On Sunday June 26th I led worship at Woodlands Chapel. Before setting off to church we had come down at 5.30am as my beloved was worried about how Piper had coped overnight. He was fine and very pleased to see us. We let him into the garden and he wandered around and was happy to be fed. He came up with us for a bit then I took him for a walk, after I had had a shower. I then had my breakfast before setting off for Woodlands Chapel.
Worship opened when we sang verse 1 of ‘Be thou my vision’ and we then read Psalm 16 responsively as our call to worship. We sang ‘Ye servants of God, your master proclaim’ before Ann Winter, a worship leader led the opening prayers. Florence, the other worship leader, read Galatians 5.1, 13-25 before I did the Children’s address. I used illustrations to show how the Holy Spirit changes us if we allow him to teach us to be true servants of Jesus. The children took up the offering and a boy read the first verse of ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you.’ I then said a blessing as the children left the church for their groups. I read 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21 before there was a dramatised reading based on Luke 9: 51-62 was read.
Jesus deliberately set off towards Jerusalem knowing what faced him there. He knew it was the right time to go and did not want anything to stand in his way. A man wanted to be Jesus’ follower, but Jesus discouraged him, telling him the cost of following him; he would not even have a home. Jesus asked a second man to follow him, but he said he must bury his father first. Jesus rebuked him for not leaving everything and following him then and there. He maybe sensed that if the man did not respond then, he would never find the right time to respond. Jesus had no time to wait for him to make up his mind. The third man said that he would follow Jesus, but he would first had to say goodbye to his folk at home. Jesus expected total commitment not someone who kept looking back. If a man ploughs a field he has to keep his eyes ahead or he will not be able to plough a straight furrow.
Elijah had been told to anoint Elisha as his successor and he came to him when he was ploughing with a pair of oxen in a team of 12 people. Elijah dropped his cloak round Elisha to signify his investiture as his successor. Elisha stopped ploughing and asked Elijah if he might say goodbye to his folks. Elijah agreed, so Elijah used his plough as firewood and sacrificed the oxen and shared it with the people. After that he left to follow Elijah and became his attendant. He had not left straightaway but he had made a final decision to leave his home and learn from Elijah in preparation for being his successor.
Jesus had sent his disciples ahead of him to seek hospitality in the Samaritan village. It was the direct way to Jerusalem through Samaria, but most Jews avoided it. The Samaritans and the Jews did not get on; in fact Samaritans would delay or even attack pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. It was unusual for a Jew to attempt to pass through Samaria, but Jesus did this as he was extending a hand of friendship to a people who were enemies. Hospitality was refused and Jesus’ offer of friendship was rejected. James and John thought they were doing a praiseworthy thing when they wanted to call down fire from heaven on them to blot out their village. Here Jesus directly taught tolerance when he rebuked the disciples for their attitude. He loved and cared for all people even those seen as his enemies, and he wanted to give them a chance to change and become his friend and follow him. Jesus wants us too to learn to be tolerant and show love to those with whom we disagree. We need to learn to be tolerant of those who disagree with us, especially now after the referendum vote, we need to rebuild our society to love and respect each other.
Anyone who becomes a Christian faces the cost of discipleship. Jesus was brutally stark and uncompromising. Is there anything holding us back from commitment to follow Jesus? Would we be as tolerant as Jesus was to those seen as as enemies of the Jews, the Samaritans, towards people we felt a threat to our security? Do we feel prejudiced and intolerant to migrants and fear all these refugees needing help and asylum? Psalm 16 showed confidence and trust in the Lord, verse 5, ‘My share has fallen in a fair land; indeed I have a goodly heritage.’ Are we too complacent about our good fortune and do we forget to consider the growing inequalities in our society and the situations from which desperate families flee? Let us remember that we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves and with Jesus’ help learn to serve and accept others as Jesus did.
We sang ‘Longing for light, we wait in darkness’ before I led the prayers of intercession when we focussed on refugees at the conclusion to refugee work. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘All for Jesus, all for Jesus.’