February 3, 2020

Thoughtful spot – 8.00 am – 3rd Sunday Before Lent – Revd Michael Beesley

“THOUGHTFUL SPOT”  -  “3rd Sunday Before Lent”

Isaiah 58 vv.1-9a: Isaiah declares that God demands that the people of Israel turn from their self-centred and thoughtless religious practices and instead put first in their life concern for true justice and care for the needy. He says if they do this, God will bless them with His guidance and support.       

1 Corinthians 2 vv.1-12: St Paul contrasts the simple truth of God’s wisdom and glory expressed through the good news of Christ crucified with the false  so-called wisdom of the rulers which led to them to kill Jesus. He says he has been blessed by the Holy Spirit to bring God’s truth to the people of Corinth.

St Matthew 5 vv.13-20: Jesus tells his disciples they must be like salt in food, and bring the joy and light of God to the world. He says they must, from the depth of their heart, be an example of the right way of living by keeping every one of God’s commandments, not like the superficial lip-service paid to them by the religious leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees.

 

As we approach Lent, which is a time for self-examination, our Bible readings today call us to a genuine and deep commitment to God and Jesus, and not to be superficial and thoughtless in the way we practise our faith.

Isaiah doesn’t mince his words when he says God condemns the way many people in Israel were going through the motions of religious practices but were failing to keep God’s most important commandments to care for the poor and needy.

St Paul contrasts the simple truth of God’s wisdom and glory expressed through the good news of Christ crucified with the false so-called wisdom of the religious rulers which led them to kill Jesus. St Paul says he’s been blessed by the Holy Spirit to bring God’s truth to the people of Corinth.

St Matthew tells us that when Jesus was instructing his disciples, he said they must be like salt in food, in other words, they must share with and communicate to people the rich blessings of their faith.

He says they must let the light of God shine through them to the world.

Jesus encourages them to be genuinely committed in the way they keep every one of God’s commandments, not like the superficial lip-service paid to them by the religious leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees.

So, our readings this morning challenge us with this question: how committed and genuine are we in the way we express and practise our faith?

When I think of this question, I bring to mind individuals who are living examples of a deeply committed faith.

Such a role model of faith for me is a lady who’s been housebound for a long time. Her illness and immobility have made it impossible for her to come to worship in church. She misses this greatly; but her deeply committed faith is evident in the way she welcomes into her home and gives joy to members of her family and friends, some coming from far away. Sometimes, she provides them with ready prepared meals which she buys in from a caterer, because her immobility makes it impossible for her to cook for them.

People love spending time with her because of her profound and caring approach to life, despite the many physical problems she faces, which might make other people with similar difficulties withdraw into themselves.

Her Christian commitment is also evident in her prayer life. I think of her as a “powerhouse of prayer”. She sets aside a special time each day when she thanks God for the blessings she receives through her family and friends; and holds up to God in prayer people she knows to be in great need.

Whenever I visit her, I feel greatly blessed and inspired by being in the presence of someone so close to God in all her thoughts, words and actions.

St Paul often thanked God by name for the faith of those to whom he was writing. For example, at the beginning of his letter to Philemon, he says: “To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker; to Apphia our sister; to Archippus our fellow soldier; and to the church in your house…… When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints; and your faith towards the Lord Jesus”. (Verses 2 & 4)

That’s just one example of the way St Paul thanked God for those he knew who were living examples of a deeply committed faith

So, if it was right for St Paul to thank God for role models of faith in Philemon’s church, we too should thank God for those here in St Peter’s who show a similar genuine and deep commitment to their faith in Jesus.

For example, let’s thank God for our church wardens. When they took on this role, not knowing that we’d be without a Rector for such a long time. I’m sure they couldn’t have imagined the full extent of all they’d have to do.

They give generously of their time and skills to support the clergy and all members our church here in St Peter’s and in St Mary’s on Brownsea.

Much of their work goes on in the background as they make sure everything is as well-prepared as possible for the worship of God. They create the rotas for welcomers and readers. They arrive early for every service to support those who are leading it, clergy, choir, readers, intercessors and welcomers; and, of course, they have to oversee all the legal, financial and organisational aspects of our church life. They are responsible also for finding a new Rector.

These are just some of the practical and down to earth examples of their faith commitment. But, we see a more personal commitment in the way they take part in the worship of our church and show their concern for everyone’s faith and needs by welcoming and being supportive to everyone who comes into the church building.

Our churchwardens fulfil Jesus’ teaching that his disciples should be the “salt of the earth” and let the light of faith shine through them for others.

Therefore, just as St Paul thanked God for Philemon, Apphia and Archippus,  so let us thank God for Clive, Jan and David.

In a minute of silence, let’s thank God for each of our churchwardens; and ask ourselves, how well do we live up to the call of Jesus to enrich the life of others, like the salt of the earth, and how well do we try to let the light of God shine through us wherever we are and whatever we’re doing?

(1 minute silence)

Finally, let’s pray these words from the prayer of St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1336)

“Teach us, Good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deservest,

  To give and not to count the cost,

  To fight and not to heed the wounds,

  To labour and not seek for any reward, 

   Except to know that we’re doing Your will.” Amen.