JESUS SAID, – “LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. THIS IS THE FIRST AND GREATEST COMMANDMENT. AND THE SECOND IS LIKE IT: – LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF. ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS HANG ON THESE TWO COMMANDMENTS.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP
OPENING HYMN (CH-93) – LOVING SHEPHERD OF THY SHEEP, keep me, Lord, in safety keep; nothing can Thy power withstand; none can pluck me from Thy hand.
Loving Shepherd, Thou didst give Thine own life that I might live; may I love Thee day by day, gladly Thy sweet will obey.
Loving Shepherd, ever near, teach me still Thy voice to hear; suffer not my feet to stray from the straight and narrow way.
Where Thou leadest may I go, walking in Thy steps below; then, before Thy Father’s throne, Jesus, claim me for Thine own.
LET US PRAY:
LOVING GOD, once more You have blessed us, leading us through another week, forgiving our many mistakes and failings, blessing us in a multitude of ways; so now, once more, we come to worship You. We come to thank You for Your goodness, Your guidance, Your love and Your mercy. We come to praise You and pray, to read and listen, to think and learn, to give and receive. As we worship You today, draw us closer to Yourself, closer to Christ, and closer to one another, so that the faith we profess and love You give may be seen in our lives always; through Jesus Christ. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PROVERBS 25: 21-22. IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, GIVE HIM FOOD TO EAT; IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM WATER TO DRINK. IN DOING THIS, YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD, AND THE LORD WILL REWARD YOU.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – ROMANS 12: 9-21. LOVE MUST BE SINCERE. HATE WHAT IS EVIL; CLING TO WHAT IS GOOD. BE DEVOTED TO ONE ANOTHER IN BROTHERLY LOVE. HONOUR ONE ANOTHER ABOVE YOURSELVES. NEVER BE LACKING IN ZEAL, BUT KEEP YOUR SPIRITUAL FERVOUR, SERVING THE LORD. BE JOYFUL IN HOPE, PATIENT IN AFFLICTION, FAITHFUL IN PRAYER. SHARE WITH GOD’S PEOPLE WHO ARE IN NEED. PRACTICE HOSPITALITY. BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU; BLESS AND DO NOT CURSE. REJOICE WITH THOSE WHO REJOICE; MOURN WITH THOSE WHO MOURN. LIVE IN HARMONY WITH ONE ANOTHER. DO NOT BE PROUD, BUT BE WILLING TO ASSOCIATE WITH PEOPLE OF LOW POSITION. DO NOT BE CONCEITED. DO NOT REPAY ANYONE EVIL FOR EVIL. BE CAREFUL TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF EVERYBODY. IF IT IS POSSIBLE, AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU, LIVE AT PEACE WITH EVERYONE. DO NOT TAKE REVENGE, MY FRIENDS, BUT LEAVE ROOM FOR GOD’S WRATH, FOR IT IS WRITTEN: “IT IS MINE TO AVENGE; I WILL REPAY” SAYS THE LORD. ON THE CONTRARY: “IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM; IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM SOMETHING TO DRINK. IN DOING THIS, YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD.
Some people have no idea what healthy relational attitudes look like. They grew up having been surrounded by unhealthy attitudes for so long that they have come to think that their attitude is the normal one. These are those who are easily offended, angry, unforgiving, upset and self-centred. Please don’t take it wrong if any of these remarks can be found in your attitudes. To adopt Jesus’ loving- forgiving lifestyle may appear to be difficult to most of Christians. One of the best statements of healthy relationship-attitudes is found in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Faced with tensions in their church, the believers were challenged to follow Christ’s command, and live in mutual love with one another. Some people in Rome were simply hard to be loved at that time. Or still are, even here and now?
A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP-ATTITUDE BEGINS IN REALITY. That is where our text begins. Look at the words used by Paul: – evil, affliction, revenge, enemy. We are often tempted to idealize the way human relationships are presumed to work. Everyone is supposed to understand the other, to be nice, to get along, and to agree. When that doesn’t happen, we become hurt, angry, or disappointed. A healthy attitude recognizes that people don’t always agree with us, we don’t easily get along. The reality is that some people will never behave the way we want them to behave, and that we may never have the kind of relationship with them that we would like to have. Reality is that some of life’s relationships are wonderful and some are not. It is hard to understand the background of all the different and difficult behaviours. Former spouses often won’t be civilized to one another, even long after the divorce was settled. Business partners will argue about every tiny detail – out of simple mistrust. Some siblings can’t sit next to each other without arguing on old issues – and they can be nine or ninety. A healthy attitude realizes that we cannot force good behaviour on other people – and we are not responsible for doing so. We are, however, responsible for ourselves.
TO REALITY, WE ADD LOVE. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves (Romans 12: 9-10). The teaching here is about love being lived out – through genuine love in daily life, authentic Christianity is properly revealed. The word used here, SINCERE, means WITHOUT WAX, in Greek. In ancient times, a potter could unscrupulously hide cracks and imperfections in his jars and bowls by filling them with wax. It could be done so effectively that unless someone looked carefully at the vessel, holding it up to the sun, one would never discover the imperfection. People could buy the vessel and never know it was faulty until it was placed on the fire to cook a meal – when the wax would suddenly melt, and the crack would be discovered. Thus the call for love to be sincere and genuine. A forgery, a cover-up, something fraudulent just isn’t good enough. Sincere love doesn’t change when relationships heat up. Under the heat of fire, a good relationship is proving to be even stronger.To this Paul adds the powerful imperatives, – Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Here is the healthy advice. Look for the good in every relationship – for the whole of a person is always more than the hurt that comes out at you. Love never requires us to approve the inappropriate, but it does call us to know the difference between good and evil – and to hold to the good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Brotherly love calls us to commit to others as to a family member. It happens each time one person reaches out in a Christian act of love and compassion to others – a cup of water here, a gentle, encouraging, or comforting word spoken there, a hand to help, or even an invitation to church. And so, we prove that we are sisters and brothers in Christ, members of the household of faith, hope, and love; Christ is our elder brother, and God is our Father. Honour one another above yourselves. This is the most practical advice of all. In a loving relationship, we cannot focus on how the other person treats us; we focus on our own responsibility to treat others well. Trying to honour someone else who doesn’t deserve it, is the best initiative to have a better relationship; and above all else, that also feels good.
BE JOYFUL IN HOPE, PATIENT IN AFFLICTION, FAITHFUL IN PRAYER. We are to rejoice in hope. Christians must be essentially optimists. Because God is our Father we have to be always certain that “the best is yet to come.” Just because we know that Grace is sufficient for all things and that our strength is made perfect in weakness, – through these two confessions of Paul, – we know that no task is too much for us. There are no hopeless situations in life for those who believe; there are only people who have felt hopeless about themselves. There can never be any such thing as a hopeless Christian. To be patient in afflictions requires faithful courage. When King Nebuchadnezzar cast Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the furnace, he was amazed to see a fourth person walking with them in the middle of the fire, and the fourth had the appearance of a God. (Daniel 3: 25). We can survive anything, if meeting it with Christ. Prayer is one of the greatest privileges God has given to us in Christ Jesus. Prayer is the means of God’s Grace. We are assured by Jesus that God listens to our prayers and answering them far more certainly than we can ever desire or imagine (Romans 8). It is said that an African woman, after hearing for the first time a Christian missionary praying, remarked to her neighbour, “There! I have told you that there ought to be a God like that.” Somewhere in every man there is the capacity for faithful prayer, both for oneself and for others, when love inspires the afflicted heart, and the soul becomes receptive to find help even from the invisible reality of godliness. Holman Hunt’s famous painting, titled The Light of the World, depicts Christ standing with a lamp in hand at a weed-covered door. It had not been opened for a long time. He stands knocking, seeking entry. Those who look closely will see that there is no handle to the door. The door must be opened from the inside. Entry into the human heart, even by the light-bearing Son of God, comes only through faithful personal prayer.
TO LOVE, WE MUST ADD FORGIVENESS. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge …Do not be overcome by evil, overcome evil with good (Romans 12: 20-21). Forgiveness means that we have chosen to trust God to handle what we can’t. It means that we are willing to move on even though we have been treated poorly. It doesn’t mean we are wrong. It doesn’t mean we are weak. We just refuse to be a revengeful human. – If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. The same godly advice can be read in the Book of Proverbs 25: 21-22. This has to be one of the strangest quotes in the Bible. It tells us that we have a choice in our attitude about getting even. Just forgive others and let God worry about revenge if it is needed. It includes a figure of speech about the burning coal on his head. It means that the person might end up feeling embarrassed and guilty because we were so nice when he or she has been so wrong, and this might help the person to be changed for the better. The Christian paradox set up by Jesus when He said, – Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5: 44-45) is made even more personally active here,– Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
THEN WE TAKE THE INITIATIVE. Never be locking in zeal… Take the first step. Be Christ to the other person. Let us live out Christ in in all our daily experiences. Look at these words from the text: – JOYFUL, SHARING, HOSPITALITY, BLESSINGS, HARMONY, HUMILITY, PEACEFULNESS. These are the tools to develop healthy Christian attitudes in our human relationships. Amen.
LET US PRAY:
LIVING AND LOVING LORD, as we come to You, we remember how Your concern through Jesus’ ministry was not for Yourself but for others, – the vulnerable, the distressed, the sick, the mourning, the rejected, and the oppressed. You came as the man for others. Come again to our world today. We thank You for the chance of victory of love over hatred through faith in the Risen Christ. Hear now our prayer for the world You gave Your life for – a world so tensioned by enmity and division, and so desperately in need of Your healing love. Coronavirus Pandemic has been here with us for more than a year now, and we need Your healing power to finally be able to contain it. We pray for those whose personal relationships have degenerated into hatred, and for society at large where hatred is present under a variety of forms – prejudice, greed, selfishness, intolerance, ignorance – so much that denies, divides and destroys. We pray for countries and people tested by inner tensions, torn apart by religious extremism, by military dictatorship, racial hatred, civil war, and abuses of human rights – lives destroyed, families broken, communities shattered, nations decimated. And all these, as if the still rising death-toll from Coronavirus was not enough. Gracious Lord, help us and all people to recognize the folly of our ways – to understand that violence only breeds more violence, vengeance more vengeance, bitterness more bitterness and hatred more hatred. Give us the faith and the courage to try another way, the way You have revealed so powerfully through Your life, Your death, Your Resurrection and above all through Your undying love. Bless Your Christian Church here and everywhere, and answer all the prayers raised to You in Jesus’ name. Be with all the members and adherents of our congregation, and with our sisters and brothers of other denominations and religions in India, here in Skye, and all over the world. Protect and support our loved-ones wherever they are, and hear our prayers for those whom we now name quietly in our hearts … through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-437) – LOVE DIVINE ALL LOVES EXCELLING, joy of heaven, to earth come down, fix in us Thy humble dwelling, all Thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus, Thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love Thou art; visit us with Thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.
Come, Almighty to deliver; let us all Thy life receive; suddenly return, and never, never more Thy temples leave. Thee we would be always blessing, serve Thee as Thy hosts above, pray, and praise Thee, without ceasing, glory in Thy perfect love.
Finish then Thy new creation: pure and spotless let us be; let us see Thy great salvation, perfectly restored in Thee. Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.
BE JOYFUL ALWAYS; PRAY CONTINUALLY; … TEST EVERYTHING. HOLD ON TO THE GOOD. AVOID EVERY KIND OF EVIL. MAY GOD HIMSELF, THE GOD OF PEACE, SANCTIFY YOU THROUGH AND THROUGH. MAY YOUR WHOLE SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY BE KEPT BLAMELESS AT THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. THE ONE WHO CALLS YOU IS FAITHFUL AND HE WILL DO IT. THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU (1Thessalonians 5: 16-17, 21-24, 28).