1Samuel 1v20-28 & John 19v23-27
On this Mothering Sunday, we celebrated our church's 112th anniversary. We praised God for his faithfulness in all that time. We celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection every Sunday, but we think about it especially at Easter time. The passage in John tells us how the soldiers around the cross divided Jesus' clothes between them and cast lots for the undergarment. They took what they could get and were unconcerned about what was happening to Jesus.
There is a marked difference in Jesus' attitude. He was giving and forgiving even as He was being crucified. Seeing His mother and His favourite disciple there, He gave His mother into his (John's) care, thus giving a bereft mother a son to care for her. This can speak to those children who have been fostered or adopted, and to adoptive or foster parents. As the eldest son it was Jesus' duty to care for his mother, but even at a time like that, He cared for her out of love rather than duty. Did this remind Mary of Simeon's words to her in the temple when Jesus was a baby? ("A sword will pierce your heart too.")
Jesus also forgave the penitent thief who was crucified next to Him and assured him of a place in heaven. Not only that, but He forgave those who were crucifying Him. He gave the asking price for divine justice - His life for the redemption of the world. In the midst of great pain, Jesus thought always of others before Himself. He had hardly any worldly goods to speak of, but willingly gave all of Himself - His life - for divine justice.In 1Samuel 1, Hannah had been praying for years for a son, as she was childless, and this was a matter of shame at that time (and today is something that is painful to many would-be mothers). When the Lord answered her prayers, she named the son that she bore Samuel - which means 'because I asked the Lord for him'. She loved her son greatly, as did Mary, with a mother's love, that is there through thick and thin for her child(ren). To show her thankfulness to God for answering her prayers, Hannah dedicated Samuel to God - gave him back to God by sending him to live and grow up in the temple and serve Eli the priest. On Mothering Sunday, we remembered the love of Mary and Hannah for their sons, and the love of those sons for their mothers. Looking after each other - that is wonderful love, and what God asks of each one of us.
John 4 v1-30
This is the story of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. This was something that was unheard of at that time - men did not generally talk casually to a woman, and this woman was a Samaritan! There was 500 years of historical enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans, and yet Jesus deliberately went through Samaria in order to talk to this woman. Jews would generally make the much longer journey around Samaria rather than going near or through it. But Jesus knew of the woman's need of Him. Indeed He knew all about her, as He knows all about each one of us - He knows our every thought. Does this comfort or concern us? Jesus deliberately sent His disciples to buy food, because He knew what their reaction would be to see Him talking to the Samaritan woman. Jesus knew about the woman's five husbands and that she was currently living with a man not her husband. Probably the reason why she was coming to the well to draw water in the hottest part of the day was because she wanted to avoid meeting other women who would know about her situation.
Everyone gets thirsty and needs water to live. It is hard to survive more than 72 hours without water. The woman thought that Jesus meant physical water when He offered her 'living water', and thought that it would mean that she would no longer have to keep coming to the well to draw water. She tried to engage Jesus in a discussion about where was the right place to worship, however, Jesus was not to be deflected from His purpose in helping her. She said that she knew that the Messiah was coming and Jesus declared to her that He was that Messiah. She believed what He said and she left her water jar where it was and went back to the town to tell the people about Jesus. This was like leaving her old life behind and going to tell others about coming to know Jesus. This is what we should do - go and tell others about the Saviour that we have found in Jesus. Like the Samaritan woman, we cannot change our past, but through Jesus we can be free of it through finding forgiveness and live a new life in Him.
John 3 v1-18
The sermon took the form of a first person reflection by Nicodemus on his meeting with Jesus. A summary would not be appropriate here. For the full text of the reflection, please click here
Matthew 12 v1-21
There are some reeds that are strong enough to make a spear, a pen or a musical instrument from, but there are others that are broken and trampled and cannot be fixed and are just discarded. The quotation from Isaiah that is included in Matthew 12 v18-21 says that God's Chosen one will not break a bruised reed nor snuff out a smouldering wick. Jesus fulfilled this prophesy when He came and healed people. He was very gentle with people who were hurting or ill or disabled; those people who thought that God was angry with them because of their situations. His mission was not to discard these broken people, but to mend them and help them. The people that were helped by Jesus were those who were usually marginalised by society and ignored. He said to them "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11v28).
But Jesus was very hard on those who abused their power and hid behind rules. It was then, and is now a cruel world, where there is little compassion. This passage is about mercy. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to rebuke His disciples for picking corn on the Sabbath when they were hungry and eating it, but Jesus knew that they were hiding behind rules that they had added to the Law. Jesus told the Pharisees that He is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus was meek but He was not weak - it takes power to exercise total self-control as Jesus did. Jesus remained faithful to His mission to help the "bruised reeds" and not discard them. Likewise He will always persevere with us and treat us with gentleness and respect and not give up on us.
At this time of Lent maybe, instead of just giving up the chocolate, we should take a look at ourselves. We could find that our sickness or sadness or difficulties could serve Him if we trust Him and learn from them. If we cast our burdens on Jesus and draw near to Him at this time, we can be made stronger through leaning on Him, knowing that He will handle us with care, and not seek to cast us aside. Jesus has been through so much for us - He was bruised for us, and refused to abuse His power to avoid suffering for us. Let us put our hope in Him.
Matthew 17v1-9 & Daniel 10v4-19
The story in Matthew is of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. This shows Jesus to be both man and God. It was so powerful an experience that Peter wanted to stay there on the mountain basking in the glow of it. However when the cloud enveloped them and the voice came from the cloud proclaiming Jesus to be God's Son, Peter, James and John fell to the ground, terrified. Jesus came and touched them and told them not to be afraid. Jesus touched people in many different ways; His touch was a healing one. He touched those that others were afraid to touch. Little children were brought to Him to be touched and blessed by Him.
In a similar way, Daniel, when he saw the vision of the man, was terrified and fell to the ground, but a hand touched him and brought him to his knees. He also was told not to be afraid "you who are highly esteemed". The vision also touched his lips so that he could speak, and spoke to him in his anguish. God speaks to us in this way too in our times of distress, and assures us that we are loved by Him. God's voice, speaking from the cloud said of Jesus "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." God tells us that He loves us too and touches our lives. Touch is a powerful thing - think of the Romanian orphans a few years ago, left alone in their cots with no loving hand touching them. But think also of the touch of a finger on the trigger of a gun or the clenched fist punching someone, that we have seen in the pictures coming from the Ukraine recently. So many emotions are expressed in a touch.
These two passages have similarities in that Daniel prayed often to God for wisdom and guidance and for his countrymen, and honoured God with his life; he knew that his life and his future was in God's hands. Jesus also prayed often to His Father in heaven and honoured Him with His life. The man or woman of prayer is assured that they will be heard by God. When it seems that God has not heard our prayers, we must remember that there can be three answers to our prayers - yes, no or wait. If we want to hear God speak to us, we must look up to Him. When we are touched by God, we know that our future is safe in His hands. Do you have that assurance?