Home Worship on 2nd June 2024

Home Worship on 2nd June 2024.                      9th in Ordinary time

Welcome: This is the first of four services considering Genesis, the Bible Book of 2024. Please go with the flow, praying, playing the hymns and thinking as you read the written pieces. All is written in the first person, but if two or more are present, please read in the second person: “I” becomes “we” etc..

This is also the first of a series of worship services based on Jesus’ revelation of worldly, wrongly-based “sacrality/sacredness” in religious cultures across all time and space.

Call to Worship:

1In the beginning when God created[a] the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

  1. Genesis 1:1 OR when God began to create or In the beginning God created .    [Genesis 1:1-5, NRSVA]
  2. Genesis 1:2 OR while the spirit of God OR while a mighty wind …

First Hymn:

1 All people that on Earth do dwell,

Prayers                                                                                            

Almighty God, Lord, Father, I am in this quiet space to reaffirm that I am yours, and you are mine. I wish to be so inspired that I sense the vastness, majesty and warmth of your essence. That I can realise once again that in being human I am imperfect and am therefore making mistakes in relationships and errors in affecting others. It is like being in a garden – life’s garden – and finding my hands soiled. They can be washed, just as you can wash me morally so that my soul is refreshed. I submit to this, and I ask that you will enable me to make reparation to others whom I have harmed.

I rejoice in the faith that you have promised good for us, for humanity. And so I am forgiven.

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, blessed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us sustenance for the day and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for yours is the power and the glory, now and forever.

Amen.

Second Hymn:

605 All praise to our redeeming Lord,


Introduction to Genesis as the Bible Book of 2024: The Methodist Church suggests to its societies and congregations that each year a biblical book be read through so that members refresh their memories and acquire deeper knowledge of the Bible. The translation used is the [New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (=NRSVA)]

This year the suggested book is Genesis, the first of the 66 books in the canon – the Christian collection of scriptures. It is longer than many, but is rewarding in the reading.

Genesis contains not just the start of the biblical stories, but also carries the inherent difference between Judaism and all other religions in the relationship of its people in the developing human understanding of the single being, God, who created the Universe – and continues to act creatively in all that is. There is no superhuman death-battles to establish the most powerful god. There is only a formless void in which God creates …
Blood sacrifices are not demanded of humans, and they are stewards to care for Creation.

Readings:

Genesis 2:15-23 – Eden

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’

18 Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man[a] there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

‘This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,[b]
    for out of Man[c] this one was taken.’

Footnotes [New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised= NRSVA]
  1. Genesis 2:20 Or for Adam.        [New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised]
  2. Genesis 2:23 in Hebrew ishshah
  3. Genesis 2:23 in Hebrew  ish

Genesis 3:17b – 19 – The Fall

17 And to the man[a] he said,

‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
    and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
    “You shall not eat of it”,
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.’

Footnote
  1. Genesis 3:17 Or to Adam

Genesis 8:15 – 9:3 – The Recreation

15 Then God said to Noah, 16 ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’ 18 So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

God’s Promise to Noah

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelt the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.

22 As long as the earth endures,
    seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
    shall not cease.’

1God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 

Romans 5:14-17

14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

[NRSVA]

Reflection:

The four extracts establish the Old testament style, of providing the explanation of why the Universe and Earth exist, why things are as they are, and why Judaism is a unique religion and that the Universe is friendly and subject to constant change – new acts of creation.

Paul was converted by the Risen Christ and commissioned to bring the Gospel to the Greeks and the Romans, but in this extract his understanding is still coloured by Old Testament theology. It could not be otherwise even when his emotional being is suffused by Christ’s love.
Note that he ends in a message of hope.

One can recognise dismay when God discovers that the free will he has endowed on, and in us has led to our gaining the knowledge of good and evil that leads to stress and tension within us as well as in our cultures, our societies. We have also failed to recognise that human understanding misses understanding how this happens and how this can be corrected.

Twentieth Century prophet René Girard’s Theory of Mimesis explains this in convincing detail. Mimesis, rooted in imitation, explains that we learn by imitating our parents, our carers. This is true for them and all our ancestry back to the first hominids – to Adam and Eve, if you like. Human continued to develop, from then to the present, growing in knowledge and culture.

The Jewish relationship with God also developed. Moses was God’s commissioned Saviour of his people, who were enslaved by Egypt. Other periods of domination have also occurred in their history, even to the present. The state of Israel, technically free, does not have the support of all Jews in the world, but is subject to Zionism where mimetic realism is unrecognised and its principles flouted.

Unfortunately there is not time to complete an explanation of all the depths of Mimetic Theory, but further explanation is intended throughout June.

Third Hymn:

15 How Great is our God:

Reading: John 1:1-18 The Word Became Flesh

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.[b]

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,[c] and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,[d] full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,[e] who is close to the Father’s heart,[f] who has made him known.

Footnotes                                                                                                        [NRSVA]
  1. John 1:4 Or through him. And without him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life
  2. John 1:9 Or He was the true light that enlightens everyone coming into the world
  3. John 1:11 Or to his own home
  4. John 1:14 Or the Father’s only Son
  5. John 1:18 Other ancient authorities read It is an only Son, God, or It is the only Son
  6. John 1:18 Gk bosom

Sermon:

Last Wednesday  I had the privilege of being in a prayer fellowship whose members’ beliefs cover the whole spectrum of Christian belief.

We also worked through the Creation story of Genesis, and it was interesting to find the Creationists, who allow interpretation of the pre-Abrahamic chapters Genesis such that the “days” of creation are seen as God’s days, longer than Earth’s days and almost independent of any other human interpretation than “elapsed time”. Everything we encounter has been created, even if it has become extinct before recorded history.

People were interested to hear of René Girard and his life and work, how he provided new development in anthropology, religious studies, economic theory etc.

Also, naturally, of his conversion to Christianity through reading the Bible as a professional literary scholar.

Girard has studied the Bible deeply and discerned Jesus’ inherent understanding of tensions arising from jealousy and rivalry, as well as Jesus’ exposure of the medium and long-term uselessness of sacrifices. He does not decry the expectations of the Book of John’s Revelation, even reckons that the Apocalypse started in the First World War.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis establish the basis of our Christian beliefs – that God created everything we sense around us. That the universe is not an impersonal, uncaring place and that at least three human cultures are Abrahamic. Our Western culture is Christian-based and has allowed the flowering of the arts and the sciences.

We are encouraged to hope for our futures in a wonderfully supportive God, one who is committed to us, his people, and to the flourishing of his Creation.

He blesses us and has given us the power of prayer, to have the courage to love.

Fourth Hymn:

615 Let love be real, in giving and receiving,

Intercessory Prayers:

Father God, we have worshipped you, learnt anew from the Bible. Now it is the time when we pray as intercessors, concerned for the world and for our friends.

We think of those who labour in your harvest fields of mission to bring relief of needs, to bring your Word through Bible, preaching and acting practically, pragmatically. We bless them, and ask your blessing on them, their safety, their health and their witness of hope.

We thank you for those who labour for our material protection, sacrificing and suffering that our nation should persist. We bless them, and ask your blessing on them, their safety, their health and their witness of hope.

We thank you for those who labour to provide safety in our homes and our public places. We bless them, and ask your blessing on them, their safety, their health and their witness of hope.

We thank you for those who care for our young people, who educate them in our culture, mores and interactions. We bless them, and ask your blessing on them, their safety, their health and their witness of hope.

We thank you for those who gave us knowledge and health. We bless them, and ask your blessing on them, their safety, their health and their witness of hope.

We thank you for your saints of every age, who give us, or have given us, inspiration, belief and trust in you. We bless them in their presence and in their absence.

Fifth Hymn:

610 Best of all, God is with us,

Blessing:

We affirm that you are with us, and bless us.
Glory be to you, O Lord Most High.
We go to be with the world, in the world, knowing you have our backs.

Amen