Good morning, and welcome to Totley all Saints.
Welcome to our normal Sunday morning service where we come together to worship, to open up the Bible and to pray together as a community.
In many ways it doesn’t matter that we’re not all meeting in the same building, or even at the same time. It doesn’t matter if some of us are in pyjamas, some dresses, some at home or some listening to this out and about.
What matters is that we can come together, united in Christ, bound up as a community to spend time with God.
Be welcome this morning, and enjoy the service.
Holy Spirit, you are welcome.
Come among us like a wind,
like a fire, like a dove.
Come gently or come boldly.
We are waiting for you.
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020.
The death of Jesus features heavily in the thought of Paul and his theology. He uses it to broach the gospel message in Romans, Galatians and 1 Corinthians. This Is closely tied to the resurrection of Jesus as it not only sin, but death that has to be overcome in the mind of Paul. It’s not just a question of sacrifice and reparation, but one of future life and hope.
This is a development of Jewish thought about resurrection, their idea of the vindication of the righteous to a place in heaven, and what has been added is these earliest Christian articles of faith: The crucified and resurrected Messiah. Even at this early stage of Christianity these were a part of creedal statements. Paul reflects that he passed on: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day” in 1 Corinthians 15.
And so in Paul’s theology is a ‘one, two’ punch of the death of Christ and His resurrection together. Both together dealing with sin, the failure and rebellion of humanity, on one hand and then the bringing of new life to those who want to receive it on the other. The two are bound up together.
By the time we get to our reading in Romans today, Paul has set out, and justified from the OT, Gods plan for reconciliation- he’s set the foundation for what is to come. He is now starting to expand on the blessings available and inherent in this new life.
This death-resurrection duo is the framework even as Paul sets out these blessings. Notice In the first verse Paul says we have been justified, and therefore have peace made with God for us, on our behalf, for us to enjoy – through the sacrifice of Jesus. In the second verse he says we have the privilege of being in the sphere of God’s grace, the hope of sharing in Christ’s riches – because of his new life and our union to him in it.
I want to concentrate on verses 6 to 8 this morning though. This is a wonderful statement, and really in these verses we only get halfway through the thought that continues on to verse 11. God’s love has been poured out – but what does that love look like? Paul explains in these verses: In due time, says Paul, at the right time, when nothing could help, Christ died for the powerless, the weak and feeble – those without strength or ability to save themselves – the ungodly. Paul is being clear that Christ’s death was a substitutionary death, a death in place of others who didn’t deserve it.
Paul then argues that even for someone considered good, it is difficult to find someone willing to die. A person willing to die for a righteous or a good person is obviously offering themselves as a substitute so that someone else can continue to live. This is the ultimate expression of human love and devotion. However, God’s love contrasts with human love in both nature and degree, because God demonstrates, and keeps on showing, His own love for us in the substitutionary death of Christ while we were not just without strength or ability to save ourselves, but ungodly sinners – to speak without jargon we were actively enemies of God, hostile toward him and abusing him in each moment we failed to recognise who he is.
It is this depth of love, and the state we were in without Christ that really captured my heart this week – specifically because of what it implies for how we act as a church community.
Phil spoke to us last week about the trinity and highlighted to us that God is three-in-one, in eternal and perfect relationship. By coming into relationship with God we are bound up in Christ and brought not only into that relationship, but relationship with others, into community. There is an Interdependency – the idea that we are bound to God and to each other each other in a wonderful, vital organic relationship that Paul describes as a body and the fourth gospel as a vine and branches. The depth of relationship in the trinity itself means that the self-sacrifice of God in Christ is both an act of love to us, and to the Father, even as the Father takes on his heart the pain and penalty of our failing.
This only serves to highlight our dependency on God, and the great richness of all we have been brought into – without hindrance, without barrier, by the action of another. Christ died for the imperfect and the broken, those in need, and that is the only requirement for entry. We see this in the gospels in the way Jesus lived, in those that he associated with and how he dealt with those that society had already judged as bad, wrong or outcast. His first response in these instances wasn’t to raise the bar of entry for meeting him, but to love.
Last week my heart was torn and heavy – seeing the Black Lives Matter protests and the attacks on the Trans community especially – seeing the lack of love in the world in stark video clips, soundbites and published media. Many were eager to voice opinion on all sides of fence which resulted in the erasure of some of these voices, the appropriation of events by those seeking their own ends and a populist lip service by media and corporations alike.
Our first response in these situations has to be love. In can’t be a defence of our own position, a knee-jerk protection of our own thoughts, feelings and norms or a cheap sound bite. Christ gave himself for all first and foremost, and so as a church community we should be reaching across division and embracing all into our community. That means the black Africans, the gay, the poor, the disabled the trans the non-binary, and even the racist and the bigot. We can’t gate-keep the bar that Christ has set in that he died for the ungodly in all their forms. That means that church can’t be as neat and tidy as sometimes we like to think it can be – our community should be made up of people not like us. There’s so much more we need to unpack and talk about here in terms of a faith journey of a community and those in it. How do behaviours and beliefs find expression and challenge and voice? How do we ensure all members grow and flourish?
But the starting point has to be the great love shown to us in the death and resurrection of Christ. It is that which brings us into relationship, into community together on an equal footing. From there we have to just get on with the messy business of church – focussed on making room for everyone, focussed on the labour of justice and mercy, of reconciliation and on friendship and belonging. It is that church the world needs to see.
What does our church community look like?
In what practical ways can we as individuals and a church be ‘love first’?
How comfortable are we with the idea of a ‘messy church’ – one comprised of people ‘not like us’? What does that mean practically, spiritually and theologically?
Coming to faith has a low bar – all of us are welcome. After that, what expectation of change (in lifestyle, ideology, action, etc.) is there? (eg: 2 Peter 2:20-22)
Does a response of love and openness change, past a certain point or in certain situations? (eg: Matt 3:5-10, Acts 13:49-51 cf: Matt 10:11-15)
Prayers of Thanksgiving
Father, we thank you that you come out and meet us. where we are.
We worship and adore you.
We thank you that you walk the road with us, that you treat us
as an equal even when we fail to recognise you.
We worship and adore you.
You always love us, always care for us, always want to eat
and drink with us – such is your love.
We worship and adore you.
Thank you, Lord, that you are not a stranger, but our friend.
We worship and adore you. Amen.
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020.
Prayers of Intercession
Gathered into the mystery of the Trinity, let us pray for the church, the world, and all of God’s creation.
God of community, you form us as your church. Guide our leaders in the church in these trying times. With all the all of us, may they be strengthened to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and in prayer and action,
strive for peace and justice in all the earth.
God of creation, you called everything into being. Sustain this world with your renewing care. Instill in us a deeper wonder for the created world and a greater humility for our place within it. Kindle in us a creative and resilient spirit as we care for the earth and its creatures.
God of counsel, all authority belongs to you. Encourage all our leaders to seek wisdom and respond with courage and compassion to those most in need. We pray for community leaders in this time of unrest. Further the work of advocates who pursue justice in often ignored communities.
God of care, you created us in your image; we are your beloved children. May we recognize your likeness in one another. Hold in your loving embrace all experiencing trauma, fear, uncertainty, and loss. Protect vulnerable children and adults from violence or neglect; provide what is needed for those lacking access to food, shelter, and other services.
God of healing, you accompany us in sickness and suffering. Bring
relief to all afflicted with the coronavirus and all those isolated now more than ever, especially those in prison or care facilities. Strengthen caregivers, health workers, and all whose work ensures the safety and well-being of others. Console, heal, and nourish all in need this day.
God of connection, you call us to make your presence known. Accompany people of faith as they nurture relationships in new ways. Where racism fractures our relationships, bring repentance and reconciliation. Free us for the difficult work ahead in our congregations and communities. Open our hearts for attentive listening so that our places of connection are filled with your Spirit.
God of compassion, you comfort us in our grief with the promise of your presence and the hope of the resurrection.
Receive these prayers, O God, and those too deep for words;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Adapted from https://www.stjlc.org/.
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.”
The peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.