Gathering God’s People
For the last few weeks I have been hampered in my ability to get things done, in any sphere, by a nasty cold which fogged up my brain. However, in the little reading I did get done, there was a discussion about our experience of the worship service being one that should lead us to live a life more like that of Jesus.
But does it? Of course, there are those occasions when we are challenged by the Spirit to examine our lives and in doing that, we have an opportunity to be more like Jesus, but how many of us go to a service with that intention?
Many attend worship services in the hope of being uplifted or inspired to face the week ahead with purpose. A good intention, but possibly not one that should be our first. Others are less self-oriented and go to church to worship, glorify and give thanks to our Maker, the source of all that is good. That is getting close to the best reason for being there but if we could follow through that intention with looking for the effect that worship could have, that is, to be more like Jesus, I think we would have nailed it.
For some, the idea of being more like Jesus might seem so far out of reach, but we have to start somewhere and many of us have been fortunate enough to meet people who, because they started “somewhere” and continued to yield to the working of the Spirit are noticeably more like Jesus now.
This growth is spoken of in the Call to Worship of this week's service:
(B. J. Beu and Mary J. Scifres, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)
“Waiting is seldom easy. Yet, in the process of waiting, we discover new growth. The Spirit moves and breathes, and treasures are sometimes discovered. As we wait this day, may God’s miraculous presence be revealed in us and through us.”
The first hymn reflected the purpose often seen as the highest one in coming to worship.
Hymn TIS 93: “Praise the Lord, you heavens adore him”
Then the Opening Prayer moved us further along the path, asking to be shown the way (to be like Jesus):
Holy One, your kingdom always takes us by surprise— like a mustard seed growing into a great shrub where the birds of the air can build their nests; like a treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl of great price. May we desire your kingdom more than we value worldly things, through Christ, who shows us the way. Amen.
The Prayer of Confession
Here John asked that our hope be transformed into action: another way of asking for us to be changed. And then as our forgiveness was affirmed we were reminded that:
“Nothing can separate us from the love of God: Not death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come. No power on heaven or under the earth can separate us from the love of Christ: Not height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.” That being the case, then, as we walk with God, we become more like Jesus because that example is constantly by our side.
The offering is a time when we show ourselves to be like Jesus - giving for people: giving for the sake of God and for other people. None of this that we give may come back to us but the giving itself changes us for good - to be more like Jesus.
Hymn TIS 106: “Now thank we all our God” Reminds us that God is with us from the time of our birth, guiding us on our way
The Service of the Word
Readings: Genesis 29: 15-28. Romans 8.26-39. Matthew 13: 31-33; 44-52
All these readings carry a message but the one John focussed on was the one from Romans. John spoke of a recent personal experience where he had to draw deep from within to get through the time and showed how God lifts us up at such times.
Sighs for Help - Romans 8:26-39
My own thought is that some burdens are so heavy that we can only act as Jesus would in those situations if we are lifted up and carried through them by God.
John's perspective was this:
“Romans offers words of comfort and reassurance to those of us who carry heavy burdens. At times, we are all too aware of the brokenness of our world. We know that our lives are marred by sin, and we experience suffering in our daily lives…Paul seems to have addressed these words to people like us. They bear witness to the compassionate heart of a pastor, trying to encourage a community during some of the most devastating trials that life offers.”
(Where) 'God’s grace breaks into our lives most powerfully.
“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for Words.” What a wonderful gift God has given to us, that even when our words fail, God’s Spirit is present in ways beyond our human understanding.'
Hymn TIS 547: “Be Thou My Vision” The message is clear.
Music to lead us to prayer followed while we all sat in our own silence.
This is a time when, regardless of the details of the prayer each week, we pray that we and all other people, will act more like Jesus to make this world one of welcome, safety and warmth for everyone.
Hymn TIS 658: “I, the Lord of sea and sky” God hears our plea to be less us and more like Jesus,
Like treasure hidden in a field, Christ offers us the kingdom of God.
All things work together for good for those who love God.
Like a pearl of great price, Christ offers us the kingdom of heaven.
All things work together for good for those who wait for God.
Like a mustard seed that grows into a great shrub, Christ offers us the realm of God’s blessing.
All things work together for good for those who abide in God’s Spirit.
And may the Holy Spirit fill and inspire you with the wonderful knowledge that nothing is able to separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Hymn TIS 780: “May the light come into your eyes”.
Amen to that, and through this may we be made more like Jesus.