Welcome to this morning's Sunday Worship service, led by Rev Alistair Jones (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
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Rev Christine Fox: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Below you can find this weeks Message. Click here to find the whole worship sheet.
Reflection: Feeling perfect yet?
Do you think you are perfect?
I have asked that question in many different churches over the last 25 years,
and three people have answered ‘yes’. Once was a joke, once was a lady
who genuinely believed she had never done anything wrong in 85 years, and
one was a man who had ‘returned to life’ after a heart attack, convinced that
he could do no wrong. I knew him well, and he was very wrong!
Yet if we feel complete failures because we get things wrong, and we don’t
always do as we should, then I think we are actually missing the point of what
we have heard read.
I think what is important in this passage is that we actually hear all of what
Jesus is saying. “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
God, the heavenly Father, loves us all, absolutely. There is nothing we can do
to make God stop loving us, even if we feel unloved. God loves us even if we
stop loving God, if we shout and scream in our prayers, and turn away in our
hearts. God loves us, even if we don’t want that love. It is just the way it is.
So, love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, because in that way
we behave like God.
If you only love those who like you, or those who are like you, you aren’t
behaving like God.
I know Jenny, my dearly beloved wife, spoke to you about similar matters
recently, and while I don’t mean to harp on the same theme, it is truly
important for our Christian life, and implicit to our Christian understanding.
I am a flawed human being, all too well aware of my imperfections, raised by
parents who were flawed human beings. My father was Welsh – hence
‘Jones’, my mother Scots – hence Alistair, and I was subconsciously educated
to loathe the English. I was around 35 when I realised the reality, about 45
when I started getting over it, and at 61 Jenny will tell you I still have more
work to do! She, of course, is English.
If I didn’t try to get over it, if I simply accepted I was racist, hating people for no
reason other than their birth-place, what sort of Christian would I be?
“If you only greet your brothers and sisters” Jesus asked, “what more are you
doing than others?”
Christ calls on us to do more than others, to be more than others, to show in
our Christian love for everyone we meet that God is in our hearts and that
nothing would please us more than for God to be in theirs. So we risk being
thought strange, as we greet everyone with a smile.
Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.
Reflection: Making holiness perfect
Making holiness perfect. Oooh, if feeling perfect was a problem, how about
this? Well, it all depends on what you mean by ‘holiness’, and therefore what
you understand as being ‘holy’.
What, when all is said and done, does ‘holy’ mean? Do you know? For all
that we build the word’s importance up, it is quite simple in its root. To be
‘other’. To be ‘different’.
Does that make things a little simpler? You see, the Temple in Jerusalem was
holy, because it was the centre of the worship of God – it was different. The
altar in the Temple was holy, because sacrifices were offered to God – it was
different. The priests who offered those sacrifices were holy, because they
had been set apart for the task – they were other – other than the rest of the
So when we hear that we are to ‘come out from them and be separate from
them’ it simply means that the community of the people of God is to be distinct
from every other community. Why is it distinct?
We are the people who worship God, the people who want to ‘make holiness
In his sermon on ‘Christian Perfection’ John Wesley defined that perfection as
holiness. We are to be ‘perfectly different’. So our focus is redoubled. If we
are to be ‘different’ – what does that mean in practice?
When I was ordained it was as a minister of the United Reformed Church,
long before I ‘jumped ship’ into Methodism. As we trained, the students were
asked to consider how they would approach the vows they were to make upon
ordination. One of those vows was, “Do you promise to lead a holy life’. This
was a subject of much soul-searching for many of the students, but my reply
was “well, I can guarantee that it will be different!” For better or worse, for
better and worse, it has been – very different on quite a few occasions.
We are all to lead our lives differently from those who aren’t Christians. We
are to worship God, to pray and listen to God, to read the scriptures – not
uncritically, because God gave us brains and the Holy Spirit to inspire them –
and use those scriptures for guidance in our lives.
We are to love our enemies, to bless those who persecute us, to greet those
who aren’t our friends, to behave as if we truly believed that all of humanity
are children of the Most High God.
I have to accept that being English isn’t a character flaw.
So, when we face the question “What would Jesus do” in any given
circumstance, remember that his answer was to whip cattle out of the Temple,
disrupt business and upset priests and worshippers. His answer was to call
out the religious and secular authorities in Judea and Galilee for their failings,
and to be quite abusive towards them at times. His answer was to transform
the understanding of centuries old religious observance and to call on the
wealthy to give all they had to the poor. His answer was to demand that only
those who were without sin could stand in judgement over another’s sin.
That is being ‘other’, that is being ‘different’, that is being ‘holy’, that is
Cheer up, perfection is just around the corner! All it takes is being willing to
walk around that corner in the faith that sustains us.