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One by one (17-11-22)

A Bible Reading: Isaiah 27. 2 – 3, 12 - 13

“Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it… In that day the Lord will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.


A Thought

We were talking numbers a fortnight ago and we are talking numbers again today, again very much aware that God doesn’t approach numbers the same way that we do. I was taking part in a national Leading your Church into Growth (LYCIG) conference at Swanwick in the past few weeks and our attention was drawn to this particular passage in Isaiah.


In parts, Isaiah could be seen as rather a depressing book of the Bible with numerous prophecies against Israel because of their disobedience and wrong-doing. However, it is also a book full of promise and hope.


In this particular chapter, God compares Israel to a fruitful vineyard, and Isaiah prophesies deliverance and restoration. On various occasions in the Bible, the Israelites were captured by foreign powers and led away into exile. In desperate times of war, they became scattered and displaced. Yet, here is an amazing promise: they will be gathered up one by one and they will return to worship in Jerusalem.


Post-Covid we can get upset by smaller congregations, less people in church on a Sunday, and those who have not yet returned. However, God’s promise is that he will ‘gather them up’. We won’t suddenly be inundated with a great influx of people. That would be unrealistic in a big city church let alone in small rural congregations. The gathering in will be one by one. Jesus also told the Parable of the Lost sheep in which a shepherd had a hundred sheep. When the shepherd realized one was missing, he left the flock of ninety nine to fend for themselves and went out in search of the missing one.


We will all know people who stopped coming to church during lockdown and thus far, post-pandemic, they have not yet found their way back. This is an opportunity to be like the shepherd and search out these people out one by one. Who have you missed from church? Search them out, share a cuppa, and invite them to the Remembrance Day service or the Carol Service.


A Prayer Lord, you love your people and long to gather them back to yourself. Help us to be your hands and feet to draw them back one by one.

Amen.


'Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return' by Ruth Lake,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp7HZ1My3II


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