Reflection – 20 September 2020

Here’s Martin’s reflection for Sunday 20 September

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 20/9

The Character of Kingdom Citizens

Call to Worship:

Our call to worship is from Micah 6:8

God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? 

Let’s pray:

It is good to be together, God,
on these screens, with these people,
together listening for your voice,
united by your Spirit.
In this time of worship
tell us about your kingdom of kindness
so that we can seek it.
Show us your justice.
We want to walk with you,
humbly, closely, daily. Amen

Let us say together the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Hymn: The Story I’ll Tell

These aren’t the full lyrics, but I have included these words. As you read them, reflect on how God has been there, even through the darkest times holding and sustaining us.

The hour is dark
And it’s hard to see
What You are doin’
Here in the ruins
And where this will lead
Oh, but I know
That down through the years
I’ll look on this moment
And see Your hand on it
And know You were here

And I’ll testify of the battles You’ve won
How You were my portion when there wasn’t enough
And I’ll testify of the seas that we’ve crossed
The waters You parted
The waves that I’ve walked

Singing oh, my God did not fail
Oh, it’s the story I’ll tell
Singing oh, I know it is well
Oh, is the story I’ll tell

Readings:

Genesis 1:27-28

27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that [a]moves on the earth.”

Numbers 6:22-27

22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord [
e]lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” ’

27 “So they shall [f]put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

James 2:12-26

12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Hymn: Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu Alleluia

Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and it shall be opened unto you
Allelu Alleluia

Reflection:

From the very beginning of time God’s intention for us was to flourish. Our understanding of being fruitful misses the point if we simply see it as having lots of children. We were created for a relationship with God and sent as his envoy into the world to represent him and we were told to be fruitful and flourish in this context. To establish the kingdom of God on the earth and to be responsible for its well-being. Well we know how humanity has done with that task!

The prophets from Moses onwards attempted to guide the people of God to a lifestyle that would help them flourish. The ten commandments are not rules but guidance on how we can live our lives.

When Jesus started his ministry there was an expectation that Jesus would set out his plan for this life. John 10:10 explains that Jesus himself says his role is to bring life in its fullest form. The Jewish zealots who came to oppose him reacted to his message. Jesus called people back to God not into conflict with the authorities.

Matthew 5 collates Jesus’ teaching and in the Beatitudes we see Jesus’ explanation of how we can live our lives as God intended. Happy does not explain what Jesus is saying, a blessed or perhaps a fulfilled life is achieved in this way. This sense of purpose and fulfilment cannot be taken away by circumstance either. Also bear in mind that many were looking to Jesus to overthrow the Roman rule and establish a new Jewish authority. Instead he speaks of a kingdom, a spiritual kingdom that already exists.

The first few explain how Jesus recognises character traits of those who will be blessed, both by God and in life. He also challenged the idea of people who keep the law but only from duty not from love of God and each other.

Matthew 5:7 points out that those who are merciful usually do it because they have received mercy. We have experienced God’s grace and because of that show that to others. James 2:13 repeats this idea that we are to show mercy even if it is not deserving.  It is only to those who show mercy that God will be merciful – but that is the state we are meant to live in.

Matthew 5:8 speaks of a purity of heart. If you haven’t coveted your neighbour’s donkey for the past week that doesn’t count. The purity it speaks of is your focus on God. What Jesus is reminding us that if we have our gaze and trust on God then whatever else is going on will be secondary. If we are torn between worshipping God and putting other things in control – including fears – then we will not be living in the fullness God intended.

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus points out that God’s heart is for reconciliation and when we strive to bring that between each other and between people we reflect the nature of God and our purpose in the world. This is part of a fulfilled life.

We need to remember that Matthew 5:10 is speaking to a group that was being or would be persecuted by the Jewish authorities. Jesus says to them, and us, that we will be persecuted for seeking God and Jesus in our lives but we will be living in such a way that the kingdom of God will be being established and that will be a blessing. The kingdom of God wont become something we inhabit, it is something we do.

Verses 11-12 just reinforce this, explaining that it may include being mocked or ill treated. However, it does say that this treatment needs to be false accusation and it made me think of how society is very anti-Church in light of all the scandals it has been through. We are also reminded that as Christians trying to live this life of being salt and light we are in a long chain of people who have delivered this prophetic message.

Hymn: Be Thou My Vision – In seeking God’s kingdom first I’ve chosen this hymn as a reminder of where our focus needs to be at all times.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art –
Thou my best thought, by day or by night;
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord.
Thou my great Father; thine own may I be,
Thou in me dwelling and I one with thee.

Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and thou only first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Blessing.

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