First Worship – Week Two

Here we are at week two and now in lockdown! But with lockdown comes opportunity- opportunity to spend more time reading and studying the Bible and to pray, pray, pray….Today we focus on Mary and Martha and their encounters with Jesus – encounters that point us to the One who is the resurrection and the life.

Let’s begin with some verses from Psalm 27: 1.The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? 2.The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? 13. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Read these verses again at the end.)

Praise: Why not pause here to sing or listen to one of your favourite hymns.

Prayer: Open your Bible at Psalm 139.  The fact that God knows everything about us is an enormous comfort and a huge encouragement to pray to Him, casting our anxieties upon Him (see also 1 Peter 5:6-7). In this Psalm, David shows us how to ground our prayers in the all-encompassing knowledge of God. Take time now to pray using the words of this Psalm.

Reading: Luke 10:38-42 At the home of Mary and Martha. How would you cope if 13 hot, tired, dusty, hungry men turned up unexpectantly for tea? Let’s see how Mary and Martha managed…

Prayer: Take time to pray for yourself, your family and friends, our church, town and local businesses. Pray too for all our healthcare workers and pharmacists and all in the front line in these challenging days. Take your time and ask God to guide you by bringing people and situations to mind.

Reading: John 11:1-44 The raising of Lazarus

Over many weeks now we have been on a journey through the Gospel of John. This Gospel is often called, ‘The Gospel of the Signs’, for it contains signs that point to who Jesus is and why He came. The signs include the changing of water into wine, three of the miraculous healings, the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus’ walking on the water and this, the last of the signs, the raising of Lazarus. This is the sign that all the others have been pointing to and this sign also acts as a pointer to something even greater….

We know that Jesus had a close friendship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. In this account, Lazarus falls gravely ill. The bad news comes through a messenger, “Lord, the one you love is sick”. Oddly, Jesus does not immediately hurry to his bedside. Why not? Not because he was too busy and not because he didn’t care, but because the scene was being set for something incredible – an astonishing miracle was about to unfold. By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus was dead and had been in the tomb four days. Mary has chosen to stay at home, but Martha goes to meet Jesus and at that meeting finds the strength to declare what she knows; what she is sure of….and what does she know? She knows Jesus cares; He is the One who can and will help. She knows God the Father will give Jesus whatever He asks. (Now, if you think about that, that’s a wonderful declaration of faith.) She knows Lazarus her brother, although dead, will live. (Another great declaration of faith.) But she also knows more, and Jesus will draw it from her as He announces yet another of the great ‘I AM’ statements of this gospel, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you [Martha] believe this?”

And how does Martha reply? Martha has learned much about Jesus and perhaps that earlier occasion when she didn’t kneel at His feet (Luke 10) has taught her a lesson, and if so she has learned it well, for her reply is one of the greatest declarations of faith in all the gospel record. For what does she also know? What does she, in these most difficult of circumstances, believe? “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

So clear, so correct, so concise, but saying everything that needed to be said….Martha knows, really knows who Jesus is and the difference He makes…This is the last of the miraculous signs, the raising of a man from the dead, but it also points forward to something far greater, to Easter and the raising of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, and on that glorious day, death would be conquered forever…

Let’s pull the threads of this together:

  1. In our reading from Luke 10, Jesus commends Mary for taking the time to sit at His feet and learn and tells Martha to slow down in all her scurrying around. During these days of lockdown, while it might be helpful to set about cleaning the house from top to bottom, painting the house or embarking on that DIY project you’ve always wanted to complete, trimming the grass to within an inch of its life, and washing the car until it gleams like a mirror, don’t miss the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus. What an opportunity to read your Bible and soak yourself in Scripture. What about starting a Journal and noting down what you’re reading and what you feel the Lord is teaching you at this time? When these times have passed, wouldn’t it be great for us all to get together and share some of our journal thoughts?
  2. In John Chapter 11, Martha declared what she was sure of; what she knew about Jesus. So, what do YOU know? If someone asked you to write down what you are sure of; what you know about Jesus, what would you write? Could you declare alongside Martha, ‘‘Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ And what difference does that make? All the difference there is – Jesus is the Son of God. The One who loves you so much He died for you and One who came that you might find life in Him, and that is life at its best, now and always (John 10:10). These can be anxious-filled days but we as God’s people have a sure and rock-solid hope nothing can shake so there’s no need to be afraid.
  3. As we draw to a close, why not read the words of Psalm 27 again turning its words into a prayer, perhaps beginning, ‘Lord, I am so thankful that you are my light and my salvation – you are my stronghold and in you I have no need to be afraid’…and finish it with, ‘I am still confident of this…in You Lord and with Your help I will endeavour to be strong, take heart and wait for You.’ Amen and to you Lord be all praise and glory.

Praise: Sing or listen once more to a favourite hymn.

Benediction: The grace of Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. (Say the Amen with me – Can you say it as loud as our kids on a Sunday!)

Some things you may find helpful on our Presbyterian Church in Ireland website:

  • Our Moderator Rev William Henry is broadcasting a full-service including hymns, prayers, children’s talk, sermon etc on the website available from 6am each Sunday and for the rest of that week.
  • The resources ‘Let’s Pray’ and ‘Tides’ daily devotional can be downloaded from the same site.

One other thing, we have a stock of frozen soup and shepherd’s pie in our church freezer. If this would be helpful to you or anyone you know just ring me and I will arrange to have it delivered to you