My piece this month is an edited extract from a sermon I preached on 8th January this year at the launch of our new motto verse from Isaiah. I do hope you’ve managed to pick a card up from church; if not there are still a few around.
We know that the prophet Isaiah lived at a key moment for the nation of Israel. God was calling his people back to their calling as bringers of justice to all the nations and Isaiah was looking forward to a time when God’s justice would be seen in all the earth.
We too live in important times: the end times, that is the time between Jesus’s first and second comings. We too await God’s justice to be seen in all the earth. And like the people of Israel, we have the Holy Spirit empowering us in our God-given vocation or calling, which is to bring God’s justice to the nations. Isaiah tells us that we are to be lights shining in this dark world. This means being, and living out, who we are: children of God with all the rights and responsibilities that status brings.
We have the right to call on God in prayer – the responsibility is to pray for our friends and families, for our nation and for the whole world. Our first prayer is that they too would recognise God for who he is and acknowledge his Kingship over their lives. We are then to pray that the worlds’ resources are used for the good of all and not just a few – that’s justice. Of course we also pray for things big and small in our lives – the need for a new job, the death of a loved one, the landlord to fix that leak in the bathroom quickly because God is interested in our whole lives.
Prayer is the foundation of all we do, but it’s not meant to be all we do unless we are called specifically by God as intercessors or contemplatives. Most of us should expect to be seen to be different by those we live and work with and amongst because we embody the values of the gospel in everything we say and do.
So we don’t gossip or bad-mouth others. We are kind and look for ways to help friends and colleagues that go beyond mere social expectations. We support with our time and our money charities and organisations that work for justice for all, like the Rainbow Centre, Citizen’s advice and many others.
We are involved in local groups like the Angels who serve the community because of their love for God. We serve as governors in our schools, bringing God’s perspective to bear on matters of education.
We are engaged in politics, praying for and seeking to influence lawmakers to uphold Christian values.
The bottom line is that if our faith is not affecting how we live our lives, then why should others be interested? We run the danger of being nothing more than a club that gathers each Sunday with a shared interest in sitting on uncomfortable pews in a cold building. But we know that’s not why we gather: we gather to build us up ready for serving God wherever we are.
As we approach the season of Lent it’s good to reflect on what God has in store for us. Lent gives us the opportunity to stand back and look prayerfully at where we are, and where God is calling us to be. A good place to start is with our daily time with God – whether you call it a Quiet Time, Bible Study or something else the key question is: are we spending quality time with our Heavenly Father every day? Then think about our involvement in serving others: are we doing too much or too little? Are we only serving in the church or do we serve the community as well? Remember too that there is no retirement in the Kingdom of God – we all can serve whatever our age or health, though perhaps in different ways than we have been able to in the past.
Do look out for the special activities and groups throughout Lent and Holy Week to help us reflect on ourselves and our church in these and other areas.
God declared through the prophet Isaiah
‘See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.’ Isaiah 42: 9
God is speaking: the question is, are we listening?