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Harvest celebration

St Andrews Online 18th October 2020


In this week's blog and podcast, we've included the whole of the service as well as a slightly expanded reflection on Scripture.


Thanksgiving


Thinking back over this past week, bring to mind or say aloud the things for which you are thankful. With these things in mind. Let’s give thanks:


Thank you God for your goodness that blesses us and the earth.

For your generosity We thank you.


Thank you God for people who grow and prepare food and those who distribute it.

For your generosity We thank you.


Thank you God for this place, this town, this church,

and for your faithful love over many generations.

For your generosity We thank you.



Confession

As we reflect on the past week, we may become aware of our own greed and carelessness. Let’s bring our broken lives to God.


We confess to you our lack of care for the world you have given us.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.


We confess to you our selfishness in not sharing the earth’s bounty fairly.

Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.


We confess to you our failure to protect resources for others.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.


May the Father of all mercies cleanse us from our sins,

and restore us in his image to the praise and glory of his name,

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Creator God,

you make all things and give us the earth and the seasons,

the rain, the sun, and the wind;

Make us thankful people with generous hearts,

ready to share your goodness and love with all creation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Reflection on Scripture: Here comes the bride!


In the last few weeks, we’ve been exploring what it means to be the church, with the help of the letter to the Ephesians. It has reminded us that we are chosen and adopted as beloved children of God, a diverse family of people united in Christ, and a living temple in which God dwells. Ephesians also pictures the church as the interconnected body of Christ growing into maturity and called to reflect the light of Christ in the world. Today we explore one more metaphor - the church as the bride of Christ. Our reading is from Ephesians 5:25-27.


… Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.


We are all probably getting a bid fed up hearing over and over that we are living in unprecedented times. We are living through a challenging experience and trying to navigate through uncharted territory. We don't know quite what to expect or what to do for the best. The usual things that we rely on have been shaken. As a church we have been challenged to work out how to do church, how to be church. When we could not use our building earlier in the year we experimented with different ways of gathering. As we face a new season of disruption, uncertainty and change we are continuing to ask the question – how do we do church? How can we be church? We have looked to the book of Ephesians to help us answer that question. Here comes the bride –


The bride of Christ


The message of Ephesians and the message of the Bible as a whole is clear .... God loves us so much he accepts us as we are. But God loves us so much that he doesn’t leave us as we are. God wants to restore us in his image along with the whole of creation. The metaphor of the church as bride of Christ is one of many ways to describe this.


In a traditional Ugandan wedding, the groom has to pay a bride price or dowry, which is negotiated before the marriage. That practice is still common in many parts of the world and would certainly have been understood in the 1st century, when Ephesians was written. So, our bible reading today implies that Christ pays the bride price for the church with his very life – he gives everything. No negotiation. No need to impress. Romans 5 says that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. We are accepted and forgiven. You are accepted and forgiven.


Imagine a bride on her wedding day, beautifully dressed, not a mark on her dress, hair and face made up to perfection! Who helps her prepare? Not the groom! Yet in these verses, it is the groom who is preparing his church for the big day! Through baptism, the teaching of God’s word, and the inner work of God’s Spirit, Christ is giving the church a thorough makeover to become holy, overflowing with the self-giving and forgiving love of Christ.


Christ takes the initiative in this . But of course, we are encouraged to cooperate. That’s really what the Bishop’s Rule of Life is about. Do you remember the six practices? Pray, read, learn, tell serve, give. We open ourselves up to God as we pray, read the Bible and learn together what it means for our lives. Then we share God’s love as we tell others, serve others and give generously.


Radiant is a word often used of the bride on her wedding day. To me, it implies a beauty which is much more than skin deep. Christ desires a radiant church, with a holy glow emanating from the love which he lavishes upon us. And when his work is complete, Christ will take a few steps back, see the church he has created, and say “Wow!”. In the words of the prophet Isaiah “… as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)


If you read the surrounding verses of our bible reading, you will see that it is part of a code of conduct for Christian households in the 1st century. It taught that they should model their relationships with one another on God’s relationship with humanity, shown most clearly in the sacrificial love of Christ. The idea of the church as the bride of Christ is woven into some instructions for married couples. These taught submission of wives to husbands, which was the norm in that time and place. But it combined this with the instruction that husbands were to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Such sacrificial love was very counter cultural and remains so today.


These instructions were of their time. In our society a general rule of wives submitting to husbands in everything is almost unthinkable. Such an imbalance of power can be at best stifling or at worst tip over into control and abuse. But in our more egalitarian society the question for us is still: how can we all model our relationships with one another on the self-giving love which is at the heart of God’s relationship with humanity?



Questions for reflection and discussion (Chris)

  • Has what we have talked about this morning changed your thinking? So when you think about the church being the bride of Christ, what does this mean to you? Do you need to read the passage again or look something else up?


  • When God steps back and views his creation – he says it is good. Isaiah says “… as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5). Imagine God rejoicing over you! What is that like?


  • What does the bride of Christ look like? What does it mean to be church and to do church?



Prayers of intercession

We bring before God the needs of the world, the needs of St Helens, the needs of people known to us, and we pray for the church to become like a radiant bride.


As the music plays, feel free to share your prayers in the comments on Facebook.


We gather our prayers together in the words of the lord’s prayer.


As our saviour taught us, so we pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours

now and forever. Amen.



Remembering Jesus together but apart




Gathered round a table is where Jesus often met people … Where he could see people face to face, listen to their stories, share laughter or sadness. This morning we gather as God’s people, around many tables and many screens, to remember Jesus.


This was the same Jesus who once, in an upstairs room, sat at a meal with his disciples. And during the meal, Jesus took bread and, when he had blessed it, he broke it. He gave it to the disciples saying, 'This is my body. It is broken for you. Do this to remember me.'


Later in the meal he took a cup of wine and after he had given thank he said, 'This cup is the new relationship with God made possible because of my death, Drink this all of you, to remember me.'


Now we bring our food, knowing our need to be fed, and aware that many are hungry.

We pour our drinks, knowing our need for joy, and aware that many are lonely


As we prepare to eat and drink together, with gratitude in our hearts to God, we remember Jesus …

Who was born among us incognito,

Who grew up without privilege or status,

Who walked the way to heaven through the back streets of this world,

Who told the deepest truths in ordinary language,

Who touched and healed, blessed and disturbed without fear or favour,

Who showed inclusive love in all its unconditional glory,

Who for all this, was crucified, died and was buried,

Who, for all this and for all of us, rose again,

Who, though high in heaven, is present with us here and now


So now, together though apart, we look in faith for his presence with us.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you.


As we listen to the next song, let’s eat and drink in our homes, sharing messages of peace to one another.


Conclusion

May God’s hope be in our hearts,

may God’s peace be in our world,

may God’s love be known between us,

and the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

be among us and remain with us always.

Amen.


The harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.


Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ . Amen.





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Introduction Last Sunday, Chris introduced us to some of the mysteries of the letter which we now call Ephesians and the wonderful mystery that in Christ, God has chosen us, adopts us as children, lav

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