Monthly Archives: October 2015
Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:26-13:3; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 16:13-19;
Do you have your name on a monument somewhere?
There’s always a danger when it comes to monuments. Like memorials erected for great leaders or movements.
Ask Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, or Saddam Hussein. Personal monuments have a way of being toppled. (That’s not John Lennon by the way – the other one with one ‘n’. Vladimir. In time Vladimir Putin will also fall out of favour. Like Australian Prime ministers.) The best Vladimir Lenin can do here is a bar named after him on Auckland’s Princes Wharf. A vodka bar. 🙂
Some churches end up as monuments.
Not this one. If you show up on some days during the week – the church is not here at all.
You’ll find a building – but not the biblical church – the body of Christ.
And the building was never designed to be pretentious. More like a stable. Its beauty is in its people and their creative gifts – those that last on the walls and the thousands of words of prayer and worship, songs and musical notes that have floated off into space and eternity.
We’re not into monuments. God forbid that my photo be permanently on a wall at any of the churches where I have served.
Footprints are better – far superior. (William Faulkner said that – “monuments tell us we got so far and no further; footprints tell us we kept on moving”.)
A footprint means that people have passed this way on a bigger and greater journey. They leave their mark. But move on. In time we all do.
The movie sequel of Back to the Future had a day this week as the big day – 21 October 2015. It was great to see clips of the young Michael J Fox on TV this week – one of my most esteemed heroes.
That day – the back to the future day – has also come and gone.
And eventually we move on in a permanent sense – into eternity.
Eternity is a bigger concept. Some have moved on into God’s eternal presence.
Others who made life interesting for people here have also moved on – hopefully to happier places where they have been less conflicted with people and about things. (Together with footprints we sometimes leave dents. Sadly some have been badly dented too. Fortunately, we are in the forgiveness business. 🙂 )
Others – the far majority who have passed through these doors over these 50 years – have left a solid influence and foundation which we treasure and remember. Most have taken the good news of Jesus to other places where they have been led to live, work and worship.
We all move on in some way or another.
But we should all move forward.
The living body of Christ is the key.
The church – the body of Christ – is an organism first – and an organisation second.
It starts here – in Matthew 16 – with Peter’s confession:
Mat 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
On what rock? Not on Peter himself, but on his faith and trust in Jesus the Christ. “Revealed by my father in heaven” because you can’t get to that conviction by argument or logic. Peter like you and me on our difficult days, would have been too stubborn to be convinced by mere reason.
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”- that’s the rock of a good confession. Paul puts it this way:
Rom 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: Rom 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom 10:10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Rom 10:11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
And to Timothy Paul writes:
1Ti 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
The head of the church is not Peter or his successors. Paul again makes this clear when speaking of Jesus:
Eph 1:22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, Eph 1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
And here in Ephesians, like 1 Corinthians 12 – part of which we heard today, there are gifts for the building up of the church:
Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, Eph 4:12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up Eph 4:13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Eph 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Eph 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- We are to be founded on the rock – Christ the solid rock – in our faith in him as Christ and Son of God.
- We are to move forward in growth in our faith journey – becoming mature (Ephesians 4:13)
- We are grow up into him who is the Head of the body – Christ.
It is from Christ the head that we as church find the life and growth – we grow and build ourselves up in love as each part of the body does its work (4:16)
There are no monuments to the pastors of the church who have served here – or the elders – or the members over these 50 years. We are all parts of this body – this living organism.
In our series on Philippians earlier this year we looked at two difficult women who had issues with each other. Clearly they weren’t part of our church – ha ha! But look at what Paul says in his pleading for unity:
Php 4:2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Php 4:3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
No monuments – only footprints – as we trudge or stride out boldly towards the end – where our names are recorded – as Jesus says to the 72 in Luke’s gospel:
Luk 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Luk 10:18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luk 10:19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. Luk 10:20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
There’s only one list that matters. When the roll is called up yonder – that matters.
And that the legacy that we pass on in the next 50 years means that the next generation will need to hear the message about Jesus and come to know Him too.
WHAT IS REMEMBERED MOST
Here’s the irony. I learned this very quickly working in a school. I had issues with my colleagues often – especially when children were vilified and objectified – labelled and boxed. When it was all about statistics and conformity to the teacher’s way of thinking. I had to work hard towards better narrative counselling and restorative practices – sometimes it felt like we were dragging people along toward community.
Someone put it this way speaking to teachers (and headmasters): “People don’t remember everything you said or taught them. But they do remember how you made them feel.”
Now I am not saying that all our sermons should be sugar or saccharine. The whole counsel of God must be proclaimed.
But the knowledge of the love of God and the power of his love (through the indwelling Holy Spirit) is the real deal (Romans 5:5). That’s how the forgiveness comes. That’s how we learn that there are some things that we can change, and some things we can’t. How we operate in grace rather than grumpiness.
That famous serenity prayer is still relevant:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Of course the biblical version goes like this:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know it’s me.
Paul, talking about gifts in the church – the body of Christ which has the potential to suffer or rejoice as part of the one organic body – says this at the end of 1 Corinthians 12:
And now I will show you the most excellent way.
- 1Co 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (Compare this to the humility of Jesus – Philippians 2:6)
- 1Co 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (Compare this to Jesus’ emptying of himself – Philippians 2:7)
- 1Co 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (Compare this to the real sacrifice of Jesus – Philippians 2:8)
You know the rest – which somehow gets reserved for weddings and these days – funerals – about love and what it is. Read it again in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It’s a great passage.
Hopefully Paul would have prayed this about St Cuthberts – about us – in the past and in the future: Eph 1:15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, Eph 1:16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Eph 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you Simon…”)
You can’t do this church stuff by human strength and ingenuity. By God’s power – you can.
- Knowing Jesus better – that’s moving forward.
- Building up the living body of Christ in the power of His love, wherever we have landed up – that’s moving forward.
- Real forgiveness that leaves bold and courageous footprints giving others a reason to follow in our footprints – that’s moving forward.
It remains true: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6).
Heb 10:19- 36; Acts 11: 19- 30 Matthew 13: 18-23
Stephen – the first Christian martyr – is killed (Acts 7:54-60) .Stoned to death. And the young man called Saul (not yet called Paul) is there approving of his murder. (v 60).
And persecution follows on a wider scale (Acts 8:1-3) We pick this up in Luke’s account in Acts 11:
- Act 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.
- Act 11:20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
Antioch is the place where the disciples are first called Christians (Acts 11:26) It’s where the good news is shared with Greeks.
And the news is really great. People come to faith – non-Jews. Listen again:
- Act 11:21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
- Act 11:22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
- Act 11:23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
- Act 11:24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord
Who do they send? Barnabus – the son of encouragement. What a good person to have doing a Presbytery visit. We find out more about Barnabus – key things that are a lesson for us.
Remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about Barnabus selling his field and bringing the money to the apostles to help those in need in the church? The reference was Acts 4:36-37, and I quoted a preacher and commentator Lloyd Ogilvie who said this:
In two brief verses we are introduced to one of the most admirable personalities of the New Testament. If all we had to enable us to know this man’s character were these two verses, we’d still have enough to stand in admiration and then desire to be like him.
Well I promised more about Barnabus – today’s the day:-)
Barnabus is thrilled with what he sees in Antioch. What does he do? He fetches Saul (whom we know as Paul) from Tarsus.
What you may know is that this son of encouragement had encountered Saul earlier.
After Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he shows up in the Christian community. (Acts 9)
You can imagine their suspicions of him – Saul persecuted them and is now a Christian preacher. Here’s the story from Acts 9:20 when Paul arrives in Damascus and after Ananias prays for him and the scales fall off his eyes (he was temporarily blinded on the road) and he is baptised:
- Act 9:20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
- Act 9:21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
- Act 9:22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
The story is hectic. Some Jews plot to kill him. But he is smuggled out of the city in a basket through an opening in the wall (Acts 9:25). You can see the early Ian Fleming novels beginning here (the author of James Bond!).
He goes to Jerusalem. There too the Christians are less than thrilled to have him around. (Trust issues don’t you think? You get this in all organisations and in families.)
Guess who shows up and rescues his reputation – saving the day for the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom principles of truth and grace? Barnabus of course. We read in Acts 9:27 and 28:
- Act 9:27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
- Act 9:28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.
Barnabus the encourager – filled with the spirit of truth – stands for truth – advocating for Saul (or Paul as he becomes known).
It doesn’t last long though. We read in Acts 9:29 – He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. So they get him out of there and off to Tarsus his home town.
So here it is – in overview. Barnabus, the son of encouragement:
- Barnabus the one who listens to the Holy Spirit and liquidates an asset to help the church – so that there are no needy people among them.
- Barnabus who advocates for Paul the converted persecutor.
- Barnabus who is sent to Antioch to check out this new multicultural church – and who fetches Saul from Tarsus to come and teach the new church – because he knows Saul has more to offer as a teacher.
What an encouraging man!
So when there is a famine as we read in the last part of our reading from Acts 11 – who do they get to help?
- Act 11:27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
- Act 11:28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)
- Act 11:29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.
- Act 11:30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Here’s the key verse: Act 11:29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.
And Barnabus and Saul take the gifts to the elders of the church in Judea.
The modern Barnabus Fund encourages the church throughout the world, especially those who are persecuted. If figures that when the church is persecuted physical needs are part of the equation. Our gifts – according to our abilities – with our prayers – will help our brothers wherever the need is.
Persecution is not an exception or a modern scourge alone. It’s been there since the beginning. Did you pick up the links in the readings?
The Gospel reading speaks volumes. We’re all at risk of falling away.
- Mat 13:18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:
- Mat 13:19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
- Mat 13:20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.
- Mat 13:21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
- Mat 13:22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
- Mat 13:23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Are you a field – or ground or soil that is rocky, or beset with thorns? It’s about the word (v 21).
If the word of God is not planted and rooted well in you and me, we too could fall away when we face trouble or persecution, says Jesus. (Verse 21).
And of course the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. (Verse 22).
Choke what? The life of the word of God which is planted in our lives.
The parable of the sower is actually the parable of the soils. It’s about us!
How much more should we not pray for those whose lives are threatened because they are Christians and help them according to our ability!
We need to be encouragers!
- Generous here at BBP so that no one in our midst is in need.
- Truthful – sticking up for others who are maligned because of their reputation like Saul of Tarsus.
- Willing to see the good in every new situation like Barnabus visiting the church in Antioch.
- Honest – when we need help and invite others to support us in our work because of their gifts that are stronger than ours – like Barnabus who fetched Saul to help the church.
- And willing to go the extra mile – like Barnabus and Saul – to take our gifts to those in need like the Christians who were suffering because of the famine.
- And of course to give according to our ability as they all did for Christians in need. Paul of course emphasises this in his letter to the Galatians in chapter 6: Gal 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Gal 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Our other reading today from Hebrews 10 is one of the most powerful and inspiring passages of Scripture. And when it comes to encouraging one another there’s not much that beats Hebrews 10:23-26:
- Exhortations: Heb 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
- Heb 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
- Heb 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
These are the great ‘Let us…” and “Let us not…” lines – about holding on to the hope we profess – about spurring one other on towards love and good deeds – and especially the one trap that we fall into when things are hard – we stop meeting together.
Story – 19th century Baptist — Spurgeon once visited a man who had stopped coming to worship. He tried to explain the need to hang in there to the man, but words didn’t work. So he said: “it’s like this”. He took a red-hot coal from the fire and placed it on the side of the hearth. It grew cold and black. Then he took the tongs and placed the piece of coal back in the fire – and it grew hot and glowed red again.
We need to encourage each other in all these things!
And let’s face it – our reasons for giving up are often not really as bad as having a gun at our heads with our lives threatened if we are Christ’s followers. Or being buried up to our heads and then stoned to death like a Pastor’s daughter Monica we read about in the Barnabus Fund magazine.
Listen again to the last lines of the reading from Hebrews 10:
- Heb 10:32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
- Heb 10:33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
- Heb 10:34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
- Heb 10:35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
- Heb 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Let’s help the persecuted Church persevere. And let’s not give up on our journey either.
Psalm 55:4-8, 22 Page 892; 1 Peter 5:1-11 Page 1892; Luke 12 :25-34 Page 1618 (NIV)
CAN YOU REALLY FLY AWAY?
Let’s listen to a musical introit from Mendelsohn’s “O for the wings of a dove” – the second part of “Hear my prayer”. The first part of “Hear my prayer” is also from of Psalm 55, revealing the turmoil and the anguish of the writer who is calling on God for help in the face of the godless and various enemies. “O for the wings of a dove” is part of the prayer and seen as a way to ecape.
The singers are The Choirboys (2005) – a trio who were together for a short while.
In fact in Psalm 55 it is a close friend who has betrayed David. One of those worst disappointments. This is stuff that breaks your heart. Like betrayal in marriage. Divorce and separation. Or conflict of any sort that is too hard to bear.
The idea that one can escape with the wings of a dove is not a bad one.
Go off into the wilderness. The desert fathers did that – shifted into a parallel zone to be connected with God in a deeper way – a conscious choice to be in that zone. For them the wilderness was a place of solitude and solitude.
We need that too – that ability to find a place of “repose” – restfulness and tranquillity – calm and peacefulness.
Our prayer life is part of that – plus our ability to zone out in other ways – through rest, music, reading and creative writing. Journal keeping – drawing – whatever works for us. For some its running!
IT’S IN THE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THAT THE PEACE IS FOUND
The impulsive apostle Peter – in his older wiser days when he stopped putting his foot into things – wrote this:
1Pe 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1Pe 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
The Christians then were persecuted – many were dying for their faith too like today.
There is a way forward, says Peter. Rest in the Lord – cast your anxieties on him – because he cares for you.
Just as in Psalm 55:22 David grounds his trust in this faithful God too: Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you…
This being peaceful – “chillaxing” as the young people say today – is not a complacency however. The verse that follow make that very clear:
1Pe 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1Pe 5:9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
There is a war on.
The Apostle Paul supports Peter in this idea of standing firm – in this locus classicus or key passage in the New Testament on spiritual battles:
Eph 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Eph 6:11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Eph 6:13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Eph 6:14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
Eph 6:15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Of course there is more – and this too is grounded in the word of God (remember our discussion last week about the two sides of the same coin?) and prayer through the Holy Spirit:
Eph 6:16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Eph 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Eph 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
JESUS REENFORCES THIS STANDING FIRM IN HIS TEACHING IN THE GOSPELS
- This steadiness – ability to fly away into a safe zone…
- The fear, worry and anxiety we deal with – is to be left with God. They are distractions in the big picture of the battle for truth – the Truth of God, His Kingdom, and his desire and purpose for the world.
Yes – this is true! Listen again to the links in the readings today:
- Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you…”
- 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Jesus says this too elsewhere:
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.
And in today’s reading from Luke 12:
Luk 12:25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
Luk 12:26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
He’s really saying – cut the c**p! This obsession with stuff! And your needs in the consumer Christian cult we all get sucked into.
Luk 12:29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
Luk 12:30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
Luk 12:31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Luk 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Luk 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
Luk 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Your treasure in heaven is not really, primarily, about a bigger and better mansion that you invest in the sky (the idea that if you don’t you’ll just get a batch with bad/Asian/English/South African neighbours – or whatever matches your prejudice.) And don’t be anxious and fearful.
Luk 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
The Kingdom. Has been pleased to give you… Now! Its values – its economics. Its purpose for living – living out Kingdom values and standards – seeking the Kingdom above other things – bringing people into the Kingdom – investing your tithes (still 10%) into the work of the Kingdom through first and foremost the local church. It’s about doing the works that God gives you.
Remember the women at the well story and sermon? When they went shopping and Jesus was able to get on with things? Remember the food debate? Here it is in John 4:
Joh 4:30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Joh 4:31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
Joh 4:32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Joh 4:33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
Joh 4:34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
His work was the very substance of his being. Obedience and redemption. These are bread and butter issues, if you like.
Jesus’ work was a war too.
When Jesus once healed on the Sabbath, they accused him of doing the work of Beelzebub – Lord of the flies. The devil. The Satan – is the correct way of talking about him. Here’s the passage in Matthew 12 this time:
Mat 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
Mat 12:25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
Mat 12:26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?
Mat 12:27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.
Mat 12:28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
You can’t do his stuff – his work – unless you are steady – grounded – standing firm and alert – with your intelligence operatives doing their job.
Jesus’s work on earth ended on the cross. But the story didn’t end there. This is the Kingdom of the 3rd day. Resurrection. And giving the Spirit. And His intercession for us. And His coming again in the future to judge us all.
It’s what David didn’t live after – he lived before it. We live after the resurrection. We know the results of the real World Cup.
But David knew it was coming. He spoke of Messiah aka Christ:
Psa 110:1 Of David. A psalm. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
When people asked Jesus this question, he referred to this.
Mat 22:42 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied.
Mat 22:43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
Mat 22:44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘
Mat 22:45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
Mat 22:46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
SO HOW DO WE DO IT?
The wrestling in prayer is no easy task. Jesus had his time in the wilderness – but it was not a place of rest and refuge. It was a struggle with the voices that challenged his identity and destiny. (He was led there by the Spirit!)
And in the garden of Gethsemane too. He didn’t ask then to fly away like a dove.
He did pray this though:
(Mat 26:36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
Mat 26:37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.)
Mat 26:38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Mat 26:39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
(Mat 26:40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.
Mat 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”)
Mat 26:42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
(Mat 26:43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.)
Mat 26:44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
In his temptations it was “If you are the son of God…”. In Gethsemane it was about facing the suffering and darkness of the sins of the world. It was being the Lamb of God – except unlike the lambs at Passover who had no idea what was coming – he knew exactly. And like David, he knew the betrayal of a close friend. He need to know in all this that he was the beloved Son of God. He needed the voice he heard at his baptism again – and his transfiguration. Here are the passages from the ESV:
Mat 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
Mat 3:17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Mar 9:7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
WHAT ABOUT US?
Henri Nouwen put it like this:
“Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, ‘Prove that you are a good person.’ Another voice says, ‘You’d better be ashamed of yourself.’ There also is a voice that says, ‘Nobody really cares about you,’ and one that says, ‘Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.’
But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved, my favour rests on you.’ That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen. That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us ‘my Beloved.’”
- Music – helps you step out of the zone into his peace. It’s God’s gift.
- Reflection – helps too, like meditation on his word.
- Quietness – be still and know (Psalm 46) or Stillness.
- In the face of terror – Escape like a dove to those safe places.
- Standing firm – in the face of Terror – is in His strength alone.
- Being strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
This is us. Amen.
Receive the blessing – from the choirboys again: