27th September 2020
Good morning all.
I do hope that you are keeping your spirits up at this most challenging time. With talk of ‘spikes’ and further lockdowns it can seems like this Pandemic is getting worse instead of better.
Life can be fragile and keeping safe must be our first priority.
God watches over us and promises to keep us safe, but we must play our part too and do what we can to protect ourselves and our families safe at all times – it would be foolish and irresponsible of us not to.
Please be absolutely sure that I keep you and your families in my thoughts and prayers at this time.
Let us Pray ~
Loving Lord – we come to praise and worship you.
We come as your family, wherever we may be – to bring you our words of prayer – our concerns and our thanksgiving.
Lord how awesome you are – and we praise and worship you – in the name of our dear Jesus.
We praise you for your greatness – your amazing power – and we praise you that in that greatness – you still find the time to know and love each one of us intimately.
You know our strengths and our weaknesses – you know the strength of our faith – aye and our lack of it – you know our faults and our prejudices – and yet you love us dearly – each one a special child to you – our heavenly Father.
You know too – when we say, do and think things which are not in accordance with the faith we profess.
Our selfish agenda’s – our lack of compassion – our lack of faith and the all-too many human failings which must sadden you.
Forgive us Father – as you forgive us each time we come to you and confess our shortcomings – be patient – be merciful – be gracious for we ask your forgiveness in Jesus’ name.
Lord – draw close to us as we sit for a few silent moments – each bringing our own personal prayer of confession – opening our hearts to you – in humble faith and contrition – be with us now lord – in the peace of our silence…………..take a few moments to think (honestly) about the things you have said, thought or done, things which you are not proud of and would like to be forgiven…………….whisper it to God.. He hears your words and forgives…….…
Forgive us Father – lift us up – turn us around and set us on a new path – in Jesus name.
Lord we know that you hear us when we pray in faith – so hear us now as we say together – the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer ~
Our Father, who is in heaven,
bless-ed be your name;
your kingdom come;
your will be done;
May it be on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily needs.
And help us to forgive others,
As you forgive us.
Keep us from falling in to temptation;
and deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom,
the power and all the glory,
This morning – rather than hearing a reading from the Old and the New Testaments – we have two readings from the New Testament.
Our first reading is taken from Paul’s letter to the growing church in Philippi, Greece.
It reminds us to live in accordance with the values and example of Christ.
“If you have learned anything about Christ – then you will want to live His way” – it tells us…
Our second reading this morning – seems – at its first hearing – to be a bit of a conundrum. Questions and counter questions – people saying that they’ll do something and they don’t – and other saying that they won’t do something – and they do !
But as we might expect – there is much more going on beneath the surface – it’s a text which talks directly to each one of us –
So let’s read them now – .
Philippians 2 : 1 – 13 from the Common English Bible
“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy,2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honoured him
and gave him a name above all names,
10 so that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11 and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Matthew 21: 23 – 32 from The Passion Translation
The Authority of Jesus
23 Jesus went into the temple courts and taught the people.
The leading priests and Jewish elders approached him and interrupted him and asked, “By what power do you do these things, and who granted you the authority to teach here?”
24 Jesus answered them, “I too have a question to ask you. If you can answer this question, then I will tell you by what power I do these things. 25 From where did John’s authority to baptize come from? From heaven or from people?”
26 They stepped away and debated among themselves, saying, “How should we answer this? If we say from heaven, he will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you respond to John and believe what he said?’ But if we deny that God gave him his authority, we’ll be mobbed by the people, for they’re convinced that John was God’s prophet.”
27 So they finally answered, “We don’t know.”
“Then neither will I tell you from where my power comes to do these things!” he replied.
The Parable of Two Sons
28 Jesus said to his critics, “Tell me what you think of this parable:
“There once was a man with two sons. The father came to the first and said, ‘Son, I want you to go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son replied, ‘I’d rather not.’ But afterward, he deeply regretted what he said to his father, changed his mind, and decided to go to the vineyard. 30 The father approached the second son and said the same thing to him. The son replied, ‘Father, I will go and do as you said.’ But he never did—he didn’t go to the vineyard.31 Tell me now, which of these two sons did the will of his father?”
They answered him, “The first one.”
Jesus said, “You’re right. For many sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes are going into God’s kingdom realm ahead of you! 32 John came to show you the path of goodness and righteousness, yet the despised and outcasts believed in him, but you did not. When you saw them turn, you neither repented of your ways nor believed his words.”
This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.
I know I am easily confused – maybe it’s just an ‘aged thing’…
But is it just me – or is that reading from Matthew’s Gospel more than just a bit confusing?
Maybe if we break it down into 2 parts – it might be easier for us to understand –
The first part, verses 23-27 – paraphrasing, go a bit like this ~
The chief Priests and elders of the temple ask Jesus a question – Jesus replies with another question – to which the chief priests and elders don’t know the answer.
So Jesus says that if they don’t know – then He’s certainly not going to tell them !! – and then He goes on to tell them a story.
Still confused??…… don’t worry, you’re not the only one!
So, lets look at the – the second part, vv 28 – 32,
It’s a parable about 2 sons – one of which says that he’ll do something and he doesn’t – and the other saying that he won’t do something – and he does !
What can it all mean ??
Let’s take a closer look and see what we can see………
Well – first of all – let’s rewind back in time to the first century…….
Jesus was walking, talking, healing and teaching…..
Here was quite obviously a ‘Godly’ man – but he had no religious or pious trappings that the other religious leader of the day felt were so important.
“Who was he” ? They asked – “where did he come from?”
And in their question, they asked him directly –
As we heard it in the very first verse of our second reading – “by whose authority are you doing these things – and who gave you this authority ?!”
And when we think of it – we can understand their concern.
Their faith and traditions were centuries old.
Left in the hands of the religious and civic leaders since the fall of the Temple.
Everyone knew what to believe – how to behave – what they could and couldn’t do.
They had God’s law – the law of Moses – and they had hundreds of their own laws too.
And here was this wandering preacher – as they would have seen Him – upsetting the apple-cart – undermining the authorities – or so they felt – who was he anyway ? and what right did he have to come along upsetting everything ?
“Well” – Jesus may have thought – “if they don’t recognize that I have come from God by now – then it’s unlikely that they will believe me anyway” – the time wasn’t right.
So he kept quiet… for the time being….
Instead – He told them the parable of the two sons –
verses 28 – 32.
First there was the son who said he wouldn’t go out to work in his father vineyard – but then changed his mind and went out into the fields to help.
Then there was the other son who said that he would go and help – but changed his mind and decided not to.
“That should clear things up!” Jesus would have thought – and for those first listeners – it probably did – even if we find difficult to understand.
But they were used to such images – stories within stories – imaginative use of language and symbolic narratives.
Their whole culture had been built on an oral tradition – the handing down of tales and images – and this story was no different.
Much of the Bible is allegorical, symbolic and/or metaphorical – so we have to take this in to account when reading Scripture.
And so ~
The son who said he wouldn’t help but did – represented the everyday people who weren’t particularly ‘holy’ – yet came to know Jesus and turned to God – going out to do his work among others in the world. As God wants us to be.
The second son who said he would help the father in his work – but didn’t – represented the religious leaders who professed to be ‘Godly’ men – but rejected God’s son – Jesus – and didn’t do his will. As God doesn’t want us to be.
It was a parable designed to hit hard at the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day.
“You profess to do God’s will” – it was saying – “but in reality you don’t ! – you ignore what the Father wants and do what you think is right !”.
“You’re strong on words – but weak on action” was Jesus’ message to them.
And as Christians repeated and retold this story – it dawned upon them that it wasn’t just an attack on the leaders of the synagogue – they began to see that the great danger was no different for them, than it had been for the Pharisees.
And it is no different today – for the words of Jesus are still speaking to us – you and to I.
They are saying to us – it’s easy to appear be ‘holy’ – to call yourself a ‘Christian’ – even in all sincerity –
But it’s not so easy to live a Godly life – doing all that the Father asks of us.
God knows that – that’s why He is there for us – supporting us, walking with us – lifting us up when we fall.
“Yes – I’m a Christian” we say – but so often the way we live our lives doesn’t support that statement.
It is so easy for us to say one thing – but do another !
Just like the 2 sons in our text.
Our faith – is about what we do – not what we say…
We can shout “Halleluiah praise the Lord” (ok, maybe not in Tesco’s) – but what good is that if we don’t put our faith into practice in our everyday lives!?
Are we – you and I – the faithful or the unfaithful son?
We can talk a good talk – but words can be cheap – what draws people into faith is not our words but our actions…
People outside of the church stand up and take notice of those who have learned to move beyond the words and ritual.
We can know the words and the ‘rituals’ off by heart – but if we don’t put them into practice, then we are like a ‘resounding gong or a clanging cymbal’ – as the Bible tells us (see 1st Corinthians 13 : 1-13).
It’s people like Gandhi and Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa and many more – who remind us all over again what faith and commitment are all about. As they ‘live out their faith’ in an everyday world.
It’s those who stand on the frontline – keeping those behind them safe from harm
It’s those medical practitioners – doctors, nurses, other volunteers who travel on their own time and expense to work in out- of-the-way places like the Amazon.
They’re told that many of the people they treat are too far gone, that they will soon die from malnutrition or a countless number of other illnesses – but that doesn’t stop them — they do what they can do.
In every church I have served – and there have been quite a few who fall into that category – I still remember a few particular names and faces.
Sometimes these are people who would not pray in public and were not comfortable teaching Sunday school.
Some had little formal education. But they were the ones with a casserole, the ones writing me a note when I needed it the most,
The ones taking folks who didn’t own cars to the shops or to that doctors appointment – or simply taking them out for a run.
They were the ones whispering as they took my hand at the church door, “I pray for you every day.”
It’s not always the one who talks or preaches or teaches who reflects the will of the Father.
Sometimes it is the one who gives up their time to clean the church, put out the rubbish bags, cut the grass — making the world a little better for Christ’s people – and for Christ’s sake.
“What you do fo the least of my people….…” Jesus said.
And just why are called to be humble and faithful in God’s service ??
Well – we heard the answer to that in the extract from Pauls’ letter to the Philippians – our first reading this morning – and it’s right there in verse 5 – “you’re attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus !”
Aye – “You’re attitude – yours and mine – should be the same as that of Christ Jesus !”
What a mind blowing thought!!
We are to be “like Christ. And when we become “Christ–like” – we gain a new and completely different perspective on the world – on others – and on life itself.
Instead of our own wishes, agenda, opinions – we put Christ at the very centre of all we say and do.
Instead of being self centred – we become ‘Christ centred’ (remember the ‘squint’ picture story of last week?) and when we do that – we know the importance and joy of serving Him, like the ‘humble servant’, Jesus Christ.
When we do the Father’s will – our relationship with Him – and with others – in greatly enriched.
As we draw closer to the Father – we draw closer to his Son, Jesus, and we draw closer to others – and to each other – as brothers and sisters in Christ.
It’s how we’re called to live – if we’ve learned anything – in fellowship – tenderness – compassion – by being like minded – having love for each other – doing nothing out of selfish ambition – but in humility – not only looking after our own interests – but the interests of others.
Is that us ? – is that me – is that you ? If it is, that’s great!
If it’s not – well – it’s never too late to re-commit – re-connect and re- invigorate your faith – as a church – as the body of Christ – and as individuals on a journey to that great and glorious place which is set aside for the faithful – where we will meet our loved ones again – and live there – cleansed, sanctified and blessed for all time.
How wonderful is that !?
And all these promises – are yours – and in Jesus’ precious name.
And may God bless this preaching of His Holy Word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.
Loving Lord – we come before you – with grateful thanks for all that you bless us with.
Families and friends – people who love and care about us. You are so good to us – though we scarcely deserve it – and we give you our thanks.
We thank you for your son Jesus – and we thank you for the strength we gain from knowing that He walks and talks with us each day – give us the eyes and the ears to know his presence by our side.
But Lord, we know that there are many – aye too many – who feel unloved and unwanted – demeaned and belittled – perhaps someone reading this Service today knows that feeling. We pray for them Lord – may they know our love and support – and we ask that you bring them that deep inner peace which can only come from knowing you – and we pray that your comforting and healing hand will be upon them.
We pray for all who have yet to know your love – for those who can’t or won’t make the time to get to know you – and so never know the joy of a Saviour who can change their lives beyond anything they could ever dream of – if they would just let you in.
We pray for those who do respond to your call – those who give up so much to follow you.
We ask that you bless the missionaries – the ministers and pastors who bring your good news to others who need to hear it. Bless them in their work – bless all who work in your name – bless those close to them too, in Jesus name.
As we think of the world – we think of those who suffer and starve – those who struggle with the very basic necessities of life. Make us aware of the needs of others – so that we may respond to your call to “feed the hungry”, “clothe the naked” and ‘help the helpless’.
We pray especially for the family of the Policeman who was shot in Croydon on Friday. Bless them, give them your peace and comfort in such a difficult time. Draw close to them and hold them tight, safe in your arms until the pain lessens and they can see a way ahead once more.
Lord we pray for our country – with all it’s turmoil – may greed and self interest be replaced by love and tolerance – so we be a nation which turns to you – praising Jesus as we draw closer to you.
We pray for each other– each in our own homes – yet coming together with open hearts and minds and hands to hear your word to us – and to respond in our everyday lives.
And finally – we pray for ourselves – and our own families – asking that you will bless them and keep them safe – whether they be close by or far away.
Lord bless us all – each one – and hear us now as we bring to you our silent prayers for those we love and those we ought to love – lord, hear our prayers, as we bring them to you – in the peace of our silence……………take a few moments to think of someone you would like to prtay for at this time……….whisper ther name….god hears your words…………
Lord hear our prayers –
For we pray in the name of our own dear Saviour – Jesus Christ.–
Thought of the week
I recently read a story which talked about a picture of the actress Michelle Pfeiffer which appeared on the front cover of ‘Hello’ magazine.
She looked absolutely stunning and the headline said “what Michelle Pfeiffer needs – absolutely nothing!”
But it turned out that she actually needed thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics and hours of computer ‘air-brushing’ – to make her look so beautiful.
It’s easy for us to look at ourselves and wish we were somebody else – or compare ourselves with better looking, more glamorous people.
But as Christians – there is only one we must compare ourselves with – and that is Jesus Christ.
How different our society – our world would be if it were modelled on the principles and the values, the morals and the ethics of Him ?
No greed which can bring down our financial institutions– no hatred which makes one youth stab another – no wars between nations – no bitterness between neighbours – just love and compassion for each other.
And changes to our world – start with changes within our hearts – your heart and mine –
Changes within us which then affect our families – our communities – and in turn – our societies.
And so our ‘thought for the week’ is this ~
How “Christ-like are you ?”
None of us are ‘angels’ of course – but is your “attitude the same as Christ Jesus” – as Paul puts it ?
Maybe it is – maybe it isn’t – perhaps you’re working on it….. But it’s something – as Christians – that we should all earnestly consider.
Food for thought for us all…
And may the love of Jesus go before you –
the Lord Almighty watch over you –
and the Holy Spirit go with you –
guiding and protecting 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 and May God Bless you
And those you love.
Please keep safe.
Be sure and look out for the Midweek ‘Medication’ which is Posted every Wednesday Morning.
And can I remind those of you who aren’t too far away from Kilmacolm, that our Murray Chapel is currently opened for a time of personal Peace and Prayer, each day from Monday to Saturday from 11am – 1pm.
“Be still and know that I am God”
Psalm 46 : 10