Reflection – 22 November 2020


Here’s my reflection for Sunday 22 November.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. I will be leading worship this week. It’s Café Church so there will be a quiz. And maybe some audience participation. You’ve still got to provide your own breakfast though I’m afraid.

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

Mark Taylor

Sunday 22 November 2020 – A Reflection

Our call to worship:

We are here,

in the name of Christ Jesus.

So ask right now,

and it shall be given to you.

Seek right now,

and you will find.

Knock right now,

and the door will be opened.

Let us pray

May we honour your name
not by paying it lip service, Lord Jesus
but by trusting the vision it speaks of

and the way it calls for

May we honour it by following you

speaking into the word with our actions
and showing who we’re chosen to follow

May we love in your name
speak in your name
care in your name
that willingness to touch the outcast
feed the hungry
remember the sick
visit the imprisoned
clothe the naked
give water to the thirsty
in your name

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

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

Today’s my final session on the Sermon on the Mount. So far I’ve spoken about

  • Half of the Beatitudes
  • Salt and Light
  • Anger
  • Vows, Revenge and Love
  • The Lord’s Prayer

On the spreadsheet we put together to plan the series of services today’s section on Matthew 7:1-23 has as the subject ‘ Miscellaneous’. There didn’t seem to be a single underlying theme that ties Jesus’ ideas in this section of the Sermon together.

Here is today’s Bible reading

Matthew 7:1-23

Judging Others

7 “Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, 2 for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others. 3 Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? 4 How dare you say to your brother, ‘Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs—they will only turn and attack you. Do not throw your pearls in front of pigs—they will only trample them underfoot.

Ask, Seek, Knock

7 “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock. 9 Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? 10 Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

12 “Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets.

The Narrow Gate

13 “Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. 14 But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it.

A Tree and Its Fruit

15 “Be on your guard against false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves. 16 You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briers do not bear figs. 17 A healthy tree bears good fruit, but a poor tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a poor tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 And any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. 20 So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do.

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. 22 When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ 23 Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’

Time for our first hymn. I came across this – Love is the Golden Rule by Michael English

Babies are crying, people are dying

Violence is the law of the land

The world’s in a shake-up, it’s time we wake up

And answer to a higher command

Fightin’ and fussin’, screamin’ and cussin’

never solved a single thing

Come let us reason and let’s start believing

it’s time for us to make a change

We must find a way to love one another

and stop the hate that breaks us in two

We must learn to live together as brothers

or we will perish together as fools

Love is the golden rule

Love is the golden rule

You see it your way, I see it my way

what if we both could agree

that there’s a solution, a love revolution

that starts and ends with you and me

We got to find a way

To love one another

Love is the golden rule

We’ve got to learn to live with our sisters and brothers

Love is the golden rule

Love is the golden rule

Love is the golden rule

The world is in a shake up

It’s time that we wake up

Love is the golden rule

Talk

As normal on Café Service Sundays I’d like you to do most of the work. And today, I’d like you to do your bit before I offer my words of dubious wisdom.

I’d like you to think about the very first verse of today’s reading – ‘Do not judge others so that God does not judge you.’

Your mission should you choose to accept it is this:

  1. Think about times when you have judged others
    • Do you think you were right to judge them?
  2. Talk about times when other people have judged you unfairly.

Just take 5 minutes before you move on

I said earlier that I didn’t come up with a clear theme when I first looked at these 23 verses of Scripture. But sitting down to write something and reading things through again I think there is.

And in fact I think the theme is the most important theme of the whole Gospel. Because whether Jesus is talking about not judging, or about fruit trees bearing good fruit, or about turning up at the pearly gates and being told – ‘get away from me – I never knew you’ – it’s all about what you do in your life. Yet again it’s not Jesus saying ‘You need to believe all this stuff about God or about me – you just need to believe in what I’m telling you about the way you should live your life.

And it’s all summed up in verse 12 –

“Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets.”

Or if you use The Message translation

“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behaviour: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.”

Jesus says ‘This is the meaning of the Law and the prophets’. He doesn’t say it’s one of the meanings – he says it’s the meaning.

11 words – Do for others as you would want them to do for you.

It’s really interesting that Jesus says this is what it’s all about because here are a few more examples of when some other people have something similar to say:

Judaism

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.

Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a

(Rabbi Hillel was a Jew born over 100 years before Christ)

Islam

Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.

The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith

(Mohammed was active about 600 years after Christ)

Buddhism

Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.

The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.18

(The Buddha was around 5-600 years before Christ)

Hinduism

This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.

Mahabharata 5:1517

(The Hindu text the Mahabarata was written between 3rd century BC and 3rd Century AD)

Sikhism

I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me.

Indeed, I am a friend to all.

Guru Granth Sahib, p.1299

(The Guru Granth Sahib isn’t a person but is the sacred scripture of the Sikhs written in the 16th and 17th centuries AD)

All of these religions are saying the same thing in essence – this is the so-called Golden Rule. I could have shared texts from several other major religions along the same lines.

To me this takes us back to what we were talking about a few weeks ago. Jesus said he hadn’t come to do away with the Laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets (that was in Matthew 5 verse 17.) And as Rabbi Hillel said ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.’ Jesus is saying exactly the same thing.

So we have a continuity here that starts with the Old Testament texts, written hundreds of years before Christ, maybe around the same time as the Buddha was active, and which runs right through to the texts of Sikhism about 500 years ago. All the greatest thinkers about the meaning of life, our place in the universe, our relationship with God – call it what you will – are saying the same basic thing:

“Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets” – and the teaching of the Buddha and of the Prophet  Mohammed and many others.

Amazing isn’t it. All the faiths seem to agree. That’s all there is to it.

The difficult bit is putting it into practice.

Our second hymn today is by Fred Kaan. As some of you know Fred is one of my very favourite hymn writers and I thought this one fits well with today’s theme.

Help us accept each other

as Christ accepted us;

teach us as sister, brother,

each person to embrace.

Be present, Lord, among us

and bring us to believe:

we are ourselves accepted

and meant to love and live.

Teach us, O Lord, your lessons,

as in our daily life

we struggle to be human

and search for hope and faith.

Teach us to care for people,

for all – not just for some,

to love them as we find them

or as they may become.

Let your acceptance change us

so that we may be moved

in living situations

to do the truth in love;

to practice your acceptance

until we know by heart

the table of forgiveness

and laughter’s healing art.

Lord, for today’s encounters

with all who are in need,

who hunger for acceptance,

for justice and for bread,

we need new eyes for seeing,

new hands for holding on:

renew us with your Spirit;

Lord, free us, make us one!

Time for Prayer

As we take our worship, praise and prayer

from this place and into our daily lives,

may our lives be sustained through the love of our Heavenly Father.

May we feel the presence of our Saviour walking beside us,

and know the power of the Spirit in both our actions and our words.

Amen.

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

  1. Kumquat
  2. Persimmon
  3. Starfruit
  4. Lychee
  5. Buddha’s Hand
  6. Dragon Fruit
  7. Medlar
  8. Breadfruit
  9. Rambutan
  10. Durian

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