Good Morning! Welcome to this mornings service.
Worship today is led by Rev Arnold Dixon
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Message - Rev Arnold Dixon
Having the strength to be gentle
Paul recalls the confidence in God required to preach in the challenging circumstances facing them in Thessalonica. They focused not on their own needs but on God’s good news, and their authority as apostles was expressed not in self-promoting demands but in self-giving tender care.
The stereotypical representation of strength has little or nothing to do with gentleness, for Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22)
The stereotypical representation of strength has little or nothing to do with gentleness. Strength is more typically portrayed as being about power, and about a determination to achieve one’s own will regardless of others. We can develop strength founded in gentleness. The image of the nurse tenderly caring for children is a great picture of gentleness. It is also a picture of how God cares for us. Yet that tender care requires strength and determination and sometimes even ‘tough love’. This may require you to have to tell someone the truth in order for that truth to take affect in their lives and unltimately be the thing that is the catalyst brings them freedom. “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
As Christians we are not immune from suffering. In his book The Cost of Discipleship, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer contrasts cheap grace and costly grace. Grace is costly not just because it has come about through Jesus giving his life upon the cross, but also because of the demands that it makes upon followers of Christ. ‘It compels a person to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him. This may result in suffering but God will provide the strength necessary to endure.’
Charles Wesley’s hymn ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ is now often seen as dated and inappropriate. However, critic and theologian GK Chesterton’s view was that the imagery was true but incomplete. It is worth reading quietly through Matthew 22.34-46 and asking the question: What sort of man is Jesus? He must have had an awareness that the Pharisees were trying to trap him. Yet he is patient with them. His response is gentle and mild explaining his understanding of the Scriptures. At the same time, he is stating his beliefs and showing strength of mind and character in so doing. That steely strength needs to be added to the gentleness to begin to grasp the full picture of Jesus.
St Francis de Sales wrote that nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing so gentle as real strength. The gentleness that Paul describes comes from strength. He had undergone the life-changing experience on the Damascus road, struggled to become accepted as a leader of the Christian community and become a travelling evangelist. Sometimes his views can appear trenchant. He had to be strong and yet as a result of all that he had endured, he knew that he himself was precious to God and that gave him strength, which he showed in gentleness to God’s other precious children. This is a dynamic that can be powerfully used in our own lives.
What is religion all about? This is a question that those who are not committed to a faith often ask, or to which they give an inaccurate answer. It is easy to see observance of faith as being about rules and rituals, whereas it is truly about relationship. The Pharisees ask Jesus what is at the heart of their religion and his answer is clear and unequivocal. It is about living in loving relationship with God and your fellow humans. One wonders why it is still necessary to ask the question, and how Jesus’ answer can be more effectively conveyed to the world. Perhaps, by the way we conduct our relationships? Let us be lead by the Holy Spirit, let us ask for his help in difficult times and praise him in good times but let us also seek to grow in gentleness one of the fruits of the Spirit that can reveal the nature, the heart and the love of God which works through us.