16th May 2021 -In His Image
APC 16th May 2021 Theme – “Made in God’s Image”
Welcome, Introduction and Call to Worship
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday morning worship. As you watch this online the great news is that our church is reopen today for the first time since December. It’s fantastic to be able to join together in worship and we hope that as more of us receive our vaccinations that soon we will all be able to meet again as normal. Today, following on from last week’s thoughts about creation, we will be reflecting on what it means to be made in the image of God and the significance that can have for our lives. It’s amazing to think that we are now “In Christ” so let’s worship together as we listen to the song, “In Christ alone.”
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Opening Song ‘In Christ alone’
Gracious God, we thank you for our country – for its history, its traditions, its culture and its abundance of good things. You have given us so much to celebrate: receive our praise.
We thank you for the riches we enjoy as a society – material comforts in abundance, freedom of speech and worship, security through our health service and welfare system, beautiful countryside and thriving towns and cities; all this and so much more. You have given us so much to celebrate: receive our praise.
We thank you that we have so much to be proud of and thankful for. But we thank you also today for our world – its rich assortment of nations, and the histories and traditions which are part of them, an awesome diversity of countries and continents, and languages within them; a fascinating mixture of people, places, customs and culture with so much to teach us and so much to offer. You have given us so much to celebrate: receive our praise.
We thank you for the richness and variety that people coming to live in Ireland from other nations have brought. We thank you for so many people growing up with duel identities and for how they have enriched our own culture and given us an appreciation of other cultures in our world. You have given us so much to celebrate: receive our praise.
We thank you for everything that contributes towards the world-wide community and our own multicultural society – the insights of different religions and philosophies, the interchange of ideas between races and cultures, the promotion of dialogue concerning global issues, the desire to establish justice and peace among all nations. You have given us so much to celebrate: receive our praise.
We thank you that we all have something to receive from the wider world and something to offer it; that our horizons are constantly being stretched, and our thinking broadened. You have given us so much to celebrate: receive our praise.
Gracious God you have given us one world. Help us to live as responsible citizens within it, united together in our common humanity and bound together in you. You have given us so much to celebrate: receive our praise.
Join with me as we share the words of the Lord’s Prayer together. And so we pray…
The Lord’s Prayer (All say together)
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who 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.
Introduction to the Kid’s Video
We come now to the part of our service that’s especially for the younger members of our church family. So if your kids aren’t beside you right now, why not pause the recording, and call them in to watch a short video about what it means to be made in the image of God. And at the end of this video I’ve a few words to say to the children so don’t let them rush away.
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Kid’s Video Crossroads Kids - God’s Story – ‘God made people’
Boys and girls I hope you enjoyed the video. It’s brilliant that the world is full of so many different people. But we all have one thing in common. We are all made in the image of God. That means we are all special to Him. It also means we are all equal and that we should love and respect each other. I hope you treat other people well. I hope you make friends with all sorts of people and I hope you don’t think you are better than someone else. Always look for the best in other people and always encourage them to be the best that they can be. And don’t try to be like someone else. Just be yourself and enjoy the things God has made you good at even if it’s different from someone else. I hope you have a good week in school and now that we have reopened, I hope to see you again in church soon.
Introduction to the Bible Readings
Today I want to read the story of God creating humanity and then I want to read part of one of Paul’s letters where he reminds us that now we are new creations in Christ.
Reading 1 Genesis 1 v 26-31 (Creation of humanity)
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Reading 2 Colossians 3 v 1-14 (New Creations in Christ)
3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
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.
Short Reflection “In His Image” Michael
Last Sunday we talked about Creation and we were reminded that since God made the world, He loves it. That’s why He has given us the responsibility of looking after it. Today I want us to think for a few moments about the highlight of God’s creation – Adam and Eve. In particular, I want us to notice that the writer of Genesis tells us that men and women were created ‘in the image of God’.
Although just a few words, this is a very significant statement from which we can learn a lot about God and about life and how we should live it. But what does it mean that we are made ‘in the image’ of our Creator?
Well, if you look at a few slides of current celebrities when they were children it’s amazing how we can see the image that we know so well, reflected in their faces even at such a young age. In a similar way when we look at each other, something of God is reflected in what we see.
So God is not male and God is not female. In some ways He is both. That in itself means that as Christians we must give equal respect and value to men and women.
Since all humanity is made in the image of God that means that God is neither young nor old, in fact we discover that He is timeless, somehow, he has no beginning and no end.
I think we can see a lot of God in children because they are least affected by the ravages of time. So God has a sense of humour, He is full of fun and laughter, He loves to play and make things.
We see God in our teenagers – deep and thoughtful, caring about relationships and issues of fairness and equality.
We see God in our elder members – wise and sensible, generous and kind.
Whether we realize it or even like it, we’re all in some way infused with God’s essence. That’s why we have an in-built conscience and a natural inclination of what is right and wrong.
At our best, when we are courageous, kind, compassionate and generous we help other people to glimpse what God is like.
But of course we’ve only to think of the lessons of history to realize that the image of God has been severely tarnished in humanity. At our worst we can even see this in our own lives when we lie and cheat, when we are unkind or greedy. Like a mirror that has been cracked, God’s image in us is distorted by our in-built bias at times to say and do things we know are wrong. We call it sin.
Which brings me to the main point that I want us to reflect on this morning – If we are made in God’s image, why do we often feel so insecure? Why do we often question our own identity? Why are we so concerned about our personal image?
One reason may be because life is much more fluid and less secure than it used to be. People move around more and it’s harder to get a job or be able to afford your own property. It’s harder to put down roots and find a sense of community.
Another reason might be because of the explosion of the marketing and technological industries. 24/7 we are bombarded with images, articles and adverts that can leave us feeling that everyone else is much more confident, successful, pretty or happy than we are.
In addition to the effects of our changing environment, I’m sure part of our image worries, stem from our inbuilt bias to not always think in the way that God knows is best.
As such, rather than reflecting on our God-given image we feel we have to build our own.
For some people that means “I am how I look.” Whether we’re men or women it’s easy to get caught in the trap of obsessing about our appearance. We worry about our hair, our clothes, our shoes, our glasses, our shape, our size, our manbag and our accessories. It’s easy to spend large sums of money filling our already overflowing wardrobes with clothes we will hardly wear.
Concern for appearance often leads to a preoccupation with food and exercise. Obviously it’s good to keep fit and to eat healthily but for many people this can become such a fixation that it can result in a loss of self-esteem or even serious physical and emotional illness.
For many people “I am what I buy”. In my choice of car, house, toys and furniture, I can create who I am and how I want to be seen. As one journalist put it, “Consumerism is the primary force shaping our culture today. We know what Volvo drivers are like and they are very different from Renault Clio drivers.”
For others, our identity and image is wrapped up entirely in what we do. I mean, how often do we rank people and even ourselves, depending on their job. Do we feel the same about ourselves, whether we make the first team or the seconds or whether we make the Leinster South East? And what if you work really hard but don’t get the same grades as someone else or even what you hoped for?
Look, I don’t want to be a kill joy this morning. None of these things in and of themselves is wrong. It’s ok to look good, work hard, look after your body and have nice things. It’s ok to have ambition and to advertise.
But what I do want to highlight is that if we give in to the temptation to find our identity in how we look, what we have or achieve or what we think other people think of us, then we will never be deeply content and happy.
Instead, I want to encourage us all to look for our identity in God. Because that’s whose image we have been created in. So whether you are blonde or brunette, tall or short, whether you’ve 20/20 vision or have to wear glasses, whether you drive a jeep or a super-mini, whether you live in a castle or a bungalow, whether you are a consultant or a full time mum you can know that God loves you, that He made you unique and that He accepts you just the way you are.
You know, I found this so helpful again this week. One of the problems of the pandemic is it’s always a great temptation to look at your online views and compare that with someone else! But it’s not healthy! What a blessing for me to be reminded again this week that above all other things who I am is not a minister, a husband, a father, a rugby coach or whatever. I’m Michael, a Christian – I believe that Jesus died for Me. I’ve asked Him to forgive me for my sins and I know that He lives within me through His Holy Spirit. That’s who I am. And my greatest reason for living is to grow more and more in my likeness to Christ so that His image may be reflected in the way that I live. That’s my purpose. However imperfect, that’s who I am.
You know, in my better moments I am able to refocus on the simplicity of this and it is so liberating! It means I don’t have to worry about the size of the house or parish I have, what car I drive or whether my hair is turning grey or whatever.
I can be content. Now, like you, I’m human. At times I forget when I look in the mirror whose image I’m supposed to see. In those times, I complain about not having this or that or I get jealous of so and so. But those are the times when I’m least content.
Look, by all means set your goals, work hard, look after yourself and treat yourself to nice things. Wear the pink shirt! But in the midst of it all remember who you are and the real identity that matters. You are in Christ. Your body is a temple of His Spirit. Above all things, your life purpose is to reflect everything about God that is loving and good. The talents you have are the ones He wants you to have and He’s made you the way He wants you to be. So accept yourself, be yourself, and know that God loves you and accepts you just the way you are.
Trust me, if you try to find your identity and your image from the world you’ll never be content. But if you accept the one God has already given you and find your greatest joy in Him, you’ll be full of peace.
What’s more, you’ll never look at other people the same way again. You won’t be worried how someone else affects your street cred, you’ll never be a racist and you’ll care for the poor. Because when you look at another human being, you’ll see Him in your own reflection.
Intro to Song
We are going to respond to what we’ve been reflecting on now as we sing together a beautiful modern hymn that reminds us that our identity, our image, our self-worth isn’t found in what we do or what we have but in Christ and what he has done for us. Here is “My worth is not in what I own.”
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Song “My worth is not in what I own” (With Words)
Let us pray…
Prayer for others
Lord, we bring before you today the people we know who are battling with illness. We think especially of those who have been diagnosed with chronic or complicated conditions and who face uncertainty, fear, pain or fatigue. Father please be very near to them and their families and help them in every way.
We thank for our health care system and for all those who care for us in so many ways. We pray for everyone who works in the caring professions. Father, give each one the wisdom, energy and strength that they need to listen to people’s problems and to continue to be able to do their best to bring help and healing.
May all those who care have people who look out for them too and may they be able to find regular time to relax and recuperate.
We pray for all who grieve today and for all who are still struggling emotionally with life’s circumstances. Lord we thank you that restrictions are easing and that we are now able to meet in church and to meet more with friends and family and do some of the things we love. Lord in your mercy may this trend continue in the days to come. Help us all to readjust to the changing circumstance and renew our confidence so that we might be able to enjoy our freedoms.
We pray for India, Brazil and other countries in the world where current infection rates are high. Lord, in your mercy give great wisdom to all concerned so that soon these situations may be able to be brought under control.
We remember all our young people and young adults. We thank you for all the help given to those who have just finished important exams or successfully completed their degrees. We pray for those who are in the middle of exams, especially those which are particularly significant. Lord, give each student the enthusiasm and the self-motivation that they need. Give them wisdom and understanding. Calm their nerves and fears and help them to fulfil their potential. Help them to accept that their best is good enough and to know that you have a plan for their lives that will be just right for them in the long run.
Lord, we pray too for all those who struggle each day with any form of disability. We ask that the needs of all such people and their families will always be a priority in the decisions made by government and that there will be a variety of effective services to meet the needs of everyone.
Father, we pray also for all those who have been or continue to be victims of racial or sectarian attitudes and actions. Help us all to do what we can to bring your love to all who are in need. Help us to look out for others and to be especially kind and welcoming to people who are struggling or who are just finding their feet in a new situation. Give us courage to call out wrong attitudes in the people around us and the places where we work. And may we continue to be a light in the way that we love, accept and include one another not only in church but in our families and in our community.
Take a moment now to bring your own prayers to God…
All these prayers we offer in the name of Him in whose image we are made, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you found it both a challenge and an encouragement.
Today was an exciting day for us as our church was able to open for the first time since December. During the lockdown we have been able to upgrade our AV system so that we can display all images on both the screen in the church and in the back hall. So it should improve the experience of anyone in the hall markedly. We also now have the capacity to livestream. We are currently fine tuning the detail of that and we hope to be able to go public within a few weeks after we’ve had a few trial runs.
If you would like to book a place at church next Sunday please do text Aleida before Friday evening of this week.
I hope you can tune in again on Wednesday morning for our Pandemic praise as we reflect on another spiritual blessing that God has given us in Christ and give thanks. I will run that series for just two more weeks after which I will be taking a break from that during the month of June and spending the time I would normally give to preparation, on pastoral calls.
But for now, let me close with a benediction after which I invite you to say the grace together…
Living God, we have come to you, to seek your help, offer our worship and declare our faith. Now we go for you, to work for your Kingdom, proclaim your love and make known the gospel of Jesus Christ. Go with us and grant us grace to serve you, even as through Him you have served us. And
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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