Week commencing Sunday 15th November 2020

Week Commencing 15th November 2020

Dear Friends,

I trust you are keeping well. At our last deacons meeting it was decided that in view of Covid 19 restrictions, there will not be a post box for Christmas cards this year and therefore distribution of cards within the fellowship will be your own responsibility.

……………………..

Call to worship

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. John 1:1

We have a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 8:1

Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest who even now intercedes for us, but even more than that, He is God’s Son. Our opening hymn reminds us that we worship a priestly king.

Hymn

 

1 Christ triumphant, ever reigning,
Saviour, Master, King!
Lord of heaven, our lives sustaining,
hear us as we sing:
Yours the glory and the crown,
the high renown, the eternal name.

 

2 Word incarnate, truth revealing,
Son of Man on earth!
power and majesty concealing
by your humble birth:
Yours the glory...

 

3 Suffering servant, scorned, ill - treated,
victim crucified!
death is through the cross defeated,
sinners justified:
Yours the glory...

 

4 Priestly king, enthroned for ever
high in heaven above!
sin and death and hell shall never
stifle hymns of love:
Yours the glory...

 

5 So, our hearts and voices raising
through the ages long,
ceaselessly upon you gazing,
this shall be our song:
Yours the glory...

 

 

Michael Saward 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxJg2Xm46dI

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we do indeed worship you. You are ‘ever reigning.’ By you all things were created- things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. All other powers- whether spiritual or material- are inferior to you. You are supreme, Lord of heaven.

Lord You have made us for yourself. We thank you for our homes, our families, our work, our schools, colleges and universities. Thank you for our leisure interests, our food and drink. You sustain us.

Thank you Lord Jesus that when we see you we see the Father. You are God come to us, even going to the cross to bring us all the blessings of Salvation.

And as our High Priest, we thank you Lord that you sympathise with us- You endured temptation and have suffered. You have walked around in our shoes- fully human. You are willing to help us in our time of need. Even now you pray for us. You are willing to forgive us where we have failed you, and you are ready to strengthen us by your Spirit as we face the trials and difficulties of this life.

Thank you Lord for your promise ‘If we confess our sins, you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’

Please lead us now into greater appreciation of who you are and all you have brought about for us that we might worship you with all our being and give you all the glory. Amen

 

Reading. Hebrews 8:8-13

 But God found fault with the people and said:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
    and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbour,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.” a

13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

 

a Jeremiah 31:31-34.

 

Hymn

 

Above all powers

Above all kings

Above all nature

And all created things

Above all wisdom

And all the ways of man

You were here

Before the world began

 

Above all kingdoms

Above all thrones

Above all wonders

The world has ever known

Above all wealth

And treasures of the earth

There's no way to measure

What you're worth

 

Crucified

Laid behind a stone

You lived to die

Rejected and alone

Like a rose

Trampled on the ground

You took the fall

And thought of me

Above all

 

 

 

Sermon. From ‘Shadows to Substance.’ Part 1.

Jean Webster’s book “Daddy Long Legs” tells the story of a girl in an orphanage. She learns there is a rich young man who provides for the orphanage. One day she sees his shadow on the wall. It’s an elongated shadow with very long legs because of the position of the light. She calls the shadow “Daddy Long Legs”. For years she dreams of this shadow. But one day she meets him and they fall in love.

Once she has met him, she no longer thinks about his shadow. The substance is better than the shadow. It would be strange if she tried to kiss the shadow now that she knows the real man.

The book of Hebrews describes various “shadows” in the Old Testament that point forward to Jesus. High Priests, earthly tabernacles, blood sacrifices. All are fulfilled in Him. He is the substance. Once He is encountered then the shadows are irrelevant.

Hebrews 8, verses 8-12 quote Jeremiah 31:31-34. These verses home in on the New Covenant. This is the substance, while the Old Covenant (described in the Old Testament part of the Bible) was the shadow. This is what I want to concentrate on this morning: the blessings of the New Covenant compared to the Old.

We will investigate these blessings over 2 Sunday mornings. This week we look at the twin blessings of inward change and intimacy with God.

First then, The New Covenant provides Inward Change:

“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts” (10)

The Old Covenant had been powerless to effect that kind of inner change. Verse 9 describes how under the Old Covenant the people of Israel had to abide by ceremonial laws and make sacrifices. When they failed to keep these they broke the covenant and made it void

And their hearts were far from God. God had taken the initiative leading the Israelites out of Egypt. He had taken them by the hand and delivered them time and again. But the people’s hearts weren’t in it. They kept pulling back- wanting a return to Egypt, complaining about the food, making a golden calf, acting immorally.

But under the New Covenant God’s Law is inside us. An inner spiritual change has taken place. Through Christ our hearts have been cleansed. We know we are forgiven. The Holy Spirit living within us now reminds us of Christ’s words, activates our consciences and influences our motives. He writes his moral law in our minds and on our hearts.

The Old Testament ceremonial law and sacrifices are obsolete because of Christ’s sacrifice, but the moral law still stands. It demands an even higher standard of the Christian:

Take the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) Jesus lists a series of high moral teaching on specific topics- including the avoidance of adultery and divorce, the keeping of promises, returning good for evil and loving your enemies. In each case he compares the Pharisees limited or false interpretation of God’s Law with how God intended His law be truly understood. A much higher standard is required.

The first illustration Jesus uses is about murder and anger:       

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago “Do not murder” and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment (21, 22a)

Now “Do not murder” is the 6th Commandment. (Exodus 20:13)  The Pharisees took the Commandment but restricted it to the act of murder alone.   For them the commandment “Do not murder” didn’t challenge their lives at all, it only applied to a few murderers. And that’s the way we tend to think of the 6th Commandment. Indeed, rather like the Pharisees we might pat ourselves on the back and say- “Well I’ve kept that one anyway!! I’ve not murdered anyone.” The Pharisees and scribes had conveniently reduced God’s law to make them happy.

But the Lord says the commandment includes anger in your heart against someone else. The purity of that moral standard challenges all of us. The truth is we have often murdered others in mind and heart and thought. We have nursed resentful thoughts against others. Our spirits have been adversely affected and we have said something to another that shows contempt for that person. We don’t have to literally murder a person to destroy them. We can destroy a person’s reputation, we can undermine confidence in that person by whispering criticism, deliberate fault finding or through passive aggressive behaviour- appearing to affirm a person but actually undermining them on the quiet.

This is what is meant when God’s laws are now written on our hearts as Christians. The Holy Spirit penetrates deep into our hearts and minds. He will not allow us to justify such behaviour or be enslaved by it, as do many who keep the letter of the law alone. But this is actually liberating for us. We continually see our need of his grace and forgiveness as he teaches us by His Spirit to let go of such, and instead allow the fruit of the Spirit to develop within. We see it has to be God’s strength/enabling or we spiral down. And so we are thrown back in reliance on him again and again.

I spoke to a man who had become a Christian two years previously, he told me recently that he thought he was getting worse as a Christian not better. When he described what he meant it was clear that the Spirit had been showing him more things in his life that he had been previously blind to or had thought insignificant. Now he was uncomfortable with these, and the Holy Spirit within him was insisting he put them right- for his own good and for others with whom he came into contact. He was being refined and growing as a Christian after all. Once he saw it like that he was happy to let the Lord keep working in him.

 “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts”

The new covenant provides inward change

The New Covenant also provides Intimacy with God

“I will be their God, and they will be my people” (10).

Under the Old Covenant the worshippers sensed a distance between themselves and God. There were exceptions- Moses met with God ‘face to face’ (Exodus 33:11) and we sense that intimacy in David’s Psalms. However, the people had to go through elaborate procedures/rituals including the blood of animals being sprinkled on them if they were to know the Lord accepted them as clean.

Remember too that only the High Priest could enter the holy of holies the inner room, symbolising entry into God’s very presence, and that only once a year.

But under the New Covenant we enter into our Father’s presence through Jesus Christ. When he died for us on the cross, the temple curtain was torn in two. This symbolises how all who have put their faith in Jesus Christ now enter into God’s very presence. We are even accepted as His sons and daughters. He gives us His Spirit by which we cry “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:15). The relationship is intimate, supportive and personal.

During the American Civil War a young soldier in the Union army lost his older brother and father in the battle of Gettysburg. The soldier went to Washington seeking an exemption from President Lincoln so he could look after his mother and sister. The soldier met a guard at the Whitehouse who told him to go back to the battlefield. He left disheartened and sat on a park bench not far away. Then a small boy came up to him and asked him what was wrong. The soldier explained, and the boy said “I can help you soldier”. He took the soldier, past the gate, apparently unnoticed by the guard. Through the front door, past generals, but no one said a word. Finally they reached the Oval office. The boy didn’t even knock on the door. He walked straight in. There was Abraham Lincoln looking over battle plans. The president said “Good afternoon Todd. Can you introduce me to your friend? And Todd Lincoln said “Daddy, this soldier needs to talk to you. Lincoln gave the soldier his exemption. We have intimate access to the Father because we have been brought near to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. And Christ continues to intercede for us. We can come to the Father anytime, anywhere.

Another image the New Testament uses to describe this intimacy is one of the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep.

It speaks of the sacrifice: Christ is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. And it speaks of His personal knowledge of us: the Lord calls each sheep by name

Sheep are not the clean, cuddly creatures they appear. They are subject to unpleasant pests. They have to be regularly dipped in strong chemicals to rid them of lice, ticks and worms. The roots of ram’s horns, for example, form a breeding ground for maggot eggs. When rams are submerged then everything goes under the disinfectant- ears, mouth and nose included. It’s unpleasant but very necessary. The good shepherd knows us inside out and He must be tough with us for our good. He cares enough about us to do that.

But He also shows us great tenderness and compassion. The Lord pours out many blessings on our lives. He makes us “lay down in green pastures” He tells us not to worry because the Father will provide all we need as we seek His kingdom first. He says “Do not be afraid little flock the Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom”

Think back over His leading of your own life. Think how He has been with you and led you with great tenderness. Think of the great good and many blessings He has brought into your life. He is the Lord who carries His sheep close to His heart. Who searches for the lost and brings back the strays. Who binds up the injured and strengthens the weak.

This intimacy with God is our privilege individually, but also corporately- “I will be their God and they will be my people” We, the Church, are His flock. And under the new covenant God’s people are no longer one nation. Since the Day of Pentecost the Lord has been adding believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews to the Church- the other sheep not of this sheep pen.

Jesus says “I know my sheep and my sheep know me”

The New Covenant provides Intimacy with God.

 

It is our great privilege to live in days of substance rather than shadow; of the New Covenant rather than the Old. Even angels longed to look into what God had prepared for us (1 Peter 1:12). But now the riches of his provision have been revealed. And we praise him for it, for through the New Covenant he gives his power to effect inward change, but more than that he gives us himself so that we know him.

Having drawn us into relationship he is our high priest; one who hears our cries, bears our burdens and continues to intercede for us:

“Before the throne of God above

I have a strong, a perfect plea,

A great High Priest whose name is Love,

Who ever lives and pleads for me.”  (Charitie Lees de Chenez)

……………………………………..

Prayers

Today is the International day of prayer for the persecuted church.

Prayers for persecuted believers:

Imagine a place:

Imagine a place where you could come close to all your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Imagine a time when you could express your hope that they could be made strong. Imagine a way to ask for their protection, for wrongs to be righted, for the world to be redeemed… That place is here. The time is now. The way is prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer, Korean-style. Imagine waking up in your cold North Korean home, praying:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’ Imagine working in a labour camp, praying: ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Imagine searching the mountains for something to eat, praying: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Imagine being forced to take part in a self-criticism session, praying: ‘Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.’ Imagine seeing the wealthy leaders on television, leading a rich life, and praying: ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ Imagine kneeling on your sleep mat each night, praying: ‘Amen.’

Lord, help us to pray Holy Spirit, we barely know how to pray for the pain in our world. Help us, in our weakness, to feel the sighs and groans you utter and to pray for the glory of God to be revealed. Lord Jesus, protect all who follow you – and fill them with joy. Make them more than conquerors through your mighty strength; give them your resurrection power. Creator God, bring all your children to complete unity so that the world will believe in Jesus and your love. Amen.  (Open Doors https://www.opendoorsuk.org/resources/prayer/ )

Keeping Safe:

Father God, we praise you for the eternal security and hope that is ours through trusting in Christ who died and rose again to deliver us from sin and death and reconcile us to you. Please strengthen those who feel weak in their faith and protect them from all harm.

Lord our Healer, we long for Covid-19 to diminish so that people throughout the world may be delivered and can recover from its terrible scourge: causing death, sickness, economic and personal hardship. Grant wisdom to governments and health professionals who are seeking to keep everyone safe.

Sovereign Lord, in this time of sifting, help us to recognise and embrace kingdom priorities and values that we might be ready for your return. Enable us to turn from any idolatry where material concerns have choked the seed of your word (see Update 8/11, Luke 8:4-15), and instead love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbour as ourselves. (DB)

Holy God, please enable us to protect children from degrading, damaging and demoralising pornography online, including on social media. We pray for the government to implement legal age-verification requirements on websites and find other ways to keep young people safe on line.

God of all compassion, we grieve that even more terminations have taken place across Great Britain than in previous years- now too in Northern Ireland and the Republic. We intercede for this tragic tide to turn; for greater support for women and protection of unborn lives.

Lord, we so appreciate those who serve around the clock to protect us from attacks of many kinds, maintain law and order, respond to emergencies and care for the vulnerable. Please help them in their work, and prompt them to look to you for strength in times of need. Amen (from Care Prayer Diary, unless noted, https://care.org.uk/ ).

Hymn

 

For the joys and for the sorrows
The best and worst of times
For this moment, for tomorrow
For all that lies behind
Fears that crowd around me
For the failure of my plans
For the dreams of all I hope to be
The truth of what I am

For this I have Jesus
For this I have Jesus
For this I have Jesus, I have Jesus
(Repeat)

For the tears that flow in secret
In the broken times
For the moments of elation
Or the troubled mind
For all the disappointments
Or the sting of old regrets
All my prayers and longings
That seem unanswered yet

For the weakness of my body
The burdens of each day
For the nights of doubt and worry
When sleep has fled away
Needing reassurance
And the will to start again
A steely-eyed endurance
The strength to fight and win

 

 

Graham Kendrick

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MOS6zb3ysg

 

Blessing

 

May the Lord himself, who is our source of peace, give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with us all. (From 2 Thess. 3).

 

David Barnes 11/11/20