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7 August 2020 – Morning Reflections continue during level 1

MORNING REFLECTIONS UPDATE

Be alert and look for opportunities to encourage and help people.

We are on high alert but don’t always notice the obvious, the beautiful, or the needs and changing circumstances of those around us. We are reminded to be alert – ready to pray, aware of the enemy’s attacks, and always ready to give a reason for the hope we have.

 

Morning reflection – are you a Christian? Following Jesus and what that means today.

The first followers of Jesus were only called Christians in the city of Antioch around 44 AD. Before this they were Jewish people who followed Jesus, and at one point called “people of the Way”. Today we reflect on what it means to follow Jesus in our generation as we seek to hear His voice.

 

Morning reflection – Encourage one another. A few thoughts about building up one another and encouragement at this challenging time.

 

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.

 

 

Easter reflection – the Jesus we present

Readings: Acts 4:32-35; John 20:19-31

 Act 4:32  All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Act 4:33  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all

Act 4:34  that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales

Act 4:35  and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Joh 20:19  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Joh 20:20  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Joh 20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Joh 20:22  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Joh 20:23  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Joh 20:24  Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

Joh 20:25  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Joh 20:26  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Joh 20:27  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Joh 20:28  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Joh 20:29  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Joh 20:30  Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

Joh 20:31  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 MESSAGE

So we’re building loving communities that help people find and follow Jesus!

We saw a “Where’s Wally” puzzle this week. I’m glad I didn’t have to attempt it – or to find Wally!

Finding Jesus is an interesting idea. It assumes one of two things (or both I guess)

  • People are looking for Jesus
  • Jesus is lost!

Are people really on a search today? For fame maybe – or fortune. Money or meaning in life. Or meaning in money or mammon (the Bible’s term for worldly wealth) – the power of consumerism is still a major challenge. I suspect they are looking for something really – although many are not cognitively searching (using their minds) but rather surviving. Most families should not be vilified, though – they are working hard and providing for their children in an admirable way. Making ends meet, is the common term used.

The early church is sometimes set up as a model or paradigm for us today – on the assumption that there are enough similarities between people then and this generation to cause us to aim to be like the early church in every way.

Whether we aspire to be like the early church or not – we are very different. For example:

  • Few of us are Jewish (as in Acts 4)
  •  – verse 32 is challenging: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

We are not there yet. Put a bunch of Presbyterians together and it’s more like a fruit salad – often in the same bowl but not much agreement!

  • Few of us liquidate our assets and lay the funds at the feet of their spiritual leaders. There were no needs in the community because of this giving
  • Few of us can have this said of us: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.”

The story of Easter and the resurrection had clearly galvanised them into a powerful little group who were counter-cultural in a lot of ways. I think we are challenged by this passage from Acts – if we want community we need to broaden our thinking.

The Gospel reading today gives us a clue about how people connect to Jesus and Jesus to people. There are two things that spoke to me as I read this passage again:

  1. Jesus offered peace to the people he encountered. As the Prince of peace that makes sense. I’m not sure that we reflect that – we are often like people on the warpath with our opinions and views.

 Jesus declares “peace be with you” and shows them his hands and side. Why? He’s pointing them to the reality of the resurrection.  It was to this startling fact that the early church in the book of Acts pointed too. Listen again to what we heard:

Act 4:33  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all

  1. Jesus offered a personal relationship to those who struggled to believe. Like Thomas – who unfortunately is remembered as “doubting Thomas” rather than “Honest Thomas”.

 So what was Thomas battling with? The resurrection I should think. He wanted evidence – he wanted to see for himself and touch those wounds.

 Thomas wasn’t there the first time. A week later Jesus does one of those Houdini acts – not escaping from a locked room but getting into one again. And he speaks to Thomas:

“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

 Even the men on the A team had things they had to work through!

 I wonder if it’s too big a step to take to say that Jesus still wants to speak peaceinto our lives and to speak to our individual needs and doubts – and our fears.

 We may well be in some locked rooms too – and we may be surprised that Jesus might want to join us and engage us in a conversation. Make a connection.

 I don’t think faith comes easily for some people. It’s possible that more of us are like Thomas than we are honest enough to admit.

 So we hide our thoughts and feelings – afraid of our own authorities – our leaders perhaps who we think will pounce on us if we are uncertain – or at least if we don’t exhibit their great faith.

That’s why it’s really important that we don’t preach at each other – forcing our particular way of seeing things on others.

There’s nothing more discouraging than a simplistic “well if you would only obey Jesus – He will sort it all out and everything will be fine”.

 “Trust and obey” is a lot easier to sing than to do when things are tough.

 If I was going to sing a song in times of trouble – I would rather see Jesus as a “bridge over troubled waters” or I would prefer “what a friend we have in Jesus” praying – “bear my griefs Lord”.  Or I would sing “Still” which is one of my favourites right now:

 Hide me now

Under Your wings
Cover me
Within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still and know You are God

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father You are king over the flood
I will be still and know You are God

 The Jesus we present to the world – and the Jesus that should be seen in our communities (and I am thinking of small groups mostly where community really works (Someone once said there is no such thing as a congregation – it’s just a collection of small groups) – the Jesus we present and should see:

 IS the Jesus who causes there to be no needs – where people liquidate assets to make sure others have what they need – because of compassion and kindness and sacrificial living – and of course the clear idea from His teaching that treasure on earth is not the main thing – rather eternal treasure in heaven!

 The Jesus we present and should see:

 IS the Jesus therefore that makes it possible for our communities to be truly loving – honest – sorting out things – caring enough to face the truths of our messy lives in a safe place. How do you think they managed to get to that place where there were no needs among them? Simple – they talked about their needs! SO different from us who put our private use of money in a “private” basket.  Funny thing is that Jesus spoke of what we do with our money a lot!

 The Jesus we present and should see:

 IS the Jesus who shows up in the rooms we try to hide in and says PEACE BE WITH YOU. You can’t really open your life to this peace unless you acknowledge the storm! The moment people say to me (of something really messy) – Ah it’s all sorted – then I know they’re probably hiding it away – that pride is probably winning the war!

The Jesus we present and should see:

  • IS the Jesus who knows exactly what your doubts and fears are and will meet you at your point of need.
  • IS the Jesus who is so fascinating and attractive – so intriguing and so loving – that people will be drawn to Him when they see Him in us!

 What an enormous challenge! Are we remotely like Jesus?

 Are you? Do want to be? Is it worth the cost?

 And is the Jesus we present this Jesus? Or some other kind of person cut out from a few verses of the Bible?

 What amazing love – what sacrifice – the Son – the One Son of God – given for me! Taking my deepest pains and fears and anxieties to himself!

 So that I can be free!

 When we break the bread today – when you take some bread – if you dare to take it – you may well be taking the risk of becoming like that body – broken!

This Lord of all says he calls us friends.

The Creator of all becomes a servant – and calls us to serve too.

This greatest Lover of the world – calls us to love others too – no matter what we think about their theology or worship – their faith or lack of faith – their beliefs or their doubts.

When they find and follow Jesus – the most amazing things can happen.

 When we find this Jesus – and discover what He is really like – and follow Him – who knows how exciting that can be!

 Joh 20:19  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Joh 20:20  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Joh 20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

(Republished from 15 April 2012)