Reflection – 24 January 2021


Here’s my reflection for Sunday 24 January.

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 24 January 2021 – A Reflection

Our call to worship

Why are you here?

Maybe you are here because you recognize in your own story

a greater story

one spoken since the beginning of time

by prophets, preachers and peacemakers

a story where god calls the world

into liberation and wholeness.

Maybe you are here because you have glimpsed

a moment of love that is beyond human reach

the grace that lies just beyond our finger tips

that transforms the ugly into breathtaking

the impossible into the real

Maybe you are here, not defined by faith

but with a deep conviction

that the ending to everyone’s story is yet to be written

and can be shaped into life by justice and compassion.

Maybe you are here, no longer sure whether you belong

or how any of this makes a difference

struggling to remember the vision that inspired you

or the call that now eludes you.

You are welcome…


Let’s have some music. This is Jesus in the New Dawn by Margaret Rizza.

Jesus, in the new dawn, guide our way,

lead us to your light;

Jesus, in the new dawn, guide our way,

free us from our strife;

Jesus, in the new dawn, fill our world,

bless us with your joy;

Jesus, in the new dawn, fill our world,

bring us to your truth.

Spirit in the new dawn, sing to us,

play for us your song;

Spirit in the new dawn, sing to us,

we will join your dance;

Spirit in the new dawn, take our hearts,

birth in us your peace;

Spirit in the new dawn, take our hearts,

make them one with yours.

Father, in the new dawn, speak to us,

plant in us your love;

Father, in the new dawn, speak to us,

teach us to forgive;

Father, in the new dawn, hold us fast,

bring us to new life;

Father, in the new dawn, hold us fast,

bind us to your heart.

Let us pray.

O God, who sent gifts
of the Holy Spirit to those first saints,
We know you continue to send gifts to us,
even though we do not claim them.
We confess that we have not always opened our gifts.
We have often chosen to keep them packed away or buried.

We confess to you how often our thoughts and motives are confused,
both individually
and when we are together as your people,
and that this confusion has often blinded us
to your interest in our lives.

Move us, by your Spirit,
to pick up our presents, that you so freely give,
to open them and to spend them lavishly
on the stewardship of your world.

Break in on our confusion,
and astonish us anew, O God!
Our prayer is that you will claim us again
and silence within us our desire
to always have words for every occasion,
that we might hear the whisper of the wings of your Spirit dove.

In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we pray.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

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

We are looking at a parable again today. This time it’s a one-off – you’ll only get my take on this one. Next week Thomas is with us and he’ll be talking about a different parable. Then in February you’ll get input from both Martin and me on two more.

Let’s get straight on with it.

The first reading is from Matthew’s gospel – it’s the parable that’s commonly called the ‘parable of the talents’. But I’ve chosen to go with the Message translation this week where it’s headed – The Story About Investment.    

Matthew 25:14-30

The Story About Investment

“It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.

“After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

“The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

“The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’

“The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

“‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’

Our second reading is from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians – also from The Message

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

I don’t think, friends, that I need to deal with the question of when all this is going to happen. You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would. About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other—“We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!”—suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.

But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.

God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.

Now I always try and find a song or hymn that is based on the Bible text we are studying. Sometimes it’s really easy. If you look for hymns based on Psalm 23 for example you’ll find 13 in the book I often use. But for some passages, even well-known ones, the hymn writers don’t seem to have come up with the goods.

So I was really pleased to find this song on YouTube. It’s written by John Hayles from Adelaide South Australia – and what’s really great is that I’m hoping that John will  be able to join us this morning. Or this evening Adelaide time.

It’s called Song of the Parable of the Talents.

Chorus: Five and five make ten, two and two make four

One and nothing makes nothing, it doesn’t count at all

Five and five make ten, two and two make four

One and nothing makes nothing, what are we here for?

To sail upon a distant sea, to walk towards the sun

To hold true to our chosen course, as though it’s just begun

To aim our sights on better things, to learn to take the pain

To rise when we have fallen, to get up and try again

Chorus

To make a difference in our time, to want what’s good and true

To strive to make the world come right, God knows it’s overdue

To make the most of what we’ve got, to be all we can be

To work right to our utmost to make better history

Chorus

To plant the seed, to meet the need, to stand all on our own

To grow in ways we know are right for us and everyone

To endure when we’re exhausted, to run when we could fall

To know when we have finished that we’ve truly given all

Chorus

© John Hayles Adelaide September, 1996

Talk

So why is it called the parable of the talents? Well it’s not really because it’s got anything to do with talent in the meaning of ‘skill’. A talent – τᾰ́λαντον – pronounced talanton – in the original Greek was a sum of money, equivalent to about 15 years of the wages of a labourer. So how much money are we talking about here?

Well let’s use the national living wage of £8.72 per hour. If you work a 40 hour week that would equate to about £18,000 a year. If a talent was worth 15 times that it would be about £270,000.

That means that the man gave one of his servants £270,000, another one £540,000 and the third about £1.35 million. Far more than the few thousand dollars that we heard about from the Message.

A significant sum of money.

Now when we had the church meeting on Tuesday a number of people said that one of the things they liked about our Zoom worship was being able to participate. So time to do some thinking for your self.

Here’s what I’d like you to think about:

  1. Why is the story about such large sums of money?
  2. Is the story really about what to do with money? If not what is it about?
  3. The Message translation puts an emphasis on risk taking. Is it appropriate to take risks? What might happen if we do? What can happen if we don’t?
  4. What does the story have to say to us in this church at the moment?

Plenty there to have a think about. Take a few minutes to have your own thoughts

Here are some thoughts of mine about those 4 things:

  1. The large amounts of money indicate the measure of trust the man has in his servants. They were all trustworthy to a large degree – or so the master thought. God has the same level of trust in us.
  2. A few thoughts about what the story might be about
    1. Judgement – the returning master is God judging people on judgement day?
    1. The huge value of what God has given us. And also the huge amount that’s down to us. The rich man didn’t tell his servants exactly what to do – he left it to them to sort out. But he gave them all what they needed to make a go of it.
    1. If you do well you’ll get given more to do!! How true that can be.
  3. Risks can lead to greater rewards. It can also lead to losses. It wouldn’t be appropriate for Treasurer to bet the church’s money on a horse race. But not everything has to go right. It’s OK to fail. Its not OK not to try.
  4. We musn’t sit back in self-congratulation. We must keep on trying new things. They might not all be successful but that doesn’t matter. We know that if we don’t try anything we can’t succeed; if we try new things then we might. All of us can step up to the challenge. Not everyone has the same skills but we all need to make the most of what we’ve got. Need trust in each other.

Time for Prayer

Intercessory Prayer in the midst of the spread of COVID-19

O God our Healer, show your compassion for the whole human family that

is in turmoil and burdened with illness and with fear. Hear our cry, O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Come to our aid as the coronavirus spreads globally, heal those who are

sick, support and protect their families and friends from being infected.

Hear our cry, O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Grant us your spirit of love and self-discipline so that we may come

together, working to control and eliminate the coronavirus. Hear our cry, O

God,

Listen to our prayer.

Make us vigilant, attentive, and proactive in the eradication of all

diseases, malaria, dengue, HIV & AIDS, and others [may be named outloud or in silence]… that create suffering and often result in death for

many people. Hear our cry, O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Heal our self-centeredness and indifference that makes us worry only

when the virus threatens us, open ways beyond timidity and fear that too

easily ignore our neighbour. Hear our cry, O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Strengthen and encourage those in public health services and in the

medical profession: care-givers, nurses, attendants, doctors, all who

commit themselves to caring for the sick and their families. Hear our cry,

O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Sustain all workers and business owners who suffer loss of livelihood due

to shut-downs, quarantines, closed borders, and other restrictions…

protect and guard all those who must travel. Hear our cry, O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Guide the leaders of the nations that they speak the truth, halt the spread

of misinformation and act with justice so that all your family may know

healing. Hear our cry, O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Heal our world, heal our bodies, strengthen our hearts and our minds, and

in the midst of turmoil, give us hope and peace. Hear our cry, O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Hold in your gentle embrace all who have died and who will die this day.

Comfort their loved ones in their despair. Hear our cry, O God,

Listen to our prayer.

Remember all your family, the entire human race, and all your creation, in

your love.

Amen

Closing prayer

God, our kind and loving Father,
you no longer call us servants but friends.
There is so much you have entrusted to us,
even the future of your kingdom of justice and love.
Give us the grace to work out with you
the growth of mercy and goodness in this world,
to be united with all Christians
and with all who seek you with a sincere heart
in bringing reconciliation and joy to everyone.
Let us travel together the way to you,
our living and loving God,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Our final hymn is In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

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. HSBC
  2. Lloyds
  3. Santander
  4. Halifax
  5. Barclays
  6. Natwest
  7. Skipton Building Society
  8. Bank of Scotland
  9. TSB
  10. Royal Bank of Scotland

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