Sunday, 1 March 2015

Can't make it church? 1st March 15

The Mark passage is for me among one of the most challenging passages I personally have to contend with in the New Testament. Challenging because in it we find Peter proclaiming that Jesus is, 'The Christ,' and by the time we come to it today we find him trying to keep things as they are by trying to persuade Jesus to sidestep the suffering and death stuff and I see the potential for that in myself and those around me.

Here's the scene - we have Peter missing the bigger picture and trying so hard to cling to keeping life sweet for him as he says, 'Don't worry about saving the world Lord, let's hang on to what we've got and keep life good for us!' A familiar cry from many churches, and those within them today, as they look to Church serving them and keeping them 'blessed' even though it might mean that the whole of God's plan collapses and humanity perishes as a result.*

The problem is that in his actions Peter is seeking to undo God's plan and so is acting as satan; putting selfish desire before obedience to God and seeking His will for the whole thing.

'Get behind me, satan! You do not have in mind the things of God!'

I have to admit that there are many churches, leader and members that I have longed to say that to! So many people who, individually and corporately, do not have in mind the 'things of God'.

But to get behind Jesus, in the positive sense that is, then the rest of our readings is pure gold as we are told what we need to do:

i.  Stop grabbing at this life and its empty prizes and realise where the real things of value lie.

ii. Set your feet in the footprints of Jesus and follow Him - an act that means not going in the direction you want and not getting what you desire because you think you deserve it - but getting what you get because obedience demands it.

iii.  Ask yourself the question: 'What will it profit me to gain the whole world and forfeit my soul?'

The last question is the one we so often fail to ask ourselves as we confuse the need to pay bills and make ends meet with a desire to have 'loads money' and flash cars, exotic hotels and all that stuff - after all we don't really believe all that prosperity tosh do we? We don't treat God as some celestial cash point and who, upon demands (because He has to) doles out money and privilege and heath because we can 'name it and claim it and make it ours' - do we? No way folks, we must consider more than our earthly life and switch our attention to things eternal. How sad it is that so many Christians, and Churches, are willing to sell their eternal birthright for a mess of 'happy faith' now - sadder still is those who exchange it for the flashy TV types and their various brands of false teaching!

Especially when we realise that faith can achieve what we might think of as being impossible - that's why we have the Genesis reading today - it says, 'Nothing is impossible with God if you walk faithfully and trust the Him.' It worked for Abram and from that comes a promise, a covenant, that will never be broken. And this is the faith we walk by along the road to the Cross: Trusting in Jesus and in the promise of the Father. Don't be confused - this is not the same as the tosh you see on the TV - after all, with God it's all free, there's never a request to send Him money. In fact He says keep your money, because you;ll need it to share with others who have needs.

This is why the Romans passage tells us:
'For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.' The promise of eternity with God come about by faith: Faith in that one atoning act of Jesus, the Christ, on the cross for each of us.

We don't inherit eternal life because we kept the law, we do it because we live by faith in God - the law condemns because it speaks only of failure, which is what religion does as it sets rules you can never keep and then condemns you for failing.  Instead God offers you a relationship made fully found in the person of Jesus, the Christ, will you accept it?

And if you do, what then? Well the answer is simple:

Quoting our Psalm we find: 'They shall come and make known his salvation, to a people yet unborn,  declaring that he, the Lord, has done it!' Hallelujah or what? This is definitely one of those 'Get in!' moments!

So don't ever tell me you don't know what to do :-)

The Collect
Almighty God,

you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Pray for those you know who have a need

Pray for those you know who are so comfortable they can't see how poor they are.

Pray for those who call themselves atheists and pray harder still for those who call themselves 'Church' for there's usually little difference between them!

Pray for those who mourn.

Genesis 17.1-7,15,16
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

Psalm 22.23-31
Praise the Lord, you that fear him; O seed of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, O seed of Israel. For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor; neither has he hidden his face from them; but when they cried to him he heard them. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; I will perform my vows in the presence of those that fear you. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord shall praise him; their hearts shall live for ever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he rules over the nations. How can those who sleep in the earth bow down in worship, or those who go down to the dust kneel before him? He has saved my life for himself; my descendants shall serve him; this shall be told of the Lord for generations to come. They shall come and make known his salvation, to a people yet unborn,  declaring that he, the Lord, has done it.

Romans 4.13-25
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe // him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Mark 8.31-38
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Post Communion Prayer
Almighty God,
you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves:
keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls;
that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body,
and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

* There are many who want church to be what they want church to be until they can no longer be part  and then, once death or care home comes, they move on it's no longer their problem. There are many who- selfishly cling to what church is for them and in doing so they prevent it from becoming what it needs to be for others. But that's not you, is it?

And don't think I'm talking about the old either :-(

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