Sunday Service 4th December
Rahab: Advent 2
Call to worship
Hymn 772: In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful
Hymn 282: Christmas is coming
Reading: Joshua 2: 1-24 John
Hymn 286: Tell out my soul
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 249: We have heard a joyful sound
Welcome to our reflection for 4th of December, the second week of Advent.
We are looking at different people in Jesus’ family tree, these are the people that influenced the lives of each generation of Jesus and in turn influenced the lives of Mary and Joseph who influenced Jesus.
And if you look at that family tree it is full of surprising people.
Like today’s ancestor, Rahab, described as a prostitute, probably thought of as a traitor to her own people. So why would the writers of the Gospels want her name even to be on this list?
Well we will look at that after John gives us our prayer and reading for today.
There are a certain type of person who really bug me.
I would like to think I am a relatively patient person, but this group of people really get up my nose and by their very presence press all my buttons.
It is the type of person that watches you do something.
And after you have failed miserably says to you, ‘I knew that wasn’t going to work.’
You have an Ikea pack.
I hate Ikea packs. They are a mass of diagrams that make no sense.
Like screws. You are supposed to use screw type 3 into this slot, but you have fifteen different sizes of screw in the pack and by the diagram you cannot tell which screw is the size of screw that you want.
And you know that if you use the wrong screw you are going to destroy the thread of the wood and the whole thing is going to fall apart when you are finished.
Not that you will know any of this at the time you are working away
You only know right at the very end when you need three specific screws to finish the wardrobe and you can’t see them anywhere, because you used them two hours ago on one of the draws.
And while you are doing all of this there are those watching from the side.
And every time you look up and say, ‘Do you think that this is the right screw?’
They say, ‘It looks Ok.’
And then at the end you put the wardrobe up on its side and it looks all squint and the draws don’t open and they say, ‘I didn’t think that would work.’
It was the very first night of Zones.
We had never done anything like Zones before.
We had had so many meetings to work out what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.
We decided we would be talking about Moses.
The game would be an assault course based round the trip of the salves from Egypt to the Promised Land.
The story would obviously be Moses freeing the people.
The craft would be a mosaic of the Egypt with pyramids and sand glued to the paper for the desert.
We had children crying because they had fallen off the assault course.
The craft was a disaster because more sand ended up on the floor than the on the paper and the sand on the laminate made the floor like an ice rink. Leaders and children were slipping and falling all over the place.
And at the end of the night someone said, ‘I thought all along that none of that would work.’
But did they say anything beforehand?
Don’t get me wrong.
I have a family, I have had teenagers.
I know that sometimes it is like talking to a brick wall.
If you turn round and say about a boyfriend, ‘What are you thinking of? He is an idiot that will only bring you misery.’
You are not going to get a reasonable hearing.
They are more likely to be stubborn and stay with the guy long after they wanted to dump him, just to try and prove you wrong.
And the other thing is that we know within ourselves that we have often got things wrong.
So maybe our advice isn’t that smart.
Maybe we should just keep quiet and say nothing, maybe things will work out Ok.
But they never do.
And then we come to Rahab.
Rahab the prostitute.
And there are so many things we don’t know about her.
And there is so little that we do know about her.
We want to be able to make a judgement on her; because if we can make a judgement on her that is favourable, then maybe we can do the same with ourselves.
A simple judgement like, ‘I knew she was the right type of person.’
Or ‘I knew that wouldn’t work out.’
If we can make a correct judgement on her, then maybe we can make the right judgement on parts of our life. We can see when we are getting things right or when we get things wrong, we can recognize it and change our ways.
If only we knew her bacjground.
Did she have a choice?
Was prostitution the only things she could have done to survive?
Because if she was a victim then that’s kind of Ok, isn’t it?
Had she been sold into prostitution as a child to pay for family debts?
If that was the case then it isn’t her fault, is it?
If we can make excuses for Rahab and she turns out to be a good person.
Then we can make lots of excuses for ourselves and count ourselves as good people.
This whole story becomes a lot more uncomfortable for us if Rahab choose to become a prostitute, that she enjoyed her profession and made a lot of money out of it, that maybe she was the madam who had bought children for her brothel and was willing exploit them to whoever wanted their innocence.
That this Rahab saw the way the wind was blowing. There were these religious fanatics out there who were killing anyone not of their faith. She knew that in any war where these fanatics won she would be right at the top of their execution list.
In the eyes of these fanatics; Rahab and those of her profession would be the very example of corruptness that let God destroy the city and its people.
But then a piece of good fortune, a couple of spies end up in her brothel.
She can negotiate with them to save herself and her family.
And she does so well.
She sells out her people at the drop of a hat to save her own skin.
That story is a lot more uncomfortable.
We don’t want that story because where does that leave us?
How much are we like that?
Do we switch on and off our faith depending on what company we are in?
Do we switch on and off our faith depending on the commitment it is going to ask of us?
Am I one person when I am in church company at a barbeque and another person when I am on the bus and someone is being bullied further down the bus?
Which Rahab is the right Rahab?
And the truth is, we just don’t know.
We are not given that information, we are not given that luxury.
Because that isn’t the point of the story.
The story isn’t there to justify Rahab or ourselves, or to condemn Rahab or ourselves.
The point of the story is to help us realise that there are moments when we have to decide if we are going to do what God asks of us, or not.
We do not know when those moments are going to be.
We are not going to get a warning.
That morning Rahab would wake up not realising how important that day would be,
that her actions would change her life forever,
that decisions she made that day would either save or condemn her family.
She had no idea that day that that day would be different from every other day.
The only thing that mattered, the ONLY thing that mattered, was that when the time came she did the right thing at the right time, no matter how risky it was.
That’s the lesson we need to learn.
To be open to the moment when we can do the right thing at the right time, even though we may never know when that moment is going to be or how it will look.
A perfect example is one that I got from Michelle our probationer and she very graciously let me share it with you.
She is in Morrison’s buying a huge candle for her time of prayer.
She takes it to the checkout to pay for it and the checkout assistant asks why she wants such a big candle.
So she just tells the truth.
She is a probationary minister and she uses it for prayer.
At which point the assistant tells her that she hasn’t been a church in a long time but would she pray for her mum.
Now Michelle is at that point of wondering if she means prayer for her mum there and then or pray for her mum later...when the next person waiting in the queue says, ‘If you are praying for people can you pray for me?’ and grabs her hands expecting a prayer there and then.
Trust me, Michelle did not wake up that morning expecting to be praying for folk in a Morrison’s check out.
But at that moment, lives changed, the world changed, just a little bit for the better.
Michelle was at a conference a few weeks back where it was looking at reaching out to those who don’t come to church.
And they were suggesting something very simple.
Instead of trying to talk to people about our faith, why don’t we listen to what they are saying? Really listen.
Listen to what is happening in their lives, listening to their concerns and fears and worries.
And if needed, just say, ‘’Do you want me to pray about that?’
For people that have drifted from faith, that is such a powerful statement. It just reminds then that though they may have drifted from God, God hasn’t drifted from them.
And, from personal experience, I have had people who are committed atheists, who have said, ‘Well it won’t do any harm.’
In fact with one atheist that I was seeing he demanded that I pray for him.
Just because he didn’t believe...didn’t mean that he didn’t want to have hope. And prayer was a sign of hope.
We don’t know anything about Rahab, we would be foolish to pretend otherwise.
But we do know that she was open to do the right thing at the right time.
And I think that is the influence that the writers of Jesus’ family tree wanted to put into Jesus life, the ability to be open to do the right thing at the right time.
And maybe the example that they wanted us to follow
Just to be alert, to be open to the moment when we could do the right thing.
And for us it may be as simple as listening to others, and being willing to pray for them.
Let us pray
We know Advent is a time of waiting,
a time when life is real but not fully complete,
a time to reflect and learn from the past,
to listen and wrestle with the harsh reality of life then and no,
a time of anticipation for what is about to happen, but unsure if our hopes will be fulfilled.
Today we remember Rahab,
who recognised what she needed to do to save her family,
who sees what is happening and does what she can, taking risks and trusting in a God who she is unsure would even care for her.
Whatever she had done in her past, whatever may be in her future, you cared for her in that moment.
That is why she is remembered, that is why we are grateful for her story.
Because that is our hope too,
not just for us but for those we love..and those around us.
Whatever we have done in our past, whatever may be in our future, in this moment, at this time, we need to remember that you care for us, for them.
That it is a real, practical love that seeks to save us from destruction.
And that truth was seen most in the life of your Son;
Jesus, our deliverer, our shepherd, our guide, our healer.
Help us to be open to the moments where you want us to act, to be bold and courageous as we share in the way we live our life the good news of what Jesus has done to help us,
shining your light in our lives, so that that light may reflect and shine on all...for all to see. And all to have hope.