Jeremiah 31:7-14 The Lord is at work gathering
7 This is what the Lord says: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’http://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/20160103_message.mp3
Friends on this first Sunday of this year of our Lord, 2016, we begin by singing! Why so?
Because this year will be another year of gathering – another year of the Lord at work in our affairs of the world and this place where he will shape us, call us, empower us to be the people through whom he does his gathering work – and the gathering is very good. It is done for love not condemnation, for freedom, not mere duty, for grace, not law keeping but freedom bringing.
Again this year, the Spirit’s calling, gathering and enlightening work will continue in us.
8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; a great throng will return.
It seems that we can expect all kinds of people in all kinds of places to be gathered with us; as individuals, family and church this year. God does not seem to have limits on who he gathers – anybody from anywhere in anything can be gathered if they allow it. Some will allow it and they will join us. And the gathering is very good. It is done for love.
9 They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son.
Those who respond to the Spirit’s gathering call will experience the joy of being loved, being included, accepted and given a meaning and purpose for their lives not yet received – and they will shed tears of joy and will do what comes naturally when you have been so blessed by the undeserved love and power of God – pray – speak, express, enjoy his presence and ours.
So, the Word cries out to you today;
10 “Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; and then proclaim it in distant coastlands:
Say this to your hurting friends or your proud neighbours or your aching heart;
‘He who scattered the people will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ 11 For the Lord will deliver people and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.
These words will be on our lips all year in all places with all people.
“God is gathering you to himself because he wishes to guard you, to guide you, to gift you with good things – all the time” because God is indeed good….all the time.
You have a shepherd, not some distant worker who will run at the first sign of trouble. You have a “sticky shepherd”. He will stick like glue, like a master sticks with her young apprentice, like a coach sticks with his young player, like a true friend sticks through thick and thin.
With God’s presence, patience and power for living;
12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of this building! they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord— They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. 13 Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. declares the Lord.
This is the news the Christmas child brings and it is the good news that infuses our words and behaviour as people of the Way in 2016.
God is gathering people. Will we welcome, will we invite, will we wait, will we trust him and each other in this project of gathering them all in and bringing them all home? Will be “home” to people yet unborn, people yet unknown?
Yes, yes and yes! What else would we want a year to be about anyway?!
We have been gifted the privileged place of being named as little Indiana has been named – ‘Baptised’, ‘Loved’, ‘Accepted’, ‘Holy’, ‘Belonging’. We are dearly loved people of God— “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God himself” in the water and word and we are free. (from John 1:13) The Word has indeed become human flesh and blood and is here to stay with us because he has decided once and for all to make his dwelling among us. This Christmas, and in the years past we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Let them come as the Spirit’s gathers and calls and enlightens them as they come, and in the process we will be stronger in our own calling and we will know him better and the gathering will be good. Amen