Category Archives: Evening services

Sunday Evening 2 August – Mayfair Fellowship – the crowd that loafs and fishes

Reading: John 6:1-15

Message

A little boy was asked what his favourite Bible story was. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I guess it’s the one about the crowd that loafs and fishes.”

What’s your favourite when it comes to bread and fish these days?

Compared to Africa, there seem to be too many kinds of bread to choose from in our shops.  In South Africa it was always easier to buy bread. The government standardised bread was white and brown – it was the cheapest. And there were a couple of well-known fish options too.

Our fish man in Browns Bay has been away for a couple of months – which is a tragedy each Friday!

John’s story of the feeding of the 5000 (and by the way this is the only sign or miracle that appears in all four gospels) has its own interesting account.

Jesus is like a teacher here – setting a question for his followers like we had in Arithmetic at school. So many lollies at 5c each, and you have 1 pound to spend and you need to keep so much money for bread and milk for the next three days and so forth.

Listen again to the problem to be solved here.

Joh 6:5  When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

Joh 6:6  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Joh 6:7  Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

John as the narrator tells us that this was a kind of test. Philip obviously did some calculations in his head. Conclusion – it’s not possible.

The other disciples were in ear shot. Andrew is the one who tells Jesus about the boy’s lunch.

Listen again: Joh 6:8  Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, Joh 6:9  “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” It’s the bread and fish calculation.

Jesus is testing the disciples here. In fact the whole of John chapter 6 deals with the theme of bread. But we don’t want to jump the gun here. Jesus is the focus here. He sees the need. He tests his disciples. It’s only in John’s gospel that there is any talk of how much grass there was:

Joh 6:10  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Plenty of grass? Bells ring for us – the Good Shepherd.

Later in this chapter in Joh 6:35 we read:  Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. This is repeated in John 6:48 – I am the bread of life.

Psalm 23 comes to mind – green pastures. And Jesus, according to John, feeds them himself. And of course John 10:10 is waiting for us in this gospel account:

Joh 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Joh 10:11 – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

What can we say about this?

  1. Even though it sounds a bit like an introduction to communion, it’s probably not – there is no precedent in Scripture for breaking loaves and fish at communion. Fish do feature later in John’s Gospel where Jesus restores Peter – the fish breakfast barbeque on the beach: Joh 21:9  When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.   And in Luke 24:42, where Jesus is hungry – They gave him a piece of broiled fish. Both of these are after the resurrection.
  2. It really is about Jesus. This is something that points to Jesus – it’s not about the feeding, it’s about something bigger – what does it mean to call Jesus “bread of life”? “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry… In what way are our desires met – the emptiness filled when Jesus is master of our ship of life?
  3. It’s only in John’s account that the boy is identified – the barley loaves and fish were not produced by adults – but by a boy. There is something inclusive there. Something special really. And barley loaves were really the food of the poor. There’s a humility here too. Like the widow’s mite, Jesus would have seen the sacrifice of this poor youngster.
  4. Providing bread for so many, and having so much more (twelve baskets of bread) was a risky thing to do. It’s about power. Joh 6:15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

One can only imagine how the gift of multiplying food could be used for fame and political gain.  And of course in the temptations the devil had already challenged him to turn rocks into bread as a quick road to fame.

Communion:

When we share communion shortly, there will probably be some interesting links in the experience. The taste of bread and grape juice or wine is something that brings back memories of the breaking of bread over the years – especially if we are privileged to have followed Jesus for many years.

The real connection is with Jesus – the bread of life.

From the beginning of Jesus’ signs in John’s gospel – the signs were meant to point to Jesus. There is no institutionalised water into wine liturgy. No order of service for multiplying a boy’s lunch.

The key is in our response to really trust the Lord completely – for daily bread (whatever we need physically each day, which includes employment) and for our spiritual nurture.

There comes from that trust a real belief, a certainty, that following Jesus really does bring abundant life.

  • Life sustained by Jesus
  • God who meets us in Jesus and in Christian community is God who is known in abundance.
  • John’s gospel helps us to get to know this Jesus who provides sustenance and provision, superabundance and grace – living water, bread of life, and a real relationship and fellowship.

May you be encouraged as you follow this Jesus who gave His life for us.

Amen.

Advertisements

Evening service at Fairview Lifestyle Village, 6 July 2014 – I will give you rest; you will find rest for your souls

Reading: Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:29  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“I will give you rest”

“You will find rest for your souls”

SERMON

At our two services this morning we looked at what it means to be yoked to Jesus. I promised that this evening we would explore the “rests” that are spoken of in this passage.

In short: we come to him because we are physically weary and heavy laden, because he offers physical rest. But then we find a deeper rest – for our souls.

C H Spurgeon and Michael Green both write about these rests – the first in a sermon  dated 24 May 1903, and the second in a commentarty “Matthew For Today” published in 1988.

Michael Green is a great preacher and writer from this century. He writes about evangelism at length. He also writes here in this commentary about the exclusive claims of Jesus. Not only does He say “I am the way, the truth and the life” in John 14, but in this amazing passage Jesus says this:

Mat 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Most prophets would point to God as the one to whom we are to come or go.

But no – Jesus says “Come to me”. I will give you what you need. (Add his other sayings – about the bread of life, living water, the gate, the door, the good shepherd, and you soon have a strong argument for a very exclusive claim).

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

What kind of tiredness is this? Who is he inviting?

This first invitation or directive is to those who need to come to faith in Christ! And through Christ to come to God.

This is the rest we find. We are tired from the struggles of life – weary from trying to make sense of it all (my words) – tired of travelling alone and fighting our battles alone.

We come to Jesus the Saviour – and find rest.

At the time Jesus spoke these words to the weary and the heavily burdened, especially inviting them in – there would have been something more worth noting here beyond the obvious rest for tiredness (according to Green). In those days there were Greeks and Jews that Jesus encountered.

Michael Green notes that the Greeks would have been exhausted by the search for truth which they had been engaged in for centuries without resolution. Greeks who if they discovered anything about God – still believed that you couldn’t really tell anything about that God. He was quite unknowable, and searches for truth could lead to despair.

As for the Jews of the day, says Green, they had a religion which they found to be a great burden. Matthew 23:4 makes it clear to us that the scribes and Pharisees were responsible for binding “heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay(ing) them on men’s shoulders.”

Jesus was quite direct in his critique of the religious leaders who made the ordinary people’s lives a burden. The rabbinical teachings at the time suggested that Jews were to be yoked to the law – and that was a burden in the sense that you could not keep so many laws. And some of the interpretations were very picky! They did become quite untenable and unbearable.

Green suggests that Jesus comes to lift the burdens of the aching backs of the people of the day – offering them rest – the end of the striving for a philosphically unknowable God or an unreachable obedience of or compliance  with the Law.

Jesus offers Greeks and Jews alike peace and fulfilment, and the sense of being put right with God – ending their respective search for truth and righteousness.

Both Green and Spurgeon speak of the second rest however.

Spurgeon says this: “There are two rests for a Christian to enjoy. The first is the rest Christ gives him when he believes. The next is the rest that he finds when he takes Christ’s yoke upon him. These two rests will be distinctly enjoyed by anyone who comes to Christ and learns of Him…

Spurgeon suggests that If we are bound to Christ (like an apprentice used to be bound to his master in those days) we will find a newer and yet deeper and fuller rest for our souls.

There is a sweetness – a satisfaction – in learning from Jesus. In being coupled to him like two animals yoked together. In sharing the load with Him if you like.

John Ortberg, a current preacher and writer, suggests that being yoked to Christ is really what we used to call in the old days being IN COMMUNION WITH GOD – in a relationship with Him. We spoke about this at our morning services today.

In that close proximity with Jesus and through him with God a number of things are real for us

  • He has promised never to leave us for forsake us. (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5 following Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:5).
  • We are in step with Him – our lives, our relationships and attitudes are surely affected by being so close. (See John 15:4 and Galatians 5:25)
  • And being close – as Spurgeon suggests – we observe his grace and love in suffering and pain (in the garden wrestling with pain and death ahead – on the cross carrying the burden of our sins and the sins of the whole world). (See Matthew 26:39-39; Luke 23:34)

Michael Green’s view of the deeper rest (for our souls) is therefore our training as disciples – as we figure out how to be like Jesus and respond to our challenges in life like Jesus.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEED FOR THESE RESTS IN THIS GENERATION?

This is a restless generation. Unlike many before us, we are more connected and networked through media, internet, mobile offices and wireless connections than ever before. Information is freely available on the information super highway. We have all the modern contraptions – and the most developed technology, science, and medical progress of any generation.

But people are still restless. The quest for pleasure, or the will to pleasure (following Sigmund Freud’s psychotherapy) the desire for power, or the will to power (following Alfred Adler’s individual psychology) still motivate many in our society. But it was Viktor Frankl from the same Viennese tradition of psychotherapy who spoke the will to purpose or meaning (known as logotherapy). He was well qualified to speak of this powerful influence, writing his book “Man’s search for Meaning ” in just nine days after being released from the concentration camps. He knew that you could live through anything if you had something to live for.

Jesus gives us that kind of purpose when we are yoked to Him. Someone to live for, and even for many in this generation where the persecuted church proliferates – for many someone whose name they may die for.

What us the key difference between the rabbis’ calling people to be yoked to the law – and our being yoked to Jesus?

Green says that it is the yoke of love – not of duty.

We bear the yoke of the liberated – not the obligated.

And that makes all the difference.

One of the greatest stories in many years is the story of the man who escaped an English rest home recently when the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-day were happening. His carers thought he had caught the bus to town and a search began when he didn’t come home.

What they didn’t know is that he had jumped on a ferry to join his old unit in Normandy to celebrate that liberation again!

And that’ s the key! Liberation is worth celebrating!

That’s the yoke of the liberated which binds us to the Liberator – the Redeemer Jesus who by His conquest sets us free from our enemies – Sin, Satan and Death itself!

Rest for our souls incorporates all these rich concepts!

Thanks be to God!

Amen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MESSAGE:

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

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

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

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

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

And he records the direct words of Jesus too: 

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

And then the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Word and the World (1931)

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

He goes on to talk about how this works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a great witness!

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

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

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

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

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

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

May this be true of us.

 Amen.

Thursday 29 May – Ascension Day – the eyes of your heart

Readings:   Ephesians 1: 15– 23; Luke 24: 44– 53; Acts 1: 1– 11

THE EYES OF YOUR HEART

There’s a great song we used to sing – open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you.

We’ve shared about the hear in the last two weeks.

  • About where we hang our hearts – the God we trust in and have faith in.
  • About setting apart or sanctifying Christ as Lord in our hearts – out of which comes this ability to give a reason for the hope that we have

Paul’s prayer in the Ephesians reading is this:

  • He prays that we may know Jesus better
  • And he prays  this – Eph 1:18  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  Eph 1:19  and his incomparably greatpower for us who believe

If the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened – then Paul prays these things will be real:

  •  the hope we’ve been called to – is the transformation of ourselves and our lives in Christ – becoming a new creation and participating in a new creation
  • our inheritance as the saints (the list is long – but when we get it we understand that we are the adopted sons of God with Jesus as our elder brother – the right to call God Father and be his children – the experience of forgiveness and eternal life – and all the privileges of his children seen as an example in the prodigal son and his brother – the younger prodigal is taken back – the older brother reminded that it was all his for the taking anyway.

What a wonderful inheritance. Co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)

  • his incomparably great power for us who believe.

What’s the power like, asks Paul?

It’s the same as this – he says:

That power is like the working of his mighty strength,

Eph 1:20  which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

Eph 1:21  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 

This power conquers death – raises Jesus to a place of great authority seated at the right hand of God.

The resurrection and ascension are one major event here for Paul. The one is the natural extension of the other.

And his prayer is that we may have the eyes of our hearts opened to know this power too.

We need that power!

Simon Ponsonby – an amazing vicar and Bible teacher puts it like this when talking about the surpassing greatness of his power – he asks:

Is there power in your life?

Power that breaks curses – turns back time and history – power to be a better man (like many who wish they could turn back time) 

Power of God – needed to control thoughts and speech – set you free from patterns of addiction –

There is something amazing about the power of God that rests on us and transforms us

Paul prays for more for the church!

As we come to the 10 days between Ascension and Pentecost in the church’s calendar – this is a reminder that we too need this power.

The Holy Spirit came in power – the logical extension of Jesus’ promise not to leave them as orphans, but to be with them always.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul says:

Php 3:10  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

Actually it’s the only way to know him.

Ascension marks the beginning of this new time when the resurrection power becomes a reality for us.

We look to Jesus differently now:

He is no longer the man from Galilee.

He is the exalted Christ who is the giver of life.

He is the one to be worshipped every moment of our lives.

The Ephesians passage ends here:

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.

HE is the one!

And we are the extension of Him! The body – the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

It’s no wonder the Reformers made much of this day – Ascension Day.

Christ is Head of the church.

The church is the extension of his fullness!

It’s through his power that it’s possible for us to be Christ in the world!

  • I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  Eph 1:19  and his incomparably greatpower for us who believe

How tragic that many don’t actually appropriate the power at all!

May that not be so for us.

Amen.

Sunday Evening 2 December – Hope

Readings:  Psalm 25:1-6; Romans 5: 1-5; Matthew 12:9-21

Message

Over the years I have often spent time with people who have been nearing the end of their lives. Thankfully there have not been too many children. It’s hard to explain to little children what we believe about time and eternity. I remember when teaching year 2s how one little boy asked me one day during the lesson: “Is David dead?” speaking of King David in the Bible.  “O yes” I replied, “a long time ago!” Then the questions came: “When was he alive?” “Did he die as long ago as when I was small? How long is a thousand years?”

With adults – when you’ve lived a long life – dying seems easier to face, although it can still be a fearful thing. And HOPE is always factored in – the HOPE of life after death. For Christians, it’s the certainty.

Hope isn’t just a concept when we’re dying. It’s something we have when the stuff we are facing each day feels like death! Like a long lesson for young people at school – or a boring sermon in church (I recall seeing a whole book about things you can do during a boring sermon) – or a difficult task at work, or the prospect of the day being long and uninspiring, or lonely. The HOPE of Friday and the weekend seem to keep many people going. And also those who are hopeful as they look forward to Christmas and the holidays!

In the readings tonight – we read David’s words in Psalm 25: No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. Hope here is closer to trust. His enemies were real and his war a real war. His faith in God’s presence with him extends to the hope that God would give him success.

For St Paul, there are troubles too. The Christian life is not a simple life – listen to the progression of ideas which include hope:

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Rom 5:3  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

Rom 5:4  perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Rom 5:5  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

It sounds like a challenging ride. Sufferings – Perseverance – Character are aspects of a life of faith and adventure. They produce HOPE – not just because we hope for things to get better (i.e. no more trials and tribulations) but, for Paul, this HOPE does not disappoint us! It’s not a vain hope. Why? Because we are not alone – because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us! God’s love keeps us through these trials!

Love is a powerful thing! Think of your grandchildren today – who seem to plod along. When teenagers fall in love – especially the boys – it’s amazing what can change in their lives!

God’s love is a different kind of love – not romantic, although the prophets complained that when people turned their backs on God that they were being unfaithful and adulterous– not physical, although the relationship between Jesus and the Church is described as that of a Bridegroom and a bride!

God’s love is POWERFUL and strengthening. His presence gives us confidence and courage – whether we are facing challenges in life or death at the end of life – we are full of hope which does not disappoint.

I love hopeful people!

* They are optimistic!

* They look for solutions.

* They are open minded and good listeners – because they see the best in people, even when they may have made mistakes.

And you can’t get a more hopeful person than Jesus. He chooses people for his leadership team who you would not have on your short list.

* He takes the rough and risky ones like Peter – knowing that the impulsiveness was not always a weakness, but a sign of strength in the long term. He knew that Peter – even though he would fail – would be strengthened in character to the extent that he could face anything.

* He models hope in his life and death as well. At Christmas, Easter is never far from our thoughts as this was God’s whole plan – and we are consistently reminded again – that the worst possible scenario – DEATH – was overcome by resurrection. That gives us hope.

And so as you face your week ahead, remember

–  That Sunrise follows the darkness of the night

–  That Spring brings new growth after the desperation of a bad winter

– That a new beginning follows every failure or disappointment.

As we close tonight there is a challenge for us to pray as we are reminded of a verse from the readings in Matthew 12:21: “In his name the nations will put their hope.”

It’s a great prophecy quoted by Matthew from Isaiah 42. While we don’t see countries putting their hope in Him, nations here is not necessarily governments. It more than likely refers to the variety of people on the earth. Ethnoi is the word, from which we get the word ethnic. Our city is very cosmopolitan – and the great news is that many nations are coming to find Jesus as their hope.

May you be encouraged in your prayers to continue to pray for all without hope, and especially for those who are desperate in this city – that they may be drawn to a Christian fellowship where they can meet this hope of nations, Jesus.

Amen.