Category Archives: Tuesday Morning services

9 February 2016 Tuesday Church -Amazing Grace

READINGS: Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21

SERMON

It’s Shrove Tuesday. It’s a day of cleansing. the last day before the fast of Lent when people used up the ingredients they had that would go off over the next 40 days if left unused. Hence the pancakes! Words related to this are  “Fat Tuesday” or Mardi Gras. And he word “carnival” from the Latin carnem levare, meaning “to take away the flesh” – and was also associated with Shrove Tuesday.Traditionally viewed as a day of repentance, Shrove Tuesday has become the last day for celebration and feasting before the period of fasting required during the Lenten season.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday – the start of Lent.

Ashes on the forehead remind us of our mortality. We are made from dust, hence “dust to dust, and ashes to ashes” which we hear at funerals. Many people take Lent and fasting or going without something for these days (excluding Sundays) until Easter Saturday.

Jesus didn’t seem to focus on special days.

He simply says

  • When you give to the needy
  • When you pray
  • When you fast

Why all this secrecy? Praying behind closed doors and giving so that no one know you’ve given?

  • It’s really about the people of Jesus’ day who did things for the wrong reasons.
  • Showing off before others.
  • Trying to impress.

Of course people will find out you’re doing good. After all Jesus also says;

Mat 5:14  “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

Mat 5:15  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Mat 5:16  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

People made their religion into the legalistic doing of things and wanted others to see them do it.

Jesus says – when you do these things – let them be a spiritual discipline that is in the background – quietly connecting you with God, with the really important things (fasting teaches you that – it keeps you aware of what really matters – and it’s not food or satisfying yourself).

All these things are normal. And he continues with these words:

Mat 6:19  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. Mat 6:20  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Mat 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Lent is a time of reorientation of our lives.

And underlying these disciplines is the truth that none of it earns us points really.

John Newton knew that – he was the most wretched of sinners.

That’s why Amazing Grace is such a powerful song. Not because it’s played so often on the bagpipes. John Newton was English anyway – not Scottish. It’s powerful because it reminds us that we are undeserving sinners.

That’s why Grace is amazing. We didn’t find ourselves.

  • I once was lost, but now I’m found – by God.
  • Was blind but now I see – through God opening my eyes.

It’s actually in a more modern version of “Amazing Grace” that one of the original verses turn up that are not in the traditional version most people sing:

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,  The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who call’d me here below,  Will be forever mine.

Whatever happens –  the whole world can end – but our relationship with God is steady. Nothing can separate us from His love in Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).

It’s the chorus that we love in that version:

My chains are gone I’ve been set free
My God my Saviour has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love amazing grace

We fast, we pray, we give in response to the amazing grace and mercy of God.

Not to earn it.

During Lent we remind ourselves of what Jesus went through to achieve our salvation.

The 40 days lead us to the cross – where he suffers for us and pays the ransom price to buy us back for God.

In the last hymn we sing today by John Newton he writes about our faith as an experience of Zion – the city of God’s dwelling place. Zion was always about God’s presence with them,

And he writes about grace again in these words:

 

See, the streams of living waters,

Springing from eternal love,

Well supply your sons and daughters,

And all fear of want remove;

Who can faint, while such a river

Flows to heart and mind engage?

Grace which, like the Lord, the giver,

Never fails from age to age.

And then in the last verse – reminding us of where our treasure is:

Solid joys and lasting treasures
None but Zion’s children know

May you have that certainty of his grace in your lives.

Amen.

 

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10 November 2015 Tuesday church – Seeking Jesus

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

SIR, WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE JESUS

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)

Amen!

Tuesday Church 8 September 2015 – lessons from Paul’s letter to the Philippians

Reading: PHILIPPIANS 4.2– 9

4:1  Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

4:2  I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.

4:3  Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4:4  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

4:5  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

4:7  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

Sermon

Two or three thoughts (maybe more) at our service this Tuesday. First of all the two women mentioned in 4:2.

  1. The two women – the need for unity

There are different theories about these ladies – especially the meaning of their names. Perhaps Euodia (with the long o), means fragrance; but we are told the correct reading is with the short o, the meaning being prosperous journey. Syntyche means happy chance.  Others suggest that Euodia means literally “prosperous journey” (eu, hodos). Syntyche  they say means “to meet with” and so “pleasant acquaintance” or “good-luck” Either way it would have been better for them to get on together. Paul has to get the team motivated as co-workers in the cause of the Gospel. (See John 17 on Jesus’ prayer for unity and its impact on mission).

And of course Paul is in prison – the next thing that challenges us as he calls us to rejoice always!

  1. Paul in prison – rejoicing in every situation

John Henry Jowett (b1863 – 1923) shares his experience regarding Christian joy:

Christian joy is a mood independent of our immediate circumstances. If it were dependent on our surroundings, then, indeed, it would be as uncertain as an unprotected candle burning on a gusty night. One moment the candle burns clear and steady, the next moment the blaze leaps to the very edge of the wick, and affords little or no light. But Christian joy has no relationship to the transient setting of the life, and therefore it is not the victim of the passing day. At one time my conditions arrange themselves like a sunny day in June; a little later they rearrange themselves like a gloomy day in November. One day I am at the wedding; the next day I stand by an open grave. One day, in my ministry, I win ten converts for the Lord; and then, for a long stretch of days, I never win one. Yes, the days are as changeable as the weather, and yet the Christian joy can be persistent. Where lies the secret of its glorious persistency?

Here is the secret. “Lo! I am with you all the days.” In all the changing days, “He changeth not, neither is weary.” He is no fairweather Companion, leaving me when the year grows dark and cold. He does not choose my days of prosperous festival, though not to be found in my days of impoverishment and defeat.

I think we get his point. And then thirdly, we are challenged by our commitment – are we those who strive for the Gospel to reach others?

  1. Contending – striving for the main thing

The image in Greek is drawn from athletic contests. Usually, athletes competed one against another; in Php 1:27 Paul asks the church at Philippi to compete together as a team of athletes to help advance the faith that comes through the preaching of the gospel.  (We saw that he also mentions Euodia and Syntyche as those who were contending for the gospel side by side with himself.)

In the first chapter of this letter he writes this: Php 1:27  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.

And in this passage when trying to get them to get along. he says: Php 4:3  Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

What a challenge. Do we strive for these things?

And of course the rest of this well known passage lists other things we should do as a consequence of following Christ. (On this Sunday coming we will look at a similar list in 1 Thessalonians 5):

  1. Paul’s exhortation to strive after other Christian virtues as well

Paul exhorts the Philippians to strive after four basic Christian virtues: (1) “rejoice in the Lord always” (v. Php_4:4), (2) be gentle to all people (v. Php_4:5), (3) be prayerful, not anxious (v. Php_4:6), and (4) meditate on excellent things (v. Php_4:8).

I encourage you to read this passage a number of times as you reflect on your journey with Christ.

Tom Wright’s translation of Philippians 4 is helpful as we close:

Celebrate in the Lord!

2 I have a special appeal which goes jointly to Euodia and Syntyche: please, please, come to a common mind in the Lord.

3 (And here’s a request for you too, my loyal comrade: please help these women. They have struggled hard in the gospel alongside me, as have Clement and my other fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life.)

4 Celebrate joyfully in the Lord, all the time. I’ll say it again: celebrate!

5 Let everybody know how gentle and gracious you are. The Lord is near.

6 Don’t worry about anything. Rather, in every area of life let God know what you want, as you pray and make requests, and give thanks as well.

7 And God’s peace, which is greater than we can ever understand, will keep guard over your hearts and minds in King Jesus.

Wright, Tom (2011-11-30). Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 128). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

Amen.

 

Tuesday Church 14th April 2015 – Testifying to the resurrection

Readings: Acts 4:31-37; John 3:7-17

Message

In the time of Jesus people lived under the tyranny of the Roman Empire. They were taxed by Rome, ruled by Rome, controlled by Rome and Roman soldiers.

It would be like having an army from another country taking over control of our lives. Imagine Australian soldiers taking over here – watching us all at every moment. Perish the thought. Especially if they could make you carry their packs for a mile at random. And if they were crucifying people outside New World Shop as a warning to us to behave.

You can imagine that someone would want to overthrow those Aussies and send them packing. And there would probably be some group who would train in the hills somewhere and plot to overthrow the oppressive occupying army. Singing “God defend New Zealand” would be banned by the oppressors, but people would sing it in secret, and honour the kiwi flag.

In Jesus’ time there were all kinds of people who took on the Romans. Lots of them were arrested and crucified. Look at Barabbas as an example.

Most of those young Jews who were regarded as Messiahs died by crucifixion. They were actually expected to wage war or terrorism against the Roman army. When they died, one of their followers would probably have taken their place, or found another messianic leader prepared for battle. Judas Iscariot was possibly a member of a group of these zealots who carried daggers. They were called dagger-men or sicarii. They carried sicae or small daggers under their cloaks and bumped people off.

Jesus is the only young Jew who was hailed as a Messiah – who was resurrected after crucifixion. The resurrection sets him apart.

If you look at the Acts reading today, the early church was a completely different community – even sharing their wealth so that everyone was looked after. They shared everything and really cared for each other.

What was their message though? Act 4:33  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

The resurrection of Jesus sets him apart from any other person claiming to be a Messiah.

And in addition, the reading from John shows us that Jesus is completely unique because of who he was:

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

Jesus was the Son of God. There is no other who had that position. And, uniquely, he defeated the evil of the Roman tyranny with love and sacrifice. His Kingdom is completely different from the powers of this world – as they were then and as they are today. We see this especially in his conversation with Pilate when he was arrested:

Joh 18:33  Then Pilate entered again into the governor’s residence and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Joh 18:34  Jesus replied, “Do you say this from yourself, or have others said this to you about me?”

Joh 18:35  Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your people and the chief priests handed you over to me! What have you done?”

Joh 18:36  Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here.”

Joh 18:37  Then Pilate said to him, “So then you are a king!” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I have come into the world: in order that I can testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

Joh 18:38  Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no basis for an accusation against him.

Joh 18:39  But it is your custom that I release for you one prisoner at the Passover. So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?”

Joh 18:40  Then they shouted again, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)

Jesus stands alone as one who was resurrected – and one who claimed to be the Son of God. He makes the most unique claims – like this spoken to doubting Thomas:

Joh 14:6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  Joh 14:7  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you know him and have seen him.”

And to Martha when Lazarus died: Joh 11:25  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live, Joh 11:26  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die [forever]. Do you believe this?”

And only he speaks of eternal life. We have eternal life through him now: Joh 17:3  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

The most important thing I can tell you is this – you can know God through Jesus – you won’t perish – you will have this eternal life and relationship – you can have it!

Now. Because Jesus is raised – resurrected and lives forever. He is truth. As he says to Pilate: For this reason I was born, and for this reason I have come into the world: in order that I can testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37)

Joh 8:31  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Joh 8:32  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

We too can live forever. This is the truth. He is the truth.

He is alive and is here today. And if you allow him into your life – he will be with you always!

Amen.

10 March 2015 Tuesday Church – For all nations…

Reading: Mark 11:15-19

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it “a den of robbers”.’

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

Message – Easter

Easter is just around the corner. It’s been closer than you think for some months – considering how early Easter eggs appear on the shelves in our shops.

In the story as Mark tells it, Jesus had come into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and had gone out again to Bethany. The next day he comes back into the city – it’s a kind of sortie into a dangerous place really. The authorities would be aware of him – considering all the fuss when he road into the city on a donkey. And now he comes to the heart of the nation – the temple. Well listen again:

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 

We sometimes think it’s just about the money – that they were cheating the poor when they sold animals for sacrifices to them – or exchanging money and giving them a bad rate.

The thing is – He wasn’t really changing the system – the trading would have carried on the next day.

The real challenge was to the heart of the nation. Listen again:

17 And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it “a den of robbers”.’

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

The real issue was that God was not stuck in the temple and fussing over them alone as the chosen people. Even Solomon when he built his temple said this: 1 Kings 8:27  “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! That was on the day of the consecration of the temple!

It was more the teaching that stirred up the opposition. It was a threat. The house of prayer “for all nations” sounds like a real concern for others outside of the family of Israel. And it wasn’t just about the money tables, as if you can separate money from spiritual things.

The chief priests and teachers of the law begin looking for ways to kill him – because they feared him. They didn’t want the crowd to follow him because they would lose control. It was all about power.

How strange that they “feared him” – this man of compassion and love who healed the sick and taught them about God as Father.

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy of course. Tom Wright says this about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple:

But Jesus’ protest was far deeper, and if we applied it today it wouldn’t just be the churches that ought to tremble, but the lawcourts and legislative assemblies, the royal palaces and banking centres, the places where power is so often wielded to the benefit of the already powerful and the downtreading of the already powerless, the places where people with power or wealth turn in on themselves instead of outwards in generosity towards the world. That’s where Jesus wants to stride today, to turn over tables and drive out traders. *

Amen.

* Wright, N. T. (2004-01-01). Mark for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 153). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Tuesday church sermon 11 November – Remembrance Day and Peacemakers

Readings:  Psalm 23:1-6; Matthew 5:1-12

MATTHEW 5.1– 12 – The Beatitudes (Translated by Tom Wright)

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the hillside, and sat down. His disciples came to him.

2 He took a deep breath, and began his teaching:

3 ‘Wonderful news for the poor in spirit! The kingdom of heaven is yours.

4 ‘Wonderful news for the mourners! You’re going to be comforted.

5 ‘Wonderful news for the meek! You’re going to inherit the earth.

6 ‘Wonderful news for people who hunger and thirst for God’s justice! You’re going to be satisfied.

7 ‘Wonderful news for the merciful! You’ll receive mercy yourselves.

8 ‘Wonderful news for the pure in heart! You will see God.

9 ‘Wonderful news for the peacemakers! You’ll be called God’s children.

10 ‘Wonderful news for people who are persecuted because of God’s way! The kingdom of heaven belongs to you.

11 ‘Wonderful news for you, when people slander you and persecute you, and say all kinds of wicked things about you falsely because of me!

12 Celebrate and rejoice: there’s a great reward for you in heaven. That’s how they persecuted the prophets who went before you.’

Wright, Tom (2014-03-20). Matthew for Everyone: Chapter 1-15, Part 1 (Kindle Locations 702-718). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

 

Message at Tuesday church

Bull story: Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Immediately they ran toward the nearest fence. The storming bull ran after them in hot pursuit, and they realized that they were not going to make it. Terrified, one man shouted to his friend, “Say a prayer, John. We’re in trouble” John said, “I’ve never prayed out loud before. I don’t know what to say. “But you have to” yelled his companion; “The bull is catching up to us.” “All right,” said John, as he ran with all his might; “I’ll say the only prayer I know. My father used to say it at the table: Oh Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.”

There are some things in life that come along that you can do absolutely nothing about. Like an enraged bull charging at you.

Well you can run! True.

But you can’t stop an angry bull. But you can find a different field to cross.

And you can pray!

It’s said that there are no atheists when bombs are falling.

The 1st World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars. The writer H G Wells published some articles in August 1914 which appeared in a book called “The war that will end war”. It became a common catch phrase.

In fact people believed that it would be over by Christmas. It was eventually over by Christmas 5 Christmases later.

Quick facts and figures

  • The total population of New Zealand in 1914 was just over one million.
  • In all, more than 120,000 New Zealanders enlisted, and around 103,000 served overseas. (That’s one in ten.)
  • More than 2200 Maori and around 460 Pacific Islanders served overseas with the New Zealand forces.
  • 11 Victoria Crosses were won by soldiers serving with New Zealand forces.
  • At least 3370 New Zealanders served in the Australian or British imperial forces, winning a further five Victoria Crosses.
  • In all, 550 nurses served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and many others enlisted in the United Kingdom.
  • Around 18,500 New Zealanders died in or because of the war, and about 41,000 were wounded or fell ill. More than 2700 died at Gallipoli and 12,500 on the Western Front.
  • The names of those who died are recorded on approximately 500 civic war memorials throughout New Zealand.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 37 million. There were over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

Jesus – at his first major “sermon” on the mount includes this line:

Mat 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

 “Blessings on the peace makers. For you will be called God’s children.” (Kingdom NT)

Matthew for everyone (Tom Wright):

Wonderful news for the peacemakers! You’ll be called God’s children.

It’s the nature of God’s children to be peacemakers.

So today – while we remember those who gave their lives in all wars that we know of – let’s also give thanks for the peacemakers of the world.

Those who live in hard places – where there are many raging bulls chasing them with the intention of doing serious damage.

We can’t stop the carnage.

But we too can pray for them – each day. While we are generally very blessed – while our lives are wonderful news most days compared to the millions of refugees who have had to run from their homes – who live in tents far from home – and who have lost loved ones and all they have worked for – let us use our time to ask God to be with them.

And let us pray for the peacemakers – for leaders and organisations – who try to bring war to an end. It’s not that easy.  They need our prayers.

And let us do our bit to be peacemakers where we live.

Most of all let us not forget those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice of giving up their lives to make the world a safer place for others.

Amen.

 

Tuesday Church 13 May 2014 @ 10.00 – First called Christians

The first reading today is Acts 11:19-26

 Act 11:19  Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.

Act 11:20  Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.

Act 11:21  The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

Act 11:22  News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

Act 11:23  When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

Act 11:24  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Act 11:25  Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,

Act 11:26  and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

The gospel reading today is  John 10:22-30

Joh 10:22  Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter,

Joh 10:23  and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.

Joh 10:24  The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Joh 10:25  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me,

Joh 10:26  but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

Joh 10:27  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Joh 10:28  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

Joh 10:29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Joh 10:30  I and the Father are one.”

  

Message

I wonder if you would call yourself a Christian? I remember this debate years ago when I was about 15 – at school – in the classroom. I guess I started being a witness quite early. I tried to explain what it really meant to be a Christian. “But of course we’re Christian” said the teacher. “We’re not Jewish, Hindu or Muslim – we must be Christian!”

There is a big difference between being “Christian” in our views of life and being a “Christian”.

The first followers of Jesus were only called Christians in the city of Antioch in Turkey around 44 AD. Before this they were Jewish people who followed Jesus, and at one point called “people of the Way”.

The Antioch church was a Gentile church – made up of many different cultures.

Act 13:1  In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.

The Lord had called into the fellowship and into leadership positions people from several nations. A fellowship from the then-known world could be led to the decision of wanting to reach the world. This could never have happened in the Jerusalem church.

The commentator Lloyd Ogilvie, A Presbyterian, writes of this church:

The Lord knew what He was doing! Note the magnificent mixture:

Barnabas, who had the rich background of the infant church in Jerusalem from Pentecost or shortly thereafter; Simeon, also called Niger, a Latin name showing two strong cultures in one person; Lucius of Cyrene, also a Latin name, clearly identified as coming from North Africa; Manaen, who had been raised (súntrophos) in the court of Herod the tetrarch (that is, the court of Herod Antipas, father of Agrippa); and Saul, the converted Pharisee. It was a world fellowship to start a world movement. Even Mark, brought from Jerusalem, would add his own contribution later.

Two Africans so early in the story. At least they were from North Africa – so that the South Africans aren’t in trouble again for showing up everywhere.

When you have gentiles from so many countries and parts of society together in a worshipping community – what would you call them?

Of course – Christians – because it is Christ who is their focus and centre. It is Christ who they are following – they are still a movement in some senses – “people of the Way”.

It is Jesus who tells us in next Sunday’s reading: “I am the way”. In today’s gospel passage from John 10, Jesus is speaking about shepherding again. And the key identifier of the sheep is clear in the debate which takes place. Listen again:

Joh 10:24  The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Joh 10:25  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me,

Joh 10:26  but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

Joh 10:27  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Joh 10:27  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Are you a follower of Jesus? Not just a Christian by association because you are not a Hindu or something else. A real follower?

If you are then the most exciting thing is learning to hear his voice and following in the way he shows you.

It does not necessarily mean travelling across the world on a mission. It means following his leading in terms of the kind of person you should be – and the way you see things in life in general.

He does guide us – through the Bible and the collective wisdom of others. Often through a small voice prompting – a nudge or an intuitive sense of knowing what to do.

Like the shepherd of Psalm 23 – he leads us to places that restore us – green pastures and quiet waters.

Learning to spend time in his presence is probably the most important challenge.

Prayer – that great gift to us – connects us to eternity – to God’s heart.

And so often we need to get up closer to God our Father – to be reminded how much he loves us!

Listen to how the passage ends today in the Gospel reading. It’s one of the most powerful statements from Jesus that makes it very clear that this is not just a wise man or a prophet as some people will try to tell you:

This is the one who gives us eternal life:

Joh 10:28  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

Joh 10:29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Joh 10:30  I and the Father are one.”

This is the One who is one with the Father.

We are His sheep and the people of His pasture.

May we learn to feed on the words he speaks.

Amen.

 

 

Sermon at Tuesday Church 11 March 2014 – Daily bread to sustain

Readings:   Isaiah 55:10-11 and  Matthew 6: 7-15

Sermon:

What really sustains you? Is it your (singular) walk with God? Or is it the fellowship that you share in the family together?

We live in an age of independence – in thinking and living. We treasure our independence. We hold onto control as long as we can – our home, our car –the various options we have that have a “my freedom” attached to them. We have all these on-line identities too – where I tell my story and share my ideas – I facebook them, or a Tweet them on twitter. I email my friends. I sign my name to petitions and letters, and have my private bank account and ID.

The prayer that forms the basis of our Christian life – the one Jesus taught – was taught or given to US as a prayer and a pattern for prayer.

It begins as “Our” Father. Not my Father. And all the petitions are in the plural.

Give us

Forgive us

Lead us not…

We are in this together.

And we have the challenge of praying together- trusting together – forgiving together as we are forgiven together.

Mat 6:11  Give us today our daily bread. Is our common prayer for our needs to be met.  The “daily” bread is the sufficient bread – the bread that is enough for the day – like the mannah, you could not store it up but collected it each day (excepting the Sabbath).

What are you hungering for? What are you concerning yourself about when it comes to your needs/

Jesus teaches us to depend on him daily for that which is sufficient. (GNB)  Give us today the food we need.

This fits in so well with Jesus’ teaching from the sermon on the Mount. Don’t worry! God provides for the sparrows! He clothes the lilies of the field. Don’t fret so.

Seek First His kingdom – says Jesus in that sermon in Matthew 5.

So it makes sense that the opening petition of the Lord ’s Prayer is “your kingdom come, your will be done…” followed by that same dependency: ‘Give us this day our daily bread”.

It’s not “My Father – give me today my daily bread!”

Sharing and supporting each other is at the heart of the Christian Community.

Let’s trust Him for the day’s needs.

Let’s depend on Him for the practical food.

And especially the bread from heaven. Remember the heart of the temptation narrative from Sunday? Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8 again: 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.

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.'”

As important as our physical nourishment is the open book of God’s word – letting Him speak to us each day from our Bibles.

May we learn to be sustained together by this wonderful Father.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Amen,

 

Tuesday church sermon 9 July – Compassion

Reading:  Matthew 9:32-38  

Sermon                                                              

I was intrigued a while back by a conversation I heard – when a member of our local church here at BBP spoke about “strangers” coming to church on a Sunday – how they didn’t know these strangers.

We can be a bit clubby sometimes.

Years ago – in 1996 – I was privileged to go to Argentina for an international conference run by “Harvest Evangelism”.

There was a revival going on the cities of Argentina at that time – through church unity and cooperation and intense prayer and intercession, local churches were getting together to reach every street in their towns with a prayer cell – and connecting with their neighbours in mission.

I recall the main speaker – the head of Harvest Evangelism – speak on this text from Matthew 9.

It’s the gospel reading for today and it follows on quite well from Sunday – where we read the Luke account of this business of the harvest being great and the workers few.

Ed Silvoso said this – or words to this effect:  When you are in a crowd – say in a shopping centre – and you see the masses or encounter their shopping trolleys – or get stuck behind them when you are in a hurry and they seem to have all day – what do you feel?

Are you like Jesus?

The key verse is of course this one:

Mat 9:36  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

 

Σπλαγχνίζομαι –  splagchnizomai is the word. It’s one of the richest Greek words in the Bible. Literally it is something like a bowel movement – oops. That sounds wrong. Thayer’s Greek dictionary explains it like this:


Thayer Definition:

1) to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)’

One 18th century commentator put it like this:

(John Gill) … he was moved with compassion on them: his bowels yearned for them, he was touched with a feeling of their infirmities, as the merciful high priest, the good shepherd, and faithful prophet; being heartily concerned for the souls of men, their comfort here, and everlasting happiness hereafter…

It’s about something that churns inside of you.

Compassion is the key. Is that the feeling you have? What Jesus felt?

It is such an interesting verse – in fact all the words are rich – so rich that the various translations sound like this:

(AOV)  En toe Hy die skare sien, het Hy innig jammer gevoel vir hulle, omdat hulle moeg en uitgeput was, soos skape wat geen herder het nie.

(ESV)  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

(MSG)  When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.

          (KJV)  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on           them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having   no shepherd.

Jesus is moved by the masses. We sometimes avoid them – as the world is so different from what we grew up with.

The best sense of this that I have experienced was not at a shopping centre – but going with the crowds to watch the Springboks play the All Blacks one night at the Cake tin – the Westpac stadium in Wellington. They came in their droves – and it was so gloomy. OK they were all wearing black – but there were thousands. Streaming towards the stadium – emerging out of the station, off buses, or along the sidewalks. I had a real sense that day – that this is what Jesus is interested in. All those people.  Okay that particular group was a bit obsessed with the religion of rugby, so we have to be especially compassionate towards them.

The heart of Jesus is for those who are harassed and helpless.

Back to Matthew 9:37 – Jesus he tells them to pray to the Lord of the harvest:

Mat 9:37  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Mat 9:38  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

In Mark we read this:

Mar 6:34  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

And in that passage he goes on to feed them – with five loaves and two fish.

Dear friends – there is work to be done.

It begins with compassion. And compassion goes together with love. Paul said this of his passion to reach people in his first letter to the Corinthians:

1Co_9:16  Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! And then in 2 Corinthians he says this: 2Co 5:14  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

Of course that verse precedes the one we have mentioned on a couple of Sundays: 2 Corinthians 5:17

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

May you and I find a new compassion for the masses. This city is a reflection of the world we live in. All shapes, sizes, ethnicities (nations literally) and many, many people who are so different from us.

Yet they are the same us us. Without Christ the good shepherd – harassed and helpless, confused and aimless, in short – LOST.

We are called to be part of this plan to introduce them to Jesus the good shepherd. Amen.

Tuesday Church sermon 9 April – Born again

Reading: John 3: 7-15

I love to read about Nicodemus. He comes to Jesus at night – possibly because of privacy or secrecy (Jesus was a controversial person in the ruling Jewish Council) – possibly because he was a prayerful student who studied late at night – who knows really?

I also love the details about Jesus’ burial – in John 19:38 – Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  John 19:39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. So good to see that Nicodemus does become a disciple!

The idea that you can be born again is perplexing to him. But Jesus is clear: You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.”

When Nicodemus says: ‘How can this be?’  – Jesus is more direct: 10 ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things?

So are you? Born again?  Jesus says – You should not be surprised at my saying this!

It’s very clear that the Christian life is about a new beginning. Two things are very clear from today’s reading:

  1. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit – a spiritual rebirth!
  2. It involves the cross!

1. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit – a spiritual rebirth! We are born of the Holy Spirit – listen again to Jesus:

You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’

The word for spirit and wind are the same in both bible languages.  In the NT it is pneuma – here are various English words that come from this. The point is – you can’t actually see the wind, but you can see its effect. So too the Holy Spirit.

We don’t talk about the Holy Spirit enough. It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive assurance of faith (Rom 8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.) We experience the love of God through the Spirit: Romans 5:5 – because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. We are told to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 – Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,) which is about on ongoing relationship with God who is spirit (John 4:24 – God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” ) and who empowers us with his transforming presence.

And it all begins with the spiritual rebirth – we are to be born again (from above) and born of the spirit – a touch and regeneration by the spirit – a bringing to life of our spirits so that we begin to experience the things that are in a different realm – the realm of the spirit. That realm – using another word for realm – is the Kingdom of God.

The Christian life is a spiritual life!

2. The Christian life also involves the cross – there is no escaping Easter here!

John also records these words of Jesus: 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’

This spiritual life – being born again by the spirit – also involves our being saved from a life of sin and death and being launched into a life in the spirit.

This is also referred to as “eternal life” and it is found in Jesus (verse 15  – “that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him”).

The reference to Moses is interesting here. The Israelites were in trouble – condemned to die because of their sin – which interestingly was not the breaking of the 10 commandments directly, but GRUMBLING. Listen to the account from Numbers 21:

Num 21:4  They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way;  Num 21:5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Num 21:6  Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.  Num 21:7  The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

Num 21:8  The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”  Num 21:9  So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

Grumbling against God and against God’s leaders gets people into trouble! They looked to the bronze serpent – and they were saved from death!

The parallel is clear. The bronze snake was lifted up – just as Moses lifted that symbol up in the wilderness, so to the Son of Man was to be lifted up “15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

They confessed their sin and asked for prayer – and Moses prayed for them. “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.  ” (Numbers 21:7.) We too look to the cross – and confess our sin! Well we should.

And of course this story is told to Nicodemus as a warning. One commentator, James Philip, puts it like this:

This was surely one element in Nicodemus’ situation: his was a willing blindness. He did not want to see the truth about the necessity for rebirth, because seeing it would have been at that point much too costly a thing for him. He resisted the truth because his heart was in rebellion against God, as much as the Israelites were. (James Philip was the minister of the Holyrood Abbey Church in Edinburgh, Scotland. He died in 2009. A great pastor-teacher)

That’s a warning to us when we say “oh we don’t need to be born again! We don’t need this Holy Spirit business. We’re just fine!

We need to really seek this fullness of life – the new birth – the fullness of the Spirit – a full understanding of what eternal life is – with our eyes firmly fixed on the cross.

Amen.