Sunday 23rd January - We All Stand Together
As today marks the start of the week of Prayer for Christian Unity the theme of today's service is Standing Together as Christians.
Opening Words from Ephesians 4:4-6
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Hymn 54 Bind us together Lord https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHJJzD46-qU
For the service
1. Put the jigsaw together to Make the body up !!
2. Sing: Heads, shoulders, knees and toes
Hymn We are one in the spirit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGD_BFSf90c
1 Corinthians 12.12-31a
Comment: We Stand Together
I will start by sharing this video with you -
I hope you enjoyed that nostalgic light hearted look at the video with the song but the sentiment is very true and serious.
This is the week of the prayer for Christian unity – a time when we celebrate that despite our differences we are still united in Jesus. We are called to work together and stand together for the good of the kingdom of God here on earth.
In the children's talk KJ had to piece together the body- and Paul describes the church as a body in which every person has a place and a role, everyone’s role is as important as the next persons. We are all valued. If one suffers, we all suffer, if one rejoices, we all rejoice.
Bodies are complex and intricate things. They come in so many shapes and sizes, and there is great beauty in their variety. It is worth saying that not every part of our bodies is treated with equal dignity or respect.
Notoriously, many people think their feet are ugly or disgusting. Or consider our skin – it is a crucial part of our body that, but we’re unlikely to much think about.
Which part of the body of Jesus are you ? What is your role in His church, in His kingdom?
There is a beautiful, profound simplicity in Paul’s use of the body as an image of what it means to be part of the body of Christ. We are all equally important.
Some of us may already know that we’re important. Maybe we have had a childhood and education that helped us to be confident of our own worth.
Perhaps we have recognised status in our communities, as a leader, an influencer, a minister, or whatever it is.
But not everyone feels like that.
Many of us may feel unimportant and not particularly valuable. Perhaps we are young, non-white, poor, disabled, female, mentally distressed. homosexual. Maybe we are homeless, or refugees. Perhaps we struggle with addiction, or have been abused or imprisoned.
How extraordinary and powerful it is, then, to hear Paul’s confident assertion that we are all actually indispensable, and will be treated with greater honour and respect! How affirming and strengthening does that feel?
But does our church welcome people described above without prejudice and accept them as they are?
Jesus makes it clear in the reading in Luke's gospel that the ‘weaker’ members of the body are those He has come to help.
If we are poor, he will bring us good news.
If we are imprisoned, he will release us.
If we are blind, he will restore our sight and if we are oppressed, he will set us free.
But what does this actually mean? How does this liberation happen?
Well, we who are not weak, have to stand with those who are – we need to walk in their shoes and understand and then work to bring equality and justice.
A recent Coronation street storyline illustrates this (Summer and Amy) where a group needed to get together to convince the school to change their policy. Usually one person cannot initiate change on their own - we need to work together to solve injustice.
Example of Oscar Romero:
As the Roman Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador, although from a humble background himself, his role put him on a par with the rich, ruling elite.
This was at a time when there was a great inequality in South America And seeing such inequality many Catholic priests were preaching the gospel which had a bias towards the poor. as a result of this one of Oscar's best friends was murdered by the security forces within the country because of his work among the poor.
Romero began to teach that we need to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves
This is how he explained it:
‘A building is on fire and you’re watching it burn, standing and wondering if everyone is safe. Then someone tells you that your mother and your sister are inside that building. Your attitude changes completely. You’re frantic; your mother and sister are burning and you’d do anything to rescue them even at the cost of getting charred.
That’s what it means to be truly committed.
If we look at poverty from the outside, as if we’re looking at a fire, that’s not to opt for the poor, no matter how concerned we may be. We should get inside as if our own mother and sister were burning.
Indeed, it’s Christ who is there, hungry and suffering.’
Jesus's words were the very basis of Oscar Romero's life, for when Jesus opened the scroll and read from the book of Isaiah, a passage which His readers would have been very familiar with, Jesus’ words were..
He (God) has chosen Me (Jesus) to bring good news to the poor
He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives
He has sent Me for the blind to see and the oppressed to be set free
But what was even more startling was that He then rolled the scroll back up and said ‘today in your hearing this scripture has come true’
Like Oscar Romero and others before and after him, we need to stand together with those who poor, those who are captives, those who are blind and those who are oppressed.
If we read the three bullet points again and replace Jesus for Me (Julie) - and at this point insert your own name - this is where the church needs to be today. Amen
Hymn 381 Jesus stand among us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4xg-KBei-8
Prayers: For others - especially those on our prayer list
For the church
For the world - for Tonga after the volcanic eruption, for Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Yemen where people are starving and suffering from lack of aid.
Hymn 640 The churches one foundation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jotNbcFelX4
Closing Music - Make us One https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeCRfbe1vik