Sunday Sermon - 13th February - Racial Justice Sunday


A transcript of our sermon for the week can be found below


Ever present God

You called us to be in relationship with one another

And promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered.

In our community, we are many different people

We come from different places, have many different cultures.

Open our hearts that we may be bold

In finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us



Thanks to ‘Churches together in Britain and Ireland’ for worship materials for our themetoday on Racial Justice Sunday – what’s it got to do with us? Every Christian is called into the struggle for racial justice because we are the church of God and God cares about racial justice.


Hymn CH4 259 Beauty for brokeness


HYMN CH4 351 Jesus hands were kind hands

You provide us with all we need gracious God, everything we have is a gift from you.

So we give our offerings of our time and talents and funds in service to you as we are blessed to be a blessing to others in this world.

Bless our gifts. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

AMEN


Prayer of approach with Lords Prayer

God our maker

We come from our scattered lives to this place

Hold us to the shared task of loving one another as you have loved us.

God’s people have gathered,

In our diversity and in our difference,

As God our maker created us to be.


Merciful God you made us in your image

With minds to know you

With hearts to love you

With hands and feet to serve you

But our knowledge is imperfect

Our love not constant

Help us today to grow into your likeness

Help us to understand our own prejudices

Help us to love our neighbour as we ourselves long to be loved

Help us to serve others with humility and gratitude


Lords prayer

Our Father

Who art in heaven

Hallowed by thy name

Thy Kingdom come

Thy will be done in earth

As it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our debts

As we forgive our debtors

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom

And The power and the glory

For ever and ever


AM

Reading Luke 6: 17-26

Jesus Teaches and Heals

17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

Blessings and Woes

20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you[a] on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.



The reading of Luke’s beatitudes – not the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes from Matthew 5: 1-12 – is less well known and less quoted and we can hear straight away why that may be.

Jesus is busy, busy healing and teaching and is on the move. His disciples are gathering folks, encouraging folks to sit down and listen. The crowds gather as people want to listen to Jesus and they come from all around. Some have gathered for healing as they are sick. Folks are commenting on the disciples, that it must be hard to have left their work and to be following Jesus away from your family. The sacrifice to their families involved, but also the blessing of being so close to Jesus. The buzz from the crowd grows as the excitement builds.

Jesus has been praying all night with his group of disciples around him and hasn’t even had his porridge for breakfast as he engages in mission. As Jesus approaches there is a surge in the crowd, people push forward to try and touch Jesus for healing. Then suddenly a hush falls as Jesus starts speaking and they listen.

The gospel of Luke describes the ‘sermon on the plain’ in much more direct and harder hitting language than the ‘sermon on the mount’ found in Matthew. In the Old Testament the plain, the level place would have been a place of suffering, hunger, misery and mourning so Jesus knows the context.

Jesus is on the same level, not looking down on others, not looking up. Jesus stands looking us in the eye. He sees us, He knows us. The real us, our real stories. He wants to bless us and gives the 4 blessings for the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the rejected. These are matched with 4 curses for the rich, the full, the laughing, the popular.

Good news for the poor but bad news for the wealthy? Jesus again takes aim at those who think they are doing grand in life but he warns are heading for a fall. Jesus offers a message of hope and kindness to those in this life considered to be poor, to be shamed, to be sad.

This Kingdom of God that we hear Jesus describing as he turns everything upside down, topsy-turvy or the right way up for God. Luke emphasises the reversal of fortunes that the Kingdom of God will bring and leaves the crowd and us with plenty to be challenged and also comforted by. Jesus standing on the plain, the level ground with a message of levelling the world.

Does this challenge you to think about where in your own life you have or still do experience stigma and prejudice or where you have been prejudiced yourself? Does it comfort you to think of all the blessings you have in life?

Jesus isn’t saying you should be happy about being brought to a place of sickness, of weeping, of worrying about how you are going to find enough money for your messages in the last week of the month when your gas bill has gone up by a third or that God has put you there to teach you to be more grateful.

I wonder if what Jesus is saying is that God is present with us in these times, even when we feel other folk aren’t seeing our suffering or just don’t get it. God loves us, even when other folk don’t notice us, don’t like us, even hate us. We are blessed as we will always find a blessing when we seek the presence of God, when we stay hungry for God.

Pete Greig, Christian leader and writer for Lectio 365 prayer app talked this week about the lie that is told about God, that you can feel the presence of God on demand, whenever we pray, whenever we worship. The truth is that we seek and stay hungry for the presence of God and that is the blessing – a life of seeking. That is what the crowd were there for then and what we seek today. But not just for our own appetites. That is what Jesus is warning against, Jesus wants every person on earth to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. When we seek God we feel the pain and the sorrow God feels for people who are hurting. When we are hungry for God, we want the things God wants.


Let us pause and listen to a song with words written by Scottish Rev Prof John Swinton, a song by Porter’s Gate called He is Amongst Us that reminds us Christ amongst us and where he wants us to be.

Let us now sing together of how we respond to God when we seek God and we feel the pain and sorrow God feels for people who are hurting.


CH4 251 I, the lord of Sea and Sky

God sees us all and wants to send us all blessings, but do we accept that it applies to us all? That we are all one in Christ?

This week I was reminded by our own probationer ministry training team that words matterand the need to ensure that we do not treat others with prejudice as hurt is caused. The church has a long history of being welcoming, inclusive and embracing the diversity that exists in our community, even here in Alva. I want to read for you Ephesians 2: 19-22

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.[a] 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually[b] into a dwelling place for God.


This reflection is written by Rev Mandy Ralph, Church of Scotland minister – we are all one in Christ

In life, if we are honest with ourselves, we know all too well that there are insiders and outsiders. The welcome mat is dusted off and laid out for some and not for others. Some people are accepted, others are rejected. If you know and experience acceptance, it is a nice and secure feeling. On the other hand, maybe you have experienced rejection and exclusion, and it's not so nice, it's frustrating, disheartening, disillusioning and hurtful.

Mandy continues - In some of the rural villages I have ministered in even after 30 or 40 years, unless you were born there you are still referred to as an incomer – ‘Aye see these interloupers!'

But how does that feel when you are excluded, an outsider because of the colour of your skin, because you look different? We read in Ephesians of how we are all one in Christ. Interesting concept or a reality, or non-existent when it comes to our church communities? As you reflect on the passage from Ephesians and how God's word speaks to you, maybe you are thinking what significance does it have on Racial Justice Sunday? You may also be thinking what does Racial Justice Sunday have to do with me? The answer is everything. For it is about acceptance before God and acceptance of one another.

Within Christian communities you often hear the phrase: ‘We are all one in Christ'. By faith we are assured of this as we are all part of the body of Christ. Jesus walked among us and knows us only too well, our complexities and our frailties.

Therefore, let's not kid ourselves that we can use the phrase to our own ends; when we use it to paper over uncomfortable discussions or to prove we are right in our stance or as a line of defence. Sometimes when we use that phrase what we are actually doing is closing down the conversation, especially when it comes to inequality and racial injustice. ‘We are all one in Christ – so we don't need to address this.' But the person on the receiving end is still excluded, for their voice has not been heard, in fact it has been silenced.

Jesus walked and shared by example, we are tasked to do the same, to follow in Jesus' footsteps, to go in faith in what unites not what divides. So, when we say, ‘What does Racial Justice Sunday have to do with us?' – Everything! It's up to us as Christian communities to set a good example, to walk the talk, putting our faith into action in fighting racial injustice, and God wants that from all of us, not just a select few. For we are all made in the image of God, yet we are all also unique.

In Scotland we have a great saying – ‘Wur aw Jock Tamson's Bairns'. In faith ‘Wur aw God's bairns' children of God. All loved the same by God. So, let's treat each other equally and respectfully, understanding that as Christians we all have a role to play regardless of the colour of our skin in addressing racial injustice, both in our congregations and communities.



God sees us all and wants to send us all blessings.

To us all, there is nothing you can do to block those blessings, to make God love you more or less. God sends Jesus to a level plain in the middle of chaos, in a world that seems topsy turvy and chaotic. Let us be ready to meet with Jesus for healing, to lift our eyes to meet Jesus, to accept the blessings that he offers, to share those blessings with all.


After reflection:

When we do not listen to the cries of others

Give us ears to hear

When we do not recognise racism and injustice

Give us eyes to see

When we do not speak truth to power

Give us voices and courage

Prayers for others and ourselves - there will be a moment of silence included during these prayers.

Respond

In the stillness we pray,

Maker God, hear our prayer

Creator God, when the disciples gathered to meet with Jesus to pray, it was dark and Jesus had yet to come to them.

We pray for those who have an absence of security or confidence because your peace has not yet come to them.

In the stillness we pray,

Maker God, hear our prayer

When the disciples were in the crowd, the crowd were restless and noisy.

We pray for those in the midst of restlessness, for those whose hands lie the way that make justice and peace.

We pray for those who battle with personal chaos – resentments, challenges, uncertainties that are overwhelming.

In the stillness we pray,

Maker God, hear our prayer


When the crowds heard Jesus teach that they would be blessed, when they felt the gaze of Jesus seeing them, they felt shame and transforming grace.

We pray for those who live in poverty, who live with hunger, who weep, who feel rejectedfor who they are as a beloved Child of God and for those of us who live day by day to remember those words, Blessed are you!


Build us to be a people of faith united, celebrating our diversity.


In the stillness we pray,

Creator God, hear our prayer


Hymn JP 47 For I’m building a people of power

Blessing: Please stand


Give us ears to hear

Eyes to see

Voices and courage to speak

As We go out in justice and joy.

All one in Christ.

Wur Aw God’s Bairns.


May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

And the love of God

And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit





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