Reflection for 22 March 2020

Whilst the church is closed for worship we will be providing a weekly reflection with bible readings and prayers for our members.

I thought I might as well share it here too.

Comments welcome

Mark

Sunday 22 March 2020

A Reflection

As we are no longer able to meet for worship due to the virus situation we will offer a weekly reflection by email or delivered to the home of church members.

Perhaps you could sit each week and read this at the time we would normally meet for worship – in that way we would still in some way be together.

Our theme for March and April is ‘Hearing God’s Voice.’

I thought it might be helpful to look at some passages in the Bible where we hear God’s voice.

First – have a look at these three examples:

  1. Then the LordGod placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it. 16 He told him, “You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, 17 except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.” (Genesis 2:15-17)

 

  1. One day while Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock across the desert and came to Sinai, the holy mountain. There the angel of the Lordappeared to him as a flame coming from the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire but that it was not burning up. “This is strange,” he thought. “Why isn’t the bush burning up? I will go closer and see.”

When the Lord saw that Moses was coming closer, he called to him from the middle of the bush and said, “Moses! Moses!”

He answered, “Yes, here I am.”

God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So Moses covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated in Egypt; I have heard them cry out to be rescued from their slave drivers. I know all about their sufferings, and so I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of Egypt to a spacious land, one which is rich and fertile and in which the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites now live. I have indeed heard the cry of my people, and I see how the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 Now I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.” (Exodus 3:1-10)

 

  1. In those days, when the boy Samuel was serving the Lordunder the direction of Eli, there were very few messages from the Lord, and visions from him were quite rare. One night Eli, who was now almost blind, was sleeping in his own room; Samuel was sleeping in the sanctuary, where the sacred Covenant Box was. Before dawn, while the lamp was still burning, the Lord called Samuel. He answered, “Yes, sir!” and ran to Eli and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

But Eli answered, “I didn’t call you; go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to bed.

6-7 The Lord called Samuel again. The boy did not know that it was the Lord, because the Lord had never spoken to him before. So he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

But Eli answered, “My son, I didn’t call you; go back to bed.”

The Lord called Samuel a third time; he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, so he said to him, “Go back to bed; and if he calls you again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.

10 The Lord came and stood there, and called as he had before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Samuel answered, “Speak; your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

 

In these three passages from the Old Testament we hear the voice of God directly. We are told that God spoke to Adam, Moses and Samuel; they actually heard his voice (whatever that means – God doesn’t have a mouth). Their responses to God’s word were different; Adam ignored God, Moses questioned God and then did what he asked, Samuel became a ‘prophet of the Lord’.

 

Now look at these three examples:

 

  1. I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for. 12 Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. 13 You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

 

  1. The Lordsays, “I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! 22 When you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. 23 Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. 24 Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry. (Amos 5:21-24)

 

  1. The Sovereign Lordhas filled me with his Spirit.
    He has chosen me and sent me
    To bring good news to the poor,
    To heal the broken-hearted,
    To announce release to captives
    And freedom to those in prison.
    He has sent me to proclaim
    That the time has come
    When the Lord will save his people
    And defeat their enemies.
    He has sent me to comfort all who mourn,
    To give to those who mourn in Zion
    Joy and gladness instead of grief,
    A song of praise instead of sorrow. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

 

These examples are of God speaking to the Israelites not directly but via the prophets. The biblical prophets weren’t people who were foretelling the future, as some people think, they were people who were talking to the people at the time about their current issues and their relationships with God – often about how they were going wrong.  The prophets were using their understanding of God to try and influence the behaviour of the people – to make them act how God would want them to act. Jesus himself used the prophecy from Isaiah when he spoke in the synagogue in Nazereth and claimed that it had come true in him. (see Luke 4:16-21)

 

Now look at this last reading:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son. He is the one through whom God created the universe, the one whom God has chosen to possess all things at the end. He reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the exact likeness of God’s own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word. After achieving forgiveness for the sins of all human beings, he sat down in heaven at the right side of God, the Supreme Power. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

 

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews really hits the nail on the head here.

It’s difficult to understand how exactly the voice of God would be heard in Old Testament times by Adam, by Moses and by Samuel.

Many of the things that the prophets reported as the word of God were helpful in improving understanding of what God is like and what God wants – but some of them were really difficult to interpret. Call me a heretic – but I think some of them sometimes got it wrong actually.

But the really important advantage we have in our Christian lives is that we live in a time after Jesus came to the world. We believe that Jesus was God made into a person, so that if we listen to what Jesus has to say to us (or read it in the Bible) then we are hearing directly from God. We can find out from Jesus what God is like and what he wants us to do. (Basically it’s to love God and to love one another.)

So whenever we’re faced with a problem about how to deal with something or someone what we need to do is use our knowledge of Jesus and ask ourselves, in the light of that knowledge, what our response should be. If we find ourselves thinking or acting in a way that does not tie in with what we know about Jesus then we are thinking or acting wrongly. It’s no use turning to an old text from the books of the Law in the Old Testament or from the prophets to try and find something that supports our own ideas – if it’s not the way of Jesus then it’s not God’s way.

That’s not to say it’s always easy to work out what to do – it isn’t. The Bible isn’t an instruction manual, and Jesus didn’t answer directly all the questions that come up in modern life. But if the answer that you come up with is to hate someone because of what they’re like, or to say something hurtful to or about someone, or to make out that you’re better than someone else – then I say you’ve got it wrong – because Jesus wasn’t like that and God isn’t either.

You’ve not been listening to God closely enough.

 

A hymn

If you have access to the internet you can find a suitable hymn on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eIG8wO-_uA

It’s one by my favourite hymn writer Fred Kaan ‘God Who Spoke in the Beginning’. Here are the words:

God who spoke in the beginning,

forming rock and shaping spar,

set all life and growth in motion,

earthly world and distant star;

God who calls the earth to order

is the ground of what we are.

 

God who spoke through people, nations

through events long past and gone,

showing still today love’s purpose,

speaks supremely through the Son;

God who calls the earth to order

speaks the word and it is done

 

God whose speech becomes incarnate

Christ is Servant, Christ is Lord –

calls us to a life of service:

heart and will to action stirred.

God who uses our obedience

has the first and final word.

 

Time for Prayer

First a prayer about the current crisis, from the Council for World Mission:

 

God-of-Life, who calms-troubled-hearts and who accompanies and assures us in anxious and distressing times, we pray:

  • for the safety and well-being of all, everywhere
  • for all who are involved in responding to counter the spread of this virus: for those at the forefront of essential services;

for those working to find an antidote;

for those redeploying resources to ensure there is enough of what is needed to keep us safe;

for those comforting distraught people;

for those looking out for each other, especially the most vulnerable in our midst…

May your Spirit continue to calm fears, dispel anxieties, and open eyes/hearts to see that the changes we dread most may give birth to hope through our collective wisdom, the generous sharing of all that is needed, and a renewed vision of community.  In the name of the one who offers abundant life for all.

Amen

 

And, as it’s Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day a prayer for mothers everywhere:

Gracious God,

on this Mothering Sunday we bring you our prayers

for all entrusted with the responsibility of motherhood.

We pray for mothers the world over,

recognising both the demand and joys they experience –

the privileges and pressures,

hopes and fears,

pleasure and pain that motherhood entails.

Equip them with the love, wisdom and strength they need.

 

We pray for single mothers,

bearing the responsibility of parenthood alone,

struggling sometimes to make ends meet,

and stigmatised by certain sections of society.

Grant them the emotional, physical and financial resources they need.

We pray for mothers who have experienced heartbreak –

their children stillborn or seriously disabled,

injured, maimed or killed through accident or assault,

struck down by debilitating disease or terminal illness.

Comfort them in their sorrow.

 

We pray for those denied the joys of motherhood –

enduring the trauma of infertility,

prevented on health grounds from risking a pregnancy,

or unable to establish a relationship

into which children can be born.

Help them to come to come to terms with their pain.

 

We pray for those who foster or adopt children,

those who long to do so but who are denied the opportunity,

and for those who for various reasons

have given up their children

and who are haunted by the image of what might have been.

Grant them strength and support.

 

We pray finally for those who long to discover their natural mothers, those who have become estranged from them,

and those whose mothers have died –

all for whom Mothering Sunday brings pain rather than pleasure,

hurt rather than happiness.

May your love enfold them always.

 

Gracious God, we pray for mothers and children everywhere. May your blessing be upon them, your hand guide them, and your love enrich them all.

 

Amen

(Nick Fawcett)

 The Lord’s Prayer.

 

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

evermore. 

Amen

 

If anyone has any questions or comments about the above, or would like to talk to me about it don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Mark Taylor

newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com

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