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Kingship - Whose Rules Rule? Leytonstone United Free Church - Sunday 11th June 2021

Welcome

This week Simon reflects on a number of Bible passages that asks us to consider 'Whose rules rule?"

Call To Worship

Psalm 24

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

for he founded it on the seas

and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?

Who may stand in his holy place?

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not trust in an idol

or swear by a false god. [a]

They will receive blessing from the LORD

and vindication from God their Savior.

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

who seek your face, God of Jacob. [b][c]

Lift up your heads, you gates;

be lifted up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?

The LORD strong and mighty,

the LORD mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

Who is he, this King of glory?

The LORD Almighty—

he is the King of glory.

Song

You Are My Vision

Prayer

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done

on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespassed against us.

Lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

Forever and ever.

Amen

Bible Reading

Introduction - Amos

Amos, a prophet in the last third of the old testament, born in the southern kingdom of Judea. He was called to leave and travel north to prophesy to the kingdom of Israel. The theme of social justice dominates the book, the way the upper classes oppress the poor and needy. Amos is critical of the complacent lives of the rich and the corrupt religious practices of the nation. Amos 5 21-24 reflects that justice matters more to God than the outward forms of religion:

“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

Amos shares a vision, initially God is preparing a swarm of locusts to destroy the harvest, but Amos cried out ‘ Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!’ So the Lord relented.

The next vision of a fire so devastating that it dries up the great deep and devours the land. Again Amos cried out ‘ Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!’

So the Lord relented.

Amos 7:7-15

This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”

“A plumb line,” I replied.

Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. “The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.”

Amos and Amaziah

Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. For this is what Amos is saying:

“‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”

Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

Reflection

by

Simon Owen

From the image we can see what a plumbline does, a weight and string, so simple yet true and accurate as it relies only on gravity. It can be used to judge how well a wall has be constructed, the human eye is brilliant at detecting whether the plumbline and the wall are parallel.

Plumbline

This idea of judgement is uncomfortable for the leaders of the society, speaking truth to power takes courage. Amos gets into trouble as the prophecies displease the ruling elite, the message from the Lord is not heeded and shows the tension between the ruler in heaven and ruler on earth. ‘ Whose rules rule’.

Song

Lord Reign In Me

Bible Reading

Mark 6:14-29

John the Baptist Beheaded

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled[b]; yet he liked to listen to him.

Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Reflection

In the passage the works of Jesus begin rumours , that this must be the work of John the Baptist raised from the dead, or the prophet Elijah. Herod has arrested John, bound him and put him in prison, it was a love hate thing because Herod liked to listen to John but was puzzled by his words. Herod, with all his kingly power feared John because he saw him as a righteous and holy man. This passage goes on to describe some classic kingly behavior, taking his brother’s wife, Herodias, ignoring John’s warning that this was unlawful, throwing a big party showing off to his friends where Herod was so pleased by some dancing of Herodias’s daughter that he promised her anything she wanted, the daughter on the advice of her mother asks for the head of John and now the powerful king is stuck, he is being manipulated by his woman, his honour will be damaged if he doesn’t keep his promise, he ends up beheading John, even though he doesn’t want to.

This is a tale of the way power corrupts and why there will be tension over ‘whose rules rule’.

Why do we have kings and leaders? I am not sure I have any answer to that but my observation is that it has always been thus. We see it in groups of animals, it has always been part of the way humans gather in groups, decisions need to be made and who is going to make that decision, the most powerful individual? The strongest? The brightest?. In our hunter gatherer days it was where to camp, where to hunt and whether other groups are to be friends or enemies. Alongside this human leader were the priestly elite who could talk to the spiritual realm and so there is always the question, would there be tension or agreement between these two sets of leaders, whose rules rule.

Lion-man

This inch statue shown above was found in southern Germany in 1939 and is 38000 years old, it is the oldest half animal, half human piece of art ever found. It is made from mammouth ivory and is thought to have taken over 370 hours to carve. A smaller statue was found in a neighbouring cave and is thought to have been used in shamanistic ritual. From the radio programme ‘Living with the Gods’ the presenter Neil McGregor asked this question of the expert Jill Cook:

"... so why would a community living on the edge of subsistence, whose primary concerns were finding food, keeping that fire going, protecting children from predators, allow someone to spend so much time away from those tasks";

She replied that it was......

about "... a relationship to things unseen, to the vital forces of nature, that you need to perhaps win favour with the gods, perhaps connect to, in order to ensure your successful".

Bible Reading

This letter written by Paul is thought to have been written from prison in AD 60. Paul was very familiar with the church in Ephesus because he spent a couple of years there during is missionary career.

Ephesians 1:3-14

The God of Glory

How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This down payment from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

Reflection

A Message

Paul wrote this letter from prison, the earthly law makers took away his freedom because his message was ‘difficult’. Paul’s message We are Abundantly Free, we are part of a great plan, it is in Christ that you heard the truth. This message, signed sealed and delivered by the Holy Spirt will bring us a praising and glorious life.

Who is it now that gives us the important message? Different ideas pop into my mind, who is it now that sign seals and delivers our messages of hope.

Is it the delivery driver arriving at our door with our amazon parcels?

Is it our politicians with their statements in parliament, tax/budgets and spending reviews?

Is it our favourite authors, with their works of fact or fiction?

Is it those celebrities on TV or in our magazines who deliver our message for a contented life?

Is it the youtubers that have a message about how to live?

Is it the wellness gurus that say get our into your garden and be present?

Is it the fitness and healthy eating influencers with their ‘try this for thirty days’.

Throughout history the message and delivery has always changed Carved stone tablets at the temple, stories round the fire, epic songs by bards in the feasting hall, the pamphlets of the 1600’s, the novel of the 1700’s, the newspapers of 1800’s, Radio and TV of the 1900’s and the internet of our Century. There are many messages and our listening is easily distracted. We need our method, our ritual, our way to focus our attention and listen to the message signed sealed and delivered by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Intercessions

We pause to offer prayers for those people and situations that are close to our hearts:

For the world......

For our country......

For our community......

For our church......

For our leaders......

For our family and friends......

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Amen

Song

Even Though The Day Be Laden

Close

The Grace

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all,

now and evermore.

Amen.

Lets us go in peace and take the word of the Lord in to the world

Credits:

Created with images by kangbch - "barley field wheat agriculture" • AveCalvar - "hands light hand" • Hucklebarry - "bible scripture book" • stempow - "bible church wedding" • Pexels - "bible book pages" • Atlantios - "message in a bottle bottle sea" • bernswaelz - "candlelight candle light" • jeffjacobs1990 - "jesus christ god" • Pexels - "blonde sitting wall"