Act of Worship at Home
Prepared by Rev Tony Coates
Thank you, Lord, that we can come together, not in the same place, perhaps not at the same time, but still we are together as a community of your people, united with one another and with Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Reading Mark 5:1-9
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!’ For Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of this man, you impure spirit!’
Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’
Reading Mark 6: 7-13
Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’
They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them.
This coming Wednesday, 9 June, we have a special church meeting in the church, yes, in the church, to discuss, and decide on, whether to reopen the church for Sunday worship. That means that we are on the threshold of a new stage in our church life. How will that shape up?
Our Community Links Project will also be on the move again. We have completed stage one, the securing of the stone front of our building. The evidence will probably be all around us as we enter the building for the Church Meeting. And what will be the shape of our future church life as we develop our community links, with young families, the older generation? How will things shape up there?
Those two readings can have a word for us there. First of all, Jesus and his disciples go across the Lake of Galilee to the region of the Gerasenes. As we read this, we don’t notice the full force of it. ‘Across the Lake’. That was into foreign territory. We know that because the local inhabitants were pig farmers – and Jews would have nothing to do with pigs. You have heard the story. The disciples ventured into foreign territory, and Jesus performed a healing miracle there.
And then in the second story, the disciples were told to go out travelling light to proclaim the kingdom of God. They must not be encumbered with too many possessions but were to concentrate on their mission. And they preached that people should repent… they performed healing miracles on many people.
So there in those two passages is a word for us, as individuals and as a church. As individuals, we know only too well that we have to discard clutter (we have probably been doing some of that during lockdown!). And we are constantly having to move on to the next stage of our lives and having to adapt to changed circumstances in our health and family responsibilities. And that’s where, as a church, our Community Links Project is moving onto…
It was, relatively, easy for the disciples in our reading. They were the church then, preaching the kingdom of God and living kingdom values. But after centuries of Christian history we are in a far different position. We are a religion established in society. We are an institutional religion, with all that that implies. We have property. We have organised structures, some of them complicated, as some of us know only too well who have been busy raising money to pay for stage one of our Community Links Project. We should be grateful for our heritage. It provides us with opportunities for service and building the kingdom in today’s world….
But our heritage is not sacrosanct. We are in a different, post-pandemic, world. Some of our heritage has to be discarded, some of it adapted, all of it rejigged for our present world. There will be new initiatives. And we need discernment. It could take us into foreign, strange, unexplored new territory. As Peter Pay, our Assembly Moderator, said in an interview about the post-pandemic church in last month’s Reform: ‘The good Lord is going to take us to places we probably had no intention of going or expectation of going to, but it is always an exciting and joyful journey.’
Amen, May it be so for us in Christ Church.
Lord we pray for guidance for our church meeting this coming Wednesday. Help us to speak our minds and listen to one another. Draw us closer to one another, and through our discussing and deciding may your kingdom be advanced and your name glorified,
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord, as we emerge into these post-lockdown days, we pray that you will give us all wisdom and discernment, where for the sake of the common good we should be cautious, and where we should have the courage to move on to the new normality. We all need your guidance – as individuals, as a church, as a nation and as a world. Guide us all according to our needs, we pray.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer.
And we pray for those close to us, friends in Christ Church and family members, who particularly need our prayers at this time, the bereaved, the unwell, people waiting for medical results or operations or facing problems personal to them. You already know them, Lord, and we name them before you now in the silence… Bless them, Lord. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
And we pray for the peace of the world. We pray for peace and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel, in Colombia, and in other parts of the world where communities clash.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We offer these our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen