Welcome to this morning's Worship Service.
Worship today is led by Rev Melanie Stoodley (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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Moses taught the people of Israel how to live according to God’s Law. Its aim
was to create a Society which was fair & well-ordered, just & wise. In the
gospel reading Jesus made the distinction between worship from the heart &
devotion to ritual. He wasn’t dismissing rules & regulations, but criticising the
way that lots of extra rules had been added. I’m sure I’m not the only one who
has certain rituals, or patterns of behaviour, such as going back to check I’ve
locked the door, or using the term: ‘Fingers crossed!’ I’m not superstitious & I
want to feel that I’m doing God’s will & trusting in him & his word. But, I can
also give myself a hard time, when I feel I’ve let someone down, or got things
In our passage from Deuteronomy God wanted his people to keep his law,
transmitted through Moses, not out of blind obedience, but as an expression
of trust in him. His desire was for a well-ordered, peaceful society. The law
was given as a resource for this. So that, v 6, other nations would see them
observing the laws & recognise their wisdom & understanding. Their life
together would reflect God’s wisdom & justice. For Israel, the law was a guide
to the nature of God & the responsibilities of the covenant relationship, as well
as a means of organising social life in the land that they were entering.
It was vitally important that future generations should be helped to remember
the stories of God’s self-revelation through the giving of the Law at Sinai. The
people were encouraged to look back to the stirring events of their Bible,
events which formed them as a people with a sense of identity & calling. By
celebrating events like Passover, reading the Law in the synagogue, or
instructing children in the tradition this memory would be kept alive.
So, how different are modern people from those Israelites, who had good
intentions, but were easily led by those religions around them & sometimes
forgot the best way to live under God’s Law?
Philip Yancey, in his book: ‘What’s so amazing about Grace?’ tells the true
story of a Pastor friend of his, who had been having trouble with his teenage
daughter. She had rebelled in a big way, lied to her parents & stayed out at
night, without letting them know where she was. She blamed her parents for
being too strict. The girl’s Father recalled how angry he felt with his daughter
when she didn’t come home & when she deceived him. He said that he
wanted to be like the Father in the story of the Prodigal son, but he was
furious with his daughter for the way she was manipulating him & his wife,
hurting them & of course, hurting herself more than anyone. And yet, he also
confessed that, when his daughter did come home the next morning, he
wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms & tell her that he loved her &
wanted the best for her. He was a helpless, lovesick Father, in the same way
that our Heavenly Father waits & longs for us to come back to him, so that he
can forgive us & help us to start again. Jesus shows us the loving side of God,
& challenges us to have the right heart attitudes.
Chapter 7 of Mark begins with a story of hostile opposition, as the Pharisees
complained that the disciples didn’t care about keeping their hands ritually
clean. Jesus was included in this criticism. Mark, the gospel writer, provides a
contrast here, between the disciples getting their hands dirty in God’s work &
the Pharisees focusing on keeping their hands clean & not getting involved in
caring for the sick.
Pharisees believed that God’s will for his people was to be ritually pure by
avoiding anything unclean. This wasn’t about dirt or hygiene, but about the
ritual uncleanness associated with touching certain objects, principally,
anything dead. In Numbers: 5, v2 Moses commanded to send away from the
camp, ‘anyone who had infectious skin disease, or discharge of any kind, or
who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body.’ If someone came into
contact with such a thing, they had to wash the uncleanness off as soon as
possible & certainly before eating anything. This was one of the ways they
identified themselves as ‘different’ from other Jews, carefully following the
traditions that they believed came originally from words spoken by Moses.
Jesus’ response was to criticise their attitude to God. He quoted Is: 29: 13,
part of the prophetic tradition which attacked those who worshipped God in
word but not from the heart. He told a Parable showing the difference
between what goes into someone’s mouth & what comes out of their heart.
The mouth leads to the stomach, then passes through the body. It’s what
comes out, from the heart which is unclean such as evil thoughts, sexual
immorality, & all the other things mentioned which make a person unclean.
Jesus’ words remind us that our religious behaviours may have become
habits, alongside secret sins of self – righteous attitudes. Perfectly upright
Christians may sometimes look down on others, in the same way that the
Pharisees criticised Jesus & his disciples’ lack of hand-washing.
Faith must be more than empty words & lip service. Our relationship with God,
though Jesus involves much more than outward cleanliness, or lack of it.
Jesus promises his Holy Spirit, who will dwell in us & help us when we get
When I was doing ‘on call’ work as a hospital chaplain at Royal Derby
hospital, I spent time with a gentleman called Eric, who was a Methodist. At 97
years of age, he still had an amazing story to tell & joined with me when I
prayed for him. He had been brought up in an atheist home in Glasgow &
remained an atheist for 40 years. However, God saw his heart & knew his
needs. He told me about his first visit to a Methodist church & the way in
which he was welcomed in. He knew nothing of Christian Scriptures, having
been kept out of Assembly at school, so when someone spoke to him about
Paul’s Damascus road experience, he didn’t know what she was talking about.
However, God touched him & he felt welcomed & included & continued to
worship & learn more. He later became a Local Preacher. His heartfelt prayer
was one of thanks, even for the first experience of being in hospital & of
assurance that whenever God took him, he was ready.
Moses’ Law for the Israelites was meant for their own good, so that they would
be an inspiration to others. It’s not always easy to be completely pure &
without fault, or to feel that we can inspire others.
Jesus’ words to the Pharisees challenge us, too.
May we worship him from our hearts & experience the power of his love &