Reflection – Sunday 24 May 2020

Here is my reflection for Sunday 24 May.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. I will be leading worship this week. If you want to join in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

Sunday 24 May 2020 – A Reflection

A Bible passage to begin:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Today is Café Service day.

I do hope that you will make yourself a bacon roll, and sit with a cup of coffee as you read these words.

I have done a quiz as usual. The answers are at the end – no cheating now.

Quiz

This month all the clues are anagrams of types of tool. Just unscramble the letters.

1All met 
2Red bib 
3Note swan 
4Atlas up 
5Ram herd mill 
6Men reckon why 
7Go punk rhino 
8Gels harmed me 
9Relive split 
10Iron no girdles 

Our preaching theme for May and June is – ‘God’s resources and toolkit.’

2 weeks ago Martin wrote about the opportunities presented to us by the lockdown in terms of looking at how we can use tools like Zoom (which is how we do our online service) to reach out and to meet with different people. Today we are expecting to be joined in our time of worship by someone live from South Korea! Now that’s never happened at a Sunday morning 11 o’clock service at London Road before!

Martin also spoke about how God can meet us in ordinary things and in ordinary places – not just in churches.

And finally he talked about the need to look to every person in the church, in our community of Christians, to see what skills and talents they have and how they can be used to further God’s kingdom.

Before we get into the God talk I want us to think a bit about tools in their broadest sense.

Let’s have a look at these tools. They are all surgical instruments:

A close up of a tool

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This one is an Arrow Remover from the 1500s. Not much is known about this tool, but it is thought that it was inserted into the wound in a contracted position, with the central shaft used to grasp the arrow. The blades, which appear to have their sharp edges facing outward, were then expanded using the scissor-like handles, thus expanding the flesh around the arrow to prevent the arrowhead from ripping through the meat as it was pulled out.

A picture containing holding, sitting, small, black

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This next one is a Bullet Extractor, again from the 1500s. They could reach bullets embedded deeply in the patient’s body. Extractors like this one had a screw tip that could be inserted in the wound and lengthened to pierce the bullet so that it could be pulled out.

A picture containing music

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Now if you weren’t in the army there probably wasn’t too much to worry about from the first two instruments. These though are Haemorrhoid Forceps  from the 1800s. These forceps were used to grasp a haemorrhoid between the blades and apply pressure to stop the blood supply, causing the haemorrhoid to drop off.

A picture containing black, dark, holding, lamp

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And finally a Lithotome  used from the 1740s-1830s. This lithotome was used to cut the bladder in order to remove stones. The shaft contained a hidden blade that was inserted into the bladder and then released using a spring handle.

Ouch!

I hope I haven’t put you off your breakfast.

I promise I’ve finished with surgical instruments now – but what about these objects – do you recognise these?

A picture containing snow, skiing, white, tripod

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A picture containing street, computer

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Here we’ve got a candlestick telephone – like you’d see on Downton Abbey – an early type of camera and, coming up to more recent times (and I think you can actually still buy these), an Overhead Projector.

These are some modern equivalents – a digital camera, a mobile phone, and a data projector like the one I use at café church – although of course the mobile phone is most people’s camera as well.

A close up of a camera

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A close up of a machine

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A picture containing projector, car, electronics, front

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So what’s all this got to do with anything? Has Taylor finally lost his marbles? Did he ever have any in the first place?

 I’ll try and make it clear in a little while.

First let’s look at 2 Bible readings

This first one is from Paul to one of his associates, Timothy:

2 Timothy 3: 10-17

 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

In next short reading from John’s Gospel Jesus is speaking to the disciples:

John 16:12-13

 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 

Let’s pause now for a hymn.

Lord for the Years

You can watch it here – join in if you’d like.

Reflection

I think that two of the things that are in God’s toolkit for us to use are these:

  1. The Bible
  2. The traditions of the church

I hope you would agree with me so far.

We use the Bible in our worship every single week. We probably read it in between Sundays. We might use daily Bible Study guides. We have a Bible Book Club where we look at how to use the Bible every month. We can’t imagine our faith without the amazing resource that is the Bible. The second verse of our hymn celebrated the word of God in the bible. Paul wrote to Timothy:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The very interesting thing is that when Paul wrote these words he was just writing a letter to a friend. I don’t imagine for a moment that he thought he was writing scripture and that his words would still be being read and discussed all these years later. So when he talks about Scripture he certainly isn’t including his own letters. And he was writing the letters at around about the same time as the Gospels were being written – so they wouldn’t have been scripture yet either. But that needn’t worry us too much – the point Paul is making is that the various Scriptures that were in existence have wisdom in them – they have something to teach us about God. And that’s certainly even more true of the New Testament texts isn’t it?

The traditions of the church are also instructive. Over 2000 years the various parts of the church have reflected on matters of Christian Faith and come to conclusions about how we should behave in a Christian manner. A lot of those have been passed down to us and become part of how we still think today.

But the other day I read this – and it set me thinking.

‘There is a danger of today’s society adjusting (its) lifestyles and Christian beliefs to fit in with the moral views of today’s society. They look for their views of how they believe society should be rather than following the lifestyle and the beliefs that Christians have followed for over 2000 years.’

And what it got me thinking was – Is that entirely correct?

And I think it’s not.

You see things have changed over the last 2,000 years – a lot of them for the better.

Let’s think about a few examples:

  • Back in Biblical times slavery was an accepted thing. The Old Testament has rules relating to how to treat slaves more fairly, but there’s nothing that says that slavery is in itself wrong. Even Paul in the New Testament seems to accept it – he tells an escaped slave to return to his master;
  • Back in Biblical times men were in charge. The priests, the temple officials, even all of Jesus’ disciples were all men. Paul says “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” (1st letter to the Corinthians.)
  • Back in Biblical Times the death penalty was ordained for many different transgressions, including blasphemy, adultery and false prophecy.

The vast majority of people, whether Christian or not, don’t follow these examples of ‘lifestyles and beliefs from 2000+ years ago.’ Thank goodness.

Back to the tools we looked at earlier. Because I do think they’ve got something to teach us about God’s toolkit, in particular the Bible and Church Tradition.

You see if we were to say that because 500 years ago people would stick an arrow remover into someone, make cuts into them and pull the arrow out; or because 200 years ago people removed bladder stones by inserting the Lithotome into the bladder (you can imagine how that was done) and released a spring loaded blade; if we were to say that because those things were done that way then we have to do them the same way now (and all without anaesthetics of course) people would say we were completely mad – wouldn’t they? And they’d be right. And we wouldn’t want to go back to using cumbersome telephones or cameras rather than our mobiles, or using an OHP when we can use the much better data projector.

Because of course things have moved on; things have improved; things have changed for the better. We have improved knowledge and understanding. And that’s because people have used the single most important tool that God has given us in his toolkit.

This is it:

The human brain – probably the most amazing physical thing in the universe.

God has given us these for a purpose. We’re meant to use them and to use them to make things better. Jesus himself said, in our other reading:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”

With the twin, God-given, blessings of our brains and the Holy Spirit we can, and should continue to develop and interpret God’s will for his creation. Jesus himself told us that he hasn’t given us all the answers.

What he has given us is the tools to sort out the answers for ourselves.

And they won’t always be the same answers as those from 2000 years ago.

Time for Prayer

Good and loving God, our source of love and light –
Thank you for bringing us together today

in a spirit of generosity.
May we honour one another
by keeping an open mind.
May we voice our truth
and listen with an open heart.
May we discern your will
to unite in fruitful outcome.
We ask for your wisdom and grace,

to use our talents for the betterment of others.
With gratitude, we offer this prayer in your name.

Amen

And now let’s say The Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father

Who art in heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation – but deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom the power and the glory

For ever and ever

Amen

Finally we will close by saying the grace:

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

07954 172823

newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com

Quiz answers

1All metMallet
2Red bibDibber
3Note swanTenon saw
4Atlas upSpatula
5Ram herd millHammer drill
6Men reckon whyMonkey bwrench
7Go punk rhinoPruning hook
8Gels harmed meSledgehammer
9Relive splitSpirit level
10Iron no girdlesSoldering iron

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