Week commencing 28th June

Week Commencing Sunday 28th June 2020

 

Call to worship

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Where can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1, 2)

 

“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me." (Psalm 42:8)

 

Hymn

 

 

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

 

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

 

Be Thou my battle shield, sword for the fight;
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight;
Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O power of my power.

 

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

 

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O ruler of all.

 

                                                  Eleanor Hull

 

 

Opening Prayer

‘Lord Jesus Christ, redeemer, friend and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.’ Amen

 

Sermon. ‘Love the Lord Your God’

Last week’s sermon looked at the Parable of the Good Samaritan as the illustration of what it meant to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Please see 21/6 Update).

 

Today we look at what Jesus called the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:38), also stated in last week’s passage:

 

1025 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.]” (Luke 10:25-27)

The Greatest Commandment is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.’

 

Jesus doesn’t call people first to a social or political movement or even to a life, a system of thought or ethical living. Above all he calls us to love God. This call was first given in Deut.6:4, 5. “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus called this the greatest commandment.

 

Someone may ask ‘Why should I love God?’ In response we can simply say ‘Because He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19).We love because He first loved us. Shouldn’t we love Him given His love for us? God who is holy, supreme, omnipotent has created us, given us life along with every good gift we enjoy such as relationships and material blessings. Also, God’s love is shown to us even when we are His enemies: Romans 5:10 says ‘when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son…’

 

We are naturally enemies of God: full of pride and rebellion, shutting Him out of our lives and going our own ways. Still God loves us. John tells us: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whosoever believes on him shall not perish but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16).

 

God gave his Son. We see the magnitude of God’s love in that phrase. It speaks of the incarnation; God coming into our world, taking on human flesh. He gave his Son; yet this phrase also means gave in the sense of atonement. Jesus was ‘delivered up for us all’ (Romans 8:32.) We are the guilty ones, but through the cross we sinners are brought back to God. When we take communion we remember his body broken for us, his blood shed for us. He gave himself so that we could be freely forgiven and know the Lord and everlasting life:

 

Philippians.2: 6-8 (The Message translation): “He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave and became human. Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead he lived a selfless obedient life and then died a selfless obedient death-the worst kind of death: a crucifixion.”

 

God’s love towards us is so great, deep and constant. Full of grace and mercy and strength. A love shown towards entirely unworthy objects. There is no greater love.

 

We love God because He loved us first.

 

How do we love God? We love God with all our heart, all our soul, strength and mind. What is meant is that we should love God with all the faculties which God has given us. The thought here is that God’s whole hearted love for us must not be returned half-heartedly.

 

We love God with all our mind. Truth should be very important to the disciple. We should use our minds to study the Bible; to find out what Christians believe and why. The Apostle Paul put forward evidences for Jesus being the promised Messiah and evidences for the Resurrection. He sought to persuade people of the truth of the Gospel.

 

J. Williams, a Vicar and journalist, writes about what he believes has gone wrong with the state of Christianity in the UK:

 

‘The blame is being placed upon materialism and an increase in reliance on science but this doesn’t explain why, for instance Christianity is so powerful in the USA, (which is the wealthiest and most scientifically advanced nation on earth) that in many areas nearly 50% of the population attend church. Nor does it explain why at a global level Christianity is continuing to grow. Clearly the reason for the decline of Christianity in the UK must lie with something else.

 

Thriving Christianity, no matter where it may be located in the world, always has one thing in common; along with its teaching, evidence is always regularly presented to explain why such teaching should be believed. Living in an age of reason these churches realised long ago it is not enough to tell people what they should believe: it needs to be backed up with factual information as to why it makes sense.

 

These congregations, for example are given regular reports on the latest archaeological discoveries which back up the Bible. They are frequently told about the numbers of scientists who now accept that living organisms are far too complex to have occurred by chance and that it is, therefore, more logical to believe the universe has been designed by a Creator.

 

Or again they hear sermons on how Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophesies, and that the return of the Jews to the Middle East and the revival of the Jewish nation after 2000 years of worldwide dispersal was all predicted in Bible prophesy.

 

One million people in this country have done the Alpha course and I myself have received hundreds of letters from individuals all over the UK asking for more information which supports the Bible. Clearly there is a great interest in Christianity; but it needs to be responded to by churches in the UK explaining the reasoning behind belief. Churches in other countries do this and grow. Its time there policy was adopted here.’

 

Love God with all your mind. But our relationship with God is more than head knowledge.

 

We are to love God with all our heart and all our soul.

 

The word ‘heart’ suggests intimacy, and emotion should also be involved in our love for God.

 

There is a family metaphor used in the New Testament to show this more intimate love for God. We know God as Father. The Spirit within us testifies that we are now God’s children. We have been adopted into His family on account of Christ’s sacrifice. We are welcomed with opened arms as a Father welcomes a son in whom he delights. And when we pray it is an intimate conversation not just a ritual. This sense of intimacy was captured in Jesus phrase ‘My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him’.

 

Another metaphor used in the Bible to describe this intimate love is one of marriage. Song of Songs portrays romantic love between bridegroom and bride. But on an allegorical level it portrays the relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church. Chapter 7:6 ‘How beautiful and how delightful you are my love’ One writer, Anthony de Mellow wrote of this verse ‘Behold God beholding you and smiling…Looking at my bride, who has brought so many smiles to my face over the years, has helped me see what I never could in my youth. That this is a true picture of how God looks at us’  Our relationship with God is personal and intimate so like any loving relationship we should spend time with the one we love. Since he loves us so, we gladly surrender ourselves to him from the heart.

 

Loving God with all our heart and with all our soul are closely linked

 

If heart suggests depth of intimacy and strength of affection, then love of God with all our soul, suggests a love for him that is higher than any other love in our lives- He must have all that is within us. So we speak of soul in connection with worship. We are only to worship God- we do not worship, that is we do not give our devotion to, any other person or thing.

 

The Bible says that we should magnify the Lord and rejoice in him forever. What does that mean? One evening when the moon was full I studied it from the back of my house. It seemed as clear and close as the globe on the lamp post. Finding binoculars, I magnified the moon. I focused on it to make it larger in my eyes, and studied it until I was overwhelmed with its ivory plains and dimly outlined mountains, with its splotched craters and jagged edges. What happens when we magnify the Lord? Just that. We focus on Him, make Him larger in our eyes, and study Him until overwhelmed with His brightness, His love, His grace, His care, his power. And when we do that, the next verb comes into play- we rejoice in God our Saviour. Magnifying Christ brings joy to our hearts, joy that levels every mountain and fills every valley. O magnify the lord with me and let us exalt his name forever. (Robert J Morgan).

 

We also love God with all our strength

 

Our love for God is shown in our endeavour for him. The use of our energies to please him issues out of the relationship of love we have with him.

 

Jesus in John 15:5 taught ‘I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing.’ The fruit of Christ’s character can only come from the intimacy of a close relationship with him. It is out of a loving relationship with God that we want to please him and obey his teaching.

 

Many spend their strength within Judaism, Islam and other religious system doing virtuous deeds, thinking by these that God will accept them But the gospel shows clearly that we cannot ‘earn’ our salvation.

 

You have heard of the Tour de France, the famous bicycle race in Europe. But you’ve probably never heard of the world’s shortest bicycle race in India.

 

All of the racers line up at the starting line, ready to go. They have got their riding shorts, helmets, water bottles, numbers on their backs, corporate sponsors- the whole thing.

 

The starting gun goes off and the racers jump onto their bikes. But nobody goes anywhere. They all stay put. You see, the object of this race is to see who can go the shortest distance possible within the specified time limit. Racers are disqualified if their bike tips over or if their feet touch the ground. The cyclists inch forward just enough to keep their bikes balanced. They can’t go backward.

 

At the end of the race, when the gun goes off, the cyclists who have gone the farthest are the losers. The racer closest to the starting line- which, in this case, is also the finish line- is the winner!

 

Imagine qualifying for the Indian bicycle race without understanding the rules. When the starting gun goes off, you hop onto your bike and pedal as hard and as fast as you possibly can. You may wonder why all of the other racers are frozen like statues behind you. Perhaps you think they are all scared of you! As your competition disappears from sight, you start thinking about how you are going to spend the prize money.

 

Not so fast! When this race ends, you will be the loser! Not because you did not try hard to win. Not because you did not train properly. Not because you weren’t in shape. You will lose this race because you did not understand the rules.

 

Jesus has given us the rules for the race of life. It is not what we do to be saved. It is what God does. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

 

So we are already accepted by God and are his children on account of Christ’s sacrifice. We don’t strive to earn our salvation but we accept the gift God has given us. As Ephesians 2:8, 9 states, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no-one can boast’

Does that mean we live our lives as if nothing happened? By no means writes Paul in Romans 6:2 Instead we demonstrate we have new life in Christ by living in obedience to him.

Obedience to Christ does not earn our salvation, but if we are saved then this will show in the fruit of obedience- an obedience shown in our actions and particularly our love towards others. This is, of course, the second great commandment ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ and it flows out from the first commandment. In the Parable of the sheep and the goats the sheep are commended because in serving others –the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick or those in prison’ they were actually showing love for God. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did it for me” (Matt 26:40)

 

Dallas Willard writes ‘A disciple of Jesus is not necessarily one devoted to doing specifically religious things as that is usually understood. I am learning from Jesus how to lead my life, my whole life, my real life, everything’

 

We have considered something of God’s love for us. He gives all for us. In return we should love Him with all…All our mind, all our heart and soul, all our strength.

 

Thomas A Kempis wrote a book called ‘The imitation of Christ’ It contains many passages of love for God. Let’s make this prayer our own

 

“My God, my love, you are all mine and I am all yours. Give me an increase in love, that I may learn to taste with the inward lips of my heart how sweet it is to love, how sweet to be dissolved in love and bathe in it. Let me be wrapped in love. Let me rise above self in great fervour and wonder. Let my soul exhaust itself in praising you. Rejoicing out of love. Let me love you more than myself and let me not love myself except for your sake. In you let me love all those who truly love you, as the law of love, which shines forth from you, commands” 

………………………………………………………

 

Hymn

 

I have heard so many songs
Listened to a thousand tongues
But there is one that sounds above them all
The Father's song, the Father's love
You sung it over me
And for eternity it's written on my heart

Heaven's perfect melody
The Creator's symphony
You are singing over me
The Father's song

Heaven's perfect mystery
The King of Love has sent for me
Now You're singing over me
The Father's song

I have heard so many songs
Listened to a thousand tongues
But there is one that sounds above them all (sounds above them all)
The Father's song, the Father's love
You sung it over me
And for eternity it's written on my heart

Heaven's perfect melody
The Creator's symphony
You are singing over me
The Father's song

                                             

                    Matt Redman

 

 

Prayers

Lord Jesus our Saviour

Let us now come to you;

Our hearts are cold;

Lord, warm them by your selfless love;

Our hearts are sinful;

Cleanse them with your precious blood.

Our hearts are weak;

Strengthen them with your joyous Spirit

Our hearts are empty;

Fill them with your divine presence.

Possess them always and only for yourself. Amen

                                                                        (St Augustine)

 

Living God,

In our hour of need we turn again to you, for we have nowhere else to turn.

We put our faith in you, because you have proved your faithfulness time and again.

We reaffirm our love for you because you have never let us go.

We thank you that you are not distant from us.

But have drawn near, in your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

He has shared our life, tasted our death and defeated it;

He understands our worries and our fears.

Help us to respond as your children now.

We pray for this pandemic spreading across our world,

Remembering all who have lost loved ones.

And praying for those seriously ill at this time.

We uphold the National Health Service.

As it responds to this added pressure on its already overstretched services.

We pray for doctors and nurses and all in the caring professions,

Who work to help and support people as best they can.

We remember those working behind the scenes.

Testing samples, confirming results, giving information to patients.

We uphold others trying to understand this virus better.

Working to create an effective remedy.

We pray for our Governments in Westminster and Holyrood,

As they work with the best medical advice.

To guide us on how we should respond.

And what action we should take.

We pray that these guidelines might be taken seriously.

And that all would put them into action.

May this crisis bring out the best in us, not the worst.

Help us to live by faith and not by fear;

May we not forget our responsibility to one another,

Not least to the vulnerable and voiceless in our communities.

Help us to find ways of keeping in touch and offering reassurance.

To those with underlying health issues;

For any who feel particularly vulnerable.

Or in danger at present.

We pray for those who have been laid off as their work disappears;

For financial hardship for individuals and businesses;

For the impact on the economy and pensions, when austerity has already left its mark.

We pray for those whose trips, both for business and pleasure, have been cancelled;

And others where events, long anticipated and planned for, have been postponed;

For those making contingency planning for home based work or child care or exams.

May our inconvenience not blind us to others’ loss.

We remember those.

Who cannot visit loved ones in locked-down care homes;

For the elderly whose social contacts have been severely curtailed;

Help us to find creative ways of keeping in touch,

Of assuring them they are not forgotten or ignored.

May congregations find new ways of living though this time.

May we not forget our faith, but draw strength from it.

So may our worship be heartfelt,

Our fellowship deepen.

And our service increase.

God of grace and God of mercy,

Hear our prayers at this time.                                 Colin Sinclair

 

 

Hymn

 

1 O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward,
to thy glorious rest above.

 

2 O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Spread his praise from shore to shore;
how he loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, nevermore;
how he watches o'er his loved ones,
died to call them all his own;
how for them he intercedeth,
watcheth o'er them from the throne.

 

3 O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Love of ev'ry love the best:
'tis an ocean vast of blessing,
'tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
'Tis a heav'n of heav'ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to thee.

                             

       Samuel Trevor Francis

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                       David Barnes 24/6/20