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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 4 August – Bible Sunday

Readings:

Colossians 3:1-17

Luke 8:4-8

Please watch the video about Bibles distributed in Cambodia before you read this short message

Message

Thanks for sharing your favourite verses today.

I’m so blessed – I get to share my favourite verses so often. I thought it only fair to give others a chance.

I was sharing with someone the other day about his pacemaker. How the thing kicks into action when his heart goes out of rhythm or does not behave either way.

I guess it’s a kind of an implant – something connected on the inside – that makes a difference – that really keeps him alive.

It’s a matter of life or death really. Without it – if his heart stops – well he’s a bit like you and me.

Our bodies have ways of kicking in when we are in trouble too in other ways – adrenalin is very helpful in a crisis. Our response to a life threatening situation is part of the gift of creation.

I discovered something new this week too.

If you stop breathing – say with a condition like obstructive sleep apnoea – your oxygen level drops and your brain wakes you up with a bit of a jolt. Very helpful really – otherwise – like the heart stopping – well when you stop breathing – you die.

My dad used to have a very dry sense of humour. If someone died and you asked what the cause was – he would usually say “lack of breath”. My response as a child – when someone died (as was the case when my godfather died) – was to ask “who shot him?”

Now this is a very long illustration of two points from today’s readings.

  1. Colossians 3:

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.

  1. 2.    Luk 8:6  Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.

This is the only parable that Jesus explains – making it more like an allegory. He says in verse 13 (which we did not read):

Luk 8:13  Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

Both images are about the word of God becoming an inner experience – dwelling in us richly – being rooted in our lives.

Our hearts – our minds – our memories – all need the word of God to grow and bear fruit.

The desired result is fruitfulness. In the parable – it works like this:

Luk 8:15  But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

And in the letter to the Colossians – it works its way out in the community of the church! In worship specifically!

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.

Paul says something similar when he writes to the Corinthians:

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

Now we don’t do this every week on a Sunday – as this is our main corporate worship and teaching time.

We do do this in home groups – where we build each other up in faith and fellowship whenever we meet.

On this Bible Sunday I implore you – beseech you (in older English) to make it your life’s business to read your Bible.

Let it be implanted in your heart, mind and memory.

It’s a wonderful thing when it becomes the default setting – like the bodies autonomic systems that kick in – or like my friends pacemaker that saves his life.

This is a taonga. A treasure that should not be wasted by keeping it on the shelf! It’s tangible and intangible. It is the power of God’s word to us which becomes an invisible power within – like that pacemaker.

Look at the resources today on the table that Sue has done for us.

Take some home (that are there for you – not peoples’ books we have borrowed but the sheets with ideas and resources).

Happy Bible Sunday! Be glad that we have this treasure and the freedom to put it to work in our hearts and lives.

Amen!