Rev. Nigel Robb July 1st
Post Pentecost 2 for a locked down Church
Blessed are you who show another person that they are loved by you and by God
Blessed are you who help someone feel dignity and worth?
Blessed are you who lift someone’s spirit out of despair.
Blessed are you who point a young person to a future filled with hope.
Blessed are you who teach a child the wonder and beauty of God’s world.
Blessed are you who heal those who are broken in body or mind.
2. Bruce Barton
In the 1920’s Bruce Barton, an advertising executive, wrote a book entitled, The Man Nobody Knows, in which he argued that Jesus was an organisational genius. He presented him as a business man who put together the most successful corporation in the history of the world. In Barton’s view, Jesus was an achiever a go-getter, and a virtuoso whose managerial skills could be profitably made use of today. That, of course, was Barton’s greatest discovery: that Jesus could be made useful; that the faith could be made more relevant; that the Gospel, in some measure, could pay off. This is the danger that we will face. We think that the gospel is potentially useful for our own ends. Jesus reminds us time and again that this is not the way of true discipleship.
O God of glory and wonder,
We pray for our world that you might impart to the leaders of the nations and those in positions of responsibility, peace and calm judgment.
May the self- centred and selfish of the word would be softened, remade, remoulded by the outpouring of the love of Christ through us.
Expose the pretentious and self-righteousness in our society to the warmth of your love.
Encourage the desolate and those afflicted by depression.
Enable the members of the Church where it is persecuted, reviled, or apathetic, to claim their true nature as your children.
Open the hidebound to the wonderful possibilities of change and transformation.
Enlighten those locked in the tomb of passivity and desperate hopelessness, through Jesus Christ,
Whose life and love has demonstrated to us the meaning of service, the supreme quality of goodness and the true way of love.
4. Jürgen Moltmann
In his book, The Power of the Powerless, Professor Moltmann says:
‘God wants people who have come of age, people who make their own decisions and take responsibility for what they do. God wants free people who stand on their own feet and are themselves. God does not want copies; He wants originals ‘
5. Albert Einstein
When Albert Einstein was asked, ‘what do you believe is the most important question in the world?’ He replied, ‘The most important question is,’ Do you believe that you live in a friendly universe’. A highly thought provoking response. It implies that our attitude and our actions are all in some ways related to how we respond to this question. It infers that either covertly or overtly we reply to it in our daily journey through life. It is a question we should be asking ourselves and if we are professing Christians, we should be able to respond to it positively. We have to be truthful and make sure that our faith does proclaim that we live in a friendly and compassionate universe whose creator and sustainer is the God we know in Jesus Christ.
O love that will not let us go
Keep us from futile confessions of faith unlinked to chagrin acts of compassion.
Make us aware of the significance of our service in the name of Jesus.
Strengthen us in our battle against the power of sin in our lives, and in its diverse manifestations in our world.
Steer us away from the sentimental dramas and idolatry of the past, so that we may face the future with realism.
Be with us on the hazardous path of witness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in whose service and name we pray.
7. Henry Drummond
‘The final test of religion is not religiousness but Love… not what I have done, not what I have believed, not what I have achieved, but how I have discharged the common charities of life’.
When one of the early Christian missionaries to New Guinea, John Paton, started working, he was challenged by the fact that he was working among islanders who had been cannibals and very savage, cruel people. No one in the tribe had ever trusted another, and there was no word in their language for ‘trust’ or ‘believe’ as the terms were quite incomprehensible and meaningless to these people who knew nothing of such ideas in their experience of war and aggression.
One day as he was working at his desk attempting to translate the Gospel of John into the native language, he struggled with how to translate the concept of ‘belief’ and how it could be expressed in a comprehensible manner. He spoke to the native convert who sat by him as he leaned back in his chair, raising the front legs off the ground. ‘What am I doing now?’ he asked. The islander replied, ‘You are resting your whole weight upon your chair’s back legs’. So John translated the text, ‘… that whomsoever should rest their whole weight upon Jesus should not perish.’ Perhaps we need to think of this image as appropriate for our struggle to know what belief is in these times.
9. The Incarnation of the Church
Kathleen Norris writes:
‘The church is like the Incarnation itself, a shaky proposition. It is a human institution, full of ordinary people, and sinners like me, who say and do cruel, stupid things. But it is also a divinely inspired institution, full of good purpose, which partakes of a unity far greater than the sum of its parts. That is why it is called the body of Christ.
And that is why, when battles rage, people hold on. They find a sufficient unity, and a rubbed raw but sufficient love, and even the presence of God.’
Dr David Read in his autobiography wrote about his experience in the Second World War as a prisoner of war in a German Camp for five years after being captured at Dunkirk:
‘…it puzzled me to find that some of the most fervent believers behaved rather badly under the stress of hunger and anxiety, while those I would have considered somewhat lukewarm in what is called ‘Christian witness’ were pillars of decency and goodwill. It began to dawn on me that those who were desperately concerned with the salvation of their own souls…were also likely to be equally concerned with meeting their own physical needs. It is because of this experience that I have reservations about all religion that tends towards the fanatical and demonstrative’.
The word ‘hypocrite’ comes from the Greek theatre and refers to the mask that an actor wears to disguise one’s identity. The mask was the stage face of the actor, who beneath the surface was only playing a part.
Probably no accusation against a Christian is more damning than the charge that we are hypocritical, especially in the light of the fact that it is probably the easiest aspect to repair. It simply calls for us to live the faith we profess.
Eternal God, by your Holy Spirit you have given life to this earth, and brought new life to Christ’s Church.
You have blessed your people with wonderful gifts and we praise you for all that you share with us.
In thanking you for you for guidance and blessing, we pray for those who are the vehicles of grace in our experience:
Those who proclaim the Gospel;
Those who have authority and responsibility in the Church;
Those who wait on others in need;
Those who teach and share wisdom and truth;
Those who represent the Church in civil affairs;
Those who create music and art;
Those who do menial tasks;
Those who take care of children;
Those who visit the lonely;
Those who serve others.
We pray for all who we would serve in Christ’s name:
The poor, hungry and homeless;
Those who are ill and suffering pain, of body or of mind;
Nations torn apart by strife and warfare;
Refugees and victims of oppression;
Those who are bereaved and sorrowing;
The illiterate and the ignorant;
The abandoned and the outcast;
Those persecuted for their loyalty to Christ;
All who need our service in Christ’s name.
A silence is kept.
13. Plan B
In her book called Anne La Motte tells a story which describes what it is to persevere in the light when those around you prefer darkness. To the question ‘What can you do? ’She replies:
You…begin by lighting a candle.Since the USA went to war in Iraq, I have been thinking about A.J. Muste, who during the Vietnam War stood in front of the White House, night after night, with a candle.One very wet night, a reporter asked him, ‘Mr Muste, do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?’
‘Oh’, Muste replied, ‘I do not do it to change the country, I do it so the country won’t change me’.
That may be what we have to do.Make sure that we do not let go of the light that we have seen, even when the darkness about is great.
14. What is Possible With God
Dr Wangari Maathai, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was the first woman from Central or East Africa to have a PhD, and the first woman to head a university department in Kenya.She was awarded the Peace Prize for her founding of the Greenbelt Movement in Africa.
She had discovered that the key problems in African villages centred on poverty, soil erosion, lack of fossil fuels, and starvation. She began a movement of planting trees, a simple answer to a complex problem of deforestation.
The trees, as they grow, stopped the soil erosion so that food could be planted in the ground, crops harvested, enough to sustain life and to sell to others. When the trees matured they could be cut down and used for cooking and warmth, this addressing the scarcity of fossil fuels.
Suddenly with just that much, barely more than the equivalent of a few loaves and some fish, Dr Maathai began to address one of the most significant human dilemmas on the planet. Over the past 28 years, 10 million trees have been planted.
There is an old story of St Teresa of Avila, the 16th century mystic, the barefoot nun of Spain, that as she began her work among the poor she had only a few coins in her pocket. ‘What can you do with only a few coins?’ she was asked.
‘Teresa and a few coins’, she said,’ can do nothing. But Teresa, a few coins, and God can do anything’.