On Sunday March 8th our own local preacher Mike Greenberg led worship at Wesley Chapel. The service began when we sang the third verse of the hymn ‘Tree of Life’:
‘We remember truth once spoken
Love passed on through act and word
Every person, lost and broken
Wears the body of our Lord’;
Before we heard the liturgy for Lent and a third candle was extinguished for the pain and suffering in the world.
We then sang ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’ before Mike led the opening prayers. We sang ‘Beauty for brokenness’ before the readings from the Bible. The first reading was from Exodus 20v1-17 and described the 10 commandments. Mike said that he had noticed for the first time, even though it was a well known passage that only men were told not to covet their neighbour’s wife; wives were not instructed not to covet their neighbour’s husband!! The second reading was from 1 Corinthians 1v18-25 and described the foolishness of the cross. Mike read the gospel reading from John 2v13-22, the cleansing of the temple. We sang ‘Help us O Lord to learn the truth your word imparts’ before the sermon.
Mike needs to think about things not just accept things; for him it is important to debate his faith. He knows we are urged to share our faith with others, but he finds that hard to do, as he finds it difficult to find the right words to share with others. What makes humans distinct from animals or computers? It is that we have the free will to make choices; we can choose what to do but it is not always easy to make the choice. We can be restricted by our upbringing, or our physical capability, but there is not an unlimited choice. Many scientists dispute whether we really have free will; a brain is a remarkable machine, a most complex organisation of cells interacting with itself, but that it does not have a mind or a soul. Some scientists think there is not even a ‘you’ to do thinking, but only for an example an urge to procreate, just like animals. For them there was no purpose in life; where we were then was just pure chance. They imagined that artificial intelligence would rule and we would be destroyed by robots. That no longer seems so far distant as now they are even making driverless cars! Mike argued that such arguments were not even good science, especially as scientific knowledge is only a work in progress. However we do believe in the work of the Spirit of God in our lives. Believers are prepared to die for their faith.
The money changers in the temple were exploiting people and profiting by making the people pay a high exchange rate to change their money into temple money before they were able to buy animals for sacrifice. That exploitation had been already criticised by prophets like Amos and Micah, so it was not new in the time of Jesus. We Christians can also erect barriers, exploit people or demand obedience, or have pre-conditions for people to join our church communities; such attitudes make it difficult to draw new people in to church. At Wesley Chapel we share our mission with those who work for the homeless project and musicians who come monthly to entertain people. Many groups share our premises such as Forward Together, a group serving people on their own with a meal, providing talks and advice and company for older people or marginalised people. We accept them into our fellowship without asking them if they are Christians. We have another denomination’s office on our premises and a non Methodist Church will be sharing our premises in the late afternoon and early evening on Sundays. Mike reminds us that none of us are perfect. We can do more to care for others and encourage those with negative feelings to feel supported and loved. We must remember that we have a pearl of great price to share with those less fortunate than we are.
We sang ‘When the Church of Jesus shuts its outer door,’ which challenges us not to shut out the world beyond our doors from our Christian care. It reminds us that we must not forget a suffering world and do things to relieve the needs of the world. We are not to salve our consciences by giving and serving but learn how to serve Jesus in our daily living. That hymn reminded us of the importance of our whole life being dedicated to our Lord. We used the following hymn for our intercessions, which was appropriate:
‘Heaven shall not wait
For the poor to lose their patience
The scorned to smile, the despised to find a friend:
Jesus is Lord;
He has championed the unwanted;
In him injustice confronts its timely end.
Heaven shall not wait
For the rich to share their fortunes,
The proud to fall, the elite to tend the least:
Jesus is Lord;
He has shown the master’s privilege –
To kneel and wash servants’ feet before they feast.
Heaven shall not wait
For the dawn of great ideas,
Thoughts of compassion divorced from cries of pain:
Jesus is Lord;
He has married word and action;
His cross and company make his purpose plain.’
Worship was concluded after we sang, ‘Brother, sister let me serve you. It was a thoughtful and worshipful service.