Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 17 July 2022

by Frankie and David Bray 17 July 2022

Welcome to worship. The service below reflects the service taking place in our church today.

Opening: (Psalm 57 from v 9) I will praise you O Lord among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.  For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

Let’s respond to these words as we sing ‘Come, now is the time to worship’.

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Lord God, Creator God, Maker of Heaven and earth.  How often we forget the wonder of who You are - and yet You say to us, through Your word, that we should call you Father.  Sometimes we find it difficult to express all that we want to say, but as we come to You now in prayer we would tell You of our love for You – bring our thanks because You are here with us.  We thank You for this privilege and that, through the sacrifice Jesus made, there is no veil between us, that any barrier is one of our own making.  Free us from that barrier, Lord, as we acknowledge the times we have failed You – spoken out of turn – when our thoughts and actions have been far from those we know You would approve of.  We come with a real sense of regret that we have let you down.  Forgive us, Father, and, by Your grace, allow us to feel the difference as You make us clean.  Help us to live our lives by the example Jesus set.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we will reflect Your love to all we meet whether it’s our family, friends, work, or just a casual meeting.  
Thank You for the wonder of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  Thank You for all the gifts You give us every day – our homes, this fellowship, the beauty of the countryside and the convenience of the city.  For all these things we give You our grateful thanks and praise in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Offering prayer – Thank You, Father, that we have these gifts that we can bring to You.  We ask You to accept them along with our thanks and praise this morning.  Give wisdom to those who will use this money so that it will all bring glory to You.  In Jesus name – Amen.

Our Old Testament reading is from Jeremiah, chapter 23, verses 1 - 6.  Jeremiah is speaking God’s word to a people who really don’t want to know.  

Our gospel reading is from Mark, chapter 6, verses 30-34 then 53-56.  Jesus wants the disciples to be at rest, but the crowd follows them.

We sing now ‘Peace is flowing like a river’ as we prepare for our prayers of intercession. 

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Prayers of intercession  
Father we have sung of peace, love, joy, faith and hope. We bring to You our world which is in so much need of all of these things.  We have sung about all these things flowing like a river through each one of us.  It’s a picture, Lord, that we want to see.  Aggression turned away.  Healing – reconciliation – lives rebuilt.  This is Your world, Father, given into our keeping for the sake and well-being of all.  We think of those living with conflict; fear; hunger and despair. You have given us a glimpse of eternity through Your Son, our Saviour.  Enable and strengthen us to proclaim your message through Your Holy Spirit.

We pray for the leaders of nations as they grapple with problems magnified by conflict and global warming.  The unrest caused because of the cost of living; too much work or no work.  We pray for our country and the distractions going on within government and the knock on affect this will have on decision making.  
We pray for people preparing to go on holiday now the end of the school term approaches;  Ministers and their families moving from one circuit to another.

We pray for those who have woken feeling unwell, or lonely, wondering what the future holds for them.  Again, as we began our prayers, use us to bring that peace that is beyond our understanding.  We pray for family, friends and carers; those who feel isolated, that no one cares.  Bring healing, Father God, bring hope, bring understanding – when there are no words, a touch bringing your love.

For Your church we pray the opportunity to spread Your word – sharing what we have with others and not counting the cost, knowing that Your will is to bring Your love into any and every situation, working for the good of others and not ourselves.
We offer all these prayers to You in the name of Jesus – the Saviour who welcomes us so that we will welcome others.  Amen.

Our next song continues our prayers: Facing a task unfinished

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Our next reading is from Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 11 – 22.  Paul    speaks of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have someone come to you, say something dramatic, and complete it with ‘declares the Lord’?  Have you ever wondered what the ‘shepherds’, the leaders of Israel and Judah, felt like when Jeremiah came to them with the bold indictment of their leadership with the words ‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture’.

If you were to continue to read this particular chapter of Jeremiah you will see that the professional prophets, too, draw God’s condemnation.

The bottom line – the people are being led astray.  They are being let down by people they should be able to trust.  People that are where they are, in the power hierarchy, because of where they came from.  Many years before, God had chosen the descendants of Aaron to be the spiritual leaders of the people – the ones who brought God’s laws and decrees to the people.  But this ‘power’, this ‘grace’, this ‘privilege’  had been abused.

It wasn’t the first time, and, of course, we, looking back on this as a history, can see that it was by no means the last.  But at this point in the story of God’s chosen people, God has decided the wrongdoing has gone far enough.  And He gives the leaders – the ‘shepherds’ – fair warning.

They didn’t like it.  They felt they were above criticism, most definitely from someone like Jeremiah, and, probably, even from God.  I suspect in their shoes, we might have felt the same – no-one likes to be criticised.

Why was God so angry?  Because the example being set by these leaders was causing the people to turn away from God.  Taking advantage of their privileges meant the ‘ordinary’ people resented what they had to do.  After all, why should they repent if the ones who accepted their sacrifices were corrupt?

But God has gone further than just telling the leaders where they’ve gone wrong.  God is saying He’s taking the people into His personal care and will give the people a King who will not lose them to the worship of pagan gods and corrupt living.

When we come to the gospel reading, Mark is telling us a little more about this King whom God has sent and whom Jeremiah spoke about all those years before.  But he’s not the kind of King that the people had been waiting for.  This King is not about power – and, because of this, he’s not about corruption either.  There had been good kings but there had been bad ones as well, in the time between our readings from Jeremiah and Mark.  The chosen people had led their lives as if on a see-saw.  Corruption and godlessness – warnings; repentance and forgiveness – worship and promises of fealty to God alone; only to fall back once more.

But Mark brings us to a lost people; a people who are searching for God, but don’t really know what they are looking for.  The leaders are strong over their own people, but they are under the rule of Rome.  We can only imagine what this must have been like.

If you are ruled by someone stronger than yourself, does your resentment lead you to ‘lord it’ over those who are under your rule, as it were?  Is that one of the reasons that resentment became so strong against Jesus and what he stood for?  Because Jesus didn’t look for power – in fact he rejected the opportunity, not only during the forty days in the desert, but when he rode into Jerusalem and all the people called out to him ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.  The people were in the palm of his hand.  But that wasn’t what he wanted.  It wasn’t God’s plan.  For there was another way for our Salvation.

In our reading from Mark we are brought to two separate incidents, both of which demonstrate what the role of a leader should be.  In the first few verses Jesus demonstrated concern for the disciples.  They needed rest.  Jesus went with them to find a quiet place, a solitary place, by boat.  But it turns out the boat was the only quiet place they were to have for a while because then they reached the other side of the lake they found the people had seen where they were going and had run to be with them again.

We read ‘Jesus had compassion on them (the people), because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things’.

This brings us back to the analogy that we had in our reading from Jeremiah – Shepherd and Sheep.  Not only that, but the people were the sheep without a shepherd.

Here we are looking at the relationship between God and the people. At the time of Jeremiah the people’s relationship with God was through the Priesthood.  When Jesus came in fulfilment of God's promises, things began to change, because he came to save the world.  Listen to the familiar verses of John, chapter 3, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’.  These words are for individuals, not just a group or groups of people. ‘Whoever believes in him shall not perish’.  

Through many of his teachings, Jesus reminds those who will listen that God loves and cares for each individual.  (Matthew 10v49) ‘Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered’.  But every relationship brings with it responsibilities.  God takes His very seriously. He’s shown this time and time again.  Jesus was a demonstration, a realisation, of that responsibility.  Immanuel – God with us.  The purpose of his sacrifice on the cross – to save the world from the sin that separates us from God the Father.  But Jesus is quite specific in what he says.  ‘Whoever believes in Him.’  This seems not to qualify where the person has to come from, what they do, how clever they are, how old they are.  The only only criterion is, do they believe in him?

Jesus said (Matthew 10v32) ‘Whoever acknowledges me before men I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven’.  So believing is not the only thing that we have to think about, but also not hiding that belief.  In Romans (10 v 9-13) we read, ‘If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’

Our reading from Ephesians reminds us that without Christ - without his love and sacrifice we were living apart from God.  It reminds us we were like strangers; aliens; enemies.  It says ‘we were lost, without God, without hope’.  But now we belong to Christ Jesus.  And because of what he has done for us we are very near to God.  For Christ is our way to peace.  He has made us all one family.  We are part of one body – through Christ.  The Good News is for everyone.  Once we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour we are no longer strangers but members of God’s very own family; citizens of God’s country.  We belong in His household with every other Christian.

So now instead of being like sheep without a shepherd we are joined together by God’s Spirit.  We no longer have a separation from God.  See how we have travelled to the fulfilment of God’s word through Jeremiah so long ago.  How the people had to rely on the priesthood to intercede for them.  How these ‘shepherds’ began to lose touch with the reality of their responsibilities.  But our reality is that there is a New High Priest (Hebrews 5 v 10) who intercedes for us – Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Scripture tells that that Joshua (24 v 15) asked the people to make a decision about who they would revere; who they would follow.  And he made a personal statement – a proclamation.  ‘As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord’.  Through Jesus Christ our relationship with God is immediate – it’s intimate – it’s not just a group fellowship – it demands a personal declaration of faith and belief in Jesus Christ.

As I stand before you this morning, it is because I am making my personal declaration of my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, to the glory of God the Father.  But this joy, this admission is not for me alone, it is for everyone.

When Peter stood before the people he told them the truth about Jesus – who he was – the sacrifice on the cross and the glorious resurrection.  And the people wanted to know ‘what should we do?’  And Peter replied ‘Each one of you must turn from sin and return to God’.  And he went on, ‘For Christ promised the Holy Spirit to each one of you who has been called by the Lord our God and to your children and even to those in distant lands’.
As Joshua asked the question of the people; as Peter told the people what they must do; as Jesus (Immanuel – God with us) had compassion and gave himself for us – where do we stand in our relationship with God our Father today?
Scripture says (Ephesians 2v20) ‘What a foundation you stand on now; the apostles and prophets; and the cornerstone of the building is Jesus Christ himself.  We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing, temple for God.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Song: Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart

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Paul wrote (Ephesians 6v23) May God give peace to you, and love, with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May God’s grace and blessing be upon all who sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.