Online Sunday Service – 23rd August 2020

23rd August 2020

Online Service

 

I hope this finds you as safe and well as can be expected in these unusual times.

Who would have thought, 6 or 7 months ago – that the world would be in the mess that it’s in now?

It  can, quite literally, bring us to tears as we think of all the lives lost – jobs and homes lost – Weddings cancelled and so on.

 

But as sad as it is – and it is – dwelling on the negative can seriously damage our health.

If we determine to be positive and  do what we can to help others in their troubles, we will change our own disposition – as well as making others feel better too.

Random acts of kindness, or a simple smile can lift the spirits of those around us.

 

Our lesson for today talks about a ‘laughing Jesus’, which changes the whole atmosphere when a troubled Mother comes to Jesus for help.

 

But before all that – let us pray ~

 

 

PRAYER

 

Loving Father – Lord of Heaven and Earth, we come from our different homes – from our different lives – to take time in our daily routines to come and join with our family and friends 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 declare again your mighty acts, 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 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.

 

Loving God,

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 your hands.

 

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 –

 

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….

Amen.

 

Last week I said that  after of looking at the Parables – we would look at some of the Miracles of Jesus.

 

But Miracles, Parables and Healing can often overlap.

 

For example – The feeding of the 5,000 which we looked at a few weeks ago – is both a Parable (as we saw) and a Miracle.

And the Healing of the Blind man (see John 9 : 1 – 7) is both a Healing and a Miracle! And today’s Lesson is all three !

 

Confused?? Don’t worry. So am I! J

 

We have 2 readings this morning –

 

The first is from the book of Daniel –

Daniel 9 : 4 – 6 & 17 – 18

And 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 as righteous as he was – he used the pronoun “we” to include himself among those who live a less than righteous life.

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 second reading is from Matthews’s Gospel –

Matthew 15 : 21 – 28

 

 

Which narrates Jesus healing the daughter of a persistent mother.

 

It’s a strange and  seemingly bizarre text which talks of dogs, crumbs and lost sheep.

What can it all mean ?? – let’s read it for ourselves and see what it is all about.

 

DANIEL 9 : 4 – 6 & 17 – 18    from the New Living Translation

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands.But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations.We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land.

17 “O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary.

18 “O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.”

 

AND

 

MATTHEW 15 : 21 – 28  from the Revised Standard Version

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”

And her daughter was healed instantly.”
Amen.

 

This is the Word of the Lord – thanks be to God

 

 

SERMON

 

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 God, seen Jesus, in a more serious way…….. Weeping, yes…….. Praying, of course – but a chuckling God ??

 

It seemed too – well,  unlike the kind of thing God would do.

 

Which only goes to show how much I know.. (or rather, don’t know) – about Jesus – and about God.

 

This encounter with the ‘laughing Jesus’ picture changed my view, my image of Jesus – I now see Him differently from how my very ‘free church, 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.

 

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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 – as, of course, many did – and still do.

 

We don’t hear too much about a ‘laughing Jesus’ do we ?

 

But let’s think about it in relation to some of the  Bible stories that we know.

 

For instance ~

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 about him?

 

I’m sure he was smiling from ear to ear!

 

Do we imagine that He was cross 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 that we have just read for ourselves.

 

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 !

 

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 – 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 !!”

 

And then he talks about tables, breadcrumbs and dogs ..

And we 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 forgot that I ever made the request.

Time has a way of separating whims from needs.  Is Jesus doing that?

 

I have another opinion.

I think that he was admiring her. 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 thing he came to do— give great gifts to unworthy children.

Jesus said –  “I didn’t come to heal those who are healthy – I came to heal the sick” (Mathew ( 9:12).

 

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. Starting t verse 26.

 

And in essence, this is what they were saying –

 

“You know, of course, that I am the bread of life – and this bread is really only for feeding my own family”…

 

“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 – 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 !”

That doesn’t sound like a stern and condescending God to me – but rather a kind and smiling God – who rejoices when another sheep is taken into the fold – another soul is taken in to heaven…………

 

Her faith and belief in the power of Jesus – was justified and her prayer was answered…

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This difficult text becomes so much clearer – for me –  – and perhaps for you – 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 mercy for her………….

 

Daniel’s words could have been hers: “we do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”……..

 

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.

 

Jesus the Healer – Jesus the Miracle worker – Jesus the one who answers our prayers.

 

He answers our prayers too – yours and mine – he smiles upon us and heals us of our pain – 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.

 

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.

 

And all this He does – for you and for me…

 

How blessed we are!!

 

Amen.

May God bless this preaching of His Holy Word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.

 

 

LET US PRAY –

Loving God, we are conscious of your great goodness to us – so many blessings over so many years – and it is with humility and some discomfort that we confess that we take it all for granted – and so we take time now – to say a simple and sincere “thank you so much Lord” – thank you, providing Lord,  for all that makes our lives good – help us to live our lives worthy of all your goodness to us.

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But we know that there are many – aye, too many who are living in fear and darkness  – and we bring them to you in our prayers this morning.

 

We pray for those who are racked by illness, weighed down by anxiety tormented by depression, crippled by debt, broken by alcohol, destroyed by drugs, scarred by bereavement, devastated through unemployment,

And we wonder what their prospects really are, what hope we can realistically offer them, what help we can possibly give.

Transforming God, 

May your light shine where there is darkness.

 

We pray for such people known to us now —family, friends, members of our fellowship, colleagues at work, neighbours, acquaintances;

– as well as the countless people unknown to us, each struggling under their own particular burdens.

Transforming God,

May your light shine where there is darkness.

 

We pray for our world —for those many people who face suffering, injustice, hardship, and death.

Transforming God,

May your light shine where there is darkness.

 

Reach out to all who are in despair, we pray, all who long for change

But see only hopelessness stretching before them. Touch their lives,

And bring help, hope, healing, and wholeness.

Transforming God,

May your light shine where there is darkness.

 

Help us to see beneath the surface,

Recognizing you are at work and that things can change.

 

Help us to see beyond appearances,

Knowing that you are a god able to transform even the most hopeless of situations.

Give to us and to all people the assurance that there is no one and no situation unable to be transformed by your power.

Transforming God,

May your light shine where there is darkness.

 

Hear now our silent prayers as we bring to you those who we know and love  – and those we know we ought to love-  

 

Hear us now as we silent name them in our own personal, silent prayers –

 

……Take a few moments to pray for those you know need a prayer at this time – pray for your family and friends too…………….

 

Be with them all dear Lord – for we ask in the name of the one who brightens our lives – and gives us his joy and his peace – our Lord and  Saviour – Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

We’ve a lot to think about today – and so I would like to leave you with this simple story –

A new restaurant was opened in London – it attracted a wealthy clientele and was named “George and the Dragon” and had it had an ornately painted sign above the door.

One day – a beggar came to the door and said to the woman who appeared to be in charge, “I haven’t eaten in days. Could you spare me some food?”

“Get out of here,” yelled the woman. “We don’t feed beggars” and slammed the door in his face.

The beggar stood for a few minutes and regained his composure and knocked on the door once more.

The angry lady opened the door and stared at him, daring him to repeat his please for food.

The beggar looked up at the name of the restaurant on the sign over the door, said, “I wonder if I could talk with George this time?”…

 

I thought that would give you a smile – have a good day..

 

Why not share that with someone and give them a smile too?

 

BLESSING

And now – go out in love, joy and peace –

 

And may the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son & 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 every day.

 

AMEN.

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Take care and May God Bless you

And those who you love.

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Keep safe

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Be sure and look out for the Midweek Meditation which

is Posted every Wednesday Morning.

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Some of you will know that I am currently serving as Locum

in Kilmacolm Old Kirk.

It is a beautiful church with a small, renovated 13th century Chapel, called The Murray Chapel.

If you are interested you should go to Kilmacolmoldkirk.co.uk

and take the ‘Virtual Tour’ – I am sure you will find it most interesting.

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