Weekly Devotional Material –    5 July 2020

Gathering Words

It now looks as if the current situation will be going on for far longer than we initially imagined. In other words, for now, this is the new normal. In the event of any face-to-face meetings these will be quiet, no music or certainly no hymn singing, nothing, initially, I guess, led from the front – it will truly be private prayer, no refreshments, no loos available either. I hope you are sufficiently well resourced to cope with however long you feel you need to remain praying when you come to the church building, so don’t forget your own Bible, etc..

A Prayer to begin

Lord my God, as I come to you again through these prayers and reflections, I come to worship and adore you. I bow my head and pray for your blessing as I read, study your Word and contemplate your glory. Help me this week to found my expectations only on you and to seek your blessing and not the acclamations of the world.

Feed me with your wisdom helping me to recognise it, enable me with your love and strengthen me with your Spirit. Then let me lose myself in adoration as I open my heart to you.

So take my open heart, heal, renew, and strengthen me for continued service during the coming days, all for your glory.

Speak to me now, I am your servant … … .    Amen

Assurance of Pardon

As God’s child know yourself forgiven, blessed and free within his love.

Thanks be to God. Amen and Amen

Gospel Reading: Matt 11: 16 – 19 + 25 – 30

16 ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Reflection

Essentially the Bible reading is saying: Jesus notes that both he and John the Baptist failed to meet people’s expectations. Jesus thanks God that the point of his ministry has been revealed to the simple rather than the wise, and calls on people to learn how to live from him.

I imagine we can all remember people we’ve known, even know now, who we consider ‘humble’. Thank God for each one now … … … … .

For me it makes the contrast to our present-day politicians and their loud rhetoric and contrary actions, even their 180° about-face on what they say will or should happen.

Even now many ministers will be feeling inadequate in the face of additional expectations due to coronavirus.

In the reading we have Jesus being honest, open, and transparent in regards to the ministries of both John and himself. He recognises that his message is being truly heard by those who need it. He is equally sad that the arrogant contrarily believe they don’t need it.

The Church has faced similar problems recently – being accused of either closing when acutely needed, or following medical and government advice to close to prevent the spread of disease instead of staying open and “doing what it should”. Even today there is an acute lack of understanding of the essence of ‘Church’.

Shortly we shall again have the opportunity to show that we have never been closed. We can turn up to the session(s) the Elders have arranged for private prayer. The building may have been shut yet we were not closed to God or his mission. Our coming and going will be an important visual message of mission to the world. Being open for private prayer should be an open invitation to those who now wish to make that first important step towards faith, discerned under C19, knowing they can now use our building. Can we take this opportunity?

It might all seem an effort after so many months of not having to bother, but remember Jesus’ words, 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

This is offered in the light of what follows in the reading when Jesus talks about each knowing the other, v25ff. He also knows you. There maybe difficulties, but his strength is sufficient when it is needed. I pray you have courage, faith and a willingness to call on it.

Prayers of the People

Lord my God, I lift my prayer, my lamentations, my cry for help to you.

I pray for all your people: those I like and those I don’t; those who are like me and those who are different; those who suffer and those in good health; those in poverty and those with an abundance of ‘stuff’; those who follow guidelines and those who flout them.

I pray for those who serve us all as leaders, political, military and religious, that they will be attuned to you, seeking your will and the common good. Bless them with the strength and insight needed to diligently fulfil their roles.

I pray for my neighbours; for those who have sought my welfare in the shutdown or as I continue in shielding; those who have had to continue to work, especially in essential public services such as utilities and the NHS; and my family and friends who I name before you now … … … . I pray for those who are suffering mental health problems, especially where their situation is exacerbated by the lockdown.

I pray for those I will meet this week; those I’ve not seen for months; and those I long to see and hug again.

Continue to give me eyes to see you in creation and the people I meet. And even though I have more time than ever, help me, through my prayer, to take time to listen to you, to believe in Jesus, and to know your Holy Spirit with me.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen

Blessing

Now as I finish and bless your name,

bless me, Lord God, in your name,

in Jesus’ name,

and through the Holy Spirit.

Amen and Amen