“THE HAMMER OF THE LORD”
“Is not my word … like a hammer?” Jer 23:23
Our TV screens yesterday were filled with
of the Penhallow Hotel in Newquay –
first burning, then standing a precarious shell in the wind,
then finally being demolished by the blows of the claw arm
of a mechanical digger.
We know of course why the building had to be
knocked down –
it wasn’t safe – it could have fallen on those working below –
and if there was to be a new hotel on the site,
the only way to do it was to knock down
the broken ruins of the first hotel and begin again.
There in Newquay is a metaphor of the human condition,
of sin and judgement.
How often in life we build
flawed and tottering buildings,
Babels of pride, houses built on sand,
follies which are all show and no substance.
or else find our once solid structure consumed by the flames of evil,
We may want to hang on to
what we have –
but actually, if we want to build something of value in life,
there is only one thing to do – knock down and start again.
For when a building (like
the Penhallow Hotel) is sadly unsafe,
there is nothing to day but knock it down –
not as an act of vengeance or bitterness,
but as a necessary pre-cursor to building again.
Or take a different image.
Scripture tells us to “Make straight the way
of the Lord” –
to build the great motorway or railway track
across the heights and depths of rocky hill and valley –
the engineer must choose a path
and inevitably build up here and cut through there –
the mountains made low and the valleys lifted up –
How do you do that?
Only by breaking through the impeding rock
can the way be made straight.
So it is that in Jeremiah
the prophet addresses a corrupt and failed and sinful people.
He says, it is no good continuing to chase
your feeble and selfish dreams of the shallow good life –
you need the Word of God.
And if you would know the
Word of God in your life,
you must often experience that Word first as a hammer blow.
You have to start by clearing the ground,
making straight the pathway.
John Donne speaks of the
way in which we can build up
a hard shell, a carapace of sin around our heart.
So Donne asks God to use a battering ram:
Batter my heart, three person'd God….
…That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow mee, and bend
Your force, to breake, blow, burn and make me new.
God the hammer, the battering ram, must be turned
against me –
not to destroy me, but to destroy that what is ungodly -
so that what is godly may rise in its place.
We need to ask God to do that.
But think again about the Stonemason’s hammer -
which has many uses.
It could (as Jeremiah indicated)
be used like a sledgehammer to break up rocks.
But it could also be used with a wedge or a chisel
to cut and shape and dress blocks of stone.
Scripture says that we are called to be living stones in God’s temple
We may feel and know ourselves to be rough hewn
surely unworthy for such a position.
But I saw a piece on the
TV the other day
about stone masons replacing pieces of worn stone
high up on the parapet of a mediaeval cathedral.
Each piece had to be carefully cut and adjusted individually to fit -
So may God take and mould us as a part of his people.
We rejoice today to welcome baby Esther –
her mother Lyla has brought her to Church for the first time today.
The tradition of Lyla and Justus’ home Church in India
is to bring a new baby into Church six weeks after the birth
for a blessing – just as Jesus was brought into the Temple
by Mary and Joseph after 40 days.
So today for them we are following that tradition.
As we offer a blessing to Esther, we ask God
to take this new addition to his Church
and build her into his people,
that she may grow to know herself
surrounded by the love of God and his Church.
And as for Esther, so for
all the young members of our Church family
we give thanks and ask God’s blessing – for
· Andrew & Diana’s baby Lily born on Wednesday,
Duncan & Leah’s baby Annabel
baptised as a premature baby
in hospital but coming for a blessing here next Sunday
· Everlyn & Gareth’s baby Tamara to be baptised her on 2 Sept.
For each one we pray they may know
the powerful Word of God in their lives –
guiding them from sin,
purging them of evil,
and building them up in the faith.
Maybe you know the story
about a man
who had a huge boulder in his front garden.
He grew weary of this big, unattractive stone in the centre of his lawn,
so he decided to take advantage of it and turn it into an object of art.
He went to work on it with hammer and chisel,
and chipped away at the huge boulder until it became a beautiful stone elephant.
When he finished, it was gorgeous, breath-taking.
A neighbour asked,
"How did you ever carve such a marvellous likeness of an elephant?"
“Oh it was easy”, the man answered,
"I just chipped away everything that didn't look like an elephant!"
If you know Michelangelo’s sculptures of slaves,
you will know that they are apparently only half finished –
emerging as it were from the raw and un-worked stone.
That apparently mirrored
Michelangelo’s way of working -
It is said that he always began a piece of work
with a vision of the man or the woman locked inside the stone.
Then he would “reach into the stone”
as if to free the figure locked in there.
And we are made, each one of us, in the Image of God
but sadly we have become corrupt, our inner holiness
entombed within the boulder of sin.
slaves, we are enslaved by sin –
our sins and the sins of others.
We need Christ, the master craftsman,
to come and chip away at everything which does not look like
the image of God, and free us from self and sin.
Every hammer blow reminding us of
the hammer blows of Calvary –
our complicity in the sins of the world
hammer blow chipping away,
releasing us through the mighty yet so caring power
of the Hammer of the Lord.
If you have anything in your life right now
that doesn't look like
love, peace, and justice, then, ask God to chip it away!
If you have hatred or prejudice or vengeance or envy in your heart,
for God's sake, and the for the other person's sake,
and for your sake, let God chip it away
and restore the image of God within us.
(adapted from the words of James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True)
Some of us here today mourn the loss of loved ones
or face their imminent departure from this life.
In the midst of our sorrow and loss
we know that they are now fully released from the rock of mortality
to live fully at one with the father.
Meanwhile for those of us
here in this life:
May we so know
· the hammer of the Lord,
· the Wind of the Spirit,
· the Love of God
that God may
· break down what is wrong
· build us up into his people
and reveal the image of his glory in our lives today.
ORDER OF SERVICE
10.30 a.m. Service of Holy Communion
led by Rev Andrew Sails
Hymn 74 “At the name of Jesus”
Hymn: 478 “O Word of God incarnate”
Sermon “The Hammer of the Lord”
Hymn “Your word is like a guiding lamp”
Richard Firth (Worship Live No 22)]
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer
Minister: The peace of the Lord be with you
People: And also with you
[Members of Young Church enter]
Hymn NHWS 33 “Bread is blessed and broken”
[John Bell & Graham Maule Iona Communit]
Holy Communion [The congregation remains standing.]
Minister: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Minister: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them to the Lord.
Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
of all glory, we give you thanks and praise
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
By your living Word you made us all.
Though we rejected your love,
you did not give up on us.
You spoke to us through the prophets,
and prepared the way for our salvation.
Finally you sent your only Son Jesus,
Lord of eternity, born of Mary.
And in Jesus your promises came true.
And so with all your people, on earth and in heaven.
we proclaim the glory of your name:
People (sing): Holy, holy, holy is the Lord,
holy is the Lord God almighty!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord,
holy is the Lord God almighty!
Who was, and is, and is to come!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!
Minister: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in
which he was betrayed,
took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,
'Take this and eat it. This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'
In the same way, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,
'Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant,
poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.’
has died. Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
[The congregation sits]
People (sing): Spirit of the living God,
Move among us now,
Make us one in heart and mind
Through our bread and wine:
Taking, breaking, Blessing, sharing,
Spirit of the Living God
Bless our bread and wine.
[Tune HAP 295]
Minister: The true bread of heaven
gives life to the world.
Come, all who are hungry, come and eat.
Come, all who are thirsty, come and drink.
Distribution of Bread and Wine
[all who seek to love the Lord Jesus are invited to share in bread and wine -
please come forward when the steward beckons your row]
praise you God,
for the bread of heaven
and the cup of salvation
which you have given for the life of the world.
With this food for our journey
bring us with your saints
to the feast of your glory. Amen.
Hymn 66 (KHB 447) “Great is thy faithfulness”
1. 오 신실하신 주 내 아버지여
늘 함께 계시니 두렴 없네
그 사랑 변찮고 날지키시며
어제나 오늘이 한결같네
2. 봄철과 또 여름 가을과 겨울
해와 달 별들도 다 주의 것
만물이 하나로 드러낸 증거
신실한 주사랑 나타내네
3. 내죄를 사하여 안위하시고
주 친히 오셔서 인도하네
오늘의 힘되고 내일의 소망
주만이 만복을 내리시네
후) 오 신실하신 주 오 신실하신 주
날마다 자비를 베푸시며
일용할 모든 것 내려주시니
오 신실 하신 주 나의 구주
아 – 멘