Monthly Archives: November 2015

Sunday sermon 29 November 2015 Advent 1 – Refiner’s fire

READINGS:   Malachi 3:1-6  Luke 3:1-6; Matthew 12:9-21


We have a local website and network called neighbourly. It’s a great tool. You can send out notices of events in specific areas around here, and people get a daily email with the key events.

Here’s an example recently – just before the last school holidays:


If you can’t read that it says:

5 Top Posts

  • Mainly Music on Fridays at 10 am – come to BBP @ 45 Anzac Road, Browns Bay New
  • Browns Bay Family Home Cleaner Required New
  • Brown Chickens sighted on Browns Bay Road this morning 17Sep15 New
  • Update on Tsunami Warning New
  • National Warning issued by Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management- Tsunami: Marine and Beach Threat New

Do you see the odd thing about this email?

  • Mainly music – number one! All good really!
  • Then a cleaner needed – number two! Makes sense. They say cleanliness is close to godliness!
  • Then the lost brown chickens – number three! O dear. Sounds tragic really.
  • Then the last two are about the Tsunami coming! Bit late for mainly music, the cleaner and the chickens really – if the tsunami comes, well who cares. Unless you’re a duck, it’s all academic really.

Seriously – the last time there was a serious tsunami warning people went down to the beach front with picnic baskets for an afternoon’s entertainment!

It sounds just like the people in the time of Noah…. Or Lot. Have a look in Luke 17:

Luk 17:24  For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. Luk 17:25  But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Luk 17:26  “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. Luk 17:27  People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

Luk 17:28  “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. Luk 17:29  But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Luk 17:30  “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. Luk 17:31  On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Luk 17:32  Remember Lot’s wife!

You know the story of the boy in Sunday school who had to answer the question: what happened to Lot’s wife? He wrote – “she was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire at night”.


Are WE serious?

When we talk about Advent and being prepared for a major event or happening, it reminds me of our days in Wellington before the Christchurch earthquakes.

We were not that serious about having food and water stored up. I don’t think we had more than one torch and certainly nothing to cook on in the event of a long term power failure.

And that was despite having a number of serious shakes via quakes.

And so we bought our emergency kits after the fact – and then moved to Auckland where you need a boat when you get 12 hours warning of a volcano.

PREPARATION is a big deal.

So John the Baptist arrives. There is a serious pronouncement of an event here. And this is the announcement of the arrival of the one who would do the major announcement to follow. It’s the pre-alert if you like.

Luk 3:1  In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— Luk 3:2  during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.

There had been a silence for a long time. Nothing – heaven had been silent since the time of Malachi which was written so many hundreds of years before this (in about 430BC). God speaks to John – and through John to people about Jesus – and through Jesus the Word of God – to the world. Malachi warns us:

Malachi 3:1-4

Mal 3:1  “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.


The passage quickly turns to the actual event:

“Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. Mal 3:2  But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. Mal 3:3  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, Mal 3:4  and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.”  

Advent is the event before the event. It’s about being ready for the celebration of the coming of Jesus. For us it’s the pre-Christmas bit.

I’ve been reading some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s advent sermons. The one was preached in 1930 in Cuba. Listen to what he says:  “But Advent is a serious matter too, and indeed a terribly serious matter. We are a strange people. As Advent comes around again, we will probably sing a few Christmas carols at home with our children, rush around to by all our gifts, write a few Christmas cards, and the when all the office parties are over, we shall enter the land of fun and laughter, the land of Christmas.”

He goes on to his sermon text from Deuteronomy 32: 48-52 about Moses dying before he reaches the Promised Land. Moses whose life’s journey and mission was to lead the people to that land. What a terrible unfulfilled hope and wish. God speaks to His man – to Moses, and tells him to go up to the Abarim mountain range, to die on the mountain, within sight of the promised land. Because of disobedience, unholiness and sin. Bonhoeffer says simply: Before the promise, the sinner must die. He puts it like this:

“He comes. Are you ready? There lies the shattering question with which the New Testament begins and ends, the only decisive question for the whole world and for the whole of our life. Are you ready for God?” (Christmas Sermons, 2005:p36).

John comes before Jesus. Repentance comes before good news. Advent before Christmas.

At Advent with all the horrible things happening around the world, our hope has to be realistic and not decorated with tinsel.

We need some cleaning up in our lives.

The Malachi reading is the powerful one. It features in Handel’s Messiah. I was listening to it again. I always marvel at the power of the human voices who sing the solo parts.

Would you like to listen to some of it? Of course they repeat the lines from Malachi again and again. Like a preacher repeating herself a lot – maybe because people are slow to hear or hear only what their itching ears want to hear! (Verse: 2Ti 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 2Ti 4:3  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.)

Here it is. What amazing singing. Look out for the visuals about cleansing.

(The singers and musicians: Contralto: Hillary Summers; Bass: Alastair Miles; Orchestra: The Brandenburg Consort; Choir: Kings College Choir Cambridge).

The words are straight from Scripture – staring from Haggai 2:

  1. Accompagnato

Bass: Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts: Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come. (Haggai 2: 6-7)

The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the Covenant, whom you delight in; behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3: 1)

  1. Air

Alto or soprano: But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire. (Malachi 3: 2)

  1. Chorus

And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3: 3)

Lovely that they simply sing scripture!

So what about the Levites?

The priests.

Earlier in Malachi 1 we read: Mal 1:6  “A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.

 And then: Mal 1:10  “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. Mal 1:11  My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.

Malachi was obviously concerned about their shoddy work – their second rate offerings. ABout worship.

In chapter 2 he spells out how they had broken His covenant with Levi (2:8).

They offered him second best, and did not keep the covenant. (By grace – later in the NT when the deacons are elected so that the apostles can focus on preaching the word in Acts 6 we read: Act 6:7  So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.)

If there is anything that we are to be judged on – it’s our worship. And judgment begins with the household of God for us too (1 Peter 4:17).

Our offerings. Our passion for worship. Our total love for God. Or lack of it.And how we express it here especially – is this our very best?

Our hearts that become hardened – or indifferent – or locked onto other things.

Again and again Jesus reminds us. Again and again in Deuteronomy it comes up. It’s about all our heart. One quote from the gospels will do: Mar 12:30  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

  • All this preparation at Advent.
  • All these activities.
  • All the preparation for Christmas too.
  • But are we really ready for his coming?

The one of whom it is said as we heard in Luke 3: “All mankind will see God’s salvation.” And in Matthew 11 today: “In his name the nations will put their hope.”

We also have a covenant – through our baptism. We are also committed to put God first.

But there is so much rubbish in our lives.

The refiner’s fire will cleanse us too. Renewal comes through testing and cleansing. And the word for ‘soap’ (borit) sounds quite similar to the word for “covenant” (berit). Ironically.

So in chapter 3 he says that God will come:

(Mal 3:1 …. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. Mal 3:2  But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. Mal 3:3  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, al 3:4  and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. 

One writer put it like this:

“Like a refiner’s fire and cleansing soap, the arrival of Christ in our midst calls us to reverent obedience and faithful praise. The good news is indeed that we will not be left unchanged but will be reformed and refined to become like Christ. The prophet raises a challenge for each of us. As we proclaim Christ’s coming with Advent expectation, the promise of Christ’s arrival should prompt us to self-reflection and even make us uncomfortable. Are we ready?”   (Anne Stewart.

There is a danger that we are not ready. That we are chasing brown chickens on Browns Bay road when a tsunami is coming.





Sunday sermon 22 November 2015 – Christ the King


Ephesians 2: 6-10; Matthew 25:31-46;


I was reading the sermon I preached on this day 4 years ago. Not bad really – even if I say so myself. It was a solid and challenging message.

But did it get across? Did the message make a difference? Or do we have constant miscommunication in this modern age.

Take this cartoon for example. It’s speaks volumes:


So what is the heart of the message? What do you take away each week? What will you take home today?

This is CHRIST THE KING Sunday. Also known as the “Reign of Christ”. Whether you are a royalist or a republican you can’t avoid the titles of Jesus.

The Gospel text (the reading today – not an sms received on your phone in code) starts very directly with these words: Mat 25:31  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.

Sit on his throne. Then in verse 34 we read:  “Then the King will say…

The last judgement scene has been portrayed in all kinds of creative ways. It is quite graphic really. Verse 41 speaks volumes really: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

We may miss the point however. We obsess about future judgement sometimes. Jesus seemed to say elsewhere that judgement is also now.

Take this for example: John 3:18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. A fascinating verse.

But beyond that – the Christian life is not really about doing good and ethics. They are part of it – but not the essence of it.

People do see it like this however. A conversation with a parishioner from a previous church is a good example. I asked her this question – here was the conversation: are you still at church? Her response: No I don’t go to church anymore. Just try to live a good life quietly on my own.

I wonder if her good life includes the kind of care Jesus talks about in Matthew 25.

Mat 25:35  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, Mat 25:36  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Don’t you see? Once you make it about what you do – it gets tricky. And we get picky. That’s why the questions about what we must “do” are a distraction.

Commentator Dirk Lang puts it like this: “Like the person who came to Jesus and asked “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16-24), so we too wonder on what side we will find ourselves — the right or the left? The question, however, is simply an excuse for doing nothing, as Bonhoeffer has pointed out.

The person attempts to engage Jesus in an endless ethical discussion about works or good deeds. In this parable, the question resurfaces but in an importantly different way: “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” (25:44).

Those at the left hand of the Son of Man seek an excuse and almost put the blame on the Son of Man himself as if to say, ‘You didn’t reveal yourself; how could we see you?’ ” (

In other words – if I’d known it was you Jesus when that poor person asked for help, then I would have Jesus! You can see how daft that is.

SO: What’s it all about?

Here’s the clue – the people in the sheep and goats account who get the prize – who are rewarded – actually had no idea they were doing it to Jesus (or to someone who represents Jesus).

Their response is this: Mat 25:38  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?Mat 25:39  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  

The implication is – they were doing what they were doing because that’s who they were. It flowed out of them without the analysis.

And it fits well with Jesus’ teaching elsewhere does it not. And with Matthew as a whole starting with John the Baptiser:

Mat 3:7  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Mat 3:8  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Mat 3:9  And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. Mat 3:10  The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

And Jesus takes this theme further: Mat 7:16  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Mat 7:17  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Mat 7:18  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Mat 7:19  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Mat 7:20  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

The implication is that this is gardening again – not philosophy or logic or ethics classes. It’s an organic growth in character if we are connected to Jesus the Head, and the rest of the body.

That’s why holiness and unity are really hard to keep together in tension. People will be happy families (united) until you confront behaviour (go for holiness). They get mad at you. Sulk. Boycott church.

Jesus keeps going at this theme in Matthew: Mat 12:31  And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Mat 12:32  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Mat 12:33  “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. Mat 12:34  You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Mat 12:35  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. Mat 12:36  But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

 The king in this Kingdom is a King of compassion. The fruit of behaviour in transformed connected people (connected to the vine if you like as in John 15) is people who have compassion like Jesus did.

Compassion on the woman at the well. The prostitute caught in adultery. The tax collector up a tree. The untouchable lepers. Do I need to go on? When they meet Jesus – he changes them through grace.

We try to change the world through condemnation and threats.

So the good-fruit disciples who have no idea helping people is like helping Jesus – feed the poor, visit the prisoners. (Hey – do you want to come with me in the week before Christmas? I’m looking for some singers who can come with me and I will bring my guitar. To the maximum security prison.)

And they help the hungry, thirsty, strangers and naked. They do it and are surprised that it is the same has helping Jesus.

The sheep are good fruit. Fabulous mixed metaphor.

The goats are fruitless. And they are the debaters – they love discussing things. “Really – I would have done something if I’d known it was for you Jesus!”


Modern debaters discuss whether the “least of these” means gentiles or Christians – who do we help. Refugees? Which ones?

The sheep just do it. Nike sheep. Fabulous mixed metaphor.


I know there are passages about obedience – and we have to figure out what this means. But the bulk of the evidence (we ponder scripture – we weigh things up) is about doing what we are already.

Indicative: you are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

Imperative: be yourselves – salt and light.


So a final comment from Ephesians 2. It is always grace and not works. A gift – not earned by our deeds. Paul says it like this:

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. Eph 2:10  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  

Legalists agonise here too – “am I doing the right good works?” “I’m sure my good works don’t including visiting prisons. Helping Muslims. Being generous to people who are DIFFERENT!?”

Maybe this will help to make the point:


Tom Wright picks up on a subtlety in the Greek in verse 10 which you see in other translations: 8 How has this all come about? You have been saved by grace, through faith! This doesn’t happen on your own initiative; it’s God’s gift. 9 It isn’t on the basis of works, so no one is able to boast. 10 This is the explanation: God has made us what we are. God has created us in King Jesus for the good works that he prepared, ahead of time, as the road we must travel 

Other translations pick this up too: (NRSV)  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.   

(ESV)  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

(CEV)  God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.

He prepared good works as the road we must travel. To be our way of life (NRSV). That we should walk in them (ESV) – the word is peripatetic. Περιπατέω – it means to live or walk.

That’s no token – no selective good works. It’s all of life.

It’s the fruit. You can’t have it half the time or selectively. We become fruitful.

We do it because we are this.



Sunday Sermon 15 November 2015 – Seeing, Seeking, Speaking…

Readings:  1 Corinthians 13:11 – 1 Corinthians 14:5;    1 Corinthians 14:14-15 & 26; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 4:16-24.


“Seeing – Seeking – Speaking”

  • Two weeks ago – body life.
  • Last week – bearing one another’s burdens.
  • Today – Seeing, Seeking, Speaking…


A little boy was on a School tour of the local Anglican Church and the vicar was walking the children around the building and explaining the flags, banners, and memorial rolls on the wall. He stopped at the World War 1 and 2 memorial and announced: “these are the names of the people who died in the services.” “Which ones?” asked the boy. “Morning or evening services?

There is little chance of you dying in church, statistically. If I were to die at work, on the other hand, it could be quite spectacular.

Which reminds me of the story of a young visiting preacher who was preaching on the text ‘I am coming soon”. He did not know that the lectern was a bit wobbly and got carried away. The thing toppled over and he landed in the lap of a lady in the front row. “No worries” she declared. “You did warn me”.

You’re unlikely to die in church. There is a chance of being in church where things are quite dead of course.

Some people prefer it that way. The calmer and less disruptive the better. You get churches like that. Very quiet as even the kids are spirited away to a back room in silence.

And then you get churches like ours which sound like a morning market – so much animated conversation. Don’t we get excited when we see our mates!

Real life in worship is about the presence of God.

The Gospel reading today is a short extract from the story we know well – the woman at the well – that’s how well we well know it! 🙂 (Isn’t English interesting?)

I’ve often preached on this story – and many others have too – suggesting that she was there in the middle of the heat of the day to avoid the scrutiny of busy-bodies. Maybe.

We have often suggested that when Jesus gets to the heart of the issue, this unnamed Samaritan woman uses theology as an escape.

You know the story – when it gets personal, discuss theological theories and avoid the truth.


It’s possible that she was a good person – who was widowed a lot (okay you may think it a stretch, but I’ve met people who have married often, and sometimes divorced and remarried the same person). David Lose says this when speaking of her:

Jesus at no point invites repentance or, for that matter, speaks of sin at all. She very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced. Five times would be heart-breaking, but not impossible.

Further, she could now be living with someone that she was dependent on, or be in what’s called a Levirate marriage (where a childless woman is married to her deceased husband’s brother in order to produce an heir yet is not always technically considered the brother’s wife). There are any number of ways, in fact, that one might imagine this woman’s story as tragic rather than scandalous.


It may well be that she is a genuine seeker. Listen again: “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.”

Sometimes “seeing” indicates wisdom, or spiritual growth. It’s often linked to belief (“seeing the light”).

At a basic level, people want to “see” Jesus – like the unnamed Greeks in John 12 (See Tuesday’s message).

Or the first disciples in John 1:  Andrew brings Simon Peter to Jesus. Jesus calls Philip.

Joh 1:45  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Joh 1:46  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.


Seeking is seeing with one more letter.

When we see Jesus – perhaps just as a prophet or special man (for many today he is still great for his ethics alone – the golden rule for example, in Luke 6:31) – when we are drawn to him – the seeking begins.

Interestingly – it is God who is the seeker at first.

In the discussion that comes up with the Samaritan woman on worship, Jesus says this fascinating thing:

Joh 4:23  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

In Genesis 3 after they eat the forbidden fruit, Moses records:

Gen 3:7  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Gen 3:8  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Gen 3:9  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

The first game of hide and seek. Fail.

We are told to seek God. A number of well-known verses come to mind:

Deu_4:29  But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

 Isa_55:6  Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 

Hos_10:12  Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

And these two:

Pro_8:17  I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

Jer_29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Seeing – seeking – coming – as in the invitation to Jesus in Matthew 11:


God doesn’t need worshippers.  He sees us and knows our need for community and transformation.

He seeks us because he wants us to be connected and found as his “church” – those who are “called out” and “called” together into assembly in His presence.

It is here that He speaks to us.

In the passages we read about worship in the Corinthian and Ephesian churches today – there’s a lot about communication.


It follows that He speaks through His life, his teaching, and through His Holy Spirit.

The gifts of the Spirit are there because God speaks and acts.

Here are some of the key verses again:

1Co 14:1  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

1Co 14:2  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

1Co 14:3  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

Eph 5:18  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Eph 5:19  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Eph 5:20  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

And the key one:

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

Worship is not a weekly recharge like an electric car charging station. It is a place for community encouragement and teaching from the Word. But it also means that what we have been “self-feeding” through the week can be shared to strengthen the church – building up one another – as in previous sermons dated:

25 October

1 November  )

Perhaps this helps to show what we can become:



  1. He sees us – we see Him and the faith journey begins.
  2. He seeks our fellowship/relationship – we seek him
  3. He speaks to us in Christ and through word and spirit – we speak to him in praise and worship and to each other in mutual edification/strengthening.

YOU CAN’T AVOID THE SPEAKING BIT – he is not silent and neither can we be

Prophecy – speaking God’s word to one another. 1Co 14:1  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

1Co 14:3  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 

Worship – singing to one another.

Eph 5:19  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord…

There is always going to be noise! Sound! Notes! words!

Community – building one another up in sharing God’s story in our lives.

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

There is always going to be interaction. Everyone! Lots of action and gifts in action.

Witnessing – the woman in John 4 leaves her bucket and goes off to speak again – this time to others – and about Jesus! There is always going to be a testimony – a story – an account given of “what we have seen and heard”. Like these passages –  

From Luke:  Act 4:18  Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Act 4:19  But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. Act 4:20  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And from John: 1Jn 1:3  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1Jn 1:4  We write this to make our joy complete.

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. 

How about you? Are you seeing, seeking, speaking about what you have seen and heard?


10 November 2015 Tuesday church – Seeking Jesus

Readings: Psalm 127:1-2; John 12:20-33


Sir, we would like to see Jesus. It’s a great request. A good place to start if you were there back in the day.

I mean – if you heard stories about him – his miracles – his turning water into wine – his raising the dead. Breaking bread and feeding 5000 at a time. Interesting guy to have at a picnic, this Jesus. Or at a funeral for that matter.

These unnamed and unnumbered Greeks ask Philip. Philip speaks to Andrew. Andrew and Philip speak to Jesus. One wonders if this is broken down telephones – Chinese whispers? Look at what happens next.

You would think that we would read, ‘Jesus said, “Bring them along! I’d love to have a yarn! Let’s hear what the latest is in the Hellenic world! How are the olive trees doing there?”’

The reply is weirdly challenging for us. It’s like a major policy speech. A shift in tone.

Even a policy shift.

There is no healing taking place, or teaching on loving God and our neighbour, prayer or worship, compassion or kindness. He replies:

“The hour has come…”

Listen again:

Joh 12:23  Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Joh 12:24  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Joh 12:25  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Joh 12:26  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Joh 12:27  “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Joh 12:28  Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 

He talks about

  • Dying (v24)
  • Sacrifice (v25)
  • Serving (v26)
  • Following (v26)
  • A troubled heart (v27)
  • How to pray and how not to pray selfishly (v27)
  • Obedience and how to glorify God’s name. (v28)

In fact one of these verses is found on cenotaphs – war memorials to the dead, to fallen soldiers:

It begins with “Truly truly I say to you” (αμην αμην λεγω υμιν – Amen amen lego humin).

Joh 12:24  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 

It’s appropriate really as tomorrow is Remembrance Day. We should remember the many who gave their lives for our freedom and who still do today.

But also we need to know that we can’t seek Jesus on our terms.

We have people like that all the time. They complain that church ‘doesn’t meet their needs’.

Jesus does actually. But following him is like an inconvenient truth (Al Gore’s title for climate change).

Jesus died a sacrificial death too. He calls us to live a sacrificial life like his. (Romans 12:1).

You won’t get rich or famous. There’s no talk of prosperity here. Or even “my favourite hymns and bible passages.”

But if you really follow Him you will glorify God – like he did. He prays: “Father, glorify your name!”

It happens for Jesus on the cross! But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (verse 32). He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (verse 33).

His way is still best. Totally worthwhile! And wise.

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. (Isa 55:6)


Sunday Sermon 1 November 2015 – As Each Part Does Its Work

Readings:  1Co 12:1-27; 1 Php 1:1-11; Mat 5:21-26; Eph 4:15-16



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.

It’s been a hectic couple of months. When you make a commitment to something – like a major event, a 50th party, a wedding, a conference – there’s no telling how things will work. The risks are the same as a simpler event.

The most risky events are like concerts (we had a great one on Sunday night). There’s the great story of the award given by a choir to the pianist for her faithfulness through the year at every practice – this was the last one before the Christmas concert. The old dear was still a great pianist – but sometimes not with it at all. “Thanks so much” she said. “It was a great idea to give this to me tonight – I can’t make the concert after all! Something’s come up!”.

She might be one of those people with the headstone on her grave: “great life, but missed the point”. One has to end well – endure to the end! (Matthew 24:13 may apply in the broader sense.)

Have you missed the point of church life?

It was still very noticeable to me – despite the wonderful attendance of people over the Jubilee weekend (there were lots of options) – that some people were just not to be seen. Of course leaving the country is probably a valid reason. 🙂 And it was a long weekend.

Of course the same can be said of today. One colleague said to me this week that he will be very pleased when the World Cup is over. Maybe people will get back to church!

The good news is that the work goes on!

Paul – writing to the Ephesians in a seminal passage – a key descriptor of the Christian church which we looked at last week when considering how we grow to maturity as we move forward on our faith journey – how we grow to be like Christ and into Christ – writes this:

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.

Pardon me if I am losing the plot here – but those last 6 words seem rather succinct. Clear. Unconfused. Simple.

As each part does its work. You can almost count those words on one hand (you could if you were Jim Carey in the movie “Bruce Almighty!) As each part does its work!

The analogy of a human body – the extended metaphor Paul uses – appears in 1 Corinthians 12 as well as we heard today.

He hints of our participation in other ways of course. There are other analogies, metaphors or concepts used. Like the beginning of his letter to the Philippians:

Php 1:3  I thank my God every time I remember you. Php 1:4  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy Php 1:5  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, Php 1:6  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Our partnership in the gospel.

It’s also an involving kind of idea.

Even “silent” partners put their money into the business, if I recall. They do something.

Paul rejoices because of the participation of the Philippians in the gospel – its teaching and proclamation through the world – and in their own lives – because this can never be a clinical kind of critique of everyone else who we believe needs to be changed by Jesus – when in fact it begins with us. (The classical line heard at church after a powerful sermon – “I wish Mrs Jones was here today – she really needed to hear that!”)

As we said last week – the biblical serenity prayer is this (for those who missed out):

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 writes:

I always pray with joy Php 1:5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, Php 1:6  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

There’s work being done – work to be done.

After that brilliant passage – in the next chapter about Jesus’ humility (the “if any…” passage –  If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose, (Phil 2:1-2) – Paul also says:

Php 2:12  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Php 2:13  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Fear and trembling? It sounds serious. It is!

If there was an alternative title to this sermon it could be something like “paralysis in the pew”.

Or alternatively, turning to 1 Corinthians 12,

“Body Life – the part you were called to be”.

Verse 27 says clearly:

1Co 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

The context of the passage is the “spirituals” – literally the pneumatikoi

Here’s the verse at the beginning of chapter 12:

12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. (Literally agnostic – without knowledge). Verse 3 continues:

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. (Note: Of course they said that back then knowing it meant Caesar was not Lord and inviting trouble! For us it should be – society is NOT Lord. Money is NOT Lord. And the list goes on!)

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.

What is clear then is this:


There is something quite unique in the organism of the church (see last week’s sermon for the distinction between organism and organisation).

It is a Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered body. Last Sunday we talked about Peter’s declaration of faith as the foundation – revealed by the Father in heaven to him. (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!)

Here Paul tells us that the 3rd person of the Trinity is part of this too. You can’t have one without the other two! (It reminds me of the Frank Sinatra song “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage – you can’t have one without the other!)

And so, says Paul: ‘no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. ‘

He continues with this pattern of the Trinity spelt out in another way.

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

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

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

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

It’s all God-works. Not ours. And its not for us. Verse 7 says – it’s for the common good. (Perhaps there’s nothing new about Bentham’s philosophy of what’s best for all – called Utilitarianism). Of course Paul would not have said that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” For Paul right and wrong is set by God.

But in the church people are there to serve for the common good – to build up the church – for the glory of God.

Body life is Spirit-led life. He goes on later in verse 12 and 13: 1Co 12:12  The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 1Co 12:13  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (Because this is the source of our life!)

Body life is Spirit-led life.


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.

He doesn’t want us to be agnostics-s – ignoramuses (ignorami?) about spirituals – spiritual gifts.

The lists vary between here and Ephesians 4, Romans 12.

Body life is gifted life. The great thing is that the gifts empower us to be a blessing to others. They are not for us but for the wider body of the Church. And this is not like a wedding where the bride makes a list and the guests select from the bride’s choices.

The bride of Christ does not choose. The Spirit chooses. The key phrase is “just as he determines” (in verse 11).

Lucky for us we can still desire spiritual gifts. More about that in two weeks’ time as we look at 1 Corinthians 14.


When you read the rest of the passage the analogy between the church as the Body of Christ and the human body has all kinds of implications.

1Co 12:14  Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1Co 12:15  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 1Co 12:16  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 1Co 12:17  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? (Note: this means that “body sins” include one part of the body saying “I am most important” and therefore I am the whole and not a part of the body!)

1Co 12:18  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 1Co 12:19  If they were all one part, where would the body be? 1Co 12:20  As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 1Co 12:21  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  (Note: A “body sin” here is when someone says “I don’t need you” to another in the body).

1Co 12:22  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 1Co 12:23  and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 1Co 12:24  while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 1Co 12:25  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

The passage reaches a climax here:

1Co 12:26  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

1Co 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

If one part thinks it’s the only one that matters – well you get the message. It’s out of sync. It’s like a cancerous cell – a limb that grows way past is proper position and size. My mother would have said “don’t get too big for your boots!).

And of course if you are more important – then others become redundant or irrelevant.

“I don’t need you” is a very unhelpful thing to say in a family – and especially in the family of the church which is in fact a living organism.

Of course sometimes when there is sickness and healing is needed, the bad stuff has to be lanced like a boil – or cut off to stop the spread of gangrene.

  • The partnership in the gospel
  • The completing of the good work that God has begun (which He completes if we cooperate
  • The working out our salvation with fear and trembling (for it is God who works in us…)

All happens in this organism. You can’t just be a passive observer! It happens in body life – in Christian Community.

As we look at our Mission in this community today when we have our congregational meeting after the service – the first choice we have is to decide to be part of what God is doing in this part of his body – the Church.

Or not. Brother Mike spoke about the covenant at Shechem a few weeks ago. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24).

How about you? In or out?

“As each part does its work.”