15 September 2013

The concept of repentance is a tad unfashionable these days, but justice cannot be achieved without it, and worship becomes shallow for lack of it. It’s easy to denounce the “godless” as “foolish” and to point fingers at those who bring injustice and suffering into the world, but if we’re honest, we are them – the same darkness in them dwells in us. This means we have at least two responses to make: 1) We must face our own “lostness” and repent, opening ourselves to God’s transforming grace and 2) We must offer grace and transformation to those with whom we disagree and even those we find shocking, wrong or evil. This work of justice and worship is not for the faint-hearted!

May our worship lead us into true repentance – the starting place of justice in our own hearts – this week.

READINGS:
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28: God proclaims judgement on God’s foolish people, who are skilled at evil, but have no knowledge of doing good, and the land is destroyed in the wake of God’s anger.
OR Exodus 32:7-14: As the people worship the golden calf, God threatens to destroy them, but Moses pleads on their behalf, reminding God of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and God relents.

Psalm 14: Foolish people say there is no God and live in destructive ways, but God’s people hope in God’s salvation and the joy it will bring.
OR Psalm 51:1-10: David’s prayer of repentance, asking for God’s forgiveness, cleansing and restoration after his adultery with Bathsheba.

1 Timothy 1:12-17: Paul celebrates God’s mercy in that God forgave him and empowered him for ministry, in spite of his sinfulness and ignorance.

Luke 15:1-10: Jesus explains his friendship with ‘sinners’ using the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin – where celebration is inspired by the lost thing being found again.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
Much of the destruction and evil in our world is the result of ignorance and the failure to recognise God’s presence and purpose – so say the Lectionary readings this week. The suffering and injustice that this causes is an offense to God that arouses God’s anger (Jeremiah, Exodus and Psalm 1) but, God is gracious, seeking out what is lost – as in Jesus’ parables in Luke’s Gospel – and healing, restoring and forgiving those who have done wrong (as in David’s Psalm and Paul’s letter to Timothy). More than this, God so changes those on whom God pours God’s grace that they become agents of God’s grace and healing to others – as Paul testified about himself.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: The suffering that is depicted in this week’s readings is still so prevalent in our world today. The ignorance and destructiveness of human folly touches millions of lives every day, and God is still angered by this. As followers of Christ we cannot stand by and watch silently. As the old saying goes, “evil prospers when good people do nothing.” Our hearts must be broken by what breaks God’s heart (to quote another profound, if over-used, saying), and we must become God’s voice for justice and righteousness in our communities and nations. Essentially this means that we need to participate in our society and its systems and structures in order to be agents of change. It is an act of faith and love to sign petitions and join in peaceful protest. It is an act of following Christ to vote for those who best represent the justice we seek and to hold them accountable. It is an act of discipleship to write letters to editors and to leaders, and to challenge the practices of the powerful in politics and in business. We are called to engage and challenge. But at the same time, we are called to be people of grace, forgiveness and restoration. Ours is the tough task of hope – in God’s work and in the possibility for people to change. Ours is the gracious calling to seek justice that restores, not justice that dehumanises through punishment, vengeance and excessive restitution. How can you embrace this two-sided work today?

LOCAL APPLICATION: The word ‘lost’ has come to mean those who are not part of the church, or who don’t believe in Christ as we do, but in the biblical sense, there are still many lost people in the Church. If we’re honest, we all have parts of us that are lost, and we all need to be found more and more. In the light of this, our calling in Christ is to confront the foolishness, ignorance and evil within ourselves, and allow Christ to find, save and transform us. It’s a tough and challenging thing to acknowledge the places where we are unjust or destructive, and to do the work of repentance in order to be changed, but if this is not an integral part of our calling to be people of justice, then what is? Then, we are able to become agents of God’s grace and justice, working alongside the weak, the poor, the marginalised, the excluded and the oppressed, while confronting, challenging and even inspiring the strong, the wealthy, the inclusive and the oppressor. The tough questions, then, this week are these: Where do we still need to confront injustice and “lostness” in ourselves? and In what ways can we offer ourselves to be agents of healing, grace and change in our communities?

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Skeletons
Your GraceĀ In Us
God
You Are God

Hymn Suggestions:
And Can It Be
Amazing Grace
O Zion, Haste
Crown Him With Many Crowns
Show Us The Ancient Paths (Link to YouTube video)
Grace Like Rain (Link to YouTube video)
May The Words Of My Mouth (Link to YouTube video)
How Long?

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Agape

Video Suggestions:
Repent
Psalm 51
The Lost Bear

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