Monthly Archives: August 2013

Sunday sermon @ 9.30am Combined Service – A Kingdom that cannot be shaken

Readings: Hebrews 12:18-29

Matthew 6:24-34

Focus verses (NRSV): Mat 6:33  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Mat 6:34  “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I wonder what your idea of the Kingdom of God is.

Do you think we really seek the Kingdom first – as we used to sing in that song “seek ye first the Kingdom of God! With all those Hallelujahs? Hallelujah (x6).

Today is a day on which we do the formal stuff as church – we have regulations which keep us honest and accountable – hence our meeting later today.

I worshipped in the local church where my niece was married on the last two Sundays. And they’re no different from us really – a bunch of Christians doing church together.

It was all very familiar – songs, musicians, pray-ers and preachers. Doing Church.

But striving first for the Kingdom of God (quoting the NRSV) is another matter.

We like the passage in Matthew 6 because we are a bunch of worry-pots. And it gives us perspective – especially in verse 34 – don’t worry about tomorrow. “Don’t worry be happy” comes to mind.

And the context allows for that focus.  Context is everything in our Bible reading. Remember – whenever you see a “therefore” you need to ask what it is there for!

After all Matthew 6:31-32 say this: Mat 6:31  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’

Mat 6:32  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

We don’t particularly want to be categorised as Gentiles – although I suspect we do spend a lot of time on what we eat drink and wear, perhaps more so the ladies when it comes to clothes! J

Striving first for His Kingdom and His righteousness is a life-changing route to take. We need to be steeped in Jesus’ view of the Father of lights – the one who does not change like the shifting shadows (James 1) and who is is the source of every good and perfect gift!

It’s about the real focus of our lives. And WORSHIP is at the heart of this.

The letter to the Hebrews records these words: Heb 12:28  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; Heb 12:29  for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

I won’t go into the details of the passage we heard today from Hebrews. It’s an interesting comparison between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion – and it is a sobering passage with a warning about putting God first in our lives.

The crunch is – do we put God and His kingdom first? DO we? And what are the signs?

  • It manifests in our worship – we would be here at every opportunity – to worship God – without our pickiness and issues over how we do it – we should be so obsessed with the Kingdom and the King that there would never be a missed Sunday!
  • It manifests in our knowledge of God and his character and ways – our knowledge of the Bible is at the heart of this. We would be digging for Gold – in a kind of a spiritual gold rush – wanting to know more about God and His righteousness – his better way of loving, forgiving, and reconciling. The Gold rushes are an interesting picture to hold up as a parable – people went to extremes to find Gold! How much more should we not be passionate about Seeking God’s Kingdom, His presence, His truth, and His way of doing things in life!
  • And it manifests in our giving. If our lives depended upon generous giving – we would never be short in the work of the Lord. Just as we must pay the electricity bill to keep the lights on – so too churches would not be juggling funds and battling to do great things for God – if people were striving for the Kingdom. We’d be wanting to be sure that we care for people well – nurture them and disciple them – and find the best ways to reach this generation with the Good News!

That makes our Annual Congregational meeting a very spiritual thing – as we take up the challenge of approving a budget that requires a huge increase in giving.

The budget says – this is what we believe about the Kingdom of God!

To close this reflection about our striving for the Kingdom of God – which manifests in commitment to worship – commitment to knowing our Bibles – and commitment to supporting the work of the Kingdom in this place – I want to refer to Paul.

In his letter to the Philippians we read these powerful words of St Paul:

Php 3:7  But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Php 3:8  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

Php 3:9  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Php 3:10  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Php 3:11  and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Php 3:12  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Php 3:13  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

Php 3:14  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Php 3:15  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

In other words -says Paul – God will help you get on board with the right agenda!

The key verse is verse 8: Php 3:8  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

It is a stark comparison of his old life without Christ and the new life he came to receive.

“The surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” is the issue.

Do we regard this as THE ISSUE – the main priority in our lives?

Are we – like Paul – willing to lose all things – considering them as rubbish in comparison?

There it is. You know that I can’t answer that – only you can. And God knows your heart.

This is about God first – Kingdom first – His righteousness first. What a powerful challenge. What a wonderful privilege. What an awesome responsibility. Gold!

The rest will be shaken – as the earthquakes jolt our cities and as the very foundations of what we used to hold dear in life – from a moral and ethical perspective – are shaken – we must hear these words again:

Heb 12:28  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;

Heb 12:29  for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Amen.

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Sunday sermon 4 August at 10.30am – From the inside out

Readings: Colossians 3:1-17

Matthew 7:24-27

Message:                                                                                            Bible Sunday August 2013

So how sturdy is the house of your life?

I love the photo we saw in the children’s chat – the one of the floating house.

Please watch the video about their story here:

They were a pretty sturdy family – you heard from them in the video. The impact of the Bible and the preached word of God is very exciting.

The Bible society’s campaign this year is entitled “Let the Bible transform your world”  It’s really what it’s all about.

The reading from Colossians is rich with pictures of that transformation. It comes when we surrender our lives to Jesus – who is identified as THE WORD OF GOD – HIS message through his life and words.

But we don’t just read about transformation of people’s lives in the gospels.

We go back to the letter of Paul, Peter, John and James  – all of which were written earlier than the gospels – to read about the power of this gospel of transformation.

So in Colossians 3 Paul writes to the Christians about their transformation when he says:

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

Col 3:2  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

If founding your life (your house) on the foundation of Jesus’ words is not a strong enough image, Paul talks about the reorientation of our hearts (our passions and loves) and our minds (our ideas, vision, thinking and plans) – which are to be set on “things above” = on God, on Jesus seated at the right hand of God, and on His purposes.

Why? Because when we give our lives to Christ we no longer live for ourselves. In Jesus’ terms we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 5)

In Paul’s terms – we are dead: Listen again: Col 3:3  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

And when your life is over, he says this: Col 3:4  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The consequence of this new status, position and orientation (always look for the word “therefore” and ask what it is there for!).

Because of this new standing and goal in life – and our dying in Christ we are to kill of our old habits:

Col 3:5  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Col 3:6  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  

Col 3:7  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. Col 3:8  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Col 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Paul always gives the good things after listing the bad ones (like he does in Galatians where he lists the fruits of the Spirit.

So here he lists the good things that are the consequence of this new orientation in our lives – heavenward. He weaves the good things into the long instruction he gives the Colossians Christians. We would do well to take these seriously as Browns Baysian Christians:

Col 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Col 3:10  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

The picture here is a little different. We have dying to self. We have looking heavenward. Now we have a change of clothes – taking off the old self and putting on the new self.

Out of this comes a new and inclusive community bound up with Jesus:

Col 3:11  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

He goes on to expand on the change of clothes image:

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.

And as if to sum all this up Paul says this:

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.

How do we experience transformation?

Ultimately – through the word of Christ dwelling in us richly!Words have power.

God creates through his spoken word:

Gen 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:2  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Gen 1:3  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Words need to be consumed totally. He gives his prophets words to speak and even eat – symbolically:

Eze 3:3  Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Eze 3:4  He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them.

In Jeremiah 15:16, we have similar language: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”

Jer 15:16  When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.

And of course the Psalms talk about this inner working of the word of God:

Psa 119:9  Beth. How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

Psa 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

The same Psalm 119 – 104 verses later says:

Psa 119:105  Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

And Psalm 19 reminds us again that we need to consume his words:

The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. (v9) Psa 19:10  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

Even in the last book of the Bible we read about John the apostle in his old age – who writes:

Rev 10:9  So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.”

Rev 10:10  I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Eugene Peterson in his brilliant work called “Eat this book”  writes at length about Jesus the Word of God and about the power of the Scriptures.

He refers to Revelation 10:10 as a challenge to us.

There is an aspect of this encounter with the Bible that is unpalatable.

If we are serious about it – we move beyond just the sweet taste of scripture.

We are not in control of this process of transformation.

We read the Bible – but it actually reads us.

We stand before it challenged.

Peterson writes:

It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn’t site well with us at all; it becomes biter in our stomachs. Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering even; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God’s reality, that doesn’t cater to our fantasies of ourselves.

He also writes:

“We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers. And that is certainly correct. The text of the Bible sets us in a reality that is congruent with who we are as created beings in God’s image and what we are destined for in the purposes of Christ. But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge.

The Bible is a most comforting book; it is also a most discomfiting book. Eat this book; it will be sweet as honey in your mouth; but it will also be bitter to your stomach. You can’t reduce this book to what you can handle; you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with. You can’t make it your toy poodle, trained to respond to your commands.

This book makes us participants in the world of God’s being and action; but we don’t participate on our own terms. We don’t get to make up the plot or decide what character we will be. Eat this book, but also have a well-stocked cupboard of Alka-seltzer and Pepto-Bismal at hand.”

Eat this book?

Can you really take it all in?

It’s risky.

It will change you from the inside out.

 Amen

 

Sunday 4 August – Bible Sunday

Readings:

Colossians 3:1-17

Luke 8:4-8

Please watch the video about Bibles distributed in Cambodia before you read this short message

Message

Thanks for sharing your favourite verses today.

I’m so blessed – I get to share my favourite verses so often. I thought it only fair to give others a chance.

I was sharing with someone the other day about his pacemaker. How the thing kicks into action when his heart goes out of rhythm or does not behave either way.

I guess it’s a kind of an implant – something connected on the inside – that makes a difference – that really keeps him alive.

It’s a matter of life or death really. Without it – if his heart stops – well he’s a bit like you and me.

Our bodies have ways of kicking in when we are in trouble too in other ways – adrenalin is very helpful in a crisis. Our response to a life threatening situation is part of the gift of creation.

I discovered something new this week too.

If you stop breathing – say with a condition like obstructive sleep apnoea – your oxygen level drops and your brain wakes you up with a bit of a jolt. Very helpful really – otherwise – like the heart stopping – well when you stop breathing – you die.

My dad used to have a very dry sense of humour. If someone died and you asked what the cause was – he would usually say “lack of breath”. My response as a child – when someone died (as was the case when my godfather died) – was to ask “who shot him?”

Now this is a very long illustration of two points from today’s readings.

  1. Colossians 3:

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.

  1. 2.    Luk 8:6  Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.

This is the only parable that Jesus explains – making it more like an allegory. He says in verse 13 (which we did not read):

Luk 8:13  Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

Both images are about the word of God becoming an inner experience – dwelling in us richly – being rooted in our lives.

Our hearts – our minds – our memories – all need the word of God to grow and bear fruit.

The desired result is fruitfulness. In the parable – it works like this:

Luk 8:15  But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

And in the letter to the Colossians – it works its way out in the community of the church! In worship specifically!

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.

Paul says something similar when he writes to the Corinthians:

1 Co 14:26  What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

Now we don’t do this every week on a Sunday – as this is our main corporate worship and teaching time.

We do do this in home groups – where we build each other up in faith and fellowship whenever we meet.

On this Bible Sunday I implore you – beseech you (in older English) to make it your life’s business to read your Bible.

Let it be implanted in your heart, mind and memory.

It’s a wonderful thing when it becomes the default setting – like the bodies autonomic systems that kick in – or like my friends pacemaker that saves his life.

This is a taonga. A treasure that should not be wasted by keeping it on the shelf! It’s tangible and intangible. It is the power of God’s word to us which becomes an invisible power within – like that pacemaker.

Look at the resources today on the table that Sue has done for us.

Take some home (that are there for you – not peoples’ books we have borrowed but the sheets with ideas and resources).

Happy Bible Sunday! Be glad that we have this treasure and the freedom to put it to work in our hearts and lives.

Amen!