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Sunday Service 5th May




Being with the community

5/5/23

                    

Call to worship

Hymn 124(JP): I want to walk with Jesus Christ

 

Talk for all

 

Hymn 98(JP): I have decided to follow Jesus 

 

Reading: Psalm 16 John

Prayer

 

Hymn 259: Beauty for brokenness

 

Sermon

Prayer

 

Hymn 532: O for a thousand tongues to sing 

Benediction

 

 

Welcome to our meditation for 5th May.

The Psalmist tells us that his greatest pleasure is to be with the faithful of God, but what does that mean?

How can we find the joy and the hope that the Psalmist has found?

 

We will reflect on that after our reading and prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon

I want to tie together some threads that we have been looking at over the last month or so.

And to do that I want to look at part of today’s passage...

I say to the Lord,

‘You are my Lord; all good things I have come from you.

How excellent are the Lord’s faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them.’

 

Over the last couple of weeks we have been talking about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus often used that phrase as he was introducing parables.

And the reason he did so was because he knew that within us is a craving, a craving for something better.

We know that this world isn’t perfect.

We know that our lives aren’t perfect.

And there is an instinct within us that not only should the world/our lives be better, but maybe even God wants us to be better, created it to be better.

 

Our very presence here today is an act of faith.

That not only could our lives be better, but if we have faith, if we trust, then God will help it be better.

 

Because, let’s be blunt about this, as we look at the world today it doesn’t take a university degree and years of learning to realise that things are not good.

We have an ecological disaster about to hit us hard.

Parts of the world are literally disappearing under rising tides. There is talk about huge migrations of people from areas of the world that will not exist in the future.

Partly because of this there is a clamouring for resources and power which is affecting borders around the world, wars are being fought as rulers try to land grab...and there is the possibility that these wars could spread into larger areas of the globe.

 

Here’s a thought...

Imagine that Donald Trump gets elected into power.

I suspect the first thing he will do is give himself immunity from all criminal prosecutions.

The second thing he may do is stop supporting Ukraine financially.

If he did that then there is a fair chance that Russia would successfully take all of Ukraine.

If Russia did do that then there is a fair chance that they might chance their arm and try to take Poland back, or maybe Romania or Moldavia.

If he did would that start another global war in Europe?

 

If China is watching this and seeing that America isn’t getting involved in wars outside its country maybe China would then try to take Taiwan.  Would Japan and Australia feel the need to go to war with China over that?

Would they have the resources to go to war with China over that?

 

 

What if India felt threatened by that?

We would have the two most populous countries in the world, both with nuclear weapons, facing up against each other.

 

It took me five minutes to come up with those scenarios, and they didn’t seem too fantastic or unrealistic.

The world doesn’t seem like a safe place.

 

And it wasn’t all that safe in Jesus time either.

And when we are in this world it is easy to think that there is a better place somewhere else.

Maybe that better place is in the past, life was so much easier then.

Or maybe that better place is in the future, things will be better then.

Or maybe that better place is after we die...in heaven.

 

And into this Jesus says, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like...’

And it is not in the past, it is not in the future, it is not in the clouds, or up there.

The kingdom of Heaven touches us here and now, or rather can touch us here and now.

 

We can glimpse it when we look at the good in the world rather than concentrate on the bad all the time.

We can feel it when we realise that God’s eternal gift to us is the assurance of his love for us, a love we can feel for eternity, a love we can start to feel now.

 

Last week we saw that it is OK to look at this world as a dark place, it would be abnormal not to.

I joke with my wife all the time that I truly believe that our children have their own WhatsApp group which Roseanna and I are excluded from. And in this WhatApp group they will say, ‘Mum and Dad have dealt with my chaos, I’m sorted, next one can have a go now.’

Because there is always one of them that seems to be in crisis and that needs our help.

But they seem to take it in turns.

It is as if they don’t want to overwhelm us.

Like they have come to the conclusion that if they all had a crisis at the same time then Roseanna and I would just bail, we would say to ourselves, ‘This is too much. We’re out of here, We’re off on a world cruise and hopefully by the time we come back everything will have sorted itself out.’

But if the children have their crisis one at a time, then we will help that one out because we have the time to do so, then we will help the next one out because we have the time to do so then we will help the next one because we have the time to do so, and on and on and on it goes.

 

We all struggle at times. But how do we respond to that?

 

There are three responses to the chaos in the world.

The first is that we just bail. It is too much and we give up. That is what Judas did.

The second is to do our very best and try to help until we become cynical and burn out, and I would suggest that is what many try to nobly do.

The third is to believe that with God’s help we can make a difference. But we do that by being part of the community, being sustained and encouraged when we are struggling ourselves, and by sustaining and encouraging others when they are struggling...that was the way of Thomas who we looked at this week.

 

And in today’s passage we see the results of that

 

I say to the Lord,

‘You are my Lord; all good things I have come from you.

How excellent are the Lord’s faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them.’

 

Now here is where I want to get blunt.

This place here is not the community of faithful people whose pleasure it is to be with and who we can feel safe with and encouraged by.

This place is just the opportunity of being the community of faithful people whose please it is to be with and who we can feel safe with and encouraged by.

 

This is the place where there is the possibility of that community.

But it is just a possibility.

It doesn’t come automatically.

It is dependent on us being willing to reach out to those around us, and reaching out in vulnerability.

 

I want to tell you about Mrs Worsley.

You won’t know her at all.

She was an old woman when I first met her and I thought she was a horrible person.

You see my parents weren’t that religious, but they started to go to Hillington Park Church just off Paisley Road West.

Now they would say that was my fault.

I wanted to go to the Boys Brigade, when we lived in Govan, and when we moved from there to Pollock they asked the BB Captain where the nearest Boys Brigade was to our new house.

And he said, Hillington Park, which wasn’t it was miles away from our house.

But they took him at his word and I went there. And part of the Boys Brigade rules then was that you have to go to Sunday School.

So each week one of them would walk me all the way there, and walk all the way back home, and by the time they got home it was time to walk all the way back to the church to collect me.

So that got boring very quickly, so they decided to just sit in the back of the church and listen to the service until Sunday School was over.

And the person they sat next to was Mrs Worsley, who was very old and they loved dearly.

I hated her.

And the reason hated her was that she was always checking up on me. Every time I glanced round she was leaning over the pew to see what I was up to.

It was as if she knew I didn’t want to be there and was bored.

 

There was no community between us at that time.

I hated her and I knew she hated me.

 

It was all rubbish.

She didn’t distrust me.

The truth was she was so old and frail even then, that every time she stood up to sing a hymn she would loose balance and lean forward and catch herself at the top of the pew and push herself back.

 

By the time I had gone from a brat of a ten year old to a surly teenager I had learnt that...and actually got on really well with her.

By the time I was starting my first University course I would nip over to her house at weekends and cut her grass and complain to her how rubbish my parents were and she would calm me down and help me to get things straight.

 

When we come to church with expectations that it should be the place where we are supported and encouraged, that it has to be the place where we see God, then we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Because then the expectation is just one way...the church is there as a service provider for our life to get better.

And if our life doesn’t get better then it is the churches fault.

 

The truth is that the church is only the opportunity, the possibility for us to grow and mature.

 

How often I find that someone in the church is being supported by someone else,

but they are doing that because they have built up years of a relationship,

years of trusting each other,

years of helping each other through little problems,

so they trust that they can be open about big problems.

 

That is the opportunity that we have here.

The years in and out of having chances of community, building into strong long term relationships that can be trusted on.

 

Don’t expect it just to happen.

Rely on God’s courage and strength...and start to make it happen, make the bonds with those around you,

If you do then maybe in time you can say

 ‘You are my Lord; all good things I have come from you.

How excellent are the Lord’s faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them.’

 

Let us pray

Heavenly Father,

May the world know the protection that is found in you...

shaped by a love and grown from a justice that holds us all in a balance of light and truth. Where we can be honest about ourselves and our weaknesses, and so be compassionate and forgiving about the weaknesses of others.

 

May we see the world as a place where we know a joy that is from you in our worship and our community. Where our strength is in the fellowships that we have and can trust in, and not from the wealth we seek or the possessions that we see others have and yearn for ourselves.

 

May we live in a world where we know a balance that comes from creation

and not twisted by economy and power and fear.  Where we see ourselves as stewards of the world, entrusted to pass it on in a better state to the next generation, rather than something that is exploited and destroyed for our immediate comfort.

 

May we create a world where we know a justice that is found in the humanity of neighbours and not tipped in favour of the strong or the mighty or powerful.

A world where people look after each other rather than be suspicious of others because they have a different lifestyle or speak a different language or have a different colour.

Where we know an environment shared for all

and not stripped for capital and national bank balances.

 

May we search for a world where we know a peace found in each other

and not broken by the fear or poverty of trust in humanity.

 

May the world, and may we, know the joy found in the worship and trust of you.

May we see the truth that there is grace enough for al, and your generous forgiveness is available for all.

 

In this longing we pray, and to this we dedicate our life.

Amen.

 

 

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