5th Sunday of Easter
Good morning folks,
Another week of glorious sunshine – I hope you were able to get out and enjoy some of it.
By all accounts things are beginning to show signs of easing up, but we shouldn’t be complacent just yet – I have a feeling that it’s going to be a long while yet before we are anything like back to ‘normal.’ I really do hope that you are coping with the ‘isolation’ – for some it is a difficult time. If you are struggling please seek help, even a phone call to family or friends can make a difference. We hope and pray that it won’t be for too much longer. I am happy if you’d like to email or ‘message’ me at any time.
I have spent much of this week putting together a Seven Day Devotion for Christian Aid Week, which starts today.
This year Christian Aid is highlighting those who are suffering from the effects of the current climate crisis. No water, no crops ; no water for the animals. It focuses on the ladies, and their families, of the ‘dry lands’ of Kenya, where the women regularly walk for 5 miles or more to find water to take home for their families, in blistering heat. It puts our own “stay in doors and keep safe’ into perspective I guess.
This weekly devotional will be posted on the Kilmacolmoldkirk.org.uk website, click on the ‘Christian Aid Week -10 -16 May 2020’ Tab on the top bar, if you would like to follow it each day throughout the week.
If you would like a personal copy for yourself or your Church, please let me know and I will send a copy to you.
But let’s get on with today’s Service ~
Let us pray ~
Holy, holy, holy God – Lord of heaven and earth, we are in our different homes – with different lives – but joining together to worship you and to wonder at your greatness……..
We come, once more, to be reminded of all you are and all you have done – of the Love with which you surround us, the Grace you have shown us through Jesus Christ, and the purpose you have for our lives.
We come to offer you our praise, to marvel at your greatness, and to commit ourselves to your service.
We come to give thanks,
To rejoice in all you have given us, to respond to your goodness, and to offer our love in return.
We come to make our confession, to admit our faults and failings, to recognise our weakness, and to ask your forgiveness.
We come to hear your word to us, to understand what you are saying to us – and put that in to practice in our everyday lives.
We come to pray for ourselves, to seek your guidance, to discover your will, and to find the strength we need to live as your people.
We come to pray for others,
Our loved ones with all their joys and sorrows, our world with all its suffering, and your church as it seeks to express your compassion in action.
We come to make our Offering, to bring our time, our money, our talents, our service, and ourselves.
We come to worship you in the conviction that you are here with us now, that you are by our side always, that you hold all things and all people in the Palm of your hand…………….
As we reach out to you, reach out to us, we pray, and fill every moment of every day with the light of your love, and the peace of your presence, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
To whom and through whom – we pray the family prayer together –
Our Father who art in heaven.. Hallowed be thy name.. Thy kingdom come.. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….. Give us this day our daily bread.. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.. Lead us not into temptation.. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever….
We have 2 Readings this morning.
Our Old Testament reading is sometimes called “Daniel’s Prayer” – and he calls upon God to forgive the sins of the nation – and it’s interesting to note that for as righteous as he was – he used the pronoun “we” to include himself among those who live a less than righteous life. True humility.
And he knew that neither he or any of us can earn or deserve God’s forgiveness – but forgiveness comes out of God’s goodness…….
Our New Testament reading narrates Jesus healing the daughter of a persistent mother.
It’s a strange and seemingly bizarre text which talks of a frantic mother, tables, dogs and crumbs.
What can it all mean ?? – let’s read it for ourselves-
This is God’s word to us ~
DANIEL 9 : 4 – 6 & 17 – 18 – ‘Daniel’s Prayer’
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
‘Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
17 ‘Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favour on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.
Matthew 15:21-28 – The Canaanite Woman
21 Jesus left that place and went off to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those parts came out and shouted, ‘Have pity on me, Lord, son of David! My daughter is demon-possessed! She’s in a bad way!’ 23 Jesus, however, said nothing at all to her.
His disciples came up. ‘Please send her away!’ they asked. ‘She’s shouting after us.’
24 ‘I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ replied Jesus,
25 The woman, however, came and threw herself down at his feet.
‘Master,’ she said, ‘please help me!’
26 ‘It isn’t right’, replied Jesus, ‘to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’
27 ‘I know, Master. But even the dogs are hungry and eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’
28 ‘You’ve got great faith, haven’t you, my friend!’ replied Jesus. ‘All right; let it be as you wish.’
And her daughter was healed from that very moment.
This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.
I once saw a picture of Jesus – not unusual – you might say – but in this picture, he was laughing – not just smiling – not just with a serene smile on his face – not even just grinning, but head back – mouth open – eyes sparkling – roaring with laughter.
Well, before that, I never really thought of Jesus actually laughing out loud before. And, to be honest – at first – the picture unsettled me a bit.
I’d always seen Jesus, in a more serious way. Weeping, yes, praying, of course – but chuckling ?
It seemed too…well, unlike the kind of thing He would do… which only goes to show how much I know.. (or rather, don’t know) – about Jesus – about God.
This encounter with the ‘laughing Jesus’ picture changed my view, my image of Jesus – I now see Him differently from the way my Highland ‘Presbyterian’ upbringing taught me to see Him.
“Why shouldn’t he laugh” – I now think – after all we laugh, and if we’re made in God’s image – then He must laugh too !!
I don’t see him through ‘stained glass windows’ any more.
The picture showed me a side to Jesus I had never even considered before. Instead of seeing Him as solemn and aloof – I now see him as smiling, caring, warm, someone you wouldn’t be afraid to go and talk to – which is what He wants us to do.
We don’t hear much about a ‘laughing Jesus’ do we ? – but let’s think about it –
Do we think He was upset when the Samaritan woman at the well finally got the message who he was and went and told everyone ?? I’m sure he was smiling from ear to ear.
Do we imagine that He was irritated when the little boy offered his packed lunch to feed the 5,000 ? – no – I’m quite sure that he gave the lad a friendly smile and patted him on the head.
And can we really imagine Jesus looking serious and sombre as He blessed the little children and bounced them on His knee ?? – I don’t think so !
And I also think that it’s more than just possible – that Jesus had as smile on His face as He spoke to the woman in our New Testament reading .
Let’s imagine that we are bystanders at that conversation.
Here was a woman approaching Jesus – Matthew describes her as a ‘Canaanite woman’ – and in those two words – he makes her an outcast of the Jewish community.
A Canaanite– an outsider – not one of us – bad news.
A woman – even worse news – for in that place and at that time – Jewish men were not to be seeing speaking to women in public.
So here was a stranger – a female stranger – asking Jesus for a favour – in public!!
Well, we have to give her 10 out of 10 for determination!
Perhaps He was taken aback a little – or perhaps He was just testing her sincerity.
“Help me!” She had pleaded –
But He doesn’t answer her at first – and then He says – “But I was sent here to save my own people…..” and may have turned away – because the woman cried even louder saying – “Lord, please help me !!”
Then He talks about tables, breadcrumbs and dogs ..
And we might wonder – what that was all about !! –
Well, it’s not an easy passage to understand – unless you’re willing to concede that Jesus had a sense of humour – because then it all becomes much clearer –
So let’s look at this passage in a slightly ‘different’ way – to see just what is going on here –
The woman is desperate. Her daughter is very ill.
The Canaanite woman has no right to ask anything of Jesus.
She is not a Jew. She is not a disciple. She offers no money for his ministry. She makes no promises to devote herself to missionary service.
You get the impression that she knows as well as anybody that Jesus doesn’t owe her anything –
And yet she is asking Him for everything.
But that doesn’t slow her down. She persists in her plea.
“have mercy on me!!!!!” She cries….
Matthew notes that Jesus says nothing at first. Nothing. He doesn’t open his mouth. Why?
To test her? Most commentators suggest this. Maybe, they say, He is waiting to see how serious she is about her plea.
I was brought up by my grandmother – and she used to make me wait a week from the day I asked her for something – to the day she gave me her answer.
Most of the time, I had forgotten that I ever made the request. Time has a way of separating wants from needs. Is Jesus doing that? I can’t see it. I am sure He could see the anxiety, the fear in her voice and in her demeanour.
I have another opinion.
I think that He was admiring her courage.
I think that it did His heart good to see some good old fashioned faith for a change. I think that it refreshed Him to see someone asking Him to do the very things He came to do – to heal the sick and give new life.
The Canaanite woman came with no hidden agenda – no heritage – no religiously stored up brownie points. She knew only two things: 1. Her daughter was weak, and 2. Jesus was strong.
And what follows is one of the most intriguing dialogues in the New Testament.
And, in essence, this is what they were saying –
“You know, of course, that I am the bread of life – and this bread (himself) is really only for feeding my own family?” Jesus said.
“Yes” the woman replied “but there are others who hunger for you too – surely you don’t mind us getting some of the crumbs, do you !?’
And it’s here that I feel sure that Jesus would have smiled at her !
Such understanding – such faith in Him – how could He fail to be pleased ?
And so in a feeling of exuberance and happiness – He answers – “never have I seen such faith – your daughter is healed !”
And with that, her daughter WAS healed.
That doesn’t sound like a stern and condescending God to me – but rather a kind and smiling Jesus.
Her faith and belief in the power of Jesus – was justified and her prayer was answered……..
This difficult text becomes so much clearer – for me – when I see Jesus smiling at the distressed woman – admiring her faith – seeing her situation and opening His heart to her – not because of any worth of hers – but because of His great love and mercy for her………….
Daniel’s words from our Old Testament reading could have been hers: “we do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” (Daniel 9 : 9-11)
She came, banking on the hope that Jesus would answer her prayer based on His goodness and not her worthiness.
And he did. With a smile.
He answers our prayers too – yours and mine – He smiles upon us and heals us of our pain – when we put our trust and our faith in Him – not because of anything we have done to deserve it – but because of His great love and compassion for us……..
When I think about the prayers God has answered for me in spite of the life I’ve lived, I think he must be smiling still.
Just 4 short weeks ago – we remembered the bad news of our Saviour’s suffering and death –-
Then there was wonderful good news of the Resurrection – and the love, peace – hope and joy that it brought to the world.
And in 3 weeks time we celebrate the day of ‘Pentecost’ – when God sent down his Holy Spirit to stay with us and guide us. That’s another day of strange and mysterious happenings – and we will go through that, as we always do, to find out what it is all about,
It’s ‘Good News’ all the way – so let us enjoy our faith – let’s smile with contentment as we know that we have a loving God who cares and provides for us – what could be more wonderful and joyful than that ??
So what is this all about?
It’s about how God answers our prayers and cares for us – not because of anything we have done but because He loves us – and for no other reason – and that should be enough to make anyone smile !!
So I’m going to keep on thinking of that picture of Jesus laughing. To me, it’s more like the Jesus I have grown to know and love, the Jesus who loves and forgives me – and each and every one of us – just because……
And not for who we are or what we’ve done – but because of who He is –and what His Son did for us on the Cross.
And all this He does – in the precious name of Jesus.
How awesome is that!?
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
I was reminded of a story about a wee girl who saved up her pocket money to buy a string of cheap imitation pearls.
They only cost a few pounds from a market stall – but she just loved them. She wore them wherever she went – she even wore them to bed every night !
Each night her father would tuck her in and say “I love you Jenny” and Jenny would say “ love you too daddy”, “do you love me enough to give me your pearls?”- her father would say – “oh not my precious pearls !” she would answer “but I’ll give you any of my other things”.
This went on for a few nights – then one night – Jenny took the pearls off of her neck – and with tears in her eyes and gave her father her precious pearls. “here daddy” she said “these are for you” and handed the pearls to him.
With tears gathering in his own eyes – he took the pearls – and with the other hand – gave Jenny a blue velvet case. When she opened it – it was a beautiful string of real pearls.
“Oh daddy – I love you so much” she said and gave her father a great big hug.
“I love you very much too” said the father – and they both smiled.
It’s a lovely story – and it reminds us that when we come to Jesus and give him our worries, our fears and bring those things which we cling on to – He gives back so much more.
Like the woman in our New Testament reading this morning –
she had offered Him nothing but her faith in Him – and He rewarded her by giving her hope, healing, love, peace and joy.
We give Him so little and yet He gives us so much in return.
So here’s a thought ~
What do you need to let go of and hand over to Jesus ?
Is it a worry – a fear – an addiction of some sort – perhaps you are finding it difficult to forgive someone – or maybe you are struggling with an issue of some other kind.
Hand it over to Jesus in prayer today – and He’ll take it from you – if you’ll let go – and He’ll bless you in ways which will comfort and amaze you – He’ll work a miracle in your life.
He has changed my life – and the lives of millions of people – He can change yours too.
But will you let go ??
Mmmmmmmmm – It’s a thought isn’t it !
And now –
Go out in love, peace, hope and joy –
Go with God’s love in your heart – and his hand on your shoulder, watching and guiding you in all you say and do..
And may the blessing of almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may he be with your families – your friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.
Take care, God Bless you, and your loved ones.