Monthly Archives: June 2014

Sunday Sermon 29 June – Even A Cup of Cold Water

Even A Cup of Cold Water

(Preacher ― Bill Davey, Elder ― Information sourced from the websites: “Meditation for Christians” and “Association of Hebrew Catholics in New Zealand”)

Matthew 10:37-42

New International Version (NIV)

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Introduction

In this message I hope we can capture something of the teaching style of our Lord, as He prepared His disciples for mission and ministry.
To his disciples Jesus was a rabbi who taught in a Jewish context and one who expected his disciples to grapple and wrestle with the ideas He presented to them.
His study methods also included the disciplines of reflection and meditation ― All are part of their (and our) Jewish heritage and inheritance (Our patrimony).
First: We will review the Lord’s straight talk about relationships and then the likely rewards of faithful service.
Secondly: I accept that we might well struggle to understand some of the teaching of Jesus, until we have had the chance to ponder the issues further.
Thirdly: I hope we will discover something of the profound ideas Jesus has expressed within these Scriptures:
• He who receives you receives me ….. me receives the one who sent me!

• Receiving even a cup of cold water can be a ministry!

“Even A Cup of Cold Water”

St. Matthew 10: 37 ― 42 New International Version
We are in rabbinic school, and this is how Jesus, our tutor presents His doctrine. He does not open with words such as:
“Gentlemen, today we will consider aspects of natural and supernatural life.”
In the tradition of the culture, He opens with a stunning quandary — and, yes, the disciples would have shrunk back, just as we might.
Now let us review inclusive language of A/v 1 and 3 — “Anyone”, ” Whoever” and “He who” ―
Now return to A/v 1
Now, in three verses, Jesus makes three points in an ascending order of hardship to emphasise the phrase, “for my sake”.
A/v 1
37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Now, in three verses, Jesus makes three points in descending sequence of reward.
A/v 3
40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.
41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
These six verses of Scripture really belong together ― They cause me to examine my commitment and motives before the Lord, both within the context of my own family, and also within the wider family of the Household of God.

They have application for all Christians and I suspect Jesus uses them as basic training for all of His disciples. They appear to be standards for every disciple who wants a truly close relationship with Jesus Christ, the Lord.

In addition, in the second cluster of verses, please note use of the words: “I tell you the truth.” (Verily, verily I say unto you” or “Truly, truly I tell you.” ― these are matters of great moment.)
However the consoling, underlying message is that anyone can qualify — it is a matter of personal choice. There are no exclusions! The love of God can therefore be spread to the utmost end of the earth by those whom He uses.
Verses 37 ― 39 ― Relate to the motives of the believer
A/v 2
First: Jesus requires His disciples to love their parents and family no less than totally, but they are to love Him even more. He is here calling them into a very special relationship, which they must be entirely free to enter into. Love for Him will not diminish legitimate God-given love for family.
Secondly: The follower must be ready to share in the fate of Jesus, to be persecuted and to die. This is the first mention (in this Gospel) of crucifixion. Only by coming to terms with this very real possibility of cruel and torturous execution, could the disciple be free to proclaim the message of Jesus.
Thirdly: The follower will spend the rest of his life exploring and implementing the strange paradox of gaining and losing life.
Verses 40 ― 42 ― Challenges on the Mission Field
A/v 4
First: Those who receive the Messiah’s representatives, the Disciples, (and then those whom they subsequently appoint and authorise), receive Him, and with Him, His Father. They receive God! Their commission is thus a very solemn one — and is addressed equally to us.
Secondly: Those who receive the Apostles because they recognise them to be prophets (the word here means teachers), righteous men and disciples of the Lord, will receive the same reward as did they, namely eternal life.
Thirdly: Even those who help the disciples down through the ages on their mission, by offering only a cup of cold water (the smallest possible action) as they journey, will be rewarded. All are thus joined, in some way, to the outreach of the Lord, not actually because they merited it ― but because the Lord chooses to respond in graciousness.

A thought for Reflection
When, as followers of Jesus, we make this commitment to Him, the most amazing blessings follow. We become not just members of the Household of God; we also become bearers of Him to any who will receive us — We are empowered to help lead home the lost sheep of this world by simply receiving any kindness — let alone giving any — We are to be praying in our hearts, a blessing upon the people we meet.
Can we imagine a higher status than to be a God-bearer?

Summary
These readings represent a formal rabbinic “lesson plan” for the disciples, easily committed to memory, and providing a treasury of our Lord’s deepest thoughts.
We are left challenged by the question: “Can we really believe each of the points He makes?”
We have to question of ourselves — that is part of the purpose of the passage.
This Messiah certainly gives some very focused attention ― to be sure we understand Him!

Briefly Put
Our Rabbi Yeshua asks us to follow in His footsteps, and promises
that if we do so, He will walk in ours, with us, to the farthest ends of the earth.

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Sunday sermon 22 June – We are worth more than many sparrows!

Readings: Matthew 10:24-39

Sermon

“A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!” (Matthew 10:24-25)

I’ve had all kinds of people get fed up with me over the years. Including one man who said I was a Satan worshipper. It turns out that he believed this to be true because I led worship with a guitar. Mind you I’m in good company. They called Jesus Beelzebub – Lord of the flies – one of Satan’s titles.

There are aspects of Jesus’ calling in the gospel reading today that are radical and disconcerting. Especially if you’re in it for a comfortable ride.

So what is the context of these interesting sayings?

Matthew chapter 10 at the beginning is all about the twelve being sent out on a Mission – remember how Jesus saw the crowds – had compassion on them – because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd? Do you remember Jesus (as recorded in Matthew 9:37-38) – how Jesus said “the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field?” You remember this?

Well this is the extension of the story of that Mission. They had gone out and preached the good news that the Kingdom of heaven was near (10:7). They were to heal the sick and raise the dead, cleanse lepers and drive out demons (10:8). And of course shake the dust of their feet when people did not welcome them or listen to their message (10:14). This is the time when he said to them “I am sending you out like sheep before wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (10:16).They would be arrested and flogged (10:17) and brought before Governors and Kings as witnesses to them (10:18).

It was here that that famous and encouraging word was spoken by Jesus – we referred to it at Pentecost: Mat 10:19  But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, Mat 10:20  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.And so families would be in conflict – they would be hated – they would be persecuted and have to flee (10:23).

In the same passage there are references to the future church as well – those who were to go on a similar Mission after his resurrection and ascension. The same dangers applied – and certainly they were to face persecution just as Christians today face persecution.

So it’s in the context of this Mission that we pick up our reading today: Mat 10:24  “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. Mat 10:25  It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!

Mat 10:26  “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. Mat 10:27  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Mat 10:28  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Mat 10:29  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. Mat 10:30  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Mat 10:31  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

So what do we take from this? The “them” inverse 26 is the category of all those who oppose and persecute Christians. This was never going to be an easy ride.

WHAT HELPS US THEN

I think what is helpful is to focus is this basic principal – whatever you go through – don’t be afraid.

For those early followers of Jesus – when people are against you – DON’T BE AFRAID.

Mat 10:26  “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.

This seems to indicate that the truth will come out eventually. Paul supports this in 1 Corinthians 4:5 – Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

David Brown in a commentary on Matthew puts it this way: There is no use, and no need, of concealing anything; right and wrong, truth and error, are about to come into open and deadly collision; and the day is coming when all hidden things shall be disclosed, everything seen as it is, and every one have his due.

Jesus continues: Mat 10:28  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Mat 10:31  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

One commentator on this passage puts it like this: Jesus’ mission discourse is a “get-out-the-volunteers” campaign like no other. On the one hand, the disciples are granted remarkable powers to heal, exorcise demons, cleanse lepers, even to raise the dead. But he also denies them money, pay, extra clothes, a staff for protection, even sandals. They are to undertake their mission in complete vulnerability and dependence on God (10:8-11), even knowing that they go as “sheep in the midst of wolves,” face arrests and beatings, opposition even from family members, and hatred and persecution (10:16-23).

So what are we afraid of?

Jesus seemed okay in his training to paint the worse-case scenarios. Maybe that was a good training technique.

I love the pictures that he used to illustrate this. I’ve quipped about the one picture before. I think for me God’s task is getting easier each year when it comes to me: Mat 10:30  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

It’s the sparrows that I like. Listen again: Mat 10:29  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. Mat 10:31  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

A story to illustrate (hopefully).

I was sitting with a friend at the local French Café this week – we share a common kind of ministry and support each other along the way. While we were there – sitting outside in true café style with rain and wind coming and going (I had my training for this in Wellington!) a sparrow came and joined us – sitting on top of one of the chairs at our table.

I told my friend that there had been some controversy at that café because, so they say, the owner had got fed-up with the sparrow and had poisoned them. Not very nice when you consider Matthew 10:29:  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.

A worse story is this one. 

It’s a story about a sparrow that somehow got into the rafters of St. Helen’s Parish Church in the English town of Brant Broughton. At the time of the intrusion, they were recording a guitar recital for later broadcast on the radio. The chirping bird didn’t exactly chirp with the beat. So the pastor, Rev. Robin Clark (ironically) asked the congregation to leave and then asked a friend to bring his pellet gun over to the church to shoot the intruding sparrow. The killing of the sparrow became front page news in Great Britain. The London Daily Telegraph ran a clever headline that said, “Rev. Robin Orders Death of Sparrow.”

 Editorials and letters to the editor flowed, chastising the cruel and unusual punishment for this lowly bird. People who  hadn’t darkened the door of a church in decades suddenly remembered Psalm 84 in which it is declared that even sparrows are welcome in the house of the Lord (84:3). By the way – here is Psalm 84:3:  Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

Poor Rev Robin. Poor little sparrow. We can easily sentimentalise things.

The comparison of course means we are more valuable than sparrows. And nothing happens to us either that he does not allow or care about – that’s the implication. What it doesn’t say is that the sparrow will be spared – or that we will be spared.

Persecution is at the heart of this. The cost for some people is jail and execution – more in this generation than ever before. And it is a price to pay. And many are not spared. Martyrdom is rife today in many parts of the world.

And yet he still cares.

After the sparrow story comes these lines – the ones that probably get us – have us pinned against the wall: Mat 10:32  “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. Mat 10:33  But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

We’ve institutionalised this in our churches – in public profession of faith with baptism that formalises our membership of the church. And if people were baptised and made a public profession of faith in another congregation our Session can resolve to admit them to membership of this one.

The context of Matthew 10 is different though. It’s an acknowledgement in the face of risk. Is a pubic admission that we follow Jesus – in society.

It has to mean that we identify ourselves out there in our daily lives.

And then the rest of the Gospel reading today is in itself is quite challenging: Mat 10:34  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Mat 10:35  For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— Mat 10:36  a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Mat 10:37  “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; Mat 10:38  and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Mat 10:39  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

It’s almost as if we are quite disconnected from this early discipleship. It is radical – and requires huge commitment. And Jesus comes first before everyone else. And you have to take up your cross and follow – otherwise you’re not worthy of Jesus. It’s risky – if it’s about you, then you lose. If you surrender your life for Jesus’ sake – you win!

How about us?

  • Do we acknowledge Christ in the rest of our lives (outside of Church life)?
  • Or are we living a double life? Secret Christians?
  • Do we love Him more than all those listed?
  • Are we radical enough?
  • Do we take our crosses and follow Christ? (Admittedly some of us have crosses thrust upon us that we would not choose).
  • Are we worthy of Jesus?

Great questions these! It’s up to us really!

AMEN

Sunday 15 June 2014 – What we do in the name of Trinity

READINGS: Acts 1:1-8; Matthew 28:16-20

 Act 1:1  In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach

Act 1:2  until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

Act 1:3  After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Act 1:4  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

Act 1:5  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Act 1:6  So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Act 1:7  He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Act 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Mat 28:16  Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.

Mat 28:17  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Mat 28:18  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Mat 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Mat 28:20  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

MESSAGE:

Last week was Pentecost Sunday. Today is Trinity Sunday. The church has these days on which we are reminded of the foundation of our faith.

The passages we heard this evening are both to do with the last instructions that Jesus gave to his followers.

A number of things strike you when you read them. Luke’s first words in Acts are a good place to begin. Listen again:

Act 1:1  In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach

Act 1:2  until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

And he records the direct words of Jesus too: 

Act 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

And then the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:

Mat 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Mat 28:20  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Instructions and commands are not words we are used to. Except when you’ve been in the military – I know from experience that you simply act on instructions and commands when in the defence force. Or the police for example – or fire brigade.

But when it comes to church – we’re a bit more democratic. We love to debate and discuss things – to the extent that we sometimes miss our actual calling. We’re often too busy writing minutes and reports.

The key tasks remain. Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday remind us of them again:

  • You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

It’s more like a statement of fact!  – the natural consequence of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Act 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

  • And of course Mathew 28:19 – about making disciples of all nations

Mat 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, (baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit).

The church is a missionary church – not only does it send people as missionaries to the ends of the earth – but in its Jerusalem – its home town – it is on a Mission:

One of the great theologians of the 20th century – Emil Brunner – had this to day about the mission of the church:

The Word and the World (1931)

The Word of God which was given in Jesus Christ is a unique historical fact, and everything Christian is dependent on it; hence every one who receives this Word, and by it salvation, receives along with it the duty of passing this Word on; just as a man who might have discovered a remedy for cancer which saved himself, would be in duty bound to make this remedy accessible to all. Mission work does not arise from any arrogance in the Christian Church; mission is its cause and its life. The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission, there is no Church; and where there is neither Church nor mission, there is no faith.

He goes on to talk about how this works:

It is a secondary question whether by that we mean Foreign Missions, or simply the preaching of the Gospel in the home Church. Mission, Gospel preaching, is the spreading out of the fire which Christ has thrown upon the earth. He who does not propagate this fire shows that he is not burning. He who burns propagates the fire. This ‘must’ is both things – an urge and a command. An urge, because living faith feels God’s purpose as its own.

And he reminds us about Paul who said: ‘Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.’ runner goes on to say:  Necessity is laid upon him. But also he ought to preach; with the gift he receives the obligation. ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel’. 

So how are our churches doing with these instructions from Jesus?

Here’s the truth. Most of our churches are more like clubs really. More energy is often spent on the places where we meet than the mission we’re on. Much more money too.

A story – a modern parable –  by Theodore Wedel illustrates our situation:

It was written in 1953 by the Rev. Dr. Theodore O. Wedel, a canon of the National Cathedral and one-time President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church. Like all good parables, though fictional, it is entirely truth-filled:

“On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

“Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.

“Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical life-boat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

“At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station. So they did.

 “As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.”

So what does that mean for us? For you and me?

It means that whoever we are and whatever stage of life we are at – we’re in Mission.

We are witnesses – one way or the other. Sometimes we are silent – which makes us rather poor bearers of the Good News. Sometimes we ourselves are bad news – which makes our testimony a little incongruous. We are bad witnesses.

I heard a great story at our Tuesday church last week of a woman who was stuck in traffic and got really mad at drivers cutting in in front of her – she was hooting her hooter and yelling and showing particular hand signals out the window. She did not notice the policeman in the car behind her who promptly arrested her. After some hours in jail the officer came and spoke to her apologetically. “Madam” he said, “with the stickers on your car that announced that Jesus is the way, and that God is love – and looking at your behaviour, I assumed you had stolen the car!”

Not a great witness!

If however we live in the fullness of the power of God – through the Father who pours out his gifts on us – through the Son who showed compassion and mercy and courage as He died for us – and through the Holy Spirit who transforms and empowers us – the natural outcome is that we are a witness.

  • We shine – we are portable lighthouses if you were – giving natural guidance.
  • God uses us to be a source of courage and faith to others – as we pray for them.
  • And most of all we are hopeful people – and hopeful people are very attractive.

Peter knew this – writing in His letter to a persecuted church:

1Pe 3:15  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

1Pe 3:16  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

  • Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
  • Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
  • Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

May this be true of us.

 Amen.

Sunday sermon 8 June – Pentecost

Readings: Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

 Act 2:1  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Act 2:2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Act 2:3  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Act 2:4  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

 

Act 2:12  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Act 2:13  Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Act 2:14  Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.

Act 2:15  These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!

Act 2:16  No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

Act 2:17  “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

Act 2:18  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

 

1Co 12:3  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

1Co 12:4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1Co 12:5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

1Co 12:6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

1Co 12:7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1Co 12:8  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,

1Co 12:9  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,

1Co 12:10  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

1Co 12:11  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

 

D-day.

What an amazing couple of days we’ve had – the 70th anniversary of the landings at Normandy.

TV programmes have played hours of footage about that crucial day in history.

I wonder whether the day of Pentecost has the same impact on you as D-day has on those who remember those terrible years of war?

We celebrate all kinds of other days with gratitude. Wedding anniversaries, birthdays, and often the day of peoples’ deaths brings those reflective moments and immense sadness mixed with thanksgiving. We’ve had a couple of those anniversaries this week in our church family.

So what about Pentecost?

Like our Communion service – this is not a kind of Memorial Day thing.

Communion reminds us of more than Jesus’ death and resurrection – the reality is that there is a reality now – His presence with us.

So too Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God present here now.

He is the foundation of our ability to believe. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12: 3 – “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” 

He brings us to a knowledge and conviction of our sins – our need for forgiveness and a saviour – and our need for power to transform our lives.

And on that day they were waiting for = 120 of those believers – the church was launched if you like – catapulting from 120 to about 3120 after one powerful thrust shown by wind and fire and a great sermon, preached with boldness.

So today we could have a cake – celebrating the ancient birthday party of the church.

I could wear my crown of flames that Helen helped me make on Friday at Messy Church – to remind us of the tongues of fire – in Luke’s words:

Act 2:3  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Or I could illustrate the power of the invisible – like the wind (balloon release for children).

Of course Luke reminds us that it was the sound that got their attention:

Act 2:2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  

And then the flames of fire that did not burn their heads.

We could give some thought to those images – and then call it a day –  we could go to tea – as we do on a Sunday – pleased with ourselves that we have endured another sermon – and perhaps the quickest sermon of the year.

Or we could think a little more about the Giver and His gifts. 

The waiting was for the gift Jesus’ father had promised. Remember Acts 1:4 and 5:

Act 1:4  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. Act 1:5  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

In fact this is all about the Giver. God gives His Son:  

Joh 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

The gift of the Son brings the gift of salvation. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:

Eph 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Eph 2:9  not by works, so that no one can boast. 

And then we read: … wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 

And when the gift came – there was a commotion – so that Peter has this to say:

Act 2:15  These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!

Act 2:16  No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

Act 2:17  “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

Act 2:18  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 

And in Corinthians today we heard again about the gifts that the Holy Spirit in turn gives gifts to us.

Pentecost – looking back – always puts us on the spot. 

If we pretend that it’s all in the past – then we are dishonest with the bible text, and the reality of Christian history. If we take the view that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only meant for the church’s launch – then we are probably quenching the spirit. Being the spiritual fire brigade – putting out the fire.

We can just give it some thought and move on – or we could wrestle with the text that tells us that the Holy Spirit actually wants to use us – give gifts to us as part of the body of Christ, the church – in Paul’s words:  1Co 12:4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1Co 12:5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

1Co 12:6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

1Co 12:7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Note – that all of this operating is for the “common good”.

If we’re open to the reality of the Spirit’s work in our lives now – we could find a whole new life that means real power and transformation now. If we are open to His leading and power.

I’m not sure that we have bought into this really. Perhaps that’s the wrong idiom.

It’s a gift – we probably don’t know the giver well enough to recognise the gifts that we havae – and to allow them to have their proper impact:

  • The gift of salvation
  • The gift of the Spirit Himself who brings power
  • The gifts of the Spirit too – all for the common good of the people of God – to strengthen the church in its witness.

It’s up to us really – to be the kind of receivers that put the gifts to work. If we do – it might break the paralysis we have in terms of people putting their gifts to work in the life of this church.

Amen.