Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Journey of Faith - Earth Day

Welcome and Call to Worship

Today is Earth Day. Our Hy-Tide Group have been inviting us to think of all we can do to care for the wonderful world of God’s creation. They invite us to share in coffee and refreshments after the service they have prepared with Eilidh’s help the Vegan way.

Out service begins with an invitation, one for us to take to heart. Please join in with the response …

Come, let us dwell in God’s shelter.
Let us dwell in God’s work of art.
Come, because the Earth is the Lord’s,
And God’s Earth is our home.

We live in God’s World; we are not alone.
We share this life with the heavens and the earth,
With the waters and the land,
With trees and grasses,
With fish, birds, and animals,
With minerals and creatures of every form,
And with all our brothers and sisters.
God is good and everything God makes is good.
God is love and everything God makes is love’s fruit.

Let us worship God … as we sing the first three verses of our first hymn 

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia, alleluia!

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfolds God’s blessings on our way,
O praise him, alleluia!

147 All creatures … 1-3

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Let’s turn in the Church Bibles to Psalm 19 – page.

We are going to join in saying Psalm 19

It is a wonderful Psalm that begins with a celebration of God’s glory in creation in verses 1-6.

It then goes on to remind us of the Law of the Lord and the way the Bible gives us all the guidance we need to care for God’s creation in verses 7 to 11.

Verses 12-13 are a prayer of confession for the wrong things we do that damage the world of  God’s creation.

And then verse 14 is a wonderful prayer each of us can make our own.

I’ll say one line and then we all respond with the second line through the Psalm – there’s a rhythm right through the Psalm as the second line echoes the meaning of the first.

Psalm 19 using the Church Bible

And now we’ll sing verses 4,5 and 7 of our first hymn …

And all who are of tender heart,
Forgiving others take your part
Let all things their Creator bless
And worship God in humbleness
O praise him, Alleluia!

147 verses 4, 5 and 7

We welcome Linda into Church Membership

Belonging to church we commit to each other in our shared faith in God and in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour to make a difference in our world. It’s great to welcome into church membership today Linda Hoarau – our hope and prayer is that Highbury can be a place to share Christian friendship, explore Christian faith and enter into Christian mission with Christ at the centre and open to all.

On this earth day it is a reminder to us that our mission involves caring for the world around us and the wonder of God’s creation.

Our commitment is to care for the world of God’s creation – it also to care for each other. Two things were important to those very first followers of Jesus – prayer – they prayed regularly each day – and bringing healing to people who were hurting in the name of the risen Jesus Christ.

Angela is going to tell us what happened very early on in the life of the church as they continued to meet and to grow in Jerusalem

Peter and John went to pray – Angela

A Hy-Spirit Song

Activities for all over 3

The One who Leads to Life

There’s a wonderful moment in the Easter story that happens a week after Resurrection day – Doubting Thomas had not been with the others when Jesus appeared to them that day. He had been adamant when they told him they had seen the Lord …

‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

So it was one week later that he was there when Jesus appeared again and said once again,

‘Peace be with you.’

Then he said to Thomas, and looked him in the eye

 ‘Put your finger here and see my hands.
Reach out your hand and put it in my side.
Do not doubt but believe.’

Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

The words Jesus said next are among the most wonderful words in the Gospel story.

Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

And then John explains why –

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

There are those who have the most remarkable experiences and it is as good as seeing the risen Christ. There are those who want to wait until they have such an experience before coming to a real faith.

I treasure those words of Jesus, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

For it is in John ‘s words, through believing that we have life in his name.

I think that’s wonderful – something wonderful to take to heart for all of us.

Luke was one of those writers in the New Testament who had not actually seen Jesus with his own eyes. But he had come to believe. He had come to a newness of life. And he researched who this Jesus was. And then told the story of Jesus and the journey he made to the heart of the Jewish world in Jerusalem in the Gospel that bears his name and the story of the beginnings of the church and the many journeys followers of The Way took to bring the Good News of Jesus to Rome and the heart of the Roman Empire.

The Gospel ends with Easter and Resurrection … and Acts begins with the final appearances of Easter and Resurrection. The whole story hinges on Resurrection at Easter and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Luke notices that in spite of all Jesus’ teaching, on Resurrection day his followers had still not ‘got it’. In particular they had not understood how to read the words of their Bible as Jesus intended.

That Psalm 19 we read earlier is a wonderful psalm that celebrates the Glory of God in creation and the Law of the Lord in the Bible Jesus himself used.

The problem is that the scriptures of the Old Tesatment can be difficult to read – they are prone to misunderstanding. And those friends of Jesus still hadn’t got it. They still imagined that the one who would come to bring new life, freedom, the kingdom of God, would come with military might to overthrow the hostile powers of the World.

On the day of resurrection, first with the two on the Road to Emmaus and then in the Upper Room Jesus went through the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms and all the Hebrew Scriptures showing how he was the fulfilment of them all.

And they got it. What the two friends from Emmaus said says it all ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’

What’s fascinating is that as Luke tells the story from that moment on in Acts he time and again comes back to the way the first followers of Jesus explained their faith in Jesus by showing that he really was the fulfilment of all the Scriptures of all had said.

Acts contains a remarkable number of the speeches the first followers of Jesus gave. It is as if they are drawing on the way Jesus opened up the Scriptures for them.

Peter and John continued the practice of so many in Jerusalem and shared in prayer three times a day, going to the Temple. It was at 3 o’clock in the afternoon that they were accosted by someone unable to walk – and they brought healing to him in the name of Jesus Christ the messiah of Nazareth.

They then go on to explain what has happened …

Reading: Acts 3:11-16

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. 12When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

Notice verse 13 – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the  God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus … just that single statement is rooted in the way Jesus opened up the Scriptures on the Day of Resurrection.

Who is this Jesus? – verse 14 – the Holy and Righteous One … the Author of Life whom God raised from the dead. This is the one to whom we are witnesses.

Let’s pause a moment in the words of a song express something of the wonder of this Jesus, the holy and righteous one who is the Author of Life – the one who is holy and good and leads to life.

A Hy-Spirit Song

All Things Made New

It is this name that brings strength, that brings healing and wholeness.
There’s a danger in these words!

One we are being made aware of to our shame as a society. It is the danger of anti-semitism.

It is very dangerous to read these words as if Peter were belonging to one religion – Christianity – and he is speaking to the Israelites who belong to another religion and are Jews.

That way of reading these words is the way too many have read them – and it results in antisemitism.

What is important, however, is to realise that Jesus is Jewish, he is rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures, and his followers are also fully Jewish. This is one set of Jewish people engaging with others who are Jewish exploring what it means to be Jewish.

Anti-semitism is quite wrong.

It was not ‘the Jews’ who killed Jesus … it was the Jewish Herodian Regime who in collaboration with Pilate that killed Jesus. And it was quite in order for Jewish people to be critical of that regime – that’s what the Prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures had always done – holding the powers that be to account.

It is quite proper to hold any government to account – and it is quite proper to do that of the current government in Israel.

What is totally wrong is to read texts like this as if they laid the blame for the death of Jesus at the door of all Jews – the text simply does not say that. It is so important to see what’s happening here.

Luke notices something in the preaching of the first followers of Jesus that he finds goes back to Jesus himself. And that is that the message of the Kingdom has to do with everyone everywhere. There is a universality about it too.

That’s made absolutely clear in the next verse with its reference to the ignorance of the crowd that had been whipped up by the rulers, the leaders, due to their ignorance.

Reading Acts 3:17-26

‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, 21who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets. 22Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. 23And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out from the people.” 24And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. 25You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, “And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 26When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.’

There’s the same theme of the prophets coming to fulfilment in Jesus Christ, the Messiah who suffers. This time he goes back to Moses, to Samuel, to the prophets, and sees Jesus as the one who brings that line to fulfilment with words that must be heeded.

What’s called for is in verse 19 that we repent – and have a whole new way of thinking – we look to the fullness of all time …

Which will be a time of refreshing, times the GNB describes as times of spiritual strength.

And we look to the time when all things will be made new

The time of in the words of the NRSV ‘universal restoration’

And at the end the fulfilment of that promise made to Abraham – that time when ‘all the families of the earth shall be blessed – through your descendeants I will bless all the people on earth.

There is in these words a universality.

We have to have in mind the totality of all people’s of all the world – and if that is the hope of glory then our task is to bring that down to earth in the here and now.

That on earth as in heaven, God’s will may be done, God’s kingdom come.

That brings us back to the responsibilities we are challenged to meet on Earth Day as we care for the planet and the whole world of God’s creation.

238 Lord, bring the day to pass

Prayers of Concern

259 Beauty for Brokenness

Words of Blessing

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