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Sunday Service 11th September - Communion



Welcome to our reflection for 11th September.

If you happen to be watching this on a Sunday at the same time the church is on, then at the same time you are watching this, those meeting in the church will be sharing communion.

We will be having the ritual of communion at the end of this video, so if you want to take part, you might want to pause the recording, go and get some bread and something to drink, and have it ready for after the end of the message.

But that will all be happening after Kay has led us on our prayer and reading for today.


I want to focus today on the very start of this passage, probably the part of the passage that is missed out the most.

One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, ‘This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!’ (Luke 15: 1-3)

I can understand why we don’t focus on this part; we want to get into the important part of the passage, the parables.

And to be fair they are pretty impressive parables.

But the meaning of the parables, the power of these parables, comes from the context...

One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, ‘This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!’ (Luke 15: 1-3)

I want to talk about those that are ‘good enough’.

Because this whole passage is about those that are ‘good enough’, and those that aren’t ‘good enough’.

And you can tell the difference between the two by the way they are spoken about.

It is obvious by the way they are acting that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law think that they are good enough to be in the presence of Jesus, but that they think the tax collectors and other outcastes aren’t good enough to be in his presence.

Now you might think this is a weird thing for the Pharisees and teachers of the Law to think, weren’t they the people who seemed spend all of their time attacking Jesus left, right and centre?.

The truth is that they haven’t really, not at this part of the gospels.

We look at their debates and think they are fighting all the time, but they would have regarded their debates as normal theological discussion; a working away to seek the real truth.

The first time my stepsons Ross and Alexander met my parents my wee sister was visiting, and we got into a discussion about something. And the thing about McNeil’s is that if you have four McNeil’s in a room then you have six opinions, all very loud.

And the discussion doesn’t even have to be about anything important. It could be about where people used to sit in the back seat of the car.

You see dad always sat in the driving seat. Mum always sat in the passenger seat.

And there were three children, who all wanted to sit at a window seat.

So two back windows, three children, someone had to sit in the middle, and you always felt you had less space in the middle, so you tried to stretch out a bit to get more space, but that meant the other two thought you were squeezing them so they fought back.

Looking back on it now, probably we all had roughly equal turns in the middle. But the truth of the matter was that we all thought that we had been forced into the middle seat more than the others.

And if it ever came up, everyone had an opinion, and their opinion was right.

That was my upbringing.

Ross and Alexander’s upbringing was there were them and their mum...and no one messed with Roseanna, so there was never an argument, never a discussion.

So we have this normal Sunday lunch, then we are heading back to the cars to go home, and my sister says, ‘Talk to you later.’

And the boys are in shock.

According to them we have had a big row and thought we weren’t talking to each other, and there was my sister, not bothered about anything that had been said, to her it was just banter, but to Ross and Alexander it was world war three.

To which I said, ‘If we really had an argument you would have known about it.’

The discussions that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had with Jesus were like that, that was just normal theological discussion, it was never to be taken personally, it was robust talk to work out the truth.

They didn’t doubt that Jesus was a rabbi, they didn’t question that he should train disciples, what they were questioning was his interpretation of the scriptures...but they also would have been doing that with other Pharisees and other teachers of the Law.

What was a problem were these outcasts.

You see the problem was contamination.

Jesus may have been good, there may have been truth in some of what he was saying, but if he is hanging about outcasts then that was going to contaminate him, corrupt him and corrupt his message.

Any of us that have been parents kind of believe this theology.

We may not admit it, but we have acted on it as if we believe it.

Our wee angel gets involved with the wrong children, and we know they are a corrupting influence. We don’t want our pure children playing with those kids, getting into things that might get them into trouble.

And to a certain extent this attitude is understandable as parents tend to be over protective.

The trouble is when we subconsciously keep this attitude, and subconsciously live this attitude.

There are those that we don’t want to be near, because they could corrupt our lives, contaminate our lives. Maybe not in big ways, but they might make our lives a bit messier, so we just avoid them, make sure we keep with the good people.

We have to admit that church folk can be really bad at this.

How many folk do you know in church that only socialise with other church folk?

90%, 95%, 99% of all their serious social interactions are with other church folk.

You go to one of their parties and everyone there is, or has been, associated with the church at some point.

But that’s because they are nice folk, good folk.

Aren’t workmates nice folk, good folk?

Aren’t the other parents you see at the school gate nice folk, good folk?

Aren’t neighbours nice folk, good folk?

Or prayer.

Let’s imagine I asked you out loud to give me someone to pray for.

Who would you ask me to pray for?

Reflect on this...

If you didn’t know anyone outside the church to pray for, what does that say?

We are living in a land where half the population is near to being in fuel poverty, teachers and nurses are paid so little that some of them are needing to use food banks, personal debt and all the mental stress that goes with that is going through the roof, and yet we know so little of their lives that we don’t know their needs.

We have detached ourselves from the struggles of our neighbours; they are not close enough for us to be concerned for them.

There was a minister who came to a church and decided that he was going to be a missionary minister. In his mind the number of Christians in his area was so low that he felt that he was called to be more like a missionary...outreaching to the community. And his work balance reflected that.

His congregation complained to the presbytery because they felt that he should be spending more time with the church’s folk, their folk in hospital, their housebound folk.

Isn’t that exactly the same thoughts as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? Why is he spending so much time with the outcasts?

The Pharisees flaw was not that they were evil, their flaw was that they had become indifferent to the needs of others.

Communion is about outreach.

God in his phenomenal mercy reaches out to us.

Jesus looked at those tax collectors and others and didn’t see the term outcasts, he just saw people that needed love.

God looks at us and sees people that need love.

Here’s the problem.

We inherited a church that was subconsciously judgemental.

In the past people in the church judged people all the time.

We judged men and women who had got divorced, women who were single mums, people who loved others of the same sex, people who took drugs, women who had had abortions, we judged other denominations and called them weird and they were all heretics, often they avoided those with mental illness like the plague, you would have thought you could catch mental illness from them the way they avoided them.

I once knew a church that judged someone because he was a plumber, and someone of that social standing wasn’t good enough for the church...we had so many categories of people that were judged not to be good enough.

Two weeks ago one of the women coming out of the food larder said her biggest problem was the embarrassment of being seen, she felt she was being judged by people because it was her fault all her bills had rocketed and she didn’t have enough money to pay for all the increases.

Now I loved the way the folk in the food larder treated her and her concerns.

But here is the brutal truth.

After generations of feeling that they have been judged, we may have completely changed...but unless we are interacting with them and caring for them and they can see our love, then they are not going to know we are any different from the church of the past.

Communion is about outreach.

God reached out to us, we saw his love in action and responded.

The rest of the world will not respond, unless they see his love in action through us.

One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, ‘This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!’ (Luke 15: 1-3)

God is still trying to reach out to others as he reaches out to us.

What about us, are we the first to reach out a hand of friendship and care?

Because we should be.


you know us inside and out.

You walk with us from conception and never leave us.

You have given us free will to choose to leave you

and also, to choose to return.

We are humbled by your eternal love for us

and your desire to be in a full relationship with us.

We also long to be in relationship with you and know that it is something we need to work on each moment of every day.

Lord, help us to stay near you and follow you.

We are glad to know that when we fail and lose ourselves that you are there, patiently waiting for us to return, arms open wide to receive us.

But once we have found you, may we be generous enough to treat others with the same love, and patience, forgiveness and tolerance that you have shown us.

May they see in us a fellow traveller that is eager to walk their path with them.



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