Worship at Home
by John Hinton (LP)

W/B 02/10/2022


 Lord, increase our faith



Call to worship: In a world of choices, we choose to spend time with God. Let us offer him what we have and what we are, with faith that God calls us to a holy life.

 

Hymn: StF 103: God is love, let heaven adore him

 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFwnnlAjnAE)

Prayer:

Lord, like your first disciples, we often approach you with a request on our lips before anything else. Not mindful of what we have, we ask for more, for better, for things to be easier. We come to you today with thanks for all the blessings we have. Amen.


Lord’s Prayer


Gospel reading: Luke 17: 5-10


Message

To understand this message we need first to understand it’s context. Many of Jesus’s parables were given in a response to a question or a request. For example, when asked “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. So it is with today’s reading, but to recognise that we need to go back a little bit and read the preceding verses. When we do we read “Jesus said to his disciples “If your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says “I repent” forgive him seven times”. The apostles respond by saying “Increase our faith!”. Not surprisingly, for Jesus set a pretty high bar for his followers!

Really think about what he was saying to them, and what he says to us. In those times when we have been wronged, those times we are full of righteous anger, Jesus commands them (and us) that we should forgive those who have hurt us, not once, but if necessary seven times, and Jesus is really saying every time! Be honest, how tough is that?

No wonder they said to him ‘Increase our faith’!  They just didn’t feel capable of living up to the standards he was challenging them with.  And I for one am right with them!

So how does Jesus answer that request?  By saying that with the smallest of faith we can tell a Mulberry tree to walk into the sea!! Now, I don’t know about you but I think I would have been tempted to say ‘that’s not terribly helpful, Lord!’  But Jesus was following the tradition at the time to make a point by ‘exaggerating’ – it’s not the only time he used this technique, remember when he once said ‘Have faith in God, I assure you that whoever tells this hill to throw itself into the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he say It will come to pass, it will be done for him”. Here Jesus is saying that their faith will enable them to do what seemed like an equally impossible thing; like forgive those who hurt us, love those who cause us pain.

But experience tells us that forgiveness, though incredibly hard at times, is possible. And when forgiveness is offered even in extraordinarily difficult circumstances – perhaps especially in extraordinarily difficult circumstance – then situations are transformed and evil is defeated.

A global example; in talking about the South African reconciliation process Desmond Tutu describes ‘Ubuntu’, an African concept which understands ‘my humanity is caught up in yours’ if you are dehumanised, I am dehumanised.  Anger and retribution are corrosive to the harmony that must exist between people.

A personal example: My dad, bless his memory, could be stubborn at times.  Needless to say, I don’t take after him! Dad fell out with my uncle, an argument that once led my uncle to say ‘I only have one brother’ needless to say it wasn’t dad!  Well, that once was enough for dad, if my uncle didn’t have his as a brother then my dad wouldn’t have his as a brother either.  And so, that was it for many years.  When my grandma, their mum died, my uncle said sorry to my dad.  That one apology was enough for dad and, until my uncle died several years later, they became close brothers again.  Credit to dad for forgiving him rather than continuing the fight,  but how many years were wasted?  Forgiveness, though at times difficult, does bring healing.

But, I hear you ask, what was all that about slaves? Now that is tough! At face value Jesus seems to be upholding the evil of slavery, even encouraging people to treat their slaves harshly! But Jesus is not making a value judgement on slaver but simply using it as an example to make his point!  And, as an example it was a good one for everyone would have understood it.  It is estimated that about one third of people in the Roman Empire were slaves!  What was the point Jesus making?  Well, it was linked to the first one about forgiveness.  Jesus was asking his followers to behave in ways that were hard and counter-intuitive, to forgive those who had wronged them.  But if they did so they should not feel proud and self-righteous about it.  On the contrary, that is the bare minimum expected from God’s disciples, like slaves who have done only what they ought to have done!  Like it or not that is the bare minimum expected from us too!


Prayer of Intercession:

We pray for those who feel small and insignificant, we pray hope for those whose incomes are small;

We pray encouragement for those who feel neglected; we pray confidence for those who feel they are unattractive,

We pray courage for those who feel afraid, we pray boldness for those who feel inadequate;

We pray protection for all in minorities, we pray trust for those who fell their faith is fragile.

We pray peace for all creation, great and small.  In Jesus’ name, Amen



Hymn: StF 613: God, how can we forgive?

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lco2VIyWuZ0)


Blessing:

May the peace of God enfold us,

the love of God uphold us

and the wisdom of God direct us.

Amen