Being a Mouthpiece for Truth & Justice

Todays reading is 2 Samuel 12:1-13Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Jon.

Good morning everyone! If we haven’t met my name is Jon and I’m training to be a vicar here in Bristol. We are carrying on with a series through Mark Green‘s book, ‘Fruitfulness on the Frontline.’ Today we will be considering the call and the challenge to be a mouthpiece for truth and justice on our front lines and in our daily lives. Let me pray for us as we begin.

Come Holy Spirit, transform us and speak to us this morning. We ask that you would speak to us through this passage and teach us how to live lives following your way of life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Once when I was growing up and in school, My English teacher set the class some homework. The following day I was part of the group who had not competed the homework. Now most of the people who hadn’t done it were open about the fact that they hadn’t done it. However, I tried to deceive the teacher and say that I had done it when I hadn’t. I was found and I received the biggest punishment in the class. That day I learnt the importance of truth.

Truth is the right way even when it’s hard. We live in a world of lies and miss information. Truth is not a hallmark of a culture but it is a hallmark of our God.

Now let me give a bit of background to the passage. What has happened is that the king of Israel, King David, has had an affair with a woman called Bathsheba. This happened while her husband, Uriah, was out fighting for King David in battle. Then in an attempt to try and cover up the affair, King David sends Uriah out to an impossible battle knowing that he would be killed. So King David has committed adultery and then murder to try and cover up the truth. Then Nathan the prophet appears on the scene and it is his job to speak the word of God to the king. Nathan reveals the truth to David showing that God knows the truth. In verse nine of our passage Nathan says to David, ‘Why did you despise the word of God and do what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah that Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.’ Nathan told the truth to David despite the risk that came with it. David had already killed someone! It is clear in the passage that it is God who reveals the truth to Nathan.

I wonder, where is there untruth or lies on your front line? Is there something you can say with grace and courage? Let me name a few potential examples. I think in the wider church as a whole one of the ways we can risk being untruthful is how we report attendance numbers and how we present ourselves online. More generally we can all think about how we present ourselves on social media and in our marketing. Perhaps if your job requires it you can be truthful on your time sheets. We can all practice telling people the truth in conversation even when it’s hard. For example we can be truthful in conversation about what we going to be doing on Sundays.

Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the way the TRUTH and the life.’ It is to him we must come for help to reveal the truth on our frontlines. He already knows the truth and it is him we can trust to help us when we are pursuing truth in our lives. He is the truth and the truth set us free.

Now in speaking the truth Nathan also spoke up for justice. We live in a world of injustice and exploitation. Justice is not a hallmark of our world, but it is a hallmark of our God. In our passage we see that Nathan used a metaphorical story to show David that what he did was unjust. He told a story of someone who exploited his power and status to steal from someone who had so little. The verse at the end of the previous chapter (11:27) reads, ‘The thing that David had done displeased the Lord.’

One of the Anglican marks of mission is to transform the unjust structures of society to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation. I wonder, where is their injustice on your front line? And is there something for you to say with grace and courage? It could be something as simple as not getting involved in gossip. Perhaps it’s taking the time to sit with the person who is always by themselves at school or at work or in your family. Perhaps it’s about reporting any bullying you know of either in person or online. If there is an issue that is close to your heart perhaps this week you can write to your MP about it. Particularly at this time we must think and pray about how to pursue racial equality through our actions and words. And seeking justice in our church and our parish could start by us having open eyes to the whole parish and praying for opportunities to stand up for and serve those who are marginalised in the community.

I think the first step in pursuing truth and justice is for us to see others with God’s eyes. To see everyone around us as they have been created to be, in the image of God. Those that the world regards as disposable to see as precious. Those that the world regards as a burden to see as a gift. Those of the world regards as superfluous to see as invaluable. And for this we need God‘s help by the Holy Spirit to open our eyes. To stand up for truth and justice we need God’s courage and wisdom on our front lines. As Mark Green says in his book, ‘Evil is not easily dethroned.’ Guts, The Holy Spirit, prayer, and the support of God’s people are all needed in the pursuit of truth and justice.

Nathan had the guts to speak the uncomfortable truth to someone who had far more earthly power than him. We believe in a God of truth and a God of justice who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Let’s now ask for his help in living daily lives of truth and justice. Let’s pray.

Lord we want to thank you for your just nature and your true nature. We commit ourselves again to you today. We say sorry for those times where we have bent the truth for our own ends. We say sorry for where we have not stood up for justice in our daily lives. Lord have mercy on us and transform us into your ways. Lord we ask for your wisdom, your grace, and your courage on our front lines. Reveal to us where there is untruth and injustice. Give us the words and actions to represent you and to be messengers of truth and justice. We ask that your kingdom would come on each of our front lines. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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Update on Re-opening the church building for a Sunday service

The psalm for Morning Prayer today, Psalm 27Open Link in New Window, begins ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?’.

As I start another week during this extraordinary season of our lives, these were just the words I needed to hear. Alongside ‘whom’, and ‘of whom’, we can also say ‘what’ and ‘of what’ then shall I be afraid? I am reminded of God’s love and care for us and His showing us the way in life, giving us purpose, meaning and hope in Jesus. I am reminded also, that this is the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ we are to focus on each and every day. However uncertain life may feel, in God through the presence of Jesus Christ, by the guiding and filling of his Holy Spirit, we can know and light and salvation, without fear, each and every day.

‘Give thanks to God for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136Open Link in New Window)

Today’s letter is about us taking new steps together, as we find new ways of living and loving during this pandemic. This is clearly a seismic event in all our lives, which has profoundly changed so much. This change will impact the future too. We cannot live through such an experience without coming out the other side as different people, and with different priorities. During these past few months, alongside the compassion and care shown for others on the frontline of people’s lives, there has also been a huge searching for God by millions of people, as they seek meaning purpose—and understanding. The Church of Christ—the Body of Christ that is all Christian people, can have confidence in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘We have a Gospel to proclaim, Good news for all throughout the earth’

Coming back into the church building

This proclamation continues in the home and streets where we live, the places we work, and where we spend most of our time. As this country hesitantly emerges from lockdown, we also now have the opportunity to come back together physically as a community, in the church building, to praise God and to be fed and encouraged before we go back to our frontlines. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Government legislation and guidance, together with Church of England guidance, means this will be in a very different way. We shall be learning and developing this new way as we go along. But what is important is to start somewhere. It is important to reflect the hope of the Gospel and to take steps of faith.

We shall therefore be returning to St Matthews Church building on Sunday 9th August, for a single church service at 9.30am.

Churchwarden Chris Smith and his working party have been working hard on processing all the national and church guidance and requirements for this. It is complex, and every church building and scenario is different. The priority is to enable a return to the building in a way that ensures safety and wellbeing, and therefore gives us confidence in our return.

Our thanks to Chris and his team for all they are doing to help us.

The working party has the following guidance for coming to St Matthews on Sunday 9th:

  • Reopening Sunday 9th August, service at 9.30 am
  • Looking forward to seeing you but please don’t come if you have symptoms, fell unwell or have been in recent contact with someone who is unwell.
  • Arrive between 9am and 9.25 to give time for the following:
  • Hand sanitiser will be provided but wash your hands before you leave for church.
  • We will register your attendance for Government Track & Trace
  • Maintain Social distancing at all times: Seating is spaced at approx. 2m.
  • Please contact us if you feel particularly vulnerable but would still like to come and we’ll manage your entry/exit/seating.
  • Avoid parking on the forecourt if possible and agree with Church Office if you feel you need to.
  • Bring a mask. This will need to be worn during your time in the church (spares available for those who forget or don’t have one).
  • Watch the YouTube video for details of entry, exit and the preparations we’ve made:
  • Online service is still available every week on YouTube. See St Matthews Bristol YouTube Channel.
  • The service format will be simple summer format. Approx. 35-40 minutes, including live and recorded elements as appropriate.
  • This summer format means that currently there is no separate provision for children and young people’s groups.
  • Stewards will be present to guide you and answer any questions.

We are hugely looking forward to seeing each other again as we take these first steps back into the building. We are also mindful that there will still be those who, for health or other reasons, don’t yet feel ready or able to return to the church building. That is why we are continuing to provide our Online service every week.

As we take this step, please may I ask for your continuing prayer, love, gentleness and patience.

‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and an inheritance than can never perish, spoil or fade…’ (1 Peter 1:3Open Link in New Window)

With our love and prayers, in Christ

Ian

Rev Ian Tomkins, Vicar St Matthews Bristol

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Moulding Culture

If the links don’t work for you, here is Aiden’s video presentation David & Goliath and Rescuer (Good News).

Todays reading is Matthew 5:13-16Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Imogen.

We are a storytelling people. We tell stories to others, we tell stories to ourselves. We tell stories about the past, about the present, and about the potential future. We tell stories today and we will tell stories tomorrow. As Christians, we come from a storytelling people. The People of Israel told great stories. They handed them down from generation to generation. And then came the great storyteller. Jesus told so many stories. He told the story of the Good Samaritan, the story of the Prodigal Son, the story of the Shrewd Manager, the story of Two Sons. Story after story, Jesus turned the world upside down. And so we tell his story. This is our story.

Today we’re looking at Mark Greene’s next chapter in his book ‘Fruitfulness on the Frontline.’ We’re looking at culture. I find culture quite a difficult concept both to explain and to understand and when I’m thinking about culture change or culture shaping, culture moulding, I find that quite overwhelming. So I thought today we would talk about stories because stories point to culture. As we tell the Story of Christ we point to the Christ-shaped culture that we are called to live by. Stories do four things: stories illustrate, stories preserve, stories purify and stories illuminate.

Today’s passage is from Matthew 5Open Link in New Window, near the beginning of Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Jesus opens this sermon with the Beatitudes. These are qualities of a Christian life, qualities of a life lived in step with God, a blessed life. Then he moves on to these two well known metaphors: you are the salt of the earth; and you are the light of the world. These metaphors are personal, they emphasised the you. ‘You’ are the salt of the earth, ‘you’ are the light of the world. They are relevant because salt and light had everyday relevance for the listeners and for us as well today. Most importantly these metaphors illustrate. Metaphors are used to describe something beyond the words, a reality beyond the literal, something deeper and more profound. These metaphors illustrate. Stories also illustrate. They point to something deeper, a reality beyond the literal. Stories can illustrate culture and so the stories we tell can illustrate a Christ-shaped culture that we are called to. Stories illustrate.

Salt preserves. Although it’s less relevant for us today with the fridge, for Jesus’ listeners salt would have been a preservative. Salt preserves by retaining the good and by avoiding decay. As disciples we are called to preserve. We are called to retain the good that we see around us and to avoid decay. Salt preserves and disciples are called to preserve and stories preserve. Stories retain the good, they keep hold of the good in the history of a people or a place. They also hope to avoid decay, to avoid failing or chaos or destruction. As we tell stories we can preserve, we can retain the good that we see in the culture around us and we can hope to avoid its decay. Stories preserve.

Salt also purifies. Salt isn’t just a preservative, it also makes things better, it brings out the flavour ultimately just making it taste nicer. Salt purifies and so we, as disciples, are also called to purify, to make things better. Ultimately we know that purification only comes through Christ on the cross. His death means that we are washed clean and our sins are forgiven. But I think as disciples we are also called to participate in God’s purification. We are called to participate in God’s purifying of ourselves, to make ourselves better. We are also called to participate in God’s purification of the world, to help make the world a better place. Salt purifies, disciples are called to purify and stories also purify. Stories can make culture better. Stories can improve the situation and they can change the narrative, they can tell a new story. Stories purify.

Light unsurprisingly illuminates. This may be less true for us because we have lots of light pollution in our cities but for Jesus’ listeners they would have known the true value of light. Light illuminates the unknown spaces and places that have been previously unseen. Light also illuminates a way forward, the next steps on a path. As disciples we are called to illuminate. We are called to make known things which have not been known, to give voice to those who have been heard. We are also called to give clarity for the way ahead, to illuminate the way of Christ. Light illuminates and disciples are called to illuminate. Stories also illuminate. Stories shine light on places which have been in darkness, on people who have been forgotten, on voices which have never been heard. The stories that we tell can illuminate those people and the stories that we tell can illuminate a way forward, they can point to the way of Christ. As we tell stories we can change culture by illuminating unheard people and places and by showing and pointing to the way of Christ. So stories illustrate, stories preserve, stories purify and stories illuminate.

We are storytelling people. We tell stories because stories matter and stories do things. Stories illustrate: they point to something deeper and the stories we tell can illustrate the Christ-shaped culture we are called to. Stories preserve: stories can retain the good that we see in the culture around us and they can avoid decay. Stories purify: they can make culture better. And stories illuminate: bringing to light stories which have been unheard before, people and places which haven’t had a platform and they can give clarity for the way forward, pointing to the way of Christ. So tell stories. Tell Jesus’ story.

Think for a moment about the stories that are told on your frontline… How might the stories that you tell change the narrative, change the ending, perhaps even tell a new story? Because in telling stories we can mould culture to be more and more like the Christ-shaped culture that we are called to. So tell stories, tell Jesus’ Story, may you tell it with boldness, with competence and with courage.

Let’s pray: Lord God we thank you for your story, for the Story of the people of Israel and the Story of Jesus. We thank you that we are part of your Story. We ask that the stories that we tell will be faithful to you and point to the Christ-shaped culture were called to live by. Give us boldness, confidence and courage this day. Amen.

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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