Reflection – 29 November 2020 (Advent Sunday)


Here’s Thomas Dodd’s reflection for Sunday 29 November.

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

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

Reflections 29.11.20

Good morning everyone and a very warm welcome to our zoom worship today, it is so good to be with you once again on this 5th Sunday, and it’s not only a privilege to be speaking on this Advent Sunday, but also to conclude your sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount.

It’s a good conclusion to Jesus’ sermon, it doesn’t leave us on a cliff-edge hanger, but it leaves us with a decision, to either trust in Jesus and his words and so build our lives on solid foundations, or reject his words and face a life that will be built on weak and wobbly foundations.  

For now let me collect our thoughts together in what us good Anglicans call a collect which is set for Advent Sunday. A prayer set for today

Almighty God,

give us grace to cast away the works of darkness

and to put on the armour of light,

now in the time of this mortal life,

in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;

that on the last day,

when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal;

through him who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

You hopefully will have a candle at this point – whilst we can’t meet in our building we can symbolically together over Zoom light our advent candle and remind ourselves. This first candle we light today reminds of the patriarchs, the prophets, John the Baptist, Mary and on Christmas day Jesus. Some traditions vary in the type of meaning of the candles.

Today we remember the Patriarchs of our faith, who are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from Jacob came David and from David came Jesus. We light it now together remembering the Patriarchs.

Let us pray.

Advent God, we worship you the God who comes. You are not remote from the world you have made, but each day you come to us, blessing us with your presence.

You came in creation itself, as your spirit moved over the waters of chaos. You came in Jesus Christ, made flesh in our world of weakness and nee. You came in power to raise him from death, a mighty promise for all creation. Each day you come, by your spirit, gently and powerfully working in the lives of men and women. At the end of time you will come, in power and righteousness, in mercy and redeeming love.

Grant us the grace to welcome your coming. Inflame our love to yearn for your presence. Enlarge our vision to recognize your coming day by day. We greet you, advent God. Amen

We’re going to sing now a hymn – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

VERSE 1
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

VERSE 2
O come, Thou, Dayspring from on high
And cause Thy light on us to rise
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadow put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

VERSE 3
O come, O come, true prophet of the Lord
And turn the key to heaven’s door
Be Thou our comforter and guide
And lead us to the Father’s side
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall by His word our darkness dispel

VERSE 4
O come, our great High Priest, and intercede
Thy sacrifice, our only plea
The judgment we no longer fear
Thy precious blood has brought us near
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Has banished every fear of hell

VERSE 5
O Come, Thou King of nations bring
An end to all our suffering
Bid every pain and sorrow cease
And reign now as our Prince of Peace
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come again with us to dwell

We’re now going to have our bible reading for today or should I say watch it – reminding ourselves that we are all children before God

Now let’s hear God’s word read to us – Matthew 7:24-29

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

A wise builder-

This morning we are going to conclude the sermon series in the sermon on the mount. It’s a pretty good conclusion, no cliff hanger, leaving us on the edge of our seats finish, but a strong conclusion to what Jesus has been teaching, I like the idea of this sermon being on a mountain side, rather than a plain as other gospels say Jesus was preaching from, it meant people had to climb to get to Jesus, there was an urgency and an intentionality in getting to Jesus to hear his words. And now he teaches his disciples and those here to hear him, what he stands for, his own manifesto, which you as a church had adopted. It’s good for a church to adopt a constitution, or a manifesto, something which the church seeks to stand for and abide by, not just for those within the walls and confine of the building but for those outside, the people we are called to seek to love and serve.

This conclusion requires a decision, a decision between whether we will build our lives on the word of God, who is Jesus made flesh, he is the true word of God. Or a decision to build on weak and wobbly foundations, and so have a life without Jesus. A decision which will either lead to eternal life or not. The choice is yours, and you today have to make it. These strong solid good foundations aren’t referring to a building plan. This rock has already been provided for us to build this house upon, and that rock is Christ, he is our hope.

Wise people aren’t just wise through age, neither are they wise through reading doctrinal papers or having a lot of letters after that name, wise people are wise because they’ve learnt to do the opposite of what they shouldn’t do.

So, when we have clear instructions hear from Jesus through his sermon on the mount, we have a clear instruction, to either reject the teaching or accept it. It’s those who accept it who are wise.

The spiritual meaning of the parable is found in Matthew 7:24: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” We are each building a life. The proper foundation for a life is Jesus’ words—not just the hearing of them, but the doing of them, too (see James 1:22). it is wise to build one’s house on a sure foundation; anchoring to bedrock makes a building withstand the test.

The wise builder carefully plans his house. He investigates the building site to make sure that it will sustain his building. He judges the soil and elevation to make sure that there are no flood hazards. He will listen to warnings of those who know the area. He builds with confidence and knowing his building will last.

We can live our lives with confidence when we live according to the word of God. It is not just about listening or talking but it is about doing! 

So if a storm comes, if temptations come our way, if trials come our away, and we’ve anchored ourselves deep in the bedrock of Jesus Christ, and his teaching and his word, then our faith will stand the test.

We will not fall down, when the enemy comes near our dwelling.

This isn’t so much to do with hearing the words, but putting our money where our mouth is so to speak, it’s about putting our faith in Jesus, and our faith isn’t in words or reading books about Jesus, our faith is in Knowing Jesus, only Knowing him. You can listen to someone and pay no blind bit of attention to what their saying, men call it selective hearing. If we truly Love Jesus as much as we say we do, if we truly want to serve Jesus as we truly say we do, if we truly and earnest believe and put our faith in Jesus, then we can in no two minds about it that we build and continue to build daily upon Good solid foundations.

Jesus is immovable, he is unshakeable, he is unstoppable, he is dependable, he is always there. Nothing can move Jesus from us, we can move as far away from God as is humanly possible, but God will always be on our case, God will always come running after us, there is no one that is so far from God’s eyes that he does not see.

Children get taught to say please, thank-you, pardon me.

We get warnings too, mind the gap between the train and the platform edge, or very recently its, hands, face, space. Or remember in March the slogan? Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. Warnings we do something about and if we follow them we will stand good stead at living a healthy and fruitful life, hopefully avoiding the pain of COVID and other ailments, and of course having good manners.

Romans 10:17 tells us, consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is hear through the word about Christ. You can have heard the most amazing sermon, and do nothing with what you’ve heard.

It’s time to stop doing nothing, and it’s time to start doing something, with child-like faith, believe and accept that this word of God is true, I can assure you there will be plenty of unanswered questions, but these will be answered in heaven. If you hear these words, and do something about it, you will be a like a wise builder, building on solid foundations.

A chance to sing again – Let the king of my heart

Verse 1

Let the King of my heart be

The mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from; oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be

The shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life; oh, He is my song

Chorus
You are good, good, oh     

Verse 2
Let the King of my heart be The wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves; oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be The fire inside my veins
And the echo of my days; oh He is my song

Bridge
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down

A foolish builder

Some people are just foolish, even with the simplest of warnings. I’ve found some which are quite amusing on various products. On a fireplace log, caution, risk of fire. On a batman costume, warning: cape does not enable user to fly. On a bottle of hair colouring, do not use as an ice cream topping. On a cardboard sun shield for a car, do not drive with sun shield in place. On a buggy, caution, remove infant before folding for storage.

As Jesus concludes his sermon, which he has been giving, he describes such fools in contrasts to those who are wise. Their whole lives fall apart when the storms come, because of the foundations that they choose to build on, but that doesn’t have to happen to you.

In the area of Palestine there were low valleys and gullies that had been exposed by water from rain and storms. During heavy rainfall these became swollen rivers that washed away everything in their paths. A foolish builder would build his house without thinking about what kind of foundation there was. He might have liked the way the building site looked. Perhaps he decided to ignore the warnings of people who had experienced the past floods.

That is how we live our lives if we do not live them according to the word of God. We just do what feels right at the time. We do not listen to warnings or we ignore God’s wisdom. There are many people who build their lives on shifting sand. They may listen to sermons and bible classes but they do not live according to what the bible says.

You see, no matter who you are, the storms will come. It rains on the just and the unjust. The winds blow on believers and unbelievers. The floods come on everybody.

I wish I could say, “Trust Christ with your life and you will avoid all of the problems of life,” but that just isn’t true. I can say, however, “Trust Christ with your life and you will prevail in all of the problems of life;” you will come through the storm still standing and actually stronger for it.

My dear friends, whatever storm you’re going through, Jesus is better than the worst storm, so trust Him in the storm. If your life is founded on Him, if you’re depending on Christ, you’ll come out just fine.

Things which we think are safe to build on, money, relationships, theology, food, tv, books, even church will fade away, but the one thing that will remain a constant is Jesus Christ, he will remain when all other thing has passed away, there is no greater companion to whether the storm of life than Jesus. He may be sleeping in the boat, but trust him when he is, why? Because with one word he will still the storm, Jesus is never sleeping, the one who watches over us never slumbers or sleeps, if you think he’s sleeping he isn’t, he is the faithful sure rock of our salvation, the one to whom we can come, he may have been having forty winks in the boat, but he still has watchful care over his flock.

Recently I’ve been moving house, and I’m sure those of you who’ve had the opportunity and privilege to do that will know some of the vital things to check out for when you move. Subsidence, is the house near a flood plain, is there damp inside? Key things which we look out for in order to ensure the house we live in is sturdy and strong.

Don’t be like the foolish person who decided to go against those vital checks, because there will be a fall. Not a physical fall, but a spiritual fall.

Be careful says Paul, if you think you’re standing firm, you might actually fall.

We need to pay very close attention to the words of Jesus, because we will then not fall when storms come our away. Don’t suffer spiritual subsidence as a result of ignorance to the word of Christ, as Colossians 2:7 tells us – rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.

Very often you don’t see the many roots a tree has holding into the ground, like wise these spiritual roots we place and put down in Christ the solid bed rock of our faith, will keep us standing when the storm comes. And we will stand, be careful though warns Paul, because if you think you’re standing firm, you might actually fall.

So having asked you to consider your decision, what’s yours now?

You may need time to ponder. You may want to talk to me, I’m happy for you to contact me. You may want to talk to Mark or Martin.

The decision that you choose today on what foundation you seek to build, will have a consequence at the day when Jesus comes again at his 2nd advent. The way between everlasting life and an eternity without Jesus.

Building on rock or on sand, I know what foundation I want to build on.

Jesus the capstone, the stone that some builders have rejected, has now become the cornerstone, he is my cornerstone, is he yours? A foundation to weather the storms of life, an ever-present help in times of trouble, he is my cornerstone, will you let him be yours as well?

Prayers-

Lord prepare us for your advent coming, in our prayers today we try to come to you, sure that you will come the rest of the way.

Lord prepare us for your coming in the church. Clean out unnecessary clutter of our church life, the piles of dead habits, the cupboards full of prejudice, the cobwebs of compromise, and the sad rotas of forgotten dreams. Open our church to the free flow of your refreshing spirit. Give to this church a new vision and hope. We want to belong to you again.

Lord prepare us for your coming the world. Come drive away despair from our politics; revive our dreams of justice; restore our passion for what is good, right and true. Establish your just and gentle rule, where peace has been powerless and violent people have had their day. Set a flame to the fuse of justice, where arrogant people have defied the moral order year after year. Guard well the new springtime of hope where peace has come like a gift, wrapped in reconciliation and gladness.

Lord prepare us for your coming in our community. In the problems of our locality, help us never forget the supremacy of love. May love motivate our care for this neighbourhood. May love heal the social ills which drag us into despair. May love inspire our citizenship to rise beyond mediocrity. We name in our minds the problems local of which we are aware and pray that love will find away.

Lord prepare us for your coming to those in need. Give us eyes to search the face of the stranger and there to see the face of the saviour. Give us sensitivity to hear the doubt and hesitation, and there, with that person, to share the confusion and futility. There are those we know who are ill now, struggling this morning to handle the pain. Let us pray for them, for you come to us in the, and you ask for our love. We give that now, as we name them and love them in our hearts. What we have promised in love and prayer, let us never forget to do.

Advent Lord, come ever nearer. Come to rejuvenate our faith, come to fortify our social conscience, come to open wide our eyes of wonder. So that when the Saviour comes, he may steal into our heart, and find them ready, Even so come Lord Jesus.

Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

A final song – Oceans

[Verse 1]
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

[Chorus]
I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

[Verse 2]
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed (You’ve never failed)
And You won’t start now (and You won’t start now)


[Bridge]
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

Benediction –

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

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