Reflections for the church of the moment, from Rev John Murray
Sunday 6th September 2020
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, may this time of worship be a time of understanding the present time and what you have clothed us with to live well in it.
‘Be still and know that I am God’: The risen Christ present with us by the Spirit is our ‘temple’, our true and lasting place of worship.
Our readings are both examples of the people of God being given instructions to equip them for their times, so that God’s purposes could be fulfilled in them. Let it be so for us.
Exodus 12:1-3: 6-8 and 11 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
Romans 13:8-14: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
The Lord’s 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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
What’s the time?
How often have we asked that question? Because being in or on time is important. Our readings are telling us that there are ‘times’, when God wants to push forward his purposes in significant ways. Such as the Exodus, when his people had languished in Egypt for hundreds of years, and our Romans reading has Paul saying around the AD 60’s that ‘now is a really important time and you need to wake up to it.’
Paul uses the language of urgency, of a new dawn, and the Exodus reading carries that similar note. Just as the Passover launched the Israelites out of Egypt and into a new life (which was a bit edgy/scary and was not all plain sailing), so the death and resurrection of Christ has launched the present people of God, the church, into a new time, a new era of history. And Paul is determined that the church is fully aware of this and treats it with the urgency and the commitment it deserves. We just have this one life here, and we do well to line up with God’s purposes, rather than ‘dozing’ on.
Paul is saying that it is time to love one another, which fulfils the law, and is the only ‘debt’ that we should have. And as to how we can be the people of God? Paul takes this idea of ‘clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ’, and asks us to think about that, rather than allowing the mind to think about other things. To help us live with that intention, consider this picture below of being clothed with Christ. As Christians we want to dress appropriately for the times, and clothed in Christ as the picture shows, we are ready for this time, anytime and anything. So let’s clothe ourselves with Christ.
God of all times, and Lord of our time, we come to you in prayer. We are creatures of the moment, yet from our dust and in our moments, you breathe life and meaning into us. And so we come as we are, and as the prodigal came with tattered rags and stained garments, so we come carrying on us the marks of who and where we have been, asking your forgiveness and seeking to live lives of love, as we ourselves have received your magnificent redeeming love.
In a world where many go hungry, and many would marvel at the standard of living we enjoy, may we learn to live lives which are marked by simplicity, gratitude, and a generosity. We pray for the world at this time where the pandemic has brought additional pain and burdens to people and nations already reeling under economic disadvantage. We ask for the leaders of wealthy nations to come together, and for a concerted effort to plan for greater justice and equality, and to work together in the face of common enemies. And may a vaccine be delivered soon and made available to all.
We remember places needing rebuilt after disaster and strife: like the Lebanon, Syria after years of strife, places of current unrest, such as Belarus, and the USA as it wrestles with racial tensions; the refugee camps sprung up in recent years on the borders of Turkey, Jordan, Thailand, and at home the issue of refugees/asylum seekers in our own country. These involve people Lord, just as we are, with hopes and who feel physical and mental pain as we do. And so we pray out of our common humanity that suffering would be relieved and help comes quickly in all these situations and others which come to mind.
And we come now with our prayers for our family circle, and our friends: for those dear ones whom we think of in a day: bless them and us and may we cast all our anxiety on you, for you care for us as children. For the church of Christ here and throughout the world, that she would be clothed with kindness and good deeds, with generosity of spirit and practical aid to surrounding communities. For our own church as we once again occupy our buildings and worship as we are now able. Grant us and all returning new ways in which we see steps forward on your purposes for the kingdom.
Together with our own prayers which we give you in the silence now…in the name of Jesus: Amen.
Be still: and let God’s peace wash over you, like waves lapping over pebbles
Smoothing rough edges of insurmountable worries
To tiny insignificant grains of sand, taking away the jaggedness of sin
To leave smooth shining love
And let the peace of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
Be with us today and every day: Amen
Reflections for the week: how much more will God clothe you!
Here below is a picture of part of the Denburn wood in Crail. At this time of year the trees, bushes and plants are clothed with a wonderful variety of leaves and fruit. Rowan trees are so beautiful with their bright red berries. And woods themselves are enchanting places where nature, with its seasons and self-generating abilities, clothes over the bareness of winter. Jesus spoke words that are designed to counter our natural tendency to worry and fret. He said, ‘See how the lilies of the field grow… If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry…….’ Let’s not worry so much this week. Instead consider some aspect of nature, and in doing so, bring the words of Jesus to mind.
Rags to Riches
And sometime this week, you could turn to the book of Zechariah (second last book in the Old Testament) and read chapter 3. It’s a story of a change of clothes for Joshua the high priest: he received clean and rich garments for the ‘filthy clothes’. It’s a spiritual picture. It speaks of sin ‘taken away’, and a new beginning for him and the people, newly come back from exile, and needing a ‘boost’, as they started the work of rebuilding.
And in the New Testament, it’s rags to riches too for the prodigal son. He gets a lovely new robe, sandals for his feet, and a ring, and a great welcome back. And so this week, consider these amazing clothes God is bringing to our attention. All gratis, free and a perfect fit for you and for me. How do they feel on you, and what difference does that make to your self-esteem? Give thanks! So what, if we can’t go to shops and try things on – this is way, way better. JJ.
C.S. Lewis on the Lord’s Prayer
Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean? They mean, quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son (or daughter) of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. .. But the odd thing is, He has ordered us to do it.