Reflection – 23 August 2020

Here’s my reflection for Sunday 23 August

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 23 August 2020 – A Reflection

Our call to worship

Gather around,

you are welcome here,

and you will hear Good News.

In a world

where there are so many

discouraging and negative voices

it is the God of encouragement

who will speak to you today.

The God of Jesus Christ.

So come in, relax,

let your tiredness roll away.

Lift up your hearts, and listen

Let us pray

God of surprises you call us
from the narrowness of our traditions
to new ways of being church,
from the captivities of our culture
to creative witness for justice,
from the smallness of our horizons
to the bigness of your vision.
Clear the way in us, your people,

that we might call others to freedom and renewed faith.

Jesus, wounded healer, you call us
from preoccupation with our own histories
and hurts to daily tasks of peacemaking,
from privilege to pilgrimage,
from insularity to inclusive community.
Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might call others to wholeness and integrity.

Holy, transforming Spirit, you call us
from fear to faithfulness,
from clutter to clarity,
from a desire to control to deeper trust,
from the refusal to love to a readiness to risk.
Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might all know the beauty and power
and danger of the gospel.
 

.

The Lord’s Prayer

As it’s café service here’s the traditional quiz. Answers are at the end.

This month all the answers share one of two words.

11970s TV comedy about self -sufficiency_ _ _ /_ _ _ _ /_ _ _ _
2Formerly a daily paper in London_ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _
3Beach Boys song_ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
4Ancestral home of Lord Byron in Nottinghamshire_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _
51967 Clint Eastwood Film_ _ _ / _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ /_ _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _ _
6BBC comedy panel show since 1990_ _ _ _ / _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _
71988 Robin Williams Film_ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _  / _ _ _ _ _ _ _
8Anything that doesn’t show Donald Trump in a favourable light – according to him_ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _
9Accord that brought an end to ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland_ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
10Fictional language in the book ‘1984’_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The answers are at the end. No cheating now! Have a go before reading on.

We’re still thinking about leaning into God.

Hopefully, if you’ve done the quiz, you’ll have spotted that the two words that all the answers have are these – either ‘Good’ or ‘News’

Today we’re going to think a little about Good News.

The first Bible reading is from the book of the Prophet Isaiah:

Reading – Isaiah 52:1-15

Jerusalem, be strong and great again!
    Holy city of God, clothe yourself with splendour!
The heathen will never enter your gates again.
Shake yourself free, Jerusalem!
    Rise from the dust and sit on your throne!
Undo the chains that bind you,
    captive people of Zion!

The Sovereign Lord says to his people, “When you became slaves, no money was paid for you; in the same way nothing will be paid to set you free. When you went to live in Egypt as foreigners, you did so of your own free will; Assyria, however, took you away by force and paid nothing for you. And now in Babylonia the same thing has happened: you are captives, and nothing was paid for you. Those who rule over you boast and brag and constantly show contempt for me. In time to come you will acknowledge that I am God and that I have spoken to you.”

How wonderful it is to see
    a messenger coming across the mountains,
    bringing good news, the news of peace!
He announces victory and says to Zion,
    “Your God is king!”
Those who guard the city are shouting,
    shouting together for joy.
They can see with their own eyes
    the return of the Lord to Zion.

Break into shouts of joy,
    you ruins of Jerusalem!
The Lord will rescue his city
    and comfort his people.
10 The Lord will use his holy power;
    he will save his people,
    and all the world will see it.
11 Be sure to leave Babylonia,
    all you that carry the Temple equipment.
Touch no forbidden thing;[
a]
    keep yourselves holy and leave.
12 This time you will not have to leave in a hurry;
    you will not be trying to escape.
The Lord your God will lead you
    and protect you on every side.

13 The Lord says,

“My servant will succeed in his task;
    he will be highly honoured.
14 Many people were shocked when they saw him;
    he was so disfigured that he hardly looked human.
15 But now many nations will marvel at him,
    and kings will be speechless with amazement.
They will see and understand
    something they had never known.”

The second reading is from the start of the Gospel of Mark

Reading Mark 1:1-14

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you
    who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism of Jesus

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God

Isaiah says:

How wonderful it is to see
    a messenger coming across the mountains,
    bringing good news, the news of peace!’

Mark’s gospel starts with the words:

‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’

I think it’s really interesting that Mark, who wrote the first Gospel – says that his writings are just the beginning of the good news of Jesu

And our reading ended with:

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God

As we’ve mentioned before the gospels were written in Greek originally. The Greek for good news is this

eὐαγγέλιον

It’s pronounced ‘evangiolon’

This word for good news can also be translated ‘gospel’. It’s also where we get the word ‘evangelist’ from.

Let’s have a break here for a song – Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me by Selah

What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer
There is no more for heaven now to give
He is my joy, my righteousness, and freedom
My steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
For my life is wholly bound to His
Oh how strange and divine, I can sing: all is mine
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

The night is dark but I am not forsaken
For by my side, the Saviour He will stay
I labour on in weakness and rejoicing
For in my need, His power is displayed

To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me
Through the deepest valley He will lead
Oh the night has been won, and I shall overcome
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

No fate I dread, I know I am forgiven
The future sure, the price it has been paid
For Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon
And He was raised to overthrow the grave

To this I hold, my sin has been defeated
Jesus now and ever is my plea
Oh the chains are released, I can sing: I am free
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

With every breath I long to follow Jesus
For He has said that He will bring me home
And day by day I know He will renew me
Until I stand with joy before the throne

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
All the glory evermore to Him
When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
All the glory evermore to Him
When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat
Yet not I, but through Christ in me
Yet not I, but through Christ in me
Yet not I, but through Christ in me

Talk

Some of you may know that I listen to a weekly podcast called ‘Mid Faith Crisis.’

It’s presented by two chaps:

Nick Page – a Christian author whose works some of you know from Bible Book Club – he wrote The Badly Behaved Bible which if you haven’t read yet you really, really should.

And Joe Davis who used to be a Baptist minister but fell out with his church and now makes his living largely as a funeral celebrant.

Here’s the introduction from the podcast’s website to give you a flavour of what it’s about

“Welcome to the home of the Mid-Faith Crisis podcast.

Mid-faith Crisis is a podcast for every Christian who has ever asked ‘Is that it?’

If you feel that you have more questions than answers, if you feel as though your faith is changing, if you feel that if the worship leader sings that chorus one more time you will strangle him with his own guitar strap, then this is the podcast for you.

Challenging, refreshing and thought-provoking, the Mid-faith Crisis explores the big questions of the Christian faith with honesty and humour. 

Warning. Contains traces of theology and occasional innuendo.”

There is indeed occasional innuendo and even swearing! But tastefully whenever one of them uses an inappropriate word they bleep it out by playing the bongos over the top.

I find it really thought provoking and again would recommend it. Here’s a link to the website:

https://midfaithcrisis.org/

I think that’s a question that’s well worth asking and trying to answer.

In fact I think it’s so worthwhile that I’m asking it of you this morning and I want you to come up with some answers.

I want you to pause to think about that question ‘What is the Good News? You might like to make a note of your thoughts in this space I’ve left

Both Joe Davis and Nick Page came up with their own answers to the question. Nick Page’s version can be found by following this link – starting at around 30:05

Have a listen and then you might want to read the words again at your leisure

https://midfaithcrisis.org/podcast/what-is-the-good-news-part-three/

There is a God.
And God is good. And God loves you.

Because God is good, and because God loves you,
You don’t have to be afraid;
You don’t have to suffer alone;
You don’t have to worry about riches or status or pretending to be someone you’re not;
You don’t have to feel insignificant, unnoticed or unloved;
You don’t have to be trapped in guilt or shame;
You don’t have to be scared of death because death is not the end.

You don’t have to walk through this world alone.
The world is beautiful. And the world is terrible.
No-one knows why. But we do know that it’s not as God wants it,
And that we can change it – a little – by changing ourselves.

That’s why God invites us to a different life.
A life of freedom, kindness, hope, courage, honesty and forgiveness.
We can live this life by copying Jesus, who shows us what God is like,
And by asking God’s Spirit to work with us, because we can’t do it on our own.

So here’s the thing –

You are not your wounds. You are not your fears or your failures. You are not your possessions or your career. You are not what has been done to you, or what you have done to others. You are not what others say about you, or even what you say about yourself.
You are a child of God

A God who is good. And a God who loves you
.

Just three things to close because you’ve paid good money for this and I think I ought to contribute at least some content myself.

Firstly I think that if we are to share the good news with others, as Jesus calls us to do, it is probably a good idea to have some idea about what that good news is, at least as far as we all understand it. It might be slightly different to each one of us – but if we are expecting others to be excited by it and perhaps even to become followers of the one who brought it to us we need to be able to explain what it is and why it is important – don’t we?

Secondly we need to understand that the good news certainly doesn’t mean everything is always going to be great for every individual. One of our fellowship in particular is evidence of this. She’s had a dreadful time recently following a tragic and shocking event involving one of her friends. The good news of Jesus certainly isn’t that no bad stuff will ever happen. Plenty of bad things happened to Jesus’s closest followers after all. But if we believe – as Nick Page puts it – that God is good and that God loves us the consolation is that, even if for the moment the world is terrible it won’t always be and God will be there for us come what may. And sometimes it’s us that needs to show God’s love to others at times when they are in trouble.

Finally, as Nick says, part of the good news is this:

‘You don’t have to be scared of death because death is not the end’

Some of you know that I love the sitcom Rev which is about an inner city vicar in London. There’s a clip here from an episode I looked at again recently. The background is that he’s speaking to a group of children at a school who have just lost a young teacher in a tragic accident.

You can watch it here

Our closing hymn today is a really old one for a change – We have a Gospel to Proclaim. This version has been recorded during lockdown by the choral scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields church (that’s the one just off Trafalgar Square) from their homes

We have a gospel to proclaim,

good news for all throughout the earth;

the gospel of a Saviour’s name:

we sing His glory, tell His worth.

Tell of His birth at Bethlehem,

not in a royal house or hall

but in a stable dark and dim,

the Word made flesh, a light for all.

Tell of His death at Calvary,

hated by those He came to save;

in lonely suffering on the cross:

for all He loved His life He gave.

Tell of that glorious Easter morn,

empty the tomb, for He was free.

He broke the power of death and hell

That we might share His victory.

Tell of His reign at God’s right hand,

by all creation glorified.

He sends His Spirit on His Church

to live for Him, the Lamb who died.

Now we rejoice to name Him King:

Jesus is Lord of all the earth.

This gospel-message we proclaim:

we sing His glory, tell His worth.

Time for Prayer – intercessions

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

11970s TV comedy about self -sufficiencyThe Good Life
2Formerly a daily paper in LondonThe Evening News
3Beach Boys songGood Vibrations
4Ancestral home of Lord Byron in NottinghamshireNewstead Abbey
51967 Clint Eastwood FilmThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly _ _ _ / _ _ _ _
6BBC comedy panel show since 1990Have I got News for You
71988 Robin Williams FilmGood Morning Vietnam
8Anything that doesn’t show Donald Trump in a favourable light – according to himFake News
9Accord that brought an end to ‘The Troubles’ in Northern IrelandGood Friday Agreement
10Fictional language in the book ‘1984’Newspeak

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