Sunday 7th June 2020
I guess in a sense whenever you write or say anything it never really reflects all you want to convey, and in writing this it will definitely be the case.
It has been a week in which looking at the news across our world can really lead to despair. Earlier in the week I was chatting with someone about the lessons we might learn from the coronavirus pandemic and how unfortunately the chances are those lessons will quickly be forgotten and people will go back to normal - whatever that means.
The recent events in America with the killing of George Floyd and the fallout across the world have only heightened for me the devastating effect that sin has on our world, and in our hearts...because the uncomfortable truth is, that's where is starts.
Genesis Chapter 3 tells us that once Adam and Eve made their choice to reject God's perfect plan, and in doing so choose for themselves what was good and evil, our world was plunged in to a downward spiral of lies, jealousy, hate and any number of sins of which racism is one of the most dehumanising.
To look on another human, another image bearer of the living God in anything other than love, goes against what the Bible commands us to do. The thought of looking at someone who has a different skin colour than us and thinking they are less than we are because of that, is evil.
There have been many words said and written in response in the last week, reminders of events across the world of people hating and killing others who are 'not like them' and many actions taken to protest against racism, some of which unfortunately have been hijacked by people to their own selfish ends, which only further shows us the sinful nature we have inherited from Adam. In and amongst those have been outpourings of real righteous anger and grief together with a sense in which something must be done.
In my own times of reflection on all this, and trust me there is some good news to come, I have to say I don't see an end to these things. Human history and the Bible show us that we don't learn and on our own we cannot defeat the enemy of sin. We can and should lament these things. It has been great to delve in to some of the Psalms during the last month. One of the things we see in the Psalms is heart felt cries to God about where is He in all this mess. These cries lead so often to praise.
Last week during our Sunday morning prayer time we read these words from Lamentations Chapter 3,
I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, ‘My splendour is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.’ I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I read the following quote yesterday morning...
You'll go crazy if you spend all your time analysing the depths of evil without gazing at the beauty of God.
It is right that as a church and followers of Jesus that we speak out against sin and injustice, but it is also important that we do so knowing that God promises to one day deal with every sin and injustice...every single one. That will be a terrible day, unless we are in Christ Jesus.
His life, death and resurrection have paid the price for every sin. Every act of racism, hate, pride, selfishness, every single one...this is the scandal of grace. When we say it isn't deserved, this is what it means, and forgiveness for all, including us, comes from accepting these things by faith as a free gift.
Those of us who have received this gift of grace are then to share this good news in to a lost world living against the will of God until He comes to take us home to a place where there is no more pain, or suffering or death.
So, in the midst of these dark times let us think about how we can be a part of bringing healing, restoration and hope. We need to remember there is hope and his name is Jesus.
Give thanks to God for the hope we have in Jesus. Thank Him for sins forgiven and life eternal. Thank Him that He is a God of justice and we can rest knowing one day there will be an end to all sin.
Pray for healing and reconciliation across our world. Pray for our brothers and sisters of colour who are hurting whilst speaking hope in to dark situations. Pray the church of Christ can take the lead in dealing with the evil of racism in our world.
Continue to pray for wisdom and compassion for our leaders as decisions are made regarding ending lockdown. Pray that people will respond in a way that shows love for their neighbour.
Thank God for the many ways in which we can share the Good News of Jesus. Let's pray for our friends, family and neighbours and all the people we have connections with as a church who we are not seeing at the moment.
Glory to you Lord Jesus Christ,
Glory to you Most High.
Let every nation turn to you, my Lord,
Don't let them pass you by.
They are like a whale on the end of a line,
It's hard to reel them in.
The more we draw them close to you my Lord,
The further away they swim.
Give them your strength Lord, soften their hearts,
Let your words get through to them.
Let them understand my Lord,
That their life, is a life of sin.
They think they are going to Heaven, Lord,
Your glory shining around.
We will never give up my Lord,
Till they are free and Heaven bound.
Matthew Chapter 10 verses 1 to 25
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 8 Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 ‘Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts – 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16 ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 ‘The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
this week's sermon
1. Take time to reflect that, in love, Jesus called you to himself. How does that make you feel and what confidence should we have?
2. God has also sent you to friends, family and neighbours to share the Gospel. Take time to pray for those who you know who are not believers.
3. God, by his Spirit, will also give you the words to speak, pray for opportunities to share the Gospel and your faith in the weeks ahead.
young people and children's resources
Here is week five in our 10 week series looking at the Bible. Today we finish our 5 week look at the Old Testament looking at the question of who is God. This week we are thinking about God being a God who saves. To download the craft plus a bonus worksheet click here
The Bible Project - Justice
This week’s video is not the one I had originally planned to share but given the events in the last week or so felt it more appropriate. We are looking at the theme of Justice and what the Bible has to say about it. The short message from Tim at the Bible Project was recorded a few weeks ago now and doesn't directly focus on the issue of racism and the events we have seen in the USA and at home but the principles are very much the same. After the Bible readings and questions there is another video from Intro/Outro featuring a conversation between Ben, who leads the Intro/Outro work, and two of his black friends that focuses in more on the events of the past week and their hope in Jesus.
In Genesis 1, humans are created in the image of God and are tasked with ruling the world together on God’s behalf. But history has proven that we all find it very difficult to treat each other with dignity and respect, especially where we see differences. The Bible says we are all image bearers of the living God and the last book of the Bible, Revelation, describes heaven like this...there were a great number of people, so many no one could count them. They were from every nation, tribe, people and language of the earth.
God loves everyone and calls us to do the same. What would it look like to recapture God’s passion for justice in our own day and for us in the church to lead the way?
Bible Readings :
17 Do not be unfair to a foreigner or an orphan. Don’t take a widow’s coat to make sure she pays you back. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord your God saved you from there. That is why I am commanding you to do this.
19 When you are gathering your harvest in the field and leave behind a bundle of grain, don’t go back and get it. Leave it there for foreigners, orphans, and widows so that the Lord your God can bless everything you do. 20 When you beat your olive trees to knock the olives off, don’t beat the trees a second time. Leave what is left for foreigners, orphans, and widows. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, don’t pick the vines a second time. Leave what is left for foreigners, orphans, and widows. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt; that is why I am commanding you to do this.
26 People who think they are religious but say things they should not say are just fooling themselves. Their “religion” is worth nothing. 27 Religion that God accepts as pure and without fault is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help, and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence.
My dear brothers and sisters, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, never think some people are more important than others. 2 Suppose someone comes into your church meeting wearing nice clothes and a gold ring. At the same time a poor person comes in wearing old, dirty clothes. 3 You show special attention to the one wearing nice clothes and say, “Please, sit here in this good seat.” But you say to the poor person, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit on the floor by my feet.” 4 What are you doing? You are making some people more important than others, and with evil thoughts you are deciding that one person is better.
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! God chose the poor in the world to be rich with faith and to receive the kingdom God promised to those who love him.
What stood out to you as you read these passages?
Who are the vulnerable today?
How does recognizing that you have been saved by Jesus impact how you think about yourself and others?
James describes genuine devotion to God as being aware of the needs of vulnerable people in our communities and doing something about it. He talks about how we are easily blind to inequality and sometimes even play a part in it. How do we make ourselves aware and grow in devotion to God and others?
Where do you find hope when there’s injustice in and around us?