Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sunday Sermon, 17 July 2016 – Mary and Martha

Reading: Luke 10:38-42

MESSAGE

So how are you when it comes to balancing your life?

Work and pleasure                     Exercise and rest

Crowds and solitude                 Noise and silence?

Busyness and devotion?          Doing and being?

Being a Martha or being a Mary?

Hospitality has been a big issue in Luke’s gospel as we’ve travelled along through the story.

You will remember the sons of thunder wanting to call down fire on that Samaritan village which was not hospitable to Jesus. They wanted heaven to “nuke” the lot of them.

You may remember the 72 being sent out – and Jesus’ instruction for them to shake the dust off their feet when they did not find children of peace in a place. You only had dust on your feet when people were inhospitable – otherwise they would have washed your feet when you arrived at their place. We have hospitality-lite in New Zealand – people take their shoes off  and we are let off the hook.

And of course the forgiving Samaritan who rescued a half-dead Jewish enemy arranged hospitality and paid for the man’s stay in a local inn – extravagantly caring for him. You can’t always sit by someone’s bedside when you have work to do – but you can sponsor someone else – in our day like a hospital chaplain.

Our team today is helping getting patients to the chapel service at North Shore Hospital.

So perhaps Martha is just as right as Mary in this event. We read in verse 38: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

There would have been no place for Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus had Martha not opened her home. And I bet they had yummy food.

So there are some simple lessons today.

1. We’re all different – and that’s okay

We’re different in personalities, in gifting, in strengths and weaknesses.

It’s the nature of the body of Christ that the different parts have different functions. Read 1 Corinthians 12 to remind yourself of that.

And you know – and I know – that our bakers and chefs are critical in church growth – even if we are at risk of the wrong kind of expansive growth.

Hospitality is crucial. Martha was good at that. In fact, she is doing Christian ministry – she is serving. Both the word “preparations” and “work” in verse 40 come from the word diakonia – where we get the word deacon from. That’s the role of our board – it’s real ministry doing the practical caring – and the fixing of things..

There are a couple of verses that commend hospitality – including this one from 1 Peter:

1Pe 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1Pe 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

It reminds me of the family who invited church friends around for a meal, and the mum said to the little girl “please say grace”. The child responded: “I don’t know what to say”. Mum replied: “just say the last prayer you heard your father pray”. She did – and prayed: “o Lord why did we invite this lot over for tea?”.

Having said that:

2. Food and entertaining isn’t everything

I think I understand the Martha thing in this sense – you can really go over the top.

Martha seems to be a bit obsessed with all the detail – and frustrated enough to ask Jesus to take sides. Ah the joys of sibling rivalry. “Tell my brother to do this dad! He won’t listen to me” In Jesus’s words she was “worried and upset about many things”.

There’s a good approach to enable you to be more hospitable – people have to take you as they find you. And if they don’t like your chaos – too bad.

If you saw the movie “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce, you would have remembered the hosts of people eating at his place, and the fact he had to remove a pet – I think it was a hare – to find a seat for someone.

Biblically – perhaps the key verse to balance this should be this one uttered by Jesus at his temptation: Mat 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

3. Mary chose the what is better – only one thing is needed. (v42)

The quote Jesus uses is from Deuteronomy chapter 8 – here it is in context:

Deu 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  Deu 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

To get back to Luke 10, this account is not about women essentially – although it was unusual for women to be in a rabbis group of followers. It’s not primarily about siblings or catering either.

It’s about discipleship. Following Christ changes our focus.

And many other things also crowd out our time – time we need to take to be really still and listen to Jesus’ teaching.

Whether here on a Sunday – or in our personal devotions – or in the invitation he extends for us to take longer time out – retreat days and extended periods of quiet.

Too much of everything else can choke out God’s life in us.

We become dry and spiritually barren.

The active life and the contemplative life are both important.

But it’s better when what we do flows out of who we are.

Being has precedent over doing. We are human beings after all – not human doings.

If we don’t attend to this contemplative life, and listen, study and digest the words of Jesus, we burn out. And we’re no good to anyone or ourselves. “This little light of mine” that we are supposed to shine – goes out.

RISKS FOR THE CHURCH

Apart from our individual lives and walks with God, we also get distracted by the details here.

Keep focus people. Remember that lovely song:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”

There is a second verse of the song which goes like this: “keep your eyes upon Jesus”. Let’s do that.

Amen.

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Sunday Sermon, 10 July 2016 – The Good Samaritan

Reading: Luke 10: 25-37

Sermon

Nearly 20 years ago – on a Saturday night – a car crashed in a tunnel in Paris. The occupants were severely injured. But the photographers who recorded the scene for the world press did nothing to help. Three out of four people died, including Princess Diana.

Ironically, France is one of the few countries which had a law – a Good Samarian Law – that makes it a crime not to help people in need.

Since that accident, the law has been revisited around the world. One state in Australia – the Northern Territory – has such a law. Very few people have been prosecuted under it – so it seems. Some US states have a similar law – but the argument against it, amongst many arguments is that it infringes on individual liberties. And of course people don’t want to be sued if their help harms people inadvertently.

Although in one survey it was found that more people would help someone in need because they were legally obligated than for moral or ethical reasons.

The issue has become much more prominent since then. It turns up in interesting places. For example – have a look at this scene from the final in the series of the American series Seinfeld – which I hasten to add I never did watch. The humour is unpalatable – and as you will see the background knowledge of the writers dodgy. I think it makes the point though.

Have a look.

If you think that’s bad, you should read some of the comments made about this. One person wrote this:

MegaSoldier64 1 month ago – The good Samaritan law is modeled after great Britain’s good Samaritan law, it became law when the queen of England had a heart attack and all those paparazzi just stood there and took pictures instead of helping her…

This lawyer in Luke’s gospel is also an interesting character. “What must I do?” is a great question about obligations. In this case its “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” that gets Jesus into “teaching by story” mode. Jesus’ response is straightforward – it’s one of those “haven’t you read your Bible” kind of responses:

Luk 10:26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

Luk 10:27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'”

Luk 10:28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

The legal eagle is not satisfied. Maybe he wanted controversy – more of a debate – maybe he was trying to trick Jesus.

He certainly opened up a new can of worms for those of us who like to be passive observers along the road of life.

Luke says he wanted to justify himself. I’m glad he did – as we get one of the two greatest stories of the bible – as a result of his probing. The other more famous one they say is the prodigal son. You can decide which is the top one.

It’s not unusual for stories to have three characters. Dig deep into your literary knowledge and you will find some – Goldilocks and the three bears, the three little pigs. I am sure you know what I mean. It’s all about story technique.

Jesus’ listeners would be listening out for the third character in the tale.

They would have wanted the hero to be one of them. Not a fancy Levite or indifferent priest. They are the bad guys in the tale.

They would have been waiting for the third person – a good guy who shows up the others – one of them – ordinary folk with some moral backbone.

They listen carefully – here it comes. “a Samaritan…”

  • “What?”
  • Gasp!
  • “no way Jesus! One of the enemy???”

He’s not mentioned as a “good” Samaritan. That has become a title added on by us.

  • He’s more than good though.
  • He’s extravagant! Remarkably generous.
  • It’s an absurd story.
  • It’s not about who is our neighbour.
  • It’s about who we are neighbours to. It’s about action.

It’s another variant of “love your enemies.” The wounded man is bound to be Jewish. And the hatred was mutual.

LET’S DO THE PLAY NOW

Let’s choose characters to play based on who you identify with the most.

When you ask kids to do this – and probably adults – not many people want to be the half dead guy.

The boys love being the robbers!

Perhaps we don’t want to think about what it’s like to be needy.

I don’t think we can get into those shoes very easily. Unless you’ve been attacked and beaten up perhaps.

How would you do as the lawyer?

Note that he can’t even say the word “Samaritan”. Jesus asks him this question at the end: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

He can only say this: “The one who had mercy on him.”

“Go and do likewise” says Jesus.

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANT THING TO TAKE HOME?

This is not a moral or legal story primarily. It’s not that we are to decide to be “good Samaritans” either because it’s the right thing to do or because we might be prosecuted.

It’s really about what motivated the Samaritan in the tale.

What did he have? Pity – is the word in the NIV in verse 33. Most better translations use the word “compassion” – that word we talked about a couple of weeks ago – that involves the inner parts, heart, stomach, the lot. It was the feeling Jesus had in Luke 7 towards the widow of Nain that caused him to stop the funeral procession – and raise the woman’s only son.

It’s the word in Luke 15:20 we are still to get to, that the Father has for the Prodigal son.

Its appears in passages referring to Jesus and God the Father.

And there is a strong argument that the Samaritan here is functioning as God’s agent.

After all, the lawyer identifies the man as showing “mercy” – another word which throughout Luke is associated either with an act of God or God’s agent (Luke 1:47-50, 54, 72, 78; 17:13; 18:38-39; the only exception is when Father Abraham refuses to show the rich man “mercy” [16:24], an exception which ultimately proves the rule that in Luke’s Gospel only God and Jesus show mercy).

That makes the story more startling.

Jesus is seen in the Samaritan. The Samaritan is a Christ figure.

Who is it that stops to help – that binds up our wounds and anoints us with the oil of gladness – that pays for our safe haven – if not Jesus?

This is not an “example” story that we are to be Good Samaritans.

We are younger siblings of our elder brother Jesus in God’s family.

We are the body of Christ – we are Jesus in the world – stopping to help out of compassion and because of his mercy.

MUCH OF THE WORLD MAY WELL BE HALF DEAD AND IN A DITCH

We can relish our own security and purity if we like – or take the chance – the risk – of showing mercy at a cost of our time and money – to reach the broken ones of this generation.

And if we don’t have compassion – then we need some loving ourselves to soften our hearts.

In any case – it was the Samaritans that did not welcome Jesus, that James and John wanted to turn into toast by calling fire down from heaven.

It was one of them who got it right – the enemy models love. Must have been a son of peace – I would say.

Amen.

Sunday sermon, 3 July 2016 – finding children of peace

Reading: Luke 10:1-11; 16-20

Sermon notes:

I visited a dear brother in his early 90s this week. He told me that his grand daughter is going to Southern Africa as a missionary. We had a good laugh together – he thought it funny that she was going there when I had come here to New Zealand as a pastor from South Africa. The question we discussed was simple – can there ever be too many missionaries? God calls and sends people in all directions – and the message is received. Seeds are sown and people come to faith. It should be the norm, but sadly many people struggle to share their faith, or hope that others will do it for them. Here are some points from this passage today.

KEY THINGS IN THIS PASSAGE TODAY

1. Ministry is not limited to the 12. Who are these 70 or 72? They were ordinary people with a Mission. It’s not limited to professionals either today.

Luk 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

2. The agricultural image of the harvest lines up with other passages – for example Luke 8:10-15 the sowing of the seed which is the Word of God (vs.11)

Luk 10:2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

We are not to coerce people into the job of labourers for this mission. Pray for the Lord of the harvest to raise them up! It is His mission.

3. The Lord of the harvest then sends them out – this is not about PR or marketing – this is a divinely appointed task to share the Word and plant the seed. Have a look at the next verses:

Luk 10:3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
Luk 10:4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

They are to travel light, not weighed down by stuff (the church is often weighed down by stuff not central to its mission. For example, I spend a lot of time sorting out things that are not part of my calling). All of us spend a lot of time on non-essentials that don’t really build the kingdom of God.

Not greeting people is not being rude – it’s about not being side-tracked again by non-essential gossip and idle chit chat. It has been suggested that a formal cultural greeting in those days could take a couple of hours. You see this in other cultures – like traditional greetings or votes of thanks at Presbytery meetings to those who do the catering – in some cultures they are very long speeches indeed. (How do we allocate our words?? Word economy is an interesting idea.)

Luk 10:5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’
Luk 10:6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.

4. “Peace be with you” is like saying God be with you. At our recent citizenship ceremony, the Kaumata’s karakia – his prayer of blessing – began with “Peace be upon this gathering”).

Luke 10:6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you  –  this is key – our mission is to be to and with people who are people of peace – they are open to you and you invest in a relationship with them. Logically – you can’t build with those who don’t seek peace. They are certainly not open to the prince of peace or the Gospel.

If you don’t receive peace back – move on. You’ve got urgent business and only so much time, – don’t waste it with people who are not people of peace. In our lives we have only so many hours in the day and the week for relationships. Missional church people make this their main focus – on the people who are children of peace – who are more likely to open their homes to you.

5. In verses 7 and 8 we read this: Luk 10:7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
Luk 10:8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.

Hospitality is inverted – the 72 are to receive hospitality. If you have to shake the dust off your feet it means that they haven’t done the job of hospitality – which included washing your feet. Otherwise there would be no dust!

Jesus tells them to stay in homes that welcome them (people of peace obviously). Hospitality is important in Mission. A number of key things happen in homes – look at Acts 10 and 11 Peter and Cornelius, Paul in Ananias’ house in Acts 9 – Lydia in Acts 16 – salvation involves belonging – giving of oneself and receiving of another – becoming part of a covenant community where people eat together – and when you eat with people you usually talk and share your lives more.

We are to go out and be guests to their hospitality, which is not easy for some whose kids embarrass them in peoples’ homes, who won’t eat their food and so on. Parents pray the kids will be okay and polite!

6. Luk 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
Like last week’s discussion, the key message is the Kingdom, and healing is a normal part of it. Logically enough – God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven means wholeness, healing, restoration, and a new way of living, and a new community.

Not everyone will accept this:
Luk 10:10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,
Luk 10:11 “Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’

7. The last passage is a warning that you should not worry about feeling rejected when sharing the gospel of God. It’s God they are rejecting. Listen again: Luk 10:16 “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

8. The real battle is spiritual. That’s why we have to guard our unity. Listen again:
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.

9. And of course don’t be to excited when you are successful: Listen to Jesus again: Luk 10:20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

I don’t think we are in great danger of getting over excited. But pride is a dangerous thing when we overrate ourselves. The real victory is Jesus over Satan – the cross remains the central place of power and success – paradoxically because it felt like a defeat.

So what about us?

The Missional church movement reminds us of the biblical mandate for Mission. God has a mission. God’s mission has a church.

The Matthew 28 great commission is “Go in to all the world” not “bring the world into the church building to hear the message”.

Perhaps that’s why Messy Church works.

  • It’s not in a church.
  • It is around food.
  • It focusses on doing things together where there are conversations in which we get to know people and are included in their lives.

And still – there is a message – there is prayer – truth is presented which is the seed sown in the lives of the folk that come along.

It’s not just a time to keep kids busy.

Hospitality is shared, – given and received.

You could come along too.

And tomorrow you will be out there – the extension of the mission of the 72 – God’s mission has a church – and that’s you.

Amen.