North East Circuit of IM Churches

Devotional for Sunday 20th June 2021

This devotional for Sunday 20th June has been produced by the North East Circuit for use in their churches, and is made available for any churches/individuals who would like to use it this weekend.

Introduction

Well, it appears that another round of hopes are dashed.  Everyone was looking to June 21st as the day of freedom but SarsCoV 2 Delta variant had other ideas.  Don’t be ridiculous – a virus doesn’t have ideas – it just does what comes naturally to it as do so many humans.  Paul’s words to the church in Rome resound with assurance that we are not obliged to live that way and its all about – Trinity believe it or not!  Let’s listen in:


Bible Readings – Romans 8: 18 – 39

Don’t think for a moment that present suffering and future glory are comparable.  What we suffer now is hardly worth mentioning compared to the glory to come.  Did you know that the whole of the created universe is waiting with eager expectation to see what God has in store for us, his children?  Human rebellion has affected the whole of creation but one day it will be set free from its chains and will share the wonderful freedom in store for us.


Up to the present, the whole created universe groans as if in the pangs of childbirth – injustice, oppression, greed and hatred, the natural disasters – as she longs to be delivered.  We also groan to be delivered, looking forward to our final adoption as his children when the world will be restored and made perfect.  This is the hope that comes from being able to trust Jesus.  It’s our guaranteed future and we wait for it patiently.  If we had it all here and now, it wouldn’t be a matter of hope; no-one hopes for something they’ve already got.


When we feel weak, the spirit of Jesus is right there to help.  When we find it difficult to pray because we don’t know what to pray for or life is simply so hard, that Spirit gives voice to the deep longing within us so that we don’t need to worry whether God understands us; he does and will answer in the way that is best for us.  He is able to bring good out of every situation for those who have responded positively to his love…  With all this in mind what can we say?  If God is on our side who can be against us?  If he decided that his own Son’s death was a price worth paying for us how can we doubt his provision for us in the future.  How can anyone bring an accusation against those whom God has chosen.  Not God who has decided who has right standing with him.  Not Jesus who died, or rather was raised from the dead who will always plead our cause.  Then what can separate us from the love of Jesus?  Affliction?  Hardship?  Persecution?  Starvation?  Destitution?  Violence?  Death?  Through it all overwhelming victory is ours through him who loved us…. nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus the Messiah, our Lord.


Reflection

A missionary being chased by a lion one day, fervently prayed this prayer while running for his life: “Please make this lion a Christian.”  The missionary turned round to find the lion on its knees, front paws together saying, “For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful.”  What might that cartoon-like image have to say about the idea of God being three-in-one – Trinity?  Well the main point might be to demonstrate how easy it is to  replace reality with caricature.  Although the lion changed its behaviour, its instincts and character remained the same and so the law of the jungle remained unchanged – eat or be eaten!

Equally, the idea of Trinity is often misinterpreted as some sort of government by three rulers, an idea which the Roman society in Paul’s day would be quite familiar with, and of course dual leadership is quite familiar to us in Northern Ireland for example.  Normally there is some subordination involved –  a “first among equals” in these sort of arrangements.

This couldn’t be more different from how Paul and his fellow Christians understood the idea of God being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  When Paul, Barnabas, Silas and so on were proclaiming the Gospel, the scripture they referred to, the scripture that Jesus himself referred to, were the writings of the Old Testament.  Most of the New Testament did not exist in any permanent written form, and these early Christians saw no contradiction or distinction between the God of these writings and the character of Jesus expressed through his life, death and resurrection.  It was for them totally appropriate and fitting that the Father who created humanity in his own image should reveal his character most fully as a human being.

What is truly amazing is that it doesn’t end there.  It is the Father’s deepest desire that there should be no distinction or contradiction between Creator and his creation.  Through the gift of the spirit of Jesus – the Holy Spirit – has come the invitation and the means by which all human beings if they so wish can become really and truly recreated  in the image and character of God himself.  Eden restored – a relationship for which the word “family” is but the palest of imitations.

The white-hot words from this part of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome are about as near as it gets to understanding what this relationship is all about, and how it impacts on us as Christians in the midst of a difficult, frustrating and hurtful world but particularly how it promises not just a superficial change in behaviour, like the lion, but a whole transformation of character, outlook, motivation and source of encouragement to see us through the darkest of times.


Hymn – Love divine, all loves excelling


Prayer

Lord, who as Creator is  behind and ahead of us, as Saviour who is beside us as example, encourager, fellow sufferer and redeemer, as Spirit who is within us to enable, to comfort, and to help us find our way to one another, may you indeed fix in us your humble dwelling, may you enter our trembling souls and deliver us through your infinite grace.  We pray that we may be sign posts to your saving power, testimony to your new creation, and in all things and at all times be channels of your divine love.  We ask this prayer boldly and humbly in the name of Jesus.

Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer


Benediction

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 forever.  Amen.