Sunday Worship 13th September
Today we were pleased to welcome Debbie Challoner to Blaby Congregational Church, Debbie is our first visiting preacher since the Covid restrictions were imposed.
Jeremiah 17 v8
"He is like a tree growing near a stream and sending out roots to the water. It is not afraid when hot weather comes, because its leaves stay green: it has no worries when there is no rain:it keeps on bearing fruit." Good News Bible
At present we are in the season of Creationtide
In these strange times what of God’s wonderful creation has made you glad? What do you want to give thanks for?
We came up with the following list: our health, our gardens, the sunshine, technology, our friends and family.
Hymn: Come Now is the Time to Worship https://youtu.be/-jU1q33K6yQ
We give thanks for all the beauty which surrounds us
For your glorious flowers
For the bounteous fruit and vegetables which you have provided for us
For the sunshine and the light
For the sunrise and the sunsets which have feasted our eyes
We give thanks for our gardens and our parks
For the lakes and streams and rivers
For the hillsides and beautiful gentle Leicestershire
the networks of footpaths, for woodland and trees,
We give thanks for the rich farmlands and allotments.
Help us Lord Jesus to pause and take time to notice the Earth which you create
The beauty of your people at their best
For our friends and families
And for our church gathered here today here in Blaby and in their homes.
Help us and guide us with your Holy Spirit
So that we remember and give thanks for our neighbours and family,
Everyone throughout the world.
Lord Jesus help us always, despite all the challenges, to live in a spirit of thankfulness to you.
We ask this in your name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: Give thanks with a grateful Heart. https://youtu.be/047xtru0ZR0
John 15 1-17 THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
1-3“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. 4“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. 5-8“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. 9-10“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love. 11-15“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. The Way of Suffering and Death 16“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. 17“But remember the root command: Love one another.
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Devotional Bible: featuring notes & reflections from Eugene H. Peterson . The Navigators. Kindle Edition.
Colossians 1 15-23 The supremacy of the Son of God
15The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Version, International. NIV Bible (p. 888). Hodder & Stoughton. Kindle Edition.
Hymn: Beauty for Brokenness https://youtu.be/3kVHKuldZyw
Reflection on the passages:
So today we have a break from Matthew where you would have heard the passage about how many times we should forgive each other. Not seven times but at least 77 times. Perhaps as we think about celebrating God’s creation (the whole world and everything in it ) we need to ask for God’s forgiveness for what we have all collectively done to the Earth. God forgives us our thoughtlessness and our ways of living our lives that contribute to global heating but also asks us to transform our lives to live lightly on the Earth and to keep on receiving the holy spirit in our lives so that we continue to be transformed and honour the entirety of creation by living in deeper communion with it.
So, for me there is something about trying to reduce my personal carbon footprint but receiving God’s forgiveness when I fail.
A few years ago, Richard and I decided we would no longer fly anywhere. Air traffic contributes about 4% of all global emissions. Not a lot you might say but scientists say if that were severely curtailed it would have a significant impact on global heating. Since we decided this we have holidayed mainly by train which, as someone who comes from Crewe, I relish!
Last year however one of my American nephews got married where he lives in North Carolina. He asked me to conduct the ceremony. I was honoured to be asked and we agreed to accept the invitation. It was difficult however to book the flight. I felt physically sick knowing how the carbon would be burning up. But it was important for me and for my American family that I was there. Since my sister died 6 years ago it has been important for all of us to nurture our relationships.
So the decisions about what we do and how we live are complicated. I think that God forgave me. Perhaps being conscious of how we are personally contributing to global heating is an uncomfortable place and where we all need to dwell as well as marvelling at the natural beauty which God has provided for us. An experience of both joy and suffering.Sometimes when we fail to live lightly it also makes us a little more aware of our own frailties and more understanding of other’s difficulties too.
So, as we think about creation it is difficult to choose from the many glorious passages which celebrate God’s creation.
At the start of lock down I was preoccupied with trees, especially a passage from Jeremiah, which I read earlier, telling of putting down roots deeply near rivers so that we can survive a drought.
At the beginning of lockdown many people have said it felt like going on a retreat. More time to spend in prayer and a chance to reconnect with God. To put roots down a little deeper to cope with the fear of Covid.
The other passage which preoccupied me was the first reading for today. In what way was lockdown an opportunity both for personal pruning but also for the church?
The passage is rich in the imagery of the vine. Imagery which would have been understood well when John was writing. Vines need pruning in order to be more fruitful. They become weak, disease prone and don’t fruit well without pruning. They need feeding at the roots. I remember my grandfather used to use dried blood. They look dead over winter, then miraculously shoot new life.
The word abide is used many times in this passage. It is often translated as remain or live in. Abide in seems to me to be a very helpful translation. We are to abide always in Christ’s love as he always abides in God’s love. It is perhaps a less passive word and one that indicates some mutuality and one that invites us into deep personal relationship with Christ.
A commentary that I read recently suggested that the Greek which usually reads as ‘I am the vine you are the branches’, actually can be translated as ‘I am the vineyard, you are the vines’. This gives a rich metaphor for living in community. All living together and each individually needing tending but contributing to the whole. All supported by the wires that link us all together; the worship we share, our prayer together and our action in the community and the world.
The image of the vine also expresses both suffering and joy. Suffering in being cut back and having fallow times and the dead branches burned and joy in being fruitful and being God’s love in the world. At the end of today’s passage we are called to be friends of Christ, like Jesus’ call to the first disciples. Friends means being in relationships of mutuality. God loves us and we are to love God. Christ loves us and we are to abide in his love and be God’s love and receive God’s love in our relationships with other people and also with all creation.
This leads me to the second passage. Paul begins Colossians by telling the young church that he prays for them from prison. He encourages them to learn in wisdom and in spirit to be fruitful and to live in Christ’s resurrection hope.
The passage reminds us that Christ was created in the image of God and that all things were created in him. That Christ existed before all things. “ In him all things hold together”. If we want to know God we must look to Jesus. To how he lived and taught and healed and loved and also to how he died and was resurrected. How his death and resurrection means a New Creation, where everything- the whole of creation is reconciled in Christ. If the new church is to learn they must learn all they can about Jesus and to learn wisdom they must look to his life.
The passage ends with how his death has reconciled them to Christ and how they should stand firm in abiding in faith of Christ and hearing of the hope of the New Creation.
This passage points us to our interconnectedness of all people and all creatures and all things. Perhaps this is the basis of living a greener life, aware that all our decisions, our ways of living our entire life in Christ is a life deeply connected in the whole of creation. A creation that humankind continues to live destructively. We need to attempt to embody Christ’s reconciliation with all things and to do so with hope and forgiveness. Amen
Hymn: I am a New Creation. https://youtu.be/Ul04yBONzhs