Ian led today’s service with Amanda helping with the singing and notices. Matty shared some thoughts from the men’s Bible study, He reflected on Jeremiah 13 and the linen belt or loincloth that God had instructed Jeremiah to buy and then to hide in a crevice in the rocks. When Jeremiah was eventually instructed to go and retrieve it, it was spoilt and ruined. Matty reflected that this was like God’s gifts for us and that without care they too would be ruined.
Yvette brought us the word from Phillipians 2 5:11. We may all remember that verse that says that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.
Yvette outlined some of the background to the letter. Paul’s letter is to the Philippians, written from a prison cell (again!). It’s written to an important group of Christians who have formed the first church on mainland Europe. Phillipi is important in Roman world as it is a city with it’s own autonomous authority.
The passage is about unity and selflessness. Paul in describing putting others first, describes perfectly what his own attitude is, modelled on Christ . The attitude we give to people is usually the attitude we get back. We are windows to Christ and what we need to do is make sure what we portray is not distorted. Jesus never turned anyone away, he always made time for people and also for his father. We reflect on this Palm Sunday with our crosses made from palms that the people who welcomed him on this day subsequently turned on him, denied him, betrayed him and turned their backs on him.
Jesus knew this was going to happen. He even asked for this terrible cup or burden to be lifted from him, He never lost sight of the fact that what needed to happen was whatever God willed and he did it, he did God’s will. We all can appreciate and realise what it being betrayed by his friends must have felt like, it must have hurt. Jesus goes to his death, a painful death. It’s not an easy death. The details are disputed about exactly where the nails went. Modern research now suggests that the nails in his feet might have been done sideways. Whatever the details there is no doubt that this is a truly horrible death. Crucifixion is death by suffocation. Because he loves us and loves his Father he suffers this.
The gospels show how much he loved us and loved his father. Yvette pondered on the fact that even though he had unlimited and ultimate power, Jesus chooses the powerlessness of living as a human to save us, the feeding living being tempted , and being constrained by time. He came as a carpenter, a jobbing builder, a nobody, to a young unmarried mother. We don’t even know if Joseph is there to act as a stepdad as we don’t hear about him again in the gospels. The first 30 years of the life of Jesus reveal very little we hear nothing. He could have come in power with the heavenly army. Instead he came as a baby, grew to be a worker and a servant. The era that Jesus is born into people could actually sell themselves as slaves, they could be there voluntarily . Thankfully we were bought at a price from Satan, freed when Jesus paid the price and set us free. The more time we spend in God’s presence the more we become like he wants us to be. Jesus is irresistible. All who meet him bend the knee. We need to see nothing but him . Imagine if people could see the sun (the Son) in our eyes. Imagine the consequences. More prayer gives more power.When we obey we are rewarded. Imagine the treasures we are building up. Yvette finished by praying for the coming Holy Week and Easter.
Reflecting on what Yvette had preached on I was reminded of some of the training I had undertaken for Hartlepool Town Pastors. Part of that training focussed on avoiding conflict and being aware of how our actions affect and influence others. The Betari Box model expresses the fact that our attitudes and behaviours have a direct effect on the attitudes and behaviours of others. We need to let the Son shine from us and be the best Bible that people get to read each day. A tall order and we will not always manage it. The good news is that God does not hold it against us. We get to keep on trying each and every day.
The men’s Bible study on Monday continued their journey with Jeremiah and it seems apt to end with Jeremiah’s prayer and God’s answer. What false gods or worthless idols are people following today?
19 Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress,
to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say,
“Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good.
20 Do people make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!”
21 “Therefore I will teach them—this time I will teach them
my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord