How much longer, Lord,
will you forget about me?
Will it be forever?
How long will you hide?
Please listen, Lord God,
and answer my prayers.
Make my eyes sparkle again,
or else I fear I will fall
into eternal doom.
I trust your love,
and I feel like celebrating
because you rescued me.
You have been good to me, Lord,
and I will sing about you.
Over the last three months we have been going through a time of uncertainty. What we once regarded as established and immovable has been suspended. We have been learning new ways of living and have been challenged to think and act differently. It has been a time to reflect on our priorities, a time to discover what is really important to us. We have been confronted by the inequalities in our society and forced to reconsider some of the ideas we previously held regarding the worth we attributed to people and the jobs they do .This has been a time to refocus on what is essential in our lives, and discover what we really value the most. I wonder what you have learned since lockdown began.
Over the last week the BBC has been running a series of radio programmes called rethink. The programmes examined the ways in which the crises have changed society and explored how it has provided opportunities to effect lasting change.
As the country tentatively continues to emerge from lockdown people are asking when will we ever get back to normal the way things were, but perhaps more importantly we need to ask should we just carry on as we did before or do we need to find a different way of doing things, what should the new normal look like.
In todays reading from Paul’s letter to the Roman’s Paul is outlining the lasting changes that take place on becoming a Christian and what the new normal for Christian’s should look like.
Paul was writing to the church in Rome which was divided into two camps. The majority membership was made up of believers from non-Jewish decent known as gentiles. These gentiles looked down on the Christian’s who had converted from Judaism. The two groups held very different views on what was important in living a Christian life. Those who came from a Jewish tradition felt that there should be continuity with the laws given in the OT. Whilst the gentiles had no time for the OT. Paul reminded both groups that they had reached a watershed in their lives when they first publicly acknowledged Jesus Christ as their saviour. From that moment on they had committed themselves to be bond servants of God literally slaves of God. Every part of their being and lifestyle should be concerned with demonstrating the goodness love and compassion of their newly chosen master. Their role in life was to bring Glory to God. That moment of publicly acknowledging Jesus was the start of a new way of doing things. Whatever their background They could not continue as before They had to do things differently
The gentiles came from a society in which the minority ruling elite held most of the wealth and exploited the poor. The inequalities in status between genders, people from different countries and even cities were profound, commonplace and accepted as the norm. Self-gratification was the goal to be strived for with little regard for anyone else. Consequently, the majority of the accepted norms in society kept the gentiles separated from God. What the Bible and Paul called sin. I wonder is our worship an activity that is completely separate from the rest of our lives. Do we still accept and engage in the norms of society that run counter to the teaching of Jesus.
Those from a Jewish tradition were so concerned with being seen to follow the letter of the law that they no longer engaged with the essential truths which lay at the heart of the God’s law.. They too had become separated from God. They too were sinners.
We need to be careful that our worship is more than singing songs we enjoy and know by heart as we follow some set liturgy or familiar ritual. Our worship must be concerned with how we behave towards others 24 -7.
Paul reminds us that When we accept Jesus, God in his grace forgets all the things we have done that are unacceptable in his sight. At that point of publicly turning to Christ, what Paul refers to as the adult’s baptism we begin a new life where with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit we start to live in the way God requires us to. Now that doesn’t mean as Christian’s we can never do anything that wrong in God’s eyes, it doesn’t mean we can never Sin. Far from it. There will always be temptations for us. Some of our reactions to people and events will be deep in our subconscious, our human nature will cause us to react and behave instinctively. The point is that from the moment we accept Jesus we should begin to train our spiritual heart, our conscious and subconscious minds to prioritise obedience to God. This is not something that happens instantly it takes a lifetime of determined effort on our part and even after 70 years we will not have perfected it. Because of the death of his Son God will continually extend to us his grace. Because of Jesus sacrifice as we persevere with making a heartfelt effort to be obedient to the teaching of Jesus, God will overlook the times when we do things that offend him. We need to be careful though, one common criticism of Christian’s is that we regularly ask for forgiveness on Sunday but continue with the same attitudes and way of behaving on Monday. Nothing really changes. Are we just going through the motions paying lip service to the idea of being under God’s grace or does our determination to turn back to His ways please God because it wells up from our hearts? To use Paul’s words are we obedient from the heart”.
In v 16 Paul is very clear when he says Don’t you realise that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey you can be a slave to sin which leads to death or you can choose to obey God which leads to righteous living .
The choice we have to make is a simple one. We either choose to put ourselves firmly in God’s camp having God as our master and living under his grace.
Or we choose to remain in a camp that is separated from God, rebelling against him continuing to ignore and disobey God.
It’s one or the other there is no half way house. The choice we make is the difference between eternal life and eternal doom.
I wonder which camp you are currently in? How has lockdown caused you to rethink and change what is essential and what is important in your personal life? How has it changed what is important in your family life, your Hope’s for following new work patterns, your ambition to whole heartedly worship God.
How have your Hope’s and ambitions for the future changed in the light of world events? Are you ambitious to be part of a more compassionate society with a deeper community life?
Is your hope to work for a fairer society with reduced inequality. Perhaps your ambition is to build on the fact that the homeless have all been found places to live.
Is your hope and ambition based on the positive effect on the environment from reduced pollution. Perhaps your hope is based on more people connecting with Gods word through on line church
As Christian’s we will receive God’s free gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord and Master. However, we are continually called to change our reactions and behaviour to ways that are obedient and pleasing to God. Right now, both individually and collectively as the whole church of God we have an opportunity to make a quantum shift to a new normal. A normal that not only demonstrates that we are firmly in God’s camp but also brings society at large closer to God.
So how and what are you going to Change?
How has God used the experience of lockdown to change your hopes and ambitions?
In what ways will you change how you whole heartedly worship God?
How and what will you change to create a new normal?
You may wish to say this prayer for yourself
Heavenly Father, Lord of my life
Thank you for breaking the chains that kept me separate from you.
Help me to know that you are with me,
and to believe that nothing can separate me from your love
Help me to become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which I have chosen to be committed.
Do not let me return to ways which offend you but help me to give my whole being to you as an instrument of righteous living
In the name of Jesus, I thank you for your wonderful grace and all your gifts.
Prayers of Intercession
God of love and hope,
you made the world and care for all creation,
but the world feels strangely different right now.
The news continues to be full of stories about Coronavirus.
Some people are worried that they might get ill.
Others are anxious for their family and friends.
Many are concerned about the way some people are behaving as lockdown eases.
Many are worried about losing their jobs , or how they can work safely.
For some financial difficulties and providing for their family are a great cause of stress
Lord we lift them to you and ask that you will be with them and help them to find peace.
God of wisdom we pray for those who are guiding our nation and shaping national policies, asking You to guide them as they navigate the easing of lockdown and the economic consequences of this pandemic. We pray for your spirit to inspire them as they work to resolve the issues of inequality and institutional racism.
We pray for our emergency services at this very challenging time. Lord we ask that you protect and sustain them. We especially pray for our police forces. Asking you to give them the attitude and skills they require as they maintain the law at this socially difficult time.
God of compassion, we pray for all who suffer in body mind or spirit, asking that you will be close to them at this difficult time
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
In their grief be their comfort.
Gracious Lord we pray for ourselves asking that in these challenging times you will give us the courage and determination to bring the good news of your love to those who do not know you
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for 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.”
Blessing and Dismissal
Remember the free gift of God is eternal life through his son.
So, go in peace to love and serve the Lord. In the name of Christ