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Philippians – The Blessing

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The Reading:  Philippians 4:21-23 

“The grace of the Lord … be with your spirit.” (v.23) RSV

‘Greeting’ and ‘Grace’ are the two parting sentiments that Paul expresses to the church at Philippi.  In fact ‘grace’ is the word he uses to end every letter bar two. Greeting and Grace go together to make a fulsome blessing.

Greeting is a human blessing and grace is a divine one.  It is so good to be greeted and not ignored or overlooked or cold-shouldered.  It makes us feel good to be recognised and treated as important.  Some people have a gift of making people feel they are the only person in the world at that moment.  Paul was insistent that “every saint” be greeted.  With him there were no favourites or one category of people that he preferred.  Everyone counted.

Grace similarly is for everyone.  Grace is a little word with a big meaning.  I remember it being explained as G-R-A-C-E: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  But whatever clever mnemonic we use, it basically boils down to God’s initiative of forgiveness and giving.

Grace comes from God; it is free and undeserved.  As rebellious and sinful human beings, both individually and as humanity, we are deserving of death, eternal death.  But God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  To that end he has sent prophets and finally his own Son.

Grace perseveres with us, even when we are wayward and obdurate.  It costs God greatly to do so.  But that is the price love will pay.  When Jesus came to earth John described him as being full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14).  This balance helps us understand that grace is no pushover.  Grace wants repentance, and only truth will cause us to face that need.

When Paul blesses his readers with grace, he is wanting that grace to enable their lives to be strengthened and changed, so that they become more like Jesus.  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with each one of us.

Thank you Lord for your underserved love and grace.  May it transform me to be more like Jesus.  Amen. 

Explore More

1  Which martyr was full of grace and power?

    Acts 6:8

2  Read more of Paul’s use of the word ‘grace’.

    Romans 5:15-17

Signature Event – Visit to Kia-ora Gardens

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Please keep free Thursday 15th September as this is the date of our next outing.  We will be visiting the Kia-ora Gardens in Cullompton. Kia-ora is almost 15 acres of extensively planted gardens with vast lawns, large lakes, ponds, bog gardens and various water features including its own waterwheel and mill.  At this time of year, in particular, the roses will be stunning with a scent to match.  Look out for the sign-up sheet for the trip mid-August. Full details very soon!

Philippians – Giving

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 The Reading:  Philippians 4:14-20 

… no church … giving … except you only;” (v.15) RSV

Hardly a letter of Paul’s goes by without the subject of ‘giving’ being mentioned.  Is this because the churches were short of money?  No.  It was because followers of Jesus Christ have a duty and obligation to share with others some of the riches that God has bestowed upon them.  “All things come from you, O God, and of your own do we give you”.

Now, of course, some of us are not experiencing ‘riches!  Well, if that is the case then at this point in time we can only give very little.  However, all of us should want to share with others who are in need or who are doing the Lord’s work.

Paul, however, was experiencing very little support for his missionary work.  Most of the time he was quite prepared to fund it himself by doing his tent-making.  But at other times he could barely support the work, and some of the time he was in prison!  Only a few churches sent financial support to him, and one of these was the church at Philippi.  But even they had been somewhat tardy: “now at length you have revived your concern for me …” (v.10).

Paul was anxious to distance himself from the idea that he was forcing them to give or was in any way making them feel morally obliged: “Not that I complain of want” (v.11), and “Not that I seek the gift” (v.17).  If they were going to give he wanted it to be inspired by their own concern and love.  And that is always the motivation for giving: concern and love.

Paul also is concerned that they give because they will become more fruitful in doing so.  Also, God sees all that is done and it will redound to their credit (v.17).

 It is a timely reminder that what is done on earth has results in heaven.  We cannot simply measure results from what happens on earth.  What we do will abide and indeed is part of building the eternal kingdom of heaven.  Every little act, every cup of water given in the name of Christ will not be lost.  Furthermore, we can never outgive God; he will always continue to supply our every need (v.19).

Grant me, O Lord, a giving and generous heart.  Amen. 

Explore More

1 See a practical example of church giving.

    Acts 11:27-30

2  See more of Paul’s teaching on giving.

    1 Corinthians 16:1-3, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Young Readers Group

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“We start up again this month, on Sept 2nd. We have ‘ lost’ some folk as some have moved on and new members are always welcome. Caroline Bolt and I would be very glad to see you. Year 9 and upwards is our age range.  We have a busy term ahead, with Harvest, Christingle and Christmas to come.”

Margaret Roe and Caroline Bolt

An Evening of Prayer at St Mary’s

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Don’t forget to put into your diary our evening of prayer on Thursday 8th September 7.30 – 9.00pm.  Prayer is the ticking heart of our fellowship and once a term, we meet to pray for all that is coming up.  The autumn term is especially busy, with lots happening.  The plan is to have a number of different “prayer stations” for us to visit to focus on a particular area for silent prayer. Do come and spend some time at the prayer stations praying that all our activity will be Christ centred.

Michael Farley’s Organ Workshop Visit

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Organ destined for St John’s Church Zewkija, Gozo, Malta

On Wednesday last, a large group from St Mary’s went on an exploratory visit to Michael Farley’s organ building works in Colaton Raleigh.  There we saw a new organ that they had just completed which will be shipped to a church in Gozo, Malta.  The day also included visiting three churches in Budleigh Salterton, Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth where the organs were played.  We all learnt a great deal and enjoyed a pub lunch together.  Our thanks to Miles for organising such a good day out.  Here’s a little video entitled ‘An Organ Crawl’ with some sights and sounds of the day.

The organ fund to repair our Father Willis organ stands at over £130,000 but the cost will be much more than this.  We await estimates and will let you know when we receive them.  Hopefully, in the not too distant future, our organ will play to the standard of those we heard on Wednesday.

This firm is one of the possible Organ Builders we are looking at with a view to renovating Father Willis.  Michael Farley has kindly offered us a tour of his workshop (where he is currently building an organ for Malta!) and some of the nearby instruments he has recently renovated.  This would be a day out in some beautiful places – we would visit the churches and organs of (tbc) Budleigh Salterton, Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth, and enjoy a pub lunch.  Lifts could be provided if needed  If anyone would like to join us for this visit please sign the sheet at the back of the church (for further details please see Miles Quick).