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Sunday sermon 23 November – prophets, preachers and predictions

Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-10; 7:1-11, Matt 21:12-13  (Following the Narrative Lectionary).

(Note: these sermon notes include various quotations from Scripture in the narrative).

SERMON on Christ the King Sunday

I wonder whether you’ve ever considered that God may be calling you to some unique ministry?

The prophets of the First Testament – those of huge influence like Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah, for example, record their story of God’s call.

For Moses – it was the voice of God at the burning bush. A holy place where he takes of his sandals.

Exo 3:1  Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Exo 3:2  There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

Exo 3:3  So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

Exo 3:4  When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”

Exo 3:5  “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Exo 3:6  Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

 

For Isaiah – a vision of angels crying Holy, Holy, Holy and a hot coal touching his mouth.

Isa 6:1  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Isa 6:2  Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

Isa 6:3  And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isa 6:4  At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Isa 6:5  “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Isa 6:6  Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.

Isa 6:7  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Isa 6:8  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

 

For Jeremiah – well we heard that read earlier:

Jer 1:4  The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

Jer 1:5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jer 1:6  “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”

Jer 1:7  But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.

Jer 1:8  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.

Jer 1:9  Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.

Jer 1:10  See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Both Major Prophets had their mouth touched – one was a cleansing touch, and one an empowering touch. Jeremiah is the one who is consecrated. The NIV is unhelpful – I prefer the ESV – the English Standard Version:

Jer 1:5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

(het Ek jou geheilig; AOV) (sanctified KJV)

  • They were called – no doubt – just as ministers today are still called. And missionaries too.
  • The thing is – whatever you do, you can’t shake that call off.
  • The Holy Spirit keeps at you – with this ongoing stirring in your heart.

Moses had a stutter. Isaiah was inadequate and needed cleansing – because, in his words, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

I identify with all three of these great prophets.

  • Like Moses – I don’t feel adequate. And many times I am fearful.
  • Like Isaiah – I feel unworthy and sinful.
  • Like Jeremiah – it started in my life as a child. (he may have been early 20s)

This sense of knowing that God has a hold on you. My childhood years in the Methodist church came with a sense of stirring, and yielding.

It was a hymn that summed it up – I had to sing it as a solo somewhere along the line:

It’s by John Burton (about 1850).

Saviour, while my heart is tender, I would yield that heart to Thee;  All my powers to Thee surrender,Thine and only Thine to be.

Take me now, Lord Jesus, take me; Let my youthful heart be Thine; Thy devoted servant make me; Fill my soul with love divine.

Send me, Lord, where Thou wilt send me, Only do Thou guide my way; May Thy grace through life attend me, Gladly then shall I obey.

Let me do Thy will or bear it; I would know no will but Thine;  Shouldst Thou take my life or spare it, I that life to Thee resign.

May this solemn consecration, Never once forgotten be; Let it know no revocation, Registered and confirmed by Thee.

Thine I am, O Lord, for ever, To Thy service set apart; Suffer me to leave Thee never, Seal Thine image on my heart.

It’s a powerful hymn.

  • Jeremiah could just as well have sung it.
  • He is the most human. He wrestles with God. He fails. His life is threatened.
  • Jeremiah himself was attacked by his own brothers, beaten by priests, and thrown into a cistern. (Jeremiah 38)

Jer 38:6  So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

I think he would have been a good minister’s elder or supervisor. He gets it – the struggling, the wrestling with God. For example in chapter 20:

Jer 20:7  O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.

Jer 20:8  Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.

The power of the call follows again in the next verse:

Jer 20:9  But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

Being a prophet is a challenging thing really. Jeremiah speaks to the national situation – and also to the church people of the day.

Chapter 7 is classic – his so called “temple sermon”. 

Jer 7:1  This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

Jer 7:2  “Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message: “‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD.

Jer 7:3  This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.

Jer 7:4  Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”

Do you get it? He is standing at the door – at the church door really – challenging people.

It’s provocative but it fits with these words from later in chapter 1:

Jer 1:17  “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.

Jer 1:18  Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.

Jer 1:19  They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.

  • How can I describe this situation? In the time of King Josiah there was a major “church growth” kind of movement. Spiritual things had been neglected for about 250 years.
  • And King Josiah, who came to the throne in Judah at the age of 8, had brought huge change. (Grandfather 55 years – Manasseh; Father Amon 2 years. Killed. Josiah 8 year old. Seeks God at 16. Reforms at 20 (628BC).
  • Jeremiah probably started his prophetic years under Josiah. (2 Kings 22:1ff).
  • In 2 Kings we read about the rediscovery of the Book of the Law in the temple.

2Ki 22:8  Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.

2Ki 22:9  Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the LORD and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.”

2Ki 22:10  Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

2Ki 22:11  When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.  

There were major reforms that followed. Passover was reinstituted. Idols were smashed. But, as one commentator puts it:

“Josiah had gotten the idols out of the temple, but he had not gotten idolatry out of the people. No one knew that better than Jeremiah.” (John Guest).

Listen to these words again – God speaking to Jeremiah:

Jer 1:18  Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.

Jer 1:19  They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.

John Wesley once said, “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but God, and who hate nothing but sin and we will take over the world for Christ.”

  • Jeremiah was that kind of man.
  • He preaches his message at the gate of the temple – where people were probably quite pleased with themselves that they had actually shown up.
  • The sermon extract we read today ends with these classic lines: 

Jer 7:9  “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known,

Jer 7:10  and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things?

Jer 7:11  Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.  

Jesus picks up on this when he cleanses the temple:

Mat 21:12  Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

Mat 21:13  “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”

THE APPLICATION TODAY

You know – you can have a wonderful time at church – and miss the point.

If there is no evidence of change – we have a problem too.

God sees all.

That’s Jeremiah’s message.

And Jesus’ message seems to follow in the same prophetic tradition.

In fact – when Jesus asks his followers: (Matthew 16:13)  “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

Mat 16:14  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Mat 16:15  “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Mat 16:16  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The people in Josiah’s day destroyed their idols, and conformed to the rediscovered Law. But it was all a public display – being seen to be doing the right things.

Jesus had issues with that too.

Remember this verse?

Mat 23:27  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

Mat 23:28  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

This is Christ the King Sunday. He knows whether we have really let him take his rightful place in our lives.

That’s my job and calling. To make sure that we are doing church in such a way that we live lives faithful to the Gospel and the Scriptures as a whole.

There are those who fancy themselves as church police – wanting to check the preacher out for heresy.

In fact that’s my job! Those who are called to speak – they speak for God. That makes it a very scary calling. I don’t take it lightly.

In a sense – preaching comes closest to prophecy – because the word means to “speak forth”.  The older more mature Peter says this of ministry:

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.

1Pe 4:10  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

1Pe 4:11  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen

ESV again:

1Pe 4:11  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 5 says this:

Heb 5:12  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,

Heb 5:13  for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.

Heb 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Paul says this of preaching:

1Co 9:16  Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

To get back to Jeremiah 7 – Jeremiah’s temple sermon (his church sermon if you like):

Jeremiah 7:11 is a sober warning, re-enforced by the words and actions of Jesus:

Jer 7:9  “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known,

Jer 7:10  and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things?

Jer 7:11  Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.

Mat 21:12  Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

Mat 21:13  “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”

You know – you can have a wonderful time here each week.

Just don’t miss the point!

So be it.

Amen.

Sunday sermon 1 June 2014 – time waiting on God

nectamen

Readings:  Acts 1:6-14: 1 Peter 4:12 – 14;  5:6-11:  John 17:1-11:

MESSAGE: TIME WAITING ON GOD 

This is a challenging day. It’s the 1st of June. That in itself is not remarkable.

But it is that one Sunday – symbolically – when we are in-between Ascension Day and Pentecost.

As if we were in the upper room.

The in-between times of life are challenging generally.

The times between being a member and citizen of one country and having full rights and acceptance in another.

Immigrants know all about this. The in-between – ness of it all. Being born in one country and growing up in another can make you uncertain – betwixt and between as the English idiom says.

The times waiting in other horrid situations.

  • Between the ward and the hospital theatre.
  • Between life and death when the end comes.
  • Between a death and a funeral – for a family
  • Between jobs – for the unemployed.
  • Between doctors with half-suspected diagnoses – wanting yet not wanting the truth because of what it many mean for our lives.
  • Between homes – knowing we have to move out and down size – and not really knowing where we will land up.

You may know some of these times. As a church you will know this.

  • In a church – between ministers (the so-called vacancy)
  • In a church – between Session Clerk’s and Administrators. We seem to be in between them all at the moment.
  • In-between leaders in mainly music and messy church – no one stepping up. And mission support. And in time pastoral concerns.

These things can make you insecure. Scared. Uncertain. Worried. Vulnerable. Especially if you’re in my shoes – when you’re the minister.

They are times of waiting – and especially waiting on the Lord. What do you want us to do Lord?

We’re not good at that really. Even our “best at prayer” (Presbyterians – anagram) rush in with their requests each week in our prayer meetings – asking God to bless our busy lives and our many activities. And we sit a little worried by the silence – and tend to want to scurry off and do something practical.

When he calls us to be still and wait.

Not enough waiting. Not enough surrender.

I asked more than a year ago – in the context of our leadership (probably two years ago) whether we would be prepared to stop it all – and only do the things we really knew we should.

I don’t think anyone took me too seriously. And now we may have to let some of them go.

And now we have to seriously ask Him what we should do – and some things may end. We can’t do it all – we don’t have the resources – financial or people.

And the test is probably whether the things are getting the good news to people who need to hear it! Whether they are part of the great commission.

Well on this symbolic Sunday between the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit – almost a vacuum in history – let’s think about waiting on God some more.

Those disciples waited – and then the power came.

It was never their power of course – it was Jesus’ power (we sang that old song again – all power is given in Jesus’ name – and in Jesus’ name I come to you to share his power as he told me to – He said freely freely).

And so in the reading from Acts we heard today:

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.”

It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to trust.

But in the in-between times – in the age in which we live between his ascension and his return – we are empowered to witness.

Not complicated. It’s not all about us! It’s about the mission we have.

Luke tells us after he left them – this is what happened in Jerusalem:

Act 1:14  They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

The lines we heard from the last chapters of 1 Peter – were written to a church that was waiting desperately for His return – as they were persecuted and suffering.

They are exhorted to stand firm in their suffering – to rejoice when suffering for doing good.

And to be discerning:

1Pe 5:8  Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1Pe 5:9  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Of course the favourite passage is this one:

1Pe 5:6  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

1Pe 5:7  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

We listened to Simon Ponsonby again this week in home group – speaking about desert or wilderness experiences.

He starts with Jesus being led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the desert in Matthew 4. And of course we too have those desert times too.

In fact he quotes Selwyn Hughes who lists a number of experiences in life where we as Christians are tested: failure, suffering, humiliation, bereavement, estrangement, doubt and dereliction.

God allows these things because they are good for us – they make us really wait on him and depend on him – so that we don’t become self-sufficient.

On Ascension Day we stopped to say – you Lord Jesus are the Head of the church! And we are your body!

How scary that you should want to use us!

We’re so helpless and weak really. Vulnerable. And that is probably where we are meant to be.

So when we come to the Gospel reading today – we are still in the zone of suspension.

Left hanging.

It’s not an easy passage.

There is some clarity again about His authority:

Joh 17:2  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

There is one clear-ish Johannine verse that I like to quote:

Joh 17:3  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

The passage – the prayer – goes on and is not easy to fathom.

But the simple bits jump out:

Joh 17:9  I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 

And then another glimpse pf hope and encouragement:

Joh 17:11  I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. 

What a huge relief – that the Father has given us to the Son – and that he prays for us.

He recognises we are still in this messed-up and complicated world.

Thankfully he prays that the Father will protect us by the power of His name!

What is the name that the Father gave Jesus – by which we are protected?? I’m not entirely sure what this means. Probably simply this: “I am who I am” – the name given to Moses at the burning bush, which by the way is still the principle logo of the Presbyterian Church – born in the fires of persecution – NEC TAMEN CONSUMEBATUR –  burned but not consumed. Our all sufficient One! Jesus was certainly comfortable using the “I am” part in in his various “I am” sayings.

Why should God protect us?

So that we may be one!

Why?

Because that’s how people will know that we are Jesus’ people.

As you read the rest of John 17 – twice more he prays for our unity.

Why?

Because it’s when we are united – sometimes with our backs to the wall – that we are the most effective witnesses.

It’s a testimony that we can actually be one – because the odds are stacked against us as human beings. Our default settings are I, me mine and myself. Narcissistic obsession – loving ourselves. Our default settings include a propensity to war and violence.

We’re so judgemental of the terrible things people do – especially when people are murdered in our safe little country – forgetting that we all have the same capacity. We are not just children of Adam. We are related to Cain who killed his own brother out of anger and jealousy – in a quarrel about what? Offerings! Religious matters!

When we’re in the in-between times – vulnerable and uncertain – we all too easily lash out, blame, and seek some reason outside of ourselves. When it fact both blame and sin crouch at our own door.

So what’s to be done?

  • Wait.
  • Watch and pray.
  • Seek his face.

Crying out to him in our desperation – that’s what he wants.

He wants to take away our self-sufficiency.

And he sometimes does that pre-eminently – through failure. It could besuffering, humiliation, bereavement, estrangement, doubt and dereliction.

But most commonly its failure.

  • Failure is followed by repentance
  • Repentance has with it new faith and absolute trust
  • And when we walk with a limp forever after that –as Simon Ponsonby rightly says – we limp so that we can’t run ahead of God on the journey.

Wait on him – let him reduce me and you to barely nothing – so that he can be everything.

It’s okay.

It’s not for any other reason than that He allows it to happen for our long term good. And for His glory!

At the end of the day – our FAITHFULNESS is tested more than anything else. Not unlike Job – who says: “though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15 KJV).

Amen.

 

Passion Sunday 13 April 2014 – a gracious self-abandonment

Readings: Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 27: 11-54

Sermon

We sang a hymn on Tuesday that is 1200 years old. We didn’t do a great job as the words on the computer were a little scrambled. But we got it right in the end.

The passage in Philippians 2 we heard today is even older.

And yes it is deemed to be one of the oldest hymns of the Christian church. We know that the early church sang hymns from the New Testament itself (as did Jesus – you may remember that they sang a hymn on the night Jesus was betrayed – before they went up the Mount of Olives?)

Mat 26:26  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Mat 26:27  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. Mat 26:28  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Mat 26:29  I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Mat 26:30  When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

We also know from Roman documents – like Pliny:

Pliny the Younger as governor of Bithynia about half a century later (c. 110 CE) reported to his superior, the emperor Trajan, that he was investigating the group who called themselves Christians. Among other harmless things that they do, he reports, they assemble very early in the morning, before dawn, to “sing hymns to Christ as if to a god” (Pliny, Letters 10.96.7).

Good reason to come to the sunrise service on Easter Sunday at 6.30am!

The Philippian passage is this:

Php 2:5  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Php 2:6  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

Php 2:7  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Php 2:8  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Php 2:9  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

Php 2:10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Php 2:11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul uses this hymn in a teaching way – not as a statement of what we are to believe about Jesus.

The distinction between believing ABOUT Jesus and believing IN Jesus is really important. We can say the apostle’s creed because it clarifies what we believe ABOUT Jesus.

We put our trust in Him and in that way believe IN JESUS.

Paul is writing to Christians and telling them what will make him happy – or give him joy.

The answer? Being like Jesus as you follow him.

Paul talks about being “in Christ” – “if anyone is IN CHRIST he or she is a new creation”( 2 Cor 5:17).

We participate in his death and resurrection.

We enter into the fellowship of his body – where all the parts matter (we rejoice with those who rejoice and suffer with those who suffer – 1 Cor 12).

So Paul says here – not as an ethical or moral injunction (follow Jesus and imitate Him because he was a good guy) – that we should make him happy (complete his joy) by being like Jesus! It’s the natural consequence of belonging to Jesus! Living in Jesus! Dying with Jesus. Being raised to newness of life with Jesus. Having eternal life now – knowing God through Jesus! What did I say last week about this? You can’t remain unmoved – un-animate! You come to life.

This life is seen IN JESUS.

SO listen to the first verses – verses 1 to 4: 

Php 2:1  If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,

Php 2:2  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Php 2:3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Php 2:4  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

We began at verse 5 today:

Php 2:5  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus 

Verse 6 continues

Christ Jesus – who…. 

And then comes the hymn:

Php 2:6  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

Php 2:7  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Php 2:8  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Php 2:9  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

Php 2:10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Php 2:11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There are a number of links that we can make with other New Testament and Old Testament passages here. Remember that we don’t interpret the bible in the light of what we think – but in the light of the rest of the bible!

  1. The suffering servant of Isaiah chapter 53. There are clear links to these verses about the one who “was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (53:3.) And in verse 12: he poured out his soul to death – like Phil 2:7  he emptied himself/made himself nothing. 

And the servant passages elsewhere in the gospels, like this pivotal passage:

Mar 10:43  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,

Mar 10:44  and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

Mar 10:45  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.”

  1. The first and second Adam of 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22, 45-49 and Romans 5:12-14. And of course Genesis 3 – the first Adam grasp at power – the second one relinquishes it.
  1. Humility in other passages:

2Co 8:9  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

  1. The call to obedience in Scripture and in post-biblical Judaism. There was an understanding that the righteous were called to suffer- especial between the testaments in the time of the Macabees where people were tortured and killed for their faith, but expected vindication in the next life from the Lord.

This is Jesus who empties himself – this is the incarnation that John describes in these verses:

Joh 1:14  And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Thus Jesus is exalted! Here’s the dangerous part for us:

Php 2:9  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

Php 2:10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Php 2:11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It’s the one place that Paul talks about Jesus at the head of the whole universe – as opposed to head of the church.

He has the name that is above every other name!

At his name every knee should bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord – to the glory of God the Father.

What is this confession?

A faith statement ABOUT HIM – “o yes Jesus is the one”

A believing statement IN HIM (Do you remember the song “he is Lord?” – we used to sing in the early days of personalised ascriptive singing: “You’re my Lord, you’re my Lord….” And it felt SO NICE!

Does it mean – what I think that many people believe it means – that one day they will all be forced to bow before Jesus (as we rub our hands together with glee feeling that we too will be vindicated?).

Paul uses this hymn – which is clearly a hymn about Jesus as Lord (remember Pliny’s letter about Christians who  “assemble very early in the morning, before dawn, to “sing hymns to Christ as if to a god”?)

Paul uses it to tell the Christians what will really make him happy! This is the heart of the Christian life – this will make my joy complete! Remember he says:

Php 2:2  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Php 2:3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Php 2:4  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

And then verse 5:

Php 2:5  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus

When you hear the long reading of the passion of Jesus – that’s what Paul’s talking about.

Not a triumphalism. But serving like Jesus – in humility – without selfish ambition and vain conceit. In unity – like minded and being one in spirit and purpose.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion… then do all this….

A commentator, Thomas A. Langford, has expressed this as clearly and as succinctly as is possible.

In Jesus we find embodied the self-giving of God to persons and the self-giving of a person to other persons. Jesus is the Lord who is servant, and Jesus is the servant who is Lord. As the Lord who is servant, Jesus identifies with human life so as to establish a redemptive relationship.

 As servant who is Lord, Jesus calls us to acknowledge his lordship through our servanthood. The grace of God in Jesus Christ calls us to a graciousness which is a self-abandonment to the love of God and the love of the neighbour.

 A graciousness

A self-abandonment.

So may it be with us.

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!