Reflections - Sunday 30th August
Reflections for the church of the moment, from Rev John Murray
Sunday 30th August 2020
Grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Lord, in this time of worship may we hear you explaining how you will lead us, and may we embrace 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
Today, our readings are about willingly embracing the Christ like way, when it sounds good and also when it really challenges us.
Matthew 16:21-28 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, LORD!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
Romans 12:9-16 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the LORD. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the LORD's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
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.
Telling God what’s best!
Peter would not have put it like that and neither would we, but really? Here he is putting his foot down with Jesus, but Jesus puts his foot down as well and Peter is somewhat embarrassingly called a stumbling block. Ouch!
We all find it difficult to think counter-intuitively, and more so to act in that way. Imagine you who are right-handed being asked to start doing things in a left-handed way, or vice versa. Jesus is saying that the way into his kingdom, and the style of his kingdom is deeply counter-intuitive, and counter-cultural. We have to start thinking inside out, or the opposite way round. Peter’s mind recoiled from what this would mean for Jesus and for him.
And although Jesus repeated what he says here, the disciples and Peter never really ‘got it’ until Jesus re-appeared after Calvary, and said ‘didn’t I tell you it had to be this way?’ And so with us, it may sound uncomfortable in one way, but it’s the only way and yields the greatest of rewards, now and later. And we now have the Spirit of Jesus to inspire us and help us as we deny ourselves and take up our cross.
And as for the Romans passage, well, it’s not so much the understanding that is the difficulty here for us, but rather the doing of it with grace and sensitivity. Yet it is the way, the truth and the life for us. When we embrace all these things there is created within us a beautiful inner being inside this awkward and ever changing body of ours.
God actually does know best. And Peter the stumbling block became in time the stepping stone for many, as he learnt to take up his cross and follow.
Lord, as we come in prayer today, we want to hear you telling us what’s best for us, even when we may have other ideas: and so we pause and take time to listen deeply.
God of the steely resolve and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, you were willing to journey with your chosen people through their long and tortuous journey out of Egypt and into long years when you were rejected and misunderstood. Hear us as we lift up our hearts today. For as we sit with these words of Jesus about suffering and cross bearing, we feel unsettled. Yet stop us from thinking we know best and help us to know that you wish to bring the very best into our lives: even in this strange time of pandemic and change in so many routines.
And we continue with our prayers for the world, and the church, our family and friends. We pray in the name of our Saviour, who gave his everything for us. His heart and desire is that his death and resurrection may bring much fruit into places and people where ‘we know best’ is the governing concern. May it be so, and in your mercy hear these our prayers spoken and silent….
We pray for the church of Christ, that sincere love, honouring others above ourselves, spiritual fervour, joy, faithfulness, and faithfulness in prayer, and sharing may be the practical reality, and not just aspirations. May humility and serving your kingdom find root and flourish, in our own church setting, and in Scotland and out into all the world. Be with those who are persecuted, as Jesus was himself. And may you breathe peace into places of unrest.
As Ezekiel spoke of dead bones coming to life, we pray for life and energy to come into situations where life is ebbing and energy is low. To the sad and depressed, those who are living at the blunt end of change, anticipating redundancy, fearing ill health, approaching frailty, come o Lord as hope and incoming strength. Help us to support and sustain as carers, as family and friends.
Living, creating Spirit of God, breathe your peace and life into those who need you but cannot yet see you or call upon you for themselves: and in the silence we name such before you.
And in this week before us, may we hear the voice of Jesus, explaining our lives to us, be that hard or easy to hear, and may we love with sincerity and serve you with joy: Amen
May the grace of Christ our Saviour
And the Father’s boundless love.
With the Holy Spirit’s favour
Rest upon us from above
Reflections for the week: Down by the seaside
In our coastal parish, the daily tides come in and out, teaching us again of impermanence in nature. There is an ebb and flow to our lives as well, in the bodily realm and notably so in our breaths in and out. And in the spiritual realm, there is ebb and flow, and a season for everything. Learning to see and live with that rhythm is a gift of God.
This week you could go down to the sea and think about the tides and think of the ebb and flow in your own lives. Or just sit where you are and see it in your imagination. What might God be saying to you?
Flotsam and Jetsam
George MacLeod, recalls that when he and some folk came to Iona in 1938 to rebuild the ruins, materials were hard to find, as the government had commandeered all timber. And so it transpired that a ship coming from Canada had to jettison its cargo of timber mid-Atlantic, from whence it floated to the coast of Mull, opposite Iona – and it was just the right length that they needed. A lesson for us in making all our needs and wants known, and letting God answer in his way and time.
Adapted from Celtic Daily Prayer: the Northumbria Community
Signs of the Times
It might be good fun to learn some sign language for use in the coming days, as we think of returning to the church buildings. Have a look at this action song about God being our lighthouse in the storms of life.
Change your mind
Don’t waste time focusing on things you can’t change. Instead focus on things you can, like your perspective and attitude towards life: see Isaiah 26:3
From God’s little book of peace: Richard Daly