On Sunday July 9th I led worship at Woodlands Chapel and we sang ‘To God be the glory,’ before I led the opening prayers. Romans 7.15-25a was read about how difficult it was for Paul to do good things. I talked with the children about bad habits and how we can ask Jesus to give us strength and help us fight bad habits. We sang ‘Give thanks with a grateful heart’, before the children took up the offering and I blessed them as they went to their groups. There was a dramatised reading based on Genesis 24 followed by the reading from Matthew 11.16-19; 25-30 before we sang ‘Beauty for brokenness, Hope for despair.’ Then I preached.
After Sarah died Abraham, now an old man, decided to send his oldest servant back to his relatives to find a wife for Isaac from his relatives but she needed to agree to come back to marry Isaac. If the girl would not leave with him, the servant would be released from his obligation. However the servant was successful and Rebecca came to be married to Isaac and he was comforted after his mother’s death. The servant had prayed for guidance, on his journey, for the right wife and with thankfulness when God had answered his prayer.
Jesus was saddened by the perversity of human nature as they had criticised John for living in the desert, cut off from society, fasting, but they criticised Jesus for partying and mixing with all kinds of people, even those considered outsiders! They preferred to find fault with them both rather than listening to their messages. John’s message was of repentance, forgiveness and baptism. Jesus’ message was of God’s love, his loving acceptance of all and healing and teaching. If people are determined not to respond they will be critical for very different reasons no matter what invitation has been extended. However much John was criticised he moved people’s hearts to recognise their need for repentance and to return to God. Jesus’ mixing with ordinary people enabled them to find new life and closer access to God.
Paul was only too aware of the conflict he faced between
his better self with its good intensions and his flesh which sought to dominate his life. He called out in helplessness and misery for deliverance from the body of death, but then in relief in gratitude to God as he realised that only Jesus Christ could rescue him from the torment through his Holy Spirit. Jesus recognised those who were open to seeing him for who he was and responding to him. Those caught up in obeying the many rules that the Pharisees and Sadducees did, failed to see their need of Jesus. Those people who burdened by the many regulations could come to Jesus and he would give them rest. His yoke was well-fitting and all it called for was to love God with all their heart and soul and strength; as God had loved us first that calls us to love him in response.
What can we learn from these passages? We need to pray so that we can grow closer to Jesus. Help us not to be critical of those whose approach is different, but just be glad that those different approaches lead them closer to God. We need to learn to rely on Jesus as our guide and helper to help us not to struggle with our bad habits. Whenever we feel exhausted help us to remember that Jesus has called us to come to him and have rest.
We sang ‘Jesus Christ is waiting, waiting in the street’ before one of the worship leaders Florence led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang ‘Make me your prophet Lord.’