On Sunday 23rd October, which is always special for me, as it was my mother, Ruth Goodacre’s birthday, born 1910, Eric Robertson led worship at Wesley Chapel. His call to worship was taken from Psalm 147 before we sang, ‘Praise my soul, the King of heaven.’ Eric led the prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession and the Lord’s Prayer, before we sang, ‘O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’, which is a lovely hymn of worship and reverence for God. We then heard the readings from Joel 2.23-32; 2 Timothy 4.6-8 and 16-18; and Luke 18.9-14, before we sang ‘Be thou my vision’ and Eric preached.
The fortunes of Israel varied depending on their faithfulness to God. Joel described how the locusts took their harvest; they had enemies from the North, but the people turned away from God and sought other gods. Therefore God allowed all those bad things to happen, but if they returned to Him, He would restore them and bless the land again. In the past they were taunted by people saying that God had deserted them; but God would make up for all the suffering. Eric asked us if we had seen the Super nanny, who helped families control wayward children; they educated the parents to train the children using naughty steps as punishment, until they learnt to abide by the rules. Children feel they are suffering when they have to behave, instead of being allowed to do interesting things. The gift of suffering eventually leads to a better time, but people must not forget what the Lord has done. They had not praised God when they thought he had let them down, but they would praise and thank him again when a better time came.
Luke emphasised the kind of relationship people had with God. In the temple the Pharisee sees himself better than the tax collector, whereas the tax collector is only too aware of his guilt and humbly lays himself on God’s mercy. Only the tax collector is forgiven. Do we put God first and ask him to forgive our sins? Do we act like the Pharisees, when we only praise God on Sunday like the Pharisee? Some people avoid worshipping if they don’t like the preacher! Is that right? Eric is an organist and on occasions he is subjected to boring sermons but some of those supposedly dull sermons were the most inspiring services, when one word spoke to him. We should not go to church wishing to be entertained but to praise God for all he has done for us in the previous week. Some people don’t like modern songs whereas others don’t like hymns. If we truly worship God then the right hymn and song can help. Have we considered that even if a piece of music only reaches one person in the congregation, it is still important to play it? Do we criticise the hymns or the presence of children in church, when they get bored and are disruptive and think they would prefer their own service? The disciples thought the children would disturb Jesus, but there was no need as Jesus taught that we would need to be like children to get into the kingdom. We also need to put up with children for their sakes or it could put them off coming to church and they could become the missing next generation. In the last days, Joel said, God will pour out his spirit on all people. All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. The Spirit is not for our personal gratification but to strengthen our witness and preaching up to the end days.
Paul tells Timothy how he has completed the race and now it is time for Timothy to keep the faith and proclaim it to others. Those who believe look forward to the coming of Jesus in the Last Days; whilst others fear his return. Eric wondered who had told us about Jesus and led us to faith? Who will lead others to Christ? The people were called to repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus, so as believers they could enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are called to love God first and our neighbours as ourselves. We often do not even put God second never mind first. Like the tax collector we need to ask God for forgiveness. Like Timothy we too must take up the baton and keep the faith as we run the race.
We sang, ‘Come down O love divine’ before Eric led the prayers of intercession. He also called us to put God first in our lives. Worship concluded when we sang a favourite of his and mine; ‘I, the Lord of sea and sky.