Sunday, 20 September 2015

Can't make it to church? 20 September 2015

Here we are again at another Sunday - not many left before Remembrancetide is with us - The readings we have are a mixed bunch and offer us some real challenges as we deal with a lament from the prophet Jeremiah: people are plotting to kill him so I guess that's a fair reason to be lamenting isn't it? Sadly though God's response to it isn't dealt with today in the reading. Let's see about that as we progress shall we?

Jeremiah uses the image of a 'gentle lamb led to the slaughter' - the same image we find of Jesus in Isaiah 53: 'He (Jesus) was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.'  - for himself. People are plotting not just to kill him but to obliterate his name forever - the parallels here with the Shoah (the holocaust) where this was the intention and the reality with the Jewish people (for there are places where none are remembered and it is as if they were never to have existed because of the actions of the Nazi regime).

One of the differences we have between us and Jeremiah is that we having the hope of resurrection know that even death will not remove erase us having been, but this was not the case for Jeremiah and so he faces the fear of being as if he never was: An awful prospect indeed! And so Jeremiah calls upon, no pleads with God, to take action and herein lies something of great value and worth for us:

When faced with those who seek to act against us in the most aggressive of ways we can imagine the key is to come before God and ask Him to stand for us and act against the wicked: Not start dishing the kicks or the vitriol or malice or whatever.

And this is a lesson I need to learn because when faced with provocation it is easy for me to descend into my cave and bitterly lash out - damaging myself (and probably those unfortunate enough to come near too) and compounding the wickedness of others in my own soul and life as well. The next time you are acted against why not 'commit your cause' to God and let Him act for you: You and I might just find this to be enabling and effective!!

So we stand firm, commit our cause to God and work at living in love and peace with those around us, even those who plot against us. The 1 Corinthians passage (which we are doing where I am) gives us but one take away meal today as we reach the end of our brief dip into it and the letter ends: 

What ever you do: Do it with love. Stand firm because we know Who, and where, hope is!

One of the things that touches me greatly is to be found in Psalm 139 which says that even before we we formed - before our body was assembles and created - God knew us. He saw us and knew us and so when we worry about God remembering us, or those now departed this life whom we love, we need to remember that in fact the does't need to remember us for He has never forgotten us in the first place. So next time you pray perhaps you should add a, 'Thank you for never forgetting me,' rather than a, 'Please remember me.'

The Gospel contain, for me, an image that I find compelling as Jesus takes a child and instructs the disciples. There are two things here for us:

i. The first must be the last: How we get that wrong as we struggle and plot for power, and

ii. Welcoming children, a simple act of looking to the very least in the community (for women, children and slaves were 'non persona', they were possessions rather than people with rights. We don't do well at welcoming children into church (and yet all eagerly desire them because we're sold out on the 'growing young' mantra) and we do perhaps as badly with the 'non persona' of our communities.

The message is plain: Don't plot and struggle to be THE person in your church but strive to be the person who facilitates and cares and acts rightly. Too many tell me of the factions and power struggles in their church and all I can ever say is; STOP IT!

The message is clear: Welcome those who will disrupt our services and make things happen differently because of their age or understanding. Church only works when the least in the community are cared for and yet, too often, we like the idea of children (and others) in or church but despise the reality. But that's not your church I'm sure!

The alternative collect for today is spot on and ticks the boxes nicely for us as we come to pray:

Lord of creation, whose glory is around and within us: open our eyes to your wonders, that we may serve you with reverence and know your peace at our lives’ end,through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 11.18-20
Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realise that they had plotted against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause..

1 Corinthians 16.13-20
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labours at it.  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.  If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen

Mark 9.30-37
They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise. But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. 

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.

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Post Communion Prayer
Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love is the fulfilling of the law: grant that we may love you with our whole heart and our neighbours as ourselves; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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