Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sunday 27 May – Pentecost

Readings: Acts 2:1-21;  John 15:26-7; 16:4b-15

Message:

So that sermon on Pentecost Sunday! It would have fitted in really well with my 40 hour famine Techno-fast! No power point! No outlines! No slick introductions and 3D illustrations! No microphones and loop systems for hearing aides. No notices and no heaters.

What is all this stuff then (our equipment and technology in our church)? And what about this untrained Galilean fisherman? Where did he come from and how did he persuade all those people to follow Jesus?

PENTECOST – was clearly a supernatural power burst for the church! It’s recognised as the church’s birthday – and most Christians would not argue that the Holy Spirit came in power!

Even those who don’t believe the Holy Spirit does supernatural things today – for whatever reason – would recognise that something special happened that day!

PENTECOST IS ABOUT ORDINARY PEOPLE – BEING GIVEN EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY

When you think about it – we don’t know the names of most of those believers who were empowered at Pentecost.

In fact we hardly really know the names of the 12.

Most of us remember Peter, James, John and Judas – and then our memories let us down! Perhaps we remember Thomas for his doubting or Matthew because of his tax collecting! We know Paul because he had a lot to say – and he was the 13th Apostle and not even at Pentecost!

Three simple things made the difference:

  1. Presence – the promise of Jesus not to leave them was fulfilled in his Spirit being with them. John portrays that differently – he has Jesus breathing on them and saying “receive the Holy Spirit”.
  2. Power – “You shall receive power…” is the promise that Jesus gives. The power was for them to be witnesses!  And of course the power gifts certainly backed up their words!
  3. Person – the Holy Spirit is not an “it” but a “he” in the Bible. He teaches. He leads. He comforts – which is stronger than our softer comforting people who are sad. The word means to strengthen.

The best word describing the Holy Spirit is in fact the word translated as “Comforter” which is in the original text PARAKLETOS! (Paraclete in old English hymns.)

This means one who is called alongside  us. Also translated as Advocate and Counsellor.

What encouragement!

Jesus – through the Holy Spirit – continues to bolster us, strengthen us, and guide us.

This is God at work in our community – in our mission – in our love – in our prayers and our worship!

Listen to Jesus again:

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

How do people come to faith?

They ask for a Saviour when they know they need to be saved! They ask for forgiveness when they know they are sinners! They know they need freedom when they realised they are slaves of sin! They know they need to be made righteous when they discover our bad they are – children of Adam and rebellious – separated from God and deserving judgement.

How can people come to this point? Through the work of the Holy Spirit! And how do we make it through our challenges? Through the same Holy Spirit!

  • Guiding us into all truth
  • Telling us what is yet to come
  • Taking what is Jesus’ and making it known to us

Sounds like something immediate and real! This paraclete – advocate – comforter and counsellor – is the one through whom we live! No wonder Paul says:

Eph 5:18  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,

Eph 5:19  speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,

Eph 5:20  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And elsewhere – implying that God transforms us by His Spirit working in us:

Gal 5:19  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;

Gal 5:20  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions

Gal 5:21  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Gal 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Gal 5:23  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Gal 5:24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Gal 5:25  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Gal 5:26  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Anyone fancy being totally empowered, transformed and made to be like this? Like Jesus? Be open to the Holy Spirit today and each day!

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Here is last year’s sermon on Pentecost Sunday. For those who weren’t around.

Robin Palmer's space

Pentecost Sunday 2011 – a reminder

Readings: Acts 2:1-21

Story:

A mature-looking lady had an appointment with a marriage counsellor, and told him flat out: “I would like to divorce my husband.” To this, the counsellor replied, “Well, do you have any grounds?” She answered, “Why yes. We have almost an acre.” The puzzled counsellor asked her, “You don’t understand. What I want to know is do you and your husband have a grudge?” The lady answered, “Actually, we don’t, but we do have a nice carport.” At this, the counsellor shook his head and said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I just don’t see any reason why you should divorce your husband.” The lady looked at the counsellor and said to him, “It’s just that the man can’t carry on an intelligent conversation

I’ve told part of that story before – that’s the whole tale!

It’s a story about communication…

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We had a great response for the World Vision Famine today! Thanks for sponsoring the youth! I now have to increase my amount to match their total Click on the link to see my progress – maybe you can help too!

Robin Palmer's space

World Vision 40 Hour Famine

Hey there – I have challenged our youth group to match my total for the 40 hour famine this year which will support agricultural work in drought stricken Mali and Niger. It would be great if you could help me reach my target of $1000.

Getting there! Click on the link above and have a look at my progress!

Robin

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Sunday Sermon 20 May – What comes down must go up

Let’s rejoice in the witness of the Ascension.

Readings: Ephesians 1:15-23,  Luke 24:44-53, and Acts 1: 1-11

Ascension Day is one of the most important days in our Christian Calendar! It slips by without a thought from most. It is the day on which we remember three key things – and as we did not get together on Thursday – let’s look at them today:

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1.         Historically – it assures us of the completed work of Jesus the Christ.

There are all kinds of ideas that do the rounds really – things that people say in their questions and challenges of our beliefs about Jesus. Helping with the Alpha course again has made me more aware of this. Thinking about the Alpha course – I’m not sure that it’s only a beginner Christian’s course.

It is one of the most systematic programmes explaining a wide range of Christian teachings that many of us – even those who have been in the church for 50 years – would not necessarily be able to explain clearly.

What is really helpful on helpful is the stacking up of evidence of the historical person of Jesus.

Jesus really was born in Bethlehem – really lived – really died – and really was raised from the dead! People make up all kinds of theories about why this is not true – but the problem is with them and not the evidence!

The resurrection appearances were witnessed by so many people over 40 days. And it is during this period that we pick up the story in Acts 1:

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

And Luke in a matter of fact way carries on in verse 6:

6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

The Ascension of Jesus is the end of his mission – it assures us that the work of Christ on earth was complete.

It’s like the space shuttle landing after all its work was done – Mission complete. Except it’s the opposite. What comes down must go up! Jesus returned to His Father.

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2.         Spiritually – it teaches us about the Lord Jesus’ triumphant entry into heaven and his continuing ministry on our behalf.

A.    The Lord Jesus’ triumphant entry

Listen to Luke this time in his gospel:

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

This is a different bunch of men and women from those who were grieving the death of Jesus and hiding away.

This time they do what is the logical result of realising – like Thomas when he bowed before Jesus after touching his hands and his feet – that he was LORD and GOD (which is the same thing by the way – Lord = God in the New Testament).

They worship Him!

If he is God then he is to be worshipped! Like the wise men who prophetically bring gifts of Gold (fit for a king) Incense (used in prayer) and myrrh (indicating his death) – and who prophetically speak of all nations coming to Jesus – the disciples WORSHIP Jesus.

Look at the verse from Matthew:

Mat 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. 

More literally – that word which becomes “bowed down” in the NIV means to FALL DOWN or to be THRUST DOWN or more dramatically to DESCEND FROM A HIGHER PLACE TO A LOWER.

And then of course WORSHIP used here comes from a word which means to BOW DOWN or KISS THE HAND and for Persians  involved prostrating oneself and the forehead touching the ground.

The same word is used in Revelation 7:11 and many other places:

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God…

The ascension of Jesus teaches us spiritually about another triumphant entry – not into Jerusalem on a donkey this time – but into heaven as Lord and King – to be worshiped – as he was as a baby – and as he was by the disciples when he ascended!

He is the One who returns victorious from the battle against sin and death!

No wonder the Reformers have always been big on Ascension Day! It’s a day when we should sing: CROWN HIM WITH MANY CROWNS, THE LAMB UPON THE THRONE!

The write to the Hebrews in chapter one spells it out:

(verse 3)  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

The Westminster Longer Confession sums up our commitment to worship!

 Question: What is the Chief and Highest End of Man? 

Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

And worship is more than the songs we sing. It is our whole orientation – we glorify God or not in how we live. They worship the one of whom Paul says:

Col 3:1  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

I suspect our hearts are set on too many other things!

There is a second aspect of the spiritual lesson today!

B.     His continuing ministry on our behalf.

Not only does he leave behind a confident team who wait for the empowerment they need through the Holy Spirit (which we celebrate next week at Pentecost Sunday) – he himself goes back to heaven to continue his work!

This is very significant for our survival and confidence today!

Listen to the writer to the Hebrews again (speaking of the high priests of the old covenant):

7:23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office;

7:24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.

7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

7:26 Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

What an encouragement!

Later he writes

HEB 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Just as Paul tells us to set our hearts on things above, here we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!

Ascension reminds us that Jesus is enthroned and is to be worshipped, AND that he is the one who stands before God on our behalf – interceding for us.

Listen to Paul writing to the Romans:

Rom 8:31  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Rom 8:32  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Rom 8:33  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

Rom 8:34  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Rom 8:35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

Rom 8:36  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Rom 8:37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

The work of Christ before the throne of God never ends – he is interceding for us now!

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3.         Practically – the ascension reminds us of the Second Coming of Jesus to judge the world and the need to be ready at all times to give account our use of our lives, our time and resources.

We  go to Luke’s second book again – to Acts chapter one – to settle this matter.

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Set your hearts on things above – says Paul.

Fix our eyes on Jesus – says the writer to the Hebrews!

“Why are you looking into the sky? – the question of the angels to the apostles – is a different question.

They were looking to the past – to the Jesus whose work on earth was done!

They had to look to the future – but remember that he would come back! In the same way!

Whatever your priorities are – whatever you spend your energy on – wherever your heart it – it’s best to get the orientation of your life sorted out. Get your act together!   Because…

… in the words of the creeds:

 He ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. (Apostle’s Creed).

OR

 On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end. (Nicene Creed)

Ascension reminds us

  1. His work on earth was completed well
  2. He is now the exalted Christ to be worshipped
  3. He will come again to judge us!

We need to be ready to give an account of what we have done with our lives and our gifts!

May we hear His voice today!

Amen.

Sunday 13 May – love one another how?

Readings: Psalm 51, verses 10 – 13; 15 – 17   and John 15, verses 10 – 17
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

I often wonder what it would have been like if we had lived in bible times. The sacrificial system that the Old Testament believers had was fascinating.

There was a lot of focus on justice – on things being fair. Fair scales, fair wages, fair treatment of strangers and aliens (the human type of course).

And fair punishment for people who did things wrong.

The concept of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not to create some kind of barbaric tit-for-tat competition, but to ensure justice. To use the metaphor literally, it would be unfair for you to lose both eyes as a punishment for blinding someone in one eye.

Sacrifices were part of the deal – and here one has to say that it seems unfair that an animal or bird should lose its life to pay for human sins. But it was part of their lives. In the Jewish Passover – it was the blood of a lamb painted on the doorways and lintels of the houses that saved them. A scapegoat was also used – and the sins of the nation symbolically transferred to the animal before it was sent out into the wilderness.

I just would have had issues with all the slaughter and blood. I’m no vegetarian, but I am happy not to have to chase the chicken around the back yard and kill it before cooking it for tea.

I watched a great scene once on the weekend programme involving a detective called Barnaby – Midsomer Murders. I always wonder if there’ll be anyone left in Midsomer as they all seem to get bumped off.

This cook is sitting next to the rabbit hutch with a rabbit on her lap – and she’s stroking it lovingly. Sweet scene for little children. And suddenly without warning she rings its neck – and takes it to the kitchen to skin. Here bunny bunny bunny….

And so David – in Psalm 51 – after being caught out in the act of adultery – confronted by the prophet Nathan – and showing real sorrow for his bad decisions, has this to add:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (16-17)

I don’t think that a payment in money – even to buy an animal to sacrifice – is helpful. It’s almost a token. It’s like breaking something at school and mum gets the bill. No – if you deliberately break something you should pay for it! Of course there are grey areas – sometimes we just do idiotic things and accidents happen.

David recognised – after serious self examination which is entirely appropriate at any time of the year – that it wasn’t enough to make reparation with a sacrifice. It didn’t really impress God, he says in his prayer addressing the Lord:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The inner attitude is the key. And even when the prophet Samuel chose David as King from eight brothers, the requirement was that people look on outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.  God knew David’s heart then – and valued his passion and commitment. David when he messed up knew that the attitude of the heart is the key thing.

A broken and contrite heart is more important than writing out a cheque in compensation. That’s why community service is good for many – because they have to get involved and get connected with real people. And in restorative justice they have to face victims or their families and fess up!

Sacrifice is central to Christian life. Ultimately God himself provides the sacrifice – and ultimate test of generosity and what we call GRACE – undeserved favour. List to Jesus’ words again from the Gospel reading:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-23)

As Easter draws to a close we should reflect on people who have sacrificed much for us. And on mother’s day especially we think of mums who served us and nurtured us, giving their all for us.

Most of all we think still of  Jesus who laid down his life for us.

In response to these sacrifices, let us live lives that are sacrificial too. The world will be a much better place for it.

We can become people who have a heart for God and in doing so have a heart for others – loving each other as He has loved us – with a sacrificial love.

(From the College archives, 2010)

 

Sunday sermon 6 May – Plugged into Jesus

Readings: Acts 8: 26-40 and John 15:1-8

MESSAGE

I was never good at Maths! But I have come to understand the ideas of Paul Hiebert about sets – in relation to people and organisations! There are two kinds of sets – he suggests. Bounded sets – and centred sets.  He wrote about this about 30 years ago! A bounded set is a group – an organisation that we belong to – because we’ve recognised that you have to cross some kind of line to get there. For example – if you join a club, you agree up front on the rules and expectations, including dress code and fees. Churches have traditionally been like this – you had to apply to be a member and read the expectations first (helpful) and then agree to abide by them.

I recently encountered a local church that has as a requirement of membership that you attend church twice on Sundays. By joining you agreed to that. No exceptions. And in the organisation all pastors have to offer two services every week. All churches have minimum expectations for members like this – and the basic one is Baptism which should come with a public profession of faith. And with this comes certain responsibilities and privileges.

A great example in Bible history of a bounded set is found in the reading from Acts today. The travelling treasurer – a eunuch from Ethiopia who went to Jerusalem – encounters Philip the evangelist on the road. This man had come to worship! (v27). It is not surprizing that an Ethiopian should do that. There had been Jews in Ethiopia since the time of King Solomon. (Isaiah 11:11 and 56:4-5 refer to Ethiopia and to eunuchs by the way).

The Jewish organisation of the day was a bounded set – as was seen in the structure of the temple – which had a series of areas that people were not allowed into.  This temple had been developed by Herod the Great over 40 years – and was like a wonder of the ancient world! People travelled from all over the Mediterranean region and Asia to see it. It was like the Taj Mahal today – or Christchurch’s cathedral when it was standing. People marvelled at it.

But only Jews really belonged and had access. And the requirement for being a Jew (circumcision) was a serious business – plus adherence to many laws!

If you were a traveller and not Jewish you could get into the outer court (of the Gentiles). But no further.  Odd really because when you read the Old Testament it was clear that what they had was to be for all the nations! The God they worshiped was the God of all the earth. Listen to Psalm 22 which is one of the readings for today: 27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.

So when this Eunuch comes in Acts 8 – all the way from African Ethiopia – a long way in his chariot – he would have had limited access. In fact Deuteronomy 23:1 specifically excluded men like him: No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.

Others also had restrictions – look for example at the court of the women. Ritually pure Jewish women of course were allowed. There were specific exclusions for those who had menstruated or had had sexual intercourse and so forth.

Then there was the Court of Israel. The men only – and again ritually pure men! There are similar things that would have excluded men.

The real temple area – the Sanctuary – was for ritually pure priests and Levites. Nice music, prayer and sweet smelling incense for them only.

And then there was this enormous curtain at the rear of the Sanctuary where you found the Holy of Holies! The high priest went in there once a year on Yom Kippur – and sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat in the pre-Babylonian exile days. After the destruction of the first temple that space was empty.

Now do you remember what Jesus did – we looked at this before Easter? He went in there and messed up their tables in the courts of the temple. He would have been zealous for the temple because of its intended purpose – as a house of prayer! They had turned it into something else.

Jesus not only cleansed the temple – he broke ALL those rules all the time about sin and ritual purification. He was not keen on their bounded and exclusive set!

He also  totally redrew this map of access to God!! He talked to and touched Gentiles – lepers – and bad people. And all kinds of ritually unclean people touched him!

Jesus connected with all kinds of people who were exluded from the temple. – people like the Ethiopian who would have wanted to worship but could not really have full access.

How exciting therefore when Jesus says: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father in secret!” That’s radical and revolutionary stuff! There are no exclusions here at all. The holy place is redefined!

So back to Acts 8:

And when Philip starts talking to this man on his chariot – a physically deformed eunuch who had travelled SO FAR to just get to the outer court – this encounter is DYNAMIC! The eunuch is reading His Old Testament Bible out loud – which was common in those days  (in Greek)– and needs someone to explain the words of Isaiah! Philip asks him a question – and the man invites him into his chariot!

There is something very moving about the conversation – because of the passage itself. There are two possible applications to the eunuch:    “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.  Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

This man had been physically cut – castrated. Not by choice. Like a sheep to be slaughtered. And – “in his humiliation he was deprived of justice”. Being a castrated male was an in-between state and not a great position socially. Deprived of justice – I think so. And so the man asks: “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

In other words –“ could this apply to me?” A conversation follows and a conversion! And he gets baptised! Brilliant! The line that I love is this one: “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” (NRSV v 37)

I am sure there were lots of things that prevented him from progressing in his Jewish faith. And there would be churches today who would make it difficult for people to get to that point too! But not on this day! And he goes on his way rejoicing – which implies he had a story to tell.

How startling and radical has the Easter story not been? What happens when Jesus dies? That heavy duty curtain shutting us out of their view of the presence of God – that last barrier – is ripped! Yay and Hallelujah!

THE CHALLENGE

Here’s a thought. Are we not a bit like this too? We want people who show up to conform at least to our brand of thinking or worship!! Mandatory things from OUR POINT OF VIEW.

The BOUNDED SET is a very exclusive kind of thing.

CONTRAST THAT WITH A CENTRED SET.

A centred set is a bit different. This kind of organisation invites people to journey towards a common goal or set of values. It is not a closed group but more like a loose association of people moving in the same direction.

For Christians – the centre is not a belief or a tradition but a PERSON! The first Christians were called people of THE WAY!

I am beginning to wonder whether we should even use the word Christian at all! Follower of Christ – yes! Disciple of Jesus – yes! Jesus-follower – Oh Yes!

The set of the Christian faith is centred in JESUS.We look to him for life. For forgiveness. For healing and reconciliation (remember last week?). Even the buildings are meant to help people find Jesus! And yes we have a mission statement that says we are to “build loving communities that help people find and follow Jesus”. The focal point is Jesus! The building we meet in here is just a tool!

Go to some churches – and horror of horrors they are like that Jewish Temple! They have altars and altar rails – and while I enjoyed receiving communion at them when I was a temporary Anglican – they are expressions of bounded sets again.

The first Christians BROKE DOWN BARRIERS of all sorts. Listen to Galatians 3:28 – probably one of the most significant verses in the New Testament: Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. One IN CHRIST JESUS!

And so when we come to the GOSPEL reading today – it seems to make more sense!    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Remain – abide – live in relationship with, connected to Jesus the vine – the true vine – through whom life pumps into us! Apart from me you can do nothing!

Being connected to Jesus – together – is the only way to do this! And our job is to get people moving in the right direction towards that centre! And it’s not necessarily organised! A vine is not very systematic or tidy. But the branches are plugged into the vine! The branches are centred in Jesus! And outside of that it’s pretty dead!

WHAT EXCITING MISSION OPPORTUNITIES EXIST FOR US TODAY

Like Philip – if you are led by the Holy Spirit – you might bump into someone with whom you can have the conversation that changes lives! Once they are connected – the life flows. It points to a relationship with Jesus as key!

A final comment: An Australian said this (amazing wisdom!) – There are two main methods for keeping cattle on the ranch. One is to build a fence around the perimeter. The other is to dig a well in the centre of the property.

To quote John Ortberg (Is the question for Christians “Out or In?” or “Farther or Closer?”) – If we focus on Jesus as the centre, then the key question becomes whether someone is oriented toward him or away from him. We realize that God is in a much better position than we are to know who’s in and who’s out. We also realize that everyone has something to learn, that everyone has a next step to take, and we don’t have to make ourselves seem more different than we really are. We embrace our common humanity.

We need to get people moving towards Jesus!

Phillip did that with a man from Ethiopia whose name we don’t even know! But the results were first class! A great outcome! A man connected to Jesus! Plugged into the vine!