28 July 2013

There can be no question that the work of faith, of receiving God’s grace, and of following Christ in worship and service, is a life long journey of perseverance and faithfulness. And it is because of God’s faithfulness toward us that we can even contemplate this life. But, if we will contemplate it, and if we can commit to the long haul, we will see change happening in us and we will see justice coming a little more to our world.

May God’s faithfulness inspire your commitment and perseverance this week.

READINGS:
Hosea 1:2-10: God instructs Hosea to marry a prostitute, and give his children names that prophesy God’s judgement on Israel, but also God’s ultimate restoration.
OR Genesis 18:20-32: Abraham bargains with God to try and avert the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God agrees that if ten righteous people are found, God will spare the city.

Psalm 85: A song in celebration of God’s grace and forgiveness, and God’s blessing in restoring God’s people.
OR Psalm 138: A song of David praising God for God’s love, faithfulness and trustworthy promises, and pleading for God’s continued protection and care.

Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19): Paul encourages believers to sink their roots deep into Christ and find their completeness in Christ. He reminds us that in Christ our sinful nature was ‘circumcised’ and we have been raised to new life. So we no longer need to pander to legalism.

Luke 11:1-13: Jesus teaches on prayer, and on the need for persistence in prayer, reminding the disciples that God gives the Holy Spirit to all who ask.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The Gospel reading sets the tone for this week’s theme. The call to persistence is clear from Jesus, and it is directly linked with our prayer life – our relationship with God. In a similar way, Hosea’s persistent faithfulness to his unfaithful wife reflects God’s faithfulness to God’s people, and Abraham’s bargaining with God reveals both the value of persistence in our seeking God’s resources, and God’s persistence in seeking our restoration. Both Psalms offer praise and requests in the assurance of God’s faithfulness, and out of a persistent commitment to God’s ways. Finally, Paul instructs the believers to stay true to the new life that they have received in Christ, and not be drawn away by legalism or by dramatic visions and stories. If we are to follow Christ and make a difference in the world then it will not be quick, dramatic or constantly changing innovations that will help, but rather – to use the name of one of Eugene Peterson’s books – “a long obedience in the same direction.” This does not mean we cannot be creativity or adopt new ideas and strategies, but that we remain faithful and committed to Christ and the Gospel proclamation of God’s reign, working consistently and persistently to fulfill God’s purposes in our world a little more each day.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: There is so much that needs to be changed in our world and the stakes are so high that we can easily be disillusioned when the work of justice changes things slowly or in less than dramatic ways. It is easy to begin to believe that it is only in expedient partnerships, or in cynical pragmatism that we can succeed fast enough. We can too easily begin to compromise our ideals and our souls in the quest to make headway. But, ultimately a justice earned this way is no justice at all, and will end up leaving us with new battles to fight – or with us becoming the very thing we strive against. The message of this week’s Lectionary Readings is a difficult but important one – as we stay faithful to Christ and God’s Reign, as we continue to pray earnestly, and work persistently, and as we celebrate the little victories along the way – remembering how far we’ve come even as we recognise how far we still have to go – the work of justice is served, and lives are changed for the better a little more each day. So, whatever justice you pray for, whatever work you do, stay faithful, persistent and prayerful – many victories that we celebrate today were a long time in the winning (Civil Rights, abolition of slavery, equality of women etc.).

LOCAL APPLICATION: As you reflect on the ministries of your community, and the people who are involved in them, where do you detect signs of fatigue, frustration and the temptation to take short cuts? In what ways do you long to see change in your church and/or in your neighbourhood or society? Which of these changes show signs of movement, and which appear to be stalling? Are there perhaps areas of need or injustice that you have resisted getting involved with because you’re feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issue, or because you feel pessismistic about the possibility of change? Perhaps this week’s readings can encourage and motivate you. Perhaps you can use your worship this week to pray for and encourage those who work for justice in your community, and recommit to the work you do. Perhaps you can allow for time of rest and refreshing, not to give up on the tough work of proclaiming and demonstrating God’s Reign, but to gain new energy to continue a persistent, faithful, prayerful witness to God’s justice.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Relentless Love
Staying Faithful
Small Insignificant Things

Hymn Suggestions:
O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee
Praise My Soul, The King Of Heaven
Come Let Us Use The Grace Divine
Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah (Redeemer)
The Power Of Prayer
Forever (Link to YouTube video)
Everlasting God (Link to YouTube video)
Unfailing Love (Link to YouTube video)
Always Forever (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

Video Suggestions:
Wounded Bride
Shine Your Light
The Persistent Quarterback

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