Sunday 18th July 2021

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100 years ago the first building was opened where the people of Long Bridge Baptist church could meet to show the love of Christ through their worship, words and actions. Those people lived very different lives to our own. The first series of ‘Downton Abby’ was set around 1921 – as was the first series of ‘Peaky Blinders’ – but I guess that the residents of Austin Village wouldn’t have identified with either of those depictions of life in the 1920’s.

Their lives would be centred around family life, pleased that the husband had a good job making Austin cars and that they lived in a pleasant bungalow with a garden. But these homes had no Tv’s, fridges, microwaves, or hairdryers, although unlike most homes of that time they had a bathroom and indoor toilet.

So, while there are obvious differences between life 100 years ago and the lives we live, there are also many similarities – such as their hopes and dreams which probably included a good healthy life for both themselves and those they cared about and some of the families living in Austin village also wanted to live lives which reflected the teachings of Jesus Christ their Saviour and Lord.

They were a group of people who would be excited at no longer having to hold Sunday worship in the canteen of the laundry on Mill Walk and would no longer need to go up to Northfield Baptist church to take communion. They would be excited about have a building solely for their use. A building which would enable them to be more effective at sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ through worship, words and actions.

Our bible reading today is from the New Testament ‘Letter to the Hebrews.’ The writer has just listed various men and women who we can read about in the Old Testament - and now the writer is trying to find a word to describe a group of such women and men of faith. He decides to use the phrase ‘a cloud of witnesses’

Read: Hebrews 12: 1-3

The writer reminds us that we can be encouraged and inspired by looking at the lives of other people who have declared that their faith in the living God. Our ‘cloud of witnesses’ is far larger than the one which the writer of this letter envisaged because we have the encouragement of the many, many people who have during the last 2,000 years shown their faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour through how they lived their lives.

Our bible reading then goes on to describe our lives as like being in a race - a race which we have to persevere with – persist with – endure! So, this is not a sprint, but a marathon. A marathon which sometimes seems to also incorporate the hurdles – so perhaps more like a cross-country race!

What we should notice about being a runner in a race is that from one moment to the next, things change in a race and the runner has to constantly adapt to these ever-changing situations. Whether it is the quantity and combination of runners surrounding them or adapting to a change in the weather, or in the case of a marathon adapting to the changing geography of where the race is taking them. This is also true for us as we endeavour to live lives that glorify our Lord Jesus Christ both individually and together as church, we constantly need to adapt to changes and as we look back at the cloud of witnesses, we can see how they adapted to the changing circumstances they encountered so at to be able to witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Whether those witnesses are people we read about in the bible or people who have lived in the last 2,000 years, we can see through their witness that because God is the living God, he is able to shine though any change in circumstances.

The cloud of witnesses who over the last 100 years have called themselves ‘Longbridge Baptist Church’ have constantly dealt with change, but have also done what our bible passage encourages us to do – fix our eyes on Jesus. Just as a serious runner in a race fixes their eyes on the finishing-line, so we through keeping our mind on Jesus will see how best to continue to Make Christ’s love known through worship, words and actions.

Page last updated: 24th July 2021 1:48 PM