Sunday Worship - July 5th 2020

Opening words:

Jesus says: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’

Let us come to the Lord Jesus. Let us seek his rest.

Opening prayers:

We are here today, Lord, to worship you.

As we bow our heads before you,

we want to be amazed by your wisdom,

bowled over by your love,

and completely lost in you.

Lord, open our hearts to receive you,

in ways beyond whatever we could ever ask

or even think.

Amen.

Father God, we are here today,

to praise you, to learn from you.

Your wisdom, shown to us through Jesus,

your most precious Son,

is far greater than that of the world.

It has the power to confound all our expectations.

We approach you now as children,

sitting at your feet,

bathed in your love,

hanging on your every word.

Speak to us, Lord.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Bible Readings

Psalm 145.8-14; Zechariah 9.9-12; Romans 7.15-25a; Matthew 11.16-19,25-30

Comments on Bible Readings:

So for many lockdown is easing but for Leicester lockdown has gone back to the beginning. I am outside the zone, Blaby is the border, we are all in the grey area on the map and could have been included. How mad must those people be who have followed the rules absolutely? For so many in Leicester and surrounding areas this is the case. IF the news is to be believed it is the young people aged 20-40 where the spike has occurred. Those who feel safe and so don’t bother to follow the rules, who still play football and cricket in large gatherings, who still have parties in their homes, who don’t follow the simple rules of washing hands regularly, those who are forced back to work (even though they are ill) because money and keeping your business going is more important than the

rules and lives. So now, we who have followed the rules and were just getting our freedom back are subject to them again.

Yet those who took to their cars and crowded Bournemouth beach (against the rules) were not sent home, Dominic Cummings who checked his eyesight by travelling 30 miles to a beauty spot was exercising his judgement, all those who attended Black Lives Matter rallies were not split up or fined even though large gatherings is not allowed. Why does it seem that Leicester is being made the scapegoat here for a) lack of any cohesive policy on track and trace b) incomplete data collection of those performing the pillar 2 tests and c) Government who stopped sharing data on tests/infection rates and death rates at a critical moment as we moved out of lockdown. Sometimes it feels like one rule for some and another rule for others.

Jesus too was judged by the rules of His day, the religious rules which always seemed to have one rule for some and another for others. Always the law was on the side of those who had, those who thought they were righteous. So many could not attend the synagogues as rules were put in place to keep them out. It was to these outcasts (those outside) that Jesus went. He called the Pharisees and Sadducees whitewashed tombs, looking good on the outside, but inside they were empty, devoid of human passion and lacking the spirit of God. The religious leaders longed for the coming Messiah but He had to ‘fit’ their idea of the Messiah. Jesus did not do that, rather he challenged their ideas. Before Him they were nothing, they were afraid of His power, His popularity (which they could only dream of ) and His ability to bring the scriptures to life. But the religious leaders didn’t like John either, yet they were both so different, so what did they want?

‘For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’ Matthew 11:18-19

Zechariah gives examples of the expectations that the people of Israel had about the Messiah: someone coming as a powerful king. What they got instead was John the Baptist and Jesus. John had a strange ascetic lifestyle and Jesus’ lifestyle involved having parties with ‘sinners’. Neither of them fitted the expectation of the coming king.

Zechariah in his book talked about the future of Israel and sighted that the Messiah the chosen one would come to redeem the nation. No time scale was given for this but the well-known passage that we read on Palm Sunday shows God’s vision of a King who would bring peace and come peacefully. Riding not on a horse (the sign of war) but on a donkey (the sign of peace), upsetting expectations, in His time and in ours.

The psalmist writes with confidence of the works of the Lord, looking towards a time when His kingdom will come and praising as if it has already begun. The everlasting kingdom has always been here and will continue to endure it; in it the Lord is not remote like earthly kings but present to support his people. For Paul, in Romans the contest for authority is not between kings and their subjects but between his mind that wants to do good and his body that leads him into sin. It is a battle for control that we still fight every day. We know what we should do but sometimes we are led astray. I am trying to lose weight so every morning I think I will just have fruit for breakfast, cereals for lunch and a proper dinner. Then we get to lunch time and the fridge is full of so much lovely food that my stomach goes ‘you need that’. I have just come back from lunch with Carol Lacey and she had brought donuts – there my diet went again!.(they were lovely though!) God’s kingdom is not external it is within us and we are to be perfect vessels that He fills with His Holy Spirit. More of Him and less of us.

In Matthew’s Gospel we see that the people of Israel have been waiting centuries for the Messiah and then two candidates seem to come along at the same time. They catch a glimpse of the promise fulfilled but something doesn’t seem right: John comes exhorting them to seek forgiveness (even though they are already the children of God) and Jesus’ tactic is to have parties with ‘sinners’. John, they think, is too austere; Jesus is too jolly. Even John’s expectations about the Messiah and the kingdom he would bring were thrown off course, and from prison he asks for clarity. Jesus can see the people’s dilemma and responds by saying, ‘I’m here: this is what I’m offering. You’ll find it’s good, though not always easy.’ Jesus is fulfilling the Scriptures, but he may have interpreted the Scriptures in his own way, not being swayed to meet expectations.

In this passage we see Jesus mock those who are ‘wise’, as he suggests that their longing for wisdom blinds them to what God is really doing. It is in fact vulnerable and humble children who are most likely to be in tune with God. Come to me as a child with a pure heart and you will see and find God. Accept Him for who he is without doubt and we will grow in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Rules and regulations will not help us find Jesus – it is a heart that is uncluttered and free that will find Jesus, that will embrace Him and be led and guided by Him.

But sometimes are hearts are heavy and burdened, as it is hard to find Him. For those Jesus used the image of a yoke. We often think a yoke can be a burden – we put something on a person to tie them to us – to burden them, but Jesus is saying He will take this burden from us, He will share the yoke – the burden. But a yoke is also a way of connecting two animals as they are ‘yoked’ together. So, the image of sharing a yoke with Jesus suggests being paired and guided by him as well as him offering to help bear our burdens. This then is a lovely image of Jesus taking our burden.

Jesus’ suggestion that we put on his yoke is unique to Matthew. With our hindsight knowledge of what the future holds for him, we may wonder about sharing His load. But Jesus is offering to share our load, to be in the yoke of life with us. In being yoked with him we can go his way, released from conformity to laws to learn from him how to overturn expectations and know true rest. In learning from him we allow a new story to be written, one that embraces hearing the flute and dancing. Like children, we are to look at the world in our own way, freed from the burden of wisdom and intelligence, to simply come into His presence and find His peace.

Activities:

Spot the Difference puzzle - Donkey with a heavy load

Backpacks with word puzzles

Prayers:

Lord, sometimes I feel as if I’m on a fast train.

Life rushes by and I don’t have time to pause.

Lord, I want to take time to see the view that your wisdom, through Jesus, gives me;

to come to you in prayer, expecting far more than I could ever believe possible.

Bless me with your presence, Lord. Amen

We pray for all in authority, that they will be respectfully conscious of the weight on their shoulders, and that they will act responsibly for the people they serve.

We pray for them in their personal lives, with the worries and cares that only they see.

We pray for our friends, family, colleagues.

We pray that as we walk alongside them, you will use us to bring them close to you, and they will learn of your love, O Lord.

We pray that we might be sensitive to the needs of those around us – the people we see every day, perhaps as fleetingly as at the shops, or in the bus queue.

We have no idea what burdens they are carrying, or if they need a kind word from you that only we can give.

We pray for those in lock-down who are isolated and alone – who are anxious and worried. Give to them your peace.

We pray that we will see the positive in people, even when it’s hard, and reach out to encourage them. Amen.

Lord, you know how weary and bowed down we feel sometimes.

We claim your rest for our souls.

We come to you in our emptiness and cry to you for your fullness.

Rescue us and fill us, Lord. Amen.

Hymns:

I danced in the morning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV15StV6TK0

266 I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDEgli4aQDo