Sabbath: God, glorified

 

the-glory-of-god-and-our-inheritance_825_460_80_c1
Image source.

 

Read: Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35

4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Listen: Blessed Assurance; ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.

Readings: Acts 1:6-14

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;  and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

John 17:1-11

3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Pray: 

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
But where are you, Jesus,
when bombs tear through people
when hatred is solidified
into the destruction of lives?

Where are you, Jesus,
when lives are lost through violence,
– violence both sanctioned and unsanctioned –
when incendiary self-righteousness
shrapnels everything in its path?

Where are you, Jesus,
when people weep for their loved ones
or what remains of them,
when faith is scattered like human flesh
over an arena in Manchester or a Libyan street?

Where are you, Jesus?
Like your disciples we search the sky,
hoping to glimpse something,
hoping to see – hoping to hope.
Is our search fruitless?
Do angels answer us, “Why do you stand here
looking at the sky?”

Are we looking for you in the wrong places, Lord?
Searching for you in the heavens rather than looking for your face
among the mourners, the wounded, the dead?
Do we stare at the heavens
rather than seek you in the pain of loss
the incomprehension of cruelty
the acts of kindness and commiseration
the hope that tomorrow will be better
even if today’s actions are inexcusable?

Do we find, in looking at the heavens,
an answering search to ours?

Oh, find us, Lord,
and help us to find you.

Amen.

Sabbath: God the Comforter

 

jesus-is-the-truth-the-way-and-the-life3
Image source.

 

Read: Psalm 31:1-5; 15-16

1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Listen: This I Believe, The Creed.

Reading: John 14:1-14

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Pray/meditate: Listen to Hillsong’s What A Beautiful Name.

Sabbath: God the Shepherd

post-jesus-the-good-shepherd-clipart-topic-670304-7asw2c-clipart
Source.

Read: Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Listen: The Lord’s My Shepherd – Stuart Townsend

Reading: John 10:1-10

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Pray/meditate:

The life abundant, Lord, is not in the sheep pen.
The life abundant is in the hills:
in the dark valleys and against the craggy rock faces
echoing between cliffs and climbing mountaintops
rolling down gentle, grassy slopes,
following well-worn paths that wind, cut, dip
climb, falter, struggle, reach.

The life abundant is in the rock-strewn gulley
and the lap of a mountain stream, tumbling.
The life abundant isn’t security, Lord,
but being safe with You, as You walk ahead of us
and behind, flank us and guide us and carry us,
as your presence chases away
whatever would chase us.

Make us brave, Lord, to follow you
from the sheep pens of our religion
from our comfort zones, our prejudices
and our biases, our loneliness and our apathy,
our faithlessness and our sins,
our sorrows and our grief.

Lead us to the mountaintops
and retrieve us when we wander, lost,
on untrodden paths.
Come find us, again and again, Lord,
even when – especially when – we do not realise
that we are lost.
Amen.

Passion 2016 – Pretoria

Last night was the first stop in the Passion 2016 World Tour here in South Africa, at the Loftus stadium in Pretoria. The event was sold out; there were about forty thousand people gathered there to praise Jesus. It was an awesome sight.

We got there early and had a nice, if slightly distant, view of the stage. At about 19:30 the event really kicked off. Praise and worship, led by amongst others Chris Tomlin, followed by a – I’m going to say “sermon” – from Louie Giglio. Pretty sure it was meant just for me, sorry everyone else! He spoke about how these labels we get in life aren’t the last word on us. What is, is the word “tetelestai” – “it is finished”.

This message was something I really needed to hear. Though I know leaving the Methodist Church was a good decision – the right one – I can’t pretend that the event itself and the things leading up to it didn’t have a negative impact on my relationship with God. Your church life and your relationship with God are like two tidal pools next to each other. There is invariably splash back between them, and mostly that’s a good thing: a good relationship with God equals a fulfilled church and missionary life equals a good relationship with God. But when your church life is poisoned, and a wave comes rolling in… Well, that poison spreads. The same is true about your relationship with God: if it’s not at its best, your church life can suffer.

So I really needed to hear again that this whole terrible thing isn’t the last word on me. It isn’t the last word on me as a Christian, as a church goer, as someone pursuing a calling to serve God. What it is a last word on, is religion – earning salvation. What it is a last word on is sin and death. What it is a last word on is the heavy burden of shame.

Passion has reminded me how good, how great, how merciful, how loving, how powerful our God really is. Good Good Father has been playing in my head – You’re a good good Father, it’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are. And I’m loved by you – it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.