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Easter Sunday 16 April 2017: Eyes opened and hearts burning…

READING: Luke 24:1-12; 28-35.

MESSAGE

Friends of ours in Montana have new babies in the family. Seven in all. They are missionaries and have been for years – having once been part of the church family here.

Seven babies. Trying to catch up with a lady in our church who now has 16 great grandchildren? I think not. They are puppies.

I started off as a Methodist and became a Presbyterian along the road when my dad died. Years back I remember a joke about puppies that were born Presbyterian – and when their eyes opened they became Methodists. Or was it the other way around?

These days no-one cares what kind of Christian you are. As long as your eyes are opened – to the truth!

On the Emmaus road, the two followers of Jesus had listened to him explain what had happened in Jerusalem at that time. This is the bit we missed in the reading. It fits best here in the sermon:

15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.  (NRSV)

That’s where we picked it up in verse 28. It’s a powerful moment. It’s a moment that happens in our lives – or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t – then our eyes are still shut tight. Look at verse 28 and 29:

Luk 24:28  As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.Luk 24:29  But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

Why does he act as if he were going farther?

Come on – for an Easter egg – answer this one. It’s your test for the day. And that’s a hint for the answer. Yes – he’s testing them. How?

Think about it. What is their response when he pretends he is moving on into the night?

Yes! Hospitality! I think he was testing them to see if they had got the right idea from all his teachings and example. Listen again:

But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

If our eyes are still shut, it may well me that Jesus has given us that opportunity too. He’s been right there. And we’ve not invited him into our lives to carry on the conversation.

You see you don’t have to understand it all. You’ve just got to open the door of your life – your family – your world. Not just your heart. We limit Jesus if we only talk about him coming into our hearts. It’s very individualistic.

In fact the only scripture that makes sense when it come to having Jesus in our hearts is this one. It’s part of a prayer:

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 2:16-19)

If your eyes are to be opened –  then it’s pretty close to having the eyes of your heart enlightened! The lights come on or at least shine brighter!

The one bible verse that people use when encouraging people to invite Jesus into their hearts is this one from Revelation 3 – written to the church in Laodicea who are being chastised for being lukewarm. Jesus says this to them:

Rev 3:19  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Rev 3:20  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

 Open which door? Great question. It’s not their hearts – because when they open the door he says he will come in and eat with him and he with me.

That sounds like Jesus in the centre of their lives – at a meal table – like the two on the road to Emmaus who “strongly urge” Jesus to stay with them because of the approaching perils of the night.

The implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus for us far exceed our individual inner life – the matters of the heart.

Like Zacchaeus (in Luke 19:11-10) – he wants to get us off our tree branch (our perch if you like) and come talk with us about life.

The gift of Easter through the cross and resurrection of Jesus is not just a ticket into heaven or Jesus in my heart. It’s a new community of reconciliation and unity in Christ – even though we are so very different from one another (Jews, Gentiles and the rest).

It’s a new family and community seeking first the Kingdom – because Jesus is king – he has defeated the dark side, and rescued us from its consequences – bringing us into a kingdom of light. When you read the rest of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 2 it suddenly makes sense:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:18-21)

When our eyes are opened, we find ourselves in a new relationship and power source.

It’s like changing electricity supplier from one which fails most days to the most reliable and consistent one.

Resurrection life – like eternal life – begins now. (Remember Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 3 -“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”)

Paul says this in Romans 8:

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:9-11)

HAVE YOUR EYES BEEN OPENED THIS EASTER?

  • Yes – you saw the yummy Easter eggs on the shelves.
  • Yes you knew about Jesus dying on the cross, and what happened on the 3rd day.

What matters most is that you have discovered the reality of the cross and resurrection’s power in your life now.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe

For the two on the road- they recognised him when he broke the bread. This wasn’t the institutionalised communion service we celebrate today.

It was the evening meal – in the context of hospitality – when despite their own disappointment and confusion they still urged this stranger to stay with them at the end of that long day.

He did for a bit. And was gone. But they were not to be the same. They realised that He was the one who through word and spirit transformed lives. Listen to what they said afterwards:

…”Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The reading today ends with this:

Luk 24:35  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

May you recognise him and have your heart burning within you as speaks into your life.

Amen.

 

 

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Sunday Sermon, 17 July 2016 – Mary and Martha

Reading: Luke 10:38-42

MESSAGE

So how are you when it comes to balancing your life?

Work and pleasure                     Exercise and rest

Crowds and solitude                 Noise and silence?

Busyness and devotion?          Doing and being?

Being a Martha or being a Mary?

Hospitality has been a big issue in Luke’s gospel as we’ve travelled along through the story.

You will remember the sons of thunder wanting to call down fire on that Samaritan village which was not hospitable to Jesus. They wanted heaven to “nuke” the lot of them.

You may remember the 72 being sent out – and Jesus’ instruction for them to shake the dust off their feet when they did not find children of peace in a place. You only had dust on your feet when people were inhospitable – otherwise they would have washed your feet when you arrived at their place. We have hospitality-lite in New Zealand – people take their shoes off  and we are let off the hook.

And of course the forgiving Samaritan who rescued a half-dead Jewish enemy arranged hospitality and paid for the man’s stay in a local inn – extravagantly caring for him. You can’t always sit by someone’s bedside when you have work to do – but you can sponsor someone else – in our day like a hospital chaplain.

Our team today is helping getting patients to the chapel service at North Shore Hospital.

So perhaps Martha is just as right as Mary in this event. We read in verse 38: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

There would have been no place for Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus had Martha not opened her home. And I bet they had yummy food.

So there are some simple lessons today.

1. We’re all different – and that’s okay

We’re different in personalities, in gifting, in strengths and weaknesses.

It’s the nature of the body of Christ that the different parts have different functions. Read 1 Corinthians 12 to remind yourself of that.

And you know – and I know – that our bakers and chefs are critical in church growth – even if we are at risk of the wrong kind of expansive growth.

Hospitality is crucial. Martha was good at that. In fact, she is doing Christian ministry – she is serving. Both the word “preparations” and “work” in verse 40 come from the word diakonia – where we get the word deacon from. That’s the role of our board – it’s real ministry doing the practical caring – and the fixing of things..

There are a couple of verses that commend hospitality – including this one from 1 Peter:

1Pe 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1Pe 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

It reminds me of the family who invited church friends around for a meal, and the mum said to the little girl “please say grace”. The child responded: “I don’t know what to say”. Mum replied: “just say the last prayer you heard your father pray”. She did – and prayed: “o Lord why did we invite this lot over for tea?”.

Having said that:

2. Food and entertaining isn’t everything

I think I understand the Martha thing in this sense – you can really go over the top.

Martha seems to be a bit obsessed with all the detail – and frustrated enough to ask Jesus to take sides. Ah the joys of sibling rivalry. “Tell my brother to do this dad! He won’t listen to me” In Jesus’s words she was “worried and upset about many things”.

There’s a good approach to enable you to be more hospitable – people have to take you as they find you. And if they don’t like your chaos – too bad.

If you saw the movie “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce, you would have remembered the hosts of people eating at his place, and the fact he had to remove a pet – I think it was a hare – to find a seat for someone.

Biblically – perhaps the key verse to balance this should be this one uttered by Jesus at his temptation: Mat 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

3. Mary chose the what is better – only one thing is needed. (v42)

The quote Jesus uses is from Deuteronomy chapter 8 – here it is in context:

Deu 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  Deu 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

To get back to Luke 10, this account is not about women essentially – although it was unusual for women to be in a rabbis group of followers. It’s not primarily about siblings or catering either.

It’s about discipleship. Following Christ changes our focus.

And many other things also crowd out our time – time we need to take to be really still and listen to Jesus’ teaching.

Whether here on a Sunday – or in our personal devotions – or in the invitation he extends for us to take longer time out – retreat days and extended periods of quiet.

Too much of everything else can choke out God’s life in us.

We become dry and spiritually barren.

The active life and the contemplative life are both important.

But it’s better when what we do flows out of who we are.

Being has precedent over doing. We are human beings after all – not human doings.

If we don’t attend to this contemplative life, and listen, study and digest the words of Jesus, we burn out. And we’re no good to anyone or ourselves. “This little light of mine” that we are supposed to shine – goes out.

RISKS FOR THE CHURCH

Apart from our individual lives and walks with God, we also get distracted by the details here.

Keep focus people. Remember that lovely song:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”

There is a second verse of the song which goes like this: “keep your eyes upon Jesus”. Let’s do that.

Amen.

Sunday sermon at BBP – 29 December 2013 – Called to serve

Gospel Reading:  St. Mark 10: 42 — 45;  Preacher: Bill Davey

How are we to respond to the Incarnate One?

We know the Lord can change New Zealand ― if we each play our part!

We are, however, needed to help re-kindle the faith in the Christ of the Gospels.  We have a clear exhortation about our service among His people:

 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to givehis life as a ransom for many.”  

Introduction

We will briefly review of some recent Advent Scriptures ― followed by a review of our Gospel reading this morning.

Advent

Every year we begin a great journey ― the story about God among His people: Meaning all humankind ― including you, me, indeed everyone is invited.

Advent (I) ― God’s Plan ― Journey’s End

Advent (I) began with a great thought ― our final focus on journey’s end:

Matthew 24: 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Our Christian story runs from Genesis (The Creation) to Revelation and ends with the Return of Christ to the earth.

Revelation 22: 20 reads: He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come Lord Jesus. The Return of Christ at the end of the age is our ultimate target throughout life.

― sometimes called the Second Coming or
― the culmination or consummation of all things.

Be watching ― Be praying ― Beware of false teachers ― Beware of idolatry

Advent (II) ― God’s Plan ― A great starting point

Advent (II) followed with the first baptisms ― a great start point ― Baptism.

Matthew 3: 11 – “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Advent (III) God’s Plan ― A New Way of living

Advent (III) Jesus demonstrated a new way of living and then He presented a eulogy to John the Baptist, with a paradox we find hard to understand.

Advent (IV) ― God’s Plan ― The Birth of Jesus

Advent (IV) The Joseph and Mary story.

Five days ago we celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who became our Messiah, Redeemer and Saviour on the Cross at Calvary.   Most of us have known this Christmas story ― about the Incarnation ― (“How God became man and came to live among us”) from our childhood. It has always been the cornerstone of our Christian culture and heritage.

Question: Is it still true ― for the children,  and children’s children in   New Zealand today?

During the family service we spoke of the ministry of John the Baptist. Our minister, Robin, recalled the words of Jesus to the people ― they are part of the eulogy to John the Baptist:

Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: `I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

I want to focus on the final words of the eulogy in verse 11: I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

What do we make of the paradox in verse 11? I tell you the truth: I tell you the truth also translates as “Verily, verilly, I say unto you. I suggest that we do well to highlight or underline all such sentences and ponder them ― They are always the kernel of a significant truth.

Now the paradox declares:

Among those born of women. Nobody “greater than John the Baptist” has been born. We continue: there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. What is this greater-ness of which He spoke?  I understand the Lord was saying, ′that He was demonstrating His leadership and authority ― not with military muscle or through conquest, but by being a servant of servants, and as a slave of the slaves′.

If you remain unsure of the meaning of the paradox, please do what the Baptist told his disciples to do, Go ask him yourself:  Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Can you recall the response of Jesus? “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

Please note how giving the good news to the poor is valued by the Lord ― It is the equal of healing or raising the dead.  Surely we can all tell someone about the goodness of the Lord to us?

Now what is our Church response and direction going to be in 2014?

Returning to our Gospel Reading

Our Lord gave a very clear exhortation about humble service among His followers:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  St. Mark 10: 42 — 45                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Our Lord gave a very clear exhortation about humble service among His followers: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

How will we respond the exhortation of Jesus?

Here are seven possible priorities for our consideration for 2014?

1.     Hospitality: Highlighting the dignity of being members of the Household of God.

2.     Caring: Helping any person in need, especially those experiencing misfortune or suffering from some disability.

3.     Reconciliation:    Seeking the recovery and restoration of those who have been separated in any way from God.

4.     Worship:   Guiding private and public worship. ― Time with God in prayer and study.

5.     Formation: Fostering the spiritual life of each member of our Fellowship and all who       wish to be associated in any way.

6.     Education: Providing appropriate learning experiences ranging from simple guided learning to advanced leadership training and studies.

7.     Evangelisation:     Pursuing opportunities to communicate the living vitality of our Lord Jesus with all in need of His love and care.

Summary

Our Lord’s new and living way is our example!

Are we willing to be a servant of servants and a slave of fellow slaves?

What will we consider the priority ministries in our own life this year?

Some thoughts as we finish:

Recall, the Lord can change New Zealand ― if we each play our part!

and we are all needed to help re-kindle the faith in the Christ of the Gospels.

It will work best ― when we gather one person at a time.   Amen!

Closing Prayer: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance toward you and give you peace!

Sunday 1 September – Signs of the Kingdom

Readings: Psalm 112:1-9; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-17; Luke 14: 1, 7-14

So about the Kingdom of God.

The one that we are told to strive for – to seek first?

Any vague memories from last week? There you go – it’s coming back to you! Well done!

It’s a bit like an upside down cake. What matters is not on the surface.

I mean think about a genuine upside-down cake.  (Not the recipes that have all the fruit slices on the top). I’m thinking of a normal iced cake. Flip it over – and the icing is at the bottom. Weird hey.

WHEN JESUS IS KING

When Jesus is King – your values and ethics change.

That does not mean that the Kingdom of God is purely about ethics – about doing good or being different. They are signs of the Kingdom – just as the church at worship is a sign of the Kingdom – so too changed lives are signs of the Kingdom.

When Jesus is King – we become different. Paul puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 3:

2Co 3:17  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2Co 3:18  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

It’s not just our inner transformation – it’s a change in lifestyle. And one of the noticeable things is how we invest our time and money. How we treat people – especially the needy.

 

1.       Psalm 112 is an example from the readings set today. The interesting thing is that it is one of the coupled Psalms. You need to read Psalm 111 as part of it. The first part of the coupled Psalm is about the greatness of God and what God has done for us – the second, what we have as Psalm 112 – is about the consequences for people who fear this God. What will it be like for them:  listen to verses 4 and 5:

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
    for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
    who conduct their affairs with justice.

One gets the feeling that these Godly people are nice to have around. That’s a key part of our witness as Christians. We are to conduct our affairs with justice – just like the people of God back in Psalm 112.

Tragically – many Christian businessmen don’t have good reputations. That is all. It’s true.

We on the other hand – because of the amazing grace which comes to us – are gracious to others – compassionate and generous. The kingdom works its way out in our daily lives. Or should do.

 

2.       The second reading is also rather lovely. Have a look at the Hebrews reading.

Are you like this? Let the Holy Spirit work in your life – lining you up with the Kingdom of God and the King who makes us his body and hands – his feet and voice in the world – and people will see this in you and me:

“Keeping on” loving one another. You don’t give up even when your brother is a pain in the brain. And elsewhere!

Hospitality. Man I keep coming back to this – because God is speaking about it and I need to tell you what he says! And here’s the wonderful thing about this word – and why it is such a Kingdom word.

The verse says: Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 

That puts us on our guard!  Here’s what it means:  It actually says – Don’t forget φιλοξενιας.  Philoxenia.  Remember xenophobia?  Fear of strangers? It‘s the opposite of this! It means loving strange people!

I love it! (Applause)!

We are to keep on loving each other and loving the strange too! Get it?

The writer to the Hebrews – after writing 12 chapters about what Jesus has done for us (a bit like Paul’s letter to the Romans) ends with these gems about the consequences of the grace of God and the coming of the Kingdom in our lives;

  • Keep on loving each other as brothers
  • Love the strange! (We have a dear friend called Ken Strange! I must send him this sermon!)
  • Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
  • Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure (New Zealand!).
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have (because God is with you people!) IN fact it’s the best bit in the passage. It goes like this (in the rest of verse 5 and verse 6):

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”

And then the writer goes on:

  • Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (challenging for us leaders!). Later he says obey your leaders! (v 17).  “Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”  Amen to that! I’d like my work to be a joy – and not the cause of burnout and stress!

The Kingdom of God has clear values! And when Jesus is King in your life – things are like this!

3.       The Gospel reading is the cherry on our upside down cake today.

If you want Kingdom values – watch Jesus interact with the people of his day who thought they had it all sorted. Listen to Jesus on these issues!

Man I’ve just been 15 000 kilometres to a wedding. And the issue of where people sit is a big deal!

So in my niece’s wedding they had a seating plan!

In my old job they had seating plans for special events and banquets – and they always put me with the people that no one else wanted around!  I love it! They actually got something right!

I landed up with people who had fallen on hard times and not made their millions like the rest.  The ones who were different and interesting!

In those days honour and disgrace were big issues! You needed to keep in with the right people – in any case you might have to negotiate to marry off one of your kids to that family!

Listen again:

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests.

 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Here’s the meat in the Kingdom of God sandwich.

We don’t have to be the cream cheese in this world!

Wealth, beauty, importance and influence are not key Kingdom values.

Humility now! Honour later! We will judge the world with Jesus later! (1 Corinthians 6:2 – Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?)

Later matters. Listen to the investment we are called to make:  12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

How are you doing in investing in people who can’t pay you back!

Do it for the sake of what is right! Not for a return invitation!

This is probable what it means to be the salt of the earth!

We bring flavour to a tasteless society. People notice – and are drawn to that kind of generosity as they were drawn to Jesus! There were always people around him! And then he could speak into their lives – as can we – about the Kingdom of God!

Yay God! Amen!

Sunday sermon 7 July – Ambassadors for Jesus

Readings:

2 Corinthians 9:5-12

Galatians 6:7-16

Luke 10:1-10; 16-20


Introduction

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Message

So what did you think of the readings today?

I wonder if you noticed what they had in common?

·         Yes they were in English

·         Yes they were both from the New Testament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s have a look at her…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was clearly more than the 12 original disciples.

In Luke 10 he sends out 70 – or 72.

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

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

It certainly was different – and it was before Pentecost.

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

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

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

What captivated their imagination? Probably these factors:

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

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

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

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

How do we really understand this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of St. Teresa of Avila:

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

 The harvesting image is really significant.

Sowing and reaping.

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

Two quotes from writers illustrate this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are Christ’s ambassadors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to what he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

So there is some harvesting to be done.

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

Amen.