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Sunday 23 July 2017 – The Word of God on Bible Sunday

Readings: Col 3:12-17; Matt 13:1-9; 18-23

MESSAGE

So how many bibles do you have in your house?

And how many do you actually read?

If you’re a preacher like me it’s useful to have various translations.

But the truth is we only need one – one that we read and that we can easily understand.

Otherwise we’re just decorating our bookcases.

Back in the day when I visited people at home they used to bring out a large family bible and leave it in a conspicuous place.

There are two readings today.

The one in Colossians by Paul suggests that we need to let the Word of Christ “dwell in us richly” as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.

This incorporates the Gospel about Jesus, the teaching of Jesus, and the same principle applies to the whole of Scripture which is our source of faith, life, truth, values and wisdom.

We need to use all of this for our teaching which includes “admonition”. What do you think that means?  Words like correct, exhort, instruct, counsel come to mind. Note that it involves admonishing EACH OTHER. It means that there is a responsibility for all to know the word.

The Bible reading challenge we are taking up today is a great opportunity for ONE ANOTHER conversations – as we check on each other as the weeks go by, and as we share our thoughts on what we have read as we read through the New Testament in six months.

In the booklet which gives your daily passages, you will also find a helpful guide for your reading:

PRAY – ask God to help you understand what you’re about to read.

READ AND LISTEN – read the passage slowly and carefully. Think about the parts that stand out for you. Read those verses again.

THINK / REFLECT – ask yourself some questions:

  • What’s the main point of the passage?
  • What does it say about God? Does it say anything about what God wants for me?
  • Is there something I need to learn? Is there an example to follow, or a warning? Is God giving me a promise?
  • How does God want me to respond in my thoughts, words and actions?

WRITE / JOURNAL – it’s also good to write down your thoughts and the verses that really stood out for you in a journal so you can look back on what you’ve learned.

PRAISE – thank God for his Word and what you’ve learned today.

If you want the Word of Christ to make its home in you richly – I think that means a kind of saturation.

Sheilagh was telling me about a cake the kids made this week where she works. It was a pineapple cake – but despite reminders the children forgot to pour out the pineapple juice.

So they got pineapple pudding – yummy because that juice soaked right through the ingredients. Gooey – sticky – and very pineapply.

We need that kind of drenching of the word – of the truth – of Jesus’ teachings – of all the wisdom of the writers – to soak right in – as we let the Holy Spirit fill us too. Word and Spirit always work together.

THE SECOND READING YOU KNOW

The parable of the sower – well Jesus’ explains it well.

The sower is God really – and he is reckless and generous with the seed – even though there are risks. I think poor farmers listening would have been amazed and shocked all at once.

The real point of the parable is the soil.

Sowing on the path shows extensive generosity.

The rocky ground – well there is a bit of soil and there is life there. The trouble and persecution that comes and destroys the plants was real for them in those days, and is real for many around the world today.

And faith is snuffed out in our country too.  The Bible Society’s 2017 New Zealand research found that 34% of 15-18 year olds identified as Christian, but just 15% of 19-24 year olds did. The trend was repeated for measures of church attendance, Bible reading, discussing the Bible with others, and allowing the Bible to influence your life.

So there is work to do to add some soil in the lives of those who are at risk of falling away. There is a challenge – give some thought to it. They are falling away at university and in the work place. Social pressure, different world views – all these factors mean we need more support for our young people to help build a faith that lasts.

THE THORNS – Well that is closer to home for adults. “… the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

There is life there – but it is unfruitful. (In fact, the next parable that Jesus teaches indicates that the plants and the weeds actually can live together until judgement when they are weeded out and burnt.)

Backsliding – complacency – whatever you call it, people are distracted and the life is drained from them. They are choked by the thorns. They don’t grow – in faith, prayer, worship and witness.

That is a worry – and we need to be on our guard. And using Paul’s words we need to admonish them – correct, warn, remind, encourage. Point them back to the word.

THE GOOD SOIL – well there is a softness, and openness in the heart for the word to take root. It can soak in richly – like that pineapple cake. (FAT people – my preference).

The farmers listening would have been amazed by the results –  they were far greater than you would get even in a good harvest. You might get a harvest of 20 or 30 grains from a wheat seed. But not 60 or 100.

Jesus explains that these are people who hear and understand the word. The fruit bearing is not just the fruit of a changed life and character, but more seed – the word sown by them into the lives of others. They pass the life on (see 2 Timothy 2:2).

There is life in New Zealand – sometimes we get discouraged when we look at the big picture.

The Bible society’s research indicates that “seventeen percent of kiwis aged 13 or over and 30% of all 15 to 18 year olds attend church monthly or more often. Fourteen percent of all kiwis aged 13 or over read the Bible at least monthly, most of those weekly or daily.”

We need to share the story to that we can add to that number those who follow Jesus and read the Bible in this nation.

We need a simple recipe really:

  1. Love and nurture the fruit-bearers amongst us… building one another up in faith.
  2. Examine ourselves to see we are not getting the life choked out of us by worries and the lure of wealth or just stuff. Things. We need to disentangle ourselves if this is the case, and help others to do so as well.
  3. We can build resilience in the lives of those who have no roots – putting soil on the rocks of hardship and resistance. We need to nurture our young people especially and prepare them well for life after school.
  4. And where the path is hard and the word bounces off, we need to pray for wisdom as we are always ready to give a reason for the hope that we have  (Remember this key verse:  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…)  – as we are light and salt along those paths, bearing witness to the truth of Jesus. We should be showing that the Kingdom of God has come through Jesus, and that it is a better option for all. And if there is no understanding on the part of those we speak to – bring them along to an Alpha course where they can find out more!

Amen.

Sources: New Zealand Bible Society.

https://biblesociety.org.nz/discover-the-bible/the-bible-good-for-life/bible-challenge/

 

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Sunday sermon 4 August at 10.30am – From the inside out

Readings: Colossians 3:1-17

Matthew 7:24-27

Message:                                                                                            Bible Sunday August 2013

So how sturdy is the house of your life?

I love the photo we saw in the children’s chat – the one of the floating house.

Please watch the video about their story here:

They were a pretty sturdy family – you heard from them in the video. The impact of the Bible and the preached word of God is very exciting.

The Bible society’s campaign this year is entitled “Let the Bible transform your world”  It’s really what it’s all about.

The reading from Colossians is rich with pictures of that transformation. It comes when we surrender our lives to Jesus – who is identified as THE WORD OF GOD – HIS message through his life and words.

But we don’t just read about transformation of people’s lives in the gospels.

We go back to the letter of Paul, Peter, John and James  – all of which were written earlier than the gospels – to read about the power of this gospel of transformation.

So in Colossians 3 Paul writes to the Christians about their transformation when he says:

Col 3:1  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Col 3:2  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

If founding your life (your house) on the foundation of Jesus’ words is not a strong enough image, Paul talks about the reorientation of our hearts (our passions and loves) and our minds (our ideas, vision, thinking and plans) – which are to be set on “things above” = on God, on Jesus seated at the right hand of God, and on His purposes.

Why? Because when we give our lives to Christ we no longer live for ourselves. In Jesus’ terms we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 5)

In Paul’s terms – we are dead: Listen again: Col 3:3  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

And when your life is over, he says this: Col 3:4  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The consequence of this new status, position and orientation (always look for the word “therefore” and ask what it is there for!).

Because of this new standing and goal in life – and our dying in Christ we are to kill of our old habits:

Col 3:5  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Col 3:6  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  

Col 3:7  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. Col 3:8  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Col 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Paul always gives the good things after listing the bad ones (like he does in Galatians where he lists the fruits of the Spirit.

So here he lists the good things that are the consequence of this new orientation in our lives – heavenward. He weaves the good things into the long instruction he gives the Colossians Christians. We would do well to take these seriously as Browns Baysian Christians:

Col 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Col 3:10  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

The picture here is a little different. We have dying to self. We have looking heavenward. Now we have a change of clothes – taking off the old self and putting on the new self.

Out of this comes a new and inclusive community bound up with Jesus:

Col 3:11  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

He goes on to expand on the change of clothes image:

Col 3:12  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col 3:13  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Col 3:14  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

And as if to sum all this up Paul says this:

Col 3:15  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

How do we experience transformation?

Ultimately – through the word of Christ dwelling in us richly!Words have power.

God creates through his spoken word:

Gen 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:2  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Gen 1:3  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Words need to be consumed totally. He gives his prophets words to speak and even eat – symbolically:

Eze 3:3  Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Eze 3:4  He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them.

In Jeremiah 15:16, we have similar language: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”

Jer 15:16  When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.

And of course the Psalms talk about this inner working of the word of God:

Psa 119:9  Beth. How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

Psa 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

The same Psalm 119 – 104 verses later says:

Psa 119:105  Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

And Psalm 19 reminds us again that we need to consume his words:

The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. (v9) Psa 19:10  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

Even in the last book of the Bible we read about John the apostle in his old age – who writes:

Rev 10:9  So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.”

Rev 10:10  I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Eugene Peterson in his brilliant work called “Eat this book”  writes at length about Jesus the Word of God and about the power of the Scriptures.

He refers to Revelation 10:10 as a challenge to us.

There is an aspect of this encounter with the Bible that is unpalatable.

If we are serious about it – we move beyond just the sweet taste of scripture.

We are not in control of this process of transformation.

We read the Bible – but it actually reads us.

We stand before it challenged.

Peterson writes:

It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn’t site well with us at all; it becomes biter in our stomachs. Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering even; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God’s reality, that doesn’t cater to our fantasies of ourselves.

He also writes:

“We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers. And that is certainly correct. The text of the Bible sets us in a reality that is congruent with who we are as created beings in God’s image and what we are destined for in the purposes of Christ. But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge.

The Bible is a most comforting book; it is also a most discomfiting book. Eat this book; it will be sweet as honey in your mouth; but it will also be bitter to your stomach. You can’t reduce this book to what you can handle; you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with. You can’t make it your toy poodle, trained to respond to your commands.

This book makes us participants in the world of God’s being and action; but we don’t participate on our own terms. We don’t get to make up the plot or decide what character we will be. Eat this book, but also have a well-stocked cupboard of Alka-seltzer and Pepto-Bismal at hand.”

Eat this book?

Can you really take it all in?

It’s risky.

It will change you from the inside out.

 Amen