Reflection – 16 August 2020

Here’s Martin’s reflection for Sunday 16 August

The online worship session will start at 11.00.

If you want to join in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

London Road Congregational Church Reflection 16/8 – Living in the Tension

Call to Worship:

(based on Psalm 126)

We gather to worship with expectations:
God revealed in new and astonishing ways.
God comes to us in real time.
God comes to us in dreams.
Sometimes God’s presence is hard to take in—
difficult to believe.
O God, we long to believe.
Help our unbelief!
God is present here.
God is working in our midst.
Then our mouths are filled with laughter,
Our tongues shout out with joy!  
         

Opening Prayer

(based on Psalm 126)


Holy God, the world in which we live is as terrifying as it is wonderful.We need Jesus as much today as in times of old.Many sow in tears, and go out weeping.Replenish our lands,fill our hearts with gladness,restore our faith in you and each other,wipe away the tears of despair.As we worship today,we tilt an ear to listen close.Let the voice of your angel fill our minds with new understandings.We are waiting for you. Speak to us today. Amen.

Hymn: Your Love Stands Alone, Kristene DiMarco

Loud as fire, unrelenting
Many rivers cannot hope to quench it
Vast as ocean, never ending
Like nothing I’ve known
Your love stands alone
Your love stands alone
There is nothing, there is nothing
That could ever come close
Your love stands alone
From the highest, to the lowest of lows
Your love stands alone
There is strength, like the mountains
Every army I face is defeated
Fear is broken, by your kindness
Like nothing I’ve known
Your love stands alone
Your love stands alone
There is nothing, there is nothing
That could ever come close
Your love stands alone
From the highest, to the lowest of lows
Your love stands alone
Your love stands alone
I’m convinced that neither
Death nor life
Angels or demons
Or things to come
I’m convinced that neither
Our fears or sorrows
Past or present or what follows
I’m convinced, I’m convinced,
I can’t be separated from Love
I am convinced
I am convinced
I can’t be separated from Love
There is nothing, there is nothing
That could ever come close
Your love stands alone
From the highest, to the lowest of lows
Your love stands alone
Your love it stands alone
Nothing compares to
Your love it stands alone

Prayers & Lord’s Prayer

Readings

2 Chronicles 7

The Dedication of the Temple

When King Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and burned up the sacrifices that had been offered, and the dazzling light of the Lord’s presence filled the Temple. Because the Temple was full of the dazzling light, the priests could not enter it. When the people of Israel saw the fire fall from heaven and the light fill the Temple, they fell face downward on the pavement, worshiping God and praising him for his goodness and his eternal love. Then Solomon and all the people offered sacrifices to the Lord. He sacrificed 22,000 head of cattle and 120,000 sheep as fellowship offerings. And so he and all the people dedicated the Temple. The priests stood in the places that were assigned to them, and facing them stood the Levites, praising the Lord with the musical instruments that King David had provided and singing the hymn, “His Love Is Eternal!” as they had been commissioned by David. The priests blew trumpets while all the people stood.

Solomon consecrated the central part of the courtyard, the area in front of the Temple, and then offered there the sacrifices burned whole, the grain offerings, and the fat from the fellowship offerings. He did this because the bronze altar which he had made was too small for all these offerings.

Solomon and all the people of Israel celebrated the Festival of Shelters for seven days. There was a huge crowd of people from as far away as Hamath Pass in the north and the Egyptian border in the south. They had spent seven days for the dedication of the altar and then seven more days for the festival. On the last day they had a closing celebration, 10 and on the following day, the twenty-third day of the seventh month, Solomon sent the people home. They were happy about all the blessings that the Lord had given to his people Israel, to David, and to Solomon.

God Appears to Solomon Again

11 After King Solomon had finished the Temple and the palace, successfully completing all his plans for them, 12 the Lord appeared to him at night. He said to him, “I have heard your prayer, and I accept this Temple as the place where sacrifices are to be offered to me. 13 Whenever I hold back the rain or send locusts to eat up the crops or send an epidemic on my people, 14 if they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again. 15 I will watch over this Temple and be ready to hear all the prayers that are offered here, 16 because I have chosen it and consecrated it as the place where I will be worshiped forever. I will watch over it and protect it for all time. 17 If you serve me faithfully as your father David did, obeying my laws and doing everything I have commanded you, 18 I will keep the promise I made to your father David when I told him that Israel would always be ruled by his descendants. 19 But if you and your people ever disobey the laws and commands I have given you and worship other gods, 20 then I will remove you from the land that I gave you, and I will abandon this Temple that I have consecrated as the place where I am to be worshiped. People everywhere will ridicule it and treat it with contempt.

21 “The Temple is now greatly honored, but then everyone who passes by it will be amazed and will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and this Temple?’ 22 People will answer, ‘It is because they abandoned the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt. They gave their allegiance to other gods and worshiped them. That is why the Lord has brought this disaster on them.’”

John 2:1-11

The Wedding in Cana

Two days later there was a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine had given out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They are out of wine.”

“You must not tell me what to do,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

Jesus’ mother then told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

The Jews have rules about ritual washing, and for this purpose six stone water jars were there, each one large enough to hold between twenty and thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill these jars with water.” They filled them to the brim, and then he told them, “Now draw some water out and take it to the man in charge of the feast.” They took him the water, which now had turned into wine, and he tasted it. He did not know where this wine had come from (but, of course, the servants who had drawn out the water knew); so he called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone else serves the best wine first, and after the guests have drunk a lot, he serves the ordinary wine. But you have kept the best wine until now!”

11 Jesus performed this first miracle in Cana in Galilee; there he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

Hymn: My Testimony – Elevation Worship

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvlJqbtoerE  with lyrics

I saw Satan fall like lightning
I saw darkness run for cover
But the miracle that I just can’t get over
My name is registered in heaven

I believe in signs and wonders
I have resurrection power
Still the miracle that I just can’t get over
My name is registered in heaven
My praise belongs to you forever

This is my testimony from death to life
Cause grace rewrote my story, I’ll testify
By Jesus Christ the Righteous
I’m justified
This is my testimony
This is my testimony

Come together sons and daughters
Bought with blood
And washed in water
Sing the praises of the Spirit
Son and Father
Our God will finish what He started
Our God will finish what He started

If I’m not dead, You’re not done
Greater things are still to come
Oh I believe

This is my testimony from death to life
Cause grace rewrote my story, I’ll testify
By Jesus Christ the Righteous
I’m justified
This is my testimony
This is my testimony

This is my testimony from death to life
Cause grace rewrote my story, I’ll testify
By Jesus Christ the Righteous
I’m justified
This is my testimony, this is my testimony

Reflection:

There are various labels I might choose to apply to myself, lots others might want to use of me but that is a different message about the witness my life gives. Having said that, I am not the labels people give me but the labels God gives me – we know that those can be very different.

Two I will use for today are perfectionist, spectrum. I am very hard on myself because I know how I want to behave and how I want to live and sometimes set myself targets I know I will never achieve. Everyone falls short, Romans 3 tells us, and as Paul said in Romans 7, I end up doing the thing I don’t want to do. I am the sort of person who can instigate but need others to walk with to see things though.  I shouldn’t be as hard on myself as perhaps I am because there are different gifts given by God and I have spoken about those.

The other word I used was spectrum because, like many people, I feel that I have tendencies that like things to be done in, and be, a certain way.  My new shed is ‘arranged’, I don’t annotate books because that ‘spoils’ them, things have to line up. I have to make a conscious effort not to let myself be carried away.  My garage, because of the work on my house, is chaotic.  I can cope with the latter being untidy because that’s how it is because of my renovations.

We often have to live in this tension between how we would like our walk with God to be and the day-to-day reality.

My programme for reading the Bible is currently taking me through Exodus. I am reading about all the instructions for ordaining Aaron as a priest. All the details about his vestments and the tent of meeting and the sacrifices. If nothing else I thank God for being under Grace and not the law or the biggest concern for reopening the church building would be where we keep all the livestock. Rather than being oppressive all these instructions are there to help people be in the right place when they come to God. The problem was that the means of access became the focus and not the purpose of the laws.

Later the Bible speaks about how God does not want our sacrifices.  What went wrong. We can have our lives arranged and perfect, our lives may be chaotic and random, but neither will be acceptable to God if our hearts aren’t in the right place, if our focus is off. God seems to be taking me back to 2 Chronicles 7:14, where it says for God to be able to call us and use us, we must live lives for God, humble ourselves and pray.

I think this is partly why we have felt so blessed these past few weeks. Whether we have realised it or not, we have humbled ourselves. We have lifted our expectation and desire to meet with God in this new way. It’s not perfect but that’s about living in the tension – not quite there but desiring to meet with God more. We have humbled ourselves because we have dropped our labels of denominations and seen each other as brothers and sisters, coming together to meet God. Mark and I have been blessed by peoples’ willingness to take part and to minister to one another.

We have leaned into God; we have sought God and he has answered. I am not totally sure how, but I have a sense that God is going to use us in our communities more as we move forward. Our confidence can be based on the fact that God has acted before and he is unchanging, he will act again. He wants to gather his children and we have the home they can return.

I want to share something I have learned this week. The story of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, where he turned water into wine. I felt I was quite familiar with the story but was listening to a podcast. I never knew that the jars of water Jesus had brought to him weren’t posh jars but the ‘daily set’ that were used for ritual washing. I’m not totally sure what God wants me to see in this but what has struck me is that Jesus was able to perform his miracle through the things that had got the people’s hearts right with God.

I think in our leaning into God, our reliance on God, He will move in our group. We have aligned some of the key bits of furniture up again and this has become a safer place for God to send visitors.  Some of that has been connections and some of that has been reminders of our heart positions.  Some of that may at LRCC and some of that may be in the other fellowships we are involved in. I want to do the best I can for God because that is a fitting response to all that God has done for me. But I need to accept that I will live in the tension of what I want to do and what I am able to do. I will always need Grace.

The Grace

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.