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Sunday sermon 6 October – Matters of faith

Readings: Lamentations 3:19-26; Luke 17: 1-10; 2 Timothy 1:1-14

SERMON

I read this weekend that I should  – well let me read it for you. This pastor wrote: think the single most important thing a pastor can do is wake up each day and focus his energy on enjoying Jesus and having as much fun as possible. This is the only thing I know of that will protect you from the burnout most pastors experience from the relentless strain of preaching and leading a church. I don’t think there’s much power in preaching grace if you yourself are not revelling in grace. (30 September 2013 by Justin Buzzard)

But I thought today’s reading was about faith – you say.

Actually no. Both really!

All the readings today are also about God’s grace!

From the depressing state of Jeremiah lamenting over a destroyed city of Jerusalem – to the perplexed disciples who are told not to be a stumbling block to other Christians – and to keep forgiving others (together with all the other things Jesus told them to give up or hate as they learn to love him) to the young Timothy who learned like some of us about the love of God from His granny – all the characters, the speakers in these passages and those listening to Jesus’ words or hearing Paul’s letters – none of them – NOT ONE – could save themselves or work up enough faith to qualify for a Nobel Peace prize or the meekest of human trophies.

For Jeremiah – deep in the depths of despair and depression – listen to him again:

Lam 3:19  I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.

Lam 3:20  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

There is a word of Hope:

Lam 3:21  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Lam 3:22  Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

Lam 3:23  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

And the key word here? Chesed – meaning mercy or loving kindness. The LORD’s “great love” is the one to look out for in the NIV.

The loving kindness of God is at the heart of it all. Mercy is right there.

With that the endless forgiveness that Jesus talks about in Luke 17:

Luk 17:3  So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

Luk 17:4  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Of course the Lord’s prayer backs this up. There is only one line in the Lord’s prayer about what we do:

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us!

It’s the heart of it all – it’s built into the loving kindness and mercy of God!

By the way – what do you think of the disciples response to this challenge? It follows hard on the heels of the warning against causing others t sin in verse 1: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.”

Their response is simple: Luk 17:5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  

He replies: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Jesus’ response has been interpreted in a couple of ways:

1.       A rebuke – chiding them for not having enough faith. Can you think of other times when he did this?

(In the context of worry) (O Ye of little faith?)  Mat_6:30  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

(In the context – a storm) Mat_8:26  And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

(In the context of Peter walking on the water) Mat_14:31  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

(When they were discussing bread) Mat_16:8  But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?

(In the context of a demon they could not cast out – although in an extra verse (textural variant) he adds prayer and fasting as a requirement for recalcitrant demons). Mat_17:20  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

So he says on this occasion: (In Luke 17:6) “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. This could be a rebuke – if you had just a tiny particle of faith – if you only had that tiny speck of faith like a mustard seed).

2. Humorous – there is an amusing angle – in the piucture of this mulberry tree

Luke 17:6  He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. There is an amusing angle to this too. The particular mulberry tree was known to have a very complex root system. It was a sycamine tree -a kind of mulberry, with a root system so intricate that it would take six hundred years to untangle it, according to the rabbis. The idea of it being planted in the sea is odd – almost a joke. It would look a bit strange.

3. The main focus is on the faithfulness of God in impossible situations!

In Matthew we read the mountain version of this.  Mat_17:20  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 

Some of our problems are like mountains. We say things are insurmountable. Basically that means impossible. Overwhelming.

Something like the destruction of Jerusalem – the wasted city of Lamentations. Think of any bombed-out city in the world. Everything gone. Think of hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and the mess that you land with.

How do you find hope in that situation?

In your relationship with God, there are some key responses – prayer (pray the Bible) and worship (sing the Bible) especially – both of which build faith!

As an example we used to sing years back: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases – his mercies never come to an end –  they are new every morning, new every morning, Great is they faithfulness Oh Lord! Great is Thy faithfulness!”

It is hard to find hope, though – especially in the face of wholesale destruction as Jeremiah had faced with the people of God. Those of you who have seen terribly traumatic things – or even have lost a loved on under less horrible situations – or those who battle with depression – understand how hard it is to find hope.

Consider this picture – a sculpture from 1894 by William Wetmore Story – carved for his wife’s tombstone and ultimately his. It is called the “Angel of Grief”. Have  a look:

angel of grief

It’s the angel mourning on the tomb! It’s a picture for many of the darkest day of the year – linked by Christians to Holy Saturday – Easter Saturday – where Jesus himself is remembered as dead.

The gloomy mood of all of Lamentations captures these terrible feelings of loss. And yet there is hope in this passage!

The truth is we often have to grieve first – as did Jeremiah. His poetry is gloomy and sad. That must happen in bereavement and loss of all kinds.

There’s a great moment in the movie “Four weddings and a Funeral” – not at the weddings but at the funeral where the dead man’s friend recites W H Auden’s poem “Funeral Blues”.  It will resonate with those of you who are grieving. It certainly does for me. It goes like this:

W. H. Auden  (Wystan Hugh 21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973)                       Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Brilliant and real. And  that kind of grieving is normal and important – as it shows the extent of love and loss in a powerful way.

Depressed people can get stuck in the desperation of hopelessness and persistent loss. People can get a kind of frozen grief. I have encountered that with the losses of immigration – you find it with refugees too.

In that kind of desperation another drum begins to beat out a different song:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…”

Or if you like:

“ Great is thy faithfulness oh God my father, there is no shadow of turning with thee….”

Morning by morning new mercies I see!

The morning prayer time seems significant as we tackle the day. Think of the beauty in the KJV of Psalm 5: Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.  Psa 5:2  Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.  Psa 5:3  My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

It is important to start the day well like that – recognizing his mercies and looking up, because

“All I have needed they hand hath provided!”

The point is – the bottom line is – you can’t work up your faith.

You only need a tiny bit – like the size of a mustard seed – to move that mountain or cast the tree into the sea!

It’s about the greatness and faithfulness of God.

Let’s close by listening to this song – sing along as we declare these truths.

Song: Who alone could save themselves?

Have a listen and as you do ask God to birth new hope in your heart: we all need faith and grace!

Click on the link and listen:

Who alone could save themselves?

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Sunday sermon 28 July – When you pray…

Reading:

Luke11:1-13

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

Story:

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.

Image

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.

Amen.

Sunday sermon 17 June – Cast your burdens unto Jesus

Readings: Philippians 4:4-8;  John 13:1-5; I Peter 5:7

We are so very connected in this generation. The trouble is that we get so much bad news so quickly. By text, phone, email, skype, facebook, twitter and plane old TV it comes our way. Too much bad news is discouraging and can be depressing as well. Think about the news that we do get. Here are some examples.

PERSONAL NEWS  – one man put a bumper sticker on his car that said: “Eat Right, Exercise, Die Anyway.” The Bible seems to back this up as  Proverbs 5:11 says, “At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.”  A body that doesn’t cooperate is certainly depressing. A lot of personal news we receive is about people who are suffering in various ways.

INCOME TAXES for some people are depressing. I read that in a survey that most Americans would rather be mugged than audited by the IRS.  Jesus did say of course, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).

A story about taxes:  A little boy wanted $100 badly for a new toy and prayed to the Lord for two weeks but nothing happened. Then he decided to write a letter to the Lord requesting the $100. When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to the Lord they decided to send it to President Bush. The President was so impressed, touched, and amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5.00 bill. President Bush thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy was delighted with the $5.00 and sat down to write a thank‑you note to the Lord. It said: Dear Lord, Thank you very much for sending me the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through Washington, DC and as usual, those jerks deducted $95.

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS create stress too. I often hear voice mails that go like this: “you know what to do”…   One man  put this message on his answering machine. “Hi. This is John: If you are the phone company, I already sent the money. If you are my parents, please send money. If you are my financial aid institution, you didn’t lend me enough money. If you are my friends, you owe me money. If you are a female, don’t worry I have plenty of money.”

Again the bible seems sympathetic. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” It is depressing be enslaved by debt.  One man commented, “If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.”

The list goes on. And most of these things have been around for a long long time. Add to this PERSONAL FAILURE and BAD RELATIONSHIPS.

There are some challenges that are really disconcerting however in this generation. A LACK OF PURPOSE is a big one. In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden one of the characters played by Brad Pitt says this:

“We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. Our generation has had no Great Depression, no Great War. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.”

No purpose leads to depression. Purposeless in life is endemic. It’s a huge problem amongst our teenagers – New Zealand at present has the highest suicide rate amongst young men in the OECD countries. It’s no wonder we really area concerned about building good things into the lives of young men in this community.

The Bible reveals this kind of attitude too, as Solomon wrote, “Everything under the sun is meaningless, like chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). That’s a good reason not to use the bible as a kind of game of chance – opening it up randomly for help – you might land up at that verse! The truth is many Christians feel like life is like chasing the wind.

Strangely PERSONAL SUCCESS can be depressing. Elijah the prophet as an example  had the greatest victory in his prophetic ministry, but a few days later was fleeing for his life. He then says: “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)

Legend has it that Alexander the Great wept after he had conquered the world, saying, “There are no more worlds to conquer.” When you finally reach your goal after working hard, you can experience depression. We are not as famous as Alexander the Great! But if the project or job we do becomes more important than who we are in Christ, we will be in trouble.

PESONAL SIN – of course also causes stress and anxiety. A personal struggle with SIN can be depressing. The Bible soberly reminds us in Titus 3:3 – “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.”

Perhaps you are enslaved by an addiction and the struggle never seems to end and its discouraging to battle the same old behaviours. No need to list those – we are all familiar with them!

Here’s a story to lighten things up a bit: A little boy’s mother had just baked some fresh cookies and placed them on the counter to cool. The little boy made the comment to his mother about how good the cookies smelled. The mother told him he was not to eat any of the cookies. A few minutes passed and the mother walked back into the kitchen and caught the little boy eating one of the cookies. She asked for an explanation to which the little boy replied. ” I climbed up on the counter to smell the cookies and my teeth got caught on one.”

If you find yourself constantly sinking your teeth into sin don’t be surprised if you are feeling down or even depressed. The Bible again reflects this reality in the life of David in Psalm 38, “I am troubled by my sin. O Lord do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God.” David’s sin had caused him to be depressed.

DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT AND DEPRESSION

So what is to be done? So many people struggle with an overwhelming sense of discouragement and even depression. Here are some ways through it:

1. Remember who God is.

PRAYER, PRAISE AND WORSHIP IS THE KEY

We’ve seen already that Bible people got depressed: Even Jesus sounded pretty bad in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” (Mark 14:34). He prayed the most intense prayer and of course his disciples fell asleep!

David! Listen to him:  Psalm 42:5. “Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Saviour and my God.” David knew that the way out of his depths was to worship. Most people think being on their own helps and they isolate themselves. We know that being together with Christians is a better plan! Pray and worship!

Of course a greater example is Paul and Silas singing Hymns at midnight in jail! There is power in praise!

Prayer, praise and worship put things into context, reminding us to see things from God’s perspective. And of course Paul in our reading from Phillipans 4 tells us:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (v6)

2. Remember what God says!

SOAKING UP SCRIPTURE filling your life with the Bible is a brilliant solution. The Scripture are HUGELY encouraging as they affirm the faithfulness of God in the darkest situation. Even the most well known passages like Psalm 23 have secret keys that unlock our struggles:

23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. The valley of DEEP DARKNESS! Even in the darkness God has promised to be with me!

Soaking up scripture TRANSFORMS our thinking – as we see how faithful God is!

JUST THINK OF JESUS: The ultimate example is Jesus! Success is not necessarily a sign of being on the right track in life! Being on the CROSS in those days was the sign of a curse! The Bible reminds us: Heb 12:2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

But Jesus was on the right track. He was in the right place at the right time. Gethsemane. Before Pilate and Herod. Humiliation and rejection. All exactly right. Dying on the cross – crying out MY GOD WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME. All perfect obedience.

Again read Philippians and 1 Peter 5:7 to put things into perspective. The Peace of God is promised in Scripture, and also Peter tells us to “cast all our anxiety upon him” for he cares for us!

3. Remember who you are!

Our identity and destiny is in our being children of God and co-heirs with Christ.  As children of God we are heirs of his promises.  That makes us secure just as Jesus was secure as he faced his crucifixion. He  knew exactly who he was and what he was about. Today’s gospel reading helps us to see this. Listen to John 13:1-4

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

4. Remember what He has done!

GET CONNECTED WITH THE PAST. Why do I say this? I have often been branded as a modernist, charismatic, anti-establishment kind of person! People love to brand you of course. I am a traditional person actually. I value the TRADITION handed down to us!

I value the so called “main line” church – which includes the Roman Catholic tradition. What Bible would we have today without the meticulous care of the church through the centuries preserving these sacred pages. I value the reformed tradition.  That same mother church needed correction – and the Luthers, Calvins, and other great men of God heard God and spoke a corrective word pertinent for their generation. The Bible! Faith! Grace! These are our foundations! I value the Presbyterian tradition! It is a tradition which has ELDERS govern the church. It’s in joint discernment as a community of overseers that we discern The Lord’s will – it prevents us from being mislead by any one individual.

I value especially what Paul tells us about the tradition – that which he passed down to us: I Corinthians 11 tells us:

(v23) For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, (11:24) and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

The Communion service is the one connection we have with the past! It’s through his death – his blood shed – that we find cleansing, healing, restoration and healing.

More than that we meet with Him and he with us in this special communion. Let’s do that now! We do it together – because we are strengthened by one another – by our joint commitment to each other in community. There is one loaf – one body! We belong – and that gives us courage when we are struggling!

And as you take the bread – hand over to God whatever it is that you need to give to him today. The verse we need to focus on is this one – Phillipians 4:6-7 again:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

May you be free from anxiety and discouragement and may the peace of God guard your hearts and minds!

Amen.