Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 5 September 2021

by Jim Shaw 5 September 2021

Good morning and welcome to worship today.

Hear the words of Isaiah 55.6: ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near’.  In our Gospel reading we will hear about a woman who sought the Lord Jesus - and found him. 

Hymn: “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness

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A prayer of approach:
Eternal God, source of all blessing, help us to worship you with all our heart and mind and strength; For you alone are God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, For ever and ever.  Amen.

We come to God through Jesus Christ his Son.  We can come to him in no other way.  Listen to John’s description of Jesus our Saviour, Lord and King in Revelation ch 1: Rev 1.5b-8 and 12-18.

Song: Father we adore you

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A Prayer of Confession
Loving God,
We have sinned against you in what we have thought, said and done.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and turn away from all that is wrong.
Forgive us for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hear these words from 1 John ch 1:
God is light; and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin”.

Let’s say together a collect set for this Sunday. 
Go before us, Lord, in all that we do,
With your most gracious favour,
And guide us with your continual help,
That in all our works,
Begun, continued and ended in you,
We may glorify your holy name;
And finally by your mercy obtain everlasting life;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Let’s say together the prayer the Lord taught us:
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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Hymn: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.

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Readings: Isaiah 35.4-7  Mark’s Gospel, 7.24-37

Sermon: Who is this Jesus, and what will you do with Him?
I want this morning to look in detail at our Gospel reading.  It’s Mark 7.24-37.  I want to examine what it says about Jesus. And then I want to ask you to consider: what should be our response to this Jesus?

First, the background.  Mark relates two incidents of healing here.  In the first one, Jesus honours the faith of a Gentile woman; he drives a demon out of her daughter (vv 24-30).  The incident is related also by Matthew: at 15.21-28.  In the second account (vv 31-37), Jesus heals a deaf and dumb man, but this is only in Mark’s Gospel.  In Matthew (15.29ff), Jesus heals many people with a range of illnesses / disabilities who come to him.  In both Matthew and Mark’s Gospels, these two accounts are immediately followed by Jesus miraculously feeding the 4,000.  In both Gospels, they are therefore located at the end of Jesus’ ministry in and around Galilee.

So, what does Mark tell us? Up to this point Jesus has been ministering mostly in Galilee.  But now he leaves Galilee and  travels north to the regions of Tyre - a journey of c.30 miles.  Tyre was a magnificent commercial city, strongly influenced by Greek culture; and it was a proud historic centre of Canaanite paganism.  It was a predominantly Gentile area.  Why did Jesus go there?  Matthew and Mark do not tell us the reason.   His mission from the Father was to Israel.  So, perhaps Jesus was seeking to minister to the descendants of the Northern Israelite tribes that still lived in the region of Tyre.  But Mark gives us a clue.  See v 24: “he entered a house and did not want anyone to know it”.  So I think he had gone for a period of peace and rest and communion with his Father, and perhaps to spend time teaching his disciples.

But “he could not keep his presence secret”, Mark tells us.  People from Tyre had travelled to Galilee earlier in Jesus’ ministry (Mk 3.8), and had witnessed him healing people and driving out demons.  And the word now got around that he was here in their own country.    Mark now introduces a woman whose daughter is ill in some way.  She is possessed by a demon, an “unclean spirit” says Mark - a frequent way of describing demons.  We are not told anything else about the daughter; but her mother is desperate to see her set free. She leaves the girl at home, and finds where Jesus is staying; She falls at Jesus’ feet and asks him to drive the demon out.  Matthew’s account makes it clear that the woman is persistent.  She will not be put off.   She  addresses him as, “Lord, Son of David” - that was a popular title for the Messiah.  But the problem was: she was not a Jew.  She was a Greek, from the Syrian part of Phoenicia; i.e.she was a native of the local area.

Jesus seems reluctant to help her.  He tells her, “First let the children eat all they want; for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs”.  By “children” he meant Jews, the people of Israel.  “Dogs” was a highly offensive term to use.  Was Jesus trying to shock her, to test the strength of her faith?   But the woman is not put off.  She accepts that Jesus’ mission was first to the Jews; but says, surely there is some left over for dogs - Gentiles like me?  Her reply shows her faith - faith that will not give up.  In Matthew’s account Jesus responds, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted”.  In Mark, Jesus tells us, “For such a reply you may go: the demon has left your daughter”.  Her great faith is shown by what happens next.  She believes Jesus’ word - that the demon has left her daughter, without him going to her or giving any command.  And she goes home.  Her faith is rewarded: she finds the child well and the demon gone.

Jesus now leaves the region of Tyre; but he does a most unusual journey.  He goes north about 20 miles to the city of Sidon, then back south and east to the Sea of Galilee, but this time to the territory to its east - the area known as the Decapolis (“Ten Towns”). The Decapolis was mainly a Gentile area too. People had come to see Jesus from there at the start of his ministry, as well as from all over Israel (Mt 4.25). Jesus had ministered in the Decapolis earlier in Mark’s account: see 5.1-20, where he delivers a man possessed by multiple demons.  Again, we are not told why Jesus went there, or why he took this circuitous route.

Some people bring to Jesus a deaf and mute man; they beg Jesus to heal him.  They have clearly heard about or even witnessed his healing ministry.  Jesus takes the man away from the crowd, and heals him.  He uses actions to communicate to the man that he is healing him; and by looking to heaven he shows he is relying on God for the miracle.  The man is healed - he can hear and speak clearly!  Jesus commands him and those with him: “Don’t spread this around; keep it to yourselves”.  But they keep proclaiming what Jesus has done.  Mark ends his account by recording that people were absolutely amazed.  “He has done everything well”, they said.  “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak”.

This miracle actually fulfilled a prophecy in Isaiah - we had it read to us earlier - and it seems that Mark wanted his readers to make this connection.  Isaiah in 35.5f prophesied that “the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy”.  This was one of the many prophecies in Isaiah about Israel’s restoration - their return to their land and also to a true faith in the Lord.  By Jesus’ day, this prophecy was connected with the promise of a coming Messiah, God’s anointed Saviour and leader.  Causing the deaf to hear and the mute to speak were signs that the Messiah was here!

So I ask you: Who is this Jesus?  And what will you do with Him?  What does Mark’s account tell us, and Matthew’s too?  He is God’s promised King and Saviour - his Messiah.  He does absolute miracles of healing - causing demons to depart without even being in his presence!  The news of his presence prompts faith; and it causes people to seek him out.  He answers the cries of those who seek his help.  And he does this for Gentiles; he is prepared to go beyond his mission to Israel.  His miracles show that Israel’s Messiah is here; this is what will happen at the time for Israel’ restoration.  Is God about to break in and restore Israel?  Is he about to fulfil all that the OT Prophets foretold?

And we know far more about this Jesus, thanks to the NT writings.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”, Heb 13.8.  He still heals miraculously, in response to faith.  He is the Saviour for all Gentiles as well as Jews. He seeks to make all nations his disciples.  He can deliver each of us from the guilt and the power of sin.  He offers a new, transformed life to all who confess him as Lord, and who serve him as their teacher and Master.  He offers the Holy Spirit - God’s very presence living in us.  He has defeated death; those who believe in him will rise from the dead and will live for ever!   And he is about to return, to rule as King not just over Israel but over all the nations.  He alone can rescue this world - a world that is currently Satan’s realm and under his control.  There is NO hope for this world, apart from through Christ’s return.  He is coming back not just as King of kings; he is coming back as judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10.42).  

This is Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, as proclaimed by the NT.   So I ask again: What will you do with Jesus?  That is the question that every one of us has to address.   There is lots that we can learn from the Greek woman, and from the friends of the deaf and mute man.  Let me ask you:

Do you believe what the NT tells you about Jesus?  Will you ask yourself, “What does this mean for me?”

Jesus is at work today.  What have you heard about his power? People have been marvellously healed, had their lives turned round, transformed.  I am one of them; I owe everything to Him.  My wife has been miraculously healed - twice.  

Will you act on what you know about Jesus?  Will you seek him out, like the woman did? .

Will you realise your desperate need?  It might be for healing; and we all need deliverance from sin.  Only Jesus can break the power of sin over our lives.

Will you honour Jesus as “Lord”, and mean it? Will you “fall at his feet” - give him supreme honour and worship; surrender all to him; will you be desperate that he comes through for you, and answers your need?

Will you persist in faith?  Not allow setbacks to put you off?

The woman believed Jesus when he said, “the demon has left your daughter”. She proved her faith by leaving him and going home.  Will you believe Jesus’ word to you? Will you act on his word?  It might be a promise in the NT; or a command there.  Will you believe and obey?  Like the old hymn says: “Trust and obey; for there’s no other way”.

Some people brought the deaf and mute man to Jesus.  Will you bring others to Jesus?  Will you tell them about Him; will you share how he has delivered you, how he has changed you?

Will you speak well of Jesus before others?  Will you seize opportunities to say how good Jesus is?

Above all, Jesus’ word to each of us is: “Follow me”.  It doesn’t matter how old each of us is: will you hear his call?  Will you live for him?  For his purposes?  Will you leave behind all that is selfish, all that is sin? “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain”, St Paul said.  Will that be true for you too?  And for me?

That’s it! I have presented Jesus Christ to you as clearly as I can.  What will you do with Him?   Think about this as we sing or listen to our next song.

Song: Be still, for the presence of the Lord, The Holy One, is here

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Our reading in Mark’s Gospel was about people realising their need, and then seeking and finding Jesus.  Will you seek him now?  He is here, by his Spirit.  The Bible says, ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near’ (Isa 55.6).  He is only a prayer away.  There’s a few moments of quiet now for you to seek him.

Prayers of thanksgiving.
Thank you, Lord, that we are all important to you.  You give time and your attention to every one of us.  You are the Saviour of all who call upon you.  Thank you for your promise that ‘Whoever comes to me I will never drive away’ (Jn 6.37).  Thank you that you are ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14.6).  Thank you that you said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die’. (Jn 11.25f).  Help each of us to believe your words, and to act on them.  Help each of us take that one-to-one walk with you. Here at Newmount we thank you for the commitment of all who work to maintain our building and grounds.For the success of our online Holiday Club for children and the contacts made. For the church and community groups that have restarted meeting on our premises.

Prayers of intercession.
Father, we ask you for the people of Afghanistan.  We ask you that you will have compassion on them all.  And we pray especially for our brothers and sisters in that country who trust in Jesus Christ. Look after them, Lord, we pray; provide for their needs; enable them to meet together and to support each other.

Here at Newmount we pray for our new minister, Rev Jacky Quarmby, as we get to know each other and discuss future plans. The Sunbeams group, Sunday Club and King's Kids as Sue seeks to restart them.  We pray you will guide her as she seeks to develop the work with children, families and schools and that you will open up to us new ways to engage with our local community
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We ask all these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord”.  Amen

Hymn: Take my life and let it be

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We share the Grace together:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And the love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all evermore.  Amen.