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20 June 2021 @ BBP – “Who is this?”

READINGS: Psalm 107:23-30; Mark 4:35-41


On 3 December 1976 I was with a group of school friends in a cottage on the coast for a weekend celebrating the end of school. It was a lovely summer’s evening, and we went to bed safe and sound that night. At some time that evening looking over the calm ocean I felt led to pray for someone out at sea.

The next morning the paper was delivered, and we read the shocking headlines that a huge storm further down the coast – in an area appropriately termed the wild coast – had caused the sinking of a number of yachts. A friend from school was lost that night. The night I was let to pray. My friend Marc and the Captain of the vessel, Cloud Nine, drowned.

Some 15 years later in 1991, my wife and young son together with a friend went to see a vessel set sail called the Oceanos at our local harbour. A friend’s family had been on the vessel, and we remarked that it would be good to go on some kind of cruise. On the 3rd of August that year the Oceanos set sail from East London up the wild coast towards Durban. The ship headed into a 40-knot wind and 30-foot swells. The storm got worse so that waiters could not carry food without dropping it and things began to slide off tables. A series of freak waves it the ship and a plating of a pipe burst open and began filling a compartment with water. At 9.30pm an explosion was heard, and the ship lost power. It began to list badly.

Passengers went to the bridge and the crew were nowhere to be seen. The ships entertainer called Moss Hills used the radio phone to broadcast a mayday call and another ship responded. Sixteen helicopters were dispatched, and all the passengers taken off the ship, assisted by lifeboats from another vessel. The captain had abandoned ship and left the passengers to sort themselves out.

Mar 4:36  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. Mar 4:37  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Mar 4:38  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

We’ve been through some pretty big storms in our lifetimes.

Not just physical storms, but also emotional, political, international and personal storms.

  • The yacht Cloud Nine went down with her captain.
  • The Oceanos’ captain got off the vessel before most of the crew and passengers.
  • Jesus in this storm is asleep in the stern of the boat – on a cushion. The detail is intriguing.

I love Jesus’ response in this account in Mark 4:

Mar 4:39  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

  • The disciples didn’t cope well with the storm.
  • They didn’t cope well with the sleeping Jesus either.

Jesus deals with the storm, then he deals with the disciples equally firmly:

  • Mar 4:39  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”
  • Mar 4:40  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I wonder what he would say to us in our storms?

  • I know this for certain.
  • He’s not asleep.

People have two favourite Psalms. Psalm 23 and Psalm 121. Psalm 121 helps us here:

Psa 121:1  A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? Psa 121:2  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psa 121:3  He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; Psa 121:4  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

God is not asleep on the job.

  • And God doesn’t abandoned ship. Psalm 23 helps us here too:

Psa 23:4  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Fear not – God says to his people in scripture. The Lord will be with you. So too Jesus – I will be with you always.

  • We need to trust him too. He still says: “don’t be afraid!”

Year’s back we used to teach our children a song about storms that went like this: When its stormy…. I am weak but God is strong, he rows my boat when things go wrong….

We do need to trust God completely.

But there is a deeper question here.

  • It’s all about context.
  • There were fishermen on those boats. They knew storms.
  • This was no ordinary storm.

The passage ends in verse 41:

Mar 4:41  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

They were still working things out. (We know who Jesus was and is.)

The context is the rest of Mark’s gospel.

Jesus says to them

  • (4:40):“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
  • Mar 4:41  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

Literally – “they feared a great fear”. About what? The storm? Yes, but probably also about the fact that this teacher rebuked a storm in the same way as he rebuked demons – like the very first act of power in Mark 1.

Unfortunately the NIV is too fuzzy here. The ESV captures it better:

Mar 1:23  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, Mar 1:24  “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Mar 1:25  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

Mar 4:39  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 

Mar 4:41  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

In Mark 1 the response of people to the exorcism is this:

Mar 1:27  And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 

When he exorcises the storm, look at the response:

Mar 4:41  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The context of Mark means that all of this is a revelation – even if it is a slow realization – of Jesus as something else altogether.

Go back to Mark 3 – remember last week the different groups:

  • His family- he’s out of his mind.
  • The scribes – he’s demon possessed and he’s doing this by the power of Satan – that he was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. The prince of demons.
  • The people – the great crowd following them – he tells them that they would be his mother and brothers – if they did the will of God – which means listen to his words and act on them

The context of Mark has to include this verse:
Mar 3:27  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 

Who is this? That rebukes demons and storms?

This is Jesus –  the only one who can bind the strong man and plunder his house. Who can restrain his works and set the captives free.

1 John 3:8 supports this where John says: For this purpose Christ/the son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the evil one/devil.”

The storm – like the evil spirits he castes out – are powers which are agents of death and destruction. They work against human flourishing and wholeness. They destroy life.

Just look ahead to the next chapter – to Mark 5. This time it’s a man in the country of the Gerasenes with an evil spirit  – and where does he live? In the tombs. In a cemetery. He’s brought back to life too.

And the woman with the issue of blood that bound her for 12 years is set free. All she has to do is touch is cloak. And what does Jesus say to her: Mar 5:34  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

 And then Jairus’ daughter is raised from the dead. It’s a great passage: They bring a message of death:

Mar 5:35  While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”

Look at Jesus’ response:

Mar 5:36  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

  • To Jairus: Don’t be afraid. Just believe!
  • To the jittery nervous wreck (fearing a great fear )disciples in the storm from hell: Mar 4:40  “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
  • To his little flock here. To you and me and our families and concerns. To us and our worries about this community and town and beyond:

Don’t be afraid. Just believe.

The strong man has been bound and his goods plundered.

When we eat this bread and drink this cup that’s what we area declaring!

  • Death is defeated.
  • Light has come to dispel the darkness.
  • Life is ours.

That’s who this man is who calms the storm.


24 February 2019 – Sunday Message: My Peace I give you.

Readings: Psalm 139:1-12; 23-4; Phil 4:4-8; John 14:15-27


Once of my favourite movies is “Keeping the Faith” – where a rabbi and a priest fall in love with the same girl. The rabbi is fired for doing different and unusual things in his attempt to modernize. This scene is his farewell sermon:

I often think about that sermon.

How much of yourself do you share with your congregation? It’s a great challenge if you are a minister.

After all, preaching is about the Word of God – and should always lead people to Jesus, and not to the preacher.

That’s one of the reasons why Presbyterian ministers wore black – it was meant to not draw attention to themselves. I think these days if you wore black all the time people might think you’re an alien who was supposed to land in Wellington. After all they wear black there. A lot.

Sometimes I’m probably a bit too transparent. But today I don’t have a choice.

If we’re talking about anxiety and peace – they are very personal things.

Anxiety by definition is individual first. Human beings get anxious. We worry. And we don’t have peace of mind in a personal sense.

Peace on the other hand could be looked at from a broader worldwide point of view – peace between nations, tribes, families, gangs and so on.

God’s SHALOM is a social and personal idea – we area meant to find peace together. We make peace with each other. We pray for peace between nations and rightly so. And we seek and have internal peace.

Did you notice the rabbi’s first word in his sermon? SHALOM. Peace.

They didn’t respond. I’m not sure if they were supposed to, like churches passing the peace. It reminds me of the minister who was trying to get his laptop working at the beginning of the service and forgot that his radio mike was on. He muttered to himself “there’s something wrong with this mouse” – to which the congregation replied without thinking: “and also with you!”

Peace can be contrasted with anxiety therefore.Let’s look at anxiety first. The verse I want us to look at from the readings today is this one: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  (Psalm 139:23)

It’s found a famous song by J Edwin Orr written to the well known Maori tune after a mission at Ngaruawahia in 1936 – Search me oh God – when young Maori girls sang farewell to him. We know it as “now is the hour”

Pö atarau
E moea iho nei
E haere ana
Koe ki pämamao

Haere rä
Ka hoki mai anö
Ki i te tau
E tangi atu nei

(On a moonlit night
I see in a dream
You going away
To a distant land

But return again
To your loved one,
Weeping here)

I love the Hebrew language. It’s so rich.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 

“Anxious thoughts” is one word in Hebrew. Some translations just say: “test me and know my thoughts”. Thoughts here is not just a little bit of thinking about something.

The mind is a mine field isn’t it. Our thought life. Worry worry. Sleepless nights thinking thinking thinking.

Rene Descartes in his “Discourse on method” introduced us to that famous line:

COGITO ERGO SUM – I think, therefor I am – a philosophical statement which led him ultimately to postulate a view of humanity or human beings.

I think it was the Moody Blues in the song “In the beginning – lovely to see you” who used the line and added some doubt to it: “I think am, therefore I am… I think.”. It’s a creation image with a crescendo – and then these thoughts:

I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.

The song includes the words about people who: Face piles – And piles –  Of trials – With smiles.

“Anxious thoughts” could also translated be as “cogitations” from that same Latin word Cogito.

Cogitate means: think deeply about something; meditate or reflect. Synonyms include: think (about), contemplate, consider, give thought to, give consideration to, mull over, meditate (on), muse (on), ponder (on/over), reflect (on), deliberate (about/on), ruminate (about/on/over), dwell on, brood (on/over), agonize (over), worry (about), chew over, puzzle (over), speculate about, weigh up, revolve, turn over in one’s mind

Ruminate, dwell on, brood over, chew over – is only one small step to grinding your teeth and being restless and anxious. Mr. worry pot.

The new translation of Psalm 139:23  in Afrikaans captures it beautifully:

“… ondersoek my, sien tog my onrus raak.” – examine me, see my unease.

Onrus – unrest – back in the day, meant political upheaval with violence. Really disturbing things.

Like the rabbi in that Yom Kippur sermon, its hard for me to know where to start when it comes to sharing my life with people in the area of anxiety and stress. I’ve suffered from some post-traumatic stress symptoms including anxiety attacks. Panic attacks. They still lurk when I hear an ambulance siren.

Many times these verses have applied to me: Psa 139:23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psa 139:24  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Sometimes my anxious thoughts are linked to some offensive way in me. I am sometimes feeling off because I need to sort myself out. The problem can be with me.

But many times serious anxiety is beyond our control due to outside circumstances and events that are traumatic or challenging.

I can’t tell you the whole story in my journey today. But I can testify to the peace of God that passes all understanding. It’s as real as the chair you’re sitting on.

Paul in our second reading in Phil 4:7 speaks of this peace of God, which transcends all understanding”, which will “guard (y)our hearts and (y)our minds in Christ Jesus”

It’s worth memorizing this verse 7 – seven is a perfect number – you may remember it as it rhymes with heaven. What leads us to this “seven – heaven” state of peace?

Why verse 6 of course: Php 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Don’t be anxious about “anything”.

Easier said than done of course. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an automatic response from the  brain designed to protect you from danger.

What I had to do was to pray through the anxiety and after some years it eased – together with the transformation of my thinking to realize after some years that it could have been much worse.

So when someone close to me experienced real anxiety this this week I said  the same thing that the counsellor said at the time – which I didn’t receive easily. It was too early. The counsellor said this to me – you’re going to be okay and nobody died.

I don’t agonize over a lot of things any more. No more serious cogitating.

Paul tells us not be anxious about stuff and events – anything. Writing from jail (he wasn’t a prison chaplain but an inmate) he says: Php 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

“with thanksgiving” means that thanksgiving is a foundational attitude in prayer.

Some people battle to pray out loud initially. You can. Say thank you for something and you will have the foundation for other prayers – petitions and requests.

Yes, there are times for silence.

But when we pray together we need to really pray.

Prayer and petition. “gebed en smeking” again using the Afrikaans; “prayer and supplication”. There is as begging almost, a pleading, and a passion that seems to be involved.

It’s captured in some of the Psalms. These two are good ones from David and the sons of Korah:

Psalm 61:1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. Psa 61:2  From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psa 61:3  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. Psa 61:4  I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wingsPsa 84:1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!

Psa 84:2  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psa 84:3  Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Psa 84:4  Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.)

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

You can see the parallels with passages that talk about thirst.

This is a longing for his presence. We shared last week about living water welling up from within the depths of our being – that he is with us and in us.

Listen again to verses 16 and 17 of our final reading in John 14: Joh 14:16  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever— Joh 14:17  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

The gospel reading goes on to say that the peace is linked again to the presence of God through His Holy Spirit:

Joh 14:26  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 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.

We need to focus and listen and not be distracted as we pray and plead, bringing our prayers and petitions to our Father. He is here.

At Presbytery we had some workshops yesterday. I went to one about expecting more from God.…

The teaching was brilliant. It was really a series of bible passages reminding us of his presence with stories about God being in situations and really working in people’s lives in power – that’s when the peace he offers becomes tangible.

The neat thing is that the presenter spoke last year at the New Wine retreat I went to in August up at Coatesville. As she shared yesterday, you could sense something happening in the room – as people’s faith began to increase. At the end she asked people individually what they were expecting from God. It was good to hear. And inspiring.

You have to know this peace to be effective in any kind of ministry.

You can’t give what you don’t have really effectively.

I believe he wants you to have his peace today

Jesus’ peace is not as the world gives.

  • Not total tranquility, or the absence of troubles or challenges… – but peace in the storms
  • Not a perfect life or complete healing (though some are fully healed)… but courage to face what comes our way (I’m happy to talk to you on another occasion about my health – for now be at peace about it as I am doing very well.)
  • Not an exemption from thinking through issues – remember “I think, therefore I am” – but at least peace of heart AND MIND. Remember the heaven in verse seven of Phil 4: Php 4:7  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Not a life where everything is for free or without cost. Have a look at this sign: “I pay, therefore I am…” The notice said: PLEASE PAY YOUR PARKING FEE BEFORE EXISTING. Jesus’ peace involves knowing he provides as well.
  • Not a life dominated by trauma and anxiety – post traumatic recovery is possible. He really can heal us from damaging experiences.

In conclusion remember Jesus words about anxiety in Matthew:

Mat 6:34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

Or in another good translation: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (ESV)


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



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:


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.


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.


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.”


Sunday sermon 7 July – Ambassadors for Jesus


2 Corinthians 9:5-12

Galatians 6:7-16

Luke 10:1-10; 16-20



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.




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…

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!

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.