There is no physical Sunday Morning Service at St James’ Church, with effect from 22 March 2020.
Geoff, our Minister, was not to be conducting the service this week anyway. However, Margaret King, his replacement, has kindly provided the order of service and her sermon.
These are published below and we hope you will get some comfort and inspiration from them. Margaret sends a “long distance hug” to everyone and we thank her for her “virtual” ministry to us all.
You will find the following sections below: first, the various sections from the Bible which form the theme of the service; secondly, Margaret’s sermon; thirdly, suggested hymns, with links to performances of them on YouTube.
1 Samuel 16:6-13 (New International Version)
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
Ephesians 5:8-10 New International Version (NIV)
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
John 9 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
One Thing I Do Know
There are some very well-known verses from our readings today –
- Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. – from the story of God choosing David to be his special servant and human king of his people.
- One thing I know, once I was blind but now I see.
The other one that struck me, but was not well known to me, was in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Live as children of the light…. And find out what pleases the Lord.
A lot of the story and conversations of the man born blind who was healed by Jesus, involves people saying, I don’t know/ I know/ we know/ we don’t know.
Paul encourages us to find out/ get to know what pleases the Lord.
Some things will come immediately to mind – the writer to the Hebrews says, Without faith, it is impossible to please the Lord. (Hebrews 11: 6).
In our OT reading, we are reminded that God is interested in what goes on inside our hearts, in other words, our motives and attitudes. He is pleased when he finds that hearts are clinging to him in faith and producing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22).
The prophet Micah tells us that we should know what pleases the Lord, because God has shown us what he requires of us: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) (Guild members will remember that one from their Strategy a few years ago).
Of course, knowing things does not always mean that we do them – or react rightly to them.
There has been an exponential explosion of the availability of knowledge of every conceivable kind on the internet and the world-wide web. But there has been no similar explosion of wisdom and discernment as to how to sift and use it for good.
Unscrupulous characters make up their own facts or twist news and information to fit their own agendas and ideologies. Adults and children alike fall prey to fake news. We need to be able to trust the one who gives us the information – pass it through the sieve of our faith, if you like.
The man born blind didn’t know who Jesus was or where he had gone, when he was questioned by the Pharisees.
And when the blind man’s parents were interrogated by the powers-that-be, they knew that he was their son and that he had born blind, but they didn’t know how he had been healed or by whom.
The self-important Pharisees knew that God had spoken to Moses, but scornfully claimed, We don’t even know where this fellow comes from – presumably because they’d never bothered to speak to him and find out!
Yet they claimed to know that this man, Jesus, was a sinner. What evidence had they for that I wonder? (Oh yes, he had healed the man on the Sabbath and that was against their man-made regulations!)
It remained up to the blind man with no theological training to put the Pharisees right.
- Surely we know God doesn’t listen to sinners, he says.
- And nobody has ever heard of anyone healing a man born blind.
- So logically this man is from God.
- Otherwise he could do nothing!
So although, at first, the healed man had said, I don’t know whether this man is a sinner or not, the logical conclusion of his healing is that Jesus is from God. And no one can deny his personal experience.
ONE THING I KNOW. I WAS BLIND, AND NOW I SEE.
In the great tsunami of information and knowledge which swirls around us in these difficult and confusing days, can you join with me in saying, ‘One thing I know. I was blind but now I see. I know that Jesus died for my sins. I know that he is alive again now, that he has forgiven my sins and given me new and eternal life in himself by his Spirit.’
If you are not sure, please simply ask Jesus by faith to forgive you and come into your heart, so that you will know beyond doubt you belong to him and he belongs to you.
It really is that simple. We just need to know this one thing,
I was blind, and now I see. Jesus is alive and he is my personal Saviour and Friend and I have a place in heaven to look forward to, all because of his GRACE, his infinitely generous Spirit of love.
There are loads of things I / we don’t know in life.
I don’t know why God allows bad things to happen to good people.
But I do know that IN ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
I don’t know why God has allowed the Corona Virus to bring such devastation to so many, even to the extent of closing our churches for people worshipping together as a group.
But I do know that he is already bringing good out of it.
Because of reduced travel, air pollution has been greatly reduced and it may have kick-started a real breakthrough in saving our planet because of a reduced carbon footprint.
The back-biting and friction and nastiness of Brexit has been overtaken with much more care and kind words to others. Many are being reminded of what is truly important in life and working together to find solutions.
Our totally overstretched ministers have been forced off the treadmill of meetings and more meetings. Without all the normal clubs and activities, perhaps Churches will be able to think more of their core mission to spread the Good News of Jesus. We will have to learn how to be church differently and not depend on our buildings so much.
I don’t know how it will all pan out. But I do know that Jesus told Peter, And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)
I believe that that Rock was Peter’s faith and declaration that Jesus was the Christ, Son of the living God. And I believe that, as we continue to declare to all who will listen that our faith is in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, that we trust in Christ alone, then Jesus’ Holy Spirit will continue to build his church and the very gates of hell will not prevail against us.
I don’t know what all the nations of the world will look like after the crisis and what our place in it will be.
I do not know whether we will have to undergo many deprivations and hardships individually, as churches or as communities.
But I know that Jesus knows, and that he drank the cup of suffering and walked the way of the cross before me.
And I know that our God is Immanuel, which means, GOD WITH US, and he tells us not to be anxious about anything but IN ALL THINGS, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, to present our requests to him. And the peace of God which transcends all our human understanding will guard our hearts in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6,7)
If you’ve never read your Bibles before, start now.
You will find it coming alive in these times of distress, confusion and fear.
If we’ve been part of the Church for any length of time we should KNOW what pleases the Lord.
It pleases him when he sees our hearts trusting in him and hears us saying from our own personal experience, ‘One thing I know. I was blind and now I see.’
Once we get to know Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, all the other ‘knowing’ comes as we live in and through him, and are held and loved by him through every storm of life.
I close with Jesus’ words from John 16:33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
God bless us all as we seek his face in the face of this crisis, giving thanks that he is still in control and able to bring good out of it for us.
Proposed accompanying hymns:
MP 266 – I cannot tell… but this I know
MP 31 – Amazing grace!
CH4 270 – Put all your trust in God
CH3 680 – My times are in thy hands