Reflection – 06 September 2020


Here’s the reflection for Sunday 06 September. This week it’s been prepared by Janet Wootton, Immediate Past President of the Congregational Federation.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. Janet will be leading worship this week .

As it’s the first Sunday in the month we will be celebrating Holy Communion. If you wish to join us you are most welcome. You will need to provide your own bread and wine.

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

Mark Taylor

Sunday 06 September 2020 – A Reflection

This week’s reflection has been produced by Janet Wootton and Suzanne Nockels, immediate Past-President and President-Elect of the Congregational Federation.

Call to Worship: Ps 92:1-4 (NRSV)

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
    to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Let us pray:


How good it is, loving God, to be in the company of your people
Even though we may be fearful of each other’s presence;

How good it is, God of your people, to sing praises to your name
Even though our very breath could be dangerous, and our singing must be mute;

Still, on this morning of our lives,
We rejoice in your steadfast love

And in the evening of this day
We will rest in your faithfulness.

For a moment, open your eyes, and look at the faces on your screen, and think of the worshippers who are joining us by phone, or reading the service in hard copy.

For you, O Lord, have made us glad, and we give thanks.

The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn: Now thank we all our God (Catherine Winkworth)

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
and guard us through all ills in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
the Son, and him who reigns with them in highest heaven –
the one eternal God, whom earth and heav’n adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Bible reading: Dt 28:1-6

28 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

Music for reflection: When we get through this – Martyn Joseph (a song about the pandemic)

When we get through this

we’ll walk out.

A little closer together, a little further from doubt.

When we get through this

when we lift the shroud;

when we ring the bells:

music will seem so loud.

When we get through this

we’ll break bread and wine.

There’s no lies and twisted words but the truth this time.

When we get through this,

when we finish the song:

won’t be left versus the right but right versus wrong.

When we get through this.

I’ve been thinking about you every day,

thinking about you.

I’ve been thinking about you every day,

thinking about you.

When we get through this

and all is done,

you can count your enemies

and you won’t find one.

When we get through this,

when the heroes are named,

may peace be upon

let it not be in vain.

I’ve been thinking about you every day,

thinking about you.

I’ve been thinking about you every day,

thinking about you.

I’ve been thinking about you every day,

thinking about you.

I’ve been thinking about you every day,

thinking about you.

When we get through this

you’ll not despair;

all the love that remains

will carry you there,

carry you there.

You got this.

I know you do.

You got this.

We’re holding on for you.

We’re holding on for you.

When we get through this

Bible Reading: Mt 5:1-11

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Talk

I love that passage from Deuteronomy. The blessings God holds out are very prosaic. They are all about your family and home; the food on your table; what is in your bag for life, and what is waiting for you when you come home – the things that really matter, in the end.

It happens as the People of God are standing right on the threshold of the Promised Land. They have no idea what is in store, what the new life will be like. So these come across as words of enormous comfort. If you go forward in obedience to God, Baruch atta – Blessed will be – baruch, blessed.

It’s a word that means the utter, peaceful fulfilment of life as God’s People, fulness of life in God’s presence. It’s not something you can achieve on your own, in isolation, but a quality that belongs to the whole people of God, together.

And it’s the same word that Jesus uses when he sets out on his teaching. Blessed are you. I guess he might have used a word like baruch; but it is translated into the Greek of the New Testament as Makarioi.

When I was minister of a London church, we had a very mixed congregation. One of the families had a Greek Cypriot father, and I asked him to read the beatitudes in Greek.

And you could still hear the pattern of the words, even if you don’t understand the language – Makarii – blessed, blessed.

But the substance of the beatitudes is more complicated than the passage from Deuteronomy. It’s not about being established as top nation so that you can live and prosper in a Promised Land. Jesus’s blessings are about God’s People living in a world that is often painful and confusing.

Each of these blessings has two parts – blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It may not feel like a blessing: no-one wants to mourn – but we all do at some times in our lives; peacemaking is a thankless task, hated by both sides . . . but the blessing is there – you will be comforted, have the right to be known as God’s children.

If, like me, you have lived with this teaching of Jesus through your Christian life, I wonder if you have found that particular beatitudes have meant more to you at particular times.

(For those gathered on Zoom)

We’re going to split into groups now, for about 10 minutes, and I would like you to share with the group your own experience of the beatitudes. Is there one that speaks to you at the moment, or that has meant more to you at a particular time in your life? What does it mean, then, when the blessing comes?

GROUPS

When we come back from the groups, we’ll hear from people.

Communion

Here is the place where the reality, the suffering of the world meets God’s blessing. And as we gather as the community of the new covenant, we represent and embody that blessing, a witness to the world.

Again, look at the people on your screen, and think of those who are participating in different ways. Where does this church receive blessing?

Who are the meek among you, whose voices are rarely heard?

Where are the people who hunger and thirst to see others treated fairly and rightly, who sometimes have to speak up?

And where are your peacemakers? Don’t give them such a hard time!

Give thanks for them all, and for the blessings they bring.

Jesus said: Peace I leave with you; my own peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled. And do not be afraid.

Prayer

Sharing of bread and wine

Prayers of intercession

Hymn: Now let us from this table rise (Fred Kaan)

Now let us from this table rise

renewed in body, mind and soul;

with Christ we die and rise again,

his selfless love has made us whole.

With minds alert, upheld by grace,

to spread the Word in speech and deed,

we follow in the steps of Christ,

at one with all in hope and need.

To fill each human house with love,

it is the sacrament of care;

the work that Christ began to do

we humble pledge ourselves to share.

Then grant us grace, Companion-God,

to choose again the pilgrim way

and help us to accept with joy

the challenge of tomorrow’s day.

A TIME OF DEDICATION AND BLESSING – Suzanne Nockels

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XJKkeZ9YpBUzlgcgmP1KwWKlJFjsyJzG/view

It is wonderful when Jesus sits down, calls his disciples to him and shows them a different way to be in world. In Luke’s gospel before Jesus delivers his ‘sermon on the level ground’ he re-names them as apostles. They go from being apprentices to ambassadors- sent out with this topsy-turvy message of the Beatitudes- who does God bless, who does God smile upon.

Two of your number, Mark and Martin, as part of their discipleship have sensed a call upon their lives. They and you have discerned a role for them as Christ ambassadors- sharing God’s blessings in places familiar and unfamiliar. Working with God to inhabit the kingdom in its ‘here and now and still to come-ness’ so that others can see what the kingdom might look like and join in. I’m going to pause here and give space for them to share how God has led them to this point.  After they speak….it’s your turn. Do you recognise their gifts and their calling? Don’t hold back, embarrass the socks of them!

Mark and Martin this bit is for you. I invite you to make the following promise.

We promise that our leadership will not be dictatorship

We will be poor in spirit, aware of what we lack and meek enough to be led by Jesus 

We promise never to pretend everything is OK and mourn our own losses and the injustices we see around us.

We will never give up on trying to walk in God’s ways

And forgive others their mistakes and pray that others will forgive ours.

We promise to not abuse the trust that has been placed in us today

We promise to be peacemakers and truth-sayers even if there is a personal cost.

This is for all of you.

Lord Jesus, we don’t expect more of our leaders than we do of ourselves.

Help us live out your Sermon on the Mount with Mark and Martin and at times live it out for them.

Help us pray and support their ministries as they support ours.

Help us together show the ‘hear and now’ and the ‘still of come’ of the kingdom in Newark and beyond. 

So, a blessing that I’ve written for today and it’s for you – Martin and Mark, the gathered Church physically in Newark and this community on-line that isn’t about replication and isn’t a poor substitute of the traditional but equally human and spirit-led.

May God’s blessings stream out to You

May they swirl around Your feet until You cannot resist swimming.

God blessings are for those who feel life has passed them by;

Too poor, too sad, too unnoticed, too put down

To be part of the flow of the good-stuff.

Yet Jesus says ‘God sees you as you are, sees you in this hard moment and favours you’

Let no-one diminish you or treat you like muck. Do not think of yourself as dirt.

No! You are part of a rich, clear stream that is the grace of God.

You are blessed.

Newark, knowing You are blessed, live out of that stream

Live-stream Newark

In all things

Live-stream love. 

Amen.

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