29th March, 2020

Welcome 

 

Our Call to Worship based on Psalm 46

 

The earth shakes, the mountains quake - tempting our hearts to fear.  God is our refuge and strength.

When our children are away from home and out of our sight, we take comfort in knowing.  God is our refuge and 

When we are sick, or have reached the end of our days, we rest in the truth that God is our refuge and strength.

God, you alone are our refuge; you alone are our strength. We look to you in these troubling times.

HYMN  Be still for the presence of the Lord

 

Briefing

  • Weekly Services

  • Midweek Service if this is successful

  • We are having a weekly Deacon’s Meeting online

  • Pastoral calling

  • No offering at online services - if you would like to set up a Standing Order please email the church and we will send you bank details

 

Prayers of Intercession

In our prayers I will use the bidding “Lord, in Your mercy” - if you could respond with the words “hear our prayer.”  So, let us pray to the Lord, our protector and comforter.               

Lord we pray for the health and well-being of our nation,        that all who are fearful and anxious                 may be at peace and free from worry:

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our Prayer

 

We pray for the isolated and housebound                                            that we may be alert to their needs, and care for them in their vulnerability:                                  Lord, in Your mercy, hear our Prayer                                   

We pray for our homes and families,                                                      for the Riverside Nursery downstairs, and for our schools and young people,                                   and for all in any kind of need or distress: Lord, in Your mercy, hear our Prayer

We pray for a blessing on our local community,                        for the groups that use this church,       that Ilkley may be a place of trust and friendship, where greed is absent                                                              and faith, hope and love abide: Lord, in Your mercy, hear our Prayer

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,                  to the mercy and protection of our loving and all-powerful God.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

HYMN  Abide with me

 

Reading  

  • Romans 8:6-11

 

Message

My sermon today is based on the verses 6 to 11 from Romans 8.  The recipients of this letter were a minority, in the capital of the Roman Empire; they would have been living in the poorest accommodation. Against that background, these verses are a wonderful affirmation of life. 

In all honesty, I probably could just have preached on one verse of the passage.  Verse 6 states “the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”  

Do we understand what Paul means by “flesh”? How should we interpret Paul today, particularly, in a world where only coronavirus seems to matter at the moment?

We have probably all experienced some of the tragedy of coronavirus.  We probably know someone in our family or friends who has contracted the virus - who knows, we may even have had it ourselves, but the symptoms have been so mild that we didn’t even know we had it.

Yet one example of the “flesh” that Paul talks about is clearly visible to us.  If we have visited a Supermarket in the past month we have probably all seen the bad side of our secular world.  People stacking their trolleys full of bread, rice, pasta and toilet rolls when they were allowed to do that, and now taking the opportunity to shop every day to get their three items of everything.

As you probably know, I have been in self-isolation.  Initially for two weeks because I had the persistent cough, and to prevent me from spreading the germs.  At the end of that period I certainly didn’t have Coronavirus.

Now I am starting my further 12 weeks of isolation to prevent me from catching the virus.  For all of us with health issues this is a worrying time. My health is manageable, but I am conscious that we have many viewers who are awaiting operations - many of which are urgent and necessary.

So, thankfully, we can sit at home, in relevant comfort, and twiddle our thumbs.  At the start of my isolation I went online to order my food delivery from Tesco, as I have done for years, and I got my first order this week after having to wait three weeks for a delivery slot.  

Needless to say, it was not what I ordered.  No soap, no eggs, no rice, no toilet paper and crucially no alternatives available. I say none.  I did order Falafels but instead got Quorn Scotch Eggs, which bear no resemblance to the product I ordered except that they were round!

My point is that people have panicked so much that they have binge shopped, and deprived others of some things that other people need as a basic necessity.  The mentality of the flesh, that Paul refers to, is that I need to look after myself first. Yes, they say, I may only have six packs of toilet rolls left, but I need to maintain that level in case we run out in 3 months time!

Let us remind ourselves of Verse 7.  “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”  

Our God is a God of love.  The God of the Beatitudes - the God of Hope.  The secular world tends to use the phrase “faith, hope and charity”, whereas, theologically, we tend to follow the famous wording of 1 Corinthians 13 and say “faith, hope and love”.  Whether you prefer the word charity or love in this context, there is a lack of it in the world at this moment.

We have seen greed.  Many have overstocked their trolleys - to the extent that the shelves are bare and Tesco is now restricting online orders to just 80 items.  80 items to last the 4 weeks that it is now between available deliveries. This is not Tesco’s fault, this is our fault and it has been as a result of greed.

Mind you, sellers are not blameless.  This bottle of Carex hand wash normally costs around £2.  I found the same bottle on ebay this week for £129 - plus postage!  Both ebay and Amazon have warned sellers about profiteering, but they are just being ignored.  The big retailers also profit. Although it was eventually sold out, the one nominally “available” pack of toilet rolls in my online shopping order had gone up in price from £5 last week to £9-75 this week.  We can see why verse 7 might well apply to our world - “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”  

Is the Apostle’s understanding of “flesh” as trivial as that seen in today’s secularised culture? Is Paul simply describing the reality of the absence of God in society in general? Perhaps this is what countless of faithful believers assume.

There are other ways of seeing Paul’s view of “flesh.” Zimbabwe is a poor country - 80% unemployment, and they closed their borders last week.  They import the vast majority of their food, and yet they are now isolated. People are struggling, but at least the Government has made two private hospitals in Harare available for Coronavirus victims.  It sounds like charity, it sounds like love, but it’s greed. These hospitals will only be for the Political leaders of the country. Nothing for the poor. Aren’t these also examples of setting the mind on the flesh? 

Greed takes many forms.  The Baptist Church in Farnworth in Bolton is called “The Well”.  This week people broke into the church and stole from the church and the foodbank based there. What sort of mindset allows people to value goods and money more than human beings? 

Paul says in our scripture that the “flesh” is in the mind -  in our basic manner of thinking. If it is an attitude problem, surely it has real effects; it goes to the core of what it means to be human. Isn’t it true that as we grow older, we become increasingly aware of our own impending demise? Don’t we know that soon our flesh will fail us? Perhaps it is heart disease, cancer, or for thousands it will be Coronavirus. 

What will it take for believers to live their physical being knowing full well that they will soon vanish, and yet live out their lives in faith in the hope of resurrection? According to Paul, having God’s Spirit within us frees believers from those human fears. 

What exactly does it mean that the Spirit of God lives in you? Well, Paul suggests that when the Holy Spirit moves into your heart and life, Christ moves in.  As a result, marvelous things happen. When God’s Spirit moves in, he brings about transformation. Though a large part of us is struggling and dying, the Spirit of God and of Christ living in our heart and mind makes us fully alive by his power and presence.

For those who find themselves in their darkest moments and feel that all hope has vanished, Paul has good news.  He emphasises that, if the Spirit of Christ dwells in you, it has the power to change your mindset to one that nurtures life and peace. The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave will do the same for those who allow him to reside in them. 

Paul provides a word of assurance, a promise that the very thing we are incapable of doing, restoring life unto ourselves, is that which God’s Spirit has already done. How has he done it?  By raising us from the grave of our fleshly cravings, setting us free for a new way of living led by the Spirit. Ditch the greed and find faith, for faith is the start of “faith, hope and love.”

Our final verse of Scripture, verse 11, says “and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

This sermon has, hopefully, helped believers understand that to live according to the Spirit is God’s gift of faith. This gift is given to those who submit to the control of the Spirit by opening their will to God. What transpired on early Easter morning made it plain that there is no limit to the life-giving power of our God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

Before we sing our last hymn for today, let us say together the Lord’s Prayer.  OUR FATHER….

 

HYMN  The Lord's my shepherd

 

Blessing

God breathe us back to life: 

fill and renew our souls, 

quench our thirst, and 

show us how to live and love and breathe, 

reviving our spirits with Your Spirit, 

so that we may show others how to be your people 

this day and always…  AMEN

 


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