Sunday, 30 October 2016

Bible Sunday

Wingrave Methodist Church

23 October 2016

Opening — Psalm 119

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
    that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
    and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
    I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
    but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage for ever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end.


Loving God, we have come to worship you. Help us to remember that you are here with us. May we pray to you in faith, sing your praises with gratitude, and listen to your word with eagerness, through Christ our Lord. Amen

O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining and whose power we cannot comprehend: show us your glory as far as we can grasp it, and shield us from knowing more than we can bear until we may look upon you without fear; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen

Hymn 1

· Lord for the Years

Confession and Absolution

When our eyes have seen the Lord of hosts, we echo the words of Isaiah, ‘Woe is me! I am doomed.’ We long for the fire of God’s cleansing to touch our unclean lips, for our iniquity to be removed and our sins wiped out. So we meet Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with confession on our lips.

Father, you come to meet us when we return to you:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, you died on the cross for our sins:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Spirit, you give us life and peace: Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent, have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in life eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
      the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Prayers of Thanksgiving

MWB pages 32/33

Old Testament Isaiah 45

22 ‘Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
24 They will say of me, “In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.”’
All who have raged against him
    will come to him and be put to shame.
25 But all the descendants of Israel
    will find deliverance in the Lord
    and will make their boast in him.

Psalm 119

129 Your statutes are wonderful;
    therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
    longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
    as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
    let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
    that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant
    and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
    for your law is not obeyed.

New Testament Romans 15

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hymn 2

· We have a gospel to proclaim

Gospel Luke 4

Jesus rejected at Nazareth

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.21 He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.

23 Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself!” And you will tell me, “Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”’

24 ‘Truly I tell you,’ he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his home town.


Week in Dordogne and Languedoc.
Holiday — Cathars. Thought good Christians — regarded by Catholic Church as heretics.

· Dual nature of God

· Rejected church buildings and priesthood

· Reincarnation — women equal to men

· Lived in poverty — worked at trades — refused meat — other lifestyle rules

Cathars rejected feudal system — regarded by Pope as natural order — refused to pay tithes — with other challenges to church Pope Innocent III launched crusade to eradicate Cathar religion.

Local preachers toured Languedoc — people read Bible for themselves, capital offence — pursued by Inquisition that started life as means of eradicating Albigensian heresy. Estimated ½ million lives lost in carnage that followed lasting over a century. Wiped out.

These Cathar martyrs interrogated, mutilated, burned at stake are numbered among millions over the centuries who died for their faith — essentially because their interpretation of what they read or heard read from their Bibles conflicted with what the rich and powerful believed, often because it was in their best interests and authority.

William Tyndale — my greatest often unsung hero — essentially translator of Authorised Version.

Rt. Revd. John Pritchard:
“On Bible Sunday we celebrate the most popular — but often un-read —book in the world. Under-read in the West at any rate. And yet when the new sovereign is given a Bible at his or her coronation it’s with these words,
‘We present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively oracles of God.’”

Ordination in St Pauls — presentation of Greek NT — sits on shelf, consulted only to find interpretation of a word. Yet countless people died to be able to read it for themselves. Most important and valuable item given to Queen at solemn moment of coronation.

Jesus was more respectful of Scriptures — most could not read — few scrolls so each synagogue had one or two — treated with great reverence.

Judaism, like Christianity and Islam, are religions of the Book. All adult males were permitted to read from scroll and comment on it. That’s what Jesus did in reading from Luke.

What actually read is from Isaiah 61:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour

Jesus rolled up scroll — ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
Rarely was Jesus clearer about how saw his role — what he came to do — identified messianic role with himself.

Jesus will bring reality to hopes and longings of the poor, oppressed and imprisoned — usher in year of Jubilee when all debts wiped out, all people freed, all hopes fulfilled.

Amazement quickly turned to anger — this local boy who they hoped would make them proud — had become biggest blasphemer and heretic they ever heard.

The greatest good news of all had become the biggest condemnation — like the Cathars the conflict was not between the believers and Scripture, but the Church — similarly the conflict in Nazareth was not between Jesus and the Judaism but the Jews and their own scriptures.

Jesus observes his reception was more open in Capernaum, where there are more non-Jews than his home in Nazareth with its predominantly Jewish population.

For us, the lesson is not about the nature of the Messiah the Jews were waiting for, but the Book — and its power for good and ill.

Good and Ill

1. Neglect — sitting on shelf unread — the most valuable thing so many people died for. Our lukewarm attitude reminds us of the criticism of the church in Sparta:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see. (Revelation 3:14)

2. Magic — treated as talisman — we swear with our hands on it — wave it in the air — try to find hidden messages and codes, like Dan Brown

3. Literature — it’s complex — 66 books in various genres — not sure when written and who by — law, history, poetry, prayers, love songs, visions, letters and apocalyptic literature, as well as the gospels. But complexity invites engagement, not avoidance.

4. Interpretation — dangers of fundamentalism — taking words of Bible out of context and time — treating it over-literally

5. Instruction manual — not to be regarded as a literal guide and instruction manual to the human life. Inspired by God — yes of course — but to be approached with the head as well as the heart.

John Pritchard suggests we approach Scripture on 3 different levels:

1. Literal or historical — like today’s account of the synagogue in Nazareth — what happened happened — we want to know how and why

2. Theological — what do we learn about God? — how does it enhance our understanding? — How can we work out our own salvation, through grace?

3. Personal and Mystical — what is the impact on our inner being and outward behaviour of what we have read and studied? Do we hear from Jesus the words of salvation recorded in Luke’s gospel? — has he opened our eyes that were previously spiritually blind? — has he freed us from the shackles that oppressed us? — do we enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God?

The Word of God is freely available to us — it’s out there and will not be revoked or changed. We have the wonderful privilege of dusting off that Bible, or better, buying a new one — ask he which version would suit you best — without persecution and fear. In today’s OT reading from Isaiah we read:

22 ‘Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked.

What is certain is that no book has had more influence on the life of the world or effected more change in individual human lives than this one — ‘the most valuable thing that this world affords.’

But first — we have to open it. Amen

Hymn 3

· Seek ye first the kingdom of God


We come boldly to the throne of grace, praying to the almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for mercy and grace.
We stand before your throne in heaven.

Father of heaven, whose love profound a ransom for our souls has found: We pray for the world, created by your love, for its nations and governments … Extend to them your peace, pardoning love, mercy and grace.
We stand before your throne in heaven.

Almighty Son, incarnate Word, our Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, Lord: We pray for the Church, created for your glory, for its ministry to reflect those works of yours … Extend to us your salvation, growth, mercy and grace.
We stand before your throne in heaven.

Eternal Spirit, by whose breath the soul is raised from sin and death: We pray for families and individuals, created in your image, for the lonely, the bereaved, the sick and the dying … Breathe on them the breath of life and bring them to your mercy and grace.
We stand before your throne in heaven.

Thrice holy! Father, Spirit, Son, Mysterious Godhead, Three in One: We pray for ourselves, for your Church, for all whom we remember before you … Bring us all to bow before your throne in heaven, to receive life and pardon, mercy and grace for all eternity, as we worship you, saying,
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer MWB page 37

Hymn 4

· Lord thy word abideth

Prayers and Dismissal

Lord of all time and eternity,
you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father
in the baptism of Jesus your beloved Son:
by the power of your Spirit
complete the heavenly work of our rebirth
through the waters of the new creation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymn 5

· God is working his purpose out