Sunday Worship - 19 September 2021

Welcome to this morning's Sunday Worship service, led by Rev John Rowe (in church and via Zoom).


We normally worship in church each week and also via Zoom, with a recording of the Zoom meeting published by Monday morning. If you are not currently on our mailing list for Zoom please contact Rev Christine: christineamfox@gmail.com


Click below on the red play button to start this morning's service video. You can also find the service on YouTube here if it isn’t working on the blog.


God Bless x

If you'd like to connect with Grangewood please contact us.

Rev Christine Fox: christineamfox@gmail.com


Thank you to all those who have been part of arranging this week's service.

Below you can find this weeks Message. Click here to find the whole worship sheet.


Message

I want to begin by reading you a poem - ‘IF’ by Rudyard Kipling.

In a national poll conducted by the BBC that poem was voted the most

popular by the British public. Now I find that rather interesting given that I

personally experience mixed emotions toward this poem. In my more positive

moments, I do indeed find the thoughts and ideals the poem expresses

motivational and inspiring.

Clearly, many others hold a similar view.

Did you know, for example, that some of the lines from the poem are to be

found over the player's entrance at Wimbledon's Centre Court? – If you can

meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the

same. In my more positive times of response to the poem then I do indeed

find myself supporting one writer’s claim that the poem is a blue print for

personal integrity, behaviour and self-development.

Yet, having said that, the poem also troubles me! It does so because it

appears to suggest much must first be achieved before one can be

considered a man or, using less masculine language, before one can be

considered a person of true worth and value. The poem concludes with these

words: “And - which is more - you’ll be, a man my son.” But to be a man, to

be a person of worth and value according to this poem, one must first fulfil the

demands of no less than thirteen ‘Ifs’ - not to mention a whole host of

additional sub-clauses.

That’s why this poem with its inspirational mottoes and maxims for life so often

troubles me. Because, for me, it lends its voice to the many other, worldly

voices, which would have each of us know, that to be worth something we first

need to achieve – To be worth something we first need to be succeed/ or

popular or powerful.

 

Now we mustn’t be misled into thinking these worldly voices belong only to our

own go-getting, success orientated and fame hungry era. They don’t, for

these are the same voices that Jesus encountered. You will recall that during

Jesus’ time in the wilderness those voices demanded he prove he was a

person of value and worthy of love by first being successful, popular and

powerful. These are the same voices that tell us all, we are not going to be

loved without first having earned it through our own determined efforts and

hard work. If, if, if, if, if - If we are well educated, if we have a well paid job, If

we live in the right location, if we drive the right car, if we associate with the

right people, If we can achieve these things then we will be loved and we will

be valued.

 

Jesus, we know, resisted those seductive and tempting voices. But he was

only able to do so because he had heard a different voice speaking into

his life. A voice, which assured him, “you are my Son, whom I love, with you I

am well pleased.” He had heard that voice prior to entering the wilderness.

Now this is important, because before his entry into the wilderness, there had

been no miraculous healings, no authoritative teaching, no, great acts of

compassion. Indeed at this point according to the gospel records he had

achieved nothing – No success, no popularity - nothing. And yet this voice,

this loving voice, comes to his hearing – “You are my beloved and on you my

favour rests.” No conditions, no ifs, no buts. Jesus of Nazareth, at this point

in his journey, without having achieved anything simply understands himself to

be loved and blessed.

 

Later in his ministry Jesus would tell a story, a parable, in an attempt to teach

men and women that, like him, they too can hear this voice and know

themselves to be children of God, loved by God. This well-known parable tells

of a young son who leaves home for a distant country. And it all goes horribly

wrong for the young man. He eventually finds himself in what for a Jew, can

only be described as a hellish place – Feeding pigs while he himself starved.

He is utterly isolated and alone and close to death. At which point, although

he had treated his father appallingly, he decides to return to his father’s home.

The story ends with a wonderful home coming scene between the son and

his father. The young son apologises for his behaviour confessing to his

father that he is not worthy to be called his son. But his confession of

unworthiness, is met by his father’s unconditional love for him and a

celebration at his home-coming ensues.

 

Isn’t it a wonderful story? – It is my absolute favourite parable. Not least

because it totally turns upside down, the overriding idea contained in Kipling’s

poem and those worldly voices which tell us that is crucial to prove we are

people of value through our own determined efforts and achievements

Now please don’t misunderstand the point I am making here. I am not

knocking the achievements of men and women or their ambition, or their

desire to be successful. These are important features of human existence

and many benefits have resulted for humankind through them. Yet, I believe it

is simply wrong to assess people’s worth and value through them. Jesus’ own

story and the story of the prodigal son alert us to this fact, that men and

women are loved by God, period! For goodness sake the Bible assures us we

are created by God and God loves all he has made.

 

You know even if I possessed Kipling’s literary skills, which I don’t, I suspect I

would not have been able to write the poem ‘IF’. Because I suspect, Rudyard

Kipling’s early life experience influenced to a large extent his desire to write

such an overtly self-help poem. For his was a largely tragic and unhappy

early life. A life in which he was starved of love and attention and sent away

by his parents only to be subsequently beaten and abused by his foster

mother. Could it be that the absence of the voice of love in his life pushed him

toward finding his worth and value as a person in his literary achievements? I

don’t know the answer to that question but I do know his experience contrasts

markedly with that of my own.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I have always been a person of diminutive

stature. I haven’t shrunk from a formerly impressive height! What most of you

won’t be aware of however is the effect my diminutive stature had upon my

self-worth during the early part of my life. For, being a small person excluded

me from many things. It excluded me from playing football for my school team

because the teacher who chose the team was 6’4” and thought that everyone

in the team must be of a similar size,. Later, it excluded me from visiting

cinemas, pubs and clubs I was legally by age entitled to frequent. Do you

know that when I was 14 I was asked by the girls in my class who out of them

I would consider going out with IF (there’s that word again) if I was taller. I

can’t tell you how much I enjoyed replying to their question, that I wasn’t

interested in any of them. (which actually wasn’t strictly truthful - one of them

was absolutely gorgeous!) There were many other areas I could mention in

which my stature negatively impacted on my life. You see all of these things,

all of these worldly voices, were attempting to convince me that I wasn’t quite

the ticket, that I didn’t quite measure up as a person.

 

I may have mentioned before, that at the age of 15 the medical profession

became interested in my diminutive physical stature and suggested they could

make me taller with a course of growth hormone treatment. But I will never

forget my father’s words to me before I was to make the decision whether or

not to proceed with that treatment. He said, “John, you need to know that

whatever size you become you need to know that your mum and I couldn’t

love you more than we do now.”

You see I know I could never have written the poem ‘IF’ but with due respect

to Jesus I think I could write a decent version of the prodigal son parable.

Because my dad’s voice that day sounded a lot like the voice which says “You

are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” Those words caused

me to decline the treatment offered, which is just as well given that the vast

majority of those who underwent the treatment in the 1960’ subsequently died

with the condition CJD. Just like the voice of home that brought the prodigal

son to his senses, my father’s voice to me that day, was also a life saving -a

life giving voice!.

 

You know, the author and theologian, Henry Neouen, maintains there is a

quiet inner voice within us all that is constantly seeking to assure us of our

worth and value – That quiet inner voice, he maintains, is the voice of God – It

is a voice that unconditionally says, you are my daughter, you are my son,

whom I love. Yet this quiet inner voice is all too often drowned out by other

seductive worldly voices.

So the question before each of us this morning is this – Which voice are you

hearing? Which voice has most captured your attention? Is it the voice of

popularity, wealth, or some other worldly enticement which is dictating the

course your life is taking? Or is it the voice of God within you - The voice,

which, with no ifs, no buts, seeks to assure you of God’s unconditional love –

The voice which tells you, You are my daughter, You are my son, whom I love.

The prodigal son in the end chose to tune his hearing to the voice of his loving

father. Jesus told the parable that we each might do the same – Indeed that is

precisely why Jesus came – To seek and save all God’s lost sons and

daughters – So no matter where you have been, no matter what worldly voice

has held sway in your life – Know this today: You are a beloved child of God

whom God seeks to bless. That blessing, I am convinced, becomes most real

for us, in following Jesus, in trusting him above all other things.

So, whether for the first time or whether for the umpteenth time, I would

encourage you today to place your trust in Christ, to trust in him alone, and

know like the prodigal son, that your heavenly father waits to greet you and

welcome you home [to his love].

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