Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 3

Rocky Road Epistle 1st April 2020

Chapter 3

Welcome to chapter 3 of the Rocky Road Epistle.

The date at the top reminds me of those words in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians

1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (NIV)

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

God is at work in His world and at the current time is stirring hearts to get rid of some of our foolishness.

Though just a couple of foolish thoughts!

I think the choir are getting above themselves 

Passage for next week is Matthew 28 v.1-20

Reflection Phillip has written this one based on the passage for the week - Matt 21 v.1-27

Into the City

The first part of the reading is the well-known story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday.  In this reflection I want to focus on what happened next (v12-21).

On his arrival in Jerusalem Jesus entered the temple courts into the area open to everyone, including the Gentiles, those outsiders to Israel, who could not go any further into the temple.  The courtyard had been set aside precisely with foreigners in mind, but over the years it had become a marketplace. 

Once there, Jesus drove out all who were buying and selling.  At surface level Jesus was angry with those who were using the temple for trade. But look closely at verse 12, Jesus' demonstration was against all who were buying and selling; the pilgrims who had come to sacrifice as well as the stall holders.  Jesus was against the whole system of sacrificial worship that had developed into a big business.  For example, if you went to the temple to pay the tax it had to be in a certain currency, hence the money changers.  If you went to make a sacrifice, you had to have somewhere to obtain an offering.  

Jesus’ clearing of the temple was an acted-out parable, and although the money changers and stall holders were probably back shortly afterwards, Jesus had made his point.  The system was on its way out and something new was coming in.  As Jesus had already said of himself in his earlier ministry (Matthew 12:6) "one greater than the temple is here".

It’s a point which is also made in the miracles he performed (v14).  These are the only miracles Jesus is recorded as doing in the temple and he specifically cured those who were blind and lame, the two groups who were excluded from God's house by an Old Testament decree of King David (see 2Sam5:8).  Surely this was something new, the old rituals were giving way to God's purpose of universal blessing.  Jesus is the son of David, the Messiah, who has the authority and power to declare the temple system with all its sacrifices and restrictions dead and defunct.

Let us be ever so careful that we never, ever stop ourselves or others from reaching God, by putting structures, rituals and traditions around us, which we then cling to, when we would be better off letting go of them.  There's a story of a visiting preacher who came to a church and afterwards was talking to one man who had been a church member for over sixty years.  "Goodness", said the visitor, "I expect you've seen some changes", "Yes", replied the old boy, "And I've opposed every single one of them!"  There is a danger with any organisation, and churches aren't immune from it, that we do things, originally for good reasons, and then they become institutionalised and we worship them, rather than seeing them as a means to reach out to God.

Then there is the story of the fig tree.  Jesus was hungry and went up to the tree to see if there was any fruit.  While fig trees produce their main crop in the autumn, they sometimes produce small unsweet fruit when the leaves first appear, and it was these Jesus was looking for.  He found none, and in the words of William Barclay "blasted the fig tree".  On one hand it is an embarrassing little story, for here is the Lord using his miraculous powers not for healing, but for destruction and what is worse in the parallel account in Mark's gospel Peter says that Jesus cursed the tree.

Now taken on its own it is an uncomfortable episode but bear in mind that Matthew uses his material to make a point and this real-life parable follows on from what Jesus had done in the temple.  The fig tree is a symbol of Judaism, it stands by the roadside, but doesn't do what it is supposed to do.  In Gardeners’ Question Time on Radio 4, they often have questions about fruit trees that don't fruit.  “Prune it in the autumn” says one expert.  “Spray it in the spring” says enough.  “Plenty of muck” says the third and when the questioner says she has done all those things, their advice is usually along the lines of - “It’s not going to do anything, dig it up and start again!”  The temple with its barren ritual was as fruitless as the tree and ripe for destruction.  To bring it up to date, if the church of Jesus isn't doing what it should be doing, there is no place for it.   

That is the challenge to us today as a church and as individuals that we might stay close to Jesus bearing much fruit.  But lest we ever feel that we have to do these things in our own strength, Jesus adds the next bit of teaching, "Truly, if you have faith and do not doubt … you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer".(v21-2)

Jesus has arrived in the city.  By his actions in the temple and by the cursing of the fig tree he shows that he is the true son of David, the Messiah.  God in person has arrived in Jerusalem.  Yet the structures in Jerusalem weren’t ready for him, and he pointed to their end.  Just as we rejoice on Palm Sunday about Jesus coming in triumph into the city, so we believe that he will come again in triumph to this world.  Are we ready for that day and are we doing all that would please him.

Prayer

David has sent these prayers based on his reflection on Revelation 22:1-2

Thinking about the image of John's vision of the new Jerusalem, our future home of perfect health. Because of the tree of Calvary, the tree of life will stand tall in the New Jerusalem, bearing the fruit of your great sacrifice, extending its leaves for our complete healing.  Oh, to pray and praise in the shade of that tree, where every disease (including Covid-19) and distress will be gone forever!

Merciful Jesus, we pray for all those we love and for loved ones who are now self-isolating.

We pray for all the people of the world caught up in this crisis, for people who are suffering at this time, people who have symptoms of the disease; for the lonely, dispossessed and homeless.

We pray for all those who have lost loved ones - that you will minister your grace and love to them. We pray that you will strengthen all the staff who are on the front line of this crisis - doctors, nurses, care workers, emergency services, support staff, teachers, delivery workers, shop workers and transport workers.  Also, for the military who will be working alongside NHS staff and volunteers in the coming days and weeks.

Praying that you will meet their every need (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually) and we pray you give all of us grace and comfort at this time.

We ask you Jesus to reach in and heal those patients in hospital who have contracted the disease and prevent the transmission of the disease to members of staff.  We also pray for those who are needing operations and we pray that at this uncertain time they will be able to cope with the disappointment and wait.  We also pray for those who are pregnant at this time that you will give them courage and a sense of hope.

Guide and protect our leaders who make decisions that affect each one of us.  We ask in Jesus' name that you would strengthen them and guide them into all truth.

We also ask you to meet the needs of those who have lost their jobs at this crucial time.

We pray for the children who are now not in school and the isolation this has created as they cannot see their friends.  We pray for families at this time and hope and pray that people will not turn to addictions such as drinking and drug taking.  Protect innocent lives from domestic violence and abuse.

Help us to see who needs your love and support volunteers in this town and across the UK.

We also pray for each other at this time and ask that you will reach in and minister your peace and love, and refresh us spiritually each day.  We pray for the body of Christ in Kettering that we will all use this time to seek your will for our lives.

We ask this in and through the holy and healing name of our Lord Jesus.

Amen

Encouragement in prayer

  • On a Sunday morning, around 10.45am, take time to pray, read the week’s passage & reflection and even sing the hymn below.  Plus around 11am say the Lord’s Prayer.
  • On a weekday morning around 10am pause to pray for a few minutes, use the prayer diary or the directory to pray for a few people from our fellowship as well those you are concerned for.  Again finish that session with the Lord’s prayer.
  • Use the prayer diary which has Bible readings on weekdays

Suggestions

  • Don’t forget there is a 15-minute Daily Service on Radio 4 Long Wave at 9.45am.  If you have a Virgin Box on your TV it is broadcast on channel 911.
  • There is a service on Sunday morning on Radio 4 at 8.10am and a virtual service on BBC 1 at 11.00am.  “Songs of Praise” is also on BBC 1 at 1.15pm, with a Palm Sunday service recorded before the lockdown.

Notices

Nick’s phone number in the directory is wrong.  The sixth digit should be a 7 not 5

Thanks to those of you who prayed for Christine Taylor’s committal service last Friday.   It was very simple with only five of us in the Crem, including the person on the sound desk and the funeral director.  But there was a sense of Christine being at peace, free of pain and discomfort and free to worship God. Sometime in the future we plan to have a service of celebration of Christine’s life, she has left behind a most useful service plan and “Timeline”.  So, we know what songs and readings she wanted, plus on her “Timeline” we have details of her life, parents, family, school, work and interests.  It will be lovely to celebrate Christine and paint a picture of her life and faith.

Hymn for Palm Sunday

Henry Hart Milman was born in 1791.  He studied at Oxford and went on to become a Professor of Poetry.  Later he entered the church and eventually became Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral where he is buried having died in 1868.  Although he wrote several hymns, this is the only one that is regularly sung.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark, all the tribes, ‘Hosanna!’ cry,
O Saviour meek, pursue Your road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, Your triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Your last and fiercest strife is nigh:
the Father on His sapphire throne
awaits His own anointed Son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
in lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, Your power, and reign.

Henry Hart Milman (1791 – 1868)

Terry Waite was kidnapped and imprisoned while he was in Lebanon on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury 30 years ago, he was held hostage for 1763 days.  All but the last few weeks were spent in solitary confinement.  He describes how on most mornings, he saved a little bread and water in my beaker and said to himself the communion service.  In his imagination he was taking part in this act with congregations across the world.  He joined with them using his imagination.

I invite you to take a piece of bread (or even a biscuit or wafer) and a drink (water or juice) and say the following service at 7pm on Maundy Thursday (9th April).  In your imagination join with others at RRBC.

A COMMUNION SERVICE FOR Maundy Thursday

(Adapted from the Wee Worship Book)

Invitation

Jesus was always the guest
In the home of Peter and Jairus, Martha and Mary,
he was always the guest.

At the meal tables of the wealthy where he spoke up for the poor,
he was always the guest.

Upsetting polite company, befriending isolated people, welcoming the stranger,
he was always the guest.

But here, at this table, he is the host.

Those who wish to serve him must first be served by him,
those who want to follow him must first be fed by him,
those who would wash his feet must first let him make them clean.

For this is the table where God intends us to be nourished;
this is the time when Christ can make us new.

So come, you who hunger and thirst for a deeper faith,
for a better life, for a fairer world.
Jesus Christ, who has sat at out tables, now invites us to be guests at his.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, present with us now,
for all that you have done and all that you have promised, what have we to offer?
Our hands are empty, our hearts are sometimes full of wrong things. 
We are not fit to gather up the crumbs from under your table.

But with you is mercy and the power to change us.
So as we do in this place what you did in an upstairs room,
send down your Holy Spirit on us, healing, forgiving and making us whole;
and that we may become, for you, your body,
loving and caring in the world until your kingdom comes.  Amen.

The Sharing

To his followers in every age, Jesus gave an example and command rooted in the experience he shared with his disciples in an upstairs room in Jerusalem.

On the night on which he was betrayed, and as they were sitting at a meal,
Jesus took a piece of bread and broke it. He gave it to the disciples saying,
‘This is my body.  It is given for you. Do this to remember me.’

So now we do as Jesus did. With thanksgiving we eat this bread in remembrance that Christ died for us.

Later after they had eaten, he took a cup of wine and said,
‘This cup is the new relationship with God made possible because of my death.
Drink this all of you to remember me.’ 

We drink in gratitude, remembering that Christ’s blood was shed for us.

Concluding Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, you have put your life into our hands;
now we put our lives into yours.
Take us, renew and remake us.
What we have been is past
what we shall be, through you, still awaits us.
Lead us on. Take us with you.  Amen.