5th January 2021 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Canvey Methodist Church Bible Study-5th January 2021.

 

Theme: Emmanual, God Is With Us.

 

1). Prayer of the Day. From the Methodist Prayer Manual.

Almighty God, Each day and each night, each shade and each light, we bend our knee in the eye of the Father who has created us, in the eye of the Son who has redeemed us, in the eye of the Spirit who has cleansed us; in love and affection, in wisdom and grace, in faith and in fear, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Based on traditional Gaelic prayers to the Trinity)

 

Loving God, all the world belongs to you.  

Forgive us that we so often live as if the world belongs to us.

Help us to learn how to use the things of your world with wisdom and humility and to be aware of the needs of others, not just our own desires.  

When we are daunted by fear of the future,  inspire us by your Spirit to learn how to live hopefully. 

Move us through the beauty that we encounter in your world to creative ways of working with you for its sustainable future. 

Loving God, all the world belongs to you. 

Amen.

(Ian Howarth, Birmingham District Chair)



 

2). Bible Readings 

 

Isaiah60:1-6;   The Glory of Zion

 

1“Arise, shine, for your light has come,

    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

2 See, darkness covers the earth

    and thick darkness is over the peoples,

but the Lord rises upon you

    and his glory appears over you.

3 Nations will come to your light,

    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you:

    All assemble and come to you;

your sons come from afar,

    and your daughters are carried on the hip.

5 Then you will look and be radiant,

    your heart will throb and swell with joy;

the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,

    to you the riches of the nations will come.

6 Herds of camels will cover your land,

    young camels of Midian and Ephah.

And all from Sheba will come,

    bearing gold and incense

    and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.

 

Psalm 72:1-2,10-14;     Of Solomon.

 

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,

    the royal son with your righteousness.

2 May he judge your people in righteousness,

    your afflicted ones with justice.

 

10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores

    bring tribute to him.

May the kings of Sheba and Seba

    present him gifts.

11 May all kings bow down to him

    and all nations serve him.

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,

    the afflicted who have no one to help.

13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy

    and save the needy from death.

14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,

    for precious is their blood in his sight.


 

Ephesians 3:1-12;      God’s Marvelous Plan for the Gentiles

 

3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

 

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

 

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

 

Matthew 2:1-12;     The Magi Visit the Messiah

 

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

 

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

 

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

 

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

Footnotes

a. Matthew 2:1 Traditionally wise men

b. Matthew 2:6 Micah 5:2,4



3. Comment:    Emmanuel, God With Us

The date,11th April 1970; the place, the Apollo13 Odyssey moon shot; the distance,  some 205,000 miles from Earth; The time, Just nine minutes from when astronauts John (Jack) Swigert and Jim Lovell transmitted a goodnight message to Earth. 

Silence…….then the following cryptic message was heard crackling across the airwaves,

 “Houston we’ve got a problem!” 

Well, that is the expression that everyone remembers as having been said, but it actually was not what either astronaut John “Jack” Swigert said nor what Jim Lovell repeated as a follow up clarification message. What they actually said was, 

 “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” From the calm Swigert to Mission Control ;

 “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” from Lovell. “We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.”

Whoever said what, on that famous occasion in the history of space exploration, became unimportant and all such thoughts of snappy bylines for the next day's newspaper headlines, soon paled into terrifying insignificance as compared to the stark gravity of the perilous situation facing the Apollo 13 Astronauts. 

This Apollo 13 mission, intended to be the third lunar landing in American history, failed suddenly when one of the oxygen tanks aboard the Odyssey spaceship exploded without warning. Without the calm, quick thinking, action of both NASA and the Astronauts themselves, all would have been lost. Instead, with a combination of sheer grit, determination, remarkable creative invention, meticulous detailed modelling and testing, and the application of sheer professional experience, the day was saved, and all of the crew returned safely to planet earth.(2)

Apollo 13 Launch

 

Damage following exploding oxygen tank


 

What it should look like


 

Safe landing…….Whew!

 

Yesterday, as many people were taking down their Christmas lights, UK Prime Minister, Mr Boris Johnson, announced further covid restrictions, putting England into its third lockdown until at least Mid February! 

As I listened to this announcement two things floated into my mind!

The first were the words we started with, “ Houston, we’ve got a problem”, and the second, one of the titles given to Jesus at His incarnation at Christmas, “Emmanuel, God With Us”.

I think that we can all be forgiven for thinking, “Oh no, not again”, as we all head into lockdown 3 with it’s unwanted restrictions of “Social distancing”, and well meaning but stern instructions as to who we can and can’t mix with. 

Whilst the roll out of the Covid Vaccination certainly promises to herald more hopeful and brighter times to come, the next few weeks, in the meantime, do look as though they still might be rather challenging as we all face the unknowns ahead together.

It is the second phrase, though, that crept into my mind during the government announcement that helped to put these latest developments into perspective. It came as a welcome burst of light, pulsating through the darkness, dissolving foreboding fears, and dismissing shadows of worry as to what might or might not be immediately ahead of us. It came, offering hope and light amidst the shade and gloom. The wonderful truth that “Emmanuel God is with us”!!

At the time when the prophet Isaiah recorded God’s revealed word in around 500 BC (Chapter 60 of the book of Isaiah), it was to the people of Jerusalem during the time of their restoration. This was when they had returned home, as exiles, from Babylon after some 70 years of captivity, and they were now trying to rebuild their city.

They had, as a nation, been through some really dark times, and now, whilst the future was doubtless bright, the path ahead still involved difficulty. Isaiah, though, saw prophetically that brighter futures were ahead, with even the hint of Persian Wise Men bringing gifts to the Messianic light that was to come;

 

Isaiah 60: 1 and 6

1“Arise, shine, for your light has come,

    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

6 Herds of camels will cover your land,

    young camels of Midian and Ephah.

And all from Sheba will come,

    bearing gold and incense

    and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.


 

The Royal Psalm 72 of King Solomon, in turn, foresaw the altruistic characteristics of the kings of David’s line that culminated and were fulfilled in Jesus, God With Us. 

 

Psalm 72:13-14

13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy

    and save the needy from death.

14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,

    for precious is their blood in his sight.

 

Whatever the darkness we may face, therefore, Jesus, the Lord of Compassion and peace, Emmanual,  has promised to be with us along the way.

 

St Paul, having experienced the presence of the living resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, faithfully told anyone who would listen, that Jesus had come to lighten their load and brighten their darkness. For his pains, he was imprisoned, but even this did not stop him from preaching the good news of Jesus. He just carried on, even from this dark place, chained between two prison guards.

 

Ephesians v3 and 12.    For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

 

Over the past two Sundays, we have considered the events of the first Christmas when God became human, when the divine was emptied of the glory of heaven and took on the flesh of humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. 

 

Was light immediately restored to human experience and living? Answer: No.

Did justice immediately become the norm on earth? Answer: No.

 

Instead, “Emmanual, God With Us”, “The Christ Light” was to bring about more eternal, more subtle changes to those who welcomed him; lives changed by his presence, mercifully forgiving, progressively transforming, always sustaining and lovingly growing and restoring faith in all who were and are prepared to have their eyes opened by Him and to live in that light themselves. 

 

As the old children’s hymn puts it:

“Jesus bids us shine with a pure clear light, like a little candle burning in the night, In this world of darkness we must shine, You in your small corner, and I in mine!”.(Susan Bogert Warner).

 

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, learned that she had been chosen by God for a daunting and unexpected role and, in this, she was described as being “Much perplexed” (Luke 1:29). The more accurate meaning of that phrase was “greatly troubled” and well she might be. Until that moment Mary had a very good idea of what her future held: marriage to Joseph, probably children to bear and raise, and life in Nazareth as the wife of a respected artisan. Now, nothing was certain, nothing was predictable, she would have to respond to events as they unfolded working it out as she went along. It was not even certain that she would have anyone to support her on this strange journey. But she embraced the uncertainty willingly and with trust.

Shepherds came at the birth, and wise men from the East some two years later. Mary “pondered these things in her heart.” She remained faithful even when she, Joseph and Jesus were faced with a trip to Egypt and a subsequent short exile to escape Herod's murderous intentions towards Jesus. 

 

Mary went on pondering and, I suspect, as the new lockdown takes effect, we probably have also been pondering as to how best to respond as followers of Jesus Christ to these Covid End Times (hopefully)! and to their new and unexpected challenges

 

To close:   Here is the good news, ‘Emmanuel, God with us” is still with us in our perplexities and our pondering. With this assurance we go into the new year thankfully, hopefully, and with deep joy.

 

4.  Prayer:

 

Emmanuel, God with us, as we begin this new year we pray that through our perplexity and pondering we will come to know you more deeply and follow you more closely so that, through us others will come to know your love, justice and peace. Amen.(1)


 

Refs: 1. Revd Ruth Gee, Revd Una McLean, 2. Marco Margaritoff.

 

May God bless us all.

 

Colin