10 November 2013

This week we return to a central pillar of our faith, and one that must inform all that we do as we seek to follow Christ – the idea that life is eternal, that God saves, and that resurrection emerges from death. This is, of course, more than just an idea, but is a lived experience as we face death in all its forms and manifestations in our world, and as we cling to the hope that the Gospel offers us. Without the hope of life, of resurrection, it is pretty much impossible to remain committed and effective in dreaming of and working towards a more peaceful and just world.

May we be filled and empowered again by resurrection life in our worship this week.

READINGS:
Haggai 1:15b-2:9: God comforts the returning exiles as they grieve the loss of former glory, and face the reality of a new, simpler, less prosperous and glamorous life. God’s presence is assured, and a promise of future glory is offered as comfort and inspiration.
OR Job 19:23-27a: Job affirms his faith that God will ultimately defend, justify and restore him, in spite of the accusations of his friends.

Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21: God is worthy of praise, fair and faithful, and always near to, and protective of, those who love and trust God.
OR Psalm 98: A song of praise inviting all creation to celebrate God’s salvation and mercy.
OR Psalm 17:1-9: A prayer for God’s protection and justification based on the innocence and obdeience of the one praying.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17: Paul addresses the rumour-mongering and fear of the church, assuring them of God’s love and salvation, and their secure hope in Christ.

Luke 20:27-38: Jesus is confronted by the Sadducees about life after death, using the story of a woman who, through Levirate marriage, is married to seven brothers consecutively. He responds with an affirmation of resurrection, proclaiming that God is the God of he living, not of the dead.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
Although the passages this week appear to be completely unrelated, there is, nevertheless, a thread that runs through all of the readings. In the face of difficulties – exile, persecution, and even death – God gives God’s people the assurance of God’s protection and salvation. The returning exiles are assured that God is with them and will restore their temple beyond its former glory (which, historically, motivated them to continue working on the temple for centuries!). Job, in the face of his accusers, pleads his innocence and affirms his faith in God’s justification and restoration. The Psalmists celebrate God’s mercy and salvation and plead, in faith, for God’s deliverance. Paul reassures the Thessalonian church that they have not been abandoned or left behind by God, but are guaranteed God’s love and a place in God’s eternal realm. Finally, Jesus, in the face of the Sadducees’┬átaunts, reaffirms the resurrection, and that even in death we are not separated from God and God’s life.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: While the promise of an afterlife has sometimes been used as an excuse for oppression or a reason to keep away from engagement in justice issues in the world, the truth is that the hope we have in Christ is more often a motivator to work toward that hope in this life. If our work to bring about a more peaceful, equitable society has no hope of success – which is the case if it depends only on us – then we will ultimately find ourselves growing cynical and disheartened, and falling into a “if you can’t beat them, join them” view. If, however, we can nurture our faith in God’s purposes, God’s life and God’s resurrection, we find hope. Our efforts are not ours alone, but are inspired and empowered by God’s Spirit, and at some point – even if only in a distant future – the work we do now will result in the world of which we dream. And, further, the life we live and to which we contribute now, lives on beyond the grave. So, what we do does matter, and every small act of mercy, compassion and defense of the most vulnerable is a manifestation of God’s life. We are participants in God’s work of resurrecting the universe! Once we allow this truth to sink into our souls, we begin to engage the world’s systems from a different, less desperate, more confident and compassionate place. Ultimately, in all of the world’s most effective activists this irrepressible hope is visible. As followers of Christ, how much more should this hope characterise us?

LOCAL APPLICATION: It takes tremendous courage and faith to live an alternative set of values and practices from the people around us. Unfortunately, though, our world has somehow become captured by short-term, expedient values – the quarterly report, the next new product or experience, the quick gratification. Long term hope, and the commitment to work and wait for the greater good are somehow seen as quaint but outdated ways of living. In our churches we can fall into exactly the same trap – measuring our success by numbers, money, buildings, new fashions, new trends and new equipment. When this happens, our message is lost, and the call for justice is silenced. When we renew our faith in the eternal, in the unending life of God, and in our hope of resurrection, all sorts of things change. We begin to view the world and its history through the lens of God’s reign, and the wide sweep of salvation history, rather than just the immediate moment. We begin to work for a better world, even though we may never see the fulfilment of our dreams ourselves. We grow in our commitment to make short term sacrifices in favour of long term justice and peace. Ultimately this faith enables us to change what we drive and how we use energy – even though it may be less convenient – to protect our planet. It enables us to give up our short term needs and hurts in favour of long term relationship building – even with those we may consider enemies. It enables us to sacrifice some of our own comfort in the short term – to buy less, consume less and throw away less – in order to ensure that there is enough to go around, and that what we use is justly and fairly sourced and produced. Hope in the resurrection – in God’s eternal gift of life and salvation – really does inspire us to live differently, if we will only allow it to capture our hearts and souls

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
The Life That Ignores Limits
Invincible Life
That Life Would Teach Us
What Life Can Be

Hymn Suggestions:
There’s A Light Upon The Mountains
O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing
O Spirit Of The Living God
We Shall Go Out With Hope Of Resurrection
Sing With All The Saints In Glory
There’s A Light (Upon The Mountains)
Everlasting God (Link to YouTube video)
Hosanna (Link to YouTube video)
Lord Of The Dance (Link to YouTube video)
Shine Jesus Shine (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

Video Suggestions
:
The Event
Psalm 17
Life From Death

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