Sermon preached by Revd. Liz Smith at “A Time to Heal and a Time to Grow”

I wonder what was going through your mind when you heard our reading from Leviticus? Perhaps, what has that got to do with us, here today, or perhaps, that book of Leviticus, it contains some strange laws. One of them is that clothes should not be made of two different materials! I suspect that each of us wearing a garment made of 2 materials. The gospel reading, now that is a different matter, we hear that regularly, and know that it is the poor, the meek, the peacemakers, these are the people who are blessed. The New English Bible translates the first Beatitude as Blessed are those who know their need of God. That applies to each one of us there.

Both readings are about Blessing, and that is why we are here this morning, to ask for God to bless the future ministry of your church here at Titchfield, here in this place, and also that you as individuals will be able to flourish as God desires.

So, let us return to Leviticus. At the heart of this reading are the twin themes of preparing the place of ministry to be the place of ministry and the Blessing of the people of God to meet with him there.

the Presence of the Lord is in the Holy of Holies, this meant that You may have noticed that Aaron blesses the people twice. Once after offering various sacrifices on the altar of Sacrifice in the courtyard outside the Tabernacle. Secondly after Moses and Aaron meet with God in prayer inside the Tabernacle then emerge to bless the people.

There is also Fire. The glory of God appears in the form of fire coming out from the presence of the Lord and consuming the sacrifice on the altar in the courtyard. As the fire travels for a distance of about 60 feet.

Fire appears elsewhere in the Bible, notably when Elijah was battling it out with the Followers of Baal on Mount Carmel. The fire consumed the animals, and so Elijah was vindicated. There are other instances of fire in the OT, but as we move in the Churches Year towards Pentecost, we remember those first disciples and apostles having tongues of fire on their head on that special day. I found myself singing “He is like a refiners fire” from the Messiah as I prepared this sermon, and fire is used for purification.

The people were obviously stunned by this appearance of fire, and they shouted for joy, and fell prostrate before God in renewed worship ad service. Now I want to make it clear that today we are not praying for fire to come down, but what we are thinking about is renewing this church in its worship and service.

But, isn’t it interesting that something else happens in our reading. It didn’t end with the people prostrate before the Lord. It ended with Nadab and Abihu. These 2 sons of Aaron were impressed with the manifestation of fire power and tried to affect a similarly striking event. Sadly, this fire did come out of the presence of God, but it travelled only a few feet and then consumed them. It was this tragedy that led to the cleansing of the Tabernacle for future ministry, which the Jews call the Day of Atonement. You could say that the reason for this was to heal the place of ministry to be the place on ministry.

Later in this service, we will have an opportunity to pray at all the locations within this church and bless them to flourish with the ministry that takes place there. But before we do this, we need to look at the significance of Blessing.

In the Message Version of 1 Peter 3 8-9, we hear, Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation, not sharp tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless-that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.

as he washed the disciples feel. To bless is to serve the other’s need to flourish, in the way that God want them to flourish. That is enormously helpful for us. I love that word flourish. It is such a positive word. That is also the meaning of the word Eulogo, which is used in the Bible. Our third word is Makarios, which means enjoying and growing on the benefits of being the one blessed. It is used almost exclusively by Jesus in the NT.

Earlier this week a friend of mine moved house. As I went in, I noticed the bantams in their box, and the hens too. As I went to say farewell, I said to her, I’m going to pray that you will flourish in your new home. I had a text from her later to say that a hen and bantam she had moved, had both laid eggs. That seems to me to be the start of flourishing in her new environment!

One of the things about praying Blessings for others is that it changes us too. We can only pray blessings on others if we rid ourselves of our tendency to retaliation, or sharp tongued sarcasm. Praying for others to receive a Blessing is about loving the person for whom we are praying, and wanting them to receive good from the Lord. I was annoyed for my neighbour recently about a Parking issue. I was cross on her behalf. I started to pray for the person to be Blessed, and realised that I then wanted to know more about the family.

In the OT Blessings are pronounced, not requested. Just think of Jacob receiving the blessing that should have belonged to his brother Esau. Joseph blessed his younger son first. That mattered in these societies.

After we have said our creed together we are going to put into practice the principles we have been exploring. We are going to bless our church as we pray for God to renew its ministry.

The Bible contains lots of examples of water being used as a sacrament, and a symbol of cleansing. Just think about Baptism. Jesus told his followers that he gives the water of life for evermore.

We are going to use ordinary water for a holy purpose, that of being a symbol of cleansing and renewal for the ministry that takes place in and through our church.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of water which brings us life. Bless this water today, so that it becomes your way of touching our life and ministry and calling it to fullness of life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Please be aware of the electrics in the building, so that when you come to the water, just dip your finger into the bowl, and go to those places you wish to bless.

This is the Blessing that I am asking you to pronounce over each place in the church

God Bless this…and cause its ministry to flourish in the way you want it to

April 2018