Sunday October 4th at Harlow Hill

On Sunday October 4th I led worship at Harlow Hill Chapel. We began worship as we read Psalm 8 responsively before we sang, ‘Majesty, worship his majesty’. I led the opening prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. I gave a children’s address about Jesus blessing the children and suggested they bless each other and remember to bless each other each day. We sang ‘Jesus, friend of little children’ before we heard the reading from Genesis 2.18-24 and the dramatised reading based on Mark.10.1-16. Then we sang, ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.’
In my sermon I looked back on the ideal of marriage as an equal relationship envisioned in Genesis 2. There the Yahwist compared the creation of man to the creative art of the potter who shapes his clay into a vessel. God made man out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into him so he became a living soul. He was created to be the visible image of God with all possibilities of knowledge, desire and choice. If a man was able to make choices then he could also make the wrong choice. God realised that it was not good for man to be alone, so he created animals for Adam to name. Man was created to have power and responsibility over the natural world. God soon realised that animals were not the right kind of partner for Adam, so he put him into a deep sleep and created a woman from the rib of Adam. Adam welcomed her as flesh of his flesh and a suitable partner; it was to be a relationship of equals.
Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees about whether the law allowed a man to divorce his wife. The question was a specific answer to a current debate at that time between 2 rabbis, Rabbi Shammai and Rabbi Hillel. They disagreed over how to interpret the verse from Deuteronomy 24.1, which said a man could divorce his wife if she becomes ‘displeasing.’ They argued over the meaning of displeasing. Rabbi Shammai saw ‘displeasing’ as only meaning adultery. Rabbi Hillel argued on the other hand that displeasing could mean almost anything. The Pharisees came to test Jesus by asking him if he thought that it was lawful to divorce your wife for any and every reason and he confirmed that he agreed with Rabbi Shammai that the divorce should only be for adultery. He said that although it was permissible to divorce, but remarriage would mean that the divorced person would commit adultery, if he or she remarried. Do we share the views of the Catholics who withhold the sacrament from divorced men and women? Do we feel that they should not marry? I admit I don’t feel like that but then I was near to breaking point in my first marriage and was considering divorce, when my first husband through his mental health issues inadvertently ended his life. I recognise how fallible we are and frail in our relationships; also some abusive marriages should be dissolved to protect the vulnerable partner. I always feel that there but for the grace of God go I.
Parents were always ready to bring children to a great man for blessing, but the disciples were trying to protect Jesus on his way to Jerusalem and did not want him to be bothered by children. However, Jesus was annoyed by their action as he always had time for children. Jesus welcomed them as he valued them. Jesus set high standards for us to aim towards and yet he understands our frailty. He forgives us and mends our broken lives. Help us to be as forgiving, accepting and loving of others, as you were.
Following the sermon we sang ‘Brother, sister let me serve you’ and then Brian, the worship leader led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang ‘Thou God of truth and love’.

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2 Responses to Sunday October 4th at Harlow Hill

  1. selwyngoodacre says:

    yes, poor old Stephen! You did have a rough time – and I have always been so impressed by how you managed to cope so well with all those problems. So lovely that you now have Malcolm, and can enjoy life again

  2. helenbeech says:

    It was very difficult but life goes on. I have been blessed with my relationship with Malcolm, who despite his health problems, is my soul mate. We share so many interests in common and both enjoy watching films and crime drama. Thanks for your support.

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