Thoughts for the week commencing 18th November 2019
This week's thoughts are written by Mark Miles and are based on
Luke 21: 5-19; 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13 and Psalm 98
Luke 21: 5-6
5 Some of the disciples were talking about the Temple, how beautiful it looked with its fine stones and the gifts offered to God. Jesus said, 6 “All this you see—the time will come when not a single stone here will be left in its place; every one will be thrown down.”
In this week’s opening verses from Luke, we hear about how Jesus’ disciples are admiring the temple and its beauty. The temple is described as being “beautiful with its fine stones and the gifts offered to God”. It is not surprising that this is the case, as the rebuilding of the temple had begun some twenty or so years before Jesus’ birth and was continually being added to, I guess a bit like the Sagrada Família in Barcelona. We know from scholars that the cloisters and columns were made of pure gold and marble and there is no doubt it would have been an impressive sight.
Over the years I have enjoyed looking round various religious buildings of what I guess are of comparable splendour. Some of my favourites include York Minster, Sagrada Família, St Peter’s Basilica, and probably my favourite of all – Notre Dame before the fire. I am sure you can think of places of worship you have visited which are equally beautiful.
Yet, as alluded to by Jesus, there is a danger that the buildings and symbols of worship are themselves worshipped and taken more note of than the real reason of worship. Maybe we can also be caught up in worrying ourselves about the fabric of building and not the act of worship itself. I am not saying that we should neglect or forget about the buildings but it is important we get the balance right. I can certainly say that some of the most moving acts of worship I have been to have not been in church but been in other places such as houses or other buildings. Let us always remember that church is primarily about worship and people, not about the buildings.
Hymn for today: The Church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing their thanks for his goodness this day.
The Church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way. (Carol R. Ikeler R&S 583 v1)
Luke 21: 7-11
7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will this be? And what will happen in order to show that the time has come for it to take place?” 8 Jesus said, “Watch out; don't be fooled. Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time has come!’ But don't follow them. 9 Don't be afraid when you hear of wars and revolutions; such things must happen first, but they do not mean that the end is near.” 10 He went on to say, “Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. 11 There will be terrible earthquakes, famines, and plagues everywhere; there will be strange and terrifying things coming from the sky.
Jesus could sense the troubles ahead both for him and his disciples, knowing that he was soon to clash head on with the Romans, and furthermore predicted that the Temple would be destroyed in due course. It is thought that the Temple was not finished until AD 64 and by AD 66 war and strife had set in, with the Temple eventually being destroyed. Jerusalem had fallen by AD 70. Jesus knew that in these times of unrest it would not be easy to be a Christian. At this time the world would be full of people with huge emotions, anger, terror, and hatred but the disciples were not to get carried away by it all, but in fact see it as an opportunity for mission and to spread the Good News.
Just as mission was important for the disciples of the time it is just as important for us today. The challenges of undertaking mission are very different today than they were in Jesus’ time, but challenging nonetheless. We have a great opportunity at Wylde Green to go out and tell others about God and Jesus. It will not be easy but whether we are doing this at home, work, school or even down the pub we can do so in the knowledge that Jesus and God are with us. We should not be afraid to do God’s work as he will always be with, wherever we are.
Hymn for today: Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by your name; you are mine.
1. When you walk through the waters I’ll be with you,
you will never sink beneath the waves.
2. When the fire is burning all around you,
you will never be consumed by the flames.
3. When you dwell in the exile of the stranger,
remember you are precious in my eyes.
4. You are mine, O my child; I am your Father,
and I love you with a perfect love. (Gerald Markland, 1978 R&S 591)
Luke 21: 12-19
12 Before all these things take place, however, you will be arrested and persecuted; you will be handed over to be tried in synagogues and be put in prison; you will be brought before kings and rulers for my sake. 13 This will be your chance to tell the Good News. 14 Make up your minds ahead of time not to worry about how you will defend yourselves, 15 because I will give you such words and wisdom that none of your enemies will be able to refute or contradict what you say. 16 You will be handed over by your parents, your brothers, your relatives, and your friends; and some of you will be put to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a single hair from your heads will be lost. 19 Stand firm, and you will save yourselves.
In a continuation from yesterday’s verses, Jesus also knew that there would be times when the disciples were undertaking that their mission their own faith would be questioned, their lives would be in danger, and sometimes lost. The disciples would undoubtedly suffer persecution and imprisonment, yet Jesus tells them not to be afraid. He will himself be with them through their troubles and strife and they will be saved. His closing words in the passage – “Stand firm and you will save yourselves”.
These words were written some 2000 years ago, and here in the UK we are not persecuted because of our faith. Sometimes I am sure it can feel that we are in the minority, but not persecuted. Yet there are many Christians around the world for whom persecution is real and their lives are in danger. Many of you will be aware that I undertook a number of the URC’s education courses as I was training to be a lay preacher. On one of these courses, there was a lady who was from South Korea. She often told us of the challenges she and her family had to be Christians in her own country and the measures they had to take in order to worship “safely”. It was quite frightening. This is just one example though with many others suffering similar fates, and dare I say worse, throughout the world.
In 1955, a young Dutchman went on a journey to Warsaw and saw the persecution of Christians and churches with his own eyes. This Dutchman was so moved to do something positive that he continued to visit various places in Eastern Europe, delivering scripture and encouraged persecuted believers to be strong. Out of his actions “Open Doors” was formed. Open Doors currently works in over 60 countries, supplying Bibles, training church leaders, providing practical support and emergency relief, and supporting Christians who suffer for their faith. In the UK and Ireland Open Doors works to raise awareness of global persecution, mobilizing prayer, support and action among Christians. More details about the organisation and how we can help support them can be found at www.opendoorsuk.org
Prayer for today
Loving God, we pray today for those fellow Christians who worship you under the threat of persecution. We ask that you will be with them, giving them strength and reassurance, knowing that you are there. We pray too for organisations such as Open Doors who help support those who are persecuted. Amen
2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13
6 Our friends, we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to keep away from all believers who are living a lazy life and who do not follow the instructions that we gave them. 7 You yourselves know very well that you should do just what we did. We were not lazy when we were with you. 8 We did not accept anyone's support without paying for it. Instead, we worked and toiled; we kept working day and night so as not to be an expense to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to demand our support; we did it to be an example for you to follow. 10 While we were with you, we used to tell you, “Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat.”11 We say this because we hear that there are some people among you who live lazy lives and who do nothing except meddle in other people's business. 12 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command these people and warn them to lead orderly lives and work to earn their own living.13 But you, friends, must not become tired of doing good.
Our reading from the second letter to the Thessalonians neatly follows on from the latter part of the Luke passage, urging us not to be lazy and to work hard. The work referred to is to spread Jesus’ love and to proclaim the gospel like Jesus told his disciples to. We are extremely blessed at Wylde Green to have recently (in fact over 2 ½ months ago now – where does time go!) welcomed Chris Dowd as our new minister. After three years of interregnum where the church was naturally stretched as it tried to keep going and continue God’s work, there is undoubtedly a natural reaction to breathe a sigh of relief and think we can now put our feet up and have a bit of a rest. Those of you that have got to know Chris since he joined us will know he won’t let us do this either! Today’s reading should act as a warning to us that this should not be the case and now is in fact it the time for us to work harder. Now is the time for Wylde Green and all of its members and friends to work together to tell others about the wonderful God we have.
Thought for today:
What more can you do to contribute to the mission of the church?
O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. 2The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 3He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. 4Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. 5Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. 6With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD. 7Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. 8Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy 9at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
Today’s verses from Psalm 98 act a general summary to the week as a whole and remind us why we worship God. No matter how difficult we may find worshipping God or carrying out mission and no matter how tired we may feel by doing good, we do it “for he has done marvelous things” for us. So as we go about our lives let sing a new song to the Lord and let’s make it loud so all can hear it.
Hymn for Today
Sing aloud, loud, loud,
Sing aloud, loud, loud,
God is good, God is truth,
God is beauty: praise him! Percy Dearmer (1867-1936) (R&S 274 chorus)