A Co-operative Spirit – Worship @ Home Sunday, 25 April 2021

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Major Elizabeth Turner

Song: Jesus shall reign

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run;
His Kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till suns shall rise and set no more.

Blessings abound where’er he reigns,
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains,
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blest.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on his love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their young hosannas to his name.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again
And earth prolong the joyful strain.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

(Taken from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1662).

Bible Reading

(Please read Genesis 1:1-2:7)

Below are selected verses from Genesis 1:1-31 (The Voice)

In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here’s what happened: At first the earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep while God’s spirit-wind hovered over the surface of the empty waters. Then there was the voice of God. “Let there be light”. And light flashed into being. God saw that the light was beautiful and good…

”Let there be a vast expanse [parting] the waters above from the waters below…Let the waters below…congregate into one vast sea, so that dry land may appear…[Let the] earth sprout green vegetation! Lights come out! Shine in the vast expanse of heavens’ dividing day from night…” and the Divine needled night with the stars…

[Let the] “waters swarm with fish and sea creatures. Let birds soar high above the earth in the broad expanse of sky… [Let the] earth, generate life! Produce a vast variety of living creatures…

Now let Us conceive a new creation—humanity—made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority over all the earth…” So God did just that. He created humanity in His image, created them male and female [and He] blessed them. Then God surveyed everything He had made, savouring its beauty and appreciating its goodness.

Song: Breathe on me, breath of God

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what thou dost love,
And do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with thee I will one will
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly thine.
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with thee the perfect life
Of thine eternity.

Edwin Hatch (1835-89)

A Co-operative Spirit

Having journeyed with Jesus and his disciples through the events of Jesus’ final days on earth—his entry into Jerusalem to wide public acclaim, his dark night of the soul in Gethsemane, the ‘sham’ trial and vocal condemnation leading to his death, then his joyous resurrection with many appearances and reappearances—we wait for the promised manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit. Yet this Holy Spirit has been present and active in the world from the beginning.

Our Salvation Army doctrine underlines the triune nature of God, in whom ‘Father Son and Holy Spirit’ are one in essence and ‘co-equal in power and glory.’  In the weeks leading to Pentecost, when God’s Holy Spirit was poured out liberally without distinction on all receptive souls, we’re going to have a little glimpse of the various Bible references to the person of the Holy Spirit, recognising even in his distinctiveness as Spirit, it is all God himself who is described.

It is often said, ‘Many hands make light work’. Whilst that can be true in some  instances, particularly in the context where a lot of equipment has to be assembled and set up for an event then disassembled at the end, sometimes too many can be counterproductive. When everybody has a different opinion in how a thing should be organised and executed, attaining consensus cohesion and co-operation can be arduous!

When people share a vision and work together to bring it to reality, it is a beautiful experience all round: for those who generated and birthed that vision and for those who are being served and blessed by its outcome. Our Centenary celebrations at Prestonpans Corps in 2019, for example, were the work of a lot of people who shared the vision and worked to make it the special, memorable event that it was.

From the opening words of our Bible we learn of the existence of God before anything else existed. God’s presence isn’t explained to us or argued, God is simply there, and we can believe it or not. Whatever we choose, it doesn’t alter the statement that God ‘is’.

If we believe in God’s existence, we will be the happier, for an intrinsic sense of ‘knowingness’ and understanding about the world around us simply falls into place. Even so, there is still much that will remain a mystery to us concerning God and likely to be so to the dawn of eternity. But our belief in a Sovereign God enables us to live with that tension, accepting the element of his mystery.

In reading the Bible’s account of the world’s creation and our own specially considered placement in that natural order, we discover that it was the vision and work of a co-operative God. God who simply ‘is’ (God the Father), God’s spirit-wind (God the Holy Spirit) and ‘then there was the voice of God’ or ‘word of God’ (John 1:1-3) (Jesus the Son of God). How the process of creation was played out is debated, whether it took six days as we understand them, with God pausing to rest and enjoy his creation on the seventh day, or that the creation duration spanned decades as Peter reminds us:

‘Don’t imagine, dear friends, that God’s timetable is the same as ours; as the psalm says, for with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.’

2 Peter 3:8

Whatever our personally held views are about the timetable of the creation of the world, we should assent to the fact that each created thing was the result of careful, considered design and not a random collision of atoms and molecules; any more than the computers we have today being the result of someone finding a box of plastic, glass, cables and copper wires, giving the box a shake and exclaiming ‘oh look –  a computer!’ No, it took a lot of time, a lot of thought, design, trial, error and work to bring about the technology that we have come to rely on in many spheres of life today.

Creation was the deliberate, detailed design of a triune God who delighted in his work, pausing at every stage to consider what had been created, declaring each aspect to be beautiful and good. The Bible book of Romans points out:

‘From the beginning, creation in its magnificence enlightens us to His [God’s] nature. Creation itself makes His undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible; and it voids the excuses and ignorant claims of these people.’

Romans 1:20

God’s spirit-wind was a co-operative in creation, sharing the vision for what could be, working to see that it was so and enjoying the outcome.

Perhaps this past year has shown us the impact our own ‘life breaths’ can have on others in a way we’ve never quite heeded before. The silent, deadly ease of transmission of the Covid-19 virus has led to the various restrictive measures that we have had to live with to curtail its spread, mask wearing being a most significant one. But God’s spirit-wind breaths are different! Far from being a deadly destructive force, God’s spirit-wind breaths are life energising and imbuing. We may not see his form, but we certainly feel the effects of his being and see the outcome of his presence.

Nicodemus, a questing Pharisee who sought Jesus’ counsel one night, was nudged toward an understanding of God’s spirit-wind by an analogy with the wind force that we know of and experience in our weather systems. Jesus told him:

‘the wind blows all around us as if it has a will of its own; we feel and hear it, but we do not understand where it has come from or where it will end up. Life in the Spirit is as if it were the wind of God’.

John 3:8

A solitary tree in an otherwise tree-less landscape gives testament to the presence of the wind. Its stance and shape are evidence of the direction of the consistently prevailing wind. God’s spirit-wind, together with God the Father and Jesus the Son, similarly shaped the created world to beautiful and positive effect.

Genesis 2:7 tells us how it was when God created human beings in his image in the first instance. Glancing back to Genesis 1, we see an account of the moment God decided he would make human beings. Here we see the plural being of God in an awesome glimpse into his planning meeting of the cosmos:

 ‘let Us conceive a new creation—humanity—made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority.’

Genesis 1:26

Human beings – with their variously formed male or female bodies, a mind that can think, reason, learn and create, a heart that feels compassion and love, a soul with the capacity to live on into eternity and a God-ordained authority to govern – are quite different from anything else in the created order so far. These are all qualities of the Godly nature. 

When we perfectly embody these aspects of being and live in unity with God, co-operating with a co-operative Spirit , we become that good and beautiful being, just as he envisioned we should be. Fallen humanity is offered the grace of being restored to that good and beautiful state through the co-operative work of a triune God: the Father heart which so loved, sending his only Son who willingly obeyed, securing the salvation that we needed thus releasing the Spirit-wind of God to help the newly restored individual live and work dynamically for and with God.

In handing over our lives to God, we won’t find ourselves in any better hands than his. In his hands we won’t so much see  ‘light’ work as see the ‘love’ work God brings about in and through our lives.

Song: Jesus is beautiful

Beautiful, Beautiful
Jesus Is Beautiful
And Jesus Makes Beautiful
Things Of My Life.


Carefully Touching Me
Causing My Eyes To See
And Jesus Makes Beautiful
Things Of My Life.

Debby Kerner & Ernie Rettino
© Maranatha! Music

Prayer

Creator God, we are in awe of the world you have made, and the vast array of living creatures that populate your world. And you chose human beings to be stewards of your creation.

Saviour Jesus, we are sorry for the mess that people have made of this world. Thank you for giving your life, so that our relationship with the Father might be renewed.

Life-giving Spirit, fill us anew, so that each day we may bring the light of life and love to all we meet, and help restore this world to its created beauty.

In your threefold name we pray; Amen.

Song: Love Divine, all loves excelling

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heaven, to earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every longing heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy grace receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above;
Pray and praise thee without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in Heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Benediction

May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

Cliff Barrows

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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