Sunday, 7th February 6.00 pm Order of Service

WELCOME

HYMN Be Thou my vision

1 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,

naught be all else to me, save that thou art;

thou my best thought in the day and the night,

waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

2 Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,

I ever with thee, and thou with me, Lord;

thou my great Father, and I thy true heir;

thou in me dwelling, and I in thy care.

3 Riches I heed not, nor earth’s empty praise:

thou mine inheritance, now and always;

thou and thou only, the first in my heart;

High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

4 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,

naught be all else to me, save that thou art;

thou my best thought in the day and the night,

waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

5 High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,

grant me its joys after vict’ry is won;

heart of my own heart, what ever befall,

still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Irish, c 8th century tr Mary Byrne (1880-1931)

versified, Eleanor Hull (1860-1935)

PRAYER

READING Matthew 15:1-20

That Which Defiles

15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.

9

They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

SERMON The Heart of the Matter

Have you ever come across people who go to Church whom you consider to be hypocrites? You know what they are like from Monday to Saturday and you know that they are very different on a Sunday morning.

Well, that was the kind of people the Pharisees were – Jesus quotes a man of God from years ago who said THESE PEOPLE HONOUR ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEARTS ARE FAR FROM ME.

We have come now to a phase in the ministry of Jesus where the attacks upon Him are mounting – and are becoming more organised. These Pharisees had come from Jerusalem to try to find an excuse to accuse Jesus of something. They easily find something bad which they can pin on him and his friends. They catch the disciples washing their hands in a way which was unacceptable to the Church authorities. When people are determined to pin something on us they will usually find something – it is not difficult to find something against any one of us if a person is keen enough! If you throw enough mud – some of it will stick.

But Jesus had had just about enough of those religious leaders and He told them in no uncertain terms what they were like and what they had done. Their lips spoke of honouring God – but their hearts were a million miles away from Him. They had added countless rules of their own to the Bible – and of course it is FATAL to try to add to the rules of the Bible in the way that they did.

Can you think of ways which YOU add to the Law of God ? Do you demand, in your heart, that people behave in a certain way in Church? Would you refuse to let someone come in to a Church service to hear the precious Word of God simply because they didn’t keep quiet for one full hour? or because they didn’t wear the right kind of clothes – or because they didn’t smell very nice? Do you confuse being RESPECTABLE with the Christian faith? Jesus wasn’t a very respectable person – was He? Imagine telling the religious leaders what a bad bunch they were!

Jesus disciples heard the grumbling of the Pharisees – and they told Jesus that He had upset the religious leaders. Do you think Jesus was worried about upsetting those hypocrites? No way – indeed, he goes on to say that they are like rogue plants which God will one day have to uproot. They are blind guides – and, who in their right minds would allow a blind man to guide them? But there are still many blind guides in the Church today – those who preach week by week and never invite people to meet the Saviour of the world – and the fact is that people still go to hear those preachers.

You may wonder why – but the answer is not hard to find: people don’t want to hear about JESUS as the way to be saved! They want to be told that they can do it themselves. They want to be told that they have the ability within themselves to be good – they want advice on how to be better people. They don’t want to know about what God really thinks of them.

The plain fact is that we are all sinners – Jesus says (vs. 18) that all sorts of wickedness comes from OUR HEARTS and makes us all unclean.

***********************************************

That is what we need to recover desperately in our day – the clear word of Jesus that our hearts are AT BEST desperately wicked and corrupt – and we need much more than the message of so many ministers TRY HARDER THIS WEEK.

We can try with superhuman effort all the remaining days of our Jives – and we will NEVER be good enough to please God. BUT once we acknowledge that we are sinners and need God’s help and forgiveness… THEN AND ONLY THEN can He come to do something for our hearts and for our lives!

There were hypocrites in the Church in Jesus’ day as well – but we can’t simply sit back and judge the entire Church because of some hypocrites in it. Jesus has a word for all of us – and it is this: BE CAREFUL – FOR your HEART is what counts. It is from your HEART that all sorts of wickedness comes – so get your HEART right – and your life will soon follow.

When you come to meet God and tell Him you were put right off Him by some bad man in the Church – God won’t be interested in that as an excuse – He’ll say to you – never mind THAT person’s heart WHAT ABOUT YOURS – WHY DIDNT you GIVE YOUR HEART TO ME? Maybe you ought to think about your real reasons for rejecting God – and when you find they are mere excuses – come and give your heart to Him – and you will find the peace and the forgiveness you have sought so long.

PRAYER

Hymn Give thanks with a grateful heart

Give thanks with a grateful heart.

Give thanks to the Holy One.

Give thanks because He’s given

Jesus Christ, His Son.

(Repeat)

And now let the weak say ‘I am strong,’

Let the poor say ‘I am rich,’

Because of what the Lord has done for us.

(Repeat)

(Last time)

Give thanks.

Henry Smith (born 1952)

Benediction

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