Sermon for the 29th December 2019.
Isaiah 63.7-9, Hebrews 2.10-end and Matthew 2. 13-end.
May I speak in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This Service was a Prayer and Praise Service dedicated to Janet and Dudley
as they leave us to return to the UK,
Today is the 1st Sunday of Christmas, the last of 2019; It’s a bit of an in between Sunday. Christmas has gone but there is a New Year ahead so these scriptures today help us focus on something pretty wonderful as we head towards 2020. God’s Provision.
Through Matthew’s unique account of the killing of the innocents, we can glimpse a little of how our God’s provision changed with the coming of His Son in the flesh. It shows us that the God of Might and Power of the OT, who flexes His strong right arm, One who intervenes directly and miraculously for His people through the power of His Word, is now the God who conquers through humility and vulnerability in the NT.
This has huge significance when we think of the life of Jesus and how He now intervenes through His Holy Spirit within our flesh. God’s Word will go forth and achieve what it is intended to, despite the evil of men. And that in itself is a great comfort and strength for us today, looking back and looking forward.
God speaks to Joseph through dreams and he never once falters or even waits to question. He acts immediately, taking Mary and Jesus by night to the safety of Egypt. There was a large Jewish population there and although he left all behind in his haste to save his family, and each step of this massive journey was unsure, he went in faith.
God’s provision here? Well, Joseph and Mary were now in a house and Joseph would have been working to support them both. But he left everything behind, his tools, everything. The journey was at least 150miles and would have taken days, so how did God provide for them? He had sent the Kings. Their gifts were very much the currency of the day, myrrh was highly sought after and frankincense even more. They could be traded for food, accommodation, anything of value or need, they were on the spice route and what Joseph carried, people wanted. He also had gold. Over the years we have made the gifts fit our view of Jesus as King, Priest and Sacrifice, but these gifts meant something more back then and through them God provided this precious family with all they needed, not only to survive the journey but to set up in Egypt. God will send people to fulfil His purposes. He will not be thwarted by men’s wrong or evil choices. That is powerful for those who trust in Him.
There is such a lot in these readings, so many interesting twists and turns, God’s preparations, God’s will being done, Jesus being protected from those He came to save until the time came for His ministry to end. God’s provision for His Son. We cannot separate the baby in the manger, or the child growing up in Egypt and going on to Nazareth, from God’s eternal plan. And what is so exciting, is that we are part of that. And have been even before it all started to unroll. Hebrews describes this so well. We are brother and sisters of this First Born Son and God is our Father. We say it, we believe it and we see it.
And today. I want to share God’s greatest provision in the flesh for us, after Jesus. His church, His people, His family. Not only has He provided the church but also makes provisions for it in every way. He gathers, equips and sometimes moves us on. In 2015, Rev Pauline had a vision for growth and the Town Hall of Zurgena willingly provided this lovely little chapel which we still use, free of all charges, 5 years on. It’s our stable if you like and so much work has been done to make it a fitting worship centre for our King! And much of we use, from our beautiful silver chalice and communion set, to the chairs the clergy sit on, to the material which Len and Janetta made into such lovely covers to enhance the presentation and comfort of our church, these beautiful lectern clothes, right through to towels and tea towels, decorations and both fans to keep us cool in summer and heaters to keep us warm in winter, have been lovingly and quietly given to us from Janet and Dudley. The cross we pass as we walk into church and the sweet little red and white roses in the porch for this wonderful Yorkshire man and Lancashire Lass. I think we can truly say Janet and Dudley are part of the very fabric of our church building.
But the church isn’t just the building, it’s the people who gather together within its walls as people of One God, followers of Jesus. This year has been such a difficult one for us as a church family. We have seen people we love return to the UK, some have died, people very dear to us. We have seen people suffering all kinds of illness and bereavement; it has been overwhelming at times. We cannot escape the ills of this world, we are so much a part of it. We succumb to physical and emotional stresses, whatever is part of human existence is ours. But, we are children of God, He provides for us in so many ways. Bad things happen not because God wants them to but because they are intrinsic to life. War, hatred, disease, persecution, poverty, all these things are not of God’s choosing or making, He made all things GOOD. He was pleased with what He made. He knew we would fall even before He made us but He had a plan of redemption and nothing has stopped that plan from unfolding, and nothing will. God provides for His people, we see that looking back in our own lives and we see it in the scriptures, preparation and provision.
We can look forward with hope, and we look back with pride. It is always a good time to reflect on the Old Year as the New looms ahead. God’s provision for us has been constant, gracious and true, so what a year! This little church family has grown in faith and strength. People have found and used their gifts to benefit the church, and the community. We are a real church, a caring, loving community of people who love Jesus and long to serve God in the best way we can. God equips us, gifts us, and His fruit grows within us for others to enjoy. We have our welcomers, of whom Dudley was one, whose smiles and greeting make arrival at the door such a pleasure and raise the spirits of those who enter. We never know what people are going through, their smiles hide so much, but the greetings we get, make us feel, yes, we belong here, there are those who care for and love us.
There is the gift of generosity in abundance, a gift we see in Dudley and Janet and others every day. The food bank, the Christmas gifts, the giving week by week, the time and effort people freely give, the pastoral care and hospital visits. These are gifts which are well used here. Our nurture team, who provide us with such wonderful yummy things each Sunday, at their own expense of time and money, they enhance our after church fellowship and make us linger on for that extra biccie or cake! And those with wonderful creative gifts, we enjoy home made preserves, cards for every occasion and mince pies enough to cater for nearly 200 people. These are gifts from God, provision within His church.
We are blessed with those who have been given musical gifts and who give of their time and expertise so freely. There is so much work and planning behind the scenes and we thank God every week that He has blessed our worship times with beautiful musical accompaniments. And there are those whose admin skills and business and organisational skills keep us going, quietly working away in the background so that our church runs smoothly and our times of worship and prayer are truly blessed, both for us and our Father. We have seen gifts for beautiful intercessions, reading the scriptures, teaching and guiding. We are such an amazing family and I am so proud to be part of this. Yes, we have suffered much this year, we have lost loved ones, friends, we have people sick and distressed and sometimes I think the devil must rub his hands as we fall to our knees under the weight. But ours is the victory and he has to flee because we achieve so much more on our knees, metaphorically or in reality. Through Prayer.
We are a people of prayer, a people of powerful prayer because we believe God hears us and acts on our behalf. And this year we have seen such gracious answers to prayer; healings, lives prolonged against the odds, relationships restored, the lost feeling they belong and each of us experiencing the joy of the Holy Spirit as we share our concerns and worries with each other in prayer. Jesus prayed and continues to pray and looking back over this year, it has been a year of such amazing prayer and faith.
So, God provides. He has provided so much, more than we can ever know, this past year, so we have every reason to trust and believe that 2020 will hold as much, if not more, love and support, than 2019. And I thought, yes people come and go, we feel we lose those who are so vital to our church family, but as God provides and strengthens, He sends out. We don’t lose people from our church, our family is just dispersed to meet the needs of different communities. God prepares us and we become provision to others. Everyone who has moved from this particular building is now greatly used elsewhere and they remain part of us in prayer.
I want to share something from Pat, for your encouragement, to testify to God’s provision.
“Since I lost Brian I’ve had to stand on my own two feet and, through the loss of his love and support, I’m on my own . So I’ve found strength through this deep sense of loss and God being by my side, giving me strength, when there was none . Even the days I felt I couldn’t go on He was holding me up and giving me a goal. That goal is to serve Him until he calls me home to be with Brian .
Love and blessing to all my friends at Llanos.
Pat now runs both a Prayer Group and a Bible Study group for her local church. She visits the sick and counsels those dying of cancer, and she is part of a choir and ladies group, taking her turn to read the scriptures in church. God’s provision.
Irene remains a constant rock of faith and support to many of us here, Sue is making slow moves into musical worship again, William is teaching and serving as we knew he would. He has been asked to be Church Warden and member of the PCC and his arrival followed the diagnosis of cancer for his priest. He has taken over many things for him, God’s provision.
Charles Spurgeon who started the theological colleges to train new clergy wrote, “Wherever Jesus may lead us, He goes before us, If we don’t know where we are going, we know with whom we go”
And in our church family we know that He provides all we need for that journey and the journeys of those He sends out from us.
I am going to finish with those lovely words from Isaiah and let’s make them our own and commit this New Year to a closer, more prayerful walk with our dear Lord. The Creative Word made flesh, for us.
“I will tell of the loving kindness of God. I will praise Him for all He has done. I will rejoice in His great goodness to Israel and Llanos, which He has granted in accordance with His mercy and love. He said, “They are my very own”....and He became their Saviour. “
Bits of tinsel. As you came in our welcomers gave you all a small piece of Christmas tinsel, belonging to 2019. Put it in your bags or man bag or a pocket so that when you find it there, you will remember, God provided in 2019, He will provide in 2020.