Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sunday sermon 26 February 2012 – Jump right in, lose your skin…

1 Peter 3:18-22

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom[a] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[b] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Peter 3:19 Or alive in the spirit, 19 through which
  2. 1 Peter 3:21 Or response

Mark 1:9-15

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

The Calling of the First Disciples

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

MESSAGE

So Jesus – virtually wet from the Jordan – is thrust into the dryness of the dessert for his big OE.

Overseas experience? That makes no sense. An OE is about fun and games. All the more reason to question why we let our young people travel. Too many temptations.

So what’s with the wilderness. Was it like another country?  It was certainly a time of temptation. A huge spiritual battle.

OUR BAPTISM

Our baptism is very different of course. It’s about sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ. It’s about identifying with the one who identified with us in every way – emptying himself and becoming a man – and even being baptised by John – a baptism for repentance and sin which he never needed.

He does the right thing.

And there is this astounding scene again – portrayed in Mark direct and concise way:

0 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Heaven torn open. Voices of affirmation. Boy did he need that. And of course the not-yet-dry Jesus becomes toast in the barren desert:

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

There.  Done. No details from Mark. We are dependent on Matthew and Luke for the specifics.

This is another world – not overseas but over the river – dry by contrast to the cool waters of his baptism – and deeply spiritual and dangerous – Satan, wild animals and angels.

It is another world. We live in that world too.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH TEMPTATION?

Do you even recognise it?

It all seems easy when there is the devil-image with a pitchfork – in our minds we have pictures of a manifestation of evil – the devil standing there challenging Jesus.

Or the little red devil on one shoulder and a tinker-bell kind of sweetie-pie angel on the other – the stuff you used to see in cartoons.

It’s much more subtle of course.

Evil creeps into our very fabric so that we think that what we do and say and think is okay – when in fact it is behaviour that should be buried in baptism – nailed to the cross – or thrown into the depths of the sea.

When our kids were little they sang songs at school – we had our local bible in schools kind of thing through Scripture Union.

One of the songs was this:

“Deep and wide, deep and wide there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

Jump right in, lose your sin, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide!”

One of our kids used to sing  “Jump right in, lose your skin!”

We need to jump right in alright – not just into the fountain of the Holy Spirit which the song seems to suggest – but into the waters of Baptism. I read this in one of the Lent meditations I am using this year – it’s a reflection on Jesus’ baptism:

“Perhaps Jesus knew how important it was to stand alongside the people in their sinful condition and to share with them in their response to God’s love. First, by physically lowering himself into the waters of the Jordan, but also by showing them the need to surrender to God. Perhaps that incidental moment in which the baptised person goes under the water and disappears for a few seconds from the face of the earth is crucially important. Are we willing to disappear? To not be? Are we willing to submerge our own agenda and desires, even for a moment, to God? (David Rhodes, Lenten Adventure p 4).

LENT

We started our journey on Ash Wednesday focussing on the need for repentance and refocussing on God’s will for our lives. The scriptures then reminded us that fasting and prayer are normal. “When you fast” says Jesus, not if. “When you pray”.

The reading today reminds us that our battle – with spiritual disciplines (how bad we are at these things) – is a battle with the enemy himself.

The 40 days of Lent – the 40 days in the dry wilderness – the 40 years God’s people wandered through desert – all speak of the need for tough commitment, courage, and challenge. Lot’s of prayer and agonising. And constant testing.

Jesus got through the worst. He would have been very clear after that what his mission was. And that’s what he did with energy and commitment – he preached a message of repentance and good news.

Repentance and good news. There is a part of repentance in which we should be in sack cloth and ashes – as they did in bible times – mourning our sins.

Repentance means more than just feeling bad. It is a change of mind (in the New Testament language) and a turning, a change of direction in the Old Testament Hebrew.

We turn TOWARDS our destiny and the new thing that God will do!

And in doing so we should consider our baptism again. Peter writes this of the waters of the flood at the time of Noah’s ark:

and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.  (21-22)

The questions we have to consider are simple:

1. Are we willing to submerge everything that is not of God under the waters of our baptism?

To quote David Rhodes again: “Are we willing to submerge our own agenda and desires, even for a moment, to God?”

Paul writes in Romans 6:  “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (verse 3).

2. Are we winning or losing in our wilderness temptation experiences?

And can we even tell where the voices are coming from? We need to be more tuned in and discerning – remember that Paul says of Satan in a discussion about false apostles:

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)

One of the joys of our way of doing things (and it is biblical) is that we can discern together when it comes to big decisions and issues. And we have the power of prayer to pray for victory in the battle.

3. Are we losing our sin? Or our skin?

Paul writes in a most profound passage in 2 Corinthians5:17:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

If we are losing our sin – we are dealing with the deepest stuff – our secret mess. If we are losing our skin – maybe we are just dealing with the superficial. It’s too easy to be smiley Sunday Christians – when there is painful stuff on the inside that needs the touch of God.

Lent is a great time to really deal with these things! 🙂

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Sunday Sermon 9.00am service February 19th – What on earth were they doing on that mountain?

2 Corinthians 4:3-6   New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Mark 9:2-9  New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

The Transfiguration

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Message

What on earth were they doing on that mountain?

Great question. It’s  a fast-moving narrative in Mark’s gospel. And things are hotting up. Peter has just reached his high –recognising Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. And His low – when he tries to stop Jesus and is told that he is doing the devil’s work (get behind me Satan).

They’re trying to get their heads around what Jesus has told them – that he will be killed.

And Jesus takes them up a mountain – perhaps to put things into perspective:

  • He would not be a failed revolutionary
  • He would not be a has-been political leader done in by the Romans
  • He was not mad.

He was God’s man. God’s son. And so on the mountain the three closest friends of Jesus are able to see things from the long term point of view – from God’s camera angle if you like.

He gets their attention one way or another. He is meta-morphed if you like! Changed. Transfigured.

His clothes are mentioned for some reason – in the washing powder advert kind of language:

His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.

Whiter than white! Matthew in his gospel says they were white as the light. Luke writes they were brighter than a flash of lightening. I think you get the picture!

It’s what’s on the inside that was really transfigured – perhaps the clothes were overheating. Who knows. His face is the focus of Matthew and Luke – described as shining “like the sun” and being changed in appearance.

And they see dead people. Hmm.

I saw dead people once. I always enjoy telling this story to young people – because I was on drugs at the time. Perfectly legal – medicine given after surgery! Dead people I had known walked through the walls. It was not nice really. A hallucination from the drug of course.

These two fall into a unique category of course. Elijah hadn’t really died. He went to heaven – no not in a chariot of fire – but in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2:9-11) And they expected him to return. And of course he had returned by then. If you can solve that one see me afterwards with your answer.

Moses had died – but it seemed that he might be available as well as – well his funeral was a curious affair (Deut 34:4-7).

More than that Jesus has this conversation with Elijah and Moses – these two represent the prophets and the Law of the bible of the day. They sum or symbolise up the most important parts of God’s revelation to the world over centuries.

And there is Jesus – the one who is the greatest prophet speaking God’s word – who is in fact God’s Word (The Logos of John 1) – and who fulfils all the Law and the prophets.

One has to feel for Peter, James and John. At least we can be sure that they were silenced for a while – Peter not making any more rash promises and James and John not haggling over positions of power. (The sons of thunder seem to have become sons of silence).

How important were these wannabe Christian leaders in the face of Moses, Elijah and Jesus?

But they are not silent for long. Like some of us who always have something to say! (Remember James 1:19!)

Even the glory revealed to them could not stop Peter from offering a solution or creating a plan:

 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

This is the glory of God revealed. On a mountain – where these kinds of revelations happened usually.

This is holiness and glory. The high that we love! Here is power.

Let’s capture the moment – not on video or on Utube or Twitter – but let’s do the thing that God’s people were good at – build booths. Camp out. Hang out here with these greats and take it all in!

Mark of course tries to excuse Peter – we have these words in brackets:  (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) But even he (Mark) may have missed the connection. Listen to this writer:

Peter, contrary to popular portrayal, makes the connection that is too obscure for us to make. According to some Jewish expectation and as stated in the book of Zechariah the prophet (see 14:16-21), God would usher in the new age, the “Day of the Lord,” during the Feast of Booths. This God-commanded festival kept by Jews for centuries, was considered a possible time for God’s taking control of God’s creation and beginning the age of shalom. So Peter’s question about building booths is neither laughable nor mistaken. Peter is clear that the end times are coming and the Feast of Booths was upon them. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus need not construct their own booths for the celebration.

So there was a new thing happening here. Reminds me of a favourite passage of mine from Isaiah – which happens to be one of the Lectionary readings for today in the set we are using in the second service:

Isa 43:18  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Isa 43:19  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

How would they know that Jesus’ death would begin this new thing? How kind of him to include them in this mountain top experience! What a stunning revelation! Why not stay on high? Enjoy the high!

And when they come down they have this animated conversation I am sure. Look at verses 9 and 10:

 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

Verse 7 is the key:  7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Would that we would also listen to His voice!

It’s a word for the projects people – those of you who are great at doing – and not good at being. One would think that we were human doings rather than human beings. This is a word for the men who like being in control by DOING things.

Get under the cloud – a symbol of the presence of God – be enveloped by the presence of God – and listen to the beloved Son! STOP AND LISTEN!

Like Mary and Martha – in case you think I am discriminating against the men here.

Don’t let chores crowd Jesus out of your life. Sit at his feet. Listen as He speaks.

And may we experience a touch of his glory at Communion today as we do this. As we let him speak into our lives.

Amen.

Sermon from the archives – An attitude of gratitude (sermons from College Chapel)

An attitude of Gratitude

Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
Psalm 32: 1-11

Text: Be thankful in all circumstances

In his book FOLK PSALMS OF FAITH, Ray Stedman tells of an experience H.A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant.

(Henry Ironside, as a matter of interest, was a famous American preacher who is buried in Auckland.)

Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited his to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, “Do you have a headache?” Ironside replied, “No, I don’t.” The other man asked, “Well, is there something wrong with your food?” Ironside replied, “No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.”
The man said, “Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!”
Ironside said, “Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!”
(Ray Stedman, Folk Psalms of Faith.)

It’s a great thing when people thank you for something. Even a simple thing that you do every day – it’s good to hear a word of thanks.

  • Mothers love it – after a good meal.
  • Friends like to be appreciated too.
  • When someone leaves a school – or an organization – a public word of thanks is always appreciated.
  •  So too when a job is well done – when a team works hard! We all need affirmation and thanks.

Christians have a special way of dealing with this, though.

It’s called an attitude of gratitude.

It’s a way of living – of remembering that everything we have and enjoy is a gift from God.

Paul makes it clear in our reading today that we are to have a different attitude:

1. Be joyful always – not happy, but joyful! God gives us a joy that is there even when things are tough
2. Pray at all times – talk to God. Tell him how you feel.
3. Be thankful in all circumstances.

Every time we meet for worship we need to give thanks to God for everything. There should never be a silent time during prayers of thanksgiving. Not even a hesitation!

The simple things of life are a great place to start:

  •  daily food, knowing that there are children who have no food to eat each day – millions of them
  •  shelter, knowing that there are people in other nations of the world who live and die on the streets
  •  a great school to learn in, knowing that there are those in other continents who have school lessons under trees each day
  •  good health, remembering those who are fighting for physical survival
  •  families and friends, remembering those who are alone and afraid each day.

It’s an attitude of gratitude.

It stops us from silly complaints and moaning about things that are actually not that serious really.

Like a little child with cancer. One woman wrote this:
An estimated 1.5 million people are living today after bouts with breast cancer. Every time I forget to feel grateful to be among them, I hear the voice of an eight-year-old named Christina, who had cancer of the nervous system. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she thought long and hard and finally said, “I don’t know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything!” The kid is right.
(Erma Bombeck, Redbook, October,1992.)

On a lighter note, one learns to pray and be thankful, like the story of two men who were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it.

Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!”
John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.”
“But you must!” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.”
“All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'”

An attitude of Gratitude will make us much better people to live with at home, and to be with at school or at our place of work.

Remember to give thanks to God!

Always!

Amen

An article written a few years ago for “The Mustard Seed” – a local paper we had. May still be worth a read!

Robin Palmer's space

Are you like a little child?
By Robin Palmer
Jesus once said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become
like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”
(Matthew 18:3). Responding to this, a reporter once wrote:

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to
do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the
top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at
nursery school. These are the things I learned: Share everything.
Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say
you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. … When you go out into the
world watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

Children leave their mark on you. At a time when we…

View original post 1,381 more words

Sermon Sunday 5 February – Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

Readings:

Isaiah 40:21-31
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Mark 1:29-39
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

MESSAGE

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue!”

It’s a great line at a wedding! I have no idea about the something blue bit. I do know that I ministered in a church for nearly 9 years that had a “cry room” as you came in on the left. And it wasn’t for brides with wedding blues to cry in. I don’t remember too many brides crying on the way in or stopping in the cry room. I know many who cried for years afterwards.

Life for some people simply sucks! It’s messy.

And into this life of brokenness – where old and new seem the same, and people are often very blue and borrow too much to compensate for their sadness – God speaks.

All three readings today have gems in them. We need to hear scripture read more – and process it when we go home – and through the week at home.

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?

– is the repeated cry from Isaiah 40. The truth is many of us have. So much of church revolves around the people who know – that’s why we have work to do on the Missional church – asking the question – “who still needs to know in our community?” and “how do we do it?”.

The message of Isaiah is in the context of people who need GOOD NEWS – remember they were in captivity in Babylon. And in their separation and grief – the Creator of all the world is at hand:

“ He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.”

O and as a bonus this amazing passage:

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

It’s so easy to collapse even when you are young and have the strength – when you depend on your own strength – the prophet goes on to say:

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Of course it’s also translated as:

BUT THOSE WHO WAIT ON THE LORD, OR THOSE WHO TRUST IN THE LORD!

Just as the prophet Isaiah had good news for those people in exile, Paul had a heart for people in need too! The passage from 1 Corinthians exposes his heart for those who need to hear good news and his passion for the Gospel. In verse 16 he says:

Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

His unpacking of this passion is fascinating:

19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

All things to all people – so that by all possible means I might save some.

Are you concerned about those who need to be saved?

We turn to the gospel to seal this today. People are streaming in to see Jesus the miracle worker – the healer who has authority over demons.

He does something interesting for the Son of God. We often see him as super-man Jesus. But listen to verse 35 from the Mark reading:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Pretty simple when you think you don’t have time to pray. What did Jesus do? Why not you? And of course his enthusiastic new followers come looking for him:

Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” (verse 36-37)

He doesn’t go to these ones – possible because they were looking for healing and not salvation.

His response is great:

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Mark continues: So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (v 38-39)

Do you think Jesus was the kind of preacher who wrote sermons?

Probably not.

From His heart he would have explained God’s purpose for their lives – the coming of the Kingdom – the fulfillment of all things in himself. Remember how they tried to throw him over a cliff (in Luke 4) when he explained that the reading of the day from Isaiah 61 referred to him?

We don’t know what he preached in these nearby villages. But he is very clear on this: “That is why I have come.”

And of course the context of his message in the synagogue in Luke 4 was very clear and recorded:

Luk 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
Luk 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Luk 4:20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,
Luk 4:21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

So Isaiah preached good news to the exiles. Paul was passionate about being all things to all people in order to win some. And Jesus proclaimed the coming kingdom in himself and risked his life very early on in his ministry.

What about you?

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue!” This may help you remember a few things today.

Something old – the Bible is the old and it has not changed! We are still called to do this!

Something new – new ways, new challenges – new maps by which to navigate. We have to find new ways to share what God has given us.

Something borrowed – well that’s the gospel I guess! It’s not ours –we are custodians of this treasure. It’s on loan to us as stewards.

Something blue – the state of the world today which still needs good news.

How about it?

2012 – The year of action!

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

What are our nearby villages? And will we become all things to all people so that by all possible means we may save some?

Our mission is right on our doorstep!