Greetings in Jesus’ name!
An audio version is available.
Includes Birthday Blessing and Prayer for Healing.
We have resumed Sunday services at 7.30 and 9.15.
Some of us this Sunday morning have returned to in-person worship; others in our congregation remain at home. We continue to grow together as the Body of Christ. We need to be reminded that the pandemic is far from over; and that we must remain vigilant. We remain most grateful to our health workers for their brave and courageous work.
In the month of October we focus on the theme of Stewardship, the stewardship of our lives. We have this opportunity to recommit ourselves to God.
Forgetting what is behind…
“Forgetting what is behind and stretching forward to what lies ahead.”
These words come from St Paul’s writing in our reading today from Philippians 3.
St Paul became an outstanding example of commitment to God and God’s purposes. Yet he was someone who struggled, like we do. It was not always straightforward or easy for him. In a way he had to restart his life.
It is not surprising that Paul wants to forget what lies behind. When he joined the Christian community he was viewed by many with great suspicion. Those in the church knew what he had been up to before joining them: persecuting the Christians – arresting, imprisoning, beating and having them murdered.
At that time Paul thought he was doing what was right: he was zealous to keep the law as he understood it. But his attitude and actions resulted in him being legalistic, rigid, inflexible, and ultimately hateful towards the followers of Jesus.
Paul’s encounter with God began to change everything.
He answered the call to follow Jesus. He had now found that pearl of great price, he had found the treasure in the field. The new life Jesus led him to was far better than anything he had known before.
Paul came to understand God’s love through the loving community he became art of. And this changed him. Imagine the shame and guilt he had felt; it must have taken great courage to overcome this. He became vulnerable, and compassionate. He now lived a life of trust and openness to the Holy Spirit. He would still be distrusted by many, condemned by his former colleagues, arrested a number of times, imprisoned and beaten – it was certainly not an easy change for him.
Paul knew that his excellent Jewish and religious credentials now meant nothing. Earlier in today’s reading we had read “If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
In God’s eyes we are not judged on our background, our qualification or even our achievements. Paul himself was able to write “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2: 8-9).
Paul came to accept himself, to know himself as valuable, as having a special new purpose.
He learnt that all is grace.
Ourselves and Our community
Today let us commit ourselves to the God of grace; and in this accept, value and appreciate ourselves too.
We commit ourselves to change, to grow.
The more fully we accept ourselves the easier it is for us to grow and to change and to become more whom God created us to be, to become more fully human.
We are never perfect and we do not try to appease God or seek to win God’s favour.
Over the last six months much has happened, some of which we too may want to forget.
God calls us to stretch forward to remake our world, to pursue alternative ways of ordering our society, including our economy, as I have mentioned before, to serve one another better.
We find ourselves in a situation of much higher unemployment, with a greater awareness of the inequalities in society, including in education, and still blighted by widespread corruption. There has also been an increase in anxiety and depression, especially among the youth.
We know things must change.
We can start again; we remember that God forgives; God offers second chances. God reign is one of love, sharing, generosity, joy, healing and justice.
All is grace.
God is love.
Let us offer ourselves a fresh to make God’s reign or rule a reality in our lives and in our world.
God bless those with birthdays at this time and always.
May your loving presence be felt in their lives.
Bless them with joy, peace, good health and protection.
In Jesus’ name.
Prayer for healing
Spirit of the living God,
present with us now,
enter you, body, mind and spirit,
and heal you of all that harms you.
In Jesus’ name.
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426