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The elders of the church met on the 8th February and agreed to the continued closure of the church up to and including Sunday 14th March. The elders meet again on the 8th March and will review the situation and we will let you all know of the outcome, especially with regards to Easter.
We are meeting on a Sunday morning for online services via 'Zoom' with our friends from St.Georges and Crosby URC. You are most welcome to join us online or by the telephone as zoom can be accessed both ways. We have produced a guide to getting on zoom and if you need further help simply drop us line. The information for the services is published in the weekly notices or again just drop us a line for the details.
Zoom is helping us through these uncertain times and we have included a Lent Bible Study on a Wednesday morning (10:30am) or a Thursday afternoon (2pm). Again if you would like to join the Bible Study just drop us a line and we will be delighted to let you have the details.
Finally realising how some people in our church family and communities are struggling not having contact with their friends we are introducing a new Coffee, Chat and Craft morning on Zoom this takes place on the 2nd Tuesday of the month and starts at 10:30am. You can pop in and out or stay for the duration of the meeting again if you need the details just drop us a line.
I will continue to hold you in prayer. If you need help during this time please contact myself or an Elder and we will try our best to support you. My contact details are below. We will keep you informed via the weekly notice sheet.
Take care, stay safe and God bless.
Reading : Exodus 20:1 – 17
1 Then God spoke all these words:2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.13 You shall not murder.14 You shall not commit adultery.15 You shall not steal.16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Reading 2:John 2:13 – 22
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ 18 The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ 19 Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Today we begin with the Ten Commandments as recorded in the book of Exodus. These are familiar words but as with all things that are familiar it is always worth looking at them again so we can gain new insights.
The first thing to remember is that the Ten Commandments have come from God. Our reading begins “The God spoke all these words” so the first question that brings to my mind is why? Why was it necessary for God to speak these words? This takes us to the context in which the Commandments were given. The people of Israel had fled from Egypt and a time of slavery, and they were on their way to the promised land. This was a new community in the making, so the Ten Commandment were a vision for how God saw these people living in community together. While the Commandments were addressed to individuals, they still provided a framework for living in community.
The Ten Commandments can be divided into two groups: those which talk about one’s relationship with God and those which talk about one’s relationship with other people. It is important that we see the Commandments as a complete unit, rather than something we dip in and out of. It is the wholeness of the Commandments that ensure a good relationship with God and a good relationship with other people.
The first 11 verses talk about our relationship with God and this has four areas for us to consider. The first is our allegiance to God and God alone. The Commandments recognised the existence of other gods in the world but the first Commandment asked that followers of God only worship God, nothing was to come between a person and God. The second Commandment condemned making idols. This was not about the image itself but what the image represented. An image of God limited God and it was a way to manipulate God and that was what this Commandment aimed to avoid. The third Commandment follows on from the second and talked about making wrongful use of the Lord’s name. This was about using the name of God in oaths and invocations that attempted to harness divine power for human interest. The last Commandment in this section relates to resting on the Sabbath. This Commandment was not about worship but about taking time to rest, pause and reflect and to be blessed by God’s own rest.
The remaining verses of our reading cover the six commandments that shape one’s relationship with other people. The first is about honouring their father and mother, those who give life. This is the only Commandment that comes with a promise. This commandment was for adults, not children. The Commandment elevates the status of women, the mother was considered equal with the father. The sixth Commandment was not about killing but about murder. Remember this was a nomadic people, planning on entering another people’s country, warfare was common, and this commandment is not about warfare but homicide, the unnecessary killing of another person. The seventh Commandment addressed the question of which children could inherit. Some forms of sexual activity were permitted outside marriage and it was not unusual for men to have multiple wives. The eighth Commandment protects private property but did not supersede the laws associated with caring for the poor, for example, people being allowed to glean in the fields. The ninth commandment was not simply about telling lies in general about committing perjury in court. This ensured that even the most vulnerable were given a fair and just trial. The final Commandment was about the internal moral condition and sought to guide people against jealousy and greed.
The two sets of Commandments are linked – our relationship with God shapes our relationship with others and the way we treat other people says something about our relationship with God.
In the New Testament we read John’s account of Jesus clearing the temple. Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover and unlike the other Gospel accounts, in John, this was Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem, not his last. The activities going on in the temple don’t seem out of place, Roman coins had to be exchanged for coins with no image of the emperor to enable the people to pay the temple tax. The animals were there so people could offer a sacrifice as part of the purification required for the Passover. It appears that these are the very activities that caused Jesus to disrupt temple life when he drove out the animals, overturned the tables of the money changers and told those selling doves to “take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!”. Jesus was alluding to Zechariah 14:21 with that statement which talks about there no longer being traders in the house of the Lord on the day when the Lord comes to Jerusalem. His actions indicated that he was the Lord and the time for traders has passed.
In response to Jesus provocative actions, “the Jews” asked for a sign, which seemed to suggest that they were sceptical of Jesus rather than hostile towards him. It is worth noting that the term “the Jews” probably related to the Jewish authorities rather than Jewish people in general. Jesus didn’t give them a sign but a statement of what would be: “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews took Jesus literally and laughed at the idea of him building in three days something that was not complete after 46 years of work. We now know that Jesus was not speaking about the temple but about himself and the disciples remembered this event after Jesus’ resurrection.
Both these readings challenge us to think about our relationship with God, privately and corporately. One of the commentaries I read described the Ten Commandments as a gift, which made me stop and think. I have always seen them as something that curtails us but maybe they are the opposite, something that gives us freedom because we now know what it means to be in right relationship with God and with others. Jesus actions in the temple also make us think about our relationship with God and the priority we give God and God’s work in the life of the church. This is a serious question. When finance and property dominate agendas, we have to stop and ask, “what does it say about our relationship with God”? Finance and property are important but are they most important thing in the life of our congregation?
When we think about our relationship with God, we should start with the first four commandments, after all that is why God gave them to us. Looking at these four commandments the following questions come to mind: • Is God first in my life? • Do I limit God or even try to define what God can do? • Do I rely on God only when I am in need and other times God is relegated to “when I have time”? • Do I take time to rest, to reflect and just enjoy being with God? It is easy to focus on the other six commandments but being in right relationship with God should be our starting point. These two readings have certainly given me much to think about and I leave you to ponder your relationship with God and also consider where we may need to make changes in our life together as a congregation.
• Take some time to think about the Ten Commandments and ask where do I need to focus to change my relationship with God or with others
• Give thanks to God for the Ten Commandments and the guidance they give us in our journey as disciples.
• Pray for the different groups that use our church premises.
Red, yellow, tan, copper, light green, beige, Different trees, different colours, Some branches bare, some still laden with leaves, Lord, the changes in the trees remind me of the changes in me, I am not the same now as I was this time last year, I am not the same in the morning as I am in the evening, At times I want nothing more than to come into your presence and worship you, At other times I go on my way without a thought for you.
Lord, as the trees become bare and the leaves flutter to the ground I know that this is temporary and new life will follow after a period of rest, Lord, this reminds me that there are parts of my life that need to die so you can become a greater part of me.
Lord, the evergreen trees remind me of your faithfulness Faithfulness through the different seasons of my life Lord, I thank you that you are evergreen.
Lord I thank you for Autumn and the lessons that it teaches. Lord I thank you for the colour change and the promise of new life that it brings But I thank you most of all for the evergreen……