Sunday 11th June – Psalm 9
1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
3 My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
6 Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,
you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.
7 The Lord reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
13 Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may declare your praises
in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.
15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.[c]
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, Lord;
let the nations know they are only mortal
How do you begin when you approach God in your prayers or in Church in worship? David’s opening is a good guide, he begins with praise and worship with a whole heart and that’s the best place to start – “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High” (v2). Only after that doe he come to the subject of his enemies. The truth is that when you start to recite the wonderful deeds of God, the opposition shrinks remarkably. I love the bit in Acts 4 when Peter and John were arrested, imprisoned and threatened by the authorities, the young Church prayed. This is how they started: “Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and earth and the sea, and everything in them”, they then recite one of the Psalms of David (Ps 2), and only after that do they say, “Now, Lord, consider their threats ….”. When you have big things to face, turn round and look at the great Big God behind you. When you do that, what’s in front doesn’t look quite so scary.
David prays that God may lift him up before his enemies so that he can declare his praise (v13,14). In the New Testament we come across the story of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus but only one came back to thank him (Luke 17:11-19) and the irony of it was that he was a Samaritan, not one of Jesus’ fellow Jewish countrymen. Praise and thanks is always in order in our lives. Sunday is meant to be a day when we lay aside the business of the week (and the problems) and turn to God in worship and praise. Some of you may no longer be able to meet in Church but nevertheless God isn’t far away so today, whether in Church or at home, give praise and thanks to God even in the midst of any problems or troubles you face.
A Prayer. O God help me to join with the Psalmist in saying, “I will give thanks to you Lord with all my heart”(Psalm 9:1) Amen.
READINGS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as www.biblegateway.com or an app such as YouVersion
MONDAY Mark 15:33-41
This passage along with the previous one ought to be read in conjunction with Psalm 22 which opens with Jesus cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It comes from the pen of David and is a cry out of a sense of utter abandonment Jesus echoes the cry of humanity down the ages for he who has taken on the form of humanity and finding fashion as a man (see Philippians 2) he lives out the experience of us in death after which there seems no hope – unless God says, “Live!” (Ezekiel 16:6). Jesus takes our place as a people abandoned by God so that in him we might die and live.
The curtain in the temple, symbolising the separation of man from God, is torn in two from top to bottom opening the way of access to fellowship with the Father through the sacrifice of Christ. Standing by are the women, helpless spectators of their salvation as all of us are, before the cross, the “Old Rugged Cross” as George Bannard’s old hymn puts it. Let us pause before this cross.
A Prayer. Our heavenly Father with open hands we receive salvation in humility and gratitude. Blessed be your name. Amen
TUESDAY Mark 15:42-47
As we consider Joseph of Arimathea we are considering a man who couldn’t do anything about the execution of Jesus for, though he was a prominent member of the Jewish Council, the majority by far were intent on the crucifixion. He did however have the courage to do what would have been seen as outrageous by his fellows if they had known. Apart from his reputation we also ought to note that it cost Joseph – the cloths of linen Jesus was wrapped in, and the tomb in which he was laid.
From the world’s point of view it was a useless act, Jesus was dead, end of story. But his act showed respect for the body just like the woman with the alabaster jar of ointment before his death. There is always honour where honour is given.
Sometimes people may tell us there is no point in doing something, yet perhaps there is if our conscience or inner spirit tells us, and especially if it has an honouring element to it. As Joseph and the women eventually walk away from the tomb, what appears to be the end of the story is anything but. The conclusion is yet to come.
WEDNESDAY Mark 16:1-8
A surprising ending comes which Jesus had told his followers about, yet which none had expected. The women, like Joseph, were still interested in his body and wanted to make an offering of respect to it. When they arrived, they were non-plussed for not only did they not need to wonder about gaining access to Jesus, they were given an empty tomb. The angel’s message was “Why are you looking for the living among the dead, he is risen”. If you speak to people about Jesus remember to speak about him not as a dead figure of history but as a living Jesus who can have a word for whoever is ready to listen.
I asked Cindy Rodger, a gifted American artist in my congregation, if she would do a large picture for Easter Sunday about the resurrection of Jesus and she did one, but it was not what I expected. Yes, it was of the tomb and the stone rolled back but what she painted was the entrance to the tomb from a different perspective – it was a view from the inside looking out. The view was of the garden, the grass, the trees, the fields, the world. I thought, yes, that is what the resurrection is about not only for Jesus but for us. Death is past, a new life awaits, a door is opened. Hallelujah!
THURSDAY Mark 16:9-20
Are you good at mysteries? Would you like a subject for a PhD following in the footsteps of multitudes over the years? Well, the ending of Mark’s gospel is the subject for you. In most Bibles today when you come to verses 9-20 they have an added note which says that the earliest manuscripts and some other ancient sources don’t have these verses. Actually there are more endings than just this one and the questions are why? What happened? Did Mark mean to stop here? Was there an ending that was lost and others added to it? Did Mark leave his gospel at the end of verse 8 deliberately so that people would go on to find out more about this Man themselves? Who knows?
A linking factor in these added verses anyway is the initial wariness of numbers to believe what had happened – v11,13,14. They had accepted Jesus as the One sent from God yet this resurrection business was beyond them and it was only gradually that they came to understand both the truth and significance of it. Perhaps that’s why we have these different conclusions.
When Peter and John arrived at the tomb there were three “seeings” of the apostles. The Greek words that are just translated “seen” in our Bible are not all the same. The first when John arrives and peers into the tomb is the more ordinary word for looking, when Peter arrives and goes into the tomb the word used is a word with the implication of contemplation or gazing for the purpose of analyzing, when John follows Peter into the tomb the word that is then used means to perceive with the implication of understanding or ‘seeing with the mind’.
These are good pictures of how someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ. Little by little the dawn breaks before the glorious light of firm faith shines. That which baffles becomes clearer as the ‘looking’ continues.
A Prayer. Almighty God open our eyes to your truth as we see it in the gospel and may we reflect that light in our daily lives. Amen.
Once we finish a gospel – which concludes with the Resurrection of Jesus – we can’t leave it there but want to know what the sequel is because there must be a sequel or it’s not Good News (Gospel). We will look at a little bit of what followed in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
FRIDAY Acts 1:1-11
There is no need to introduce the book of Acts, it is well known as the follow-on book to the Gospel of Luke written by Luke, the doctor companion of Paul, to Theophilus – whether an influential Roman citizen or (as Theophilus means friend of God) to any who would like to know more.
It begins where the gospel left off with the final meetings of Jesus with his disciples. It is a transition chapter because Jesus, the risen Jesus, is going to depart his earthly ministry with them and is telling them they must wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon them.
Just as we have seen the importance of God the Father being in Christ through the incarnation, now we are going to get to grips with God the Father sending the Holy Spirt into the disciples. When Jesus told his disciples before his death that he was going to leave them he also told them that he wouldn’t leave them as orphans (John 14:8), he would come to them in the manner of the Spirit. Although they didn’t grasp this he explained to them that they already knew the Spirit for “he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17), in other words while I am here the Spirit is here in me and therefore with you but when I go he is going to come into you.
Understanding the Trinity is mysteriously difficult but important. “On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20). Our understanding will always start with love of Jesus, keeping his commands and listening for God’s word. After his time with them he withdrew his physical presence from them in the ascension but told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit.
SATURDAY Acts 1:12-26
I think it would be fair to say that the disciples didn’t get everything as they headed back to Jerusalem and to the upstairs room where they had been staying. They possibly thought Jesus might be bringing the Kingdom back to the people of the day living in Israel. They were confused and would only get a better understanding when the Spirit came. They started to draw straws to choose a new person to take the place of Judas; probably not the way the Spirit would lead them in days to come, but Luke makes no comment, and we don’t hear any more of Matthias.
The fact is that God is gracious to us even when we bumble along not quite getting it. Isn’t that good? Looking back on your life you have probably seen things that in retrospect you realise were not the for the best. Nevertheless, just leave it and move on. This is probably the right point to hear Jesus again in John 14 , “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” That’s the point of prayer, reading and meditating on God’s Word. Jesus also said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Amen.
A Prayer: Almighty God forgive my blundering confusion at times and help me as I step forward every day to learn and grow in closeness to you. Amen.