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Sunday Message 10 April, Easter 3 – Harvest Sunday

READINGS: Deuteronomy 8: 7-18;  2 Corinthians 9:6-15;  Luke 12:16-30

SERMON

Have you given anyone a gift recently? I wonder what the occasion was. Perhaps a birthday, Christmas, or the celebration of a new life – the birth of a baby. Perhaps a grandchild?

Think about the gifts you have received in the past year.

  • Do you remember who gave them to you?
  • Did you remember to thank them?
  • Do you think about them when you use that gift?

The overwhelming idea in the passage from the Old Testament today is a warning that we should not forget the gifts God gives us – the blessings he bestowed – the things he has done. And I would add the prayers he has answered.

Over the years I have had amazing conversations with people who have really considered believing in God – or have prayed to him (when they usually didn’t) – or have even come along to church for a while in a crisis. Who contact me in emergencies for spiritual help and prayer – and when things are going well they are suspiciously silent. We pray for people who have needs – are unemployed or unwell –  their prayers are answered and we don’t see them again for a long time.

Deuteronomy 8 reminds us of this amazing gift of life and creation (whether it’s the land promised to Israel or this beautiful country we enjoy) – that we should not forget and become proud about our achievements (v14) – and it also says that he gives us the ability to produce wealth! (v18).

It’s that old attitude of gratitude. We often realise too late when people are dead and gone what a blessing they were. And so too many other things we enjoy.

  1. DON’T FORGET THE LORD! This is the first point today. This generous God – we should not neglect to speak of his kindness and grace, and to praise him constantly for his gifts. Which leads to the second point worth remembering today: 

2. GENEROUSITY IS CONTAGEOUS

The reading from Corinthians picks up the harvest theme from a different angle.

Again it is God who “supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” (2 Corinthians 9:10).

The generosity of spirit in both practical and spiritual things – with cheerfulness – is the natural outflow of knowing we are blessed to be a blessing.

And so Paul says to the church in Corinth (in the context of their giving):

2Co 9:6  Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2Co 9:7  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We are not always known to be cheerful givers. The offering time in many churches is not noted for excessive happiness and hilarity!

Paul was dependent upon peoples’ gifts to keep the work going – so that the gospel could reach all the places he travelled to on his missionary journeys. He says:

2Co 9:10  Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2Co 9:11  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2Co 9:12  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (As an aside we need to thank God regularly for those who serve with us here).

God has blessed us – we bless others and give to the work of the gospel as part of our thanksgiving and worship.

The riches we receive are not physical here. This is not a prosperity business – giving to be blessed – even though we are told we will be blessed!

We give to those in need to glorify God! We need to be generous kids of a generous Father. Generosity is contagious. Like love – its catchy!

And now to the third point today:

  1. SELFISHNESS IS RISKY AT BEST – FOOLISH AT LEAST

The gospel reading is a stark reminder of the power of sin – which focusses on me mine, what I will do for myself. It comes through clearly in the words of the barn man:

Luk 12:17  He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Luk 12:18  “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. Luk 12:19  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ Luk 12:20  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Luk 12:21  “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

What is this guy really after? A nest egg and early retirement? God calls him a fool.

What matters when the plug is pulled and we are gone from all this stuff in a flash?

There’s nothing wrong with providing for oneself and family. But this man is totally obsessed with  himself. The context is greed. Look at the preceding verses Luke 12:13-15:

Luk 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Luk 12:14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Luk 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

What could he have done?

Probably being content with what he had would be a start. Paul says this on the matter:

1Ti 6:6  But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Ti 6:7  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1Ti 6:8  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1Ti 6:9  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1Ti 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Following on from this warning is our last point:

4. TRUST HIM WHETHER IN WANT OR WELL PROVIDED FOR (aka DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY?)

The gospel passage today ends with that wonderful reminder about God the provider:

Luk 12:22  Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Luk 12:23  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Luk 12:24  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Luk 12:25  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Luk 12:26  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luk 12:27  “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. Luk 12:28  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! Luk 12:29  And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. Luk 12:30  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  

He ends with this:

Luk 12:31  But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luk 12:32  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 

Worry is an unprofitable emotion indeed. Remember last week how I said we have to fill our minds with scripture to offset all the other stuff we are fed.

My prescription for you today: Read this passage at least once a week. It reminds us that we are more valuable than the birds who are provided for. He will take care of us!

  • Guard your heart – that insidious love of money and stuff can destroy you.
  • Seek his Kingdom, little flock. He has been pleased to give us the kingdom! This means not storing up for heaven as a kind of investment, but living for different lasting values and priorities now.

To recap we should work on:

  • Not forgetting the Lord – being thankful!
  • Being like Him – generous.
  • Living lives in a mode opposite to greed and selfishness.
  • Trusting Him – he is our provider. The Kingdom kids have the King’s kindness to depend upon! Remember Luke 12:30 “Your Father knows that you need them”.

May His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth – as it is in heaven.

Amen.

 

Tuesday church sermon 9 July – Compassion

Reading:  Matthew 9:32-38  

Sermon                                                              

I was intrigued a while back by a conversation I heard – when a member of our local church here at BBP spoke about “strangers” coming to church on a Sunday – how they didn’t know these strangers.

We can be a bit clubby sometimes.

Years ago – in 1996 – I was privileged to go to Argentina for an international conference run by “Harvest Evangelism”.

There was a revival going on the cities of Argentina at that time – through church unity and cooperation and intense prayer and intercession, local churches were getting together to reach every street in their towns with a prayer cell – and connecting with their neighbours in mission.

I recall the main speaker – the head of Harvest Evangelism – speak on this text from Matthew 9.

It’s the gospel reading for today and it follows on quite well from Sunday – where we read the Luke account of this business of the harvest being great and the workers few.

Ed Silvoso said this – or words to this effect:  When you are in a crowd – say in a shopping centre – and you see the masses or encounter their shopping trolleys – or get stuck behind them when you are in a hurry and they seem to have all day – what do you feel?

Are you like Jesus?

The key verse is of course this one:

Mat 9:36  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

 

Σπλαγχνίζομαι –  splagchnizomai is the word. It’s one of the richest Greek words in the Bible. Literally it is something like a bowel movement – oops. That sounds wrong. Thayer’s Greek dictionary explains it like this:


Thayer Definition:

1) to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)’

One 18th century commentator put it like this:

(John Gill) … he was moved with compassion on them: his bowels yearned for them, he was touched with a feeling of their infirmities, as the merciful high priest, the good shepherd, and faithful prophet; being heartily concerned for the souls of men, their comfort here, and everlasting happiness hereafter…

It’s about something that churns inside of you.

Compassion is the key. Is that the feeling you have? What Jesus felt?

It is such an interesting verse – in fact all the words are rich – so rich that the various translations sound like this:

(AOV)  En toe Hy die skare sien, het Hy innig jammer gevoel vir hulle, omdat hulle moeg en uitgeput was, soos skape wat geen herder het nie.

(ESV)  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

(MSG)  When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.

          (KJV)  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on           them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having   no shepherd.

Jesus is moved by the masses. We sometimes avoid them – as the world is so different from what we grew up with.

The best sense of this that I have experienced was not at a shopping centre – but going with the crowds to watch the Springboks play the All Blacks one night at the Cake tin – the Westpac stadium in Wellington. They came in their droves – and it was so gloomy. OK they were all wearing black – but there were thousands. Streaming towards the stadium – emerging out of the station, off buses, or along the sidewalks. I had a real sense that day – that this is what Jesus is interested in. All those people.  Okay that particular group was a bit obsessed with the religion of rugby, so we have to be especially compassionate towards them.

The heart of Jesus is for those who are harassed and helpless.

Back to Matthew 9:37 – Jesus he tells them to pray to the Lord of the harvest:

Mat 9:37  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Mat 9:38  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

In Mark we read this:

Mar 6:34  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

And in that passage he goes on to feed them – with five loaves and two fish.

Dear friends – there is work to be done.

It begins with compassion. And compassion goes together with love. Paul said this of his passion to reach people in his first letter to the Corinthians:

1Co_9:16  Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! And then in 2 Corinthians he says this: 2Co 5:14  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

Of course that verse precedes the one we have mentioned on a couple of Sundays: 2 Corinthians 5:17

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

May you and I find a new compassion for the masses. This city is a reflection of the world we live in. All shapes, sizes, ethnicities (nations literally) and many, many people who are so different from us.

Yet they are the same us us. Without Christ the good shepherd – harassed and helpless, confused and aimless, in short – LOST.

We are called to be part of this plan to introduce them to Jesus the good shepherd. Amen.

Sunday sermon 7 July – Ambassadors for Jesus

Readings:

2 Corinthians 9:5-12

Galatians 6:7-16

Luke 10:1-10; 16-20


Introduction

 

A story is told about a man who was on a luxury liner and suddenly he falls overboard. He can’t swim and in desperation he begins calling for help. Now it just so happens that there were several would be rescuers on deck who witnessed the incident.

 

·         The first man was a MORALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately reached into his briefcase and pulled out a book on how to swim. He now tossed it to him and he yelled: Now brother, you read that and just follow the instructions and you will be alright.

 

·         The man next to him happened to be an IDEALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately jumped into the water and began swimming all around the drowning man saying: Now just watch me swim. Do as I do and you will be alright.

 

·         The person next to him happened to be a member of the INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH. He looked upon the drowning man’s plight with deep concern. He yelled out: Now, just hold on friend. Help is on the way. We are going to establish a committee and dialogue your problem. And then, if we have come up with the proper financing, we will resolve your dilemma.

 

·         The next man on deck happened to be a representative of the school of POSITIVE THINKING. He yelled out to the drowning man: “Friend, this situation is not nearly as bad as you think. Think dry!”

 

·         The next man on board happened to be a REVIVALIST. By this time the drowning man was going down for the third time and desperately began waving his arm. Seeing that, the revivalist yelled out: Yes brother, I see that hand, is there another? Is there another?

 

·         And finally, the last man on deck, was a REALIST. He immediately plunged into the water, at the risk of his own life, and pulled the victim to safety.

 

 

Message

So what did you think of the readings today?

I wonder if you noticed what they had in common?

·         Yes they were in English

·         Yes they were both from the New Testament

·         They referred in one way or another to sowing, reaping and harvest. And harvest is, amongst other things in the bible, a metaphor, a picture or a way of understanding what we invest in – when we share the gospel and people come to faith.

Harvesting is about that critical time really – when the crops have to be collected. Whether by hand or huge combined harvesters – it is a critical time.

I recall seeing a brilliant video presentation on mission – using the harvest as the key image (as it is used in Scripture) when a family had lost their farming dad – and they felt paralysed when harvest time came – the job was too big. And early one morning – there was this roar of engines in the distance – before sunrise – they could hear the noise getting closer and closer. And there they were – the whole community of farmers came along with these huge machines – and reaped the harvest.

It was brilliant! It spoke about community, unity, and a common purpose. The Christian church in many places has none of those. Not community, not unity, and not a common purpose.

There are glimpses. There are moments. There are times when Christians seem to get it right. But often we are not like a mighty army, as the hymn declares, but like a mighty tortoise – plodding along. And when it gets too hard – we pull our heads in and hide in our shells.

God is calling the church in this generation to its true mission. We are a lifesaving station that is still to save lives. We are to jump into the water and rescue people.

We are called. We are called to follow Jesus and to help others find and follow him.

Frankly – we are so grumpy and selfish sometimes that we should not be surprised if people think we ourselves need saving from ourselves!

I watched this classic TV clip this week – a nice BBC weather presenter was caught after she had done the weather forecast – she thought the cameras were off and boy was she grumpy.

Let’s have a look at her…

http://video.au.msn.com/watch/video/9raw-weather-girls-eye-roll-goes-viral/xnd06zc?cpkey=d3bb0ec3-a7b3-42b0-b69f-24f34573c787%257c%257c%257c%257c

We can be like that too – our true colours eventually pop out under pressure.

Of course pastors can have a bad day too. Try this one as an example. You don’t have to watch the whole video – you get the idea of being grumpy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSJt-LHMNRY

Now if I have sounded like that – I humbly apologise! I probably have had some bad days! But Pastor Jim tops them all!

It seems to me that Jesus is calling us to a consistency in our behaviour – that whatever we do and are on Sunday should be who we are every day! When the cameras are off too! We can’t be one thing on a Sunday and than indifferent on a Monday when it comes to our witness and care for people.

Jesus seemed overly and enthusiastically interested in getting people to do what he did as he reached out to people with the good news of the Kingdom of God.

It was clearly more than the 12 original disciples.

In Luke 10 he sends out 70 – or 72.

Now I know that the issues were different. Clearly they had “superpowers” – healing the sick and casting out demons.

Some have suggested that this was a one-off thing.

It certainly was different – and it was before Pentecost.

We do pray for the sick – and there are those in this generation who cast out demons.

Put that aside for now – and ask yourself this question.

What did they talk about? What was the conversation about?

What captivated their imagination? Probably these factors:

  • Jesus. They were his followers. Consequently they were
  • Obedience. Or at least a willingness to have a go! He sent them out and they went!

  • Risk taking – they were to get up and go! Crossing boundaries of all sorts.
  • They were not to be individualists – rather they were to go two by two with little luggage.
  • They were to be dependent on the hospitality of others! That too is risky!
  • They acted out and talked about the Kingdom of God.

And as part of their arriving they had a commodity that they traded with. Anyone pick that up? What was it? Healing? Preaching? NO – peace!

‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 

How do we really understand this?

I think perhaps by comparing it with what they were instructed  to do if things failed:

10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

If you extend peace – and you find a similarly minded (peaceful) person there who also promotes peace – your peace will rest on them.

If not – it will bounce back like an email sent to the wrong address.

In the context of extending the Kingdom of God through our ministry – outreach – care in the community – it seems to be about building with people who are open to what we offer – the peace of God.

The peace of God is not just a nice feeling – or a Miss World wish “I’m working for world peace ALL OVER THE WORLD!” It’s the gospel of reconciliation in one word! Listen to these passages:

  • Joh_14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jesus’ gift of peace).
  • Act_10:36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Peter is preaching here).
  • Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Paul is speaking here).

The whole story (the kerygma or message) of Jesus is about a peace mission from heaven – about God reaching out to people who were estranged from him – in Jesus, and through Jesus’ followers today.

So really it’s about all of us and all of the gospel.

In the words of St. Teresa of Avila:

 Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. 
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world. 
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. 
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.

 The harvesting image is really significant.

Sowing and reaping.

Paul uses that image to talk about giving in 2 Corinthians 9. What we give here counts towards the Kingdom – we are investing in the things that matter to Jesus – the reaching of those who need His gospel of peace.

Two quotes from writers illustrate this:

  1. This is not a hobby. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”  He was talking not about a hobby, but a life’s work.  You can see the kingdom come upif you’re willing to get your hands dirty–– and spend some time on your knees.” (Lawrence Wood)
  1. The church should be a community of dates instead of pumpkins.Pumpkins you can harvest in six months.Dates have to be planted and tended by people who will not live to harvest them.Dates are for future generations. (George Chauncey)

It is clear that we are messengers of Jesus – representatives. Paul speaks this kind of language when he talks about believers being a new creation in Christ. Do you remember the passage? I referred to it two weeks ago. Yes 2 Corinthians 5:17. Listen to it again and the verses that follow:

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2Co 5:18  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

2Co 5:19  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2Co 5:20  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

2Co 5:21  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We are Christ’s ambassadors.

There are some pretty powerful images associated with that. Think of that nice Australian man Julian Assange. Been in an embassy in London for almost a year. Where is he? Actually he’s in Ecuador! In the Embassy.

Or that nice young American Mr Edward Snowden. Trying to find a bit of turf in an embassy to escape the wrath of America. Whistle blower, or spy? People have different views on this.

But like all fugitives embassies are useful places if they are friendly nations! (Think of the old Skp movies with the KGB or James Bond). Embassies are a piece of one country planted in another, and ambassadors speak with the authority of the country that sends them.

We are ambassadors of Christ – no wonder Jesus said in verse 16 of the Gospel reading today:

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

Man that’s good. We are citizens of a different Kingdom. Paul says in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven.

We are ambassadors of that Kingdom – God’s kingdom. No pressure. Really.

Yes there is – because we can be pretty bad ambassadors. Like silent witnesses. Not much help really.

It does take the pressure off though. Because if our mission is rejected – if we are rejected because of our beliefs and what we stand for and proclaim – those guys are rejecting Jesus – and by rejecting Jesus the missionary (the sent one) – they are rejecting the one who sent Jesus – God!

Of course the 70 get a bit carried away in their report back:

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’

Cool hey Jesus! Pretty cool! Super followers! Way to go!

Listen to what he says:

20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

Why? Is that not a bit selfish? Yay – I have a ticket to heaven! Woo hoo!

Actually no. It’s a profound thing that is being said by the Lord Jesus here. This is the beginning of a new people – a new family of faith – the people of God which would be made up by guys and girls from all around the globe – every tribe and nation – every language and colour – this is the people of God – the church – in it’s very first form.

You think you’ve been a member of the church for ever! Try these guys for vintage!

I don’t have the words for how profound this is. Paul writing to the Ephesians says it best. We’ll end with these words:

Eph 2:11  Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—

Eph 2:12  remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

 

Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

 

Eph 2:14  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

Eph 2:15  by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,

Eph 2:16  and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

 

Eph 2:17  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

 

Eph 2:18  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

 

Eph 2:19  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,

Eph 2:20  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

 

Eph 2:21  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

Eph 2:22  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

So there is some harvesting to be done.

It may begin with you and I sowing the seeds right where we are at this point in our lives. That is our mission. That’s what we invest in through our tithes and offerings – the work of making this place an outpost of the Kingdom, a kind of embassy where his ambassadors gather to be briefed, to report back, and to be sent out in His name.

Amen.