Weekly worship: Sunday 26 August
A reflection on challenging our leaders.
1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43 and Psalm 84
Our text for today is Solomon's prayer at the Temple's dedication.
And in amongst this most public of prayers, Solomon makes a direct and specific request that the prayers of the foreigners towards the temple will be heard and answered. It's a testimony to the God who welcomes and includes the foreigner.
The word 'foreigner' is often used in a negative way in current conversations, as it is in other parts of the Old Testament. But it's in the act of worship and in prayer that we go beyond nationality to become citizens of the Kingdom of God.
In the presence of God, national boundaries are removed. It's particularly noteworthy that we are these foreigners, the gentiles who are being included in the love and worship of God.
This radical inclusion is an inspiration and example for us, as we continue to call for all displaced people to be included in the new UN agreements on refugees and migration.
Encourage your congregation to add their voice to the 'Uprooted and Overlooked' campaign
Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 and Psalm 34:15-22
The choice to follow God is an act of trust, but also an act that's based on remembering. Remembering the faithfulness of God not only in our own lives, but also in the lives and stories of communities of faith from generations past.
When things are tough, and we're presented with the choice to follow God or to follow another way, this passage in Joshua invites us to remember our place in the long history of faithful followers. We don’t have to go too far back in history to find such stories of faithfulness and liberation.
We give thanks for the stories of liberation from apartheid in South Africa, the successes of the tax justice campaign, the progress made in the fair trade movement and the many, many examples of small and large scale liberation from poverty and injustice that Christian Aid encounters on a daily basis.
And with that thankfulness, we say ‘far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.’
Reaching for the armour of God may be difficult for those of us with non-violent, peacebuilding sensibilities. For those first listeners, the metaphor may have provided much comfort and a sense of protection as a minority community.
The armour seeks to preserve and protect more than it seeks to advance in attack, emphasised by the encouragement to put on shoes that will make ‘you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.’
And it's in the lifting of the sword of the Spirit, that the brandisher can cut through the false truth being perpetuated through propaganda.
We may wish to reach for other metaphors to convey the need for preparedness and defence today, but in spiritual terms Paul’s words still work in their call for us, as a community of believers, to stand together with each other in speaking truth to the principalities and powers that oppress.
This is not a call to arms, but a call to stand our ground and to stand together. These instructions aren't written to an individual, but to a community of believers.
It's in standing together that we're at our most powerful, as the Christian Aid Harvest Appeal makes most clear. It describes the power of women working together in Ethiopia to make an enormous difference to their communities.
In it for the long haul?
It’s a challenge that's set before the disciples. To remain with Jesus, even with the challenges that he sets before them, not least in his words.
His offence may be in the graphic description he gives to how his flesh is to be eaten, or in his claiming to be sent from heaven as manna. Or, for the proximity to the divine he offers those first listeners in the synagogue – which would have been unthinkable.
The offence taken is too much for some; their faithfulness is tested too far and they turn back. None of us wish to be in that number – we hope that we might be able to say the words of Simon Peter ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’
And Jesus reminds us that even that willingness is itself grace from God. Even with such willingness, Peter betrayed Jesus.
It's a hard teaching and dense passage to grapple with. In the context of Christian Aid, I can only suggest that we retain our devotion to the cause of justice, and bringing the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth, by remaining as close as we can to the One who has given us the vision of wholeness in the first instance.
To do what the gospel of John encourages us to do throughout, to abide. To abide in the presence of God, and to serve from that place of love. By the mercy and grace of God.
Who else has the words of eternal life?
Who else has the vision of another world?
Who else has the hope of creation restored?
Who else has love for all the world?
To who else would we go?
You are the God in whom we trust.
Grant us the grace to abide in you,
Points for prayer
- Pray for Christian Aid's displaced people campaign, and that internally displaced people would be given the help and support they need by the United Nations.
- Give thanks for the freedom from poverty and injustice that has been realised by previous campaigns against apartheid and economic injustice. Pray that remembering these will inspire us to keep on keeping on in the fight against the many current injustices across the world.
- Give thanks for Christian Aid’s work in Ghana and in particular the Growing Economic Opportunities for Sustainable Development (GEOP) project funded by Christian Aid and the European Union. Give thanks for the difference it's making to people who've been marginalised.