Further reflections for Sunday 28th June

Mrs Debbie Story (Methodist Local Preacher)

Debbie was planned to lead our worship at Southgate this morning but, due to the current situation, was not able to be with us. She has, very kindly, sent us the following excellent reflection/service for you to use in your devotions.

Southgate 28.6.2020

Opening Prayer: Lord, we live in a world where everything seems to be changing. Each day is filled with uncertainty. But, Lord, as we turn to you we can receive the assurance of your love; in you we have hope; and by your Spirit you can point us to the way forward.

Scripture reading: Exodus 3: 13-15

The Divine Name Revealed

13 But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ 14 God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”’ 15 God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.

Reflection on the scripture reading

Last night I woke up reflecting on the slogan #BlackLivesMatter; how the statement ‘I am’ is the shortest, simplest, yet most powerful words that we say about ourselves and others; and how God declared ‘I am who I am’. 

#BlacklivesMatter. There is something raw and fundamentally basic about this slogan than has resulted in the words pricking the conscience of many of us. Surely it goes without saying that black lives matter?  Just in the same way, that it goes without saying, that all lives matter.  Obviously not, otherwise thousands of people wouldn’t be taking to the streets in protest during a pandemic.

Many years ago, before I met my husband, I was in a nightclub, chatting to a guy at the bar and we were getting to know more about each other.  That’s what used to happen before the internet! We were pleasantly talking when the question came up, ‘What did I do for a living?’.  My answer was ‘I am accountant’. His response was so abrupt that I will never forget it. He literally turned on the spot, walked away and wasn’t seen again for dust.  Don’t worry, it was his loss! 😊

What were his presuppositions of what an accountant was like? His reaction was so instantaneous.  I had been categorised as an ‘accountant’ and I had been stereotyped.  He immediately decided which box I was in and it was something he definitely wanted to avoid dating.

I am an accountant. What about other ‘I am’ statements? I am black. I am white. I am a man, I am a woman. I am clever. I am rubbish at maths. I am bisexual. I am heterosexual. I am not worthy. I am trash…..you get the gist!

The statement ‘I am’ is the shortest, simplest, yet the most powerful words that we say about ourselves and others.

What is our obsession about categorising ourselves and others all about?  Why do we put everyone into boxes, little stereotype boxes? I imagine that it is done predominantly from a position of fear rather than from a place of love. ‘That person is different to me, so I need to be wary’. Our minds are in a ‘Be safe’ mode of protection when we categorise and stereotype rather than from a place of openness and other-centred love.

I am…(dot dot dot)

When Moses encountered the burning bush he heard the voice of God declare ‘I am who I am’ (Exodus 3:14 NRSV). Let’s rest in those words for a moment – ‘I am who I am’.  In that declaration, what category has God put himself in?  None.

There’s no categorisation in that statement.  It is a statement of infinite potential.  God is the alpha and the omega (the begin and the end).  God is Omnipotent (all powerful), Omniscient (all-knowing) and Omnipresent (everywhere). No limitations! ‘I am who I am’.

We are made in the image of God.  How different would we feel if we woke up in the morning and declared the words ‘I am’ and leave it at that? To not add any extra words.  Just ‘I am’. To not wake with the baggage and categorisation and presuppositions of what we are capable of. 

We should try waking up with the infinite potential of the statement ‘I am’ and see where the day takes us. Because that is what is possible, infinite potential is possible. We are not separated from God, we have the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we were created in Christ and with the promise of new life in Christ. So why not start a new day with infinite potential.

God declared ‘I am who I am’, a powerful statement, and one that we use when we say ‘I am’ repeatedly throughout the day.  These are words that need to be used wisely and with grace.

If we are to use the statement ‘I am’ and leave it resting there with infinite potential, it is important for us to reflect on God and where ‘I am’ comes from. What is the nature of God in whose image we are made? If we are to avoid the toxicity of categorisation, we need to reflect on what is our true nature.

God’s true nature was revealed to us in Christ.  Gods nature is that God is good. A simple yet powerful statement that is easy to take for granted.  We forget that we were blind to God’s true nature until it was revealed in Christ. Before Christ many feared a tyrant god and made animal sacrifices to appease this wrathful god.

Christ revealed the Good News that God is good; that we are not separated from God; we are created in Christ; the Holy Spirit dwells within us and he loves us just as we are. God is good!

God’s Spirit resides within us – God’s most wonderful creation. Our nature, our natural state, our factory setting, is made in the image of God with the Spirit dwelling within us and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

During the day when we do something which is outside of these factory settings we feel a tug, a little pull, a knowing that we need to get back to our factory settings.  Our true nature is one of goodness and love and that is all we need to know about each other.  That we are all, and I repeat all, part of one body of Christ with the same nature of God, made in the same image of God, made with the same nature of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

No categorisation is required when we realise that we have the same nature. Any categorisation is damaging, isolating, creates separation and segregation. Categorisation comes from a place of fear and not a place of other-centred love.

So, let’s use the words ‘I am’ wisely and definitely not flippantly. Let’s raise our awareness and listen to how many times we categorise ourselves and others throughout the day.  Does it serve to categorise or does it just limit everyone’s potential? Remember the nature of the source from which we were created – I am who I am – with a Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Wake up in the morning and just say ‘I am’ and feel the freedom and infinite potential of resting on those two short, simple, yet powerful words.

Hymn:

Make me a channel of your peace StF 707

Time for your own prayers:

Take time to reflect upon our present situation, remembering to be thankful for good things that have happened, and the blessings that we continue to enjoy despite the effects of the pandemic.

Then pray for family, community, the church, our nation and the world as you feel led by the Holy Spirit, praying especially for wisdom to discern God’s will around the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

And a closing prayer:

Lord, you have given us life. We have experienced your forgiveness and love. We ask that by your Spirit, you would fill us with hope, guide us in the way of truth, and help us to serve you faithfully, that we may bring glory to your name. Amen.

Note – Prayers used are adapted from words of Michael Sparrow