The voice that rolls the stars along, speaks all the promises (Isaac Watts)
Promise box. Promise Bible.
The Promise is for Us
Gospel: Mark 1.1-20
John the Baptist – a man at home in the wilderness – knows how to live well there
Jeremiah 31.2: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness” The wilderness – not a barren desert but the place of God’s protection and provision.
Not a land of plenty, but a land where “enough”/even abundance could be found if you know where to look for it.
The message of John and Jesus: The promise is for us, for you, your children and your children’s children.
- The Vision: the land flowing with milk and honey.
- The Journey: we need to make to get there. Includes failure, heartache, Passion.
- The Promise: renewed after falling, after Passion. Psalm 81.16 “I would feed you with the finest of the wheat and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
- The Food given for that journey: Manna – tastes like wafers cooked with honey. Daily bread is sweet, contains the taste of abundant life. The taste of honey, day by day, that reminds us of where we are going, keeps us on the road, keeps us moving on, moving closer.
Luke 24.42: The “missing” honeycomb. Present in the Authorised version but not in the more modern versions. The promise fulfilled.
God’s gift of abundance, and God’s promise of more abundance as we move forward with him. make real God’s promise of abundance in some way, God’s abundance, God’s promise of abundance, by giving them the image of the child in the hand of God
promise brings to the light our fears, and we have to face those. And be honest about them. And the shortage of resources. an honest acceptance of our fears. Our shortage of resources. To be honest with each other – or at least with God – about the things that are hurting at present.
We admit that the sums no longer add up. We admit to ourselves and to each other, that there is not enough to go around – not enough people, time, energy etc.,
The promise itself brings to light our fears, or our cynicism, our apathy, our reluctance to accept that God is really in this and really wants this for us. We may believe this with our heads, but believing it with our hearts is something else.
how does God love us – how do we love each other – when we are too frightened to move, too frightened to do what is necessary to move forward?
The Promise is for Me
Invite each person to suggest one form of abundance that they have received, enjoyed or explored this week. Then they (or the leader) turns the thanksgiving into a simple one-sentence prayer: Thank you, God, for giving us ……which the group repeats after them.
International – Psalm 67.
National and communal – Psalm 59
Personal – Psalm 57.
Psalm 104. HP 2. Song of Resurrection.
The law is a good thing. A means of grace. A way of receiving the promises of God. A path to righteousness. If everyone always obeyed God’s law, the world would be a better place. There would be justice and harmony and peace.
Law cannot give life, can only constrain sin, wrongdoing. Show us right and wrong and assure us that if we make the correct choices, we will enjoy blessing. It can limit and restrict human failings. Cannot overcome the tendency to sin.
This power is not in us, but in Christ. It is only by being in Christ that we gain, and continue to receive, the power to be one. To be at one with ourselves. To be at one with others. To be at one with God.
How does it happen? By understanding that God does not see us as we see ourselves, or as others see us, or as others have always seen us. God looks upon us only with love.
God looks upon us only with love, and so…..
As we remember this, so we have the power to believe in ourselves, in others, and in God.
As we believe, so we live.
Starting Point: Isaiah 55 – the suggestion that abundance is given, freely, to anyone who asks, without payment, no charge, for free. That it is there simply to be received and enjoyed. Isn’t that rather difficult to believe?
Yes: outrageousness of that idea – something for nothing, everything for nothing – world doesn’t work like that. I grew up with “the world doesn’t owe you a living” “money doesn’t grow on trees” Prophet admits that many work hard with little to show for it – little that lasts, satisfies, endures. Psalm 63 – thirsting and fainting, a dry and weary land, where there is no water.
Question: In some contexts, suggestion can seem more than outrageous, actually offensive. In situations of great suffering (examples)
I agree: caught between the Hallelujah & Holocaust. See this tension in Luke 13 – atrocity and accident – people asking, why does this happen? Why does God allow it? What have I done to deserve this? Sin is real, powerful, a factor in what happens (so yes, repentance always necessary) but suffering is not punishment. There is cause and effect. Actions have consequences. But despite this there is no simple equation between what we do and what happens to us (or those we love).
Question: Does this mean there is no answer to the question “Why?”
Yes, I think it does. And what answer do we actually need? (Story of lady in hospital, asks why? Needed someone to stay with her while she died. Did not want to face that journey alone.)
Question: So if we are not told “Why” what kind of answer are we given?
I think we are given a number of promises, which together give us flexible support, a comfort zone, a refuge, as we deal with what life throws at us.
Question: What are these promises?
Promise 1: The vision of endless grace, strength, mercy – deals with us like the man dealt with the fig tree – instinct to give us another chance, if we are willing to look for it, take it. Immensity of that love is the vision which restores us. (Psalm 63) Restored by looking upon God in the sanctuary – energised by the vision of God’s abundance, plenty, resources of steadfast love. Calls forth our thanks and praise. Satisfies us as with a rich feast. Think, reflect, meditate upon this abundance. Remembering times when it has helped. Taking refuge in that memory, in that picture, experience.
Promise 2: Strength for today. Seek the Lord, here and now. Here and now is where he is to be found. This is where he is near. In this moment, in any given moment. Where we are, as we pay attention to who we are, where we are and what is going on, within us and around us. Here and now is where we live. Turn away from wrong and turn to the right. Infinite mercy, abundant pardon.
Promise 3: Strength that is enough. “Bright hope for tomorrow” Enough for this moment, each moment, whatever, forever. “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10.13b)
Promise 4: Resilience. Ability to bounce back. Listen, so that you may live – implies a way to find good food, rich food. Food that is life-giving. That endures. That expresses the steadfast love of God (steadfast, enduring, resilient – not unchanging so much as resilient and buoyant, bounce-back quality)
Steadfastness is a Covenant quality. Lasts, from one generation to another. Whatever happens. Covenant-love is enduring. David chosen as king. God still has a purpose for David’s line, David’s people, the nation David formed. Beyond their imagination.
Question: While there’s life, there’s hope. But what happens when it’s too late. When time runs out? When there’s nothing anyone can do?
Promise 5: Trust. Greatest challenge of all. However much we know, whatever we know, however terrible the things we know, we don’t see the whole picture. Only God does. Only God knows how it all fits together. Frustrating mystery. Offer hope of a different perspective. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways….For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The view from the mountaintop. One day, we will share that. Paul – 1 Corinthians 13.8