Monday, 16 November 2015

Can't make it to church? 15 November 2015

Today's readings sit so well in the aftermath of all that has gone on in Paris; after all, those who believe in the God of Jesus Christ know all too well that life is no bed of roses and that conflict and wicked people are to be found wheresoever life takes us. It is this that teaches us that in all things, all situations, every trial and tribulation we can give thanks for our God for His loving-kindness and mercy.

But how do we help others to see God in the dark places; in the wickedness that is evidenced in so many places around us?

Today's texts help address this question, differently and yet in unison as we encounter a faithful God who keeps His promises. We aren't given easy or comfortable reading, but we can find a clear voice of hope in them!

Daniel 12 speaks of judgment and rescue in words that would have been so real to the hearers of them as the suffered at the hands of wicked men. The Hebrews reading continues our thinking about Christ as a high priest like no other; the Gospel (Mark) talks of redemption, judgment and the falling of those things we think of as able to stand the test of time; using the Temple as the example in this case.

Daniel is such a difficult read (the lion’s den excepted) because it is a hard and quite strange piece of writing. Today we focus on resurrection - and considering the fact the people are oppressed and in exile, this is what they'd want to hear I'm sure. 

Times are difficult, but God will bring resurrection and the wicked will be judged But there's a barb here, because some of those who were 'God's people' were going to be on the wrong side of the judgment when The LORD comes! (So perhaps an end to universalist - 'every gets in to heaven' thinking here perhaps? 

The archangel Michael turns up the people will be redeemed and resurrected.: Some to eternal life and others to eternal disgrace. But there is justice on offer here - something Paris cries out for. But whose justice (or is it revenge that is called for?)

Hebrews 10 again shows God’s faithfulness and constancy in the difficult times too as we  think of Jesus' priesthood and its value and worth. Jesus, the high priest who offers once and for all the sacrifice that takes away the sin of  all people - who reconciles us to God and opens the way for us to be made wholesome and holy. Again the word judgment makes an appearance though! For having reconciled us to God, the Father, Jesus sits at the right hand of God, His enemies as his footstool, in readiness to judge the living and the dead: Saint and sinner alike.

But we have an assurance and an opportunity; forgiveness and ability combining in a new and living way that brings us into proximity with God. We are reconciled and can live within the building that this reality provides. This is our assuredness, our certainty and our hope in our lives of constant change and persistent challenge. Things in which we have confidence may fail and fall but God is consistent and sure.

Talking of buildings falling, for they they do. Jesus brings us to a place where we are reminded that empires may fall and those we trust might crumble but there is a hope that is steadfast and certain. Those around Him, on hearing His words about the magnificent Temple falling, were no doubt a bit shocked. After all, replace it with some modern building and the thought of it toppling and becoming dust is fantastic (here meaning something of fantasy, not something good!). Good job Mark 13 was there to help remind us - eh?

But there will be a time when all things will pass away - don't know when, but I know it's assured, because that's what my big black book says; and as we wait there will be many who seek to deceive and lead the faithful astray.

and all we know is that we must be ready, watching and waiting. The poor souls in a concert venue were not, I am sure, thinking about the end of their lives - why would they, they were young and life's end is so very far away when you are young - but the end came at a time, and in a way, that was unexpected.

The key is this: It is set up such that we all live one, then die and then are judged (Heb 9.27): the key is to be ready, not in a morbid and fate-filled way, but in a way that we should be ready to accept challenges and opportunities as they occur. How many missed chances pass us by because we were not ready (or willing) to take it up

What has happened in Paris is awful and worrying: it changed what I thought I'd be saying this Sunday! (you can hear what I actually said HERE )

I read this during our Sunday services

Daniel 12.1-3 12

At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Hebrews 10.11-25 11

And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God’, and since then has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’ 1or by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds’, he also adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Mark 13.1-8

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The Collect

Heavenly Lord, you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy, restrain us from excess and revive in us new hope that all creation will one day be healed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

Gracious Lord,
in this holy sacrament you give substance to our hope:
bring us at the last to that fullness of life for which we long;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

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