Good Morning and welcome to this our 9th act of virtual joint Worship. As the lockdown continues all be it in a slightly modified way, we have set aside time in which to show the deep respect, reverence and honour we have for the Lord. What the Old Testament calls our fear of the Lord. Seven weeks ago, at the beginning of Lockdown we were reminded of Ezekiel’s vision of hope. His wonderful message telling how the gift of God’s Spirit can bring life and restoration to any soul and to any situation no matter how undeserving daunted or fearful we might feel. With that in mind I wonder how joyful you are? How faithful have you been and what good have you done?
Before you try to answer those questions, I really need to be clear about what I mean.
Joy is not the same as happy. The joy the Holy Spirit imparts comes as a by product of pursuing God and the good of others. The general view of happiness is that it is the result of gaining for yourself friends, possessions and favourable circumstances. The Joy of the Spirit does not depend on favourable circumstances it is a deep sense of well-being that comes from the acceptance of and confidence in the will of God. Joy is knowing that somehow God will get me through whatever trial I face, and that regardless of what happens, in the end all will be well.
Faithfulness is simply being reliable in doing what you should do, and doing good is doing things that are beneficial for others.
Todays reading comes from Peters first Letter and is concerned with doing good in the face of suffering. In it he quotes Psalm 34 So we begin our worship by reading Psalm 34 which mentions fearing the lord, being radiant with joy and doing good.
After you have read Psalm 34 join in with the worship song ‘My lips will praise you my great Redeemer’ which is based on the psalm.
The original readers of this letter were Christians who were being scorned for their faith, criticized for their morality and mocked for their hope. Because they were suffering their faith was being tested and they were in danger of losing their way. The letter does not suggest that the Christians were being subject to an official, state program of persecution. However, because of their refusal to go along with the prevailing culture and a misunderstanding of their worship rituals pressure regularly came from the general population, sometimes aided by local officials. It wasn’t really what these relatively new Christians were expecting. What was God doing and why was he allowing it to happen to them.? I am not suggesting that our current situation relates directly to 1st century Asia Minor. But, at a time when the world is suffering from a potentially fatal disease for which there is no known cure and the economic consequences of the pandemic are beginning to indicate that it is likely that the suffering and hardship will continue for quite some time after the virus has eventually come under control. those same questions regarding where is God in all this might be resonating with both Christians and non-believers.
The situation has caused us to rethink what is important and we have been staying at home for the sake of others as much as for our own sake. Yet it is a strange thing that in a time of lockdown, social distancing and shielding the vulnerable, communities have somehow been coming closer together. I don’t mean in a literal sense but consider the ways in which people most of whom are not necessarily Christians have been looking out for each other, checking up on neighbours, doing shopping, and providing meals. People have been volunteering to take on roles to help the shielded and to support the caring professions. There have been notable examples of people doing something for the benefit of others that they do not know and will never meet Captain Tom , Jays virtual Pub Quiz , and locally Alfie bear are examples where people have set out to do a small thing and have been the catalyst for raising significant amounts of money for NHS charities. They have been the figure head but it is the generosity of countless faceless unnamed people who have actually done the good by donating the money. The same is true of those who are donating to food banks and community led food programmes for the vulnerable. One can only pray that when lockdown is eased and the hardships no longer affect everyone in the same way that this desire across the community to do good will continue.
Peter calls on the readers of his letter to respond to difficult and testing times with a renewed commitment to live out the unconstrained goodwill of God both to please God and to bear witness to God’s riches made available at Christ’s expense.
There is a good reason why he uses Psalm 34 . The Psalm reflects the theme that runs throughout the whole of Scripture namely that God’s people are to act in accordance with the way God desires His people to live in the world. God promises great blessings to his people, but we must do our part by remaining faithful to God’s instructions especially when experiencing difficult and trying times.
Peter takes this further by saying through thick and thin Christians must worship Christ as Lord of our life and be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks us the reason why we behave as we do, and the Christian hope that drives our lives.
At difficult testing times it is imperative that the things we are saying and doing should be a reflection of the hope we have in Christ. It is precisely during difficult times that people are likely to ask us the question “Given all that is going on in the world why should we believe that God is good? We can’t make the case for unity with divisive rhetoric; We can’t argue for peace with verbal violence; We can’t prove the worth of humility by being arrogant; We can’t show that God is good by failing to do good to others we can’t demonstrate that God is Love by being unloving. When the time comes to explain the reason for the hope that’s within us, we need to be gentle and treat others carefully with respect and sensitivity. It is important that we retain a clear conscience before God. After all that is what we appealed to God for when we first publicly accepted Christ into our lives. At that point we made a promise to follow God’s ways. We need to know in our hearts that even if sometimes we have fallen short we have genuinely done our best to keep that promise. And if we do all that, instead of shrinking back or getting hot under the collar, then even those who criticize and mock us will realise they have no excuse.
Peter reminds us that it was because of people’s failure to follow God’s ways that Christ suffered once for all. The one who was right with God suffered for those who did not and do not follow God’s ways and so are not right with God. To bring us safely back to God, Jesus Christ suffered and was put to death and was then raised to life again. Speaking as one who witnessed these events with his own eyes Peter assures us that when we exercise our faith in Jesus Christ It is His resurrection and ascension into heaven that guarantees our right standing with God and our place in his heavenly Kingdom. Regardless of what this life throws at us, in the end all will be well. When we begin our Christian journey our knowledge of God is partial but as we grow in faith daily trusting him and following his ways even when life does not go as we planned, we start to recognise more and more of God’s goodness to us ,and this is what enables us to radiate joy even in the darkest times. So, continue to do things for the benefit of others, faithfully following the way God wants us to behave and remain confident that regardless of what happens, in the end you will be blessed by God and all will be well.
So How joyful are you? How faithful have you been? and what good have you done?
Whatever your answers to these questions take heart from the final verse of Psalm 34:
But the LORD will redeem those who serve him.
No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
The Lord has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
It might help to Say this special prayer for today:
Almighty and everlasting God
You are always more ready to hear than we to pray
and give more than either we desire or deserve.
Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
Forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid
and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask
except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Prayers of Intercession
You alone are worthy of honour, glory and praise.
Your death and resurrection proved that nothing is impossible for You. With You, we can overcome every storm
Lord we pray for those who are guiding our nation and shaping national policies,
asking You to give them extra wisdom as they navigate this pandemic and the economic uncertainty
Lord we thank you for all those essential workers who have risked catching the infection to keep us supplied with food, water and power.
We especially lift to you all who are in the caring professions. Lord we ask that you will protect and sustain them and that through their skill and insights many will be restored to health.
We lift to you all who are affected by coronavirus,
through illness or isolation or anxiety,
and ask that they may find relief and recovery:
We pray for the vulnerable and the fearful,
for the gravely ill and the dying,
that they may know your comfort and peace:
Finally, Lord we pray for ourselves.
Today and every day, help us to fix our hearts and minds on you.
And as we continue to trust in you, calm our fears,
reveal to us how we can reach the needs of those around us,
give us more of your Joy, your hope and your peace.
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lords Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”
It is Ascension Day on Thursday. Ali will lead an act of worship for
Ascension Day on the website at 10am on Thursday 21st May.
We are all urged to join in with Thy Kingdom Come which this year begins on Ascension Day (21st May) and runs until Pentecost (31st May). Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray for more people to come to know Jesus. What started in 2016 as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer resources linked to Thy Kingdom Come 2020 which you can find here:
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all, evermore.