June 14th 2020
Welcome again to our virtual Sunday Service. I trust you are all well.
This should be the last email version Sunday Service I do, before we officially return to fellowship again in our building on July the 5th.
I have been thinking a lot about the transition back to ‘pre-covid’ conditions, and I can’t help but feel that things won’t be the same for a while – if ever.
The world has changed in these last six months, and we may have to get used to some ‘new-normals’. The Bushfires came, then Covid 19, and now world-wide protests and civil unrest. Our national, and world economies may suffer the long term affects of the lockdown, and there are many flashpoints around the globe that could descend into armed conflict.
But if we look back through history we see that the world and society have been constantly changing, and previous generations have endured even greater upheavals. My Grandparents lived through two World Wars, the Spanish Flu pandemic, and the Great Depression.
Our society has enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity, and the downside of that is that people have largely forgotten about God. When times are hard; when there is a crisis or national emergency, people are more attuned to consider life’s bigger questions and to explore spiritual things.
I believe that the seekers will come with their spiritual longings and questions, and we must be ready with the answer to all humankind’s problems - the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We must not just wait for them to come to us, we must pro-actively seek ways of connecting with our community, and introducing them to Jesus.
Above all, we must be faithful with the Word entrusted to us, because the power to change a life is found only in the Spirit through the faithful preaching of God’s Word.
There may be difficult days ahead, but greater is He that is in us, than he who is in the world.
The Prophet Habakkuk lived through some dark times when God seemed silent and aloof. But he learned to trust God and he gave us this beautiful confession of faith…
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
Today is Sunday the 14th of June and the lectionary readings begin with Psalm 116
Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.
Richard Llewellyn in ‘How Green was my Valley,’ captures the faith of the Welsh villagers as they make their way to church. I find this so inspiring. (Try and read this with a Welsh accent)
There is good it was to walk to Chapel on a Sunday morning when the sun was shining, everybody in Sunday clothes and polished boots. All the people on the hill started about the same time, and you would hear nothing for a long time but good mornings...all the way down to the road at the bottom, all the men taking off their hats, and the women nodding their bonnets and the boys touching their caps and the girls dropping a knee.
We used to walk quietly for a bit till we were out of the houses of the village, and then my father or mother started a Hymn softly, and the girls caught up their parts, Angharad and Bron in contralto, Ceridwen in soprano, and then the boys all came in, and you heard the echo running to catch up, all over the valley...And as we all climbed the mountainside to the Chapel, there was Mr. Gruffydd, big and strong with the blackness of his beard gone gold in the sun, waiting for us, and everyone starting to sing the same hymn, from those nearest the Chapel to those down at the bottom of the mountain, and to listen, you might think the mountain itself was in song with him. Sing, then. Sing indeed, with shoulders back and head up so that song might go to the roof and beyond to the sky. Mass on mass of tone, with hard edge, and rich with quality, every single note a carpet of colour woven from basso profundo, and basso, and baritone, and alto, and tenor, and soprano, and alto and mezzo, and contralto, singing and singing, until life and all things living are become song.
O voice of Man, organ of most lovely might.
...the royal thunder of Mr. Gruffydd’s voice proclaimed again the Kingdom of God, and the Principality of Christ the Man. That is how we came from Chapel every Sunday re-armed and re-armoured against the world, re-strengthened, and full of might.
O Lord our God, great, eternal, wonderful in glory, who keeps covenant and promise for those that love you with their whole heart. Who is the life of all, the help of those that flee to you, the hope of those who cry to you. Cleanse us from our sins, and from every thought displeasing to your goodness; cleanse our souls and bodies; our hearts and consciences that with a pure heart and a clear mind, with perfect love and calm hope, we may venture confidently and fearlessly to pray to you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Coptic Liturgy of St. Basil A.D. 370)
Some prayer points
There have been some sad cases where a brother killed a sister, and a grandson killed a grandfather. Commit these families to the peace and comfort of God’s Spirit.
Father God, turn angry hearts away from evil, and restrain those who would act violently.
Pray for an end to tension and anger over the issue of racism.
Unfortunately, there will always be racism due to the sinful heart of human beings, but we can pray for a more equitable and just society, and we can strive to be peacemakers and reconcilers.
Pray for our Police:
Policing is a very tough job and trust in their authority has been damaged. The actions of some protestors has highlighted how much we need our police force. The law restrains violence, but unjust violence by those who uphold the law is a danger to any society. The people who administer the law are not above the law; we all must be accountable. May the force be with us not against us.
Pray for the eradication of the virus:
Restrictions are easing, but the medicos are warning us not to be complacent. Let’s be cautious and careful, and pray for God’s mercy and grace to remove this threat.
Continue praying that the CLT will have wisdom in re-opening our building for fellowship, and we will be ready when the restrictions are finally lifted.
Pray that God will bless our fellowship and ministries; inspire our outreach and increase our numbers.
Continue to particularly remember these folk in your prayers:
Leigh and Hilary
Maurie and Anthea
Shirley Burger’s family
Darryl and Ruth Telfer
A Celtic Communion Order from Iona, Scotland.
Come Lord Jesus be our guest, stay with us for the night has come. Come Father of the poor, Light of our hearts.
Come, generous Spirit. Come close to us that we may come close to you.
By the glory of your creation around us,
By the comfort of your forgiveness upon us,
By the breath of your Spirit, within us,
So that we can come glad to this celebration.
Prayer of Confession
Oh God we acknowledge that in you we live and move and have our being. Yet always in the midst of this image of glory, we see sin’s shadow and feel death’s darkness; around us in the abused earth; beside us in the broken, the hungry, and the poor; and often, deep within us, that striving against your Spirit. O Lord of love, forgive us that we may forgive one another. Heal us that we may be a people of healing, and renew us that we may be peacemakers.
The table of bread and wine is now ready. It is the table of company with Jesus and with all those who love Him. It is the table of sharing with the poor of the world, with whom Jesus identified Himself. It is the table of communion with the earth, in which Christ became incarnate. So come to this table, you who have much faith - and you who would like to have much more; You who have tried to follow Jesus - and you who have failed. Come. It is Christ who invites us to meet Him here.
Prayer of Blessing
Loving God, it is through your goodness that we have this bread and wine to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. In the sharing of this bread, may we know the presence of your Spirit.
The Story of the Lord’s Supper
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Prayer for the bread and wine
Loving God, it is through your goodness that we have this bread and wine to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. In the sharing of this bread and this cup, may we know your resurrection presence, and, as the bread and wine are turned into us may we be turned to you.
What we do here is celebrate the life that Jesus has shared among His community through the centuries and shares among us now. Made one with Christ and thus one with each other, let us receive these gifts, and with them, offer ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice. Amen.
Take the bread and the cup
Prayer of Thanksgiving
We offer you praise, dear God, with hearts lifted high. Blessed are you O God, for you have brought forth bread from the earth. Blessed are you O God For you have created the fruit of the vine. You have watered the earth, and brought forth the sun and through the earth and through your Son, You offered us here at your table, bread and wine for our journey, to nourish us and strengthen us for your service. And so, with all those that have gone before us, we give you thanks, and we join in the song of your unending greatness.
Prayer of closing
Father we thank you for this time around your table. As we have shared it with our brothers and sisters, this day, around the world. Many are our loved ones whom we miss here today; But we commend them and ourselves to you and to your good and perfect care. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.
The Lectionary readings from the New Testament and the Gospels.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
Some reflections on the Matthew reading
In our reading, Jesus did three practical things: He taught, preached and healed.
1. Taught. For us, teaching is about telling others what we know about Christ and the kingdom, to whoever will listen. 2. Preached. Preaching is simply speaking with passion about what you know to be true. 3. Healed. Jesus did not separate the physical needs of people from the spiritual. He lived out what He taught by helping whoever came to Him with a need. We may not have the gift of healing, but we can pray, and in my experience the pre-Christian doesn’t mind being prayed for, they are touched by it, and it can be a great witness to them. The greatest thing a Christian has to share is their testimony. Told honestly and simply, no one can argue with someone’s personal experience of God’s grace.
Jesus Saw - with Pity
Jesus drew a crowd because what He spoke connected people to God. And when Jesus saw the crowd - He had compassion on the crowd. They were harassed and helpless like shepherd-less sheep. They came running after Jesus because they longed for God, because the religious leaders of the day turned the people from God and laid huge burdens on them with the law.
But this very condition made the people more ready to receive the gospel of the kingdom.
Jesus saw - the Potential
The Crowd was not just a bunch of people that Jesus felt sorry for - the crowd was made up of human souls, each one precious and important to God, and each one with a place in God’s kingdom. And I think, when Jesus saw that crowd He saw every crowd and every soul all through human history; and His words were recorded for every generation for all time, so that every disciple of Jesus would see every crowd in the same way - as a harvest field.
Billy Graham said: “Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear full responsibility for the next one; but we do have our generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities.” The Pharisees saw the masses as sinners to be destroyed, Jesus saw the people as sinners to be saved. Jesus doesn’t ignore the fact of sin or its consequences, or diminish God’s revulsion of sin, the difference is in His action. In Jesus it produces compassion and help.
Jesus saw that the Harvest is plentiful
There was and never will be a shortage of souls who need to hear the gospel.
Christians will never have to go looking for someone to witness or minister to - there is a plentiful harvest - sometimes in our own homes, among our own extended families. Jesus is saying that there are a large number of people waiting to hear the gospel of the kingdom.
Jesus saw - the Problem: The workers are few.
The Church has enough workers - but not enough willing to go into the field. Maybe we can say these days that the workers are also - preoccupied. We spend a disproportionate amount of our time and resources on keeping the church functioning, rather than reaching out to the lost. That’s what makes the difference between a missional church and a maintenance church.
Jesus saw – the need for Prayer
Nothing less than the power of God through prayer will turn the world to Christ. This doesn’t mean we should do nothing but pray, but we should do nothing without praying. And the specific thing Jesus asks us to pray for is, workers. The prayer is not that ‘we move God’ to save the people, but that He move us to reach the people; that He raise up the workers, the ‘means’ - to see the gospel preached and the kingdom proclaimed.
When we pray, “Lord send out workers into your harvest field”, the prayer begs the question, “What about me?” We’ve all been called one way or another to the harvest field - not to our church meetings and functions, but to the people outside the kingdom of God. And those words ‘send out’ have urgency about them. Jesus is saying get out there quick!
Jesus Sent - the disciples.
Immediately after telling them to pray for workers to go out into the harvest field, Jesus sends out the disciples - into the harvest field. He gave them authority and power for the task and then He sent them out. They were to do as Jesus did and go in His name and in His power. And in the same way, Jesus sends Us.
Jesus’ concern was to bring in the one lost sheep, rather than spending all of His resources on the 99 sheep in His care. The Lord Jesus came to seek and save those, which were lost. Our action then, must be to make outreach and mission; to our community and abroad, the number one priority of what we do as a church.
The church growth consultant, Win Arn, took a survey entitled “Why does the Church exist?”
89% of church members responded that the church’s purpose was to take care of their needs and the needs of their family. Only 11% said anything about the church winning the world to Christ.
Pastor Rick Warren said: That when a church loses its purpose, it falls into disrepair and becomes a maintenance church. When a church discovers its purpose, it discovers God’s heart for the world, and it becomes a missional church. A missional church will focus on seeing the unchurched connected with the kingdom of God.
And here’s the challenge: We have to decide if we are in maintenance mode or mission mode, and we need to look at this morning’s reading and consider ourselves in the light of it, and we need to capture the heart of God in Christ for the lost. We must see what Jesus sees; we must feel what Jesus feels; we must do what Jesus did.
The British preacher John Stott said that Christian leaders throughout history who made a difference for Christ had a firm grasp on two things. First, they were students of their contemporary culture. They were familiar with the great issues of their day and the needs of the people. Second, those men and women were immersed in the scriptures.
Because of these two things, they were able to bridge the gap between human need and God’s solution. Therefore, they were able to give a powerful, appropriate word from God for their culture.
Let’s make an effort to understand the needs of our community and a concerted effort to meet those needs and to share the love of God with them. We need everyone to get involved. We need all the gifts, talents and resources that we already possess, to fulfil the commission God has given us. Let’s pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send us out into His harvest field.
The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you