Sunday at St Andrew's

Sunday 28 February 2021

Morning Worship 10 am on Zoom  

(Second Sunday of Lent)

‘Persevering Grace’

Joshua 6.1-21

Speaker: Phil Rodd

Series: Joshua: ‘No Failing Words’

 

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Welcome to this service at St Andrew’s Eaton

Today we continue our series of services focusing on the Old Testament book of Joshua.

And we’re back at Jericho, where God’s people have gathered as they enter their Promised Land.

Will they hold their nerve, especially when they’re given such a strange strategy to get past this first hurdle?

And again, we’re reminded that often faith takes root in the strangest places – and that sometimes, faith is sadly absent in those who most certainly should exercise it…

As we begin, let’s pray that God will still our hearts and minds and speak to us in this time today.

 

INTRODUCTION                

 

Leader:   Grace, mercy and peace

             from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

             be with you

All:        and also with you.

 

Leader:   Loving God, we have come to worship you.

All:        Help us to pray to you in faith,
             to sing your praise with gratitude,
             and to listen to your word with eagerness;
             through Christ our Lord.
            Amen.

 

HYMN: The heavens proclaim God’s glory (no video clip available, please use the service booklet in the Vicar's email)

 

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS

 

Leader:   Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

The first commandment is this:

‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

with all your soul, with all your mind,

and with all your strength.’

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

There is no other commandment greater than these.

On these two commandments 

hang all the law and the prophets.

 

All:        Lamb of God,

             you take away the sin of the world,

             have mercy on us.

 

             Lamb of God,

             you take away the sin of the world,

             have mercy on us.

 

             Lamb of God,

             you take away the sin of the world,

             grant us peace.

 

Leader:   Compassion and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God,

             though we have rebelled against him.

             Let us then renounce our wilfulness and ask his mercy

             by confessing our sins in penitence and faith.

             Wash away all my iniquity       

All:        and cleanse me from my sin.

 

Leader:   Lord, have mercy.

All:        Lord, have mercy.

 

Leader:   Against you, you only have I sinned     

All:        and done what is evil in your sight.

 

Leader:   Christ, have mercy.

All:        Christ, have mercy.

 

Leader:   Create in me a pure heart, O God,      

All:        and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

 

Leader:   Lord, have mercy.

All:        Lord, have mercy.

 

Leader:   May almighty God,

who sent his Son into the world to save sinners,

bring you his pardon and peace, now and for ever.

All:        Amen.

 

PSALM 22 verses 23-31

 

FIRST READING

Luke chapter 15 verses 1-7

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

HYMN: The Lord’s my shepherd 

 

SECOND READING

Joshua chapter 6 verses 1-21

Jericho Taken and Destroyed

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

SERMON (Phil Rodd)          

‘Persevering Grace’

Joshua 6

 

Introduction – an exciting new chapter…

I guess probably few of us spend much time being envious of those in political power.  But you know, just once or twice this last couple of weeks, I’ve actually found myself looking at images of Boris Johnson the Prime Minister, or Matt Hancock the Secretary of State for Health, or even the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, and I find myself thinking, you know, after all the hard slog of this last year, with so much going on, pretty humdrum behind- the-scenes stuff, giving their all to get us through this year of the pandemic, it must feel pretty good now, with all the dividends about to be paid, as they all stand on the cusp of a new and exciting chapter in the history of our nation.

Maybe that’s a picture of how Joshua might have felt at the beginning of the chapter we read earlier on – Joshua chapter 6.  It’s simple enough, isn’t it? – as the old song goes, ‘Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls come a-tumblin’ down!’  

  1. A human battle – or God at work?

But no, actually there’s much more to it than that!  If we have a closer look, what we see isn’t so much a battle dependent on battlefield strategy or bravado – not so much Joshua fighting a battle in other words – but rather, a story about God at work.  And we should start be noticing God’s initiative and God’s intervention – which feature throughout this chapter.  In verses 2-5, it’s God who tells Joshua the strategy he should use – a strategy that has nothing to do with warfare, but everything to do with worship.  

The weapons of war in those days, we know them fairly well – swords, shields, arrows, slingshots.  But where are they?  Is there any mention of them?  No, granted we’re told that the men were ‘armed’; but the detail – all the detail – is elsewhere.  First there’s the trumpets that received their outing in the daily march around Jericho; they were the same trumpets that were used to announce religious festivals.  And then there was also the ark of the covenant – that mysterious box that represented nothing less than the presence of God among his people in a physical way – that too was used in worship.  But here it’s right at the centre of the strange procession around Jericho.  

And for six days, there’s no mention of swords; all they do is to walk round the city, a liturgical procession – following the instructions of God.  It’s God who leads them out; he’s the one who causes the walls to fall down; and bizarrely enough, his instructions say not a word about fighting, nor about killing.  

But now, at this crucial point in the story, God’s people understand that God has prepared a place for them in a land he has promised – and nothing can get in the way of that.  And in verse 2 God speaks, a definitive word: ‘See, I have handed Jericho over to you.’  God’s victory is a done deal.  He is with them, and they put their doubts aside, and in faith, they respond to God’s call on their lives – they obey God, and they march, as they’re told.  So the real high point of this passage is not the fighting, not the walls coming down – but that God is with his people, and he has already acted on their behalf.  

  1. Passive membership – or an active faith? 

OK, so far so good: God is present with his people, and the work is his, and the victory is his.  

But what does it mean for God’s people?  Well, we’re presented with two people to answer that question – people who experience something of God’s deliverance.  God’s promise of deliverance has already been made, as we’ve heard.  It’s a sure word; like all God’s promises, it’s a firm promise.  And as we read in the previous chapter, about the pagan prostitute Rahab, Rahab who harboured the Hebrew spies as they went about their work, checking out the city of Jericho – this Rahab was just beginning to learn about trusting this strange foreign God, exercising her baby faith muscles, if you like.

And this pagan prostitute, this social outcast, this lowest-of-the-low – she was saved simply because she had realised that God was at work, in his grace reaching out even to her.  She escaped the destruction as she was already ‘devoted’ to God – and she did something about it.

Again, so far, so good – but things get really interesting in the next chapter, chapter 7, when the focus shifts to another individual – one of the favoured ones, one of God’s people: Achan, who, though an Israelite, did not act as one.  We didn’t have time to read his story along with that of the walls of Jericho.  But Achan’s story, briefly, is that he entered into Jericho with the army, saw some of the booty of battle, but rather than following the orders to set it aside for total destruction, he stole it for himself – and we’re told, the whole of God’s people fell under a kind of curse, until Achan publicly came and admitted his guilt.  

On the one hand Rahab, the pagan Canaanite, who would have been destroyed, is saved, and on the other, Achan, who should already have displayed the holiness of God’s people, is destroyed.  

The point is that God isn’t interested in which particular racial or national groups his people belong to – it’s obedience that matters to a holy God.  

It’s our obedience which demonstrates what is really important to us, too – you know, whether our faith is just about trying to be good, being seen in the right place on a Sunday, that sort of thing, or whether it goes to the heart of all that we are.  And the good news about Rahab is that there’s always the possibility for God’s redemption, for things to be turned round, rescue and salvation.  What matters according to Rahab is active faith, rather than passive membership.

Rahab is a kind of Old Testament illustration of what Paul says in Romans 13 when he tells us to ‘put on Christ’ – a conscious, active process, of consciously seeking to clothe ourselves with the character of Jesus, to be like him in his self-giving love.

And throughout the New Testament, I think we can hear echoes of Rahab.  She’s there specifically in the genealogies, the family tree of Jesus.  Oh yes, according to Matthew’s genealogy, Rahab’s right there, 31 generations up from the Lord and Saviour of us all!  

And you know, I think there’s a shadow of her presence elsewhere in the Gospels; for example, in the story of Jesus that we heard in our first reading – about a shepherd searching for one lost sheep – which itself mirrors the concern of Jesus for all the despised of the world (be they tax collectors, prostitutes or other social outcasts).  Because nothing is beyond the pale for Jesus, and no story is so awful that he can’t come in and bring freedom and salvation.  

But there’s not just a shadow of Rahab in the Gospels, there are also specific mentions of her city, of Jericho.  In Luke chapters 18 and 19, for example, we read of the healing of blind Bartimaeus and the calling of the hated tax collector Zacchaeus; and it takes place… in Jericho.  In Luke 10, Jericho becomes the place of redemptive kindness in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  And in Luke 19 (verses 1 and 28), Jericho, the same city which in Joshua 6 had resisted 
the arrival of God’s people in their exodus from Egypt now witnesses the departure of the Son of God on a very different exodus – the exodus he was to accomplish in Jerusalem, 
an exodus which would provide for the salvation of all humankind, an exodus which would lead all God’s people into the intimacy of relationship with their Father in heaven.

Conclusion – total redemption

So where does all this leave us?  Maybe for some, it leaves us reflecting about the mess we’ve made of things.  But I hope for us all, through Rahab, and through her city Jericho, we see the possibility that with Jesus, we might not be beyond the pale after all.  Especially when things run away with us, and the lockdown gets to us – or something else gets to us, and we just… well, we go off on our own, like that lost sheep, and just let go of God.  

And for others, well, the account of Achan may be calling us to – well, to live up to our calling.  To live as those who have received the persevering grace of a persevering God.  To encourage us to share that grace with those around us, and pray, pray, pray for the lost – because not one should be lost, as not a single soul is beyond the pale.  And his offer is always to forgive, to restore, to draw us into his family – and to fill us with his Holy Spirit, his own presence given freely to all who will come.

 

A version of this talk in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 28 February.  

 

HYMN: Praise to you, O Christ, our Saviour  

 

PRAYERS (Jenny Holcombe)

Let us pray for the Church and the World, and let us thank God for his goodness.

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

 

Jesus, the Word spoken to create the world, then sent as sacrificial Lamb to bring us back to safety, all heaven declares your glory.  We pray to you this morning for those matters on our hearts, for your forgiving, healing and saving power.

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

Jesus, we ask for a renewed relationship with you in your Church, your family and partner on earth. May all those who acknowledge you work together and learn to shout your name and your news in the wilderness of the world with one voice, so everyone can see your victorious presence and understand your love and power.  We pray for the lost who have strayed from the flock, open our hearts to seek and love them back to your fellowship. Bless Christian leaders and ministers throughout the world, thinking especially of Justin our Archbishop, Graham our Bishop, Karen our Archdeacon and Patrick our Rural Dean. In this place we pray for Phil, for Sheila, for James - their health and strength, their families and their homes. 

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

Jesus, you are the Word who calls us out of darkness, we pray for the world, so damaged, dangerous and disobedient. We ask your intervention where Islamic State is tempting men and women to acts of extreme violence, children are targeted and families torn apart. Particularly today we pray for IS prisoners’ children abandoned in foreign camps, and all displaced vulnerable families.

Jesus, in your own lands of the Middle East, open the eyes of corrupt officials and managers, so like the prostitutes and sinners of the past, they may be changed and counted as worthy to be saved. 

We pray for support for Bishop Graham’s Lent Appeal and for the fair roll-out of Covid vaccination; for careful collection and honest use of data; and for the control of misinformation on social media worldwide.

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

Jesus, you are the Word who calls us to be servants, we pray for our country, our county, our city and our community. Bless Elizabeth our Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and their family in all their concerns. Bless our MPs, councillors, their advisors and officials, in the ways they work to improve conditions for everyone in our land, North and South, divided by income and opportunity, West and East, where we face our own development needs.  Lead us, faithful Shepherd, and teach us to be obedient to your instructions, as we take our part in your plan, for the good of those around us. Let us trust you to take away our fear. Lead out your flock, educate folk, of all ages, and broaden their understanding and capacity to reach the potential you have created in us all. 

Lord in your mercy

All:        hear our prayer.

 

Jesus, you are the Word who binds us and unites us. We pray for our parish, our neighbours, friends and families. Be with us in our Lent Course and with Lucy and Stephanie as they lead the Alpha Course for young people. Knit us together as a community of faith for your glory in Eaton, we pray. Loving Lord, please help us see those people who are feeling isolated, sad and lonely. Prompt obedience in us to look after them in ways that show your interest and concern.

Comfort and heal all those who are sick in body, mind or spirit, and those who are grieving, dear Jesus. Let us silently bring to you by name those we know who are troubled, for your calming touch and loving words…

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

Jesus, you are the One who leads us to our future. Thank you for the security we have in your care.  Give us grace to persevere on the journey with you - faithful, obedient and safe.

Here is a personal prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola, who died 450 years ago, which perhaps we may make our own this Lent:

Teach me, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest:

to give and not to count the cost;

to fight and not to heed the wounds;

to toil and not to seek for rest;

to labour and not to ask for any reward

save that of knowing that I do thy will;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

 

The Collect for today

Almighty God,

by the prayer and discipline of Lent

may we enter into the mystery of Christ's sufferings,

and by following in his Way

come to share in his glory;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All:        Amen.

 

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

All:        Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, 

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours 

now and for ever. 

Amen.

 

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH

 

Leader:   We say together in faith:

All:        Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.

 

Leader:   We believe in God the Father, who created all things:

All:        for by his will they were created

and have their being.

 

Leader:   We believe in God the Son, who was slain:

All:        for with his blood,

he purchased us for God,

from every tribe and language,

from every people and nation.

 

Leader:   We believe in God the Holy Spirit:

All:        the Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!'

Even so come, Lord Jesus!

Amen.

  cf Revelation 4.8,11; 5.9; 22.17,20

 

HYMN: The kingdom of God is justice and joy 

 

THE BLESSING

 

Leader:   The Father, whose glory fills the heavens,

             cleanse you by his holiness

             and send you to proclaim his word.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   The Son, who has ascended to the heights,

             pour upon you the riches of his grace..

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   The Holy Spirit, the Comforter,

             equip you and strengthen you in your ministry.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader: and the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   The peace of the Lord be always with you

All:        and also with you.

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

 

  1. ‘An exciting new chapter’ – what might a new chapter be for you, and for St Andrew’s?

 

  1. Why was it so important for worship to be so central in the taking of Jericho?

 

  1. What does the example of Rahab mean for us all?

 

 

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