Trinity 20/Bible Sunday 29/10/17

Nehemiah 8. 1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. 4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam. 5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 The Levites – Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah – instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. 9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ 11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.’ 12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Colossians 3.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 Matthew 24.30 ‘Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A series of books you might not expect to find listed as a New York Times Bestseller is "The Book of Useless Information".

In these books you can read fascinating facts such as:

Fish scales are used to make lipstick

10% of the United States annual income comes from organised crime

It is estimated that half of the world’s spider species are yet to be discovered. (How can you even estimate this?!)

In the 1920s, Hollywood made twice as many films per year as it does today

A baby giraffe is six feet long when it is born

Sales of Shakespeare’s works are second only to the Bible

In a recent five year period, 24 residents of Tokyo bashed heads whilst bowing to each other!

Sadly, the Bible, which used to be the supreme point of reference for most people in public life in our nation, is perceived by many in the UK today

to be as useless as The Book of Useless Information.

Available in over 400 languages, written thousands of years ago by over 40 authors, a book which 500 years ago, men and women gave their lives to translate and distribute in this nation, and upon which the social and moral foundations of western civilisation were built, is today seen by most as irrelevant.

On this Bible Sunday I would like us to consider that he Bible is Rooted in the past. Relevant for today. Needed for the future.

Rooted in the past.

The Bible tells of God dealings with humankind. God created and loves people. He wants a relationship with them. Even though people have ignored him and rejected him he has continued throughout history to make himself known to people so they can respond to his love.

We read of this in the Bible. In the historical books of the Old Testament. In the prophets who applied God's word to what was happening and looked forward to what He would do in the future. In the law which was given to show God's people how to live in response to His grace and shows that we cannot be good enough for God. So we need a Saviour, who is Jesus. The gospels tells us that Jesus is God and man. That he came to earth to show us what God is like, to show us what we should be like, and to put us right with God through his life, death and resurrection. The New Testament teaches us that trusting in Jesus is an undeserved, free gift given by God through the work of His Holy Spirit. This gift of faith has was first given to people nearly 2,000 year ago, but is still being given today.

All over the world people are longing for God’s word and that same word of Jesus, bringing comfort, hope and light – even in the darkest of circumstances. Alan Kember from Bible Society met Salma in Jordan in April 2016. Salma is a Muslim refugee and her home in Iraq is now in rubble. She started attending a women’s group in Jordan to share her worries and study the Bible that she was given. She says ‘Belief in Jesus makes life worth living, even though I own nothing.’

So the Bible is rooted in the past and relevant for today.

The Old Testament reading featured God's people having God's law read to them and explained to them. This led them to grieve for their shortcomings and celebrate God's goodness to them.

God's word is equally relevant for people today. Bible Society have just helped launch three new Bible translations for communities in China. The tears flooding down the faces of the Black Yi tribe at the launch event of their Bible show the significance of receiving God’s word for the first time. Pastor Wenfu told Hazel Southam that ‘My greatest hope has been fulfilled.’

The Colossians reading shows one way in which the Bible is relevant today. It shows us how we live in and through God's grace. Paul wrote how Christians are to be clothed "with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. " (Col. 3.12) He also said that we are to forgive, to put on love, to have Christ's peace ruling our lives & to be grateful to God. He also wrote that we are to teach and admonish one another. The yardstick for what we do should be found in the Bible. 2 Tim. 3.16  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So the Bible is Rooted in the past. Relevant for today. Needed for the future.

Today's gospel features Jesus telling His disciples that, after his death, resurrection and ascension, He will return to earth someday. When he does it will not be in the anonymity of a stable in a small country. Jesus will return in great power and glory to be seen by everyone. This will be preceded by a sign in the heavens. Everyone will mourn but those who are followers of Jesus, living and dead, can look forward to being gathered up together to be with God in heaven. Jesus said that his words, many recorded in the Bible, would endure forever. Mt 24.35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

We need to know Jesus' words, apply them to our lives, and rely on them for our future.

How can we do this? By reading the Bible regularly. We have some Chronological Bible reading plans available that help you to read the Bible in a year, or longer, if you like. It is undated, so you just tick or cross out each day.

There are also online facilities and phone apps for people who want to engage with the Bible.

We can also help people who, unlike us, do not have the Bible readily available. One option is to support the Bible Society and, especially the Bible A Month Club.

I have been supporting this for years and a monthly gift of, say 5 will help with the translation of Bibles, the distribution of Bibles with free or subsidised copies. Literacy classes, audio and braille Bibles for those who cannot access the Bible otherwise.

Let us pray using the Bible Sunday Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: 
help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.