9.15am Service at KMC on 18th June
Due to "public demand" we asked Tony Judd to provide us with his summary notes of the 9.15am Service which he led at KMC on Sunday 18th June, which he has kindly done. So, for those of us who missed it, or would like to remind ourselves what was said and sung, here goes :
"Last Sunday’s 9.15 service was not recorded. This is a summary of what I said, but to get the full effect you must read, or preferably sing, the hymns.
(Note that the service took place before the Finsbury Park attack).
"Sheep without a Shepherd"
A week ago a friend expressed sadness at the state of the world around us: the Manchester bomb; terrorist attacks; greed, crime and nastiness in business and commerce. “So much evil” she said. “This is God’s world, but how can he allow it?” And after she said that came the Kensington fire.
I propose to address this concern in our worship, in the lectionary readings, in our prayers and especially in the hymns.
"God of grace and God of glory/ Heal your children’s warring madness
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days". (Hymn 682) .
On the TV news we have seen fear, grief and pain among the sufferers from disasters, and we have our own doubts. The first thing to hold on to is that Christ is with us in these dark places, and brings light there.
"God of my faith, I offer you my doubt, my fear, my grief, my pain
God of my life, light in the darkness." (Hymn 629).
"Sarah’s laughter" (a story from Genesis chapters 18 and 21)
Abraham and his family were resting in their tents resting under trees at Mamre. At midday three travellers appeared. Abraham welcomed them and offered hospitality. He ordered Sarah to prepare a meal while he engaged in conversation. One of them said that by the time they returned a year later Sarah would have a son. Sarah, who had been hiding in the tent, overheard and laughed in derision, knowing that she was too old. The visitor heard her and took her to task, asking whether anything is impossible for God.
And she did conceive and bear a son, and then she laughed for joy, and named him Isaac, which means “laughter”.
Paul wrote (2 Cor 5 v 19) “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself”. We may laugh in derision, the world being in the state it is. There is so much evil! But don’t make Sarah’s mistake! Don’t underestimate what God can do. He will make us laugh for joy.
Reading Matthew 9 v 35 – 10 v 1 Jesus sends his disciples to minister to the people.
Sermon part 1: "Sheep without a shepherd".
Jesus attracted crowds by his healing and teaching, describing them as “harassed and helpless”, “sheep without a shepherd”.
It reminds me of the scenes on TV of the crowds marching on Kensington Town Hall. Jesus sent his disciples to help them, and later he sent us (Matthew 28 vv 19-20) “Go to all … make them my disciples … baptize them … teach them to observe all that I have commanded you”. The world is in a bad state and we are called to put it right. We are called to heal and teach as Jesus did.......To heal, in body and mind.
We are good at medical healing and not quite so good at psychiatric help. Healing also includes peace-making and reconciliation.
To teach, to put people right with God. We emphasise evangelism because we want people to experience the saving grace of Jesus as we do. We want to convert them, to bring about an evangelical revival. And because there has been no such revival we feel we have failed. But have we?
I can’t do better than to remind you of what David Waters said here last week. He said it better than I can. He referred to the Arianna Grande concert and the references by the performers to the love of God and the need for peace and reconciliation. He referred to people’s practical good-neighbourliness after the Manchester bombing (which was repeated after the Kensington fire). What did Jesus tell us to do but to love our neighbours? After these disasters we saw countless examples of people doing just that. At a personal level, when I had an accident recently I was overwhelmed by people’s help and kindness.
I believe people have heard Jesus’ commands. Many may not acknowledge him, but they do what he said. They may not experience the presence of the living Lord Jesus as we do, they may not have been “converted”, but the Holy Spirit works in them and through them without their knowing it. We have been preaching Christianity in this country for nearly 2000 years, and we have been very successful. Though most outside our doors may reject Christ and the institutional church, they do his work. And if a Muslim loves his neighbour, is not the Holy Spirit in him?
Now of course that is not the whole story. The people whose tears flowed in love at Arianna Grande’s concert may have been mean to their families when they got home. The people who are so generous to those burned out of Grenfell Tower are probably selfish when it comes to making a profit in their business or paying their taxes. But I think that most of the people in this country have got most of the Christian message and heed it most of the time.
We sheep have been in the Valley of the Shadow of Death in the last few weeks – Kensington, Manchester Arena, London Bridge. But we have a shepherd who cares for us.
"The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want
Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale, yet will I fear no ill;
Thou art with me, and thy rod and staff me comfort still " (Hymn 480)
Some verses that pick out one of the themes of the second lectionary reading.
Reading Romans 5 vv 1,6,10
Sermon part 2 "Peace, reconciliation and salvation".
Those verses selected to pick from a complex passage pick out the theme, that the work of Christ is to reconcile us to God – us as individuals, and us as the world (“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself”, where we started from). This “reconciliation” is the building of the world that God intends, what Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the book of Revelation it is the City of God, the New Jerusalem, where the light of God shines, where the river of life flows, where the trees that heal the nations grow, from which all accursed things disappear and where we shall see God face to face.
The work of God, to which we are called, is to build it.
Here is a parable.
At the beginning of May Wall Wood at the end of Tatton Street and King Street is transformed by a carpet of bluebells. It is the work of God and it is beautiful. This is how it happens.
The bulbs lie dormant in the winter. On good days in spring warmth brings them to life, but then a frosty spell stops their growth. A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil causing rain to fall in Knutsford and the bluebells grow, and then an unseasonal dry spell halts them. The first leaves appear and a child runs through the wood and crushes them. A dog does what dogs do and scratches them up, but still they grow. A vandal, from pure destructiveness, pulls them out by the handful. A lighted cigarette is thrown setting fire to some dried leaves, and still they grow. Beset by good and evil, by meaningless chance, in spite of all they suffer, in May they present a carpet of heavenly blue, the glory of God in miniature in our town.
That is how God will bring in the Kingdom of Heaven, by random steps, some forward, some backward, some good, some bad, through successes and through disasters, triumphs and failures, earthquake, wind and fire, by a path of glory at times and of madness at times, but in the end the New Jerusalem, will be built on a new earth.
This old hymn says it. In verse 2 Cowper uses the word “big” as he would have described a pregnant woman as being “big with child”. The image is of a storm cloud that appears threatening but is actually about to give birth to God’s love.
"God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform
The clouds you so much dread are big with mercy,
And shall break in blessings on your head". (Hymn 104)
We conclude with the first hymn in the book. It is the first because it is the best, and has the best tune.
"All people that on earth do dwell, sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell; come he before him and rejoice.
For why?! The Lord our God is good; his mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure
TO Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the God whom heaven and earth adore,
From earth and from the heavenly host be praise and glory evermore".