Reflection – 28 February 2021


Here’s my reflection for Sunday 28 February.

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

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

Mark Taylor

Sunday 28 February 2021 – A Reflection

Our call to worship today is based on Psalm 126

Let us begin this day by rejoicing!

The Lord has done such wonderful things for us.

Let us be glad!

The day before us is uncertain.

We know not what we will encounter on our way.

Wherever we go, we go forth as people of the living God,

And we go forth to touch the lives of all with his healing touch.

Let us begin this day with rejoicing!

and return to our homes with gladness!

Let us pray.

God of wonder and glory, this world around us is awesome.

You created it!

You continue to hold it together,

even as we threaten to tear it apart.

God of justice and righteousness,

to you we look for the truth.

You are the ultimate judge.

Your wisdom cuts through the lies.

God of grace and mercy,

the love you have shown us in Jesus is more than we deserve.

Your arms are open wide,

like a waiting father for his prodigal children,

ready to welcome and restore.

We come to you just now thirsting for your living water.

Guide us to the streams of your wonder and glory,

your justice and righteousness, your grace and mercy,

that we may drink and be satisfied,

renewed for our continuing journey with Jesus.

This we pray in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit….

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

As it’s café service here is the monthly quiz – the theme is Relatively Speaking

1TV Comedy series set on Craggy Island_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _
2Novel by Charles Dickens_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _
3Best selling album of 1985_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ _
4Korean forward for Spurs_ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ – _ _ _
5G K Chesterton detective_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _
6Novel by D H Lawrence_ _ _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _
7Film starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _
8Musical by Willy Russel_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
9John Irving Novel_ _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _
101972 hit for Paul Simon_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Scroll down for the answers

This month it was called relatively speaking. Did you get the link with today’s theme?

  1. Father Ted
  2. Dombey and Son
  3. Brothers in Arms
  4. Son Heung-min
  5. Father Brown
  6. Sons and Lovers
  7. Father of the Bride
  8. Blood Brothers
  9. Son of the Circus
  10. Mother and Child Reunion

Which one is the odd one out?

The first 9 are all about Fathers, Sons and Brothers – and they are all characters in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

But the last one is Mother and Child reunion.

Here’s our first bible reading

Luke 15:11-32

Jesus went on to say, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger one said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the property now.’ So the man divided his property between his two sons. After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing. So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs. He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat. At last he came to his senses and said, ‘All my father’s hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve! I will get up and go to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and started back to his father.

“He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms around his son, and kissed him. ‘Father,’ the son said, ‘I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’ 22 But the father called to his servants. ‘Hurry!’ he said. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast! For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’ And so the feasting began.

“In the meantime the older son was out in the field. On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Your brother has come back home,’ the servant answered, ‘and your father has killed the prize calf, because he got him back safe and sound.’ The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in. But he spoke back to his father, ‘Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father answered, ‘you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’”

Have a look at this picture of a sculpture

A bit of information about the sculpture:

The sculptor is a man called Herman Wald who was Jewish. He left Europe in 1937.

That’s all you’re getting!

What do you notice about the sculpture?

Why do you think a Jewish sculptor chose a New Testament theme?

You might want to pause and think about this before reading on.

You might have noticed that the figure in front of the Prodigal Son (who is completely naked and vulnerable) is a female. Not a father but a mother.

And she’s standing there but can’t hold out her hands to hold him – her hands hang helplessly by her side.

The reason behind this is that the sculptor left Europe, which was becoming anti-Jewish, in 1937 for South Africa. He left his own mother behind and, sadly, she perished in the Holocaust. This sculpture is about Herman Wald portraying himself as the prodigal son returning to his mother, expressing his survivor’s guilt for leaving his mother behind. The prodigal son, bent in an upward arch, shows how everything from his past, through his feet, his naked scarred body, all lead back to his mother. The soles of his feet are turned towards us, the viewer, inviting us into his pain. The mother figure bends over him, with arms hanging helplessly by her side. She wants to support him, but she is no longer there… 

Let’s have our first song now. It’s called ‘He Ran to Me’

Almighty God the great I am
Immovable rock omnipotent powerful
Awesome lord
Victorious warrior commanding king of kings
Mighty conqueror and the only time
The only time I ever saw him run
Was when

He ran to me
He took me in his arms
Held my head to his chest
Said my son’s come home again
Lifted my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in his voice ge said
Son do you know I still love you

He caught me by surprise when God ran

The day I left home
I knew I’d broken his heart
And I wondered then if things could ever be the same
Then one night
I remembered his love for me
And down that dusty road ahead I could see
It was the only time
It was the only time I ever saw him run
And then

He ran to me
He took me in his arms
Held my head to his chest
Said my son’s come home again
Lifted my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in his voice ge said
Son do you know I still love You

He caught me by surprise
And he brought me to my knees
When God ran I saw him run to me

I was so ashamed all alone and so far away
But now I know that he’s been waiting for this day

I saw him run to me
He took me in his arms
Held my head to his chest
Said my son’s come home again
Lifted my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in his voice
I felt his love for me again
He ran to me
He took me in his arms
Held my head to his chest
Said my son’s come home again
Lifted my face
Wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in his voice

He said son
He called me son
He said son do you know I still love you
He ran to me (When God ran)
(I saw him run to me)
And then I ran to him
(When God ran)
When God ran

Time for a second Bible reading – Genesis 27:1-29

Isaac Blesses Jacob

Isaac was now old and had become blind. He sent for his older son Esau and said to him, “Son!”

“Yes,” he answered.

Isaac said, “You see that I am old and may die soon. Take your bow and arrows, go out into the country, and kill an animal for me. Cook me some of that tasty food that I like, and bring it to me. After I have eaten it, I will give you my final blessing before I die.”

While Isaac was talking to Esau, Rebecca was listening. So when Esau went out to hunt, she said to Jacob, “I have just heard your father say to Esau,‘Bring me an animal and cook it for me. After I have eaten it, I will give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’Now, son,” Rebecca continued, “listen to me and do what I say. Go to the flock and pick out two fat young goats, so that I can cook them and make some of that food your father likes so much. You can take it to him to eat, and he will give you his blessing before he dies.”

But Jacob said to his mother, “You know that Esau is a hairy man, but I have smooth skin. Perhaps my father will touch me and find out that I am deceiving him; in this way, I will bring a curse on myself instead of a blessing.”

His mother answered, “Let any curse against you fall on me, my son; just do as I say, and go and get the goats for me.” So he went to get them and brought them to her, and she cooked the kind of food that his father liked. Then she took Esau’s best clothes, which she kept in the house, and put them on Jacob. She put the skins of the goats on his arms and on the hairless part of his neck. She handed him the tasty food, along with the bread she had baked.

Then Jacob went to his father and said, “Father!”

“Yes,” he answered. “Which of my sons are you?”

Jacob answered, “I am your older son Esau; I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of the meat that I have brought you, so that you can give me your blessing.”

Isaac said, “How did you find it so quickly, son?”

Jacob answered, “The Lord your God helped me find it.”

Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come closer so that I can touch you. Are you really Esau?” Jacob moved closer to his father, who felt him and said, “Your voice sounds like Jacob’s voice, but your arms feel like Esau’s arms.” He did not recognize Jacob, because his arms were hairy like Esau’s. He was about to give him his blessing, but asked again, “Are you really Esau?”

“I am,” he answered.

Isaac said, “Bring me some of the meat. After I eat it, I will give you my blessing.” Jacob brought it to him, and he also brought him some wine to drink. Then his father said to him, “Come closer and kiss me, son.” As he came up to kiss him, Isaac smelled his clothes—so he gave him his blessing. He said, “The pleasant smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. May God give you dew from heaven and make your fields fertile! May he give you plenty of grain and wine! May nations be your servants, and may peoples bow down before you. May you rule over all your relatives, and may your mother’s descendants bow down before you. May those who curse you be cursed, and may those who bless you be blessed.”

Reflection

Do you notice any parallels between this story of Jacob and Esau and the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Here are a few:

  • 2 brothers
  • A father
  • An inheritance
  • The younger brother gets the loot
  • The older brother is annoyed.

Are there any differences?

Well at least there’s a woman in this story – but she doesn’t come out very positively does she?

Still no mention of any sisters though.

It was interesting to hear last week that the government are thinking of introducing legislation to do away with the law of male primogeniture. That law means that titles like Earldoms and Baronetcies can only be inherited by males. That’s still the law in this country now. Amazing isn’t it – high time that was changed. But the absence of sisters in both these stories reminds us that the Bible must be read in the context of the times when it was written. Women did not inherit then. But of course that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be treated as equals now. Times move on – we slowly learn to be fairer – and old prejudices need to be left behind.

Anyway that’s a whole other discussion.

Do you think Jesus might have had this story of Jacob and Esau in mind when he told the parable of the Prodigal Son? Who knows?

I want to talk for a few minutes about 3 things from the parable.

You always have to talk about 3 things in sermons.

The first point comes from the start of the story.

The younger son has decided he wants to go. He’s off. He’s had enough – time to stretch his wings. Not that unusual a story for a young man is it?  So he comes to his Father and asks him for his share of the inheritance now. He’s too impatient to wait until the old man is dead.

Now what might the father’s response have been. He holds all the financial power here. He might have told the young man – ‘No chance. You’ll get your money when it’s due. Until then it’s all mine to do with as I want and you’ll have to stay here with me if you want the lifestyle that my money brings.’

But instead, in the story, the old man divides his property up, the young man sells his share, and off he goes. It’s interesting to note that the older son got his, presumably larger share too. So the older son has got nothing to complain about has he?

That the father is prepared to do what the young son asks tells us something about what God is like doesn’t it? He might know what’s best for us. He could make us toe the line and do what he wants. But instead he’s given us this most precious gift – the gift of free will. He won’t stop us doing what we want to do. We have the freedom we need to go our own way in life, to come to our own decisions and to thrive on or suffer the consequences of those decisions. Life would be a very different and very much poorer thing if we didn’t have that freedom.

Secondly I want to think about that phrase ‘while he was still a long way off’.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.

While he was still a long way off.

What’s that telling us about God?

Well he may well have given us the freedom we seek, the freedom we need to be fully developed human beings, the freedom to make a complete hash of things but he doesn’t stop caring for us. He’s always waiting, wanting, expecting us to come back to him. And as soon as we make the slightest move in the right direction he’s the one that comes out to meet us. We don’t have to move very far – we can still be a long way off, a long way from acting how God would want us to, but that’s good enough to get the loving welcome.

Which brings me on to my final point.

Do you remember all the hoops the father made the prodigal jump through before he’d consider having him back? All the questions he asked of him, all the things he had to do before the father would forgive him?

No neither do I. Because there weren’t any. The son admitted he’d made a mistake and that was enough., No long talks from the father about exactly what he thought of him, no ‘I told you so’ no questions asked about how he spent his money. (which reminds me of what George Best said when he was asked what had happened to all his money. “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds, and fast cars” he said. “The rest I just squandered.”)

None of that from this father. Just love and acceptance and joy at having him back.

That’s grace. Far more than the son deserved but freely given just the same.

That may not be the world’s way, but it is God’s way. The other son may have thought it unfair, but that’s God’s way. God’s way for me, for you and for everyone.

Every single time.

Our final hymn is Father God, I wonder.

Father God, I wonder how I managed to exist
Without the knowledge of Your parenthood and Your loving
Care
But now I am Your son, I am adopted in Your family
And I can never be alone
‘Cause Father God, You’re there beside me

I will sing Your praises
I will sing Your praises
I will sing Your praises
Forever more
I will sing Your praises
I will sing Your praises
I will sing Your praises
Forever more.

Time for Prayer

Intercessions

Closing prayer

Abba:
hungering for more
that we deserve,
we demand our way
and you give it.

we stuff ourselves
on the empty husks
of pleasure and selfishness,
our shallow souls
hungering for more;

we party our way through life,
awakening in sin’s gutters,
our hollow hearts
hungering for more;

then
stumbling and stammering,
we hunger to find
our way back to you –

where
you fling wide
heaven’s doors,
dragging your stainless robe
through the litter of our sin,
running
to sweep us up
in your arms
and carry us home

where we will hunger
no more.

Abba.

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

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