Blog Archives

14 April 2020: Day 20 of lock down and the story of the chocolate parrot

New opportunities await us – letting go of the past and moving towards a new future.

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

Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

 

12 April 2020: day 18 of lock down and Easter Sunday – hearing the voice of Jesus in the dead-ends of our lives.

Readings: Matthew 18:1-10; John 20:11-18

 

 

 

 

9 April 2020: Day 15 of lock down – Day 4 of Holy week also known as Maundy Thursday.

Reading for reflection: John 13:1-35

A lot has happened this week. In every sense. Around the world, in our country, in our homes, and hopefully in our hearts. Holy week has taken us on a journey with Christ from Palm Sunday into the temple which he cleansed, back to the temple for his teachings, and that time of waiting once Judas had gone off to negotiate his capture for money.

The Pandemic has dragged millions of people through stress, heartache, anxiety and separation. Nearly 90 000 families have been bereaved, many with little opportunity to mourn and farewell their loved ones in the traditional formal way. Add to this more people heading for poverty and unemployment than we would ever wish for. The prospect of failed businesses.

Each of us here In New Zealand has had to figure out how to manage our “bubbles” in the most non-anxious un-chaotic way. And for people who follow my vocation, it’s Easter. The most significant time of the year in our faith. Busy time indeed.

I lost track of the days yesterday. But I do know that tonight is Maundy Thursday. The night of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The night in which ceremonial foot washing (I failed to get anyone to let me wash their feet last time I tried) reminds us of Jesus the servant leader. The suffering servant. The dying servant. The one who calls our name at tombs and dead ends (a little preview of Sunday’s message slipping in).

When I think of foot washing I think of much more messy stuff. The nursing and caring staff around the world who deal with bedpans, adult nappies, cleaning us up when in our frailty we become as dependent as new born babies. Suddenly washing feet doesn’t seem so bad.

“Maundy” has its roots in the word for commandment. Jesus gave one new commandment to add to and flavour the rest. Loving your neighbour as yourself always sounds like a kind of quid pro quo. Like the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A nice ethic of reciprocity.

The new commandment is more like the risks that our medical staff around the world live with now. Love one another as Jesus loves us? How did he show his love? Sacrifice. He gives his life for us. So are they.

It’s a bit too close to the bone really, and highlights the agony of a vocation that can kill you and leave your beloved family behind. I don’t know if we can get our heads around that. Clapping for them and cheering them on is good. (Get them the proper PPE stuff please.) Staying at home is better than just cheering and clapping – we do it so that we can kill off the spread of this Covid-19 scourge. Being on our own is not a great sacrifice compared to those who have given their lives for their calling. Given their lives for ordinary people like you and me who become patients through no fault of their own.

Have a lovely Easter weekend at home dear friends.
Be at peace.

We are not alone.

3 April 2020: Reflections on Day 9 of lock down – resilience and endurance. How are you coping?

Reading: Romans  15:1-7

The story is told of a learner policeman who was writing his final exam before graduation. The last question in the paper described a horrific incident after a major fire caused by a road accident. A tanker had crashed into a house, and the whole thing had exploded. A crowd had gathered, and injured people were lying all over the place. While that was happening, some looters were smashing windows and burning couches in the street. There were bleeding people all over the place. The question read – “you are the only policeman on duty at the time. What do you do?” The man’s answer went like this: “you take off your uniform and mingle with the crowd”.

It’s day 9. Day 7 was the worst for some of us. I have no idea why. I do remind you of that kiwi bloke who survived the Wuhan lock down. Remember? The guy who said the thing he regretted the most was not getting a haircut before it started? He said – the first two weeks are the worst.
Like the policeman recruit in that story, sometimes you just want to take off your uniform and mingle with the crowd. You don’t have energy left and things are simply overwhelming.

Nine days nutty. Then you consider Terry Waite who was held hostage 1763 days. His first four years were in solitary confinement. He’ll be 81 next month.

Resilience. “Resiliens” in Latin means to rebound or recoil. I think its sometimes an unhelpful thing to teach children. Resilience is okay – its just that you don’t always bounce back that quickly. It’s more of Peterson’s “long obedience in the same direction”. Or to share the quote I saw on a colleague’s page today which I have had on my “about you” page for many years:

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
(Mary Anne Radmacher)

Resilience – yes, but add endurance.- the capacity to withstand wear and tear or unpleasant and difficult situations. We have the blessing of our relationship with God – prayer – the Scriptures, especially the Psalms which are well supplied with impossible and overwhelming situations in which people cry out “how long?” In those hymns the writers don’t always bounce back – they sometimes crawl back. Or a crack of light breaks through in their darkness. Often they are reminded of God’s faithfulness in the past – or they remember a better day, and a spark reignites hope, faith, and confidence.

Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1 is a good way to end this reflection: “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Col 1:10-12)

Be at peace. We are not alone.

 

Message 29 March 2020 – Jesus’ compassion and the hope we have in Him

Readings: Psalm 130; John 11:1-45

Message

Click on this link to watch this message

People are sometimes fascinated by bible statistics. Like the longest and shortest verses.

If I were to ask you what the shortest one is you may say 1Thess 5:17  “pray continually”. Or the verse before that verse 16: “Rejoice always”.

In the Old Testament NIV its Job 3:2 – “He said”. It’s a grim passage. I think the translators who did the verses were having an off day really. Although in that chapter he says quit a lot of bad stuff.

Most people would go for “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. It certainly is powerful in its brevity.

Here’s the passage where you find it: Joh 11:33  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  Joh 11:34  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Joh 11:35  Jesus wept. It’s interesting how “come and see” keeps cropping up in John’s gospel.

In the current crisis the world finds itself in – and our version of it in New Zealand, one of the burning questions is this: how long will it be like this?” Hope is dashed for many – jobs have been lost – plans wrecked – and loved ones taken too soon. And it’s a waiting game in many ways – wait and see. And so the first thing to consider in our readings today, and especially in this story in Bethany –  is this:

  1. How do people deal with losing hope and waiting, waiting, waiting.

It’s an interesting scenario really. Up to this point waiting for Jesus to come would have been tough for Mary and Martha. Jesus – when first told about Lazarus being sick (v3) we are told that he “loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v5). Intriguingly he stays on there another two days. You get another classic kind of double talk. Nicodemus and the two births. The woman at the well and two kinds of water. Here Jesus says:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” Joh 11:12  His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”

There it is – the mystery of two different realms – that fourth dimension. John goes on:

Joh 11:13  Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. Joh 11:14  So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, Joh 11:15  and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Mary and Martha must have struggled. Like we do – when we are holding on to hope – praying desperately. There are hundreds of thousands facing that kind of waiting for news of critically ill patients around the world.

Psalm 130 we heard read today speaks about waiting for the Lord. It starts off quite desperately too: Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;  O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. (verses 1-2)

And in the hoping and waiting there is often impatience. When Jesus gets to Bethany three times people have a go at him – if you’d just got here quicker.

Jesus always knew the bigger picture of Lazarus being raised to life again.

  1. He still wept

Jesus’ compassion is always a help for us. His humanity means he knows and feels it all as we do. He still does when you are facing troubled or challenging times. Twice in the John passage it says Jesus was “deeply moved”.

There is of course another angle on this as well. Jesus weeps elsewhere over Jerusalem and their lack of faith. But the translations hide an angle on his response. “Deeply moved” is also translated as terribly upset, groaning in himself and very sad. The NLT and the message pick up the other meaning of this emotion:

Verse 33: (NIV84)  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

 (NLT)  When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

(MSG)  When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him.

Verse 38: (NIV84)  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.

 (NLT)  Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance.

(MSG)  Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it.

There’s a great debate about why Jesus would be angry – their unbelief, the power of death, a realisation that he would face it too. This pandemic with rows and rows of coffins also shoves death in your face doesn’t it.

But he refocuses on what he’s there for and gets them to role away the stone.

There’s another short phrase here- yes its not a whole verse – but basically the people there say (in the King James Bible) “he stinketh”. This is  real earthy stuff – that’s why when they’re use an ice rink to store the dead, its grim and surreal. This is the wage of sin – death. From Adam to today. BUT – as Paul reminds us – the gift of God is eternal life. Lazarus will rise – but he will die later and eventually be raised again forever. Like Jesus.

  1. Resurrection is the bigger picture

Jesus uses every opportunity to teach his followers the bigger picture. In every sign he performs in John’s gospel, profound teaching follows. Think of Nathanael, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and later “doubting” Thomas. In this case

interacting with Martha he says this:  “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). It’s a great question for us to consider as well today.

If people start dying here in New Zealand – we must share our hope for the life to come with people.

Later in John 14:1 he says “Trust in God, trust also in me.”

That’s all we can do. And of course he tells them about those many mansions – rooms – baches – that he will prepare for us, and  then come back for us so we can be with him.

Don’t lose hope. Remember Jesus’ compassion. And his victory over the last enemy -death. Wait on him. Wait for him to work in every situation which promotes death – let’s be  ready to give a reason for the hope we have and tell others about the eternal life that is given to those who believe in God’s one and only Son given for the world he loves.

Amen.

 

Easter Sunday Message – 21 April 2019: Their words seemed like rubbish…

Readings: Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12

Key verse: Luk 24:11  “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (NIV)

“καὶ ἐφάνησαν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λῆρος τὰ ῥήματα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἠπίστουν αὐταῖς.” (GNT – TR)

“…but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (ESV)

MESSAGE:

I wonder if you’ve ever been “dissed”? It’s an interesting word. It means to be treated with disrespect. I discovered it to be a popular word when working with teenagers. It’s crept into the English language since the 1980s – through hip hop music I am told. Back in the 1920s it meant you were disconnected – like a telephone not working. Something loose in the head. Either way it isn’t a very nice thing – to be disrespected – or dismissed. Or disempowered.

An amazing thing happens in this story of the life of Jesus – through his teachings, death and especially his resurrection. The people who were usually disempowered at the time were taken seriously – lifted above their status in life. Galatians 3:28 sums it up well:

Gal 3:26  You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:27  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:29  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

So – there are women in the group from the beginning. They would have been “dissed” by people in those days:

  • Disempowered mainly,
  • Dismissed if they had an opinion.
  • Discarded in divorce if a man got bored with them.

But they are there in Jesus’ team. From early on.

And on Easter Sunday in Luke’s account they are the first witnesses.

The “dissing” continues sadly. Even though there are at least three women named as witnesses.

The translators are kind to us – keeping things polite. In the NIV we read: Luk 24:11  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Nonsense.

The word is LEYROS. It’s used once only in the New Testament. Here.

It’s translated as an idle tale, nonsense, foolishness, and a fairy tale. Its deeper meaning is more crass. Vulgar. “What a load of…”

And that’s the response you get today to when you tell people that a dead man got up again.

Telling the Christian story today in this generation will get you “dissed” too.

People will think you’re nuts. Loony. Weird. Strange. Daft.

But that is okay.

  • Seeing the impossible.
  • Believing the unlikely.
  • Having hope for the hopeless.
  • Courage in the face of death because you know that it’s not the last word – well let them think you’re mad.

It’s a mad but glad tale – that someone who was dead was raised up

  • That he appeared in locked rooms
  • That he cooked a barbeque of fish for them on the beach
  • That he restored a man who denied him three times and gave him an amazing and exciting job to do
  • That he showed up over 40 days to people – up to 500 at one time, meaning they weren’t all hallucinating
  • That he sent them with a message of good news to the world
  • That he promised never to leave them
  • That they were to wait to for the gift of His Spirit – who would empower them to do the work given

Other writers help us to make sense of the story. Luke records the words of Peter in Acts 10:

Act 10:39  “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, Act 10:40  but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. Act 10:41  He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Act 10:42  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. Act 10:43  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Those who dismiss this story and your testimony of your love for Christ – this risen saviour – will discover that he is judge and the end of all things.

This resurrection account is central in the story of the New testament and the Christian life through the centuries – we speak to, worship, praise, and hear from this Jesus.

Paul writing to the Corinthians prioritises it like this writing to the Corinthians: 1 Co 15:3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

And later he says:1Co 15:42  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 1Co 15:43  it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 1Co 15:44  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

What great news is this for us.

Death is not particularly attractive. We grow cold and begin to decompose quite quickly. Like Lazarus who had been dead four days, well quoting the King James Bible, – in John 11:39, one of those words only used once – the phrase is “he stinketh”

Being raised imperishable, in glory, in power as a spiritual body sounds wonderful.

Going back to Luke 24 – where the women are dismissed, Peter seems to have some redeeming factors. Luk 24:12  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

He went to look – and gave it some thought. The penny drops eventually. And Jesus appears to him with three questions about his love – as he restores his failed life – because he had dissed Jesus three times – disowned him. He does it over breakfast – that restorative chat.

Hopefully people today will investigate this amazing story as well. If you haven’t figured it out yet – I encourage you to have a closer look. You should while you can – it’s to late when you die and people will say of you if you hang around too long –  “he stinketh’.

Today is a good day to investigate this empty tomb, and to put your faith in Christ the risen Lord. Because the witness of those women was not an idle tale, but a brand new truth to change the world. Death was defeated!

Scripture often says this: now is the hour of salvation. Put your trust in  him today. It won’t only guarantee a new resurrection body in the future. It will mean a real relationship with the risen Jesus today. A friend and Saviour, a guide and provider for you to depend on.

Amen

 

A Christmas reflection: Immanuel – God with us

Readings:  Isaiah 7:10-15;  Matthew 1:18-25

CALLING PEOPLE NAMES

What were you called as a child? Yes I know you were named Larry, Peter or Susan.

But you must have had other names. Or called other people names. Children can be horrible. Ok forget the mean names. What about the nicknames?

I was called various names through my school years. They weren’t all nice, but some were a good description of me.

This passage from Matthew is really important when it come to names – and what people are called.

The angel makes it clear – speaking to Joseph about Mary:

Mat 1:21  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

That in itself would be enough. What a powerful name. Meaning “God saves”.

Hallelujah – what a Saviour – is what we sing at Easter.

Jesus – Joshua – is about Jesus and his mission.

But Matthew goes on. He is writing to Jewish readers and wants them to understand how Jesus fits in to the bible they had – and the prophets’ predictions

So he says: Mat 1:22  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:Mat 1:23  “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

Of course back in Isaiah’s time – they expected someone to come and help them.

But the prophecies often had multiple applications.

Jesus was the ultimate Immanuel.

This is Immanu – el in Hebrew.

El – is the word for God. Immanu – means with us.

You would have heard some of the other names for God in history.

Like Elohim.

El Shaddai.

El Elyon.

El Shammah.

Jesus – is what he would be named on his birth certificate. Immanu-el – is what they would call Jesus. A very powerful name. And “called” name. (You see it on forms today –  the name you like to be called by)

GOD WITH US.

That description changes everything for us.

The loneliness

The sadness

The rejection we face

GOD WITH US.

The sickness

Suffering

Sadness.

GOD WITH US.

Fear

Frustration

Fighting around us

GOD WITH US.

Never to leave us or forsake us – is what he says.

The moment Jesus comes into that manger – in fact from his conception – GOD WITH US.

The world is never the same.

We went to two concerts last Christmas.

  • The Bach Musica Concert in the City hall.
  • And the Morning Melodies at the Bruce Mason.

In both concerts they were singing about IMMANUEL. God with us.

The City Hall concert included Puccini’s Mass – with the whole of the Nicene Creed sung.

These lines got my attention. This amazing bass-baritone was singing in Latin of course;

Passus et sepultus est; Et reurrexit tertia die.

Died and was buried; And rose again on the third day.

But this was the line that got me before those \wo. I thought – if only I could talk to him afterwards – and say, ‘do you know the one of whom you were singing?”

Because it says; ET HOMO FACTUS EST – AND BECAME A MAN.

All those people were hearing about Jesus -Immanuel – God with us.

And at the Mason theatre – we sang another Charles Wesley hymn:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity

Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel

Those hundreds of people were signing about Emmanuel.

I was praying – Lord – show them who you are in reality.

Now we know this already.

And we know Him as God with us.

Or at least we are discovering Him as God with us.

My prayer for you this Advent and Christmas season is that you discover fully what it means to know Him RIGHT IN THE CENTRE of your life – whether things are tough or easy sailing – may you know Him and his hope, peace, joy and love.

Amen.

25 March 2018 message – Palm Sunday and the King

Reading: John 12:12-19

MESSAGE

So –  its Easter morning. You would have expected a service at sunrise. When you were small you might have had an Easter egg hunt in the garden.

You climb out of bed and go downstairs.

And you see a Christmas tree and Christmas presents, with Easter eggs hiding behind them.

You rub your eyes, scratch your head – and go back to bed thinking this is a dream.

Try again 10 minutes later – and yes, it’s true. Someone’s got Easter and Christmas muddled.

You wonder why. What does this mean? What are they trying to tell you?

That’s exactly what makes Jesus’ triumphal entry so interesting.

It was the spring – it was Passover time. There were things you did at Passover – remembering the rescue from slavery and the blood of the lamb on the doorpost which saved people from death – and you celebrate their rescue from bondage.

And Jesus rides into the city on a donkey and people are waving palms.

This is a mid-winter thing happening in the spring. Like Christmas and Easter together.

Although it’s the wrong time of the year, the symbols of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem go with Hanukkah– which John has already mentioned in 10.22. (Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter)

When Judas Maccabaeus defeated the pagan invaders and cleansed the Temple in 164 BC, his followers entered the city waving palm branches in celebration (1 Maccabees 13.51; 2 Maccabees 10.7). (Tom Wright)

We were talking about these extra books called the apocrypha just recently – a whole series of them you don’t find in the Protestant bible.

Here’s the passage from the second book of Maccabees chapter 10, reading from verse 7:

2Ma 10:7  Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. 2Ma 10:8  They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.

After the temple was cleansed in 164 BC, Judas Maccabeus and his family became kings of Israel.

Jesus and his followers were combining Hanukkah and Passover – declaring that Jesus was the true King coming to claim his throne AND at the same time he would really set people free. He is the new Passover lamb as well –  they just didn’t know it yet.

And the final sign that sealed the matter was the raising of Lazarus. He was set free from death!

That’s why the two verses before this passage and the last three verses of today’s passage are so important:

Joh 12:10  So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, Joh 12:11  for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

And:

Joh 12:17  Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Joh 12:18  Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. Joh 12:19  So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

The raising of Lazarus was the last sign and the hour had come. We talked about that last week.

Palm Sunday seals the destiny of Jesus.

People connected the dots because of the palms. Not just the Jewish community who would have remembered Hanukkah, but the Romans and Greeks would have all recognised the significance of the Palms as a sign of a victory parade.

Like a flag raising parade when the battle is won – it has huge significance. The enemy’s flag is lowered, and the conquering army’s flag is raised.

It’s a powerful provocative statement. And on a donkey – not a huge white horse. They would have remembered the prophecy in Zechariah 9:

Zec 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Palm Sunday is the triumph of the love the God – yes.

But the means of victory – we know looking back the way of achieving victory would be painful to say the least.

FOCAL POINT TODAY

I’d like us to focus on one verse today:

Joh 12:17  Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.

Witnessing is a central part of discipleship – of following this amazing man called Jesus of Nazareth.

Giving testimony to what he has done.

Spreading the word.

  • Have you testified this week?
  • Given testimony?
  • Have you been a witness?

V17 – they bore witness to Lazarus’ raising –

Do we talk about the resurrection?

It is the separating point between us and other religions– the dividing line – the ultimate sign of Jesus’ power and authority, his divinity, his supremacy – and of course it leads to his ascension when he is enthroned again on high.

It’s the greatest story worth telling.

Because it brings the greatest sense of hope.

Are we ready always to give a reason for the hope we have?

HOPE?

Our Mission in the newsletter these past weeks has been this; “Always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have”

Hope – in the face of the greatest enemy – death.

WE DO THIS IN WORSHIP EACH WEEK

  • We wave Palms every week!
  • We cry Hosanna!
  • Worship is exactly that – celebrating King Jesus

–           Celebrating the triumph of the cross

–           Celebrating the power of the resurrection

–           Celebrating the glory of the ascension.

–         Celebrating the love of the Father

–           Celebrating the promises that apply to us – our inheritance that will outlast all the other shiny things that fascinate us.

Peter puts it like this (we shared this in our call to worship today):

1Pe 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1Pe 1:4  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 1Pe 1:5  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Palm Sunday takes us into this week called holy week.

I’ve asked today how we can make this a different week.

I don’t know how you’re going to do that.

But you can’t ignore the power of the events.

I hope that you take the time to remember at the various opportunities we have to remember what God has done for us to establish this inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

I pray that we can really discover for ourselves that he was and is the true king, the true rescuer, the bringer of true freedom.

As we watch his progression into Jerusalem, and on to meet his fate, we must ourselves be drawn into the action, and the passion, that awaits him.

And we must ourselves become part of the means by which his message goes out to the world. (Tom Wright)

The victory was won for us by a young man nearly 2000 years ago.

Our closing hymn captures the profound nature of this day.

1 Ride on, ride on in majesty
as all the crowds ‘Hosanna!’ cry:
through waving branches slowly ride,
O Saviour, to be crucified.

2 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, your triumph now begin
with captured death, and conquered sin!

3 Ride on, ride on in majesty
the angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

4 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
the last and fiercest foe defy:
the Father on his sapphire throne
awaits his own anointed Son.

5 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, your power and reign!

Robin Mark has a song that helps us anticipate and appreciate what he has done as we close:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PiH3Tv9gLY&feature=share

11 June 2017 message – What we do in the name of the Trinity…

READINGS: Acts 1:1-8; Matthew 28:16-20

 Act 1:1  In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach Act 1:2  until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. Act 1:3  After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. Act 1:4  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. Act 1:5  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Act 1:6  So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Act 1:7  He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. Act 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Mat 28:16  Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. Mat 28:17  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Mat 28:18  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Mat 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Mat 28:20  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

MESSAGE:

Last week was Pentecost Sunday. Today is Trinity Sunday. The church has these days on which we are reminded of the foundation of our faith.

The passages we heard this evening are both to do with the last instructions that Jesus gave to his followers.

A number of things strike you when you read them. Luke’s first words in Acts are a good place to begin. Listen again:

Act 1:1  In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach Act 1:2  until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

And he records the direct words of Jesus too: 

Act 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

And then the words of Jesus in Matthew 28: Mat 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Mat 28:20  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Instructions and commands are not words we are used to. Except when you’ve been in the military – I know from experience that you simply act on instructions and commands when in the defence force. Or the police for example – or fire brigade.

But when it comes to church – we’re a bit more democratic. We love to debate and discuss things – to the extent that we sometimes miss our actual calling. We’re often too busy writing minutes and reports.

The key tasks remain. Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday remind us of them again:

  • You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

It’s more like a statement of fact!  – the natural consequence of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Act 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

  • And of course Mathew 28:19 – about making disciples of all nations

Mat 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, (baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit).

The church is a missionary church – not only does it send people as missionaries to the ends of the earth – but in its Jerusalem – its home town – it is on a Mission:

One of the great theologians of the 20th century – Emil Brunner – had this to day about the mission of the church:

The Word and the World (1931)

The Word of God which was given in Jesus Christ is a unique historical fact, and everything Christian is dependent on it; hence every one who receives this Word, and by it salvation, receives along with it the duty of passing this Word on; just as a man who might have discovered a remedy for cancer which saved himself, would be in duty bound to make this remedy accessible to all. Mission work does not arise from any arrogance in the Christian Church; mission is its cause and its life. The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission, there is no Church; and where there is neither Church nor mission, there is no faith.

He goes on to talk about how this works:

It is a secondary question whether by that we mean Foreign Missions, or simply the preaching of the Gospel in the home Church. Mission, Gospel preaching, is the spreading out of the fire which Christ has thrown upon the earth. He who does not propagate this fire shows that he is not burning. He who burns propagates the fire. This ‘must’ is both things – an urge and a command. An urge, because living faith feels God’s purpose as its own.

And he reminds us about Paul who said: ‘Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.’ Brunner goes on to say:  Necessity is laid upon him. But also he ought to preach; with the gift he receives the obligation. ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel’. 

So how are our churches doing with these instructions from Jesus?

Here’s the truth. Most of our churches are more like clubs really. More energy is often spent on the places where we meet than the mission we’re on. Much more money too.

A story – a modern parable –  by Theodore Wedel illustrates our situation:

It was written in 1953 by the Rev. Dr. Theodore O. Wedel, a canon of the National Cathedral and one-time President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church. Like all good parables, though fictional, it is entirely truth-filled:

“On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

“Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.

“Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical life-boat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

“At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station. So they did.

 “As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.”

So what does that mean for us? For you and me?

It means that whoever we are and whatever stage of life we are at – we’re in Mission.

We are witnesses – one way or the other. Sometimes we are silent – which makes us rather poor bearers of the Good News. Sometimes we ourselves are bad news – which makes our testimony a little incongruous. We are bad witnesses.

I heard a great story at our Tuesday church last week of a woman who was stuck in traffic and got really mad at drivers cutting in in front of her – she was hooting her hooter and yelling and showing particular hand signals out the window. She did not notice the policeman in the car behind her who promptly arrested her. After some hours in jail the officer came and spoke to her apologetically. “Madam” he said, “with the stickers on your car that announced that Jesus is the way, and that God is love – and looking at your behaviour, I assumed you had stolen the car!”

Not a great witness!

If however we live in the fullness of the power of God – through the Father who pours out his gifts on us – through the Son who showed compassion and mercy and courage as He died for us – and through the Holy Spirit who transforms and empowers us – the natural outcome is that we are a witness.

  • We shine – we are portable lighthouses if you were – giving natural guidance.
  • God uses us to be a source of courage and faith to others – as we pray for them.
  • And most of all we are hopeful people – and hopeful people are very attractive.

Peter knew this – writing in His letter to a persecuted church:

1Pe 3:15  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

1Pe 3:16  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

  • Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
  • Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
  • Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

May this be true of us.

 Amen.

 

Sunday 28 May Ascension Sunday – the anxieties of the age

READINGS: 1 Peter 5:6-11;  Acts 4:1-14;  John 17:1-3

MESSAGE

I’ve been working on this for a couple of days now. That sense of wrestling with God – what do you REALLY want to say to us today Lord?

It’s easy to follow the texts for the day – and get enthusiastic about something that arises from those readings.

Or a theme – like today is Ascension Day Sunday. It’s the in-between period we remember – 40 days after Easter the resurrection appearances end – and He’s gone.

I think what also grabbed me is what I’ve written about already in the newsletter. It’s about waiting. They were told to wait. Act 1:4  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

We’re not good at that really. The waiting.

And then there’s the constant prayer theme. That nibbled – asking for a bite. You know the verse I mean? Act 1:14  They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. There have been plenty of sermons on the power of praying together. There’s also a redemptive line there too about his family – who though he was mad. Are these the actual brothers?

AND THEN OUR PERSONAL STORY SPEAKS

We had a great weekend away. There are some funny stories attached to the weekend. And the fact that I slept better when away speaks volumes. The truth is that a lot of people don’t sleep. In a world characterized by terror and fear, anxiety is a dominant power that controls or at least shapes our lives.

Peter’s line speaks to us today in the light of this human condition: 1Pe 5:7  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

How do we get that message across?

When Ascension day comes and goes, even though we would like it to be a public holiday like the good old days (and it was in parts of Europe and more close to us in Vanuatu – where they still call people to prayer at 4.00am during the week just in case you missed Sunday) – most people don’t have a clue who Jesus is anyway.

And if they have heard about him, they certainly find the idea of him taking off like the latest rocket that Rocket Lab has launched from Mahia Peninsula in Hawke’s Bay quite strange – as this cartoon shows us from the revised comic lectionary:

ascension RCOMICL

Although I have to say that my favourite cartoon on the Ascension is this one:

ascension

Those of us with experience of attention deficit disorder will immediately sympathize.

The point is – are we really noticing the real issues that people are facing? Or are we inattentive to what is happening.

I was reading something I wrote just over 30 years ago this week. When you go back you wonder if it really was you – it all seems so far away. It was a study of the thinking of Viktor Frankl, who developed logotherapy.  (If you are interested in reading about it see the link below).

The key question is about the meaning of our lives. What holds us together?

If you look at the things that dominate the news today – people’s lives are shaped by that search for meaning. And where do they find it? Often in unhelpful places or movements. Here are some possibilities:

Totalitarianism – people are becoming more nationalistic and following strong right-wing leaders. Political trends around the world bear this out. The group becomes more important than the individual. Frankl certainly experienced that in Nazy Germany, beinge a survivor of the holocaust. Nothing has changed.

Terrorism – the extreme violence of individuals and groups trying to force their world view or ideology on people through terror and threat and fear. Fanaticism makes the views of a cause more important than the value of the individual. The Manchester massacre this week is a clear example of this. The Queen said it was “wicked” – and good for her. It was.

And those who can afford to – although you can do this at home too –

To avoid Totalitarianism and Terrorism – and all the other kinds of troubles of the age – what’s the biggest source of foreign exchange income in our economy?

Tourism.

It’s a kind of escapism for the wealthy –  you can get away from it all. Although you have to check the travel advisories about countries where there is totalitarianism (some kind of nationalistic uprising) or terrorism. When you are on the way home you are planning the next trip!

Those who can’t afford to travel can watch it all on TV. It’s called armchair travel! It’s all an escape from the anxieties of the age.

Other trajectories.

And there are other routes people take in their quest for meaning or purpose in this generation.

  • The millennials and others say “whatever” in the face of too much authoritarianism or fanaticism – they bounce from job to job with a shruggy look if they find bosses that are too dictatorial.
  • The artists and creative people escape in the confusion of bizarre creativity (for us non-artistic mortals) – just look at what passes as modern art today. A classic case was just over a year ago when a teenager who clearly did go to Spec Savers left his specs on the floor in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern art as a prank with a friend. The oohs and aahs were prolific.

glasses art in gallery

On Twitter on 26 May last year one person tweeted: “it’s really just an exacerbated metaphor of society’s perpetual blindness to those cognitive of us #art”

People are looking for meaning in interesting places.

  • And then there are the Christians!

How do you and Ideal with the challenges of this age?

Jesus offers us a lot really. Today’s readings had some gems.

  • The power of His presence – the Holy Spirit Act 1:4  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

Act 1:5  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The permanent presence and power of God through his Spirit would be there for all.

  • The power of prayer – 1Pe 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

There’s another brilliant passage on prayer (from the Message) here:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Phil 4:7-8).

  • The power of a relationship that outlasts the chaos of this life – Joh 17:3  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

In our song before communion – which is the place where we find our identity (not in totalitarian nationalism) and our security (in the face of terror and fear) – we find the words of David in Psalm 23 which are expressed powerfully by Stuart Townend:

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want; He makes me lie in pastures green. He leads me by the still, still waters, His goodness restores my soul.

And I will trust in You alone, And I will trust in You alone, For Your endless mercy follows me, Your goodness will lead me home.

He guides my ways in righteousness, And He anoints my head with oil, And my cup, it overflows with joy, I feast on His pure delights.

And I will trust in You alone, And I will trust in You alone, For Your endless mercy follows me, Your goodness will lead me home.

And though I walk the darkest path, I will not fear the evil one, For You are with me, and Your rod and staff ,Are the comfort I need to know.

And I will trust in You alone, And I will trust in You alone, For Your endless mercy follows me, Your goodness will lead me home

Well do you trust in Him alone?

Can people see that you trust in Him alone through the week? At home? At work?

Great question to ponder on this week.

Amen.

Footnote: The link to my very old bit of research on Viktor Frankl is here:

http://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10413/6828/Palmer_Robin_Ernest_1987.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s sing that song now.