Service for Sunday 5th February 2012.
Year B. Epiphany 6. Green.
Call to Worship Psalm 30 verses 4-5, responsive, from Uniting in Worship.
Hymn Together in Song 129 Amazing Grace
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Artist of Creation,
We give you thanks for the glory and the beauty of this new morning which you have made.
We thank you that we see the evidence o fyour hand at work all around us.
We thank you that we can hear your praises sung constantly by birds, frogs, and all your creatures.
We thank you that we can feel the movement of you Spirit, in the movement of the wind, sometimes gentle and refreshing, sometimes mighty and awesome.
We thank you that we can taste your goodness, in clean fresh water, sweet ripe fruits – in all the good things you have given us to eat.
We thank you that we can smell the freshness and beauty of your lie, in the damp earth after rain, in flowers, in forests.
All the world was made to show your glory, and praise your name.
And we thank you that you made us, along with everything else, for this same purpose.
We thank you for the honour it is, that we might join with all of creation to praise you – and to bring glory to you.
We confess that we do not always praise you.
We do not always show forth your glory.
At times we are too concerned with our own needs and wants.
We are distracted:
And we do not love you completely
And we do not love our neighbours as ourselves.
We betray our task of praise in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions.
We are sorry for our failure to e your faithful people.
And in Jesus, we ask your forgiveness. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
The truth and the promise of the gospel is this:
Christ Jesus came into the world, for the sake of ordinary, sinful people such as us. So I have confidence to say to you: Our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
Hymn Together in Song 670 Jesus put this song into our hearts
2 Kings 5:1-14
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
When I was a teenager, I didn’t commit suicide. That’s obvious. What’s not so obvious, because some scars just don’t show, is that I very nearly did.
But I had help available. I turned to a Sunday School Teacher. He spoke to me. He spoke to me rather a lot. I really tried to hear what he was saying, but now, I couldn’t tell you anything he said. What I was left with was the impression that he had a very great faith, and a very intense relationship with God. I was certain that I wasn’t capable of being anywhere near as holy as this person was. I had felt worthless to begin with. Then I felt even more so. Not only did I have poor relationships with all the people around me, I clearly had a second-rate relationship with God as well. But I understood why that was, after all, I knew nobody could actually care about me.
This man did one very valuable thing for me. He asked one of the church elders to talk to me as well. The elder in question will always in my mind be the image of the perfect church elder – perhaps the ideal Christian as well. Daune was the most gentle, gracious lady. Her white hair was always perfectly pinned in place. In the years I grew up in that church I never heard her speak in anything but the most gentle of voices, and I never saw her show anything but love for the people around her. This woman phoned my parents and arranged for me to see her one afternoon a week. It was time I’m sure she couldn’t afford, but she gave it freely. And in that time, she did the one thing no-one else had ever done for me. SHE LISTENED! And she was a powerful listener. What she did say showed that she had heard me and understood what was happening. Out of an incredible depth of wisdom, she drew out reflections on my situation, and helped me to find the strength to trust in God and to believe God loved me. She said very little. But what she did say has stuck with me for 30 years, and I’m sure will stay with me for ever.
It’s because of this woman that I’m still alive. And largely because of her that I’m a Christian. So she saved my life twice over.
Why did this wonderful, wise, woman bother with me? The world is full of teenagers who are abused, or can’t cope with life. One teenager more or less wouldn’t make that much difference.
Why did Elisha and Jesus bother with the lepers in today’s readings? In their society, there were heaps of lepers, what difference would one more or less make?
I’m going to give two reasons.
The first reason is God’s grace. Grace is the technical word for love. It’s not earned, just freely given. God loves us first, before anything. And we don’t have to deserve that love. We don’t have to be anyone special. God’s love is offered freely. And God oftentimes shows that love to us in and through other people.
Why then, isn’t God’s grace offered to all the teenagers who have problems? Why wasn’t God’s grace extended to all the lepers of Biblical times? There’s an answer, a very simple answer. But it’s not one that people like to hear. In each case, God’s grace was given through the agency of people – people who knew that they had a responsibility to spread God’s love, and did so.
The sad truth is, there aren’t enough willing workers, spreading God’s love, for the number of people who need to receive it. There’s some who know God’s love, but choose to keep it to themselves. There’s some who know God’s love and would love to spread it, but, like the Sunday School Teacher, honestly don’t know how to do so and make matters worse rather than better.
There’s not enough people who do know God’s grace, and do know how to share it around, and are willing to do so. In a sense, God’s love is like the stuff that builds up in a chook yard – not the eggs, the other stuff – it’s really good and useful and does amazing things, but only if someone will pick it up and spread it over the garden. God’s love needs us to spread it around.
We spread God’s love in many ways: but it usually begins with listening – hearing what is happening in people’s lives. It always involves accepting people for who they are and where they are, rather than judging them. And it always includes responding to them in ways which show we genuinely love them, and which show God’s love as well.
It never involves telling people they must be like us. (The early church found that out with the debate over circumcision for non-Jewish Christians.) And it never involves telling them God loves them without demonstrating it. God’s love is too huge to be told – it has to be done. And it never involves condemning people for mistakes they’ve made or the life situations they find themselves in.
I said there were two reasons I could give to the questions of why these particular lepers in the stories; or why me. The other reason is that God had plans for these people. God had a plan which involved showing Namaan and his king that the God of Israel could act, when anything they had in their country was useless. God had a plan for the leper Jesus healed, as a witness to Jesus. Maybe he wasn’t meant to blurt it out and make it impossible for Jesus to move freely, but throughout the centuries, his healing has helped to provide proof of God acting in Jesus. And why me? Well, God has a plan for my life as well, a plan that wouldn’t have worked out so well if I’d died when I was 13.
So another reason we are called to be active in spreading God’s grace – apart from God’s love for each human being – is that God has plans for the lives of people. Plans that we can’t even imagine at the times and stages of their life’s journey that we meet them. When we meet someone who has problems now, when they don’t seem to have any faith in God, when their life seems to lack direction – who knows what God may be planning for their future! Our small contribution, our time to listen, to accept, to respond in love, might be the turning point needed to bring about what God has planned in another’s life. We may never know what we have been a part of. But if we are not willing participants in sharing God’s grace, we can know that we haven’t fulfilled our part in God’s plan for someone else’s life.
God’s love is for everyone – but God chooses human beings to be the means of showing that love. That means every one of us has a vital role in spreading God’s grace.
Hymn Together in Song 665 Jesus Christ is waiting
Prayers of the People
God, creator and redeemer of this world,
We pray for a world which knows too little of your love.
A world which lives with the reality of violence –
Violence between nations,
Violence within nations,
Family violence, within our own nation and our own neighbourhoods.
A world which lives with the reality of fear
Fear of wars
Fear of the future
Fear for the future of our environment
Fear for the future of the economy
Fears of wars that may never happen, and those that probably will
Fear of what is unknown.
A world where people don’t know wyour love
Where lives are spent searching for something unknown and elusive
Where young people find themselves out of their depth and with no-one who cares
Where people with experience of life don’t know how, or aren’t willing to, share the wisdom they have gained.
Where a generation who don’t know your love have nothing to give their children.
We pray for your world, and for our part in sharing your love with this world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness