Reflection

THE EMPTY CROSS
by Judith Betney-Rowden, written in 1994

What do you see, when you look upon
The cross where Jesus died
Do you see a cross that’s empty
And just feel mystified

Look again at that cross
It may look empty, that is true
Yet, it’s the place where our Lord died
Yes, died for me and you

Look again and you will see
Our Saviour, resurrected
He is risen from the dead
An empty tomb to be inspected

Look again and you will see
Lord Jesus, now ascended
Seated at God’s right hand
All pain now transcended

Look again and you will see
A cross filled with such love
Given unconditionally
By our Heavenly Father up above

See the symbol of our faith
Filled with joy and mystery
No, not just an empty cross
But a cross of victory

Yes, victory over death
Our fears fading, one by one
                                                                                             Because God so loved the world                                                                                                He gave His only Son

Pause

This afternoon, we invite you to sit quietly and reflect. 

 

This week, we are featuring Black voices Alice Walker, Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu in honor of Black History Month.

 

My desire 

is always the same; wherever Life 

deposits me: 

I want to stick my toe

& soon my whole body 

into the water. 

I want to shake out a fat broom 

& sweep dried leaves 

bruised blossoms 

dead insects 

& dust. 

I want to grow 

something. 

It seems impossible that desire 

can sometimes transform into devotion; 

but this has happened. 

And that is how I've survived: 

how the hole 

I carefully tended 

in the garden of my heart 

grew a heart 

to fill it.  

-- Alice Walker, My Desire


Thank you to Rev. Dr. Joseph Suray for this Sunday Reflection, SR

We shall very soon be entering into the season of Lent Please, see the Letter to Circuit below,clicking on Note

.

Pause
This afternoon, we invite you to sit quietly and reflect..
Sun says, “Be your own
illumination.” Wren says,
“Sing your heart out,
all day long.” Stream says,
“Do not stop for any
obstacle.” Oak says,
“When the wind blows,
bend easily, and trust
your roots to hold.”
Stars say, “What you see
is one small slice of a
single modest galaxy.
Remember that vastness
cannot be grasped by mind.”
Ant says, “Small does not
mean powerless.” Silence
says nothing. In the quiet,
everything comes clear.
I say, “Limitless.” I say,
“Yes.”

Danna Faulds, “Limitless.” Limitless: New Poems and Other Writings.

Welcome to our Blackheath and Halesowen Online Services

Thank you to Sue Simpson for this Weeks Service




Welcome 

We are called to recognise God’s authority

And to submit to it in every area of our lives

Let us invite God to direct our thinking and our prayers

Let us give God the highest place in our lives

Let us worship the living God.


Reading Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!

With all my heart I will thank the Lord
    in the assembly of his people.
How wonderful are the things the Lord does!
    All who are delighted with them want to understand them.
All he does is full of honour and majesty;
    his righteousness is eternal.

The Lord does not let us forget his wonderful actions;
    he is kind and merciful.
He provides food for those who honour him;
    he never forgets his covenant.
He has shown his power to his people
    by giving them the lands of foreigners.

In all he does he is faithful and just;
    all his commands are dependable.
They last for all time;
    they were given in truth and righteousness.
He set his people free
    and made an eternal covenant with them.
    Holy and mighty is he!
The way to become wise is to honour the Lord;

    he gives sound judgment to all who obey his commands.
He is to be praised forever.

Prayer

Father God, you are holy and majestic, you are the source of all authority in heaven and on earth.

We are here now to acknowledge you majesty and to rejoice that all power and righteousness belongs to you.

You are our wise and wonderful God; in you no fault can be found; your ways are perfect and your wisdom boundless.

Lord, Jesus, we praise you for your compassion and your love; you are never more than a heartbeat away from us, you laid down your life for us and now you live in everlasting life right here beside us.

You have shown us that you are God’s holy son by coming among us , bringing us the Good News, sharing God’s Truth and showing us his divine power at your own fingertips.

Thank you that we can always judge what we hear in our world based on what we know to be your truth; you give us a compass point by which we can navigate our lives.

You, Lord Jesus, are our anchor amongst the rough seas of human existence.

Loving Jesus there is no one like you; in you we can place hope for all our fears and all our despairs; you know us through to our core and there is nothing that we can hide from you. 

In a world that is very strange at the moment, you are in the midst of us, guiding us,  loving us and sharing our uncertainties.

A moment of confession.

At the cross, Lord Jesus, you defeated evil and overcame even death. By the authority of your holy name, we can freely approach your throne knowing that when we pray sincerely and in faith our sins are forgiven.

We recall that promise now and claim it as our own.

Lord, in all that we have done that has hurt you or denied you we ask you to cleanse us from it now and make us new.

In all that we have done that has been unworthy of us or has hurt another, we pray that you will help us to put it right.

Then, once we have turned to you in our remorse, May we hear again the beauty of your promise; our sins are forgiven.

So, Heavenly Father, we ask you to draw near to us and pray that we might hear your truth and know your presence as we dedicate this time to you. Come, Lord Jesus, draw us close to your Holy Spirit now.

Amen

Reading Mark 1;21-28


Reflection; to trust and Obey in the authority of Jesus

Today, I have based my service on the Authority of God and how as Christians we choose to Trust and Obey the source of that Authority. We also see how God’s authority is reflected in Jesus and how both New and Old Testaments point us to the power and wisdom of God in this world and in heaven.

How might you and I recognise that authority in our own lives? In a world where so many sources clamour for our attention, and so many claim to speak with authority, how do we learn to put our trust and obedience in God over all other claims on our lives?

In times of trouble we look to our leaders to guide us. We look to those in authority to use their gifts and powers wisely to protect us and lead us into better times.

But no human is infallible and when we fix our sights on human authority we will always be let down eventually.

But our Lord God is perfect. So we learn that when we are looking for true authority on which we can depend we need to look not amongst the human but only to the divine.

It’s important to remember also that God has authority over our bodies and minds, if we invite him to do so. So, when bodies and minds need healing we can ask God to heal us with his power, his love and the influence of his healing holy spirit. I have fractured my wrist this week; so I was reminded to give authority to God over my damaged bones,  to invite his holy spirit to heal me and to ask Jesus to surround me his love when I felt vulnerable.

How wonderful it is that as Christians we have the reassurance that we can call on Jesus to have authority in our lives. Christ is wholly wise and worthy of our trust, for in his divinity he will not let us down.

Earlier we heard from the beautiful and uplifting joy of Psalm 111. Its final verse declares

Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom

The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him.

Praise his name forever.

How wonderful it is to have God as our oarsman on the ships of our lives; He who is our Father God – the only living one true God -  who we can cherish, worship and depend upon.

And because God our Father is wholly dependable, we can put our trust in him and obey him in whatever troubles us, whatever feels difficult and complicated for us.

When we are forced to make hard decisions we trust his wisdom.

When we are asked to do things that frighten us and that we believe we cannot do, it’s His strength that we draw upon.

When our lives take unexpected turns (such as Covid 19) how wonderful to have the security, the confidence, the reassurance that God who made our world still holds it within his hands and pours his wisdom and authority into it. For not a sparrow falls but God knows that it has fallen.

So secure, so steadfast are our lives when we learn to trust our Lord.

Today’s psalm reminds us that our creator God is not only truly wise but that he is the source of true wisdom.

We can be receivers of His wonderful wisdom. Life itself is given to us by God, he is our foundation for making wise decisions that are secure and anchored. In trusting and obeying God we claim His wisdom for ourselves.

But the psalm goes further than that. Because it not only offers us the wisdom of God but it offers us that same divine wisdom as our own. When we think of the fruits of the spirit we do not automatically think of wisdom, yet, is not wisdom a consequence of the fruits of Self-Control, Patience, Goodness, Gentleness, Joy and Kindness?

Earlier we heard Mark tell us that Jesus has the power to command demons. We know that demons come in so many forms; temptation, greed, false loyalties, vanity and envy also have the power to wreck our lives just as fully as the physical demons that the man in the synagogue experienced.

The people were amazed. “What is this? They questioned.

 A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 

Look what happened when the demons inside the man were confronted by the authority of Jesus; they fled. The evil spirit knew at once that Jesus was the Holy One sent by God. In these verses, Mark is establishing Jesus’s credentials, showing us that no demon has the power to defy God’s authority.

It’s also true to say that, what in times gone by were referred to as demons, we might now describe as mental health issues. How reassuring to know that when we feel low, anxious and short in confidence that Jesus can help us banish these from our lives.

Let’s return to our psalm.

Today we have been looking at how God has authority over this world, the living creatures within it as well as ourselves. The psalm reminds us that all Gods works reveal his glory, majesty and righteousness. We are reminded that all he does is good and just.

It is said that respect, and consequently authority, should be earned and not demanded. We have a loving God who commands us to do nothing but asks us only to search our hearts and find it within us to follow him as a life choice. God’s authority in our decisions is freely offered to us but never forced upon us.

To help us make that choice we know that Jesus, is worthy of our trust for he is “of the Father” and the same qualities that we see in the father are brilliantly reflected in the Son.  Verse 9 says

He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.

As Christians we believe that ransom is Jesus. Death and the fruits of corruption and evil have no power against the authority of God because he gave all that he had to give to defeat them. He gave his son.

No other would do, for it was only the perfection of Jesus that was good enough to battle and claim victory over death itself.

Jesus hung upon the cross as a ransom against our sins. In Jesus, God’s covenant – his promise – is fulfilled. In Christ’s victory over death we are secured freedom from false-authority, from obedience to the false gods of this world and foolishness in place of wisdom. 

In our OT reading today we rejoiced with the psalmist at the righteousness, wisdom and authority found in the Father. In our NT reading we saw how God’s authority is echoed in Jesus.

So, whose authority do we place your trust in?

The flawed authority of humans and the ill-judged authority of some modern values?

Who do we place our trust in when times are difficult or over-whelming?

 When we cannot find the strength within ourselves to muddle through: in whose hands will we place our trust?

I pray that, when we have testing times, as we surely will, you and I will Trust and Obey in He who has divine and faultless authority. And in his Son, who gave us a revelation of that same authority as he lived his life among us.

Loving God,

You have made us a wonderful world to call home. Since you created it, it has been your desire to know our hopes, fears and dreams for this world and all those people and situations with it. So we come to you and lift up those things that truly matter to us, knowing that you will hear and heed our prayers.

We pray for our world during this current pandemic. We remember before you all those that have lost their lives to this dreadful virus and the grieving families that mourn their loss.

We remember those fighting this disease; our scientists, our NHS, our police force,  our politicians and all those who go to work each day to serve us and in doing so put their own lives at greater risk.

We pray for those who are shielding and therefore lonely or suffering with mental health issues.

We pray for parents who must home-school their children during lockdown, and we pray for children who are missing a vital part of their educational and social development.

We pray for our family, our friends and our fellowships.

We lift to you all those we know personally who are struggling at this time; those in hospital or suffering from life-limiting conditions, those who live with pain ,those suffering with bereavement or worries.

We thank you for the support of our fellowships; those that phone us or text us, those that share worship our online services with us and those that assure us of their love at difficult times. We thank you that we can draw down on their wonderful compassion and reassurance when we need it most.

We pray for our ministers whose job it is to direct our circuit and bring the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to us in our disparate situations.

And finally, we pray for ourselves.

Lord we accept that you have complete authority over this world and the next, so it is our privilege to put our hopes and trust in you. Father God, you love us as your own child, we pray that you will guide us, protect us, counsel us and love us all the days of our lives.

Lord’s Prayer


Blessing and grace

Almighty God, be with us this week

Meet with us each morning

And in every situation throughout the day

Whoever we are with

Help us to draw on your authority, strength and wisdom

That we may be faithful and true

In following the example and pattern given to us by Jesus.

Amen

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The love of God

And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Be with us this day and forever more.

Amen