A redemption song and mustard seed

Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield
Sunday 24th January 2021

The earliest known photograph of Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield, A sepia picture showing the chuch surrounded by fields.

This was not a good week for someone with osteo-arthritis. On Thursday the pain in my bad ankle was so bad due to the cold and damp, even inside thought it was sleeting outside and the cold and damp was penetrating the bad joint, that I returned to bed before lunch and spent Friday in bed too.

This morning I was awakened by my wife bringing coffee 10 minutes before the radio alarm was due to wake us with the BBC local radio service on Radio Leeds. A service about new beginnings, it is good to look back and see how far we’ve come. It was a lyric that spoke to me the most, “You [Jesus] restore every heart that is broken … Great are you Lord.”

Over at Holy Trinity, Vicar Mike lead the service. Again God spoke to me through lyrics: “He breaks the power of cancelled sin.” and “unleash your kingdom’s power.” The other song, for young people, was in a punk style, I smiled thinking how what was once the music of rebellion is now being used to praise God, redemption in action. The service is on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWgPTJEXhPs

Neil told of a difficult time he has has this year at work with his supervisor. A Christian friend suggested he pray that he should pray for her success, he questioned this advice but prayed that prayer on the Friday after work. Monday was a day off for Neil, but a colleague called him up to say, “She’s gone, resigned.” The supervisor had given up the job, where she was unhappy, and taken up the job she had always wanted. God answered prayer, solving conflict and giving a positive

The reading was Mark 4:21-34, please read this before continuing with this blog post.

Retired vicar John preached. Before the reading he recalled a Christian student and a non-Chistian one in conversation. “have you been clothed in the blood of the lamb?” asked the Christian, to the confusion of the other. The wording was biblical, but it was not helpful. Another instance is someone trying to teach people in an inner city estate the meaning of Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd. How can you teach this to people who have no knowledge of sheep or what a shepherd does. One replied, “the Lord is like my probation officer,” the only person he knew who had shown any care for him.

This is called contextualisation, talking in a way people understand. Jesus did it naturally, as we see in the passage that was read, in Mark’s gospel this follows on from the parable of the sower and is four mini-parables concerning things people were familiar with:

  1. LIGHT: Houses in Jesus time would be mostly of one room containing a lamp consisting a wick floating in oil a corn bin, a low bed under which things can be stored and a lampstand. Jesus is the light of the world shining in the darkness Jn 3:19-20 says. “This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel. “You are the light of the world.” Let the light of Jesus shine through you into a dark world.
  2. THE MARKET PLACE: Things had to be weighed out, they did not come ready packaged like in our supermarkets. A lot of traders gave generous measures, but some cheated. Jesus will juge us by our own standards, generous to those that are generous, short measures to those who cheat. John mentioned the superficial faith of some regular church goers, never seeming to internalise what they hear as applying to them and acting on it.
  3. FARMS AND GROWING SEED: All the farmer does is plant and wait. We need to be sowing seed. There is talk in church circles about decline in numbers and talk about haemorrhaging members. God’s people have not been confident in sowing seed. We need to leave the growing to God.
  4. A MUSTARD PLANT is very quick to form seed can lay dormant years. In Mediterranean areas it can be an invasive weed. John has followed Open Doors which started smuggling Bibles into communist areas and gives information on the persecution of Christians. There are 260 million persecuted Christians in the world. The reaction of the persecutors has always been the same, to imprison and kill people and close buildings. All this does is to drive the church underground; like a mustard plant it will come up somewhere else.

We may need to abandon well known imagery in order to connect we need to be kinhdon explorers and connectors in our own day.

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