Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield
Sunday 10th January, 2021
The first full week of 2021 started in an expected way: Back into lockdown with an announcement from the Prime Minister on Monday. So Tuesday I was on granddaughter care duties as my daughter and son-in-law are critical workers.
Vicar Mike started bt saying what a week, mentioning the Washington DC mob entering the White House and Lockdown 3, the sequel no one wanted. He went on to a Bible passage he read this week, from a psalm he was not familiar :
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour,
who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,Psalm 68:19-20a, 32-35 NIV UK
sing praise to the Lord,
33 to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
34 Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.Praise be to God!
In the notices at the end of the service Mike said that the life groups were back this week. We have about 150 in these groups and we were commended to make them a priority as face to face meeting is difficult.
Mike also preached. We are back to going through the Gospel of Mark, after a break for Advent, Christmas and the Epiphany. A question he raised before the Bible reading, based on games he plays with his children on long car journeys. Would you rather. e.g. Would you rather go without chocolate for a week or crisps for a week. He then asked, “Is there anything God can’t forgive?”
The reading was Mark 3:20-35, please read this, the rest of this post would be pretty meaningless without it.
Mike continued. He spoke about verse 29 where Jesus says, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. “
Jesus said this in context to verse 22 where the teachers of the law had accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul (or Beelzebub in other translations) in short they were saying Jesus was posessed by an evil spirit. These teachers were not saying that Jesus was not casting demons out, they acknowledged that, but that it was the power of evil in Jesus that did it. Jesus’ answer is that if that were so, that there was a civil war amongst the powers of Satan, then these powers were about to fall.
There has been an onslaught from outside, Jesus has come and bound Satan, the strong man in the example he gives, which is why he is able to cast out evil spirits. Mark is asking us that question to any who would read his Gospel, who is Jesus? C S Lewis in his book Mere Christianity says that for Jesus to say the things he said he had to be either mad, possessed or God. We cannot make Jesus just a great moral teacher, because if what he claimed about himself were not true then his teaching would not be moral.
How can you be guilty of eternal sin? What Jesus says is that you can be forgiven any sin, but he also says you can’t be forgiven. Any sin is forgivable even murder and sexual sin cam be forgiven. Paul in 1 Timothy says ” I used to be a blasphemer.” So what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Anyone who feels the pull of the Spirit and is deliberately resistant to rhe Holy Spirit, who wants to lead you to Jesus and to repentance and forgiveness. We go on the defensive when we are arguing instead of saying “I was wrong.”
Notice who Jesus is talking to: The only people this is aimed at are the religious people. Jesus is scandalous. Religious attitude says if I live a good life God will reward me, which is the opposite of what Jesus teaches. We need to admit that we are wrong and that we need Jesus. I need Jesus. opposite of I need Jesus.
We are missing the point that the Gospel says you are wrong in being religious. In one of Jesus’ stoties a Pharisee stands up abd boasts to God about how religious he is, he giuves away ane tenth of everything, prays several times a day and thanks God he is not like that other person, a tax collector. But it is that tax collector’s prayer, “God have mercy on me a sinner,” that God responds to. The gospel is the opposite of religion.
Mike pointed out there are three groups:
If you are worried that you have committed an unforgivable sin you have not committed an unforgivable sin.
If you are plagued by what you have done, people C, Jesus died saying “It is finished.” It is finished even the things that you have done.
Heaven celebrates when the lost is found. In the story of the lost son the Father goes out twice. Firstly to his returning son and again to older son. It is the older one who is last but father is pleading for him also to come in. Are we trying to do the right things but don’t know the intimacy that is offered. Will you turn to him today?
Mike finished with a prayer, Lord we accept your forgiveness.
It is unlike me to comment on a service without mentioning the music, There were two songs, The Lion and the Lamb, with the line “his blood breaks the chains” was produced in house by a couple in the congregation. The false start did not detract from the music, though starting and finishing in monochrome was a distraction to me, it seemed unnecessary. Still it warmed my heart. There were two others, one I did not know song, and was probably aimed at children, judging by their presence in the video but otherwise I would not have known, the lyrics were simple but not condescending. The final song, The overwhelming, never ending, reckless love of God reminded me of how good God has been so kind to me. A good way to end a service.