May 16, 2021

Sunday Sermon 24-05-2020

Service Easter 7 May 24 2020 (Yr A)

Leighmoor UC

Possible hymns

TIS 137: For the beauty of the earth

TIS 675: Lord, the light of your love is shining (Shine Jesus shine)

TIS 152: Joyful, joyful we adore you

TIS 147: To God be the glory

TIS 699: A new commandment

TIS142: Glory be to God the Father

TIS 755: You shall go out with joy

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Glory-filled God,

We come before your radiance in prayer.

Your glory brought into being all of creation,

Your glory was announced on the night of Jesus’ birth,

Your glory was evident in Christ’s resurrection, and ascension.

To you be all glory.

We thank you for another day.

In a world that is far from safe-may we never take a day, or hour, for granted.

Thank you for the gift-and glory-of life.

We thank you for the music of birdsong,

Of the tinkling of laughter as children steer past on bikes and skate boards.

And yet, we know we have let you down,

we have let others down,

and we have let ourselves down.

Forgive us.

Grant us a spirit of courage, of hope, of compassion.

Help us to become the people you created us to be.

(silence)

God is love.

Through Christ our sins are forgiven.

Thanks be to God.

Take hold of this forgiveness

and live our lives in the power of the Spirit.

Amen.

Bible Readings

Acts 1: 6-14

Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35

1 Peter 4: 12-14, 5: 6-11

John 17: 1-11

Sermon: Love’s radiance

(John 17: 1-11)

In the story, The Whisper Test, Mary Ann Bird writes:

‘I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it.  I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech.

When schoolmates asked “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass.  Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different.  I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.’ There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored- Mrs Leonard.  She was short, round, happy- a sparkling lady.

Annually we had a hearing test.  Mrs Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn.  I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back-like ‘The sky is blue’ or “Do you have new shoes?’ I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life.  Mrs Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”

-I wish you were my little girl.

In John 17, Jesus said, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.  So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.”

Earlier, in John 13, Jesus, speaking about glory, said: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.”

“…Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” 

God’s glory shines whenever we do loving things.

-or God’s glory is revealed in acts of love.

(repeat) 

Glory and love are soul mates.

Glory.

We speak, indeed sing, of God’s glory, or ‘glory to God.’

But what is it?

What does the word ’glory’ really mean?

And what are we trying to get across when we give glory to God?

According to the Oxford Dictionary to glorify-means to make glorious, invest with radiance, and with dignity.

That’s part of what we ‘do’

  • We speak about something of God’s character and being.

When we come to worship, to glorify God-to praise the Almighty, radiant God.  We honour God’s essential being.

But what IS God’s glory?

‘Glory’ is one of those church words which many of us use over and over again without really understanding what we are saying.

In both Old and New Testaments, there are many instances where the word ‘glory’ is used-in different ways.

For example, in 1 Kings, Solomon builds a temple for God.  In vs 10: ‘And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.’

-here it signifies the power, the presence, and the holiness of God.

BUT in Jeremiah, Chapter 2 the meaning is quite different.  God pleads with Jeremiah to ask Israel to repent of her ways, to cease following false gods:

‘But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit.’

So-from the previous, positive image of power and majesty-

to the negative-the people are without honour, without dignity, without character-they have strayed from their true, authentic calling as God’s people. 

Who can forget the Christmas story?  In Luke 

‘Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them’

And later, the multitude of angels sang ‘Glory to God in the highest…’

Majesty, power, radiance-and praise,

It is a word rich in meaning.

In the Old Testament, there are two important elements in the understanding of God’s glory:

  1. It is a visible manifestation of God’s majesty

–we can see it

  1. In acts of power

While God is invisible, from time to time, God manifests Himself to people by a striking action-which is his glory.

Sometimes through the realm of nature-as in a thunderstorm,

Or

 as an incident in history-in their desert wanderings God’s glory is the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night-God’s presence is visible to the Israelites.

In the New Testament, since Jesus is the incarnate Word of God, he embodies divine glory

John 1:14: ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory…’

And from today’s lectionary reading: ‘Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.’

The two important elements in the OT concerning the glory of God: 

-visible manifestation, or acts of power.

These two elements of glory are present in Jesus.

He represents the visible divine presence, exercising itself through mighty acts, or miracles.

Turning the water into wine: John 2: ‘Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory…’

In John chapter17-nearly the whole of that chapter is given over to Jesus’ glory.  The entire passion of Jesus is presented to us as his ‘glorification.’

In the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, the glory of God is revealed.

(repeat)

The resurrection was the mighty act of God par excellence.

It is in the face of Christ that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in our own hearts. (2 Cor 4:6)

Hopefully we now have a clearer picture or understanding of the layers of meaning in that 5 letter word: GLORY

So why have I laboured the point?

Because we may miss what giving ‘glory’ to God means.

God’s glory or presence reaches out to us as LOVE.

As love.

As Christ reflected God’s glory-so too are we to do the same-in our acts of love.

Jesus said: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’

This does not meant that this is the first time we are told to love one another. Back in the Book of Leviticus we are commanded to do so.

BUT the newness of the command now given by Jesus is that the love he requires of his disciples is to be of the kind with which he has loved them.

It is to be love of the kind that will ‘reverse the roles’- leader to serve, love that will bring peace to the world.

It will be love that, like Christ’s love-does not ask questions about worthiness but simply gives itself in humble service.

How can we love like Jesus? 

  1. Jesus loved his disciples selflessly.  We may so often think-maybe sub consciously-about what we are to get from love-the happiness, the thrill-or the emptiness and the loneliness which we will suffer if love fails, or is denied.

We could be seeking our own happiness.  But Jesus never thought of himself-His one desire was to give himself and all He had for those he loved.

  1. Jesus loved his disciples sacrificially.

-there was no limit to what his love would give, or where his love would go-even to the cross.

  1. Jesus loved his disciples with understanding.

–he knew them through and through.

He knew all their weaknesses and yet he still loved them

Those who really love us are the people who know us at our worst and who still love us.

We are not perfect-sometimes those who love us point this out to us!

It is when we live with people that we find out their moods and their irritabilities and their weaknesses and vice versa.

We sometimes say ‘love is blind’ -but that is not so.

–real love is opened-eyed.  It loves, not what it imagines the person to be, but the person as he or she is-the whole person, warts and all-for better and for worse.

The heart of Jesus is big enough to love us as we are.

  1. Jesus loved his disciples with forgiveness.

–they were all to forsake him, to flee.

But Jesus held nothing against them.  There was no failure which he could not forgive.

We are called to reflect Christ’s glory, God’s glory-in love.

–love as part of God’s glory, God’s nature,

–love us part of our nature too.

Love changes lives-like the opening story,

and love reflects God’s glory.

G-Great God

 L-love

O-overwhelming

R-righteousness

Y-Yahweh.

Within the word ‘glory’ is love-hemmed in on both sides with the word ‘God’ and ‘Yahweh’.

Overwhelming love is part of God’s glory, and part of our own nature.

As Christians we are to reflect this light of love, of glory, to the whole of creation.

How to describe love?  Words are never enough-it is through our actions, our deeds that love is made visible, to God’s glory.

Amen

Prayers of the People

We pray for the world, our community, ourselves.

We pray for the victims, families and friends of victims of the Covid 19 virus, be with them in their grief, during their fear.

Make them aware of your presence, and strengthen them through this crisis.

We pray for the medical staff, nursing teams, and frontline responders.

Be with them as they serve, as they love, as they put their own lives in danger.

This week, we pray for those affected by Cyclone Amphan in India and Bangladesh.  Now there are over 80 reported dead, and millions struggling to evacuate the region amidst Covid 19 restrictions.

Lord, we know this is hard, especially for the poor, who are already stretched to the limit by the economic impact of the virus.  The virus will also affect relief efforts and on-going recovery programs. 

We do not understand-but we know you care. 

Help us to think beyond ourselves-each person is someone’s grandmother, or grandfather, mother, or father, brother, or sister, child, husband, or wife, friend, colleague.

During these hard times, may we remember our world family.

In a time of silence we remember and pray about other issues which weigh heavy on our hearts. 

Let us conclude by praying the prayer Jesus taught his followers, which includes us:

‘Our Father…’

Amen

Blessing (a Bruce Prewer blessing)

The overflowing grace of Christ Jesus,

the embracing love of God,

and the invigorating friendship of the Spirit,

will be with you now and always,

Amen

24.05.2020 Leighmoor UC

Rev Barbara Allen