Monthly Archives: November 2013

Sunday sermon 24 November 2013 – Christ the King

churchReadings:  Colossians 1: 11-20;   Luke 23:33-43

Sermon

All this church stuff. Meetings. Emails. Music and prayers. Discussions and disagreements. Questions and objections. A long hard year with all kinds of drama comes to an end this week. It’s had its joys and its tragedies. Its blessings and its pains.

The year has been interesting. Here’s a good visual aid to describe it:

plans and reality

Yes – it’s a new beginning – the start of the Christian year. It begins with Advent. The celebration of expectation and hope – looking forward to the coming of a solution – a rescuer – some come kind of hero to save the day.

·        For the people of the day – Israel – they expected a rescuer who would solve their political needs – and set them free from foreign powers.

·        For us today – well I’m not so sure what we are looking for.

Our preferred option is probably this:

reality of plan

New Year:

So at new year we usually focus on the most important things. The fundamentals

The fundamentals of the Christian life? The most important things that God has shown us:

You can guess I suppose:

Loving-God-With-All-Your-Heart-copy-1024x1024

·        Love the Lord your God with all your heart – would be one

work.1285554.4.flat550x550075f.seek-ye-first-the-kingdom-of-god

       Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God – has to be up the list too

The best prayers for the year – and every year:

Probably –

help me

·        Help me – and

your-kingdom-come-your-will-be-done

          Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN

This thing of the King – and the Kingdom – it’s always there.

THE GOOD NEWS/THE JOYS

 This must be one of them – those great gems in the Bible:

Have a look at verses 11 and 12 of Colossians 1:

11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

from-darkness-to-light04

This is a new place to be – a new existence – the Kingdom of light – and of his Son is way better than the dominion of darkness.

Good word – dominion. New Zealand is a dominion. It has heaps of darkness too – and I’m not talking about long winter nights.

As a church – we’re pretty good at celebrating this redemption and forgiveness theme. I don’t think a Sunday goes by when we don’t pray prayers of thanksgiving and recognition that we’ve been rescued and forgiven through the cross.

But there are implications greater than personal forgiveness. There is community forgiveness – there God is calling us to account in terms of relationships – respect – kindness – the fruits of the Spirit. We need to see those.

If you are a source of joy here – then well done. If you haven’t read James 3 yet and the power of the tongue (as we did at home group this week) – if you can’t translate God’s grace to you into grace and kindness to others here – then be warned. I am going to challenge you and take you on. In the name of Jesus I implore you to be kind!

You see if we pray this stuff we have to live it! We can’t stay in the dominion of darkness. Listen to what John writes:

1Jn 1:5  This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1Jn 1:6  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

1Jn 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

We have to live as children of the light. The bible is very clear about the things done in the dark – they will be exposed.

Listen to Paul again: 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Gospel reading today reminds us again of the price Jesus paid for our rescue and redemption. It’s just before Advent – and Easter lurks in the background.

Luke’s words are direct and stark:

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

So who are the people that Jesus forgives?

They are listed quite quickly – they watch, mock and jeer. Listen again. It’s not a long passage today:

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”                                                                                                                 

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?

Jesus visual journey1

This terrible end to a wonderful life of service and healing is stark and horrible.

Yes the life was good – the years of affirmation, teaching, community, healing, reteaching – touching lives – preaching – fighting off of temptation

But look where it ends.

 Jesus outcome

It’s very easy to end up in a lament for the power of sin and it’s consequences for this innocent and well-loved eternally begotten son of God.

Listen again to this terrible account: About this King!

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?

41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[b]

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

There is this voice of hope. “But this man has done nothing wrong”.

And his prayer for dummies (like my prayer earlier – “help me”):

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom…

Your Kingdom! Take me:

Where will your future take you?

our future

·        From the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of life.

·        From hopelessness to a future.

·        From pain to health

·        From isolation to community

·        From hell to heaven

·       From the cross –to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light”.

 Rescue me  from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son” – your Kingdom! 

Did he have a clue as to what he was asking?

Do we – really – when we trust in him and open our hearts to him? Really?

And Jesus’ gracious word to this man deserving of punishment – according to human justice.

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Richard Swanson comments on this in a poignant way.

Everywhere you look in Luke’s gospel, Jesus finds himself surrounded by faithful, courageous Jews. At the Jordan when John is baptizing, even the tax collectors reveal themselves to be looking for God’s Kingdom and longing for Roman departure. Later in the story, Zacchaeus makes it clear that those tax collectors at the river were not alone in being faithful, and Luke’s Jesus calls him a “son of Abraham” in response.

And now on the hill of crucifixion, Jesus finds another faithful Jew, one who is crucified with him. To be sure, the other two victims are bandits, not messiahs, and to be sure, one of them taunts him with the same words used by Roman soldiers and hired collaborators: Messiah, King of the Jews. The other victim, however, knows that Jesus is a king and has a kingdom. These are things that, in Luke’s story, only faithful, expectant Jews know.

If the Romans are paying attention, they should commence worrying at this point. Crucifixion was torture intended to teach a political lesson: Rome can crush the humanity out of you. Remember that. But this crucifixion scene is loaded with Jews who cannot be crushed. This is trouble for oppressors. Rome should worry.  The centurion who observes the death seems to have figured this out.

 I think the Jesus – the King who speaks on the cross – is still speaking to us today. We have His invitation to enter into this Kingdom of a loving, serving and forgiving King who on the cross said: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

May we invite Him – call on Him – believe in Him. This very different King.

 Amen.

Feel free to comment or ask questions below:

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Sunday sermon 17 November – Temples, Troubles and Testimonies

churchReading:  Luke 21:5-19

Sermon

A story to begin: So Jesus comes to Browns Bay Presbyterian. And it’s just before the 50th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone here. 2015. The anniversary committee has worked hard to refurbish the place. We celebrate the lives of all who have put their money into the work here. Generous and hard-working people. And Jesus says in a rather offhand manner – “It will all be destroyed one of these days. Not one block or brick will be left standing on another”. All gone!

Spoiling the party? Maybe. That’s basically what verse 5 and 6 of Luke 21 says: Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God.

As he said back then: (But Jesus said,) 6 ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’

The altar of the temple would have been beautifully adorned, and each stone carefully cut. He had watched the rich give their offerings and the poor widow who gave her all – jus before this.

And that temple – well it took longer to build than our church building has been standing here.  When Jesus refers to it in John’s gospel – it had been undergoing 46 years of rebuilding begun by Herod and was not yet finished.

Jesus had already alarmed them when he said in John 2:19-20: Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”

And of course in Matthew  – in the context over a discussion about the Sabbath – he also said:  “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.” (Matt 12:6)

Like people today – they are really interested in the timing of these things. v7 ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’

How do we know when this will happen? All those movies about the apocalype and the end of the world speak of our facination with this theme.

How do we know WHEN? Well that’s a tricky thing really. By the time Luke wrote this down (remember that initially everything was by word of mouth) the temple would have been destroyed by the Romans – in AD 70. Part of these words were fufilled back then – and part speak of things yet to come (like the book of Revelation).

Jesus is happy to give them an answer:

v8 He replied: ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them. v9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’

v10 Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. v11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

v12 ‘But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.

For years ever since these words were spoken – people have been speculating about the end times. All kinds of people have sold everything up and waited in white robes on a hillside for Jesus to beam them up – only to come down cold and hungry after a few days to look for a job or apply for a benefit.

Mark 13:32 is a key verse here:   “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  This verse has fascinating implications and raises interesting questions for the curious. Jesus didn’t know back then – as a human being. Does he know now? Or does the Father still keep his cards close to his chest.

Speculation about when is not helpful if this knowledge is such a closely guarded secret.

There are important points that we can be sure of however.

1.      Here’s the first key thing that comes out of all these passages:

  Watchfulness! Be alert! Mark’s passage goes on:

Mar 13:33  Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

Mar 13:34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Mar 13:35  “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.

Mar 13:36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.

Mar 13:37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!'”

One way or another – this could be your last day – and you should always keep short accounts and be ready!

2.      Here’s the second key thing: Nothing is permanent. The temple – built so carefully with all those beautiful gifts – is only a shell – what happened in it matters.

So too this church. It’s all temporary. Ask the people of Christchurch. Ask the people washed away by that Tsunami in Japan. As the people of the Philippines today. They will testify to the temporary nature of things material.

I know last week we acknowledged those who have been faithful in stewardship and support of the ministry here – and that we benefit from the generosity of others in having use of our facilities.

But don’t place too much emphasis on stuff – like buildings. The whole lot will eventually come down. Like the Temple.

The Kingdom of God is about other things. People – relationships – love – and mostly worship of God and seeking to do and be what he wants us to do or be.

Our home group shared about faith and action this week – about random acts of kindness – about serving others – like last week’s message about sacrificial love  – that’s what matters.

3.      And the final key point – is this. This is an opportunity to testify! Here’s the rest of the passage:

12 ‘But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me.14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

The third point is in verse 13.

13 And so you will bear testimony to me. – in the NIV. A better translation in the NRSV is this:

13 This will give you an opportunity to testify.  This is about opportunities to testify.

And the context is not a church service where people give a testimony. Rather it is when we are brought before the authorities – because of our faith.

Christendom is dead. Christianity is no longer the religion of the Empire – from the Roman Empire to the British Empire – it was fashionable and socially acceptable to be a Christian. It is no longer. One of the hardest places today to be a Christian is in Britain – where many of our ancestors came from. And in Post-Christian Europe. And it is becoming progressively harder in our country.

Instead of lamenting this – we need to see that like the early church we have an alternative story – a different narrative – a God-perspective on life.

Testifying for them – back during those phases before Constantine where Christians were persecuted on and off (depending on who was Emperor at the time) – bearing testimony was closely related to martyrdom. In fact the word in the original text is marturion.

What we say under pressure is the key witness to Jesus.

Some bonus points aregiven by Jesus here:

a.      Don’t prepare in advance (14-15) – he will give us words and wisdom. That may seem risky, but it is a faith and trust thing.

b.      Family and friends could hand you over (16) – this is messy and you could be killed. It is risky for many who leave their family’s faith or non-faith to follow Christ.

c.      You will be hated because of Jesus (17) – by everyone! Clearly courage was and is reqiured.

d.      You will keep your hair on (18) – what does this mean?  * This reflects the extent of God’s care for us and his knowledge of us.

e.      Stand firm and win life! (19) – endurance is the key! “Endurance” appears more than 30 times in the letters of the NT.

* The hair thing may also be about safety and destruction issues – not the risk of baldness or an obsession with hair counting! People who served God did not cut their hair as a sign (the Nazirites – like Samson in Judges 13 and 14) – and judgement and destruction were symbolised by shaving and therefore losing hair (See Isaiah 7:17-20). (Nazir = consecrated, set apart.)

Nothing will touch those set apart for God! Which leads logically to the last point:  v19 By your endurance you will gain your souls. (NASV) Or in the NIV: Stand firm, and you will win life.

  • Be watchful and  alert!
  • Keep perspective – because nothing is permanent!
  • There will be an opportunity to testify! And stand firm – endure. And you will win your life or your soul.

Amen.

Sunday Sermon 3 November – Zacchaeus son of Abraham

Preacher: Bill Davey

Reading:  Luke 19:1-10

The Gospel Reading

 

Luke 19: 1 – 10    New International Version

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.

A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.

 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.

 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him,            since Jesus was coming that way.

 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him,           “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at yourhouse today.”

 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone   to be the guest of a ′sinner’.”

 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor,and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

If we read verse 10 in isolation:  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”   we may think we can dump responsibility for our personal salvation on the Lord and    just wait for Him to fix everything for us!  This is neither responsible, or Christian behaviour ― It is pure error.

There is a vital role for us to play ― to do our part. Remember the Greatest Commandment (Matt. 22: 37 ― 40):  37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 Earlier this week I received a copy of an article published recently in the New York Times:

The church, as we know it in America, is dying. Fewer and fewer people are participating in weekly services. Younger generations are staying away in record numbers.

“After researching the attitudes of the “unchurched” and the “de-churched” – we’ve identified four frequently cited reasons people avoid church:

1. “You judge me — even before you know me.”

2. “You’re not interested in my thoughts or questions. You
only want to lecture me.”

3. “The church is filled with posers and know-it-alls.”

4. “I don’t experience God at church.”

This morning′s Scripture reading relates the account of Zacchaeus ― a businessman from Jericho, who was determined to see the young rabbli ― Jesus of Nazareth ― for himself!

“What can I do to see, or be close to, (or even encounter) the young rabbi named Jesus?”

Our Biblical account begins in a place called Jericho ― What do we know of this place?

 It involves Zacchaeus and a rabbi called Jesus ― What do we know about these two men?

 And other on-lookers make a significant contribution to the meeting ― What part did they play?

Let us reflect on what the words tell us as we read of this historic event.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.

 

2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.

Jericho was on the main trade route between Trans-Jordon and Jerusalem.

Refer: Joshua chapter 2    Rahab saves the Israelite spies during their reconnaissance.

Refer: Joshua chapters 5 and 6  Divine support, from the Captain of the Host, takes the City.

 

Note: 

Divine intervention and support made this the first successful conquest by the Israelites in the Promised Land. (The Lord together with His People can do exploits beyond comprehension).

 

Zacchaeus was a resident in Jericho, a chief tax collector and a wealthy man! He is a publican (public servant), a contractor working for the Roman  authorities. As such he is probably disliked, even despised by other residents asa traitor or collaborator with the army authorities of the day. He is purposeful,  prosperous, dignified and resourceful man, allbeit a little short in stature.

Jesus is reputed to bless people with his words, heal some of them,including women, and lepers, and the blind. He is also reported as havingraised Lazarus from the dead. And today he is just passing through town. The onlookers just made it difficult for Zacchaeus to see this young rabbi.

3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.

 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

 

Zacchaeus wanted to see, to identify (or even encounter) for himself the young rabbi Jesus. However he could not see Jesus because of the crowd. Being resourceful, he abandoned his dignity and ran ahead of the crowd and  climbed up a big tree ― Nothing was going to stop him seeing the young rabbi.

5   When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at  your house today.”

 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

We now know this young rabbi as our Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, the all-knowing Son of Man (Son of God). Re-read verse 10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Jesus not only speaks with Zacchaeus, but also offers to accept his hospitality and visit the home of this chief tax collector.

Zacchaeus almost falls out of the tree, when Jesus calls him by name.  Zacchaeus is elated and immediately (with alacrity – immediately) comes down from the tree and welcomes the young rabbi.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ′sinner’.”

Please take notice of the response of the onlookers ― All the people began to mutter and complain about the wisdom of the rabbi ― what an attitude ― no further comment!

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

 By comparison, check out the effect this encounter had on Zacchaeus. He is a changed man, changed from the inside out. He is a transformed new-man ― joyous, repentant and ready to put any past wrongs right ― and even to do that with generosity.     

This encounter leaves Zacchaeus personally full of the Holy Spirit of Jesus and of God the Father

 “Look Lord! Here and now (Behold) ….. I will give ….. I will pay back.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

 

In summary

 Zacchaeus wants to see this young rabbi, (i.e. to meet, to know or to encounter Jesus).

 We read how this young rabbi Jesus (now known as our Messiah) demonstrates loving acceptance of Zacchaeus and gives him back his Jewish identity. (Verse 9).

 Zacchaeus is transformed, from within, by meeting with our Lord personally.

 Finally ― Is this really sound Bible teaching?

 We close with these two quotes, from the Living Word: one from each Testament ― B.C.E. and C.E.(i.e. for us oldies they are the Old and New Testaments respectively).

Proverbs 8: 17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek mefind me.”

John 14: 21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father,and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

The same truth is open to each one of us every day of our lives ― May I ask when you last enjoyed a personal encounter with Jesus?

For anyone who feels challenged by these words ― please trust the Lord,
as Zacchaeus did, and allow someone to pray with you immediately. Talk to somone and allow Jesus
into your home and heart.

Amen.