09 July 2017

Following on from last week’s focus on hospitality, the Lectionary shifts this week to Christ’s invitation, and our role in taking that invitation to the world. The challenge is that what is often thought of in terms of words and ‘evangelism’, is, from the perspective of the Lectionary, more about action and inclusion.

May we find a welcome again in Christ, and the wisdom and courage to take that welcome out into our lives as we worship this week.

READINGS:
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67: Isaac’s servant goes back to Abraham’s homeland to find a wife for him. He meets Rebekah, who responds according the sign he had asked of God, and so he brings her back to Isaac who marries her.
OR Zechariah 9:9-12: A prophecy of the King who will come to God’s people bringing peace, justice and freedom.

Psalm 45:10-17: A psalm celebrating a royal wedding and the beauty of the bride as she is led to the king.
OR Song of Solomon 2:8-13: A love song in which the Lover invites the Beloved to come away and enjoy the world which is bursting with the life of Spring.
OR Psalm 145:8-14: Praise for God’s grace, mercy and faithfulness to God’s promises.

Romans 7:15-25a: Paul laments his struggle to do the good that he wants to do, while the sin nature within him leads him to do what he doesn’t want to do, but he celebrates Christ who provides freedom from this struggle.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30: Jesus laments the resistance and misunderstanding of those who judged both John and him, and gives thanks that God reveals wisdom only to the childlike. Then he invites those who are burdened to come to him and receive rest.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The invitation of God, through Christ, to find intimacy, rest and liberation speaks through all of this week’s readings. In the continuous readings of the Old Testament, there is the theme of bride and groom finding love and comfort with each other, and the picture this offers of God’s love and welcome for God’s people. In the related readings, the prophet’s message of the King who comes to bring peace and justice is proclaimed, along with the Psalmist’s celebration of God’s mercy and faithfulness. In the New Testament, Paul, while recognising the human problem of slavery to sin, recognises that Jesus is the one who brings relief and liberation. Finally, Jesus, while lamenting that some people will not or cannot receive him and his message, nevertheless invites any who are burdened to come to him. All of this makes it very clear that God longs for connection with us, and God is always available and accessible to those who need and want God. In addition, in this world where the effects of sin – injustice, slavery of all kinds, conflict and judgement – are widespread and bring devastation to so many, Christ comes as the one who seeks to bring relief – liberation, justice, peace and mercy. All of which leaves us with a choice: Will we accept Christ’s invitation and come to him to find life, or will we question the effectiveness of Christ’s message and presence, and seek to go our own way? Will we live in faith and communion with God, or will we live as functional atheists? It’s an important choice that every follower of Christ must make daily.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: We don’t have to look far to see the effects of human brokenness on our world. The tyranny of sin has left its mark everywhere, from dire poverty and unjust economic and power relations between rich and poor, to the slavery of human trafficking; from expedient exploitation of the planet’s resources, to corruption in business and government across the world; from wars between nations, to conflict between factions, families and individuals. In the face of all this the invitation of Christ may seem ineffectual and faith in Christ’s liberating reign may seem naive. But, we have also discovered that human capacity alone cannot address the burdens and struggles we face. It is increasingly important that people of faith resist the temptation of cynicism and pessimism, and allow themselves to be empowered and inspired by the Christ we follow. It is increasingly necessary for us to live our faith in the daily choices that impact the realities of our world, and in extending Christ’s invitation to others. This doesn’t necessarily mean preaching or seeking to convert others. It is more likely to mean working alongside the least to ease their burdens and to stand against the unjust people and institutions that oppress and enslave. It means allowing our faith and hope to inspire how we choose to buy, eat, dress, drive and vote. It means praying, thinking and learning globally, while acting and contributing locally. At it’s heart, receiving Christ’s invitation is more than just a personal experience of peace and rest. It is a call to be those who seek to draw others into Christ’s rest along with us, and to spread Christ’s peace and mercy as far as we can, in whatever way we can.

LOCAL APPLICATION: The broken and weary ones of the world are with us in every family, every community and every neighbourhood. The broken and weary ones are us, and those we live with. This is why Christ’s invitation is such a wonderful, life-giving promise. We need only believe that rest can truly be found in a Christ-following life. We need only be committed enough to Christ’s invitation that we will not keep it to ourselves, but seek to share it with those around us. It is when we open our arms and the doors of our churches to all – whoever they may be or however we may disagree with them – that we offer rest, instead of the burden of judgement and guilt. It is when we live simply and generously, resisting the temptation to hoard, accumulate and consume more than we need that we bring rest to those who struggle to survive each day. It is when we work within our community to bring change to unjust laws, to take notice of the hurting and vulnerable ones, and to welcome those with whom we would normally not associate that we bring rest to others. These actions make no sense to those who benefit from and buy into the world’s systems, but they are the only ones that bring life and grace and liberation to all – both those who do them and those who benefit from them. Perhaps it’s time that the Church stopped trying to be wise in the world’s eyes (or even wiser than the world but on the world’s terms), and embraced a childlike naivety and a gracious, inclusive openness that can offer an alternative way of being in this often burdensome world.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Your Welcome Invitation

Hymn Suggestions:
Just As I Am
Come Let Us Sing Of A Wonderful Love
In Heavenly Love Abiding
Jesus Calls Us O’er The Tumult
O Jesus I Have Promised
Blessed Be Your Name (Link to YouTube video)
Your Grace Is Enough (Link to YouTube video)
God Of Justice
What I Have Vowed (Link to YouTube video)
Mighty To Save (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy For The Sacrament

Video Suggestions:
Come To Me
Come To Me

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