What are you thankful for? According to readers digest’s Anne O. Kubitsky who started the “Look for the Good Project” Anne asked people for postcards with their answer, to what people were thankful for. She got thousands of responses from around the globe. One of these postcards from Judith Barbour Osborne simply reads a thankfulness for life. Here’s how she described it:
“Art, poetry, friends, health, freedom, peace, seasons, wisdom, beauty, joy, spiritual inspiration, family, love, creativity, harmony, nature, generosity, simplicity, energy, joy, and more joy.” —Judith Barbour Osborne
Riding on a bus to work one day a man overheard a conversation between two women. These woman were talking about a book Scott Peck’s The road less traveled, and so this bloke butted asking why was she reading that book? The woman replied a friend had given it to her and had said that it had changed her life. He asked what the book about? “a sort of life guide book” was the reply, so this woman began flipping through the chapter titles…Discipline, Love, Grace…the man stopped her right there “What’s grace ?” “I don’t know I haven’t got that far” the woman replied and in some ways across many of our churches we ask the same question “what’s grace? This is where we find ourselves today as we drill down into grace alone: stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism, stronger than hate. As we read in Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Sola Fide, Faith Alone. How does faith work for how you live? Have you ever wondered how are we are declared right with God by God by faith alone? Martin Luther’s understanding ‘justification by faith alone’ was the spiritual turning point of his life. Luther was born 1483 in Germany
and was training to be a lawyer until one day he was caught in a bad thunderstorm. He was nearly struck by lightning and thrown to the ground he vowed he would become a monk. In 1512 Luther began teaching as a Bible Professor at the University of Wittenberg in Germany where he also became the priest for the Wittenberg Church. These Wiitenberg years were also for him his greatest spiritual turmoil he knew that it was important to be friends with God. Luther thought he could make that happen by doing good things himself. Luther had tried all manner of ways to justify himself to find peace with God. He tried sleeping on hard floors, and fasting. He tried crawling up a staircase while praying. The monastic life was harsh a daily routine of self-denial and confession and masses and absolution, good works. Luther had tried it all; for Luther none of it brought to him the peace with God he thirsted for. The breakthrough came when Luther was meditating on Romans 1:17
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Ever thought about our place in this vast galaxy we live in? With billions of stars casting their light from light years away there is a sum of some One Billion stars making up the community of stars just in our galaxy alone, and our Galaxy is a member of a small cluster of 19 Galaxies that occupies an area close to three million light years in diameter. The nearest galaxy to us is a large cluster is Thirty million light years containing over 100 Galaxies and Scientists tell us that they can observe over One Billion Galaxies that is 1 to the power of 23 (a 1 followed by 23 naught’s) worth of stars; and so amongst all this immensity is our small rock called earth is a small speck in a large Universe were something remarkable is happening. On this 3rdrock from the Sun God formed people in his own image and set us apart with a special place in the world in the universe to have a special place with the creator himself
“O LORD our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
The tension we look out at is the tragic state of the world and our lives the Psalms teach us not to ignore the pain of our lives and how biblical faith is forward looking to the promise of God’s future messianic kingdom. This is seen by how the torah & messiah, lament and praise faith & hope is what the Psalms are about. As we see today in Psalm 1how ready are we to come and sit before God to worship him? Psalm 1 starts with getting us to tune our hearts to God’s frequency. As the first words Psalm 1 speaks Blessed is the manwhich is interesting that of the first word chosen
starting the Psalms all 150 of them the first word chosen is blessed. This word is picked up and used right throughout the rest of the Psalter, so let’s not be confused blessed is a relationship word; blessed tells me where I stand not by my internal well being or emotions. Blessed is the state of being declared right by God as it is used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom & blessed are…those who hunger & thirst for righteousness for they will see God.” See how blessed is this way someone who loves God and lives that out in the decisions and actions; or blessed as used of Job, who after his ordeal and disfigurement and grief is finally blessed in ways that exceeded any sense of his relationship with God before it. This is what is clear right from the beginning of Psalm 1. The way we live is at the heart of what we worship if that’s God then we will be called, blessed. As we read in verse 1
Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world's most famous graphic artists.
For Escher it was like he could see what was hidden in the spaces and imagine what feels like for us the impossible,  Isaiah has the same kind of imagination. He alerts us to the hidden and seemingly impossible things of God; just as we see in today’s Bible reading. It all feels like for God’s people they are slaves trapped in the reoccurring patterns of want and waste, sin and suffering, with no way out, and no light at the end of the tunnel. We are more situated people than what we realise. God we soon see has other ideas about that and in Isaiah we are introduced to a suffering servant who becomes saviour and lord of those he saves. It is like in Jesus we watch a fish become a bird. In the visceral language of Isaiahwith tired, aching, empty people of Godbeing met with the image of God coming down to us. At this intersection of Isaiah we see him reaching up with God reaches back and out to his people with longing and fillingas God doesn’t leave his people empty; He revives our souls. We meet the surprise of God, that he has been on the move towards us, and in the business of changing us even when we weren’t seeing it. In the highs and lows God has been there always for us through Jesus, seeking us out to know his love and see his joy as enough. The first thing Isaiah tells us is God’s coming is the longing of his soul, ashe wants to feel God’s presence, for God to intervene; that is God to shake up the world. This is not by seeing the enemies of God smashed and destroyed; it is instead a call to listen in a little closer to Isaiah’s prayer. As this prayer is one of the most radical prayer we will readas Isaiah prays for God to change his enemies into worshippers, this is uncomfortable graceas Isaiah teaches us to pray. The question is have you got an expansive view of God? Notice the movements of Isaiah in verses 1-3with what he prays for God to do.
Easter: Good Friday Service
What if love was greater than the darkest night? What if the reality that God’s love for us in Christ truly is far greater than any darkness, pain, or loss we might experience in this life. What might we need to do then? On that first Easter Jesus was showing us his love in a way that we had not encountered it before. This is where we get to stare God right in the face, seeing what God has done for each of us in love. On that first Good Friday Jesus is arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, betrayed by one of the disciples Judas with a kiss & for 30 pieces of silver, taken before the Sanhedrin, falsely accused & bound by oath to answer the question on everyone’s lips “Are you the son of God?”They knew the answer, so now get to put into place what they had schemed to do for so long. Jesus is abandoned by his disciples disowned by Peter, and finally brought before Pilate . As we read in Matthew 27:11-12
11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied.
Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church
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