24 September 2020
The story of Stephen
Charles Swindoll tells us that “Anyone can be great because anyone can serve.” Those are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They remind us of the words of Jesus who declared that he did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). On the night before he was crucified, when the weight of the world was on his shoulders, he took a towel and basin and washed the dirty feet of his disciples. By that one simple gesture he showed forever what sort of man he was and what sort of people we should be. He came to serve, and in his bloody death on the cross he served all humanity. Was Jesus great? The question hardly needs answering. He was great because he was God’s servant.”
Dr. King is right. Greatness is open to all because anyone can be a servant. Sometimes we may feel that serving is fine with us as long as someone else does most of the work.
But sometimes someone will come along to serve and go that extra mile. Will give that last breath in their lungs and that last bit of energy in their bodies. Sometimes in a crisis those who serve come to the fore and there are occasions when faced with a crisis, those who serve not only give their time and energy but give their lives.
I am told that the Chinese word for “crisis” is made up of two word-symbols – one meaning “danger” and the other “opportunity.” That’s what a crisis is, a danger and an opportunity rolled up together.
So when the opportunity came to serve, Stephen did serve and he gave up his life for the Word of God that meant so much to him.
How do we serve today? How is it possible to serve in a society under lockdown?
Jesus said “ love one another as I have loved you” and it is still possible to do that from the comfort of our own homes. We can reach out to people by phone and by prayer. We can write them a note or tell others about their need. Don’t ask me why I remember this, but the first ever sermon I heard in St Paul's, Fergus’s strapline that day was quoting the Barbara Streisand song “ people who need people are the luckiest people in the world”. Today more than ever the church needs us, more than ever the church needs us to serve, after all we serve a risen saviour who gave his life for all of us. Amen
An extract on Stephen
The Choosing of the Seven
6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
23 September 2020
The Queen of Sheba
On our landing, back in the day when I lived with my mum and dad, we had a lady who lived a few doors down who liked everything done in a particular way. Usually her way! I always remembered my mother would comment” who does she think she is! The Queen of Sheba?”. My immediate reaction to that was always “ I wonder where Sheba is?”
The Queen of Sheba was a wealthy and influential ruler whose nation dominated commercial trading in the middle east. She must have had a certain measure of wisdom to rule such a country but it is said she had many questions unanswered so she turned to a man of wisdom and that was Solomon.
Solomon’s wisdom had become renown throughout the ancient world. However, it wasn’t something he could brag that he came up with himself. No. His wisdom was a gift from God.
Certainly, Solomon in all his wisdom knew this, and in impressing the Queen of Sheba, he made effective inroads in cooperating with trading partners and powerful nations.
Eventually the queen was not disappointed and she went away satisfied.
All of this makes me consider all the times I think of my “own” skills and consider that all of the gratitude should go to God as everything comes from Him. Even our lives are a gift and although we may not have the wisdom of Solomon or the riches of the Queen of Sheba what we have is priceless and irreplaceable. We should try to use these skills however small in return for Gods gifts to us.
As we find in James 1 verse 17 “ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
And now lets read about The Queen…………………..
The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon
10 When the Queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.2 Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. 3 Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. 4 When the Queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, 5 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at[a] the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.
6 She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. 7 But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. 8 How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”
10 And she gave the king 120 talents[b] of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
11 (Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir; and from there they brought great cargoes of almugwood[c] and precious stones. 12 The king used the almugwood to make supports[d] for the temple of the Lord and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. So much almugwood has never been imported or seen since that day.)
13 King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.
Teach us to number our days alright
that we may gain a heart of wisdom
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
22 September 2020
The Prodigal Son
He was a rebel, a drop out, a party animal. He drank heavily at one point and was involved in quite a few brawls in his time and he was in jail on more than one occasion. Now, having said all of that he was the successor to one of the most prestigious Christian Organisations and I am talking about Franklin Graham the son of the late great Billy Graham.
In the gospel of Luke we hear about two famous sons. One of course is Jesus and the other is in the parable of the lost son. We all know his story, someone of us might even have lived his story. But this parable has one of the most significant lessons in the bible for all of us and that is God always leaves a light on for us. Just as the father stood every day looking at the horizon for his lost son to appear.
This story tells us probably as much, if not more, about God than any other single story in the Bible. But it also tells us as much, if not more, about us than any other story in the Bible. It lets us know why it is so wonderful to realise that God is always there for us, despite the decision we have made, despite the actions that we have taken, despite the words that we have said in haste God is always on the look out for us waiting to take us in his arms and bathe us in his amazing grace. Amen
And now the Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“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 around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
21 September 2020
Naomi ( meaning joy)
Naomi was married to a man named Elimelech. A famine causes them to move with their two sons, from their home in Judea. While there Elimelech dies, as well as his sons who had gotten married in the meantime. Near destitute, Naomi returns to Bethlehem with one daughter-in-law, Ruth whom she could not dissuade from accompanying her.Her other daughter-in-law, Orpah, remains in Moab.
When Naomi returns, she tells the Bethlehemites, "Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the God has dealt very bitterly with me". Scholars say that Naomi was very self absorbed and that her daughter in law brought about her rehabilitation. The Book of Ruth depicts the struggles of Naomi and Ruth for survival in a “patriarchal environment”.
The arrival of Naomi and Ruth in Bethlehem coincides with the barley harvest. Naomi gives Ruth permission to glean those fields where she is allowed. Ruth is working in the field of Boaz, when a servant identifies her to him as Naomi's daughter-in-law. It happens that Boaz is a kinsman of Naomi's late husband. He tells her to work with female servants, warns the young men not to bother her, and at mealtime invites her to share his food.
When Naomi learns that Ruth has the attention and kindness of Boaz, she counsels Ruth to approach him directly: "... dress yourself in your best attire and go down to the threshing floor. Do not make yourself known to the man before he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, take note of the place where he does so. Then go, uncover a place at his feet, and lie down. He will tell you what to do."
The story of Naomi reminds us of Gods faithfulness to restore an empty life and Naomi went from a starving and hungry environment to a place where there is a full and healthy harvest. Another story of contrasts Naomi goes from the loss of her husband and sons to the loving care and concern of her daughter in law Ruth. Like Naomi we may have trouble recognizing Gods goodness and his faithfulness at times but he is always with us despite out thinking and our circumstances.
The story of Naomi Ruth Chapter 1
1 In the days when the judges ruled,[a] there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth.After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,[b]” she told them. “Call me Mara,[c] because the Almighty[d] has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted[e] me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
20 September 2020
Mathew, Jesus and Harvest
The Calling of Matthew
Chapter 12 from verse 9
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus Questioned About Fasting
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman
18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.
20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.
Jesus Heals the Blind and the Mute
27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they replied.
29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.
32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”
The Workers Are Few
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Today is the Sunday before the local holiday September weekend. Today it is traditionally the day we celebrate Harvest Festival in St Pauls parish church. But of course today sees a change in how we must celebrate it. Today it may appear that we have different priorities and protocols to worry about. But one thing is clear and one thing is definite and one thing remains the same and that’s the love and the grace that we find in Jesus. Still the same as yesterday, today and forever.
The reading is especially poignant this morning because the harvest that is required is now different. The churches have been closed, people have been alone in their homes and for some, fear has been palpable.
So as we are moving to the next stage (hopefully) of the church beginning to open, what is this different harvest that’s required.
Well my first prayer this morning is for Food banks.
Food banks and other like minded agencies.
They have been suffering over the past five months and places like Preshal, (although closed over the lockdown) have still been feeding folk on a daily basis. They have also given out food parcels. The Salvation Army hasn’t closed its door, they are still needed for the homeless and the desperate, as well as City Mission and The Lodging House Mission. Therefore it's so important that we still support them in our own way this year we are unable to support them in our usual way.
When we read today's reading we hear that “When he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. “ Of course today we have the Shepherd, we know him and call to him in our prayers.
In verse 37 Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
So this would be my second prayer this morning, and that would be for the “new harvest” that we need over the coming months. The church will begin to open its doors and people will be missing. People who are not there because of the numbers. People not able because of their age or their frailty. People who prefer to stay away as they are afraid. Their bodies may not be in the building but their hearts and minds will be there because their love for their church never fades, never goes away.
Yes we need to harvest the crops, we need to feed the homeless and the despairing, but we need to feed our people who long for the smell of the church sanctuary, the sound of the chatter and laughter, the music of the choir and the unity of their prayers and the uplifting voice of our minister.
Through our reading this morning one thing is clear and that’s the authority of Jesus. In our reading, he had the authority to call Matthew and this morning he is calling on you. He had compassion for the crowds as they were like sheep without a shepherd, we are lucky for we know the shepherd but at the same time we also have a flock of friends and pew-pals that need an additional shepherd to keep in touch and reassure them. And that could be you. Let's not be discouraged for there are many things going on at the moment to help our spiritual needs. The on line service, the DVD's being distributed by Chris and the many other sources that are available to us.
At the end of our reading Jesus shows that the Harvest is important for there is a lot of work to be done.
On this Harvest Sunday lets pray about a new Harvest, what we have to give and what we can do. Amen
What gift of love could I offer to a King
What weight or worth could be held within my offering
When He alone is worthy
A glory song is inscribed upon my heart
This treasure held in an alabaster jar I break
To bring Him all the glory
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
What sacrifice could be equal to His own
The cross of Christ has declared that there is nought I owe
Yet I know I owe Him all
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Our Father God the infinite
The matchless King magnificent
The living Christ
The servant Son
The saving One
The Holy Ghost gift from above
The faithful Friend
The seal of love
This life, this heart
This song to Him
My all in all
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost
19 September 2020
According to the Bible, Naaman was a commander of the army of Syria. He was a good commander and was held in favour because of the victory that God brought him. Yet Naaman was a leper. Naaman's wife had a servant girl from Israel who said that a prophet there would be able to heal him. Naaman tells his lord this and he is sent to Israel with a letter to the king. The king of Israel didn't know what to do, yet Elisha sent a message to the King, advising that the King tell Naaman to come to see him. Elisha then told Naaman to go bathe in the Jordan seven times and he would be clean. Naaman was angry and would have left, but his servant asked him to try it and he was healed. A servant of Elisha, Gehazi, seeing Naaman being turned away from offering God offerings ran after him and falsely asked for clothing and silver for visitors. And the leprosy from Naaman fell on Gehazi and would remain in his descendants.
Naamans pride was defeated by Gods gracious response to his obedience but the situation could have turned out differently. There are obvious questions here, for instance why didn’t Elisha speak to Naaman after he made such a long journey. Why hadn’t the prophet merely waved his hand and healed him.
But despite all this Naaman did what he was told and dipped himself in the water and was amazed as he began to feel the changes in his body. The man who almost forfeited a miracle because of his pride humbled himself to receive the promise God had made to him through Elisha.
An extract from the life of Naaman
5 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.[a]
2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents[b] of silver, six thousand shekels[c] of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
16 The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. 18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”
19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.
A promise from scripture
Exodus 15 "For I am the Lord who heals you"
Jeremiah 17 “ Heal me O Lord and I will be healed, save me and I will be saved for you are the one that I praise” Amen
18 September 2020
The narrative of Moses' infancy describes an unnamed sister of Moses observing him being placed in the Nile (Ex 2:4); she is traditionally identified as Miriam.
In the Exodus, Miriam is described as a "prophetess" when she leads the Israelites in the“Song of the sea” after Pharaoh's army is destroyed at “sea of reeds”
The Old Testament describes Miriam and Aaron criticizing Moses’ "Cushite" wife in Numbers 12 and in verse 9 we read that “The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them” God was not impressed by their judgment on Moses or his wife and he made them feel his displeasure.
Though we don’t read anywhere what Miriam did about this we must assume she repented during the seven days of her banishment. After all its not easy for a person of faith to be judged in such a way. Having said all of that Miriam was one of the great heroes of our faith, as a young girl she helped save the young Moses and she led the people encouraging God. It is thought that she led them singing the first ever Psalm ever recorded in the Bible.
Regarding the death of Miriam, the Torah states, "The entire congregation of the children of Israel arrived at the desert of Tzin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there."
Now let's read an extract of the life of Miriam
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.
3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:
“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
8 With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?”
9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my Lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”
14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.
17 September 2020
Josiah A man who loved the word
Josiah was the sixteenth king of Judea, he was known as the man who instituted major religious reform and compiled important Hebrew scriptures. He is described as a righteous king, a king who "walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left". He is also one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthews gospel.
Although he became a King when he was a boy, he became a strong spiritual leader and he helped restore Judah’s fractured relationship with God. Not only was he a man of his word, he was a man who looked to words for the rules and the law that was set before him and his people. It was known that he came from a background of “ nasty” predecessors but he was the clear example of how grace can inhabit even the nastiest of families and when with hearts that are open to God, anything is possible.
So from this lets read an extract from the life of Josiah
2ndKings Chapter 22
22 1-2 Josiah was eight years old when he became king. He ruled for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He lived the way God wanted. He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to either left or right.
3-7 One day in the eighteenth year of his kingship, King Josiah sent the royal secretary Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to The Temple of God with instructions: “Go to Hilkiah the high priest and have him count the money that has been brought to The Temple of God that the doormen have collected from the people. Have them turn it over to the foremen who are managing the work on The Temple of God so they can pay the workers who are repairing God’s Temple, all the carpenters, construction workers, and masons. Also, authorize them to buy the lumber and dressed stone for The Temple repairs. You don’t need to get a receipt for the money you give them—they’re all honest men.”
8 The high priest Hilkiah reported to Shaphan the royal secretary, “I’ve just found the Book of God’s Revelation, instructing us in God’s ways. I found it in The Temple!” He gave it to Shaphan and Shaphan read it.
9 Then Shaphan the royal secretary came back to the king and gave him an account of what had gone on: “Your servants have bagged up the money that has been collected for The Temple; they have given it to the foremen to pay The Temple workers.”
10 Then Shaphan the royal secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.” Shaphan proceeded to read it to the king.
11-13 When the king heard what was written in the book, God’s Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. And then he called for Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the royal secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal aide. He ordered them all: “Go and pray to God for me and for these people—for all Judah! Find out what we must do in response to what is written in this book that has just been found! God’s anger must be burning furiously against us—our ancestors haven’t obeyed a thing written in this book, followed none of the instructions directed to us.”
Josiah lived by promises and the Bible is full of them
2nd Chronicles 7 verse 14
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”
16 September 2020
So what do we know about Dorcas? Well in the bible she is also referred to as Tabitha. Dorcas means “ gazelle” and believe it or not there is a species of Gazelle called “ the dorcas gazelle”.
But what do we know about Dorcas, the woman. Well we can glean from the scriptures that she was quite a wealthy woman as she seemed to be a popular seamstress. We are told that she was always doing good and helping the poor. We can safely say that God was glorified in her life story and also up to the point of Peter coming to her when she was dead. Her acts of kindness and her generosity give us a great example of how we can glorify Gods name as well. He can be glorified through our simple acts of love and obedience whatever they are and who ever you are.
Now lets read about Dorcas
Acts 9 36-43
36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”
39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.
40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
Psalm 19 v 14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be pleasing in your sight O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.
15 September 2020
From Ruth 2 verse 12
Boaz said to Ruth………
“May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge”.
These are the words of Boaz the wealthy landowner of Bethlehem. Boaz was, in fact, related to Naomi who was Ruth's mother in law.
He notices Ruth the widow gleaning grain in his fields. He soon learns of the difficult circumstances her family is in and of Ruth's loyalty to Naomi. In response, Boaz invites her to eat with him and his workers, as well as deliberately leaving grain for her to claim while keeping a protective eye on her.
Ruth approaches Boaz and asks him to exercise his right of kinship and marry her. Boaz accepts and In marrying Ruth, Boaz revives Elimelech's lineage, and the patrimony is secured to Naomi's family. Their son was Obed, father of Jesse, and grandfather of David.
Boaz was a capable and upright man and was touched by the loyalty and generosity of a young widow. In Ruth he found a well suited wife who would bless him with a son.
Now let's read an extract from their story.
5 Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”
6 The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
13 “May I continue to find favour in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”
14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”
When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”
17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah.[a] 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.
19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”
Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.
20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.[b]”
21 Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”
22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”
23 So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Boaz offers us a great portrait of a good man, the type that God would bless.
Palm 41 v 1-2
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
The Lord protects and preserves them –
they are counted among the blessed in the land –
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
14 September 2020
Abigail name means “ my father’s joy”
This story of Abigail is one of opposites colliding. On the one hand you have Abigail's first husband Nabal ( which means “the fool”) he appears a mean and stubborn man with great wealth. But he was not for sharing anything and he turned David’s men away when they asked for food.
On the opposite side we have David. With his ruddy good looks and his prowess in battle he was a giant amongst men and killer of Goliath. All he needed was some food for his men but Nabal was having none of it and refused.
Well as we can read. Abigail wife of Nabal flew into action and she took bread, wine, cakes and meat in order to feed David’s men. Fast-forward to the end of the chapter and a raging Nabal collapses and dies. Abigail then goes onto becomes David’s wife
One of the interesting lines in this reading is how Abigail describes David, telling him “Your God-honoured life is tightly bound
in the bundle of God-protected life;”
Abigail was a courageous woman who made the best of a difficult situation. God honoured her for her for her consistency and her generosity. In the same way God continues to honour those who are faithful even when the faithfulness beings difficulty and pain. He doesn’t promise to always deliver but he does promise to stand beside us and to follow us in our path through life.
Now let's read the story of Abigail
1 Samuel 25 v2-42
2-3 There was a certain man in Maon who carried on his business in the region of Carmel. He was very prosperous—three thousand sheep and a thousand goats, and it was sheep-shearing time in Carmel. The man’s name was Nabal (Fool), a Calebite, and his wife’s name was Abigail. The woman was intelligent and good-looking, the man brutish and mean.
4-8 David, out in the backcountry, heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep and sent ten of his young men off with these instructions: “Go to Carmel and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name, ‘Peace! Life and peace to you. Peace to your household, peace to everyone here! I heard that it’s sheep-shearing time. Here’s the point: When your shepherds were camped near us we didn’t take advantage of them. They didn’t lose a thing all the time they were with us in Carmel. Ask your young men—they’ll tell you. What I’m asking is that you be generous with my men—share the feast! Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to me, David your son.’”
9-11 David’s young men went and delivered his message word for word to Nabal. Nabal tore into them, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? The country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I’m going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it to men I’ve never laid eyes on? Who knows where they’ve come from?”
12-13 David’s men got out of there and went back and told David what he had said. David said, “Strap on your swords!” They all strapped on their swords, David and his men, and set out, four hundred of them. Two hundred stayed behind to guard the camp.
14-17 Meanwhile, one of the young shepherds told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, what had happened: “David sent messengers from the backcountry to salute our master, but he tore into them with insults. Yet these men treated us very well. They took nothing from us and didn’t take advantage of us all the time we were in the fields. They formed a wall around us, protecting us day and night all the time we were out tending the sheep. Do something quickly because big trouble is ahead for our master and all of us. Nobody can talk to him. He’s impossible—a real brute!”
18-19 Abigail flew into action. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep dressed out and ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes, and she had it all loaded on some donkeys. Then she said to her young servants, “Go ahead and pave the way for me. I’m right behind you.” But she said nothing to her husband Nabal.
20-22 As she was riding her donkey, descending into a ravine, David and his men were descending from the other end, so they met there on the road. David had just said, “That sure was a waste, guarding everything this man had out in the wild so that nothing he had was lost—and now he rewards me with insults. A real slap in the face! May God do his worst to me if Nabal and every cur in his misbegotten brood aren’t dead meat by morning!”
23-25 As soon as Abigail saw David, she got off her donkey and fell on her knees at his feet, her face to the ground in homage, saying, “My master, let me take the blame! Let me speak to you. Listen to what I have to say. Don’t dwell on what that brute Nabal did. He acts out the meaning of his name: Nabal, Fool. Foolishness oozes from him.
25-27 “I wasn’t there when the young men my master sent arrived. I didn’t see them. And now, my master, as God lives and as you live, God has kept you from this avenging murder—and may your enemies, all who seek my master’s harm, end up like Nabal! Now take this gift that I, your servant girl, have brought to my master, and give it to the young men who follow in the steps of my master.
28-29 “Forgive my presumption! But God is at work in my master, developing a rule solid and dependable. My master fights God’s battles! As long as you live no evil will stick to you.
If anyone stands in your way,
if anyone tries to get you out of the way,
Know this: Your God-honoured life is tightly bound
in the bundle of God-protected life;
But the lives of your enemies will be hurled aside
as a stone is thrown from a sling.
30-31 “When God completes all the goodness he has promised my master and sets you up as prince over Israel, my master will not have this dead weight in his heart, the guilt of an avenging murder. And when God has worked things for good for my master, remember me.”
32-34 And David said, “Blessed be God, the God of Israel. He sent you to meet me! And blessed be your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and taking charge of looking out for me. A close call! As God lives, the God of Israel who kept me from hurting you, if you had not come as quickly as you did, stopping me in my tracks, by morning there would have been nothing left of Nabal but dead meat.”
35 Then David accepted the gift she brought him and said, “Return home in peace. I’ve heard what you’ve said and I’ll do what you’ve asked.”
36-38 When Abigail got home she found Nabal presiding over a huge banquet. He was in high spirits—and very, very drunk. So she didn’t tell him anything of what she’d done until morning. But in the morning, after Nabal had sobered up, she told him the whole story. Right then and there he had a heart attack and fell into a coma. About ten days later God finished him off and he died.
39-40 When David heard that Nabal was dead he said, “Blessed be God who has stood up for me against Nabal’s insults, kept me from an evil act, and let Nabal’s evil boomerang back on him.”
Then David sent for Abigail to tell her that he wanted her for his wife. David’s servants went to Abigail at Carmel with the message, “David sent us to bring you to marry him.”
41 She got up, and then bowed down, face to the ground, saying, “I’m your servant, ready to do anything you want. I’ll even wash the feet of my master’s servants!”
42 Abigail didn’t linger. She got on her donkey and, with her five maids in attendance, went with the messengers to David and became his wife.
A promise from scripture Psalm 30 10-12
I called out to you, God;
I laid my case before you:
Can you sell me for a profit when I’m dead?
auction me off at a cemetery yard sale?
When I’m ‘dust to dust’ my songs
and stories of you won’t sell.
So listen! and be kind!
Help me out of this!”
You did it: you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
I can’t thank you enough.
From Eugene Pettersons translation of the Old Testament
New Series begins on Monday 14th September 2020
Alex McEwan who has faithfully been giving us our daily dose of Words for Life is taking a wee break from today, Monday 7th September 2020. He assures us it won't be for long and to keep a look out. In his words, "As Arnie would say, 'I'll be back'."
07 September 2020
Luke 6 6-11
6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shrivelled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Get up and stand in front of everyone.’ So he got up and stood there.
9 Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’
10 He looked round at them all, and then said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
A well known pastor held up a 20 pound note to the children in the church, “ who wants this?” Of course hands went up all over the kirk. The minister then crumpled it up into a ball as small as his strength would allow,“ who wants it now?” and a large proportion of children's hands disappeared. “ Wow” he says I can understand why some of you have put your hands down, but let me tell you this. No matter how crumpled this note is, no matter how dirty or discarded it might be, to me, it's still worth the same. And that’s how God feels about you, no matter how dirty your faces are, despite all the cuts and scrapes you have on your arms and legs. No matter what kind of clothes you wear. To God you are valuable and you are worth just the same.
In today's reading, these Pharisees are not happy people, they continue to observe Jesus to find fault and look for an opportunity to accuse him.
This story tells us about a man with a withered arm. He was probably a man who was disabled by his affliction. But where do we find him on the Sabbath? We find him in the synagogue. He was a man who did not let his affliction hold him back, or keep him at home. It was the Sabbath and we find him in the synagogue.
At this point in time I am sure those who are reading this are desperate to get back into the house of God, back into their home church. You might be worried about your minister or the fact that the church has now been empty for five months. Has all this separation caused a brokenness that can never be repaired. Are you suffering from a brokenness? Is there a part of your life withered?
Just as Jesus repaired the man's withered arm he can repair us and the church. It may take Him some time to do it, but He will fit every piece of your life back in its proper place.
There is a story about the Duke of Norfolk who was a loyal and loving subject of his esteemed king. As a gesture of friendship he gave the king a priceless Portland vase. It was so highly treasured by the king that he had it placed in the British Museum. In this way, he could share it with his whole kingdom.
A household servant of the Duke of Norfolk became envious of him and sought to kill him in order to steal his estate. Finding this out, the Duke banished him. Smouldering with envy, bitterness, and rage, the servant sought revenge. He chose the Portland vase as the channel for his viciousness.
For days he studied the routine of the guards at the British Museum. At a predetermined time, when the guards were being changed, he stepped across the restraining cord and seized the vase. He raised the vase over his head and with all his might, dashed it on the floor. The vase broke into innumerable pieces. The priceless treasure was ruined, or so it would seem.
The king ordered all the pieces to be saved. A search was made for someone to restore the vase. At last, a descendant of the maker of the vase was found to possess such skills. For weeks he laboured until at last the vase was restored. Today this vase can be seen in its restored glory in the British Museum. Only on close examination can one detect that it had ever been broken.
When this man with the “withered hand” was healed, others could possibly see other little problems in his life. But there is one thing for sure that they could not deny. They could not deny that Jesus performed a Great Miracle in his life and could do the same for me and you. Jesus Is The Cure For Broken churches and Withered Lives! Amen
And this is the actual broken but repaired Portland Vase
06 September 2020
Matthew 18 v15-20
Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
We have covered this topic in another part of the gospels but in a nutshell Jesus is saying that being a member of the church means you have a responsibility. If your sheep gets lost you don't look for an hour and call it quits. You get out there and find that sheep. If your brother sins against you seventy-seven times (another hypothetical), that's how many times you forgive him. And of course, we know from the Gospel of Matthew how Jesus treated the Gentiles and tax collectors.
Notice that Jesus follows this with talk about the power of agreement, saying “anything that is agreed upon by two on earth will be done for them by the Father in heaven”. This is a promise. But notice as well that this is not where Jesus ends. Jesus says last, "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
Jesus is present, really present, where two or three are gathered in his name, not just where two or three agree in Jesus' name, but where two are three are gathered, presumably this includes the two who cannot listen to each other nor know how to handle it. Christ Jesus is present.
Jesus offers a simple guide to help us handle our sin. But far more importantly Jesus promises us that he is present that his presence is real for us, when we are gathered in his name in agreement and even in conflict. Surely this must be good news for everyone involved. This Sabbath day lets pray for conflict. Those who are faced with it, those who witness it and especially for those who choose to allow it. Amen
05 September 2020
Luke 6 1-5
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath
6 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick some ears of corn, rub them in their hands and eat the grain. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, ‘Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’
3 Jesus answered them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’ 5 Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’
The Pharisees are at it again, “why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” The Pharisees in their attempt to protect the Sabbath burdened it with restrictions. So we should ask ourselves are we more like the Pharisees in Luke’s story than we care to admit? How have we managed to turn God’s gift of the Sabbath into a burden?
We could argue that we have gone to the other extreme with no restrictions on what we can do on the Sabbath. Our children have schools ports activities on a Sunday and most of the big shopping centres see Sunday as a big money earner. But what about worship. At the beginning of the lockdown, I thought it was great that you could download a service around 8 in the morning and that would free up the day. But where was I going to go? We may feel a tinge of guilt if we do not attend worship, or we may attend but find ourselves distracted by the many things we have to do. Instead of feeling rested and renewed, we begin another week exhausted.
“Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for humankind. It is meant to be life giving, not life-draining. It is meant to be a gift, a time apart from the relentless demands of daily life, a time to rest in God’s presence, a time to savour the goodness of God’s creation and celebrate God’s deliverance, a time to do what is good and what gives life. Even in these strange times lets give the Sabbath a bit more thought and a lot more respect. Amen
04 September 2020
Luke 5 v33 to end
Jesus Questioned About Fasting
33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better."
Jesus is being asked, “ Why are you rocking the boat? Why do you insist on doing these things that make people angry with you?”
It appeared to them that he was mixing with the wrong people and the worst of all was that he was calling it “ a ministry”. The Pharisees were not amused. They were worried about fasting, if you didn’t fast you were looked upon as unholy and the Pharisees had fasting down to a fine art. They would fast every Monday and Thursday, and would whiten their faces with ash so everyone could see that they were fasting. Of course, the fasting itself was somewhat hypocritical because the fast only lasted from sunrise to sunset, and they could eat as much as they wanted before and after the fast.
Their prayer was also regimented. They would pray promptly at noon, three and six, no matter where they were or what they were doing. Some of them, when they knew the time of prayer was approaching, would hurry up to get to a place like a street corner or a marketplace so that everyone would observe them praying. So their prayers also were hypocritical.
Jesus offers us “ new garments”. You see, up to this point, the Jews has been trying to live according to the law. But it could never give them righteousness. All it could do was cover over their sin. And now Jesus is saying, “Look, you’re still wearing your old clothes. They’re stained and soiled and full of holes. The Old Testament law could never make them new. But I have come to give you brand new clothes of righteousness. Don’t try to cut them up to patch the old clothes – just wear the new!”
Jesus offers new wineskins. Jesus is saying, “Nobody pours new wine into old wineskins. This would ruin the wine.” Nobody pours fresh orange juice into old bottle. This would ruin the orange juice” Jesus is saying” Look, I’m bringing some new wine, and it needs a wineskin. But the old wineskin of the Old Testament has been stretched to its limit. So I need a new wineskin to hold it. The old just won’t do the job.”
And finally. We all know wine gets better with age. Jesus is not disagreeing with this. The old wine vs. new wine doesn’t mean aged wine vs. fresh wine. He is talking about a kind of wine people have been drinking for years, and a new, different kind of wine.
Some people prefer red, others prefer white. Some people prefer a particular brand. And generally, when they are presented with a new kind of wine that they are not used to, they don’t like it initially.
This is what Jesus is saying here about His teachings on grace. He is simply asserting that what He is teaching will not immediately be accepted. It will not immediately be liked. The old and familiar seems better because it is not threatening. The new way of doing things demands that we change. And people don’t like change
Just as Jesus preached about change we know that we need to embrace change especially in this day and age we find ourselves in. Today let us pray for understanding and the need for change. Amen
03 September 2020
Luke 5 1-11
Jesus calls his first disciples
5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret; the people were crowding round him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’
5 Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
I love the parables and all the other stories in the Bible, as I believe that they not only tell us something but they teach us and more often than not, they teach us by example. You can almost hear the annoyance in Simon's voice when it is suggested that he put out the nets one more time. I can just hear the tone in his voice when he says, “ Because you say so”
Of course they have a record catch and had to ask others for help in bringing in the catch. Simon feels bad for doubting Jesus. In my own wee head I can hear Jesus say to them “ see! If you do what I tell you it’ll all work fine? Now you’ve seen what you can do catching fish I want you now to use those skills and my teaching and go and fish for people”
This story in Luke shows us the importance of the disciples following Jesus’ lead and how it was their job to move from fish to men and women.
Nothings changed. We need to stop what we are doing and spread the good news of Christ. Literally pulling our boats up to the shore and do as we are told and become fishers of men. As the old Sunday school hymn reminds us...
I will make you fishers of men,
Fishers of men, fishers of men.
I will make you fishers of men,
If you follow Me.
If you follow Me,
If you follow Me,
I will make you fishers of men,
If you follow Me.
Hear Christ calling "Come unto Me
Come unto Me, Come unto Me."
Hear Christ calling "Come unto Me
I will give You rest."
"I will give you rest.
I will give you rest.
Hear Christ calling "Come unto Me
I will give You rest."
02 September 2020
Luke 4 v38 to end
Jesus Heals Many
38 Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.
40 At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.
42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Staying with Luke 4 today and we are looking at how people reacted to Jesus and what they wanted from him. Simon’s family asked him for help, as his mother-in-law was demon possessed. Notice what she did when she was free of the demon “ she began to wait on him”
At daybreak he went to find some “ alone time” but they searched him out and then tried to keep him in their company. But what we read said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching.
Sometimes how we react to the church, in general, is how some people reacted to Jesus in the Bible. We want to provide for our brothers and sisters but at the same time try to keep our church the same as it’s always been. While we should serve our brothers and sisters it is our job to serve others too, others that are outside Gods grace and need to hear his word. At the same time it is right not to keep our churches like social clubs and keep things they have been for years.
Times are changing and the Church will change in accordance to what is happening outside in our streets, We need to share his good news and keep preaching his word where ever and what ever our church may be. Amen
01 September 2020
Luke 4 31 -37
Jesus drives out an impure spirit
31 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 ‘Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’
35 ‘Be quiet!’ Jesus said sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!’ 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
Yesterday we talked about the good news and the bad news. Today we talk about the “real” news and that comes to us in three parts in this reading.
First of all God's teaching is amazing and as verse one says it is amazing because of it's authority. What that means to us today is it calls for obedience. It's not “wishy-washy” and it certainly is not “open to discussion”. It is authoritative and fresh every day as though we are hearing it for the first time.
Secondly it is demanding. It demands us to live a certain kind of life and it demands that we obey him and his words. Just like the demon threw the man down and came out of him, God's demanding word requires our immediate and total obedience.
And finally, He is good news! And that news deserves to be told to others. It's news of an eternal life and news of a man that “threw stars into space and to cruel nails suffered”, but the news is good that he died for us so might sit at the Father's right hand with acceptance and grace. Amen