Reflection – 01 November 2020


Here’s Martin Frost’s reflection for Sunday 01 November.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. Martin 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 via Zoom in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for log in details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

London Road Congregational Church Reflection 1/11

Outside show is a poor substitute for inner worth – Aesop

Call to worship:

“Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.” “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” Nehemiah 9:5-6

Let us pray

Father let us have this time together to recognise just who you are what you mean to us. Help us to refocus our lives on you as the source and purpose of all things. Let this time be one of blessing for each other and for you.  We thank you that we can have this time and want to worship you. 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: Majesty, Worship His Majesty.

Majesty, worship his majesty
Unto Jesus be all glory, power and praise
Majesty, kingdom authority flow from his throne
Unto his own his anthem raise
So exalt lift up on high the name of jesus
Magnify, come glorify christ jesus the king
Majesty, worship his majesty
Jesus who died now glorified
King of all kings.

Readings:

Leviticus 25:35-38

35 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

Matthew 25:35-40

35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Matthew 6:1-4; 16-18

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Reflection

Piety or righteousness, as in the translation above, is one of those words we use but I would struggle to explain what it means. It is referred to in Isaiah 11 as one of the seven gifts of the Spirit that we should develop. Pope Francis defines it thus: “Piety is not mere outward religiosity; it is that genuine religious spirit which makes us turn to the Father as his children and to grow in our love for others, seeing them as our brothers and sisters.”

So, in this passage from Matthew 6, we hear Jesus warn us about how we demonstrate our piety. How we practice our religion.

What is interesting is that he highlights two aspects of our faith that, when practiced, highlight our understanding of our dependence on God. I have come to realise that much of our walk with God is about trust, who we are going to trust and what we are going to trust.

The thing is that Jesus is challenging us to think about why we do things. I suppose not completely unconnected to the first principle of the manifesto we accepted, to follow the way of Jesus rather than rules or obligations.

So the first aspect of our faith is giving alms – a topic I will at some point bring up as a church. Leviticus explains that the edges of the fields should be left and vines only harvested once to allow for the provision of the poorer. God has provided for all as long as we only take our fair share. Exodus says that every seventh year the whole field is to be left. In the New Testament both Cornelius and Tabitha are held up as examples of good almsgivers. Jesus has not come to do away with this practice, but he has come to, yet again, challenge the motivation – the heart posture – for it. The Pharisees were condemned for giving alms so that they could get praise from the people around them. In response Jesus says that they have already received their reward. They wanted praise and they have received it. By giving alms for the right motives we develop our mercy towards others and our recognition of God’s goodness. In this way we benefit now as individuals and in heaven.

And then the second aspect of our faith is fasting. Fasting is often connected to prayer as a way of showing that you are serious about seeking God and hearing from him. It is the belt and braces of prayer. In Islam Muslims fast during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan to show their recognition of the goodness of God, mercy for those less fortunate and to show seriousness in their efforts of piety. It is believed that during this month the devil is held captive so it is down to their own efforts and will power to be the best version of themselves.

Within the Christian tradition we have Lent and ‘fish’ Fridays. What is going through my head are two things, do we make a show of how much or how we pray or do we just get on with it. I certainly know of the power of prayer and appreciate any prayer for me that is offered. But secondly do we sometimes pray because we feel we should and with a real expectation that God will answer. The pharisees are condemned for making a show of the fact they are praying but the danger is also there that it is done as a ritualistic thing rather than an expectant thing.

So I suppose what I have wanted you to get from this is Jesus’ challenge to all of us to think about why we do certain aspects of our faith and what does it show about our understanding and dependence on God.

Who are we doing it for?

Why are we doing it?

Do we expect a response from God?

Hopefully this timely reflection will help you settle a few things with God.

Communion

Before we begin this part of the service, I’d like us to pause. I’d like us to reflect why we are doing it and to search our own hearts. Is there an element of this that is just because we always do it on the first Sunday? Is there an element of familiarity that overlooks the extent of Jesus’ sacrifice. Let us just pause and collect ourselves.

We remember the stories that Jesus friends tell,
stories of bread broken and shared, feeding a multitude,
stories of being gathered together, enemy and friend, around tables,
stories of unlikely guests revealing the face of the sacred.

They say that that it was on a night of both celebration and betrayal
that he took the bread leftover on the table,
blessed it and broke it;
reminding them that it is in the breaking that we become whole,
in losing our lives that we find them, in serving that we are served.
As the grain scattered becomes one in the loaf,
when we eat this bread, we become one with one another.

They say that he took the cup also leftover on the table, poured out and sharing,
remembering with them, the life-giving breath even now pounding a rhythm through our veins,
the breath of life from whence we come the breath that precedes and follows all that we can see
As the grapes find life in the vine, when we drink this cup,
we become at one with the source of life itself.

Blessing:


And so we pray:
Come, holy Spirit, come.
Bless this bread and bless this fruit of the vine.
Bless all of us in our eating and drinking that our eyes might be open,
that we might recognize the risen Christ in our midst,
indeed in one another.
Come, holy Spirit, come.

We eat this bread and remember Jesus’ sacrifice for each of us.

We drink this cup together to remember the price Jesus had to pay.

Prayer of Thanksgiving/Dedication

Holy God, we came to this table
tempted to deny the pain of life,
scarred from too many broken dreams,
knowing that we are not immune to evil’s lure.

And you met us at this table;
embracing us I our brokenness,
naming us “beloved”,
claiming us for an eternity.
We thank you, living, loving God.

Hymn: Goodness of God

I’ve chosen this hymn because as we close this time together I want us to reflect and remember why we are here.

I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never failed me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
And in darkest night You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a Father
I’ve known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God, yeah!

And all my life You have been faithful, oh
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God, yeah!

‘Cause Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
With my life laid down, I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
‘Cause Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me, oh-oh
‘Cause Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me
With my life laid down, I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
‘Cause Your goodness is running after, it keeps running after me

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God
I’m gonna sing, I’m gonna sing
‘Cause all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God
Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God

Blessing.

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