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Sunday sermon 20 September 2015 – What lurks beneath?

Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34;  Luke 22:19-27; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.


I went for a walk in Bayside yesterday – there is this dam – dogs and kids walking happily around. A man was cleaning his high windows with an extended brush. Others were enjoying their upgraded houses and pools and trampolines in the back garden.

Like the vicious dog on the corner – hidden behind high walls – you don’t know what’s on the inside of those houses.

And on the water you find ducks and in season their ducklings. Pukekos in and out of the bush. Tuis in the trees and no one playing dangerous games on the green overlooking the water. Like rugby or football.

But under the water? What’s really there? Not big enough for a Nessie. But there are fish and eels. And who knows what lurks down there?

You just don’t know what’s underneath – or what’s on the inside of people. Jesus knew. He spoke to religious people in a scathing onslaught – comparing them to whitewashed tombstones – clean on the outside but full of dead men’s bones beneath.

Mat_23:27  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

1. So what have we been saved from?

When the Israelites celebrated liberation from slavery – they knew what they were saved from.

When the angel passed over Egypt the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintels and doorframes of their houses saved them from death. And then they were rescued from slavery – set free!

They knew what they were saved from.

Do we? This Sin?

Sin is pernicious. Malicious, wicked, evil and malevolent. As God said to Cain before he killed Able – when he was so enraged because God rejected his thoughtless offering (does he reject our shoddy little offerings when they too are second best? Great question!) “Sin is crouching at your door!”

Gen 4:3  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. Gen 4:4  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, Gen 4:5  but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Gen 4:6  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? Gen 4:7  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

That’s what we are saved from! Something that can send us into the wilderness far from God and life!

Gen 4:9  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen 4:10  The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Gen 4:11  Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. Gen 4:12  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

At this meal – this communion meal – this new Passover in Christ -there is much to be thankful for! This is no McDonalds Happy Meal! This is a major coup! A huge victory! The liberation of a greater concentration camp than Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Buchenwald (there were more than 70 of them) of all the refugee camps and war zones, and of all places where people are enslaved – more than all of these across the world combined! (John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that he gave…”. 2 Corinthians 5:14 – “one died for all”. 1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ died for sins once for all”).

When the commandments are given in Exodus 20 – this is how they begin: Exo 20:1  And God spoke all these words: Exo 20:2  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Exo 20:3  “You shall have no other gods before me.

When we gather we should always declare that through CHRIST’S DEATH we have been brought out of our slavery and darkness into His wonderful light! (1 Peter 2:9)

But wait! And there’s more! There’s freedom from slavery to sin. The transformation means we become slaves to righteousness, with an addiction to truth and holiness.

And if you remember anything from our study of Galatians you may remember this: Gal 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

And then Romans 6 reminds us: Rom 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  Rom 6:19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

Our salvation is through Christ the Passover Lamb. (Remember those words: “Behold the Lamb of God…” – spoken by John the Baptist in John 1:29,36).

We are rescued! We should know what we were saved from!

And were are baptised into Christ (Galatians 3:27) – into his death (Romans 6:3)– and by the Spirit into his body ( 1 Corinthians 12:13) which is the new family of God in which we are meant to die to sin. (Gal_5:24)  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.


So when Paul talks about the problem of sin in the church – you can see where he is coming from when he wants it removed like a cancer that lurks beneath, or an infection that eventually spreads through the whole body.

Which brings us to that marvellous passage of 1 Corinthians 5.

2.     Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us – the bread of sincerity and truth

This is what characterises a Christian church and community. Paul talks about what’s on the inside when he talks about yeast. Leaven. Something that works on the inside unseen in itself but obvious when the bread rises.

The Communion Festival celebrates Christ our Passover sacrifices for us. He says:

1Co 5:7  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1Co 5:8  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

Leaven initially about leaving in a hurry? No time to wait. What is this leaven story?

Kenneth Chafin’s Commentary is really helpful here: The analogy of the leaven, used by Paul in verses 1Co_5:6-8, came from the process of preparation for the Passover. Here he compares the immorality that cannot be tolerated and must be rooted out from the church with the leaven that had to be discovered and gotten rid of before the time of the Jewish Passover.

On the first day of Passover all leaven must be removed as a symbol of Israel’s liberation from the sins of Egypt. No leaven could be present in the bread that was eaten in the Passover meal lest there be risk of contamination.

Paul was saying, “If this is not handled promptly and incisively, it will eventually permeate the whole church.” Paul had learned that a church will eventually adjust to what it tolerates, and he had a dream of a different kind of church. (The Preacher Commentary – Kenneth Chafin).

We see this today! It’s not okay! And what a great picture – a dream of a DIFFERENT kind of church indeed.

And of course if you read the whole of 1 Corinthians 5 you will see how bad the sin in that community was at the time.

A final story from my life: I was first elected onto a Board of management in a church almost 40 years ago I think. My minister wanted a youth representative there. And I learned what happens when you put things off that are festering underneath. The church hall was a massive place – bigger than the massive church. The board was often afraid that God wouldn’t provide – so they didn’t always fix things or attend to what was beneath.

It was either wood borer or wood rot that did them in years later. One night – by God’s grace when no one was in the building – the hall roof fell in.

You have to deal with what’s going on within – underneath the veneer.

As we draw this to a close we hear from TOM WRIGHT – these final thoughts from this amazing New Testament thinker are really powerful, especially when he shows that leaven here represents our old behaviour (from which we have been rescued):

At the first Passover, each family slaughtered a lamb for their evening meal, and put its blood on the doorposts of the house so that the angel of death would ‘pass over’ them and spare them, while the firstborn of the Egyptians were killed. When Jews of Paul’s day kept the Passover festival, they sacrificed lambs in the Temple, continuing the tradition and keeping fresh the memory of God’s great deliverance. The early Christians saw Jesus’ own death as the climax, the culmination, of this whole tradition. He was the real Passover lamb, and his death had won deliverance for the whole world.

The whole Christian life, from this point of view, becomes one long Passover-celebration! That’s what it’s all about. Every breath a Christian takes is a silent Passover-hymn of gratitude to the God who has acted to save the world through Jesus, the true Passover lamb. Every action a Christian performs is part of the endless ceremonial of the Passover-celebration.

And at this Passover there must be no leaven. Paul does not, of course, mean that Christians must not eat leavened bread. It’s picture-language. The equivalent of leaven within this new Passover-life that Jesus’ people are called to live is the behaviour which goes with the old way of life: ‘the leaven of the old life’ is the kind of behaviour that pagans engage in before conversion, and ‘the leaven of depravity and wickedness’ is the kind of behaviour that Christians can be lured back into if they aren’t careful.

Leave old behaviour

What they need instead, Paul insists, is the ‘unleavened bread’ of genuine Christian living. We might have expected him to explain that as ‘holiness’ or ‘purity’, but instead he speaks of ‘sincerity’ and ‘truth’. ‘Sincerity’ doesn’t just mean ‘doing what you really want to do’; some of the wickedest things in the world have been done by completely ‘sincere’ people in that sense. No one was more sincere than Adolf Hitler.

The word Paul uses speaks of a purity of motive. It isn’t just that motive and action must be in tune with each other; that’s true of most criminals. Both alike must spring from the purified source of a will realigned to the purity of God himself. The mention of ‘truth’ indicates that at the heart of all misbehaviour there is a lie: the lie that says God doesn’t mind, the lie that pretends this one time doesn’t matter, the easy but deadly lie that imagines that this was after all how humans were supposed to behave. (Wright, Tom (2003-03-21). Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 61). SPCK. Kindle Edition.)

In my words – it’s not okay!

Finally – in summary – watch out for:

  • What lurks beneath
  • Sin is crouching at your door
  • That we go for the bread of sincerity and truth!




(The rest of the message not shared on Sunday follows in summary)

3.  The New covenant

I love the passage from Jeremiah 31 – “they will all know me” – in the church.

How well do you know him? (Last week we talked about how knowledge about God’s character helps us live it out).

And knowing him is allowing him to speak into our lives and clean out the leaven.

Servanthood is it in this new Covenant celebrated in the New Passover – Christ our Passover. There is nothing surprising that we should serve.

So just after the institution of the Communion meal it’s  no surprise that this takes place;

Luk 22:24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.
Luk 22:25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.
Luk 22:26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
Luk 22:27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

It all fits together with the example of the lamb of God Jesus. Remember Mark 10:45:  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

4.  The visible gospel in the bread and wine.

The meal of this New Passover  proclaims the message of the good news of Christ’s death as the Passover lamb.

This is a visible gospel sacrament. We heard this well known verse read to us today:

1 Cor 11:26:  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

This is action and proclamation. This is about our alliance with Him. Our loyalty to Him. Our public support of the Gospel cause.

The visible sign represents not just servanthood but sacrifice.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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

Reading: John 6:1-15


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.


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.


Sunday sermon 28 July – When you pray…



Luke 11:1  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Luke 11:2  He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.

Luke 11:3  Give us each day our daily bread.

Luke 11:4  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'”

Luke 11:5  Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,

Luke 11:6  because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

Luke 11:7  “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

Luke 11:8  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Luke 11:9  “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Luke 11:10  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Luke 11:11  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?

Luke 11:12  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Luke 11:13  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Sunday Sermon @ BBP


Learning to Pray (Bruce Larson)

There is a story that I hope is true about a man working the four to midnight shift every night. He walked home and his route passed a cemetery. One night he was in a particular hurry, and since the moon was full, he decided to take a short-cut through the middle of the cemetery. The route lopped five minutes off his walk, and soon it became his regular path. But on one particularly black night, he had an unfortunate mishap. He fell into a freshly dug grave. He wasn’t hurt but the hole was so deep he was unable to get out. He began to yell, but nobody heard him. Resigned at last to simply wait for morning, when his plight would be discovered, he pulled his coat up around his neck and huddled in a corner to try to sleep.

He was awakened in an hour or so by the noise of a falling body. A second unfortunate man had stumbled into this unexpected hole. Sleepily, the first arrival watched his companion trying frantically to crawl out. After a few minutes, he felt obliged to comment, “You’ll never get out that way.” Well—he did!

The story illustrates whimsically that all of us have undiscovered and unexpected powers—powers we didn’t know we had. One of the most effective ways to appropriate that power is through prayer.

This passage today is my favourite passage. Together with dozens of other favourite passages! Sorry – I can’t help it. The Bible is a treasure, is it not? Remember these:

“How I love your Law” says the Psalmist. “I meditate on it day and night”. (Psalm 1)

And Psalm 119:111 says this: Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.

Learning to pray from Jesus – is seen in this wonderful passage in Luke 11.

The pattern for prayer called the Lord’s prayer – well we know it all too well – and probably need to spend weeks digging into it. It’s worth a whole sermon series really.

For today – what we really need to hear is about the nature and character of God.

Jesus doesn’t even go through the whole of the Lord’s prayer here. We have to turn to Matthew chapter 6 (from verse 9) to get our longer version.

And it’s not surprising. Either Jesus got carried away on this occasion or Luke got carried away in the writing of his version of events!

This whole passage is about one thing!

The nature and character of God – specifically as FATHER.

Jesus leaps from the model of prayer to stories about the Father and fathers in general.

Yes he talks about a friend arriving at midnight asking for bread – emergency rations.

But that doesn’t get stuck on the responsibility of friends either. Remember that hospitality was normal and expected in that culture. Both from the guy who had his friend show up (at midnight!)and his friend whom he goes to for help.

In verse 8 Jesus says that friendship is not the reason for the man eventually getting out of bed to get bread

It’s about boldness. Listen again:

Luke 11:5  Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,

Luke 11:6  because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

Luke 11:7  “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’

Luke 11:8  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Boldness is key to the relationship children have with their Fathers. Good fathers whom they trust at any rate.

With parents in general there is the freedom to ask what are called BIG ASKS!

So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray – the first words are key.

Our Father, (in Matthew – a corporate prayer together which is what we do) or following Luke, simply Father.  In both cases the word is ABBA – Father – which is intimate and personal.

“He invites his disciples to call upon God as children call upon a loving parent, trusting that they belong to God and that God wants for them what is good and life giving.”  (Elisabeth Johnson)

It is a radical shift fundamental to this new people of the Way – which became the Christian Faith we know today.

It’s about intimate love.

A wonderful platform onto which we can attach our theology – our beliefs about God’s love, forgiveness and patience. And also his commitment to truth and wanting the best for His children.

And Boldness in prayer is Jesus’ pattern – and it is linked to this intimate love. Because God is a father you can ask the world! He won’t always give it to you and he may say wait and trust me! But boldness is an antidote to fear and timidity!

And remember that all of this is not just linked to God’s love but it is grounded in God’s love – as the Apostle John writes in his first letter:

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:19  We love because he first loved us.

Then – linked to this too – is Trustworthiness. It comes close to Integrity.

The next story he tells is actually funny and powerful all at once.

You rotten old sinful fathers won’t give their children a snake when they ask for fish and a scorpion when they ask for an egg!

Come on people! Yes there are wicked dads but this is about FATHERHOOD.

Man its great when people become parents for the first time! Did you watch Baby prince George come out of hospital?

Did you see that dad? Did you hear what he said?

William – looking a very happy dad – was going on about the baby being tardy – and how he would have a word with him about it later! But he was all smiles – and I loved it when he took the baby from his wife. There’s a film clip of his dad doing that when he was a baby – taking him on one of those first public viewings – and cradling him so lovingly and proudly.


It’s tough being a royal and living in the public eye and under the spotlight. A bit like Pastors kids – no paparazzi for them – just well-meaning church folk!

Parenthood is a wonderful gift.

Knowing God as Father is more wonderful. Knowing his nature and character is really important.

So remember

  • Intimate love
  • Boldness
  • Trustworthiness (the old term – faithfulness)

That last one – faithfulness – reminds me of the traditional hymn: “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee!” The scripture that underlies the hymn is James 1:17:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

May you grow in leaps and bounds in your relationship with God our Father – in your conversations with him – especially the honest ones where you pour out your heart – where you persist shamelessly like the man waking up his friend to get bread – with confidence, knowing he won’t give you something dangerous when you ask for the things you need.

Let me pray for you using Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-18

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Let’s save more time today and each day to pray more.