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Sunday Service 10th December




Advent 2: Peace

10/12/23

 

Call to worship

Hymn 316: Love came down at Christmas

 

Reading: Malachi 2: 17-3:12  - John

Prayer

 

Hymn 290: The race that long in darkness pined

 

Sermon

Prayer of Dedication

 

Hymn 291: When out of poverty is born a dream that will not die.

 

Communion

 

Hymn 277: Hark the glad sound.

 

 Benediction

 

Welcome to our reflection for 10th December.

This is the second Sunday in Advent, when we reflect on Peace. But true peace isn’t just when we feel at peace, true peace occurs when all are at peace...for only when all are at peace, is the peace stable, and not just something temporary...a lull between storms.

But we will reflect on that after John leads us in our prayer and reading for today.

Remember that you can ask for our church to pray for you or people that you care about by contacting us at

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon

In this second week of Advent we look at the concept of Peace.

And our reading starts with us blaming God for this lack of peace.

‘How come God, how come there are people that get away with stuff?’

How come there are people in the world like Putin who seem to literally be able to get away with murder?

How come there are people in the world like Trump who seem are able to afford the most expensive lawyers to defend him, but there are people wrongly accused of crime like Andrew Malkinson who are falsely imprisoned for 17 years and are still fighting against his injustice?

How come if you are black in America, or this country, you are more likely to be imprisoned, more likely to be assaulted by the police, more likely to die in police custody, if you are pregnant and black your child is more likely to die in childbirth and the mother is more likely to die in childbirth?

 

There has always been the feeling of THEM and US, and THEM get away with stuff and have advantages that US don’t have.

There has always been that feeling, and the anger that feeling rouses within us, when we feel that injustice has touched us.

 

We have an instinct within us, an instinct that the world is not the way it should be;

an instinct that there is something wrong with the world.

And the greatest sign of this is that we are disturbed, that we are not at peace.

 

And of course when we feel like this we need to find a cause, we need to find someone to blame.

And our reading today starts with God blowing his top because he is the one that seems to be getting the blame for it all.

You see the Israelites thought they had a covenant, a contract with God.

They would let God be their God, and God would give them a place in the world that was secure and safe and prosperous.

 

They had looked at the past and seen that God had made that contract with the people when they were slaves, and generously freed them and taken them to the Promised Land.

But then the people had abused that contract and worshipped other gods, so God had rightly punished them and taken them into exile.

But the people had served their punishment and God had returned them back to the Promised Land.

 

And to be honest the people felt kind of let down.

The Promised Land wasn’t as great as they thought it should be.

For a start they were surrounded by other superpowers like Egypt and Assyria, Greece was spreading its wings, Rome was beginning to flex its muscles.

It seemed to them the threat of invasion was always around.

Then the royalty and priests weren’t as wonderful as they wanted them to be, they were always fighting about who had the proper linage and who should be in charge.

The Temple, to be honest the Temple wasn’t as impressive as they thought it should be.

They had heard tales of Solomon’s Temple in all its glory, now that was impressive, but that had been razed to the ground and all the gold and silver stolen,

the new temple that they had built was a pale shadow of that one, and they were always asking for more and more money.

 

If the national life was pretty rubbish, and the religious life was rubbish, then personal life wasn’t much better. Relationships weren’t as stable or fulfilling as they wanted them to be, relationships were just hard work.

 

Life shouldn’t be this hard.

 

And they needed to see who was to blame...and it was obvious who was to blame...God.

 

If God didn’t allow the injustice in the world then the world would be a better place, a more peaceful place.

God should do something about the misuse of power, the misuse of wealth, the misuse of relationships.

There was one simple rule that everyone knew....

If you did good then God blessed you, if you did bad then God punished you.

But it seemed to everyone that that was not what they were seeing; the wealthy, the powerful, lived by a different set of standards, a different set of rules.

To quote a phrase first heard during COVID; ‘We may all be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat...some are riding this storm in a luxury cruiser while others are facing the storm holding on to bits of wood floating in the water.’

And that doesn’t seem fair.

It didn’t seem fair to them, it doesn’t seem fair to us.

There is a restlessness in our hearts.

We are not at peace.

It seems like God is not doing anything about this.

It seems like God is punishing the good and rewarding the evil.

This is all happening on God’s watch...so where is He?

The people are saying, ‘Why should we bother trying so hard when God isn’t pulling his weight?’

 

And God’s reply through the prophet Malachi is, ‘Really?

You see this mess in your life and you want to blame me? Really?’

 

So Malachi gives, not one, but two visions, of what God could be like.

 

 

The first is that God comes the way they want, as a judge to sort out all the evil people...all the evil people.

 

Those priests who aren’t doing their jobs right and not inspiring the people; they will get sorted out.

God will refine them like gold and silver is refined.

Now that doesn’t sound pleasant at all.

Because we know how that is done...the metal is melted to a great heat and all the impurities are burnt off, nothing but the very best is left behind and in molten form the gold is reformed and remoulded into what it should be.

Oh those priests are going to get it.

And serves them right.

 

But then Malachi continues, and once the priests have been refined then so will the people...they will be judged for everything that they have done.

 

All those people that read their horoscopes instead of trusting in God,

or who wear religious items hoping that it will bring them good luck;

everyone who has ever doubted God at any time and thought their happiness depended on a bet made at the right time, or a house bought at the right time, or a job secured at the right time.

 

All those people that don’t give 100% to their marriage at all times; God has given them that relationship and they are wasting it, they will be punished for every hurt word, every act of betrayal, every moment they haven’t been building up that marriage.

 

All those people who have ignored the needs of others in the community;

those less fortunate,

those what have lost a loved one and are now struggling financially,

those who have no one to watch over them in times of darkness;

the widows, the orphans.

Everyone who has thought that these people are not their responsibility...God will judge them.

 

They will be refined like gold, melted down until nothing is left except the very best, then they will be remoulded, recast.

 

But that judgement is a bit closer to home.

The people wanted God’s judgement on other people, but once God starts then he carries on, and who could face God’s judgement?

 

The problem that they had, the problem that we all have...

Is that we instinctively know the world is wrong, that we want peace.

But we limit our vision to US having peace.

 

Look at Israel.

The people of Israel want peace.

The politicians of Israel want peace.

But the politicians over the last few decades have felt that the best way for them to have peace is to subjugate the Palestinian people.

It doesn’t matter if the Palestinian people live lives of fear and poverty...as long as the people of Israel can guarantee peace.

But it doesn’t work that way.

I fear that for every Palestinian that they kill, they will create five more Palestinians that want to fight for vengeance, for justice, for revenge.

There will be no peace for Israel, until there is peace for Palestine.

 

But that works in the same way for us.

We want peace for ourselves and our families.

We want people to respect our property and what we have.

We want people to quietly live their lives.

But if people down the road are struggling to heat their house then why should they quietly accept their fate?

If people in the same community are watching their children go hungry then why should they not scream and shout at the injustice?

If people in the same street are suffering, then why shouldn’t they mourn and grieve?

 

The second vision that Malachi gives is of a God who is constant.

A God who is seeking peace, but not peace for individuals, peace for all.

A God who is saying,

‘If you could really trust me,

trust me in the way you are dependent upon me,

trust me in the way you live your life,

trust me in the way you share with others,

then you would find a true peace...

a peace that isn’t dependent on what you have or what happens in your life,

a peace that isn’t dependant on circumstances and good or bad luck.

You would find a peace that the world cannot give, the peace of knowing that you are completely safe in the arms of God, not only in this world, but in the world eternal.

You would find a peace that isn’t about protecting yourself from the world, but a peace that is about being free to struggle with the world,

struggle to make the world more in line with God’s kingdom,

about seeking peace for all no matter their status or circumstance.’

 

The insight that Malachi gave was that if we are looking for peace for ourselves, we will never find it, because total peace for ourselves only comes if we completely isolate and cut ourselves off from anything that is happening in the world.

 

But true peace, comes with the assurance that we are living our life with God and for God...

we can live at peace with the world not being perfect, because we are working with God to move ourselves and the world closer to his kingdom, a place where there is peace for everyone.

If we can do that, then we would truly have the peace of God, which is beyond our understanding and needs

 

 

 

Let us pray

O Lord,

It is Advent, the time for waiting for the arrival of the Messiah.

And to warn us, as you warned the people of the past, you have sent your messenger shouting ,

‘Prepare the way’,

The messenger was sent to remind us of the covenant; to trsut in you our God, that we would be your people.

 

That we are called to freedom—

Are we?

What happens when our freedom infringes on another?

When our good fortune means the poverty of someone else?

When our cheap cloths and cheap food mean that others starve?

When having the money to light our house up and heat our house means that others have to live in darkness and freeze in their own homes?

 

But you have called us out, our faith is not about individualism, not about seeing our needs above the needs of others, not about looking after ourselves.

Our faith is called community.

Being in relationship with our neighbours, even neighbours we cannot see or touch.

Recognising diversity of needs, diversity of place, diversity of belief, even.

 

Diversity. What does that imply?

Appreciating different perspectives, different languages, different customs,- how did you put it- love your neighbour as yourself.

 

Is that what Christ’s freedom looks like?

Freedom, but freedom to love, freedom to give, freedom not to be scared to reach out, freedom to trust with all our heart.

And in that trusting, find our true peace

 

May we find that peace, may we find that trust, may we prepare the way.

Amen

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