Sunday, 16 August 2009
It was another lazy Sunday. Or was it? We were home for the weekend so things were back to normal. My husband left early to go to work, but before he left he woke me up and reminded me I should get up to practise the hymns before church. I said yes, but still felt very groggy and tired so I went back to sleep again. Before I knew it I was fast asleep again. I don’t know whether it was in my dreams or what, but I started to feel guilty, and then concerned over what the time may be. It would be a disaster if I did not wake up until it was time to leave for Church, and did not get a chance to practise the hymns! So in a state of shock I jumped out of bed and ran into the lounge. Well it was only 8am so not too bad, and yet it was still too early to be bothering the neighbours with my practising. I grabbed my headphones and plugged them into my digital piano.
There were five hymns to practise for today’s service. They were all in the blue Methodist hymn books, volumes one and two. The first was 16, Praise to the Lord. The second hymn was 66, Great is thy faithfulness. The third hymn was 730, I hunger and thirst. The fourth hymn was 726, God of all power and truth and grace, and the fifth hymn was 251, All for Jesus. I was asked to choose the introit hymn, which I decided would be 252. At the end of the service I played Great is Thy Jehovah. Once I started to practise the hymns it did not take me long to go through them, so we ended up leaving the house early.
The sun was out, the sky blue and so the conditions were perfect for a Sunday stroll. We passed a lot of dog walkers and rowers as we walked along the river through the park. The fresh air and trees and flowers were an inspiring and healthy start to the day.
The lady conducting today’s service asked the congregation this question: Does God go on holiday? When we go on holiday then she said we want God to be with us, and when we are away from the Church, we should ask God to stay with us too.
The bible reading was taken from Exodus 17: 1 – 8. This was followed by a short play performed by a couple in the congregation. I thought the idea of having a skit in church was great and livened things up. The two characters in the play were Jesus and Peter. Peter questioned Jesus on whether he was ordained, and they went through a list of people from throughout the bible. In this play, Jesus said to Peter that “prophets and preachers, many of whom are unordained, demonstrate the will of God in places here Priests did not go. …what matters is not that you are given special status or protection, but that you are seen as faithful to the one who has chosen you …. Peter, I want you to be my disciple”. We were told that the idea for this play came from the ‘Great Feast’, the Tabanaccles. It is coming up to the time for the feast.
The Water Ceremony
As a prop, she had a brought with her a small electronic pond containing rocks with water flowing from them that provided some atmosphere to the sermon. How did Jesus provide food and water for the Jewish nation when they took their journey to the promised land. The Jews remember Moses for getting water from the rock. The Priests would go down to the Spring to collect the water and carry it up to the temple to be poured over the Great Altar. There were a series of steps for the Priest to climb up to reach the Altar that was massive. During this time there was a great celebration and people would be singing and waving their arms while the Priest walks up the steps.
Following the play was the bible reading John 7: 37-44, that concluded “… the Messiah will be descended from David.” And hence she moved onto the story she had seen on the tv serial Midsomer Murders. The story centred around a local man who lived in the wild just outside the village. His name was Tom and he had fled into the wilderness after he killed his father in defence of his mother who had suffered years of physical abuse from Tom’s father. Tom was only young and he panicked, and instead of calling the police, he disposed of the body in an unused tunnel. Living in the wilderness, Tom began to come to terms with things and his turmoil eased and his life became peaceful.
This story of Tom reminded her of the story of Moses who fled the Court to live in the desert wilderness. Moses had been born a slave and his life was under sentence of death. However he grew up in the Pharoah’s court and had a life of privilege but isolation. Moses did not know his people and he did not know his own culture. He did however come to understand the suffering of his own people, whom he defended one day that resulted in the death of an Egyptian overseer. Moses thought no one had seen what he had done, but the word got around, and so Moses fled the court. In the desert his personality strengthened and he gained survival skills. While in the desert, Moses met and married his wife, and had two sons. Then he saw a burning bush from which God asked him to go back to the court of Pharoah and rescue the Israelites. His first reaction was that he cannot do it, and that someone else should do it. But eventually he did go back to court. He had all the skills needed, the diplomatic skills, and the knowledge of how to get access to the court. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, approximately two million of them.
Many people find it hard work in the desert, and question why does Jesus undergo such frightening experiences. One answer is that by not being able to rely on ourself, we have to turn to God for help, and not just yourself. “My grace is sufficient for you” he told Paul. When change comes, when we get a difficult patch, where is God in all this? You often find that the best stories are those featuring people undergoing changes, in journeys, starting from a place they didn’t want to be in, and find that God was leading them through to the promised land. Paul said that Jesus took the nature of a servant, he humbled himself to become human and was obedient even in death. He swapped his heavenly glory for earthly poverty. God raised him back to life again and he ascended back to his glory.
The sermon concluded that maybe we can commit to God. So we can use any desert experiences we go through to bring us closer to God.