06 October 2013

This week our worship shifts to the daily reality of persevering in faithfulness to the small actions that bring justice into our world. As hard as it can be when the justice we seek fails to come as quickly as we long for, giving up is not an option. But, if we can remain faithful, offering God our small seeds of faith, we become part of God’s world-changing purpose.

May our faithfulness and perseverance be strengthened and inspired as we worship this week.

READINGS:
Lamentations 1:1-6, 3:19-26: While Jerusalem has been devastated and the people of Judah have been conquered – their former glory and pride lost in their humiliation, God remains compassionate, God’s mercies are new every day, and those who remain can continue to wait for God’s salvation.
OR Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4: Habakkuk complains about the corruption and injustice in the land, but is assured by God that God’s purposes – a vision of restoration for God’s people – will come to pass.

Psalm 137: A Psalm of grief for the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of God’s people.
OR Psalm 37:1-9: A warning not to envy or be angry at the success of evil doers, but to remain faithful and trusting of God, who will act on behalf of those who wait for God.

2 Timothy 1:1-14
: Paul celebrates Timothy’s ancestry in the faith, and encourages him to stay true to Paul’s teachings about Christ and the way of Christ, even to the point of being prepared to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

Luke 17:5-10: Jesus explains the immense impact that even small measures of faith can have, and encourages his followers not to expect reward for simply doing what should be considered their duty as they seek to serve God and follow Christ.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The readings this week offer a fascinating juxtaposition of ideas. The Old Testament and Psalm readings all explore the pain and humiliation of God’s people when they are defeated, conquered and exiled, and as they long for forgiveness restoration and salvation. Even Psalm 37 deals with similar issues, albeit in a more generalised way, speaking of the pain and confusion that arises when destructive or evil people prosper, and the difficult work of faith and patience in God’s action on behalf of those who trust God’s ways. The New Testament readings, on the other hand, explore the impact that a life of simple, ordinary faith can have, and the attitude of humble servanthood which expects no undue reward for simply living faithfully. In essence, both Testaments are saying the same thing this week.
In a world where bad things happen to good people, and where it often appears that the lawless and ‘godless’ get the best, it can be tough to live in faith and faithfulness. Justice can take a long time to come, and it can be tempting to use any means – however undesirable – to achieve what we long for. This applies even when our goal is to manifest God’s reign. However, as we live in faithfulness, and pass our faith on to others who come after us, the small, ordinary acts of goodness and justice that we do each day, the small faithful commitments to our convictions that we renew each day, really do ‘move mountains’ and change the world, little by little, into a place where God’s salvation is visibly revealed.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: In the light of the huge challenges facing our world – hunger and poverty, human rights abuses, unequal distribution of resources, human trafficking, dread diseases, environmental degradation, conflict and war – it is easy to get frustrated and impatient, and it is extremely tempting to embrace any strategy that gets results. The danger here, though, is that we can too easily become what we seek to overcome, and our efforts, which may appear successful in the short term, leave us in deeper trouble in the long term. Two important principles that the lectionary offers us this week are 1) the power of small acts of goodness and justice, and 2) the need to think systemically and long term, waiting at the “guard post on the wall” (to use Habakkuk’s image) to observe, nurture and cooperate with any manifestations of God’s reign that emerge. In the world of big business, big politics, and powerful lobby groups, such long term thinking can be frustrating, but, as demonstrated by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela (it must have taken faith to spend 27 years in jail and then still embrace dialogue as a valid process to end apartheid) such faithful, consistent and just living does result in significant change. What long term commitments to justice can you embrace or renew in your community this week?

LOCAL APPLICATION: Perhaps the best focus, on the local level, this week, is the power of small, ordinary, “everyday” acts of justice. When we refuse to live according to the expedient, self-centred, materialist values of the society around us, it may appear to have no impact, and we may feel like we become nothing more than a laughing stock – a people in exile, suffering for what may sometimes feel like foolish and ineffectual convictions, while those around us “live it up” and succeed. The promise of the Scriptures, though, is that such alternative living does have an impact – a significant one – and also has lasting value – becoming the heritage of faith and goodness that is passed down through generations and across communities. The reassurance this gives is that our suffering is not in vain, and that our faithfulness is useful to God. In our “instant gratification” society, such perseverance and endurance is hard and counter-cultural, but is a powerful witness to the Gospel. Where has your church’s commitment to “everyday justice” grown tired or weak? In what ways do you need to renew your commitment to persevere? What alternate living choices do you need to make or renew together? To whom can your faith heritage be passed on? What can you do to inspire and sustain small, long term, commitments in your community this week?

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Small Insignificant Things
Mustard Seed Faith
This Hidden Kingdom

Hymn Suggestions:
O Loving Lord
Give Me The Faith Which Can Remove
O Master Let Me Walk With Thee
O Jesus I Have Promised
Day By Day (Godspell – Link to YouTube video)
May The Words Of My Mouth (Link to YouTube video)
Let Me Shine
Blessed Be Your Name (Link to YouTube video)
You Have Shown Us (Link to Vimeo video – song starts at 1:24)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

Video Suggestions:
Please Don’t Make Us Sing
Hope Of Mercy
You Can Make A Difference

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