Virtual Services

Seventh Sunday after Trinity – July 18th 2021

Welcome

Good morning – and welcome to All Saints Totley. It’s great to have you here with us this morning for our Morning Praise service.

Today, we will be considering kingdom through the lens of the historical ANE and the nation of Israel, shortly before their annexing and deportation by the Babylonian Empire. Now I know that doesn’t sound particularly great or exciting for a hot Sunday in June –  but bear with me – we’re looking at a prophecy from the ‘weeping prophet’ Jeremiah, and how it speaks to us today and leads us to more detail about our identity in Christ that Ben spoke about last week. 

Opening Prayer

Lord, today we recall your faithfulness.
Thank you that you walk with us every day, that you are with us always.
We proclaim that your promises are true and your goodness and love never fail.

In this moment we come to you and lay our lives before you.
May we honour, worship and adore you with every fibre of our being.
Father, we proclaim that you are the Holy One, the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. Your beauty and majesty are beyond compare.
On this day we join with all those who worship and confess you as Lord, from generations past and present, and with all the angels that sing in heaven of your greatness and splendour.

Lord we adore you.
Lord we love you.
Lord we bow down and worship you.

Amen.

This prayer is inspired by the prophet Isaiah’s vision of worshiping angels recorded in Isaiah 6:3 and witnessed again by the writer of Revelation.

 

We come from scattered lives to meet with God.

Let us recognize his presence with us.

Silence is kept.

As God’s people we have gathered:

let us worship him together.

Worship

Confession

Father, you gave up your Son for us all.
You give us all things with him;
you call us, justify us, glorify us.
Father in heaven
we give you thanks and praise.


Jesus Christ died, was raised to life,
and pleads for us at your right hand.
Who can separate us from your love?
Father in heaven
we give you thanks and praise.


For your sake we face death all day long.
In your world we face trouble and hardship,
persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and death.
Father in heaven
we give you thanks and praise.


But nothing separates us from your love:
neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any heavenly powers,
neither the world above nor the world below:
nothing in all creation can separate us
from your love in Jesus Christ.
Father in heaven
we give you thanks and praise.


In all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loves us,
and has freed us from our sins
and made us a kingdom and priests
to serve you for ever,
with all the company of heaven, saying:


Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

cf Romans 8.23–39

Word

23 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.

5 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will raise up for David[a] a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The LORD Our Righteous Savior.


7 “So then, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 8 but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.”

Jeremiah
23:1-8a

 

 

The book of Jeremiah, in terms of the prophetic teaching we can be fairly sure is mostly attributable to the words of Jeremiah himself, recorded via Baruch and with some later editing, adaption and re-arranging over a long period of time. The text itself suggests there may also be influence from Hosea – prophetic imagery is shared in terms of Israel as the unfaithful wife (2:2-3, 20; 3:1, 6-10, 14, 20; Hos. 1:2; 2:2-13) rose-tinted reflection on the relationship with God in the wilderness (2:2-3; Hos. 2:14-15) and hope for a new relationship under a new covenant (31:31-34; Hos. 2:16-23).

 

The timing of Jeremiah, at least the calling of the prophet, is in the 13th year of King Josiah of Judah’s reign (627BCE, 1:1-3). You may know that we are at a period in Israel’s history where the kingdom of David and Solomon has devolved into the Northern and Southern kingdoms – a period described in Kings and Chronicles. Josiah became king at age 8, when his father Amon was assassinated and reigned 641/640 to 610/609 BCE. This was a time of great political change. The Assyrian empire had been the dominant superpower and had overrun the Northern kingdom of Israel in 722/721 BCE. Now, at this time Egypt was re-emerging as a power-base and Babylon was on the way to becoming the new international superpower.

 

Josiah was a king noted for his religious reforms recorded in Chronicles and 2 Kings – these include the restoration of the temple, the re-institution of the Passover and destruction of the Baalist images and alters in Jerusalem and Judah. Also during his reign was the discovery of the Book of the Law. Jeremiah’s activity is during these reforms – several years before the discovery of the Book of the Law.

 

And so, we enter this period the message of Jeremiah accords with much of the other classical prophets in that he emphasizes the failure of the nation, led by kings and prophets to fulfil their covenant obligation to Yahweh. The message of the ‘weeping prophet’ therefore is predominantly one of judgement, concern over the waywardness of the people and challenging false hope (Jer 1:10). This is a dark and troubled message.

 

Our reading this morning contains one of striking sunshine rays of hope in the message of the prophet. This message re-affirms God’s commitment to his people and promises restoration. This prophecy for the kings of Judah concerns the Branch, the one from the line of King David who will preside over a secure kingdom of justice and righteousness, contrasted in the prior chapter to the last kings of Judah (22:11-30).

 

And so, that’s where we begin in our reading today. The unrighteous kings are summarised in 23:1-4 as being like shepherd who were destroying and scattering God’s sheep. According to Ezekiel, born about the time of Josiah’s reforms, these shepherds deserved punishment (Ezek. 34:1-10) because if what they had done.

 

The metaphorical flock has been driven away and exploited. The nation has been destroyed by corrupt leaders and the people scattered. The line of David – traced back to the height of the nation of Israel and of commitment to God – was to end (22:28), despite the assurances of the false prophets (22:1-4).

 

If these shepherds were to be removed, who would gather in the flock? The answer is that it will be God himself that brings about this regathering. There is a faithful remnant that God is faithful to – they will be brought back into a nation. This is ultimately true as we see through the eyes of the Chronicler, Ezra and Nehemiah. Following the period of our reading today, and the call to submission of Jeremiah himself we know that Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, and the people deported. However, a remnant did return and were involved in the temple and wall rebuilding in Jerusalem after the edict of Cyrus the Great.

 

But what is promised here is much more significant – picking up the theme of restoration from earlier in Jeremiah (16:14-15) a much greater regathering is promised. God will call His people from the nations of the world, gather them in their land, purge them, and then send them their promised Messiah. This will be a gathering that will supplant 23:7-8) in the collective memory that great formational event of Israel, being brought up out of Egypt in the Exodus.

 

 From the stump of the line of David, a Branch would grow from humble and tender beginnings and become the ruler of the nation. (Isa. 11:1; 53:2). This is a king that will be righteous and rule justly bringing salvation, peace and justice.

 

Under his leadership the fractured people of God would be reunited. His subjects would recognize that in this king God had provided for broken, wayward and fractured humanity a righteousness which no man can earn or deserve. Therefore, this ideal ruler would be called “the Lord Our Righteousness” (23:4–6) – unlike the rulers for whom “My righteousness is the Lord”.

 

Paul in Corinthians takes this epithet (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21) and applies it to Jesus Christ – the only one to whom it could rightfully apply. In Romans chapter 9, 10 and 11 in addressing the mixed congregation there Paul more fully explains this prophetic allusion of Jeremiah (repeated in Matt. 24:31) – in it’s simplest reduced form that chosen people are a people who believe and trust in Christ for righteousness – the message of Salvation is for all (9:6, 24), both for Israel and those outside.

 

Suddenly the scope of this future regathering begins to come into view – and the full wide ranging truth of it, with all its implications comes into view.

 

Ben spoke to us in terms of identity last week when we looked at Ephesians 1 – and he highlighted this throwaway phrase of Paul’s: In Christ, or en Christo. Through Christ, by being in Him, (en Christo), the seeming gap between God and everything else has been overcome “from the beginning” (Eph. 1:4), the gaps so painfully exposed, re-iterated and raked over in the history of the nation of Israel.

 

This shorthand of Paul’s is used in many different ways, throughout his writings – but 2 things are consistent. When it appears it refers to the wonderful and mystical joining (John 15) that comes about when someone joins the community of Christ, in fact it is that joining, that transaction, that makes them part of Christ, belonging to him. The second is that is it fundamentally eschatological – it refers to the believer becoming part of the Kingdom of Christ, established, and yet to come in all its fulness. The translation from kingdom of the present age, into the promised Kingdom with Christ as the head. This promised future kingdom with all the chosen of God is what Jeremiah, Paul and Matthew have in view.

 

The universe becomes a more interesting and exciting place with this Lord of Righteousness at our head, as out King. It is in enchanted universe in which the creator longs to be with creation, and for creation to be all that it can be. Our identity is en Christo, in his Kingdom, brought there by his efforts and work, pursued into the very darkest places to be re-made, entered into a process of sanctification, made more Christ-like and conformed to the values and standards of this future kingdom of justice and righteousness.

 

Our identity is in Christ. We are a people in his kingdom united with all believers. We must therefore live out the values of our future kingdom – seeking to be a people who love justice and righteousness and enact them in all the areas of our lives. Matthew 5:1-16 describes this kingdom. If we were to list these characteristics we would be made aware again that the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a kingdom of the heart, not of borders, and race and politics. Yes, it is a real kingdom, and Jesus is a real king. But the life of the kingdom in our present age is principally a spiritual life, a matter of the heart; and it has to be a matter of the heart before it can become anything else – with our hearts aligned to Christ, our righteousness, is where we begin.

  • What does living with a kingdom heart mean to me?
  • In what practical ways can a show justice?
  • What does righteousness mean in my daily life?
  • Do people see kingdom values in by actions, words and deeds?

Witness

Prayers of Intercession

To God the Father who created the world, To God the Son who redeemed the world, To God the Holy Spirit who sustains the world; be all praise and glory now and forever.

 

Everlasting God, we pray that all who come into our church may be enabled to renew their relationship with you, enter into your Kingdom and may find in you rest, peace, strength, grace and most of all your abiding presence. Help us as a congregation to be outward looking that through our fellowship we may share our faith, the Gospel of your Son Jesus Christ and the values of His Kingdom with those who we love and live amongst.

 

We pray also for the many plans that are being made, as we begin to ease our way out from the COVID restrictions. Give us wisdom Lord to know what it is that you would have us do, personally, professionally and as a church. Help us to see and meet the needs of this community where you have placed us, give us vision lord, provide what is needed, so that what we do will be fruitful and bring glory to you.

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer.

 

Creator God, we pray for the people of our world who are less fortunate than we are, in whatever way that is. We pray for those in countries where there is very little governmental stability and in countries where there is drought or famine and where there is a shortage of Covid vaccine. We pray for those experiencing extreme flooding across Europe. Help us to remember those who are weary with the relentless struggle to stay alive; for those who can never look forward to a good meal and a comfortable bed, and those who barely have the necessities of life, much less so many material luxuries which we so often take for granted. In a moment of silence, we bring before you those countries and communities that you have placed on our hearts.       (Short Silence)

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer.

 

Father God may the needs of our families, friends and neighbours be made clear to us today, and may we find that in our giving to them we grow closer to you. We thank you for those whose work sustains our country and the community in which we live. Lord we pray today especially for the teachers, school staff and those in places of education as they prepare for the end of this academic year. We thank you for their commitment and resilience over this past year and ask that you grant them rest, fun and laughter so they may be restored, renewed and replenished. We think also of those families for whom the summer may be a difficult time, as children are away from schools.      (Short Silence)

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer.

 

Healing God, we raise before you those who are sick. We ask that you ease their pain and heal the damage done to them in body, mind or spirit.

Be present with them through the support of friends and in the care of doctors and nurses, fill them with the warmth of your love now and always. (Short Silence)

 

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer.

Faithful God we dedicate all these people and petitions to your loving care. Give us the strength and courage to walk alongside those in need, to fight for justice for the oppressed and to allow others to see you in us and in all that we do in the coming week.

 

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,

our Risen Saviour Jesus Christ.

Closing Prayers

God, you are everything to us,
giving us life,
filling us with love,
and setting us free from sin
that we might live in you.

Accept the work of our hands,
take our lives,
give us your peace
and renew us in the service of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

 

 

Blessing and dismissal

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all,
now and evermore.
 Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ
Amen

Community

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 Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.

Reminder

If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to comments@allsaintstotley.church