Receiving the Promises

Receiving the Promises
June 2, 2014 Imagining Abundance

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.


Psalm 36.7-9

Psalm 85.8-9

Isaiah 43.1-4a

John 10.10

Revelation 22.1-2


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.


Galatians 3.21-29

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