Welcome

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives
May you never give up praying.
When you pray, may you keep alert and be thankful.
Pray that together we may make the message of the mystery of Christ as clear as possible.
Amen
(Based on Colossians 3 and 4)

Readings for Sunday: Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Reflections for the week: Lyfe Devotionals

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Lectio 365 Daily Prayer

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Grapes.

Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
Isaiah 5:1‭-‬2 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/isa.5.1-2.NRSV

Knowing Jesus, tasting and seeing the fruits of his planting, is a joy. If it tastes bitter then it probably is.

Grapes growing outside my back door.

Jesus has called us to discern, let our yes be yes and no be no and pledge only allegiance to him. Any church government that does not embody the hierarchy of the Spirit and how the Spirit is, as the wind and the voice that speaks in the heart, the vineyard of the beloved, is not Christian, is corrupt.

This prophecy was for then and is for now, especially if we believe our selves to be the heirs of Israel.

Levels of authority and models that look more like a corporation, demanding oaths and pledges to doctrines, persons or systems, are not Christian. Though Christ may choose to use them as he would a donkey, churches need to remember that they are as clanging cymbals without love. The gifts are not for status, and the building is the people.

If this sounds a bit reactionary, we’ll it’s what Jesus taught.

Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life and nobody comes to the Father except through him. Jesus is the Word made flesh, the Word that enlightens all and divides Luke 12:49-56.

There is that of God in every person, as George Fox learnt; this I believe is the light that reveals Jesus and brings life not by the power of man but of God. Read the Bible and let God speak. Be still, rest in the peace that is the gift of Jesus, and let God speak. Trust in the faithfulness of God in the promise of Jesus, to yield fruitfulness.

Recognise that what the Bible says of Jesus helps us discern the voice of God in the scriptures, tradition and nature. What Jesus speaks in our hearts will not demand that we hate or do less than love even our enemies. If it doesn’t sound like Jesus, even in the scriptures, then let Jesus speak, the Jesus you know, who says to you,

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
(Matthew 5:33‭-‬37 NRSV)

https://bible.com/bible/2016/mat.5.33-37.NRSV

We know good fruit when we see it. A good tree bears good fruit. Discern the tree and reject man made hierarchies for Christ’s sake. There is only one hierarchy, one sacred rule in the church, love.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1‭-‬2 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/heb.12.1-2.NRSV

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Discuss.

…I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Isaiah 1:13 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/isa.1.13.NRSV

Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honour me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
Psalms 50:23 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/psa.50.23.NRSV

Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:33‭-‬34 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/luk.12.33-34.NRSV

There is a demand in the scriptures. Faith, like grace is not easy; keeping us safe from the ravages of religion but also the weapons of the religious exciting judgement.

Grace is a gift from God and faith trusts God’s faithfulness to exercise grace as we falter in godliness. Each we recieve from God to return to God in what we do and say.

When we feel far away from the ideal, we are reassured that in works of thankfulness, hospitality and generosity, God works in us and through us. Through these works we deepen our knowledge of God. Freely recieved they are freely given.

Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Isaiah 1:18 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/isa.1.18.NRSV

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Enough said.

But now you must get rid of all such things—

anger, wrath, malice, slander,

and abusive language from your mouth.


Do not lie to one another,

seeing that you have stripped off the old self

with its practices

which is being renewed in knowledge

and have clothed yourselves

with the new self,

according to the image of its creator.


In that renewal there is no longer

Greek and Jew,

circumcised and uncircumcised,

barbarian, Scythian,

slave and free;

but Christ is all and in all!


Colossians 3:8‭-‬11 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/col.3.8-11.NRSV

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Shush

Shadows and reality.

‘When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord .” So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. ‘ Hosea 1:2-3 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/HOS.1.2-3

I suspect there will have been some interesting conversations around the dinner table today, unless of course the children were taken out of the service!

The still small voice, that speaks in silence, spoke to Hosea as a loud angry God. A bit like Hosea really.

‘But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen…

” Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” ‘ Hosea 1:7,10 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/HOS.1.7,10

That’s more like it.

For me the Bible is all God’s word, speaking; it’s all in red letters. I ask that Jesus is my teacher and Jesus says,

‘“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘ Luke 11:9-10 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/LUK.11.9-10

The still small voice speaks, and I seek to go beyond myself into the mystery that is God to hear. I don’t want to hear Jesus as me, I want to hear him as he is. Jesus stands between the full presence of God and human experience with its suffering and joy, privilege and want. Scholarship helps, community helps, tradition may help: Jesus offers a welcome to seekers.

Our place of gathering, is not only to hear, sing and pray, it is around a table of remembering, a sharing of wine and bread, recalling the brokenness of Jesus and his life poured out for us.

As a child and a parent, the regular gathering to eat was important, and sometimes it was very hard, but in the eating we could start to forgive and be healed. To be sent down from the table was a searing punishment, to end a meal in an argument scarred.

In many traditions, the table is approached after an act of seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness, forgiving others, praying as Jesus taught.

‘And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” ‘ Luke 11:4 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/LUK.11.4

We know we are fallible, Luke calls us evil,

‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ‘ Luke 11:13 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/LUK.11.13

But in our reading, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and, even though we might be the only one left standing, we can be reassured that what we hear is important and when heard with a contrite heart can be trusted.

‘As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. ‘ Colossians 2:6-8 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/COL.2.6-8

I have heard it said that if we feel God is saying a particular thing, a good practice is to pass all we hear through the filter of the teachings of Jesus,

‘“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Matthew 5:7-9 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/MAT.5.7-9

and

‘He said to him, “

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.

And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ‘ Matthew 22:37-40 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/MAT.22.37-40

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Good news.

After detailing the transgressions of the rich in Israel against the poor Amos reveals the sin in their actions and the inherent judgement in what they are doing. He says,

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?
Amos 8:7‭-‬8 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/amo.8.7-8.NRSV

The Lord will not forget the victims. The transgressions of the nation are not forgotten. The life giving waters of the Nile rise up each season and churn the sediments. It’s inevitable. Amos speaks of the destruction of Israel because of their pride, the life giving waters, their wealth churns up their folly. Then Amos ends,

I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land that I have given them, says the Lord your God.
Amos 9:14‭-‬15 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/amo.9.14-15.NRSV

Suddenly in the text there is a people God does not destroy. Those left behind are able to rebuild in the midst of the judgement.

The theme of exile is also here, exile from Eden mirroring the exile from the promised land, the people brought back under Moses. The vision is one of a new returning to a renewed Eden.

Those who were taken away were the ones judged by God whereas those left behind were the remnant who receive grace and are renewed. Grace is shown that they will no longer to be plucked away as a judgement and, further more, the nation taken away in judgement with those who hear God’s calling, will return to share in the abundance.

So much to ponder.

But wait this is important now, for our time. After speaking of the Nile, Amos conjures this image,

On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.
Amos 8:9‭-‬10 NRSV https://bible.com/bible/2016/amo.8.9-10.NRSV

This is made real in the death of Christ and recalled in Luke 23.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
Luke 23:44‭-‬46 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/luk.23.44-46.NRSV

Also James uses this section of scripture, from the Greek Bible as a proof text for the inclusion of the Gentiles in to the people of God,

‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things
Acts 15:16‭-‬17 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/act.15.16-17.NRSV

Or as the Hebrew Bible says,

On that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen, and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; in order that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name, says the Lord who does this.
Amos 9:11‭-‬12 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/amo.9.11-12.NRSV

This is made real in the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.

It is true now, and has always been that God really cares for the poor and marginalised and has formed creation so that the pride of those who trust in wealth is punished without mercy by the inevitable flow of history, evil begetting evil. Amos sees this and experiences it. This is the sin of the world; pride and the forgetting of the poor, which leads us to forget God.

But suddenly in Christ this changes and out of the devastation God brings a new life. The wounds we have recieved and the wounds we have inflicted are healed. Jesus delivers us from the sin of the world. We are born once more to love. This love wounds us again and again, as we seek to follow the calling of Christ, being transformed by turning again and again to him in our need.

Jesus died to deliver us from the power of the sin of the world and his grace to all is that in the cross there is healing so that we may live a resurrection life where love transforms all in all. The sin of the world is defeated in Christ and we are called to live a life in a new kingdom under the rule of Christ which is love. Here we find abundance that transforms the devestation.

First our wounds are healed, and then we are faced with our part in the inflicting of wounds, horrified at the wounds we inflict on the One who is love. Grace says even though God will not forget the evils done, God does not forget the victim, and tribulation will follow, God says you are remembered, washed and clean, and will prevail to abundance. God acts in our lives, not because we deserve it, preserving us to the end; never forgetting us, giving up on us or leaving us.

First we experience love, and in Christ we learn love, finding healing in his life. Then, love draws us to goodness and we find grace. No prayer has earned this, we find God because God seeks us. We love God because God first loves us. We are delivered from sin through the work of Christ.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:19‭-‬20 NRSV

https://bible.com/bible/2016/col.1.19-20.NRSV

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