Welcome to this morning's Sunday Worship service, led by Martin Sykes with the sermon from Malcolm Wilson (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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Rev Christine Fox: email@example.com
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Below you can find this weeks Message. Click here to find the whole worship sheet.
Our readings today help us to look at relationships between God and his creation, men and women, children and society, and to think about who and what matters to God. ThankIn Mark, some Pharisees test Jesus by asking about divorce. In response, Jesus respects the ideal of marriage and the equality of both partners and when the disciples try to stop people bringing children to Jesus, he says that the kingdom of God involves childlike acceptance; they should be allowed to come to him. Jesus’ way is one of invitation; he invites everyone to come to him. Our Psalm of David has the same theme.There is a lot that can be said about these passages and two things stand out:
First, the issue of divorce. I am regularly admonished by my wife with these words, “You haven’t listened to a word I have said, have you?” The Pharisees in this passage had stopped listening to God. They had a clear idea of what God is like and what he wants from people. The problem was that, because they thought they knew all the answers, they had stopped listening to GOD. In this case the issue was whether divorce is ‘lawful’.
I can only speak through personal experience, so I hope that you will forgive a personal illustration.
In 1981 Diane and I decided to get married. Diane wanted a church wedding; but I doubted if a minister would marry us because both of us were divorced. I decided to ring Edgar Nicholson the minister of what was then Chilwell Road MC. He agreed to meet with us and we explained to him that we felt it right to get married before God, and that we wouldn’t feel properly married in a civil ceremony. Edgar satisfied himself that we loved each other and that our hearts were in the right place and duly said to us with a big smile on his face, “I think we ought to have a wedding then, don’t you!”
40 years of marriage later, I believe that he not only listened to us, he also listened to God.
At times we make the mistake of thinking we know all the answers and we stop listening.In Jesus’ day, the belief was that the relationship between God and his creation was fixed by the Law, as given by God through Moses at Sinai. Over time this had been explained and discussed, interpreted and re-interpreted. Yet Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees’ question is divorce ‘lawful’ is not what they expected.
Jesus is concerned with people’s hearts. He regards marriage as a holy estate, he doesn’t agree with loose morality; that only destroys marriage and that needs mending. And those who seek marriage only for pleasure need reminding that marriage is also a responsibility. Jesus was reminding people that marriage is above everything a spiritual unity.
Jesus was building a defence around the home and family.Unlike the Pharisees, instead of interpreting (or re-interpreting) the Law, Jesus goes back to creation: what did God want for men and women?
I believe that above everything else, God wants all of us to come to him and to know him; and to know his love. And when we are united with Christ we are united to one another. What really matters to God is that our hearts are in the right place.
The second issue was about ‘Children’. Children, like wives were treated as the property of their husband, they had no power, no rights; they were the property of their husband and father. Children were not important in the power structures.
Against this background Jesus again shocks the Pharisees; he uses children to speak about God. Usually God was spoken about in terms of power and might. In the story, the disciples were vetting Jesus’ contacts, and the children are unimportant, but Jesus welcomes and receives them.
This was not sentimental. It was a statement that no one is unimportant to God; each of us matter to God.
Still today Jesus exposes a society that grades and stratifies. He challenges us not to be self-reliant, or falsely confident about who or what we are, and that we know best.
Rather, he invites everyone to come to him in the same innocence of a child, and to be touched by God.Have we, like the Pharisees, lost our spiritual sight and hearing or are we listening to what God is saying to us?
Conclusion. I will finish with a true story about what can happen when we are switched off from God.
Cyril Evans was wireless operator aboard the Californian. On the night of 14th April 1912 he warned the Titanic that ice in the vicinity had forced them to stop, but he was rudely rebuffed by the operator of the Titanic, Jack Phillips, who was sending private messages to the wireless relay station at Cape Race. After this Evans switched off and went to bed, thus failing to hear the distress signals from Titanic which went unanswered because no one was listening.
May we choose to keep switched on to God and listen and obey what God reveals to us; and submit our lives to him by taking on the humble attitude of a child whose radio is always switched on?