Worship @ Home 5 July 2020
Good morning and welcome to this Sunday’s ‘Worship at Home’. Let’s be still for a moment as we draw near to worship God and let’s take just a few seconds to remind ourselves why we’re gathered today. And listen too, because God speaks even through the background noise of the world around us...
After a few moments of silence say this prayer quietly.
in a universe that seems so immense
it is easy to feel insignificant as we gather here today.
Yet we know that we are precious in your sight –
loved and blessed in so many ways.
We gather in awe of the one who has created all things
and dedicate this time
and all our days to your service.
Accept this offering we pray,
our sacrifice of praise and worship. Amen
Please say these responsive verses based on 1 Thessalonians. Say them quietly or say them out loud, but use the words to remind yourself that we were made to worship God
Brothers and sisters, we are loved by God
and chosen by the Lord Jesus.
We have turned from idols
to serve the living and true God.
We are approved by God
and entrusted with his gospel.
Our hope and our joy,
is to glory in the presence
of our Lord Jesus when he comes.
As we worship together,
may the Lord make our love increase,
may he strengthen our hearts
so we shall be blameless and holy.
May God himself, the God of peace,
make us holy through and through.
The one who calls us is faithful:
He will do it!
We know that God is love and that God loves all that he has made. Jesus showed us by his life, and he tells us in his own words that God will never turn anyone away who comes to him.
However, our lives are far from perfect. We know that we’re not the best we can be, nor the best God longs us to be. Sin has spoilt our lives and God's world. God accepts us as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us as we are which is why he asks us to come to Jesus his Son and say sorry. Let’s do that now beginning with a moment of personal reflection in silence.
After a moment of silence, read through this prayer. It is based on Psalm 25. Read it slowly. Think about the words and what they are saying. As we recall how we need the Lord’s forgiveness dwell for a moment on the last two lines: Teach me your ways, O God and guide me in your paths.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
I put my trust in you, O God,
do not let me be put to shame.
do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame.
let those be ashamed who neglect your faithfulness,
and who act with evil intent.
Teach me your ways, O God
and guide me in your paths.
So now, we bring to mind these things for which we are ashamed—-
for wilfully acting with less than good intentions—for abusing the faithfulness of God by our failure to live faith-full lives. Come, let us return to the Lord and say:
Lord our God,
in our sin we have avoided your call.
Our love for you is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes away early.
Have mercy on us.
deliver us from judgement.
bind up our wounds and revive us.
in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
May the God of love
bring us back to himself,
forgive us our sins,
and assure us of his eternal love
in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Let us pray as we come now to our prayers of intercession. Please use these prayers or use your own, or perhaps best, a mixture of both!
God of the mountaintop
in prayer You walk us to the highest point
from which we are offered
to view the world as You see it,
and the world as You would wish it to be.
There is much to be thankful for,
for we enjoy opportunities
of good health and reasonable living standards.
of times of relaxation and times to work.
of a roof over our heads,
and opportunities to feed our bodies,
and our imaginations and the aching of our hearts.
From your vantage point
we praise You for all that is good for us,
and allow You
to draw our eyes from our concerns
to those of our neighbours,
our community, our world.
our eyes are drawn
to see those in need of love
in our community,
both here in church
and in the parish of which we are part.
Help us not to be afraid of what is different or unknown to us,
but instead willing
to offer friendship
and accept the opportunities
to grow in knowledge and experience.
Our eyes are drawn
to places of power and leadership
as we look for those who govern
to offer leadership
in difficult times.
May those who seek to serve
as politicians and leaders of communities
find themselves shaped
by the words, hopes and ideals
of those who place their trust in them.
Our eyes are drawn
to places of hunger and need.
Teach us to share
the resources we would covet,
and enable us through the activity of Your Spirit
in prayer and with action
to be part of a creation
where all are treated fairly
and all have enough to eat.
Lord of vision,
draw our eye back to the world of which we are part
may our lives be shaped by You
to offer others a vision
of Your love
shown in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew’s Gospel. Read it through a couple of times before looking at my reflection on the meaning of verses 25 – 30.
Matthew 11: 16 – 19, 25 - 30
16 ‘To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the market-places and calling out to others:
17 ‘“We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.”
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.’
The Father revealed in the Son
25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
A Reflection written by John Crutchley
Begin by saying this prayer:
Lord, you have given to us your Word for a light to shine upon our path. Grant to us now to meditate upon that Word, and to follow its’ teaching, that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
If I were choosing a title to sum up the message of Matthew chapter 11 verses 25 through to 30 I’d say that it ought to be something like, ‘Take Jesus seriously and then you can rest in the Son!’ Although a passage of just five verses, those five verses have so much to say! They contain so much. They reveal so much. For one thing, they open with a short prayer. But not just anyone’s prayer. No. This is Jesus’ short prayer. His own short prayer of praise to God the Father who he manages to mention no less than five times in just three verses. To hear the Son as he prays to the father is nothing short of extraordinary!
And it’s a prayer of thanksgiving. But a prayer of thanksgiving for failure really. Read back through the earlier verses of chapter 11 and we learn of unrepentant towns and of doubt expressed even by John the Baptist. The truth is Jesus knew rejection. He knew discouragement. But what does he do? How does he respond? He gives thanks to the Father for that failure and rejection. Thanks on account of the way that the Father has made his revelation of the secret presence of the Kingdom of God known – he’s hidden it from the world’s great and wise ones, he’s hidden it from those men and women of worldly sophistication and he’s revealed it instead to the lowliest, to those who can be called, well, ‘little children’ even ‘babies’ I suppose. ‘The little people’ as one commentator I’ve read has described them (us?). I don’t think that this means that all of the wise are lost any more than I think that it means that all of the babies are saved but it does mean that knowledge of God isn’t dependent on human wisdom and education and that the revelation of the Son and the Kingdom of God is known by those who show simple, humble, trust in Jesus. Both the profoundly intellectual and the humblest of people find revelation in just the same way, by simple trust in Jesus. Why? Because this is the way that the father planned things. Verse 26: Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
So, in just one verse we see the theme of both Old and New Testaments, the great plan of God set before us. It is to have a spiritual fellowship with the ‘little people’. God ‘opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ says Proverbs 3: 34. ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted, and the exalted will be brought low ‘says Ezekiel (21: 26). ‘For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’ as Jesus will later say in Matthew 23: 12. You see, to elitist reason it is the wise, it is the refined, it is the rich in spirit who deserve revelation. But by a divine paradox, the High and Holy One is closer to the low and little one, maybe, just maybe perhaps, because the ‘little people’ know of their need for God so much more. What was it Paul said to the Corinthians: ‘For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe ’
(1 Corinthians 1: 21).
The plan then is this: those who feel their need for God, who know their need for God and who come asking for his help will find in the Father open arms. But those who feel their spiritual brilliance and who are sorry for those who are far beneath them, who bask in self-importance and feel that God is lucky to have them, they will find the Father’s back! “Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Verse 26)
In short then, take Jesus seriously and you can rest in the Son. You see, at the heart of this short passage is an amazingly simple fact: God’s whole truth has been placed in and revealed through Jesus the Son: ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Verse 27). I like the way that Tom Wright expresses this, when he says that Jesus was acting as a window onto the living God. Where he was, and through his words, people were coming to see who ‘the Father’ really was. It is a knowledge not shared by any of his contemporaries. It is a drawing back of the curtain, an unveiling of the truth about God. And those who are willing to receive the revelation that is in Jesus will also know the Father in the same intimate way. This verse is as spiritually rich and deep, I think, as anything we might read in John’s Gospel.
And it leads to that gracious invitation in verse 28: ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ Take Jesus seriously. To which Jesus now adds an appealing promise: ‘and you will experience refreshment deep down in your soul’. Paul says something similar in Romans 1: 17 where he writes: For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ You see, this is the nub of it! Faith in Jesus makes us alive! It is the experience of all of us who have faith in Jesus, who follow Jesus, that after a while and as we listen to Jesus and seek to obey his teachings, we find that his lessons are a better way to live, his gentleness is relaxing, his focus is refreshing. Deep down our souls are refreshed and renewed. It all comes from taking him seriously, resting in him, seeking his forgiveness, and so discovering the one who truly is ‘gentle and humble in heart’ (Verse 29) and whose yoke is easy and burden light.
In an earlier place Jesus describes the gate to life as narrow and his way to life as rough. How then can he call his yoke easy and his burden light? (Verse 30) Anyone who seeks to live by the Sermon on the Mount, anyone who seeks to live according to Jesus’ teaching will know that what Jesus asks for is often anything but light! But the solution to the paradox is Jesus himself. It is he who makes his tough commands light. It is he that we are yoked together with, teaching us, pulling the load together with us, working alongside of us, in truth, carrying most of the load for us. For sure, the call of those who follow Jesus is not to a life of careless ease; but there is rest for our souls. Rest at the centre of our being. No worry or fuss over what we are doing. Why? Because Jesus is sovereign over all and he will never call us to anything that is beyond our strength. It is simply knowing that Jesus is there! As I say, if we take him seriously, then, we can rest in the Son.
Let us pray these words together.
Loving, living Lord,
flood our lives with a deep love for one another,
and for all people.
And keep our hearts strong, blameless, and holy,
as we together wait for the day when our Lord Jesus will appear again.
So, go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
My brothers and sisters in Christ.
The peace of the Lord be always with you. Amen
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