Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sunday sermon 22 July – “Hard sayings”

SUNDAY 9.00am

Readings: John 6:48-60; 66-69

One of the most taxing times of my life was when I was in my 3rd year of university – in a four year course. I was overloaded with too many subjects. One of them was a final year paper in homiletics.What’s that? You may ask. Homily ring a bell? One definition is “that branch of rhetoric that treats of the composition and delivery of sermons or homilies”. Great theologians like Barth were unimpressed with relating preaching to common rhetoric, of course. Preaching is a biblical proclamation that is quite different. It’s not just speech making.

To show you what I mean about the stress involved, the final exam involved choosing a bible text from the Old or New Testament, and developing a sermon outline and motivating it. The exam paper was about 25 pages thick. It included the readings you had to choose from – in Hebrew or Greek. Your choice – you could choose any one of the unseen passages and then translate it before you did your sermon thing. Totally unnerving.

Thankfully I found this passage from John 6 and was able to answer the question after doing the translation:

Joh 6:66  From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Joh 6:67  “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Joh 6:68  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Joh 6:69  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

It was one of the many hard sayings of Jesus that caused disciples to turn away. Which saying in the passage is the hard saying?  Good question.

This is such a complex passage – we are tempted to look for the easy way out here.

We can latch onto the “flesh” of the son of man and the “blood” and take the easy road – the wide road – and equate that with?  Communion of course. So often people jump to that conclusion.

I want to suggest to you that it is not primarily communion that Jesus was talking about at all. For a couple of reasons:

Flesh

The word “flesh” is not used by Jesus or Paul in relation to communion – always “body”. They are very different.

Moses

The comparison with Moses’ manna is crucial.  Listen again:


Joh 6:48  I am the bread of life.

Joh 6:49  Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.

Joh 6:50  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.

Joh 6:51  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Jesus is not essentially talking about a supper – holy communion – that he had not yet established or commanded. He may be alluding to it.

He is talking about LIFE – a key word in John’s gospel.

“I am the bread of life” could be translated in Asian cultures “I am the rice of life”

It’s a staple food – on which people depend – just as manna was something they needed in the desert to survive.

The difference is that the manna only kept them going day by day. Like the Lord’s prayer where we pray for “daily bread” meaning “food enough for the day”.

Go back to John 1 – which you would have read this week in the Essential Jesus Challenge. Listen again:

Joh 1:4  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

Joh 1:5  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Joh 1:11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Joh 1:12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

Joh 1:13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Joh 1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Receiving Christ is more than an intellectual thing.

It is about taking him into your life in the fullest sense.

He is the Word who BECAME FLESH. There’s the next clue.

He is the bread.

He is the flesh – a human being who is God and whom we take to heart and receive.

Listen again to John 6: 56 and 57:

Joh 6:56  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

Joh 6:57  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

So what do we do about this?

It was such a challenging statement  – one of the HARD SAYINGS of Jesus – that we read that people stopped following Jesus. Listen again:

Joh 6:66  From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Joh 6:67  “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Joh 6:68  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Joh 6:69  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Hurray for Peter. Do you think he understood what Jesus meant when he said that his followers were to CONSUME him? Unlikely. But he would have known that sticking with Jesus was still the best way.

Listen again to this challenging line:

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (v 53).

Or these:

Joh 6:55  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

Joh 6:56  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

The word “remain” is also translated as “abide” or “live”.

Life comes from eating the flesh and drinking the blood of this Jesus.

That’s risky. It’s not literal – although many have applied it to communion in an indirect sense.

I think it’s relational – it’s the extension of the idea of receiving Jesus into your heart, your mind, and your very being at the deepest level.

When we take Jesus and all he offers and is into our very core, we have eternal life, we will be raised up on the last day, and we will enter into a new place of living.

It puts salvation into a new perspective really.

It’s not just saved from Sin – but being united with the Son and through Him being caught up into the reality of God.

Verse 57 stretches us in this direction

Joh 6:57  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

We too live because of the Son.

A hard saying should not cause us to run away – we should run towards Him.

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Sunday Sermon @ 9.00am 15 July 2012 – Seek the Lord

Readings: Psalm 19:7-14; Isaiah 55:1-11; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5;  John 5:35-47

Seek the Lord

We had our last Alpha evening this week. It’s been a great time and I am going to miss the group on Wednesdays. Of course there is still the option of joining our Wednesday night home group! 🙂

At the last evening Mike shared some very interesting bloopers from church bulletins. Thankfully none of them are from our Sunday notices.

The one that got my attention is this one which appeared in a Baptist church newsletter: The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’

So here’s the question today. Don’t answer it. Just think about it.

How much time do we spend searching for Jesus?    (Or seeking Jesus)

In that beautiful passage from Isaiah 55 we heard today we find these words:

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.

Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

In Bible times things were very different.  Jesus (in John 5 which we also heard today) had this to say to the religious (Jewish) people (leaders probably) of his day:

39 You diligently studythe Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

This quest for Jesus cannot happen unless people are TOLD that He’s the one!  The Jewish people of the time had the expectation of a Messiah – but as John tells us in John 1, “his own received him not”.

Those who did had a story to tell. They proclaimed the good news about Jesus. He touched their lives and they were committed and excited about the story of what He had done for them.

And we have the same story to tell. But we can’t really tell people with integrity unless God is real to us! Our story (or testimony if you like) must add up.

We need to know the reality of our faith. And that requires effort.

So during these 20 weeks – as you read the Bible more and reflect on the truths – the essential truths about Jesus that you discover – the key thing is seeking God.

We need to know him more – as Paul puts it writing to the Ephesians:

Eph 1:16  I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  Eph 1:17  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

So will you seek him?

Listen to this Psalm from 1st Chronicles:

1Ch 16:8  Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

1Ch 16:9  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

1Ch 16:10  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

1Ch 16:11  Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

And of course there is God’s word to the exiles – those taken captive into Babylon who longed for the presence of God in his temple again.

Jer 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jer 29:12  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

Jer 29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

It’s about seeking the presence of God – an intimate relationship – prayer time in which you can

  • Hold up to Him what you read in Scripture, and ask him to help you understand it.
  • Hold up your life to him – your greatest challenges and fears, hopes and joys
  • Hold up your family and friends to him – not just praying for their safety and prosperity, but also that they may seek the Lord while he may be found!
  • Hold up the world to him – standing in the gap in intercession for the nation and the nations.
  • Hold up the Bible to Him more –and ask Him to speak to you through it!

ON THIS BIBLE SUNDAY – the question must be asked.

Do we have this passion? Just looking at the excitement of the Kiriwina people and their children – the joy of receiving the bible in their own language – it begs the question:

Are we excited about our faith?

Do we open our bibles with the same joy and anticipation?

Someone said this of the Bible: “The Bible – like a bank – is more helpful when it is open.”

Is it?

And will our hearts be open when we read it?

It’s all about Jesus – and having our hearts open to Him.

Listen again to John 5, verse 37:

37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.

The truth is, when we believe in the one God sent (Jesus) His word does well in us!

Paul puts it like this in Colossians:

Col 3:12  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Col 3:13  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Col 3:14  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Col 3:15  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Col 3:17  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Is the word of Christ dwelling in you richly?

This is more than just the bible – because it is the Holy Spirit who takes the word of Christ and makes it a living word.

This seeking the Lord – an intimate relationship with him – through reading his word and prayer, and allowing his word to saturate our hearts and minds, leads not only to our personal transformation, but the shared life of worship, gratitude and thanksgiving  in the family of God – the church.

Listen to the reading from Isaiah again. There is a life-generating picture here:

10 As the rain and the snow

    come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

    without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

    It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

God’s word brings this life!

It’s up to us if we are to give it the time of day.

Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Sunday Sermon @10.30am – Bible Sunday – “So how does God speak to us?”

Readings: Psalm 19:7-14; Isaiah 55:1-11; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5;  John 5:35-47

Message:

I wonder if you can remember your first Bible? Think back to the person who gave it to you.

And then think about all the bibles you have had access to in your life.

It was always so simple really! And for most of us – the bible we read in the language of our hearts! Our mother tongues.

The Bible has had a huge impact on the world – from the time that it was translated into Latin (The Vulgate – meaning vulgar language, or common language) and then by courageous men into other common tongues – Luther into German and people like Tyndale and Wycliffe into English.

It shaped the identity of nations and languages. And it has impacted so many things in life that we take for granted – especially in English Language and idiom.

BUT DOES IT REALLY SPEAK TO YOU?

The overwhelming message from the readings today is about God communicating to us.

And it raises a real question about the word “WORD”.

We tend to read into the Bible our modern understanding of things.

But take for example Psalm 19 – in the reading which we used for our call to worship David extols the value of the law, statutes, precepts, commands and ordinances.

I think this is a great kiwi passage really.

All of these words describe something in the life of the writer that is “SWEET AS!” Listen again:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure
and altogether righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

All of these words describe a standard, a set of guidelines – boundaries that the modern man (or post-modern man) would prefer not to bother with.

And yet they are described as “more precious than gold” and “sweeter than honey from the honeycomb”.

Having the Law – God’s guidelines – was the thing that made Moses’ people – David’s people – the Hebrews – special and unique.  This was their treasure.

You only have to go to a Synagogue today and see how those scrolls are carried and treasured as they are brought out to be read. Or better still – go to the Simchat Torah – the festival of rejoicing in the Law as they reach the end of the annual cycle and start again from Genesis – like a book you love so much and read it again and again – it’s always got something new and yet it is warm and familiar!

THE BIBLE INCORORATES THE LAW!

We don’t ignore it as Christians. In fact there are three things that we should consider:

  1.  The law is good in its prohibitions in that it acts as a restraint of sin and promotes goodness in society. At a practical level children today need to know the commandments, for example, and these things should be taught at public schools.  And spoken of at home. And lived out at home – for example when parents exhibit faithfulness in marriage they are saying that adultery – unfaithfulness to your spouse – is not good. When they model honesty (giving back things not yours) they are standing in the face of stealing and saying – this is not right.
  2. The law – for Christians – is understood as making us aware of sin and our need for grace! It is a pedagogicus  (Galatians 3:14) –  a schoolmaster, a tutor that shows us where we are wrong and that we need Christ! The idea that the law convicts us of our need for Jesus is quite strong especially in the Lutheran tradition.
  3. The law is a rule of life for believers! This is what the Reformers called the “third use of the law”, reminding us of our responsibilities.  We are still sinners and we are being transformed – and the knowledge of the law keeps us on the right path.

SO HEAR’S THE CHALLENGE ON THIS BIBLE SUNDAY -DO YOU LOVE GOD’S LAW AS MUCH AS DAVID DID?

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure
and altogether righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

And then our second reading today speaks of the “word” of God. Listen to Isaiah 55 again:

10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

So – “my word that goes out from my mouth” – what is that?

God speaking? God speaking though his prophet Isaiah?

In our tradition we have a real commitment to the idea of revelation – that God’s speaks.

Yes he gave the law which is also revelation of his purpose – with broad principles for the life of His people in those days.

Through the PROPHETS God spoke directly. The Bible has a large chunk of prophetic writings – the major and minor prophets. Major prophets are bigger books than minor prophets.

Much of that prophecy is linked to the history of the time. And these prophet statements are preceded with a key statement:

כה אמר יהוה

Thus says the Lord – which is weakened in the NIV for example in Isaiah 50 with this:  “This is what the Lord says.”

The prophetic “word” of the Lord was understood to be a direct intervention – a relevant message in specific situations in the history of his people.

A classic example is that of the prophet Samuel – when he came looking to anoint a king for Israel:

1Sa 16:4  Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

The elders were trembling – because when this man spoke God spoke. This was the WORD of the Lord directly.

So the Bible (the Old Testament particularly) has

LAW

PROPHETS

And the third kind of book is simply called

WRITINGS

These include the Psalms, Proverbs, history (Chronicles and Samuel, Ezra and Nehemiah, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther, Job) and poetry (like Song of Songs).

Of course a lot of Hebrew writing is poetic. Many Psalms have poetic repetitions  like Psalm 19, where the repeated lines emphasis or add meaning.

SO WHEN WE GET TO THE NEW TESTAMENT, listen again to what Paul writes to Timothy:

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

“Scripture” here simply means writings – all that is written down.  It says simply:

πασα γραφη θεοπνευστος

which means – All scripture is God-breathed or inspired.

What is Paul referring to here?

The Scriptures that they had when he was doing his missionary work were the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings of the Old Testament.

They had no New Testament at that stage. The gospels were not all written down and would not have been readily available. And even Paul’s letters in the early stages would not have been regarded as “Scripture”.

SO HOW WAS GOD SPEAKING THEN?

The overwhelming understanding of God speaking in New Testament times is that he spoke through Jesus, who is referred to as THE WORD OF GOD.

John chapter 1 is very clear on this:

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Joh 1:2  He was with God in the beginning.

Joh 1:3  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Joh 1:4  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

And then in verse 14:

Joh 1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The word here is LOGOS – from Greek.

And of course the introduction to the letter to the Hebrews backs this up:

Heb 1:1  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,

Heb 1:2  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

So not only is Jesus one who speaks on behalf of God (a prophet) – he is also God himself in person. And He IS A MESSAGE – THE message from God.

So how does God speak to us?

Modern people are cynical about this.

They sometimes want to know – “do you hear voices”.

In my life that has been the exception rather than the norm.

We have then message though!

We have JESUS – the Word of God.

We can know what God is like through Jesus.

THE BIBLE is also referred to as the WORD OF GOD.

God HAS SPOKEN through the bible. Not just in the specific laws, or the words of the prophets, but in the stories of people who worked out their faith in real life situations.

And through Jesus! The Gospels are very precious to people because they record the eye-witness accounts of what Jesus said and did.

Like all witnesses of events, the recording of the original is tricky. IF you compare the same story in Matthew, Mark and Luke for example, there are different words used.

And there are LANGUAGE LAYERS.

On this Bible Sunday the emphasis is on bible translation.

There are these layers, for example, in the words that we read of Jesus:

Our language (English, Afrikaans, Korean, Chinese etc)

The New Testament language (Koine or common Greek)

And then the language that Jesus spoke when he said what he said (Aramaic)

THE BIBLE WAS COMPILED

It was only later that the bible came to exist in the form that we have with the books that we have when the Church recognised these books as SCRIPTURE – writings of authority.

It took almost 400 years before the church agreed on the final books to be recognised.

And there are still two major bibles – the Catholic bible has books that the Protestant bible does not include.

And there are many translations – even in English – so many that for some people it becomes difficult to really get into the bible and understand it.

SO HOW DOES GOD SPEAK TO US TODAY?

Mainly through the Bible – although this does not mean we open it at any page and read a verse for direction for the day.

It requires study.

It requires interpretation and application.

The general truths of Jesus’ teaching are the key factor by which we interpret the whole bible.

So it’s really important to know what Jesus’ taught and what he did as an example.

THE ESSENTIAL JESUS CHALLENGE

Over the next 20 weeks we have a great opportunity to read these 100 passages chosen as essential to our growth as Christians.

And we have small groups meeting where we can ask questions and discuss what we have read.

Most important questions?

What does it say?

What does it mean?

How do I apply it to my life.

OUT OF THAT comes prayer – asking God to change us as we apply his word to our lives.

Sunday sermon 8 July @ 9.00am – Grace is sufficient….

Readings:

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Mark 6:1-13

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

A Prophet Without Honour

6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[1] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil[2] spirits.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Footnotes:

  1.  Mark 6:3  Greek Joses, a variant of Joseph
  2.  Mark 6:7 Greek unclean

Message                                                                                                                              8 July 9.00am

So you think you have problems.

Here’s Paul – who has the most amazing conversion experience AND is taken in to the third heaven in an ecstatic experience – the most amazing spiritual high, and he has this thorn in the flesh, something horrible that despite prayer just doesn’t go away.

Here’s Jesus – who himself came from heaven – who has his home town people protesting and insulting him (notice how they don’t refer to his father at all –  not a respectful way) – how they are offended by him – and how he can’t even do any miracles – how amazed he is by their lack of faith. Jesus here is the prophet without honour.

You think you have problems. Read about Paul’s other adventures and spells in prison, and of course Jesus’ trial and execution, and you know that our lives are not that bad really.

What do we learn about their responses?

We start with Jesus:

Jesus is undaunted! He leaves those who don’t believe and goes around teaching from village to village (verse 6 continued).

And he does some sending work! Missionary work! He appoints the Twelve to do his kind of stuff!

Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil[b] spirits.

And it’s all very practical:

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

I love verse 10. I do this in my own life – not literally as we wear closed shoes these days and vacuum our dust.  Mark 6:11

11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

It’s about people welcoming the message I bring!

As part of their training, and keeping on with his Mission – Jesus lets them do what he struggled do in his own home town because they did not believe.

Undaunted.

We too should not let people who oppose us stop the mission that God has given us!

And note that this was a good method – the two by two thing – for visiting people in their homes. The modern cults that knock on your door are modelling this at least, even though what they sell is dodgy and unbiblical.

Conversations about Jesus have always happened in homes. The early church carried on in homes too. So you should not be surprized that we have home groups.

And then there’s Paul:

Paul was never trained by Jesus like the twelve. But he went out too – on three major mission trips, speaking in market places, synagogues and homes!

He was God’s man – the 13th Apostle and the apostle to the non-Jewish world! That’s us! Yay for  Paul!

It’s Paul’s story that I am intrigued with today and want to focus on.

THE THORN IN THE FLESH

Do we know what this was? A physical ailment? A psychological one? He never married so we know it wasn’t his wife that was a pain!

People speculate about this.

WAS HE BAD AT PRAYING? (Only three times?)

Some suggest that he didn’t understand what it means to pray without ceasing. Is three times really enough? Listen again to verses 7 and 8:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

This was clearly a serious struggle – the problem is identified by Paul as a “messenger from Satan” which tormented him. And his prayer involved pleading.  Literally – parakaleo, not that different from parakletos, the comforter who is called alongside us.

There are some of us that call out, pleading in our prayers.

The Lord did answer his prayer. Here’s the answer:

. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ”

Grace sufficient for each occasion. Paul had his prayer answered. Not in the way he might have liked.

He did receive GRACE – in a promise and in reality. He understood that in weakness we can only depend on the power of God.

This would keep him from being conceited (verse 7). Instead humility and dependence became his strength.

What is this GRACE? We use the term all the time. We say it as a blessing to each other (we should open our eyes when we do as we are saying it to each other not to God!).

It’s the gift of God – by which we are saved – redeemed – set free – liberated.

Grace can also mean kindness, or favour. Paul kept using it because he knew it worked. Listen to his greetings and various statements:

Act_20:24  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

Rom_1:7  To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom_16:20  The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

1Co_1:3  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1Co_16:23  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

2Co_1:2  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2Co_9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Gal_6:18  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Eph_1:2  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gal_1:3  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

1Th_5:28  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

2Th_1:2  Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

2Co_13:14  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And so it goes on.

And it is enough for us too. We can get through our struggles – we can face our thorns in the flesh – we can overcome through God’s grace. Grace ultimately reminds us that we are not alone.

Paul concludes with these words:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • This is not a “grin and bear it” attitude.
  • It’s also not a kiwi “she’ll be right” attitude. “All good” it is not.

This man was a giant of faith who has shaped our thinking as Christians with his many words that appear in the New Testament.

  • We don’t leave large thorns in our bodies that can be pulled out. Like teeth that have rotted away, some things need to be extracted!
  • Many things we can avoid – by not exposing ourselves to temptation.

Most of all – it’s about our walk with God. Our prayer life. Our knowledge of Scripture. And hearts that are open to God and His Holy Spirit.

Paul could say “for when I am weak, then I am strong” because he understood the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.

This whole discussion in 2 Corinthians is in the context of people who opposed him – just like Jesus.

SO WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What have you got that is a thorn in the flesh?

Have you asked God to speak to you – to give you an answer like He did to Paul?

If anything, our struggles also keep us humble and prayerful. Both are good.

Amen.

SILENT REFLECTION – perhaps you can reflect on these things:

  • What is your thorn?
  • Hope? Are you hopeful?
  • Grace? Do you understand it?
  • Do you want to experience his love and power?
  • Are you open to the Holy Spirit?

Sunday sermon 1 July 10 30am – what are you building?

Sunday 10.30 am family service.

Readings: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

6 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Footnotes:     Deuteronomy 6:4 Or The Lord our God is one Lord; or The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; or The Lord is our God, the Lord alone

Ephesians 6:1-4

6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a]

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Matthew 7:24-37

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

“He who builds according to every man’s advice will have a crooked house.”  — Danish Proverb

SERMON              So what are you building?

This young teen was helping his uncle build a house. And he was sent to the local timber yard to buy some timber. He gave the measurements of the wood in height and width, but not in length. “How long do you want it?” the man asked. Not being very bright the student replied – “well quite a long time, really. We’re building a house.”

So what are you building?

We recently celebrated with a family as they moved into a new house, and I had one of those many blank moments – I could not remember the bible verse I wanted to refer to as we prayed through the house. Of course it came to me later as these things do: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain” (Ps 127:1)

I’ve never owned a house. I haven’t built one either. So I’m not an expert on the physical building matters. More than 60 per cent of New Zealanders do live in their own houses (2006 census).

For the Christian, what we build into the lives of our children – our families – is vastly more important than what we add onto the buildings. Or how big or small they are.

Today’s dedication of a young baby of one year is a good moment to reflect on what we are passing on to our children when it comes to faith.

The roots of this are early in the Old Testament – my favourite passage on families.

5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

The symbols on the door frame of a Jewish house are part of a bigger picture – what they stood for, who they were, and their faith conversations sitting at home, walking along the road (today that would include driving in the car! Or your jet if you have one!), and when you go to bed and get up.

It was about the journey of life. In fact the race of life is a good picture (with the Olympics soon upon us). Like a relay race – the baton was to be passed on from one generation to another by the parents.

  • It’s more than just dedications as ceremonies (or baptisms of little children, or what used to be termed Christenings).
  • And it’s a lot more than just our Kidzchurch programmes, as great as they are. Sunday school was never intended to replace the role of parents in passing on the baton of faith to children! He original Sunday schools were for the sake of illiterate children who needed to read and write but were trapped in child labour through the week!

They became a token faith-teaching exercise and in many places a baby-sitting facility so that adults could do their adult “church” stuff!

The readings today are focussed on these matters.

So there’s the first reading about parents’ responsibility to pass on faith. And while the dads often give that job to the mums, Paul in the second reading (Ephesians) sorts the kids and the dads out with these words:

6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a]

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Dads are not meant to be passive partners in this God business.

I confess that I have often exasperated my children by majoring on minors and focussing on battles that were not worth fighting! And being a preacher I have probably said too little to my kids – mainly because I was always afraid of preaching at home too much.

My favourite reading of today’s set is the one from Matthew’s Gospel. I grew up next to the sea, and apart from 12 years away from the coast, have always been near the beach.

The idea of building houses on sand seems patently stupid of course. But we had high rise buildings built close to the sea. And the pile driving was extensive – very deep foundations were dug.

I get very nervous when there are landslips – seeing peoples’ houses collapse is becoming more common. Seeing their inner houses – spiritually, emotionally and psychologically – collapsing – is also terrible. Seeing people build on completely the wrong foundations – that is a disaster.

The words of Jesus are the key. Jesus suggests that we put his words into practice – and the houses of our lives will be strong.

Jesus only referred to the church twice in his teachings. The rest of the time was about The Kingdom of God – a system of different values and priorities which should make up the foundation of our lives.

We have to go beyond Jesus’ words to the whole of the Scriptures to get a full picture of God’s purpose for us as parents teaching our children.

A great starting point in Jesus’s teaching is the foundational idea that he introduces when he says to his followers, ‘When you pray, say ‘our Father””.

THE KING IN THE KINGDOM IS A FATHER

If fathers are not to exasperate their children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, what should be done then?

Here are some things that might help us in this process.

1.       The Dedication of children to God – mainly in prayer!

The dedication of our children to the Lord – whether in this kind of dedication moment officially, or from the moment they are conceived or take their first breath – is the acknowledgement that like our time and our money (which we considered last week) we are caretakers and life is gift! In the same Psalm about the Lord building the house otherwise it’s all built in vain, verse three reminds us:

Psalm 127:3  Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.

While we may as dads make a contribution that leads to conception, they are all part of the gift and blessing of God.

I know that the parents who brought their son to be dedicated to the Lord a long time before this formal event! The commitment of our children requires time given to prayer throughout their lives. It never ends as this story shows us:

STORY: A lady who turned 100 was asked what the best year of her life was. “That’s easy”, she replied, “the year I turned 90!” The interviewer asked why, to which she replied, “in that year all my children were safely in a retirement home!”

Prayer for their future, their education ( a huge challenge of choices, and recently I visited a local Christian school –a discussion we need to have with all our parents), they career and partner choices, and mainly that they will have a heart for the things of God and His kingdom.

Much of our parenting work then is done behind the scenes – is largely unseen by our children!

2.       As parents WE need to love one another!

The most powerfully modelling of the things of the Kingdom is done by the parents in their relationship with God and each other! And you need both.

People need to see the love of God in action – not just in commitment to God’s values and worship, but in caring for each other at home.

“Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” is fundamental to our family lives – with love as the most powerful tool to shape their lives.

The new commandment that Jesus gives us – love one another as I have loved you – applies at home more than anywhere else – it is in the home that all of this is ultimately experienced!

You can never love your little children enough. Through love and trust, they learn to love and trust. And they see that love firstly in your relationship as their parents.

3.       Introduce them to their Heavenly Father.

What amazing examples there are of God the Father’s love and care for us.

  • He is a God of compassion and comfort – listen to Paul:

2Co 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 2Co 1:4  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 

  • He is a Father of forgiveness – as seen in the story of the Prodigal son who did not keep his son a prisoner but let him go out and mess up things- but obviously waited for his return: Luk 15:20  So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The Father throws a party for the son who has come and says this:  Luk 15:24  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

  • He is a Good Father who gives good gifts:

Mat 7:9  “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Mat 7:10  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?

Mat 7:11  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

A final word from Paul again.

Paul was not a parent, but he spoke of his spiritual sons (like Timothy). He reminds us of the role of fathers in this passage:

1Th 2:10  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 1Th 2:11  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,1Th 2:12  encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Paul seems to be saying that they were being fathers who encourage, comfort and then URGE those he pastored to

“live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

THE FINAL MEASURE

The final measure of the success of our lives and those of our children is not their fame and fortune, but whether their lives are lived to a standard that is worthy of God.

His calling is to enter into the life of his Kingdom and His glory!

What a challenge!

The foundations have to be right, or what we invest all our energy and time into will collapse!

So what are you building? Let’s build on biblical foundations. Remember this:

“He who builds according to every man’s advice will have a crooked house.”  — Danish Proverb

Sunday sermon 9.00 am 1 July – “twelve”

Readings:

Psalm 30

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple.Of David.

I will exalt you, O Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
O Lord my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.
O Lord, you brought me up from the grave[b];
you spared me from going down into the pit.

Sing to the Lord, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favour lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
O Lord, when you favoured me,
you made my mountain[c] stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What gain is there in my destruction,[d]
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me;
O Lord, be my help. ”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

 

Mark 5:21-43

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

A Dead Girl and a Sick Woman

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”

36 Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

 Message:

In a previous congregation where I served there was a shower off the vestry. The story goes that the pastor could walk along the beach, have  a shower, and then share the Sunday sermon with the congregation. One of the previous pastors was rumored to have done that.

One Sunday I listened to him speak on this text.  The focus was about the woman touching the garment of Jesus and being healed. Somehow the preacher got us inside the story – and we touched the garment of Jesus and trusted Him for our own healing.

That’s a great option today. But if we study the text, the two stories are intriguing – Mark weaves them together in an fascinating way considering that everything else he shares in his gospel is very short and sharp and to the point.

And what is the fascinating thing that the two stories have in common?

  1. Two women
  2. Two daughters
  3. Two lots of twelve.

The woman who had suffered the “issue of blood” had endured this ordeal and the social exclusion it would have brought (being unclean etc.) for the same number of years – twelve years –  that the Talitha – the little girl had lived!

Some suffering is a very long drawn out affair. The older woman’s struggle was as long as the child’s whole life.

But the word was out that this Jesus could help. And she had little chance of making an appointment – she was ritually unclean and he was a Jewish man and rabbi.

And she was not as important and probably not as erudite as the synagogue leader called Jairus. Interesting that he is named – but the woman is not.

The ironic twist of verse 26 is also poignant.

26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

Perhaps she had not had the best care – there were probably not too few quacks around – and she was broke. No status. No doctor willing to treat her. No buying power, and social excluded as unclean, things had not gone well.

In the meantime Jairus had access to Jesus – and in fact Jesus had already responded to Jairus and was on his way to his house.

And the unnamed woman is a distraction – an interruption.

Hmm – sounds like some of my days when I feel stretched in different directions. It’s often the interruptions that are the real moments when you can make a difference in ministry.

And of course (verse 24) there’s this large clamouring crowd. Who knows why they were there? Like people who stop at an accident – or bystanders at a tragedy?

I watched video footage this week of a man crossing a street (jaywalking) in front of a taxi. The taxi stopped, reversed and drove up the pavement and into the man, such was the road rage of the driver. And then – that’s not all – he gets out of his taxi while the guy is lying on the ground, and kicks him senseless. More bizarre was the two men who stood still on the sidewalk watching with interest. Not making any move to stop this senseless violence.

Crowds gather for all kinds of reasons. And the woman is in the crowd on this day. The throng following Jesus were no doubt intrigued by his words and deeds.

Jesus – on his way to Jairus’ house to heal  “twelve” number one, the girl, the daughter of this important official – the crowds pressing in – and this woman – ‘twelve’ number two if you like – has the audacity, the gall, to touch Jesus’ clothes. We pick the story up in verse 27:

. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

Our storyteller has that magical insight of a narrator of course – telling us what her inner thoughts are about the potential of this encounter.

What we don’t know is what had happened in her mind and heart over those years. Such a long time of struggle.

Perhaps she was able to say afterwards, from Psalm 30:

O Lord my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

THE MYSTERY

It is an unusual account. Jesus knows something has happened. Listen again:

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.

The disciples are perplexed by his response. There is something illogical here. It could have been anyone or a number of people bumping into Jesus.

But he knows this is different – and he engages her face to face – commending her for her courage and her faith:

33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

There is something warm about the word “daughter” here. And of course the uncleanness does not flow to Jesus – rather the healing flows from him to the woman.

And our “twelve” number two – in this case it is the father’s faith that results in action. The Talitha dies – the messengers suggest Jairus gives up his quest for help – and Jesus has to face another crowd – this time of mourners.

Jesus is undeterred by the negative message. He encourages this synagogue ruler to keep trusting: 36 Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

And touching the little girl is again breaking custom – Jesus too would become unclean as a result. He persists. And In a caring way when she gets up, he makes sure she is fed.

WHAT’S TO BE DONE TODAY?

I guess there’s a good basis for us to get involved with the needy – the unclean of our generation – and to help people to trust Jesus for solutions to their problems too!

Beyond the physical healing in these accounts there is acceptance, intimacy, and love. Relationships make us human. Without others we cannot be ourselves. (John Macmurray – “I need you in order to be myself”.

WHAT WE CAN DO –REACH OUT to Jesus today! “Reach out and touch the Lord as he passes by…” – is the first line of a song we used to sing.

We can reach out for our own needs (like the older daughter) or like the Father of the younger daughter – come to Jesus and ask him for help. Either way we come in faith and trust.

We are not out of reach – nothing we have done can make us untouchable or unclean. Such is the grace of God.