Archive for the ‘Isaiah’ Category

Mid-week service – 24th March (Fifth Week in Lent)

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Call to worship: Isaiah 43: 8-9

Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
   who are deaf, yet have ears!
Let all the nations gather together,
   and let the peoples assemble.
Who among them declared this,
   and foretold to us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to justify them,
   and let them hear and say, ‘It is true.’

Hymn – 678  -  There’s a quiet understanding

Prayer of Adoration
Dear Lord, you have no need of us but you have given us life
You have no reason to be pleased with us, yet you love us
You have no need to forgive us, no need to share your holy being with us in Christ, no need to take from us all that worries and upsets us, you have no need to dissolve our pain and our sin, but you have done this for us in your son Jesus Christ. You have flooded our darkness with light, you have filled our emptiness with your sweet Spirit, as you usher us into your presence, into faith, and into your Kingdom
We praise you that you have done all this for us and we glorify your name, may it be honoured always.

Prayer of Confession
Father we confess that we are not worthy of this great bounty that you bestow on us. We are not the people that you have called us to be. We have not been mindful of you, rather we have separated ourselves from your love, from your presence and from your purpose.  Your love heals, creates and reconciles but we have shown so little of this to the world around us. We are sorry that we are so unlike Jesus

Declaration of forgiveness
And yet Father you are merciful to us, your love for us is so powerful, so perfect in its forgiveness that you have overcome our shortcomings
Your peace on earth is greater than all our anger, all our war, all our hatred put together
Your peace in our hearts subdues and replaces all our anxiety and unhappiness
Your power meets our weakness and your unchanging and eternal love meets our inconsistent emotion and changing moods
We thank you and marvel at this most undeserved favour
And we praise you, and thank you, and offer ourselves to you
We renounce any claim to righteousness, and take grateful possession of a righteousness that is yours and yours alone.
Thank you father for forgiving our sins
 

Petition for the Worship
We come before you now to seek out your word within the words of scripture, to speak with you and listen, to pray with our hearts and minds. Help us to let go of all that keeps us from you, tear down the curtain, break down the wall, and unite us with you in Christ in this special time of worship. We thank you that you are here with us now and we are in your presence. Pour your Spirit upon us as we say the words that Jesus taught us.
Our Father…
 
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 43: 16-21
Hymn 275 – I heard the voice of Jesus say
New Testament Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14 p.249

MESSAGE

I made the point that in this passage Paul is talking about the difference in sacraments and ceremonies between what is on the inside and the outside.  Circumcision, then baptism are the mark of being part of God’s covenant – but what we have here is a physical, material event which refers to a spiritual event that we cannot see.

In some ways couples who choose not to get married sometimes do this for good reasons – they reject the idea that an outward event, or piece of paper can really make them ‘married’ in the truest sense of the word – they might argue that there is a spiritual connection going on between them that is the real marriage, and no wedding can take its place.

I would say to such a couple that a wedding should not take the place of a pure, inner connection between two people that love each other. But it can be the outward sign of this inner love, it doesn’t need to spoil it – in fact it can relate to that intimate spiritual connection, nurturing it, delcaring it and letting the world know about it.

And I think Paul makes the same point about all our religious services. (There are only 2 sacraments for us non-conformists – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper).  Everything that we do in our Christian life, in our life in the church should be making that connection between the spiritual and physical realities.

And at this time of Easter when our church life will be full of rituals and symbols, let us remind ourselves that these symbols (the cross, the bread and wine, the water of baptism) have no power on their own. Lets always remember that these things are signs of genuine spiritual reality and something has to happen on the inside and the outside, something passes between us and God in Christ – and it is this spiritual reality that we symbolise in the Sacraments. Don’t confuse the sign with the thing that it is pointing at!

Prayer of Intercession
Father, may we be always conscious of that intimate, relationship that we have with you, may it never be confused with anything that is visible to human eyes
We would be poor in spirit that we might see you, we would be humble in our souls that we might filled with your holy spirit, and we would throw ourselves on your mercy that you might welcome us in love
Help us always to distinguish between the wrapping and the gift, help us never to confuse the things of the flesh with the claims of the spirit
May we never boast of anything for ourselves, that we might boast of you and what you have done in us, what you have forgiven in us, and what you have promised in us.
We praise you for those signs of redemption that you have given to your church – for the sacraments of baptism and holy communion we thank you Lord
May we view these, and all the life of the church, from a spiritual, heavenly viewpoint, and may we through them be drawn to you. You have given us signs, may we look to where the signs are pointing, not at the signs themselves.
This is the miracle of faith that you are working in us
And in Jesus’ name, Amen
 
Hymn - 551- Out of my bondage

Blessing/Dismissal – Psalm 126:6
 
Those who go out weeping,
   bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
   carrying their sheaves.

We ended the service by saying the Grace

Bible Study – Monday 8th March (3rd week of Lent)

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

We had a very interesting discussion about the two readings from yesterday’s service, Isaiah 55:1-9 and Luke 13: 1-9 with some varied ideas and points of view being put forward.

We talked about the points I had made in the service on Sunday, on this same passage, and about some of the the difficulties it presents. I wondered whether the text doesn’t refer to the idea that the ‘end of the world’ was expected by the earliest Christians, who thought that the apocalyspe was round the corner, and that Jesus would return to judge the living and the dead. This didn’t trouble most of the group though, who didn’t feel that this was the only meaning that could be applied to it.

It seemed to us all that in Luke 13: 1-9, Jesus spells out the need for our faith to result in good deeds, and that if it doesn’t then a kind of death will be the result. But does this mean sudden physical death? Or does it mean being excluded from the new life that is in Christ – and if so are we to understand this a literal ‘afterlife’ or as a spiritual life that occurs in this life?

I was keen to stress that the section about ‘bearing fruit’ should not be seen as meaning that God will judge us according to our achievements on earth – rather that we are saved by faith, but faith that does not lead to action is not real faith at the end of the day.

One of the most interesting points was that the Luke passage was reminiscent of the Old Testament, with its blood and thunder reference to destruction, while the Isaiah passage was like something out of the New Testament, with its rich and tender description of God’s nearness and approachability.

Lots of other interesting points were made, and this is usually the case so do join us next Monday when we will be looking at some of the Lectionary readings from the fourth week of Lent.

Frank