Reflection – 20 March 2022

Here’s Martin’s reflection for Sunday 20 March.

Wherever you are in the world you can join in with the worship using this link to Zoom – https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84890359132 – worship starts at 11.00 GMT.

Mark

London Road Congregational Church Reflection 20.3.22

Love that neighbour… but not the other one

Call to Worship

We are the body of Christ!

Baptized in one Spirit, we are members of one body.

Many and varied in gender, colour, sexuality, age, class, and ability, we are members of Christ’s beautiful body.
None of us can say to another, “I have no need of you.” For only together can we find wholeness.

None of us can say to another, “I will not care for you.”

For we are connected like muscle and bone.
If one suffers, we all suffer. If one rejoices, we all rejoice! Thanks be to God who calls us to be one.

Let us worship God!

Prayer

Holy God, source of all being,
you are greater by far than our human thoughts can comprehend.
With all that you have created, you abide; weeping with us in grief and pain, rejoicing with us in life and love.

You are everywhere in this very moment; holding the entirety of living experience and weaving us together in the great and intricate tapestry of Creation.

Everlasting God, you are everywhere and right here.
As close as the air we breathe, the air which binds us one to another and all to your beautiful creation. You are as close as the sunlight on our skin, as close as the rain that drips from our hair; the wind and the water that push us and lead us and call us again and again into relationship with one another and with you.

Holy Spirit, Divine Advocate, guide and encourage us.

Hymn: For everyone Born

Prayers

Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (Modern Translation)
God, lover of us all, most holy one.
Help us to respond to you, to create what you want for us here
on earth. Give us today enough for our needs. Forgive our weak and deliberate offenses, just as we must forgive others when they hurt us. Help us to resist evil and to do what is good. For we are yours, endowed with your power to make our world whole. Amen.

Readings

Psalm 139:1-18

God’s Complete Knowledge and Care

139 Lord, you have examined me and you know me.
You know everything I do;
    from far away you understand all my thoughts.
You see me, whether I am working or resting;
    you know all my actions.
Even before I speak,
    you already know what I will say.
You are all around me on every side;
    you protect me with your power.
Your knowledge of me is too deep;

    it is beyond my understanding.

Where could I go to escape from you?
    Where could I get away from your presence?
If I went up to heaven, you would be there;
    if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there.
If I flew away beyond the east
    or lived in the farthest place in the west,
10 you would be there to lead me,
    you would be there to help me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    or the light around me to turn into night,
12 but even darkness is not dark for you,
    and the night is as bright as the day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You created every part of me;
    you put me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because you are to be feared;
    all you do is strange and wonderful.
    I know it with all my heart.
15 When my bones were being formed,
    carefully put together in my mother’s womb,
when I was growing there in secret,
    you knew that I was there—

16     you saw me before I was born.
The days allotted to me
    had all been recorded in your book,
    before any of them ever began.
17 O God, how difficult I find your thoughts;[b]
    how many of them there are!
18 If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand.
    When I awake, I am still with you.

Mark 2:23-3:6

The Question about the Sabbath

23 Jesus was walking through some wheat fields on a Sabbath. As his disciples walked along with him, they began to pick the heads of wheat. 24 So the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do that on the Sabbath!”

25 Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did that time when he needed something to eat? He and his men were hungry, 26 so he went into the house of God and ate the bread offered to God. This happened when Abiathar was the High Priest. According to our Law only the priests may eat this bread—but David ate it and even gave it to his men.”

27 And Jesus concluded, “The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings; they were not made for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The Man with a Paralyzed Hand

Then Jesus went back to the synagogue, where there was a man who had a paralyzed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong; so they watched him closely to see whether he would cure the man on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man, “Come up here to the front.” Then he asked the people, “What does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save someone’s life or to destroy it?”

But they did not say a thing. Jesus was angry as he looked around at them, but at the same time he felt sorry for them, because they were so stubborn and wrong. Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it became well again. So the Pharisees left the synagogue and met at once with some members of Herod’s party, and they made plans to kill Jesus.

Reflection

Affirmation of Faith


We believe in God, who is love, and who has given the earth to all people. We believe in Jesus Christ, who came to show us the ways of grace, the ways of peace, the ways of love, the ways of mercy and forgiveness. Which, when fully lived, will free us from all forms of oppression. We believe in the Spirit of God, who works in and through all who are turned towards truth. We believe in the community of faith, which is called to be at the service of all. We believe in God’s power to transform and transfigure, fulfilling the promise of a new heaven and a new earth where justice and peace will flourish. Amen.

I realise that some people will not agree with what I am going to say today. The beauty of congregationalism is that there are some things I would expect you to, and there are others I would encourage you to pray about, study the Word for yourself and seek peace with God about. Jesus died for your sins – all of us; our need for grace in all things – all of us.  The topic I want to speak about today – please listen to what I have to say, pray about it, seek God for yourself and listen to what God says. I want us to continue our series looking at passages that have been used to attack groups of people in our community. I saw them referred to as ‘texts of terror’ and a student referred to them as ransom note religion.

In school, when we are looking at relationships in lessons and what the Bible says about them, I often get students who ask/tell me that the Bible condemns homosexuality. It’s amusing that often these are people who don’t believe in God or the authority of scripture, so I firstly tell them to get their own rule book to throw at me.  If they wanted to find Leviticus they couldn’t but they know the word ‘abomination’.

There are seven texts often cited by Christians to condemn homosexuality: Noah and Ham (Genesis 9:20–27), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1–11), Levitical laws condemning same-sex relationships (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13), two words in two Second Testament vice lists (1 Corinthians 6:9–10; 1 Timothy 1:10), and Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 1:26–27). People challenge the interpretation of these texts saying that these do not refer to homosexual relationships between two free, adult, and loving individuals. They describe rape or attempted rape (Genesis 9:20–27, 19:1–11), cultic prostitution (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13), male prostitution and pederasty (1 Corinthians 6:9–10; 1 Timothy 1:10), and the Isis cult in Rome (Romans 1:26–27). 

Remember, if we are going to take these texts without any interpretation can I suggest we all go to Luke 12:23, read that, finish early go home and meet again next week. If that…then this… Shall we look at two of the texts and study them?

The two texts that are often used are the Leviticus and Romans texts. If read literally both of these texts say that homosexuality is wrong, but what was the background, the purpose and is the relevance of these two texts? Those who challenge a literal interpretation of these passages say that they do not refer to homosexual relationships between two free, consensual and loving individuals.

Leviticus 18:22 – firstly the term homosexual is not an ancient Hebrew word and so is unlikely to mean what we mean today. What was customary in other cultures of the area, at that time was a form of sponsorship that had become abusive. It is not surprising that there is a passage in Leviticus that speaks out against a practice common in the area rather than something of which a word had not even been made up.

If one then actually looks at the text and is not lazy in its translation or study, you find that the context of much of ch.18 is concerned with relationships within the family. When you then look at the words used for man – which is better translated male of any age, and for woman – which refers to a grown woman, and lying – in the plural, so refering to a practice rather than act – you begin to see a verse that says “Sexual intercourse with a close male relative should be just as abominable to you as incestuous relationships with female relatives.”

Romans 1:26-27 – The context of this passage is about idolatry and condemns some of the practices of the idolatrous communities around them. He is talking about those who had once been Christian and had fallen away, God had given them up to their new practices. Paul is writing to the church in Rome who are aware of other religious practices around them.  People have had God revealed to them plainly but they have given themselves over to idolatry. Instead of worshipping God they worship idols, that is what is being condemned, their idolatry. He is speaking to his Jewish listeners about what these people do as part of their idolatry.

When we consider the words used by Paul in the Greek we also discover certain things about the passage. ‘Degrading passions’ speaks of frenzied states of mind similar to the pagan worship. Where someone is not conscious of their actions. The idea of someone ‘exchanging’ is talking about not acting according to your orientation but acting in a way that is not natural for you. It is not a moral issue but one of your normal affections. When it speaks of ‘due penalty’ I am reminded of passages that speak of your reward being gained from where your worship is given, those who receive their earthly or heavenly reward.

There are those who say the Word should not be messed with and used to excuse acts they feel are sinful. I am not telling you what to do. I would like you to study the Word for yourself, to pray in the Word and ask God to speak to you. I just don’t want you to take a passage, possibly out of context, and to use it to attack individuals because it is convenient that that isn’t something you do and it makes you feel better about things God is speaking to you about.

Let us pray.

Father, I thank you that you have given us a way of knowing you more. We ask that where we have used your word against others you will forgive us. Give us hearts that want to share your love for all people and want to know you more through your Word.

Amen

Hymn: Uncomplicated

Blessing

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