by “Deny yourself”. Philip pointed out how easy it was seek one’s own kingdom. Discipleship is “not about me” it is about “taking up the cross”, giving of our lives to his service. In this he told us it is important to grow in faith and continue to grow in faith.
He then invited us to reflect on a number of questions including:
- Who is speaking into your life?
- Who makes me think about what I am doing
- In what ways have you grown in your Christian life?
- In what ways are you disappointed in your relationship with Jesus Christ?
He used the phrase “Make disciples not make excuses” and read from Matthew 28:18-20 and said how this needs to be lived out in our daily lives. Philip talked about the importance of hearing what God is doing in the lives of others. He spoke positively about how the internet can be a resource showing God at work in the lives of others. He invited us to be able to share about our own relationship with God especially when God ministers his grace during the difficult times. He reminded the congregation of a phrase familiar to us: “Christian life is not so much my responsibility as my response to God’s ability”
He then led us in prayer acknowledging our need of God’s grace and mercy. To finish we sang “Hear the Call of the Kingdom”.
As I reflect on the whole experience, I recognise how good it was to worship with people I had known over 15 years ago. I had a number of conversations reflecting on the area and the challenge for the churches in North Belfast I detected a keenness for the churches to work together. I heard about a prayer course based on the ideas of the 24/7 prayer initiative which was open to all the Christian denominations in the area. I also found it helpful to hear about discipleship because the gospel passage which I will preach on from the Common Lectionary comes from Matthew 28 and the command of Jesus to make disciples.