Service outline for June 21 Mt Barker Church of Christ
One writer of a book about Revelation describes this last book of the bible as essentially a call to worship. The worship begins in chapter 1 and continues in various parts of the book. We are shown worship which never ceases [ see Rev 4:8 – “Day and night they unceasingly sing: ‘Holy, holy, holy is God the sovereign Lord of all, who was and is and is to come’.” and on into chapter 5]. It is through joining in the worship of our Lord, the writer I am referring to explains, that John – and all Christians – are able to be lifted out of their day by day circumstances and see themselves, their world and all things differently. For the world presented so vividly in Revelation is a world in which God is Sovereign, where Christ is in charge and where victory, blessing and the fulfilment of all God’s promises are in place. Worshipping the Lord is how Christians are sustained, energised, transformed and kept at peace.
As we worship today, then, remember that what we are about is the most powerful and changing behaviour we can be involved in. That we are alone [as was John on Patmos] makes no difference. Through the experience when ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s day’ John was no longer tied to his identity as a prisoner in exile; no longer separated from his fellow Christians; rather he found himself in company with those whose extravagant praise was ceaseless.
Remember – and open yourself to this vision of transcendence, majesty and power, then take and carry it in your heart right through the week ahead.
Gracious heavenly Father, we worship you; we praise, we sing our ‘hallelujahs’. For you are the Supreme One; above all else and with power to bring change; with determination to fulfil your promises to humankind.
So, here, right now, we honour your name and say with that company we meet in Revelation 4: Holy, holy, holy is God the Sovereign Lord of all, who was and is and is to come. Amen
Today’s reading is different because it is a thematic reading rather than a specific passage. The reflection, a little later in this service, follows one of the texts from the following list as we consider ‘hope’. Remember, in the NT in particular the word ‘hope’ mostly is a noun. That’s a big difference from the way ‘hope’ is referred to in our culture’s language today. We use it, almost always, as a verb and it equates – almost all of the time – to ‘wish’. The biblical use of the word has nothing to do with wishing or uncertainty. Read the following verses in full and let the hope of Christians move in your heart.
The noun ‘hope’
Acts 23:6 the hope and resurrection of the dead
Acts 26:6,7 the hope of the promises made to the fathers
Gal 5:5 the hope of righteousness
Col 1:23 the hope of the Gospel
Rom 5:2 the hope of the glory of God
Tit 2:13 the hope and appearing of the great God and saviour Jesus Christ
Col 1:27 Christ in you, the hope of glory.
1 Thess 5:8 the hope of salvation
Eph 1:18 the hope of His calling
Eph 4:4 the hope of your calling
Tit 1: 2 & 3:7 the hope of eternal life
Acts 28:20 the hope of Israel
And see 1 Peter 3:15
Always be ready to make your defence when anyone challenges you to justify the hope which is in you.
The proof of God’s amazing love is this:
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Believing in this love, let us with confidence seek forgiveness of our sins:
Loving Lord God, I/we have sinned against you; I/we have done which I/we ought not to have done and have left undone the good I/we might have done. In your love, O Lord, forgive and renew, through Jesus my/our Saviour, amen.
The good news is: if we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Draw near in faith and take this sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord.
And feed on Him in your heart, with thanksgiving.
The bread we break, the cup we share,
is a sharing in the life of our Lord.
Take time now to pray for our congregation; for our community; for the friends & family you miss seeing; pray also for yourself. Pray also for the international situation, so fraught with uncertainty, distrust and anger at the moment.
That verse in 1 Peter 3:15 [Always be ready to make your defence when anyone challenges you to justify the hope which is in you.] is intriguing. What I’ve often heard in church services over many years is more like this: ”Be ready to defend your faith when asked’’ or , simply, “share your faith”. Yet Peter’s encouragement is to be ready to justify the hope within us.
That raises a variety of questions, including:
What is that hope?
How do people see it and be prompted to ask?
The way Peter puts it seems to imply that he knew that people asked about the hope, or at least the difference they observed in his life. What difference might or should or does hope make in a Christian’s life that marks him/her out as different from others?
Well, let’s start with what the hope Peter refers to actually is. As you read through the verses earlier in today’s service, you’ll notice that hope is ‘a many splendoured thing’. Clearly, the NT writers thought and taught broadly about hope. So let’s take just two of those from the list of verses above: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” and “the hope of the glory of God”.
First we notice the association with ‘glory’. Christians have both the mark in their lives of the presence of Christ and of their confidence/certainty/assurance about final things when the glory of God is expressed in new heavens and new earth. Notice also the blend of present and future; Christ in us is a present reality whilst the other aspect of hope is related to final things. There is a clear link, of course; the final things – new heavens and new earth and the resurrection of that time - are spoken of in the NT as pre-figured by the resurrection of Jesus. That means that future hope is grounded in the past action of God when, by His tremendously mighty and surpassingly great power [to use NT language], He brought from the dead our Lord Jesus.
All of that is the background. Now notice how our trust in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection gives us our certainty of final things, when God sets everything right. Believing this makes a difference in the way Christians both view the world and how they live in it. So, to go back to Peter’s words, people around Christians may well ask “why do you live as you do?” [or some similar kind of question]. For Peter, that clearly meant opportunity to share the good news of the transforming love and power of God.
This sets before us both our privileged position and our task, our mission. This is to live as those whose hope leads them to live confident of the outcome and thus always able to ‘justify the hope that is within us’. Hence we live as those who begin to demonstrate by their behaviour the way it will be when God ‘sets everything to rights’ in the great new beginning. “Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between (the first) Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.” [Quote from Tom Wright, bishop of Durham and one of the UK’s leading theologians, in his book ‘Surprised by Hope’].
Hope, for first century Christians, was essential to mission and was a strong motivator to live out their faith in whatever circumstances they were. So let us also note Romans 3:5 – “hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has flooded our hearts...”. In this confidence let us approach our new beginning, eagerly anticipating our renewed call to mission in whatever way God will set it before us.
The God of hope fill and sustain us in hope.