Sunday 6th June - The In-Crowd

Opening words

Come, all of you, just as you are, to worship. Whether today you feel strong or weak, full or empty, God welcomes you all into God’s in-crowd. Come just as you are to worship


Hymn: For I’m building a people of power https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtxFK-cmVE8


Prayers

Loving Lord, you look us in the eye and remind us that we are already part of your family. Help us to let go of anything that gets in the way, that we may worship you with all our hearts, and wholeheartedly love all our neighbours. Amen.

God of all, as one family we worship you. We are mothers and fathers, we are sisters and brothers, and we worship you. We are sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, grannies, granddads, and we worship you. We are cousins and neighbours, friends and colleagues, and we worship you. As your family, as your church, as your community, we worship you. Amen.

Loving God, in Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit you show us that there is always room at your table for one more. Alleluia! There is always enough time for everyone to be listened to. Alleluia! There is always enough respect for everyone to be valued. Alleluia! There is always enough truth for everyone to grow and learn. Alleluia! There is always a second chance for those who once turned away. Alleluia! For the in-you crowd is always growing and always welcoming. Alleluia! Amen


Lord’s prayer


Hymn: There is a higher throne. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAGX9iWQ8kI


Bible Readings:

Genesis 3.8-15 Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1 Mark 3.20-35


Hymn: Beauty for broken-ness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kVHKuldZyw


Beauty for brokenness Hope for despair Lord, in your suffering This is our prayer Bread for the children Justice, joy, peace Sunrise to sunset Your kingdom increase!

Shelter for fragile lives Cures for their ills Work for the craftsman Trade for their skills Land for the dispossessed Rights for the weak Voices to plead the cause Of those who can't speak

Friend of the weak Give us compassion we pray Melt our cold hearts Let tears fall like rain Come, change our love From a spark to a flame

Refuge from cruel wars Havens from fear Cities for sanctuary Freedoms to share Peace to the killing-fields Scorched earth to green Christ for the bitterness His cross for the pain

Friend of the weak Give us compassion we pray Melt our cold hearts Let tears fall like rain Come, change our love From a spark to a flame

Rest for the ravaged earth Oceans and streams Plundered and poisoned Our future, our dreams Lord, end our madness Carelessness, greed Make us content with The things that we need

Friend of the weak Give us compassion we pray Melt our cold hearts Let tears fall like rain Come, change our love From a spark to a flame

Lighten our darkness Breathe on this flame Until your justice Burns brightly again Until the nations Learn of your ways Seek your salvation And bring you their praise

Friend of the weak Give us compassion we pray Melt our cold hearts Let tears fall like rain Come, change our love From a spark to a flame

Comment


Diverse group of God's people wearing masks
The In Crowd
  • How does this image make you feel?

  • How did you experience the building up of community at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • What did you experience or observe that had the opposite effect?

It seemed to me that one of the good things that came out of lockdown and COVID was the sense of community which people seemed to find. Standing on your doorstep at 8:00 o'clock on a Thursday evening clapping the NHS staff with people on the same street as you, there was something about community. So many people volunteered through the GoodSam app to help and support others, Blaby Elves was formed from the work with Connect Blaby Together a group of volunteers who during the pandemic phoned people up who were lonely, shopped for people who were self-isolating, cooked for those who were struggling. I know that here in this church through the contact that we had with the many people that we phoned on a weekly basis, relationships were formed which perhaps were not there before and which will continue for some time to come.


You will all appreciate that I am a glass half full person and therefore for me however bad COVID was, we must look at the positives that came out of it, and hopefully there are many, the way we live, our appreciation for even the most fundamental of freedoms, the world around us which God has created and which continued to roll into the seasons despite everything else that was happening. God was here all the time. Because we couldn't travel, community became quite important to us and so more and more people felt connected within their community. Shopping locally, buying fresh produce, gardening and growing your own vegetables, going out for walks, positives that have come out of such tragedy.


Today's session is about being part of the in-crowd and I guess that most people at one time or another maybe want to be part of the in-crowd. But in this passage that we have looked at in Mark’s gospel the question we really have to ask is, who is the in-crowd? Is it the Pharisees and the religious leaders, or is it Jesus and his ragamuffin disciples? Which crowd would you want to be part of, the Pharisees or Jesus?


We know that crowds always followed Jesus, it is really remarkable when you think about it there was no media, no TV's, no phones, nothing, and yet through word of mouth people knew about Jesus and followed Him before He had arrived in a town, everyone knew who He was and wanted to see Him, to be part of his crowd. The Pharisees and Sadducees where jealous of Jesus. They were the religious people, crowds should flock to them, to listen to them, to follow them, here was this man of Nazareth claiming to be the Son of God, ignoring most of the religious rules in place and yet, drawing people to him. So how to discredit him to make the people stop following him? And they tried to be clever, they tried to use religious arguments to convince people that Jesus was not who He claimed He was. And in this passage that we have read today, this is what is happening.


Entering the house, crowds flocked to Him and so the religious leaders say He is possessed by the devil. Jesus’ response as always is brilliant, ‘how can a house be divided against itself’, if that were the case it would fail. As always, the Pharisees had no response and so left Jesus with His crowd.


A house divided against itself cannot stand. Central to Jesus’ ministry was the vocation to oppose Satan and heal people of evil spirits. Temptation to not follow Jesus comes in many ways, the subtle voice of the serpent to Adam and Eve, the derisory voices suggesting Jesus was crazy, the accusing voices of the scribes from Jerusalem, the ashamed voices of Jesus’ family. We know only too well the effect of social media on people, the nameless cowards who use it to put others down, to make them feel bad about themselves, this is known to compound negative mental health issues in impressionable young people.


But what are the voices that undermine our own faith in Jesus, that undermine our communities, our friends and our families and how do we confront them like Jesus did?


Then once the Pharisees have left Jesus alone, someone else arrives at the house, this time it is Jesus’ immediate family, his mother and his brothers. They fear for His life, they would be aware of the anger that Jesus was causing and they wanted to protect Him to keep Him safe. What parent does not want to protect your child and keep them safe?


This week Christopher had his first COVID injection, I spoke to him after it and he said he was sweating and hot, this was of course nerves about the injection. the next day I WhatsApped him asking if he was OK? no reply even by 1:30pm, so when I left work I phoned Tony and then went round to his house to see if his car was there. Living on his own who would have known if he wasn't well? See, parents will always worry about their children even when they're 61!! (right mum!) and so quite rightly His family were concerned for Jesus’ life they wanted to take him away from that situation and keep him safe. I always think Jesus’s response is a little bit harsh here, who is my mother and my brothers? it is almost like He is disowning them. But there is no disrespect meant in the comments of Jesus. He is merely pointing out that He has a mission in life, to show his Father’s love and forgiveness to all people, and anyone who shares that mission with Him is His family. We are, as Christians, brothers and sisters of Jesus. Jesus’ family tried to stop him in His mission and fortunately failed, so now we are all invited to be part of His family – part of God’s in-crowd.

Jesus is slandered by the religious leaders of his day and misunderstood by his family – nevertheless, there are new bonds between people so that ‘Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’.


Jesus’ whole life was about bringing us back to God, bringing us into the in-crowd, I know that today Christianity sometimes feels like we are in the out crowd, the Christian faith seems to play so little a part in our world today. Other temptations have crept into our society which means that it's not ‘cool’ to be a Christian. Now more than ever we need to be sharing the love and forgiveness of God in our world to make people feel that they do belong, no-one is to be an outcast, for Jesus calls all of us together into his community, and we need to learn how to better bring that about in Blaby, to make people feel that they are part of something which everyone else wants to be part of. This is the mission of the church to show God's love and forgiveness to all people, to embrace every single person whatever their colour, their race, their creed, their sex, we are to embrace them as one, and make them feel part of Jesus’s in-crowd. May God show us how to be this all-embracing place that is safe and loving and forgiving, what part can I play in making people feel part of our community?

Amen


Hymn: Brother sister let me serve you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JahFRDrSCs


Prayers

Lord Jesus, when our in-crowd is not your crowd: forgive us, and help us to build community. When our words are harsh and our actions unkind: forgive us, and help us to build community. When we judge others rather than join with others: forgive us, and help us to build community. When we are set in our ways and not open to change: forgive us, and help us to build community. To the glory of your name. Amen.

God of truth and mercy, where we break down – you build up; where we damage – you repair; where we blaspheme – you bless; where we isolate – you include; where we go wrong – you put us right; where we confess – you forgive; where we begin again – you are with us. In Jesus’ name. Amen

God of truth, we pray for those who are slandered today; for those in the public eye whose lives are laid open to the world… Protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

we pray for journalists tempted to tamper with truth; and for those whose lives are in danger for telling hard truth, especially those in Belarus.... protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

We pray for sportsmen and women facing the pressures of winning... and losing… protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

We pray for families where half-truths have destroyed trust and broken relationships, where there is estrangement…. protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

We pray for one another, especially where we have been hurt by the words of others and felt excluded. protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

God of all people and all places, we pray for the interpreters and others from Afghanistan who will soon be leaving the UK, that they will be welcomed and valued and drawn into the communities around them. As we pray for them, Lord help us to support them in Jesus’ name.

We pray for those who fear being evicted in the next days and weeks, for those struggling to pay their mortgages, for those living in hostels and temporary accommodation… As we pray for them, Lord help us to support them in Jesus’ name.

We pray for those who are worried that, if restrictions aren't lifted as planned, they will lose their livelihoods, their health, their future... As we pray for them, Lord help us to support them in Jesus’ name.

We pray for children and young people worried about exams, about their futures, and for those excluded from, and all who struggle with, school. As we pray for them, Lord help us to support them in Jesus’ name.

We entrust to you loving God our communities, and communities around the world that are in turmoil. We pray for our families, and the families of all those who have died suddenly and violently. We pray for our church in this place, and in places where there is division and danger.

God of our brokenness, unite us. Bring healing where there is hatred, trust where there is fear, and comfort where there is grief – in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Hymn: Take my life and let it be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf11rReeWIs


Grace