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Sunday Sermon 15 November 2015 – Seeing, Seeking, Speaking…

Readings:  1 Corinthians 13:11 – 1 Corinthians 14:5;    1 Corinthians 14:14-15 & 26; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 4:16-24.

MESSAGE:

“Seeing – Seeking – Speaking”

  • Two weeks ago – body life.
  • Last week – bearing one another’s burdens.
  • Today – Seeing, Seeking, Speaking…

STORY:

A little boy was on a School tour of the local Anglican Church and the vicar was walking the children around the building and explaining the flags, banners, and memorial rolls on the wall. He stopped at the World War 1 and 2 memorial and announced: “these are the names of the people who died in the services.” “Which ones?” asked the boy. “Morning or evening services?

There is little chance of you dying in church, statistically. If I were to die at work, on the other hand, it could be quite spectacular.

Which reminds me of the story of a young visiting preacher who was preaching on the text ‘I am coming soon”. He did not know that the lectern was a bit wobbly and got carried away. The thing toppled over and he landed in the lap of a lady in the front row. “No worries” she declared. “You did warn me”.

You’re unlikely to die in church. There is a chance of being in church where things are quite dead of course.

Some people prefer it that way. The calmer and less disruptive the better. You get churches like that. Very quiet as even the kids are spirited away to a back room in silence.

And then you get churches like ours which sound like a morning market – so much animated conversation. Don’t we get excited when we see our mates!

Real life in worship is about the presence of God.

The Gospel reading today is a short extract from the story we know well – the woman at the well – that’s how well we well know it! 🙂 (Isn’t English interesting?)

I’ve often preached on this story – and many others have too – suggesting that she was there in the middle of the heat of the day to avoid the scrutiny of busy-bodies. Maybe.

We have often suggested that when Jesus gets to the heart of the issue, this unnamed Samaritan woman uses theology as an escape.

You know the story – when it gets personal, discuss theological theories and avoid the truth.

PERHAPS WE ARE WRONG ABOUT HER

It’s possible that she was a good person – who was widowed a lot (okay you may think it a stretch, but I’ve met people who have married often, and sometimes divorced and remarried the same person). David Lose says this when speaking of her:

Jesus at no point invites repentance or, for that matter, speaks of sin at all. She very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced. Five times would be heart-breaking, but not impossible.

Further, she could now be living with someone that she was dependent on, or be in what’s called a Levirate marriage (where a childless woman is married to her deceased husband’s brother in order to produce an heir yet is not always technically considered the brother’s wife). There are any number of ways, in fact, that one might imagine this woman’s story as tragic rather than scandalous.

(Workingpreacher.org)

It may well be that she is a genuine seeker. Listen again: “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.”

Sometimes “seeing” indicates wisdom, or spiritual growth. It’s often linked to belief (“seeing the light”).

At a basic level, people want to “see” Jesus – like the unnamed Greeks in John 12 (See Tuesday’s message).

https://bbpsermons.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/10-november-2015-tuesday-church-seeking-jesus/

Or the first disciples in John 1:  Andrew brings Simon Peter to Jesus. Jesus calls Philip.

Joh 1:45  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Joh 1:46  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

SEEING AND SEEKING

Seeking is seeing with one more letter.

When we see Jesus – perhaps just as a prophet or special man (for many today he is still great for his ethics alone – the golden rule for example, in Luke 6:31) – when we are drawn to him – the seeking begins.

Interestingly – it is God who is the seeker at first.

In the discussion that comes up with the Samaritan woman on worship, Jesus says this fascinating thing:

Joh 4:23  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

In Genesis 3 after they eat the forbidden fruit, Moses records:

Gen 3:7  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Gen 3:8  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Gen 3:9  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

The first game of hide and seek. Fail.

We are told to seek God. A number of well-known verses come to mind:

Deu_4:29  But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

 Isa_55:6  Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 

Hos_10:12  Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

And these two:

Pro_8:17  I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

Jer_29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Seeing – seeking – coming – as in the invitation to Jesus in Matthew 11:

GOD SEES US – HE SEEKS WORSHIPPERS – HE SPEAKS TO US

God doesn’t need worshippers.  He sees us and knows our need for community and transformation.

He seeks us because he wants us to be connected and found as his “church” – those who are “called out” and “called” together into assembly in His presence.

It is here that He speaks to us.

In the passages we read about worship in the Corinthian and Ephesian churches today – there’s a lot about communication.

JESUS IS THE LIVING WORD OF GOD

It follows that He speaks through His life, his teaching, and through His Holy Spirit.

The gifts of the Spirit are there because God speaks and acts.

Here are some of the key verses again:

1Co 14:1  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

1Co 14:2  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

1Co 14:3  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

Eph 5:18  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Eph 5:19  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Eph 5:20  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

And the key one:

1Co 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.

Worship is not a weekly recharge like an electric car charging station. It is a place for community encouragement and teaching from the Word. But it also means that what we have been “self-feeding” through the week can be shared to strengthen the church – building up one another – as in previous sermons dated:

25 October  https://bbpsermons.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/sunday-sermon-25-october-2015-monuments-or-footprints/

1 November  https://bbpsermons.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/sunday-sermon-1-november-2015-as-each-part-does-its-work/  )

Perhaps this helps to show what we can become:

missionalchurch

THIS IS WHO WE SHOULD BE

  1. He sees us – we see Him and the faith journey begins.
  2. He seeks our fellowship/relationship – we seek him
  3. He speaks to us in Christ and through word and spirit – we speak to him in praise and worship and to each other in mutual edification/strengthening.

YOU CAN’T AVOID THE SPEAKING BIT – he is not silent and neither can we be

Prophecy – speaking God’s word to one another. 1Co 14:1  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

1Co 14:3  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 

Worship – singing to one another.

Eph 5:19  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord…

There is always going to be noise! Sound! Notes! words!

Community – building one another up in sharing God’s story in our lives.

1Co 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.

There is always going to be interaction. Everyone! Lots of action and gifts in action.

Witnessing – the woman in John 4 leaves her bucket and goes off to speak again – this time to others – and about Jesus! There is always going to be a testimony – a story – an account given of “what we have seen and heard”. Like these passages –  

From Luke:  Act 4:18  Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Act 4:19  But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. Act 4:20  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And from John: 1Jn 1:3  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1Jn 1:4  We write this to make our joy complete.

1Jn 1:5  This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 

How about you? Are you seeing, seeking, speaking about what you have seen and heard?

Amen.

Sunday Sermon 1 November 2015 – As Each Part Does Its Work

Readings:  1Co 12:1-27; 1 Php 1:1-11; Mat 5:21-26; Eph 4:15-16

 

Message

Eph 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Eph 4:16  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

It’s been a hectic couple of months. When you make a commitment to something – like a major event, a 50th party, a wedding, a conference – there’s no telling how things will work. The risks are the same as a simpler event.

The most risky events are like concerts (we had a great one on Sunday night). There’s the great story of the award given by a choir to the pianist for her faithfulness through the year at every practice – this was the last one before the Christmas concert. The old dear was still a great pianist – but sometimes not with it at all. “Thanks so much” she said. “It was a great idea to give this to me tonight – I can’t make the concert after all! Something’s come up!”.

She might be one of those people with the headstone on her grave: “great life, but missed the point”. One has to end well – endure to the end! (Matthew 24:13 may apply in the broader sense.)

Have you missed the point of church life?

It was still very noticeable to me – despite the wonderful attendance of people over the Jubilee weekend (there were lots of options) – that some people were just not to be seen. Of course leaving the country is probably a valid reason. 🙂 And it was a long weekend.

Of course the same can be said of today. One colleague said to me this week that he will be very pleased when the World Cup is over. Maybe people will get back to church!

The good news is that the work goes on!

Paul – writing to the Ephesians in a seminal passage – a key descriptor of the Christian church which we looked at last week when considering how we grow to maturity as we move forward on our faith journey – how we grow to be like Christ and into Christ – writes this:

Eph 4:15  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Eph 4:16  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Pardon me if I am losing the plot here – but those last 6 words seem rather succinct. Clear. Unconfused. Simple.

As each part does its work. You can almost count those words on one hand (you could if you were Jim Carey in the movie “Bruce Almighty!) As each part does its work!

The analogy of a human body – the extended metaphor Paul uses – appears in 1 Corinthians 12 as well as we heard today.

He hints of our participation in other ways of course. There are other analogies, metaphors or concepts used. Like the beginning of his letter to the Philippians:

Php 1:3  I thank my God every time I remember you. Php 1:4  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy Php 1:5  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, Php 1:6  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Our partnership in the gospel.

It’s also an involving kind of idea.

Even “silent” partners put their money into the business, if I recall. They do something.

Paul rejoices because of the participation of the Philippians in the gospel – its teaching and proclamation through the world – and in their own lives – because this can never be a clinical kind of critique of everyone else who we believe needs to be changed by Jesus – when in fact it begins with us. (The classical line heard at church after a powerful sermon – “I wish Mrs Jones was here today – she really needed to hear that!”)

As we said last week – the biblical serenity prayer is this (for those who missed out):

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know it’s me.

Paul writes:

I always pray with joy Php 1:5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, Php 1:6  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

There’s work being done – work to be done.

After that brilliant passage – in the next chapter about Jesus’ humility (the “if any…” passage –  If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose, (Phil 2:1-2) – Paul also says:

Php 2:12  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Php 2:13  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Fear and trembling? It sounds serious. It is!

If there was an alternative title to this sermon it could be something like “paralysis in the pew”.

Or alternatively, turning to 1 Corinthians 12,

“Body Life – the part you were called to be”.

Verse 27 says clearly:

1Co 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

The context of the passage is the “spirituals” – literally the pneumatikoi

Here’s the verse at the beginning of chapter 12:

12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. (Literally agnostic – without knowledge). Verse 3 continues:

1Co 12:3  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (Note: Of course they said that back then knowing it meant Caesar was not Lord and inviting trouble! For us it should be – society is NOT Lord. Money is NOT Lord. And the list goes on!)

1Co 12:4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1Co 12:5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

1Co 12:6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

1Co 12:7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

What is clear then is this:

1. BODY LIFE IS SPIRIT-LED LIFE

There is something quite unique in the organism of the church (see last week’s sermon for the distinction between organism and organisation).

It is a Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered body. Last Sunday we talked about Peter’s declaration of faith as the foundation – revealed by the Father in heaven to him. (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!)

Here Paul tells us that the 3rd person of the Trinity is part of this too. You can’t have one without the other two! (It reminds me of the Frank Sinatra song “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage – you can’t have one without the other!)

And so, says Paul: ‘no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. ‘

He continues with this pattern of the Trinity spelt out in another way.

1Co 12:4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  (Holy Spirit)

1Co 12:5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. (Jesus)

1Co 12:6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (The Father)

1Co 12:7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

It’s all God-works. Not ours. And its not for us. Verse 7 says – it’s for the common good. (Perhaps there’s nothing new about Bentham’s philosophy of what’s best for all – called Utilitarianism). Of course Paul would not have said that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” For Paul right and wrong is set by God.

But in the church people are there to serve for the common good – to build up the church – for the glory of God.

Body life is Spirit-led life. He goes on later in verse 12 and 13: 1Co 12:12  The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 1Co 12:13  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (Because this is the source of our life!)

Body life is Spirit-led life.

2. BODY LIFE IS GIFTED LIFE

1Co 12:8  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 1Co 12:9  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 1Co 12:10  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 1Co 12:11  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

He doesn’t want us to be agnostics-s – ignoramuses (ignorami?) about spirituals – spiritual gifts.

The lists vary between here and Ephesians 4, Romans 12.

Body life is gifted life. The great thing is that the gifts empower us to be a blessing to others. They are not for us but for the wider body of the Church. And this is not like a wedding where the bride makes a list and the guests select from the bride’s choices.

The bride of Christ does not choose. The Spirit chooses. The key phrase is “just as he determines” (in verse 11).

Lucky for us we can still desire spiritual gifts. More about that in two weeks’ time as we look at 1 Corinthians 14.

3. BODY LIFE HAS BODY PROBLEMS AND BODY SOLUTIONS

When you read the rest of the passage the analogy between the church as the Body of Christ and the human body has all kinds of implications.

1Co 12:14  Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1Co 12:15  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 1Co 12:16  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 1Co 12:17  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? (Note: this means that “body sins” include one part of the body saying “I am most important” and therefore I am the whole and not a part of the body!)

1Co 12:18  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 1Co 12:19  If they were all one part, where would the body be? 1Co 12:20  As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 1Co 12:21  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  (Note: A “body sin” here is when someone says “I don’t need you” to another in the body).

1Co 12:22  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 1Co 12:23  and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 1Co 12:24  while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 1Co 12:25  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

The passage reaches a climax here:

1Co 12:26  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

1Co 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

If one part thinks it’s the only one that matters – well you get the message. It’s out of sync. It’s like a cancerous cell – a limb that grows way past is proper position and size. My mother would have said “don’t get too big for your boots!).

And of course if you are more important – then others become redundant or irrelevant.

“I don’t need you” is a very unhelpful thing to say in a family – and especially in the family of the church which is in fact a living organism.

Of course sometimes when there is sickness and healing is needed, the bad stuff has to be lanced like a boil – or cut off to stop the spread of gangrene.

  • The partnership in the gospel
  • The completing of the good work that God has begun (which He completes if we cooperate
  • The working out our salvation with fear and trembling (for it is God who works in us…)

All happens in this organism. You can’t just be a passive observer! It happens in body life – in Christian Community.

As we look at our Mission in this community today when we have our congregational meeting after the service – the first choice we have is to decide to be part of what God is doing in this part of his body – the Church.

Or not. Brother Mike spoke about the covenant at Shechem a few weeks ago. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24).

How about you? In or out?

“As each part does its work.”

Amen.

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!