Monthly Archives: July 2013

Sunday sermon 28 July – When you pray…

Reading:

Luke11:1-13

Luke 11:1  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Luke 11:2  He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.

Luke 11:3  Give us each day our daily bread.

Luke 11:4  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”

Luke 11:5  Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,

Luke 11:6  because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

Luke 11:7  “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

Luke 11:8  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Luke 11:9  “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Luke 11:10  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Luke 11:11  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?

Luke 11:12  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Luke 11:13  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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Sunday Sermon @ BBP

Story:

Learning to Pray (Bruce Larson)

There is a story that I hope is true about a man working the four to midnight shift every night. He walked home and his route passed a cemetery. One night he was in a particular hurry, and since the moon was full, he decided to take a short-cut through the middle of the cemetery. The route lopped five minutes off his walk, and soon it became his regular path. But on one particularly black night, he had an unfortunate mishap. He fell into a freshly dug grave. He wasn’t hurt but the hole was so deep he was unable to get out. He began to yell, but nobody heard him. Resigned at last to simply wait for morning, when his plight would be discovered, he pulled his coat up around his neck and huddled in a corner to try to sleep.

He was awakened in an hour or so by the noise of a falling body. A second unfortunate man had stumbled into this unexpected hole. Sleepily, the first arrival watched his companion trying frantically to crawl out. After a few minutes, he felt obliged to comment, “You’ll never get out that way.” Well—he did!

The story illustrates whimsically that all of us have undiscovered and unexpected powers—powers we didn’t know we had. One of the most effective ways to appropriate that power is through prayer.

This passage today is my favourite passage. Together with dozens of other favourite passages! Sorry – I can’t help it. The Bible is a treasure, is it not? Remember these:

“How I love your Law” says the Psalmist. “I meditate on it day and night”. (Psalm 1)

And Psalm 119:111 says this: Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.

Learning to pray from Jesus – is seen in this wonderful passage in Luke 11.

The pattern for prayer called the Lord’s prayer – well we know it all too well – and probably need to spend weeks digging into it. It’s worth a whole sermon series really.

For today – what we really need to hear is about the nature and character of God.

Jesus doesn’t even go through the whole of the Lord’s prayer here. We have to turn to Matthew chapter 6 (from verse 9) to get our longer version.

And it’s not surprising. Either Jesus got carried away on this occasion or Luke got carried away in the writing of his version of events!

This whole passage is about one thing!

The nature and character of God – specifically as FATHER.

Jesus leaps from the model of prayer to stories about the Father and fathers in general.

Yes he talks about a friend arriving at midnight asking for bread – emergency rations.

But that doesn’t get stuck on the responsibility of friends either. Remember that hospitality was normal and expected in that culture. Both from the guy who had his friend show up (at midnight!)and his friend whom he goes to for help.

In verse 8 Jesus says that friendship is not the reason for the man eventually getting out of bed to get bread

It’s about boldness. Listen again:

Luke 11:5  Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,

Luke 11:6  because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

Luke 11:7  “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

Luke 11:8  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Boldness is key to the relationship children have with their Fathers. Good fathers whom they trust at any rate.

With parents in general there is the freedom to ask what are called BIG ASKS!

So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray – the first words are key.

Our Father, (in Matthew – a corporate prayer together which is what we do) or following Luke, simply Father.  In both cases the word is ABBA – Father – which is intimate and personal.

“He invites his disciples to call upon God as children call upon a loving parent, trusting that they belong to God and that God wants for them what is good and life giving.”  (Elisabeth Johnson)

It is a radical shift fundamental to this new people of the Way – which became the Christian Faith we know today.

It’s about intimate love.

A wonderful platform onto which we can attach our theology – our beliefs about God’s love, forgiveness and patience. And also his commitment to truth and wanting the best for His children.

And Boldness in prayer is Jesus’ pattern – and it is linked to this intimate love. Because God is a father you can ask the world! He won’t always give it to you and he may say wait and trust me! But boldness is an antidote to fear and timidity!

And remember that all of this is not just linked to God’s love but it is grounded in God’s love – as the Apostle John writes in his first letter:

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:19  We love because he first loved us.

Then – linked to this too – is Trustworthiness. It comes close to Integrity.

The next story he tells is actually funny and powerful all at once.

You rotten old sinful fathers won’t give their children a snake when they ask for fish and a scorpion when they ask for an egg!

Come on people! Yes there are wicked dads but this is about FATHERHOOD.

Man its great when people become parents for the first time! Did you watch Baby prince George come out of hospital?

Did you see that dad? Did you hear what he said?

William – looking a very happy dad – was going on about the baby being tardy – and how he would have a word with him about it later! But he was all smiles – and I loved it when he took the baby from his wife. There’s a film clip of his dad doing that when he was a baby – taking him on one of those first public viewings – and cradling him so lovingly and proudly.

Image

It’s tough being a royal and living in the public eye and under the spotlight. A bit like Pastors kids – no paparazzi for them – just well-meaning church folk!

Parenthood is a wonderful gift.

Knowing God as Father is more wonderful. Knowing his nature and character is really important.

So remember

  • Intimate love
  • Boldness
  • Trustworthiness (the old term – faithfulness)

That last one – faithfulness – reminds me of the traditional hymn: “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee!” The scripture that underlies the hymn is James 1:17:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

May you grow in leaps and bounds in your relationship with God our Father – in your conversations with him – especially the honest ones where you pour out your heart – where you persist shamelessly like the man waking up his friend to get bread – with confidence, knowing he won’t give you something dangerous when you ask for the things you need.

Let me pray for you using Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-18

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Let’s save more time today and each day to pray more.

Amen.

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Sunday sermon 21 July – The best portion

Readings:

Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-52

Psalm 73:26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Sermon

We’re back here in the home of Lazarus and his sisters – Mary and Martha. It wasn’t long ago when we looked at the need to sit at Jesus’ feet.

The Lectionary readings for today force us to sit there again.

Jesus had no overhead projector. No amplifier for his voice when speaking to the crowds. No data projector and fancy pictures.

But his words were electrifying.

Nothing like this had ever happened before. No one had ever taught like this before.

These were the words from the one who is in fact THE WORD OF GOD – his whole life was God speaking. These were the words of Jesus – who was before things and in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). Paul in verse 19 of Colossians 1 reminds us that God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him (Jesus).

So what is significant. Well let’s tell the story again – so that we hear it anew.

Jesus had just finished telling that lawyer the story of the Samaritan whose faith led to action. The one who was a neighbour to a beaten up Jewish guy in the street. Remember?

So he and his disciples moved on to their next port of call – Bethany.

And Martha – ever hospitable – welcomed them in the proper way at her house.

Now Martha had a sister Mary – and she was, well – different. A bit of a dreamer perhaps. One of those meditative types with her head in the clouds.

She liked to listen to Jesus speak. And she would just sit at his feet and hang on his every word.

Martha was running around – in busy mode. Bizzy Bizzy busy lady.

And boy did she get worked up. She was so mad that eventually she burst out – to her guest Jesus – “doesn’t it bother you that this sister of mine is such a lazy lump. So impractical. Doesn’t lift a finger – just listens and dreams about what you say! If she takes you so seriously perhaps it would work if you told her to help me with these chores and the lunch! Just look at this mess in the kitchen.”

There was this interesting silence for a moment – and Jesus, with a smile, said “oh deary me Martha, Martha. This stuff you are doing is great – I love your hospitality. But you’re missing the really important things here. Don’t be distracted by the chores.

This is like a cake or a plate of food. Mary has her eye on the best portion! She is so going to enjoy this! This is the main course!

Come sit here for a while and let me tell you a story….

Well that’s my version of it.

So we can be kind to Martha today.

Some important points to remember:

1. God was in her house. One should really make every effort to be hospitable and welcoming. In fact this is a key thing in our mission in the community – having people around at tables – especially at homes. We’re not that good at this actually, although we are going better!

We do it at our Tuesday church. We sit around tables and eat and talk. And listen to peoples’ stories.

Our Family Ministry minister’s coffee machine is a key ministry tool with the families that meet here. And of course her amazing muffins. Like Friday at mainly music!

Our young adults have great conversations over food. The pizza people do well on Tuesdays.

Hospitality is a real sign of the love of God working in our lives. It shows that we value people and are interested in them. So too generosity of spirit and money – they are a sign of God working in our lives. We give because the Holy Spirit moves us. We care because we have that compassion that Jesus had for the crowds. And for the rich young ruler who walked away.

And last week we heard that SERVICE of our neighbour (and there’s more than one neighbour on the street) is what God wants us to do! But… (here comes point 2)

2. God was in her house. 

“Martha – won’t you stop and be still. Listen to these words that give life! Learn something from your irritating sibling!”

I quoted David Lose last week – the Lutheran professor of preaching (homiletics).

He tells the story of  his childhood – how his dad who was a pastor – did not have a great singing voice. And when those new-fangled microphones came in his dad used to forget to switch the thing off during the hymns. So everyone got to hear his less that brilliant voice. His singing was less than helpful.

David as a child used to get embarrassed by this. Listen to his story:

But on one of those Sundays when we were still relatively new to that church and town, when my dad had again forgotten to turn off the mic so that you could hear his off key-singing just above everyone else, and when I was again cringing in embarrassment, my mom noticed what was happening. I’m pretty sure she didn’t approve of my reaction, but she didn’t frown, or roll her eyes, or do any of the things parents are prone to do when they see their children overreacting to something. Instead, she leaned over to me, smiled understandingly, and then whispered, “You know, when your dad is gone, I’ll miss his singing.”

My mom understood, you see, something that I had totally missed: that sometimes you get so caught up in the act of singing that you forget all about yourself — you forget your insecurities and embarrassments, your limitations and your failings — you forget all the stuff you usually worry about and you just sing.

I think this story speaks of how often we miss the point entirely – like Martha. For David’s dad worship was not about perfection – it was about the moment.

Those of you who tap your watches on Sunday – probably miss the point too. There are those who tap their watches when we finish early as well. Something to do with not getting your money’s worth?

If you’re can’t sit still without worrying about the volume of the microphones or the heating or lighting – you may be missing the point as well.

If you are so busy caught up in the business and busyness of life – you may also miss the point.  Martha was anxious and troubled about stuff that was in fact meant to be wonderful and really fun.

And sitting at the feet of Jesus listening was part of the delight. It was a source of life for the soul – just as the food gave nourishment for the body. Jesus is the bread of life! His word feeds us today too. And he guides us and speaks to us and into our hearts when we take the time to sit at His feet.

It’s not about two different things really. It’s about being attentive to God in the midst of the ordinary things of life.

We have so divorced our spiritual lives from the ordinary – especially when we see our services and prayer meetings as the “spiritual” things – sectors – part of our week.

Jesus would do the so-called “spiritual” things – have those really life-changing conversations – over food anyway. The conversation at Zaccheus’ table for example. Those discussions each day with his disciples. Those special meals towards the end of his life.

So much so that we now have a meal as the focal point of our service today. Many churches have the Lord’s supper every week – more than once a week. (Here comes point 3 – or is this a 1 point sermon?)

3. God is in our house too.

We need to be attentive and let him speak. Through prayer. Through our bible reading. Through the words of others around us and especially in this community. Through the songs and through the sermon.

It’s the best portion – that won’t be taken away from us. Nothing will separate us from this intimacy with Jesus – our worship, devotion and gratitude to Him. Not even death. As Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message:  One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it–it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”

There needs to be a balance – a rhythm in our lives – a dynamic tension between form and content, service and devotion, doing it right and being attentive to Jesus speaking even when the dinner get’s burned or the recipe fails.

Martha did the food stuff. Mary chose the best part. The best portion.

He is our portion.

In the Psalms at Psalm 73 the writer says this: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

These bodies will fail. Our hearts will stop in time.

The solid joys and lasting treasure Zion’s children will know.

 Amen, and may God bless you through these truths today.

Sunday sermon 14 July – There’s more than one neighbour in the street

Reading: Luke 10:25-37

Message:

Okay this is an easy one today! Early tea – more time to chat and then go shopping.

I mean what’s to discuss – the guy got it right!

  • Love God
  • Love Neighbour
  • end of story!

The simplest explanation is the easiest – that everyone in need is in fact your neighbour.

Not that people – Christians – necessarily get involved in helping people in need. We do walk on by quite a bit. Like walking through a bazaar or market –or in a shopping centre – we dare not make eye contact with someone trying to sell us something. You can’t get away from a sales pitch that easily.

We easily look away from those in need.

So reminder number one today is simple. If you’re making notes:

1. Note to self – anyone in need is my neighbour.

Love God and love your neighbour go together.

Of course it’s a three way street!

God  <———->   Us    ————–>   Neighbour

Knowing the love of God – experiencing it – sharing Jesus compassion (read Tuesday’s sermon on line for those who didn’t make it) – having a message and commodity of peace with God to trade with (for that read last Sunday’s sermon on line!) means that we are actually empowered to do this!

2. Note to self – the Samaritan was an unexpected neighbour to the half-dead mugged neighbour.

God   ———————> Samaritan  —————————->    mugged man

3. Note to self – Jesus speaks about prejudice, anger, rage and things that separate us here.

Add another layer and it gets interesting:

God

Samaritan        ————————–>     mugged man/Jew

Samaritans    <———————–>    (not good)  < ———————->      Jews

Jews and Samaritans clearly did not get on!

I found this poem by a famous Israeli poet this week which really helped me on this one. Frederick Buechner posted this on his website – his articles and books are profound. Here it is:

The Place Where We Are Right

Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood. 

It’s about hard hearts versus soft hearts really!

Something was happening in the Samaritan that smacked of a real faith and compassion – but the Jewish listeners would have hated the idea of a Samaritan being a hero – because their theology was wrong – their racial mix wrong – their temple wrong.

Sound familiar?

1. Note to self – anyone in need is my neighbour.

2. Note to self – the Samaritan was an unexpected neighbour to the half-dead mugged neighbour.

3. Note to self – Jesus speaks about prejudice, anger, rage and things that separate us here.

Of course the lawyer’s response is accurate – as you are when you deal with law. Listen again:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise. (Luke 10:36-37)

How are we doing so far?

Will you remember this?

Oh of course – you know this already.

David Lose suggests and alternative reading to this text altogether.

This really spoke to me. Listen to what he says: But then Jesus goes and does something different, right at the end. He doesn’t ask who was the Samaritan’s neighbour; rather, he asks, who acted like a neighbour. The answer, of course, is obvious to the lawyer and to us: it is the Samaritan, the one who went out of his way to help another. But do you notice how this changes things? Suddenly the neighbour isn’t simply the one in need, but rather the one who provides for our need, the one who takes care of us.

He goes on. Listen carefully: Which raises an interesting – and often uncomfortable – question: who has been our neighbour by caring for us of late? This is uncomfortable because we spend so much of our time, energy, and money trying to be invulnerable, trying precisely to need as little as possible from those around us. Perhaps it’s a fear of being a burden, or a concern about “owing” others, or that we are just afraid of being vulnerable because if we show our need that need may not be met. Whatever the reason, however, so many of us are absolutely mortified by the idea of showing our deepest needs to others and have a hard time receiving a compliment let alone serious aid or help.

4. Note to self – I need to let people be a neighbour to me too

In my own life I have had to learn to let people be a neighbour to me as well. I am telling you this because I know that some of you are also like me. You don’t want to be vulnerable. You sometimes think that you have to manage – cope – be tough. I am learning to depend more on others.

Being dependent on others is not easy for most of us. And as we get older it gets harder.

Nothing is worse than feeling that it’s all out of control – when simple becomes impossible and normal a mystery.

I have learnt that I need to let people be a neighbour to me.

That does not mean I will deliberately make myself vulnerable.

Not at all.

But the point is – that we are created for community and we do need each other.

I am so grateful for the people who are supporting me at this time – especially Sheilagh, my wife, and our staff here.

Listen again to the extract from David Lose – the question is:

(Which raises an interesting – and often uncomfortable – question) –  who has been our neighbour by caring for us of late? This is uncomfortable because

  • we spend so much of our time, energy, and money trying to be invulnerable, trying precisely to need as little as possible from those around us.
  • Perhaps it’s a fear of being a burden, or a concern about “owing” others, or that we are just afraid of being vulnerable because if we show our need that need may not be met.
  • Whatever the reason, however, so many of us are absolutely mortified by the idea of showing our deepest needs to others and have a hard time receiving a compliment let alone serious aid or help.

 Paul – speaking about his thorn in the flesh – writes these words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10

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.  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.

Okay personally I think that he overstates things here. I am not really thrilled with “insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” I am less than thrilled. Delight is a strong word here. Sometime when I have the energy I will investigate the root of the word “delight” here and hopefully it will make more sense. (If you were here on Tuesday you will remember that words studies can be fun – Jesus when moved with compassion – well the word is to do with a bowel sensation. Tricky but it makes the point of a deep feeling!)

So let’s go back to our diagram then. There are various directions that the arrows point.

What travels along those lines? Love, blessing, thanksgiving, encouragement, worship and praise – in a dynamic relationship. Compassion and help clearly apply along the human continuum.

God <———————————–>Us  <————————— >  Neighbour

There are various possibilities where hard hearts need to be softened so that life can appear. Look at the list:

Us                 <—————————>            Neighbour

Samaritan           <—————————>           Jew

Black             <—————————>                 white

Male                <—————————>               female

Old                      <—————————>              young

Friend                <—————————>             stranger

Pastor                   <—————————>           parishioner

The list goes on!

So to recap… Somewhere in this list something applies to each of us:

1. Note to self – anyone in need is my neighbour.

2. Note to self – the Samaritan was an unexpected neighbour to the half-dead mugged neighbour.

3. Note to self – Jesus speaks about prejudice, anger, rage and things that separate us here.

Clearly love here means wanting the best for them – not that we are in love with them or even like them! Jesus’ compassion for the world of people is our foundational principal here.

Cleary we have work to do about our attitudes!

But this last one is a word in season really:

4. Note to self – I need to let people be a neighbour to me too

Don’t be afraid of depending on others – asking for help – asking for prayer – asking for counselling – asking for a lift – asking for a friend.

Mentoring others – journeying with them is the most crucial thing.

Pride is a killer.

One of my struggles here – as a leader – is that a lot of people are proud. They’ve made up their mind on things that are really important – and they are not necessarily allowing the Lord to work in their lives.

I reckon it would be good to sit in on the conversation between the recovered Jewish victim and the compassionate and generous Samaritan – if you can use your imagination.

It’s the kind of inspiration that comes from the pictures of amazing people in our generation:

There are plenty of other examples.

And there are those of you who really do care for your neighbours in every possible way – here in this place and community.

So much happens behind the scenes – following Jesus’ recipe for giving in general: But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3)

So a gentle reminder:

4. Note to self – I need to let people be a neighbour to me too

It’s okay to be vulnerable. We are cursed by self-help schemes. They don’t work in the same department as faith, trust, and dependence, all of which are Christian virtues and blessings.

The basic framework for all of this is GRACE – the undeserved gift of salvation, new life, the new creation, a new heart, a renewed mind –unmerited favour shown in Jesus.

And – to put in a word for what is in fact a foundational belief I have – we make ourselves vulnerable and receive the love of neighbours especially in our home groups – where we allow them to be places of life and not just theoretical knowledge. It requires honesty – integrity – and openness to grow as people. That is God’s will for us. Amen!

PS – here’s a great summary in a visual form. We need to be the solid citizens – doing the stuff that the solid line indicates!

good-samaritan-cartoon

Tuesday church sermon 9 July – Compassion

Reading:  Matthew 9:32-38  

Sermon                                                              

I was intrigued a while back by a conversation I heard – when a member of our local church here at BBP spoke about “strangers” coming to church on a Sunday – how they didn’t know these strangers.

We can be a bit clubby sometimes.

Years ago – in 1996 – I was privileged to go to Argentina for an international conference run by “Harvest Evangelism”.

There was a revival going on the cities of Argentina at that time – through church unity and cooperation and intense prayer and intercession, local churches were getting together to reach every street in their towns with a prayer cell – and connecting with their neighbours in mission.

I recall the main speaker – the head of Harvest Evangelism – speak on this text from Matthew 9.

It’s the gospel reading for today and it follows on quite well from Sunday – where we read the Luke account of this business of the harvest being great and the workers few.

Ed Silvoso said this – or words to this effect:  When you are in a crowd – say in a shopping centre – and you see the masses or encounter their shopping trolleys – or get stuck behind them when you are in a hurry and they seem to have all day – what do you feel?

Are you like Jesus?

The key verse is of course this one:

Mat 9:36  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

 

Σπλαγχνίζομαι –  splagchnizomai is the word. It’s one of the richest Greek words in the Bible. Literally it is something like a bowel movement – oops. That sounds wrong. Thayer’s Greek dictionary explains it like this:


Thayer Definition:

1) to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)’

One 18th century commentator put it like this:

(John Gill) … he was moved with compassion on them: his bowels yearned for them, he was touched with a feeling of their infirmities, as the merciful high priest, the good shepherd, and faithful prophet; being heartily concerned for the souls of men, their comfort here, and everlasting happiness hereafter…

It’s about something that churns inside of you.

Compassion is the key. Is that the feeling you have? What Jesus felt?

It is such an interesting verse – in fact all the words are rich – so rich that the various translations sound like this:

(AOV)  En toe Hy die skare sien, het Hy innig jammer gevoel vir hulle, omdat hulle moeg en uitgeput was, soos skape wat geen herder het nie.

(ESV)  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

(MSG)  When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.

          (KJV)  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on           them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having   no shepherd.

Jesus is moved by the masses. We sometimes avoid them – as the world is so different from what we grew up with.

The best sense of this that I have experienced was not at a shopping centre – but going with the crowds to watch the Springboks play the All Blacks one night at the Cake tin – the Westpac stadium in Wellington. They came in their droves – and it was so gloomy. OK they were all wearing black – but there were thousands. Streaming towards the stadium – emerging out of the station, off buses, or along the sidewalks. I had a real sense that day – that this is what Jesus is interested in. All those people.  Okay that particular group was a bit obsessed with the religion of rugby, so we have to be especially compassionate towards them.

The heart of Jesus is for those who are harassed and helpless.

Back to Matthew 9:37 – Jesus he tells them to pray to the Lord of the harvest:

Mat 9:37  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Mat 9:38  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

In Mark we read this:

Mar 6:34  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

And in that passage he goes on to feed them – with five loaves and two fish.

Dear friends – there is work to be done.

It begins with compassion. And compassion goes together with love. Paul said this of his passion to reach people in his first letter to the Corinthians:

1Co_9:16  Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! And then in 2 Corinthians he says this: 2Co 5:14  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

Of course that verse precedes the one we have mentioned on a couple of Sundays: 2 Corinthians 5:17

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

May you and I find a new compassion for the masses. This city is a reflection of the world we live in. All shapes, sizes, ethnicities (nations literally) and many, many people who are so different from us.

Yet they are the same us us. Without Christ the good shepherd – harassed and helpless, confused and aimless, in short – LOST.

We are called to be part of this plan to introduce them to Jesus the good shepherd. Amen.

Sunday sermon 7 July – Ambassadors for Jesus

Readings:

2 Corinthians 9:5-12

Galatians 6:7-16

Luke 10:1-10; 16-20


Introduction

 

A story is told about a man who was on a luxury liner and suddenly he falls overboard. He can’t swim and in desperation he begins calling for help. Now it just so happens that there were several would be rescuers on deck who witnessed the incident.

 

·         The first man was a MORALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately reached into his briefcase and pulled out a book on how to swim. He now tossed it to him and he yelled: Now brother, you read that and just follow the instructions and you will be alright.

 

·         The man next to him happened to be an IDEALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately jumped into the water and began swimming all around the drowning man saying: Now just watch me swim. Do as I do and you will be alright.

 

·         The person next to him happened to be a member of the INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH. He looked upon the drowning man’s plight with deep concern. He yelled out: Now, just hold on friend. Help is on the way. We are going to establish a committee and dialogue your problem. And then, if we have come up with the proper financing, we will resolve your dilemma.

 

·         The next man on deck happened to be a representative of the school of POSITIVE THINKING. He yelled out to the drowning man: “Friend, this situation is not nearly as bad as you think. Think dry!”

 

·         The next man on board happened to be a REVIVALIST. By this time the drowning man was going down for the third time and desperately began waving his arm. Seeing that, the revivalist yelled out: Yes brother, I see that hand, is there another? Is there another?

 

·         And finally, the last man on deck, was a REALIST. He immediately plunged into the water, at the risk of his own life, and pulled the victim to safety.

 

 

Message

So what did you think of the readings today?

I wonder if you noticed what they had in common?

·         Yes they were in English

·         Yes they were both from the New Testament

·         They referred in one way or another to sowing, reaping and harvest. And harvest is, amongst other things in the bible, a metaphor, a picture or a way of understanding what we invest in – when we share the gospel and people come to faith.

Harvesting is about that critical time really – when the crops have to be collected. Whether by hand or huge combined harvesters – it is a critical time.

I recall seeing a brilliant video presentation on mission – using the harvest as the key image (as it is used in Scripture) when a family had lost their farming dad – and they felt paralysed when harvest time came – the job was too big. And early one morning – there was this roar of engines in the distance – before sunrise – they could hear the noise getting closer and closer. And there they were – the whole community of farmers came along with these huge machines – and reaped the harvest.

It was brilliant! It spoke about community, unity, and a common purpose. The Christian church in many places has none of those. Not community, not unity, and not a common purpose.

There are glimpses. There are moments. There are times when Christians seem to get it right. But often we are not like a mighty army, as the hymn declares, but like a mighty tortoise – plodding along. And when it gets too hard – we pull our heads in and hide in our shells.

God is calling the church in this generation to its true mission. We are a lifesaving station that is still to save lives. We are to jump into the water and rescue people.

We are called. We are called to follow Jesus and to help others find and follow him.

Frankly – we are so grumpy and selfish sometimes that we should not be surprised if people think we ourselves need saving from ourselves!

I watched this classic TV clip this week – a nice BBC weather presenter was caught after she had done the weather forecast – she thought the cameras were off and boy was she grumpy.

Let’s have a look at her…

http://video.au.msn.com/watch/video/9raw-weather-girls-eye-roll-goes-viral/xnd06zc?cpkey=d3bb0ec3-a7b3-42b0-b69f-24f34573c787%257c%257c%257c%257c

We can be like that too – our true colours eventually pop out under pressure.

Of course pastors can have a bad day too. Try this one as an example. You don’t have to watch the whole video – you get the idea of being grumpy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSJt-LHMNRY

Now if I have sounded like that – I humbly apologise! I probably have had some bad days! But Pastor Jim tops them all!

It seems to me that Jesus is calling us to a consistency in our behaviour – that whatever we do and are on Sunday should be who we are every day! When the cameras are off too! We can’t be one thing on a Sunday and than indifferent on a Monday when it comes to our witness and care for people.

Jesus seemed overly and enthusiastically interested in getting people to do what he did as he reached out to people with the good news of the Kingdom of God.

It was clearly more than the 12 original disciples.

In Luke 10 he sends out 70 – or 72.

Now I know that the issues were different. Clearly they had “superpowers” – healing the sick and casting out demons.

Some have suggested that this was a one-off thing.

It certainly was different – and it was before Pentecost.

We do pray for the sick – and there are those in this generation who cast out demons.

Put that aside for now – and ask yourself this question.

What did they talk about? What was the conversation about?

What captivated their imagination? Probably these factors:

  • Jesus. They were his followers. Consequently they were
  • Obedience. Or at least a willingness to have a go! He sent them out and they went!

  • Risk taking – they were to get up and go! Crossing boundaries of all sorts.
  • They were not to be individualists – rather they were to go two by two with little luggage.
  • They were to be dependent on the hospitality of others! That too is risky!
  • They acted out and talked about the Kingdom of God.

And as part of their arriving they had a commodity that they traded with. Anyone pick that up? What was it? Healing? Preaching? NO – peace!

‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 

How do we really understand this?

I think perhaps by comparing it with what they were instructed  to do if things failed:

10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

If you extend peace – and you find a similarly minded (peaceful) person there who also promotes peace – your peace will rest on them.

If not – it will bounce back like an email sent to the wrong address.

In the context of extending the Kingdom of God through our ministry – outreach – care in the community – it seems to be about building with people who are open to what we offer – the peace of God.

The peace of God is not just a nice feeling – or a Miss World wish “I’m working for world peace ALL OVER THE WORLD!” It’s the gospel of reconciliation in one word! Listen to these passages:

  • Joh_14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jesus’ gift of peace).
  • Act_10:36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Peter is preaching here).
  • Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Paul is speaking here).

The whole story (the kerygma or message) of Jesus is about a peace mission from heaven – about God reaching out to people who were estranged from him – in Jesus, and through Jesus’ followers today.

So really it’s about all of us and all of the gospel.

In the words of St. Teresa of Avila:

 Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. 
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world. 
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. 
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.

 The harvesting image is really significant.

Sowing and reaping.

Paul uses that image to talk about giving in 2 Corinthians 9. What we give here counts towards the Kingdom – we are investing in the things that matter to Jesus – the reaching of those who need His gospel of peace.

Two quotes from writers illustrate this:

  1. This is not a hobby. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”  He was talking not about a hobby, but a life’s work.  You can see the kingdom come upif you’re willing to get your hands dirty–– and spend some time on your knees.” (Lawrence Wood)
  1. The church should be a community of dates instead of pumpkins.Pumpkins you can harvest in six months.Dates have to be planted and tended by people who will not live to harvest them.Dates are for future generations. (George Chauncey)

It is clear that we are messengers of Jesus – representatives. Paul speaks this kind of language when he talks about believers being a new creation in Christ. Do you remember the passage? I referred to it two weeks ago. Yes 2 Corinthians 5:17. Listen to it again and the verses that follow:

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2Co 5:18  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

2Co 5:19  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2Co 5:20  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

2Co 5:21  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We are Christ’s ambassadors.

There are some pretty powerful images associated with that. Think of that nice Australian man Julian Assange. Been in an embassy in London for almost a year. Where is he? Actually he’s in Ecuador! In the Embassy.

Or that nice young American Mr Edward Snowden. Trying to find a bit of turf in an embassy to escape the wrath of America. Whistle blower, or spy? People have different views on this.

But like all fugitives embassies are useful places if they are friendly nations! (Think of the old Skp movies with the KGB or James Bond). Embassies are a piece of one country planted in another, and ambassadors speak with the authority of the country that sends them.

We are ambassadors of Christ – no wonder Jesus said in verse 16 of the Gospel reading today:

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

Man that’s good. We are citizens of a different Kingdom. Paul says in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven.

We are ambassadors of that Kingdom – God’s kingdom. No pressure. Really.

Yes there is – because we can be pretty bad ambassadors. Like silent witnesses. Not much help really.

It does take the pressure off though. Because if our mission is rejected – if we are rejected because of our beliefs and what we stand for and proclaim – those guys are rejecting Jesus – and by rejecting Jesus the missionary (the sent one) – they are rejecting the one who sent Jesus – God!

Of course the 70 get a bit carried away in their report back:

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’

Cool hey Jesus! Pretty cool! Super followers! Way to go!

Listen to what he says:

20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

Why? Is that not a bit selfish? Yay – I have a ticket to heaven! Woo hoo!

Actually no. It’s a profound thing that is being said by the Lord Jesus here. This is the beginning of a new people – a new family of faith – the people of God which would be made up by guys and girls from all around the globe – every tribe and nation – every language and colour – this is the people of God – the church – in it’s very first form.

You think you’ve been a member of the church for ever! Try these guys for vintage!

I don’t have the words for how profound this is. Paul writing to the Ephesians says it best. We’ll end with these words:

Eph 2:11  Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—

Eph 2:12  remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

 

Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

 

Eph 2:14  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

Eph 2:15  by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,

Eph 2:16  and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

 

Eph 2:17  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

 

Eph 2:18  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

 

Eph 2:19  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,

Eph 2:20  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

 

Eph 2:21  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

Eph 2:22  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

So there is some harvesting to be done.

It may begin with you and I sowing the seeds right where we are at this point in our lives. That is our mission. That’s what we invest in through our tithes and offerings – the work of making this place an outpost of the Kingdom, a kind of embassy where his ambassadors gather to be briefed, to report back, and to be sent out in His name.

Amen.