Summary: A series of 8 sermons focussing on the Charcteristics outlined by the Natural Church Development tool

There is nothing quite as satisfying as putting something into place that works well and does what it is meant to. For example, you drive down a certain road to go home and you always get held up in a traffic queue. But then you find that there is another route that avoids the traffic and gets you home faster and stress free. For me it is using the service roads that run alongside the Bath Road, I know that if I get through the traffic lights at a certain time after they have gone green by the Mercedes dealership, I can take the service road and get to the Ford dealership with no hold ups. For others it may be that you have your own way of doing your job that is better than the way you were shown, it is more time effective and efficient. The thing is that sometimes these ways of doing things can become set in stone and take on a life of their own. Using my example of driving, if something like speed bumps were put in place then that would make using the service road less comfortable and upset the timing of the journey; it would leave me with two options to go back the main road or to go over the bumps and complain about how much better it used to be. A story is told of a church with a leaky roof and the vicar put a table under the leak and put a bucket on the table to catch the water. After 6 or 7 years there was enough money to repair the roof and the bucket was taken away because it was not needed, the table was left however, because it ‘had always been there’. A true story about a Salvation Army Corps that one of our session mates went to; they had an open air every Sunday and it worked really well, they had a rota of places that the corps went to and they had a good ministry. However, once every 6 weeks, the band went to a field and played for 40 minutes to nobody, because, once upon a time, there were houses there and one or two people had come to the Army through the open air. Two examples of how a structure that had once been functional had served its purpose and not been changed but had become rigid and inflexible.

The Bible reading that we are going to share is from Mark 2 and it uses as its focus one of the main structures of the Jewish faith, the Sabbath. It was originally the seventh day when God rested after creating. The word for rested can also be translated as ceased, making a conscious decision to not work rather than flopping in a chair to sleep. Over the millennia, questions had been asked as to what constituted work. Through applying the teachings in the Torah and the oral traditions that had been passed down from generation to generation a list of activities was ‘banned’ on the Sabbath and these encompassed all areas of life, even today the activities in our daily life fall under the categories in the Jewish Misnah. Travel for example was restricted to no more than one mile, lighting a fire is not allowed and included in this is motorised transport because combustion requires an explosion that means a fire is lit. If you lived in a house with a dirt floor and you wanted to move your chair, it would have to be lifted, because if it was dragged and it left a mark in the dirt, that was classed as ploughing. And so we come to the Bible reading in Mark 2 verse 23 where Jesus and his disciples are going for a walk

Mark 2: 23 – 28

(Jabberwocky {1977} – hammerer and placer; 2 tables, chairs inflatable hammer)

The men were hungry, so they picked some ears of corn, from the other gospels we learn that they rubbed them between their hands and ate the grains. All these things were not allowed to be done on the Sabbath so the Pharisees were correct in the letter of the law because harvesting on the Sabbath was forbidden (Exodus 34:21). Jesus reminded them that David, the best king that Israel had had, also broke rules that had been laid down by eating food that it was only lawful for priests to eat. He also reminded them that the Sabbath was made for a purpose. It was the day that mankind can be restored physically and spiritually by ceasing from work and focussing on God. The Sabbath is a special time set aside for worship and reflection not for the imposition of rules and regulations and that is what these particular Pharisees had lost sight of. Their focus was on the keeping of the rules of the Sabbath not on its intent.

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