Sunday 25 October Trinity 20 Bible Sunday

This Sunday we have services as follows:

A service of Holy Communion at Holy Trinity Dilton Marsh at 9.30am led by Rev’d Helen Durant Stevensen and sermon by Graham Stevensen, LLM

A service of Morning Praise on Zoom with Rev’d Melanie Otto at 10am focusing on the work of the charity supporting the homeless Alabaré featuring Eleanor Osborne, Iona and Debbie McEntee

You can make a donation to the work of Alabaré using this link

Please contact us for how details on how to join this service or sign up for our newsletter.

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Collect for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

God, the giver of life,
whose Holy Spirit wells up within your Church:
by the Spirit’s gifts equip us to live the gospel of Christ
and make us eager to do your will,
that we may share with the whole creation
the joys of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God, now and for ever. Amen

Readings for Bible Sunday

Nehemiah: 8: 1-3, 5-6, 9-12

all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’, lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ 11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, ‘Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.’ 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

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Psalm 119: 105 -112

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to observe your righteous ordinances.
107 I am severely afflicted;
    give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
    and teach me your ordinances.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually,
    but I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
    but I do not stray from your precepts.
111 Your decrees are my heritage for ever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
    for ever, to the end.

Luke 4: 14 – 21

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

Reflection for Bible Sunday

The Integrity of the Bible:

The Bible is an historical and emotional account of the relationship between a Holy Almighty God of love and humankind whom he created, giving meaning and purpose to our very existence; but it also charts our fall from God’s grace when we misused the unique gift of free-will to choose our own way instead of God’s way and the inadequacy of our own efforts to undo the damage and restore that relationship – until the same God who created us stepped back into our time and place in order to save us.

The Bible is the inspired God-breathed Holy Word of God where God reveals his true nature, inviting us to understand and receive him as Father Son and Spirit, three persons in an inseparable interdependent relationship of love, working together at the beginning of time as the royal ‘we’ and ‘let us make…’; as well as at the end of time and at all times in between.

The 66 books of the Bible are divided into the Old and New Testament:

The first 39 books describe the journey of faith of God’s chosen people of Israel to be a witness to all nations, of the promises kept by God to both bless and discipline them, to lead them in God’s good way instead of leaving them lost in their own evil ways; with his ultimate promise of a Messiah who would save them from all the consequences of evil, failure and separation from God in the past, present and future.

The next 27 books describe the journey of faith of God’s chosen people of all nations after the Messiah had come, fulfilling all God’s promises of old and bringing new promises and blessings to all those who believe and turn to their Father God.

The awesome uncompromising Holy God to be feared in the Old Testament – whom they dare not name or approach – is the same God of Love and Mercy in the New Testament longing to save rather than condemn us, to welcome us into his presence as a Father delights in his children because of our complete salvation God achieved through Jesus.

The Old and New Testaments are parts of the same story, with links across the 400-year gap between them, learning from the past and looking forward to the future.

Nehemiah 8:
The books of the Bible are not in chronological order but are grouped in terms of subject matter. In the Old Testament the first five books from Genesis to Deuteronomy are called the Pentateuch – the first of the History books which then continue through Joshua to Nehemiah and Esther. Nehemiah’s story actually takes place towards the end of the journey in the Old Testament, fulfilling the prophecies of Daniel and Zechariah who are amongst the last books recording the Word of God through the Prophets.

So, if you want to read the whole Bible in order of events, you will need to find a suggested reading plan to help you!

After failing to keep their part of the covenants made with God, the people had incurred the justice and judgement of God resulting in Assyria conquering and taking into exile the northern kingdom, and then Babylon doing the same to the southern kingdom after destroying Solomon’s Temple and the walls of Jerusalem.

But God kept his covenant with the faithful remnant in exile. Through the faithful witness and service of exiles like Daniel, the kings of Babylon and then Persia acquired a healthy respect for the God of Israel so much so that they permitted three groups of remnants to return to reoccupy Jerusalem and the land around, albeit as a small province of a bigger Empire. The Temple was rebuilt but with no surrounding city walls to protect them.

Nehemiah, who served as the trusted cupbearer to the king, was aware of the cries and prayers of his people and dared to ask the king to allow him to help them. The king not only agreed but appointed Nehemiah governor of that province of Judea and allowed him to lead a third group of remnants back to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

But when he got there Nehemiah became aware of how much his people had forgotten about their God, their history as God’s chosen people, and even how to worship. The king allowed Nehemiah to retrieve the surviving scrolls and temple artifacts plundered by Babylon, enabling him to invite Ezra the Priest to call the people to a service of repentance and rededication.

It was when the people heard the Word of God being proclaimed that they remembered and wept as they realised how far they had wandered from their God who had brought them home and back to himself. Tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy as they repented, fasted and worshipped their faithful God.

That Temple stood until rebuilt by Herod 400 years later just before the birth of Jesus, when Israel was a small province of the Roman Empire; but was destroyed by the Romans 70 years after his birth, about the same time as Paul was executed by Nero, as a result of the persecution of both Jews and Christians throughout the Roman Empire.

Sadly, the Israel of today still rejects God’s Messiah and the salvation he offered. It is still a divided nation of Jews and Palestinians, Christians and Moslems, with two Mosques instead of a Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

They have only half the story without knowing and experiencing its glorious fulfilment and the promise of an eternal future with their Abba, our Father.

Luke 4:
So the incident recorded by Luke is particularly poignant in highlighting the fulfilment of Scripture in Jesus who had returned to his hometown of Nazareth, to worship in the local synagogue where he was invited to read from the scroll of Isaiah. Jesus found and read aloud the prophecy of the Promised Messiah where the Words of God came true in their hearing as Jesus in all honesty declared:

          ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor….’

But all they could see was the son of Joseph so how could Jesus be God’s Promised Messiah? Their response turned to anger, rejecting the opportunity for Jesus to do great things amongst them, and they threw him out of town just as they had done to Mary his Virgin mother, when found with child which they could not accept as being from God, thus also ignoring another prophecy from Isaiah.

The Old Testament being fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament but requiring us to join the dots and step out in faith to believe and not reject the Good News of God’s Salvation. So, the challenge and encouragement for today is:
Make a habit of reading your Bible.
Find a Bible in a language you understand.
Pray for understanding.
Pray for the humility to still be teachable….to then simply get on and do it!   

Graham Stevensen, LLM