Sunday 31st July 2016
Jeremiah 31:27-37 (NLT)
… 33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbours, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”…
John 10:14-30 (NLT)
… 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. …
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (NLT)
… 3 So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit….
Our religion is to do good, to act in wisdom, humility and faith but above all to love. The church is a revelation of the heart of God- a community of forgiveness and welcome – a community where, together, God is known and loved. And we are to listen to God; God speaks his word to us and we are to obey it.
God’s word is not something we can grasp at and possess, it is a revelation that brings life in us. The word speaks in each of us to bring healing, to bring faith. God speaks his word in our midst to make his presence known in us, as individuals, and through us, as a community. The fruit of God’s presence is unity and peace.
God has placed his image in us; he has set his Spirit within us so that hearing God’s word we can act in faith. God speaks into who we are to redeem us and redeem the world through faith in his voice. This is no different to what we see in the heroes of the faith in the scriptures. Through their failings and lack of grace, those who heard God acted in faith. When God speaks, he pours himself into broken vessels, jars of clay, filled with precious water that overflows for the refreshing of the world.
However flawed we are, he is pleased to pour his message into us. God spoke to Abraham and he heard God tell him to sacrifice his only son, the son of promise. To sacrifice a human life is strictly forbidden to us but Abraham heard God call his name and speak. He was faithful to the voice he heard. Abraham was not different to how we are- he did not mishear, he heard and was obedient and acted in faith. God spoke through an angel and Isaac was spared. Abraham’s faith pleased God and it was counted as righteousness.
Abraham sacrificed a lamb, and the dishonour of human sacrifice was transformed by God speaking through an angel and Abraham choosing a lamb to sacrifice as a substitute. For Moses the blood of the lamb was a sign of deliverance from oppression and death. What God spoke through the angel transformed Abraham’s heart and the faith of Abraham was credited to him as righteousness.
So precious is God speaking to each of us; it is more precious than the voice of God brought by the angel. Jesus says we will know his voice and the prophet brings us forward in the knowledge that we have no need of a teacher. Paul calls us to love and to trust the voice of God, causing us to speak even in tongues we do not understand, but always acting as the angel of God for the building of the church.
Our building of our church needs to have no walls that cause division or ceilings that limit God’s voice speaking even in the brokenness of people’s lives. We are to be angels of the Lord speaking to transform vessels of dishonour so that they carry a message of honour.
The church is to be prophetic in our culture, speaking up for the weak and downtrodden. We need to speak words of healing into places of conflict. We must honour truthfulness and transparency and act for the good of the powerless and poor. Our gatherings must be united in diversity, our leadership being inclusive and representative- showing a heart of service. This is the legacy being the church will give to our localities and our nations.
What of us who know salvation, made alive by knowledge of the holy, perfected by grace? What of us who in the gathering discern the presence of Christ? What of us elect in Christ amongst the people- we, the humble and contrite of heart? What is our life together in the world?
In our twos and threes , we are to baptise and make disciples. We are to remember Christ, fully human, fully God, in the sharing of a simple cup and bread, gathered to a table. This is our life together in faith: baptism, discipleship and the sharing of Jesus through the feast that recalls the sacrifice of Jesus. Our sacrifice is one of praise; a life together through reading scripture, prayer and the sharing of the Lord ’s Supper. We are to do good and bless the world, redeeming our culture to creation’s values.
In our discussion, again we heard the picture brought of our mission being to be those who adopt into a family, embodying the message that God adopts us into his family through Jesus. We are to carry the message of abiding in God. We also heard in our discussion of the work of the deep brokenness of culture and how the voice of God with the scriptures and life together changes things, “not in swarms” but one by one.