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Anzac sermon 2019 – the New Commandment

A sermon on Anzac Day (From the archives April 2013)

Readings:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; John 13:31-35

 31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come. 34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

Message

I wonder if you remember this song:

-1-
We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord. (x2)
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

Chorus
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,
By our Love,
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

-2-
We will work with each other,
We will work side by side. (x2)
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity
And save each man’s pride.

Chorus

-3-

We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand. (x2)
And together we’ll spread the News
that God is in our land.

All praise to the Father from whom all things come…

copyright 1966 Peter Scholte

It was a great song. I’m not sure why songs written in the 1960s needed so many repeats! Maybe it was the 60s. People might have needed reminding of things. Who knows.

Ironically that song fell out of the book Living Praise because the owners withdrew the copyright. Not very loving – the new edition had a blank page with apologies instead of music.

So what has happened to the church after all these years?

So many times we sang this song from John 13.

So many sermons on this passage:

34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another? “Yeah right” is the classic kiwi approach!

sermon outline 28 April

WE DO GET IT RIGHT THOUGH

Today we remember those who gave their lives for their country – in whatever war you think of there have been terrible losses and sacrifice.

In the face of such devastation – many have shown the love of Christ in action in the face of terrible risk and threat.

  • Like those who stuck up for the persecuted Jewish people – and hid them or rescued them.
  • Those who refused to fight as pacifists – but served in amazing ways as peacemakers or medical staff
  • Chaplains who were with their people on the front lines praying and ministering to the dying
  • And many who nursed the wounded at great risk themselves. And the endless sacrifice of soldiers…

HOW NEW IS NEW?

What is new about this new commandment that Jesus gave?

Loving your neighbour wasn’t new – that was already in the Old Testament or Jewish Bible.

Listen and look again:

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU – is the key.

Love for Jesus was more than words – more than his teaching about love – but an action.

God so loved the world so much that he sent a text or telegram? I don’t think so.

God so Loved the world so much that he GAVE HIS ONLY SON. (John 3:16).

Jesus laid down his life for us. In fact, when he was preparing his followers for his death he said this (in the previous chapter in John):

23 Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!’

You find that passage – especially verse 24 – on memorials and cenotaphs throughout the world (κενοτάφιον – empty tomb; kenos – “empty”, and taphos – tomb) – memorials that are empty because the people remembered are elsewhere – on Flanders field or some unknown place of terrible sadness and death.

…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Paul says something very similar to husbands in Ephesians 5:

Eph 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Sacrifice! A great reminder!

So as we give thanks for those who have sacrificed today – let’s commit ourselves to really love each other as Jesus loves us!

  • It’s a tall order!
  • It is possible – by His grace and through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit!
  • It is essential for Christian witness – people know we follow Jesus because of our love
  • It is not PERFECTION – real love is honest, not pretentious, and knows how to say sorry and move on when things go wrong!

But – you may be thinking – “my life is too hard – this command is too hard”. You say to me, maybe – “you don’t know the people that I have to deal with” or “you don’t know my family, pastor!”

Let’s dig a little deeper into this passage before we go home today. Go back to verse 31 of John 13:

It begins with this innocuous line: 31 When he was gone, Jesus said…

And of course context is everything.

The “he” is Judas. And Jesus loved Judas – he was one of his team.

And prior to that in John 13 Jesus had washed their feet – despite the protestations of Peter.

What is coming – for Jesus – is a betrayal and a denial – a cruel trial, flogging, a crown of thorns and an agonizing crucifixion.

It’s from that cross that Jesus forgives his tormentors.

This Jesus – who will need tremendous courage and strength – is the one who says here:

33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer.

In fact some translations have “Little children” here…

It’s a tender address. No parables here – no mysteries and riddles to crack.

They knew they had to love their neighbour (Leviticus 19:18).

It probably figured that they had to love each other.

Listen to the whole passage preceding the commandment again:

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come.

It would not feel like glorification for Jesus or his followers. It would feel like defeat.

Glorification is not about success, but obedience now in the short term – and reward in the long term.

We’re back to sacrifice are we not?

  • Back to our soldiers who give up their lives for others.
  • Heroes who rescue their friends on the battlefield.

One can understand the feelings of their comrades at this time.

There is a sense of enormous gratitude – when you are rescued, protected, or saved by someone. I’d like to know – we’d all like to know – that there is someone we can depend upon, someone who will defend us if we are attacked or in danger.

So too Jesus – who died for us. He saves us.

So too those tens of thousands of New Zealanders have given their lives in war or have served us and protected us. Love is shown in sacrifice.

We should remember them.

Amen.

 

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Sunday sermon 30 October 2016 – the new commandment – love one another as Jesus loves us

Readings: 1 John 4:7-14; Romans 13:7-10; John 13:1-5; 31-38

Sermon:

I remember listening to an Argentine pastor years ago, Juan Carlos Ortiz was his name. He spoke about preaching on this theme – love one another – as Jesus has loved you.

He preached on the same thing for six months.

In time his elders became concerned. They asked him if he could perhaps choose another theme.

His response was simple. “Until you do it, I will keep preaching it”.

Clearly they had some work to do.

Don’t worry. Six months is not that bad. I heard a story about a preacher on the radio this week – who started a series on Job – and kept going for 24 years. Okay not all the time – just on Sundays – and he did take a break for Easter and Christmas.

In case you thought last week was a challenge – that we should serve one another – here you find the underlying foundation of that service.

Love. This is part two of the message about serving one another. Remember we asked the question: “how will you be remembered” last week. Jesus says they will know we are his followers by our love.

So to the text in John 13.

The Gospel reading is unnerving really. As John begins to unravel Jesus’ teaching on love and the new commandment, Judas whom he also loved, is ominously brought to our attention;

Listen again: Joh 13:1  It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (Or – he loved them to the end.) Joh 13:2  The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.

How sad that this man represents the very opposite of what Jesus models and teaches on love. Jesus clearly took a risk on this Zealot.

How secure are you when it comes to taking the risk of loving others? You have to be very clear about who you are in Christ.

Jesus certainly was very clear about his identity and destiny. Look at the next verse:

Joh 13:3  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;

Knowing this, he was able to show them the full extent of his love in the first act if you like:

Joh 13:4  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Joh 13:5  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  We skipped the debate with Peter in the reading today – his resistance to having his feet washed.

Peter was not what you would call an early adopter of new ideas.

It’s the same today. You preach about things for years, and people resist.

They argue, debate and question – and seem to miss the point entirely. And then they hear someone else speak about it and the lights come on.

Often if and when the penny drops – when they actually get it – they’re unstoppable.

Peter resists:

Joh 13:8  “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Joh 13:9  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 

It’s all or nothing Peter.

It’s worth reading the rest of the narrative we missed. Putting it simply, Jesus washed their feet – and they were to do the same. Jesus continues:

Joh 13:16  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Joh 13:17  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

It kind of reinforces what we talked about last week about serving one another. We don’t have to carry a bowl and towel around with us and wash peoples’ feet all day. The point is that the servant did that chore – and we are actually servants.

The power behind that kind of desire to serve one another is the power of love – God’s love which is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us (Romans 5:5).

Through John 13 Jesus continues to reveal his plan and it reaches a highlight in verse 33 and 34:

Joh 13:33  “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. Joh 13:34  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

One would hope that our late adopter Peter would pick up on this and say – okay this is important. Jesus is giving a NEW commandment. I’d better take note – maybe write this down.

But no – he’s off on his crazy mission again:

He says this: Joh 13:36  Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Joh 13:37  Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Jesus knows better. He says: Joh 13:38  Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

You’ve got these two men who are really type A men – wanting to get it done. Judas tries to force Jesus’ hand to overthrow the Romans. Peter wants to lay down his life impulsively. On the spot.

In the meantime – Jesus gives this new commandment. Love one another “as I have loved you”.

Not just washing feet. But giving up his life on the cross.

John backs this up in his first letter in chapter 4: 1Jn 4:9  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1Jn 4:10  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1Jn 4:11  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

The real challenge is working out what this sacrificial love means in our modern world.

Do we know what this is? This is not about loving your neighbour – meaning wanting the best for them (as yourself).

It’s about loving each other as Jesus loved us. He is the model, the standard, the template. We are to love each other as Jesus loved us:

– here  – across the wider church  –  and reaching the persecuted church.

WHAT DOES LOVING EACH OTHER MEAN TO YOU?

I had fascinating conversations with people through the week about this. We talked about how we need to stop petty arguments becoming big issues. That Jesus’ love is sacrificial. That it means giving time to people to help in practical ways. That it involves honesty – that Jesus took on a parenting role with his disciples. That training was involved in sending them out and then evaluating how they did. That it’s very hard if you want to be honest. That we need to resolve things – and tell people gently when they are out of line. That integrity and discipline is involved.

I found his poem which may speak to you about risk-taking in love:

Fully Alive – by Dawna Markova

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

THINKING FURTHER ABOUT LOVE – here are some thoughts from my reading:

  • This is not romantic love, not just being nice, or only loving those who love you back.
  • When Jesus washed his followers’ feet, Judas was there. He loved them all.
  • This is not a lofty ideal but a reality.
  • Jesus’ cross demonstrates that “God so loved the world.”
  • We do do it and can do it.
  • Some people are very difficult – it doesn’t change our commitment to love them.
  • We also fail – but we are in the forgiveness business – and that includes forgiving ourselves.
  • Loving as Jesus loved is high-risk behaviour.

My thoughts include these:

Jesus also confronts people who are wrong. As does Paul after the cross – sin still has to be rooted out.

1 Corinthians 13 has love at the centre of all gifts which operate in the church.

I thought we could read it together: Replacing “love is” with “We are” and so forth.

Let’s say together:

Co 13:4  We are patient, we are kind. We do not envy, we do not boast, we are not proud. 1Co 13:5  We are not rude, we are not self-seeking, we are not easily angered, we keep no record of wrongs. 1Co 13:6  We do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. 1Co 13:7  We always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. 1Co 13:8  We never fail. (ok that’s a stretch but it makes the point).

The song “One thing remains” by Chris Quilala helps us:

Higher than the mountains that I face, Stronger than the power of the grave; Constant through the trial and the change, One thing remains [x2]

It has this chorus: Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me [x3]

That’s the point. It’s God’s love working through us. From the indwelling Holy Spirit.

When we are mean and selfish, narcissistic, cliquey, uncaring, we are not living according to the Spirit, but the flesh, what the NIV calls the “sinful nature” which is contrary to God.

In fact we are warned after the cross, after the message of grace, by Paul writing to believers, not to grieve the Holy Spirit. (See Ephesians 4:29-32).

Which as an aside means that quite a lot of us have a wrong theology of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit can be grieved. He is a person. Just by the way – if I hear you pray about the Spirit as a force or as an “it” in church from now on I am going to stop you and make you pray that line again. 🙂

The person of the Holy Spirit works in us, changing our hearts and renewing our minds – and pouring out his love in our hearts (Romans 5:5). He is the source of unfailing love.

Let’s love one another, people.

  • It’s Jesus’ one command that is new. A new covenant love.
  • Loving our neighbour as ourselves is old. It’s still valid though.
  • Loving one another as Jesus sacrificially loves us is the sign of the new – the new covenant – new life – new birth – new community – new Israel.
  • New hope – new  future – new Kingdom in our midst.

Amen.

Anzac Sunday Sermon, 24 April 2016 – Winning the Peace

Speaker: Sean Cloete

Readings: John 13:31-35; Revelation 21:1-6

Message

Good Morning everyone and welcome to Anzac Day Sunday.

This is the day that the Lord has made,We will rejoice and be glad in it.

If you are just visiting this morning you are all most welcome – and thanks for joining us.Thank you also to the residents and staff of the Freeling Holt Home for the wonderful Anzac Day display in the foyer.These folk are part of our Tuesday congregation.

God Bless them for doing this. Please have a look at this after the service – it’s well worth it. Tomorrow, is the 101st anniversary of the landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey during WWI. I see many of you are wearing red poppies this morning – just like this one.The red poppy has become a symbol of war remembrance the world over.

People in many countries wear the poppy to remember those who died in war or who still serve. In many countries, the poppy is worn around Armistice Day the date when WW1 came to an end at the 11th Hour on the 11th Day of 11th Month 1918. But here in New Zealand they are more frequently seen around Anzac Day, 25 April.

The Red or Flanders Poppy has been linked with battlefield deaths since the time of the Great War. The Poppy was one of the first to grow and bloom in the mud and soil of Flanders.But it really depends who you speak to.

There are many who still believe that the uniqueness of the colour red of the Poppy has something to do with the amount of blood which was spilt on the Western Front during WW1.Please take time to remember those who fell on that terrible day in 1915.

When I look around the church this morning I see people who would have lived through and may even have served in WW2, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars.

There are also people who may have served or have family who served in New Zealand Peacekeeping forces in Malaysia, Indonesia, Kashmir, Yugoslavia, East Timor and the Soloman Islands.Also folks from further afield such as the UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe, who have also lived through lengthy periods of conflict.

Please join with me as we acknowledge those brave few who made the ultimate sacrifice down through the centuries.

The Anzac spirit will live on in those who come after. And by that I mean all those who come after – and who make New Zealand and Australia their home.

So, in the words of the Ode – join with me please:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.

Amen.

I remember the first time I went to an RSA – and being very new in NZ I really didn’t know what to expect. When 6pm rolled around, everyone got up and the Ode of Remembrance was recited by all present. At the end I said Amen – but nobody else did.I thought this very strange because we were acknowledging those people who had given the ultimate sacrifice – and therefore I viewed it as a prayer.

What we are really doing when we recite the Ode is remembering the fallen – as you might do at a funeral or a dedication.I have been to funerals before of fellow soldiers who had died in action.I always remember how incredibly sad these occasions were, as all of these men who died were young.When I got home I thought I would try and found out a bit more about the Ode.

I found out that it is taken from a poem called “For The Fallen” – and written by an Englishman named Robert Binyon.It was specifically composed in honour of the casualties of the British Expeditionary Force who fought and died on the Western Front during WW1. Over time only the words of a single verse of the poem have remained – and to this day that one verse remains as a tribute to all casualties of war, regardless of country.

You should have a copy of it in front of you – so when you go home find a quiet place and read it.It’s very moving.But if you ask me say the Amen at the end – because it just sounds right. Amen.

On a day such as this the words from Psalm 91 – which is sometimes called the Soldiers Psalm – come to mind.

Just listen to these words ……

Shall we pray?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
If you make the Most High your dwelling refuge no harm will befall you and no disaster will come near your tent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Amen

History shows us that ever since the dawn of time man has always been ready to go to war. War was always the easy way to do things.

Has the world ever been at peace – you may ask. Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history.

Estimates for the total number killed in wars since the beginning of recorded human history is approaching 1 billion people. Over 100 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century alone. So, it’s important this Anzac Day that we celebrate Life and not death.

War is not Glorious or Romantic. There is no Honour in War.The first casualty of war is Truth.Often those who are at war forget why they went to war in the first place.War is not worth even one life.

John F. Kennedy said that “Mankind must put an end to war, before war puts an end to Mankind”.

But Sean, you might say, where are you going with this – and how can we link War with our readings this morning – which are all about Love.

In John 13:3-35 Jesus says: A new commandment I give unto you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.

It is really a new commandment – the only other commandments that existed at the time were those given to Moses by God. The 10 Commandments.

And in Revelation 21:6 John writes: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Jesus is all about Love and the water of life is the Holy Spirit – and the Holy Spirit is also all about Love. Although war is the last resort and will always be the last resort sometimes it is necessary.

  • In the Defence of one’s country.
  • In the Protection of one’s family.
  • To Stand up to the forces of evil.

Edmund Burke – an Irish Statesman from the 18th Century summed it up like this:”The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Just like soldiers go off to war to fight against the forces of evil, so we as Christians go off to war every day to fight these same forces. But unlike the soldiers in a physical war who were able to see the opposing forces, we, as Christians fight that same fight. But we are fighting an unseen enemy and an enemy infinitely more powerful and terrible than anything we have seen in this world before. Please be aware that our adversary Satan does not play fair.

In 1 Peter 5:8 we read: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

War is the second best option – the best is Love.

We need to be aware of the horrors of war and the violence that surround us in this world – as a priority we need to remember the Love of Jesus.We are followers of Jesus Christ so we are not citizens of this world.

In John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.But now my kingdom is from another place.”

What we sometimes forget is that Jesus also made the ultimate sacrifice but He didn’t die for His mates or His country he died for all of mankind, so we can be saved and be able to share in Everlasting Life.

Someone asked me the other day why does God allow wars to happen? The answer is quite simple. God doesn’t allow wars to happen.

Ask yourself this question – who is the God of this Age?

In 2 Corinthians 4:4 we read: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The only reason God gets involved in wars is to protect those whom He loves.Satan does such a good job of deception that even the best of us can be fooled.

Timothy writes in 1 Tim 6:12: Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession.

Note that he uses the word fight. Sometimes we as Christians have to.

In the hymn we sang earlier Stand up, Stand up for Jesus – the writer highlights that we are in a battle. He writes:

Stand up, Stand up for Jesus ye soldiers of the cross –
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.

And goes on to say….

Ye that are brave now serve Him against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.
Put on the Gospel armour, each piece put on with prayer;
To those who vanquish evil a crown of life shall be;
They with the King of Glory shall reign eternally.

This is one of the most stirring hymns in all of Christendom.

But it has come with some challenges over the years. As a result of the images of Christian militarism in the hymn, some people object to the hymn, and some people do not stand to sing it.Some politically correct lobbyists around the world have seen it as too aggressive.

However, in Psalm 100 the Psalmist encourages us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

He writes:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Although the hymn Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus is only about 150 years old I bet that if the Israelites sung this hymn when they were fleeing from Egypt the Red Sea would have parted by itself. And any army who sings this song would be Unbeatable, Bullet-Proof and Indestructible.

Unbelievable isn’t it that this world can have such double standards – even when it comes to powerful hymns – such as this one.Which is really just about Love. The Love our God has for all of us – and the Love we have for Him.

Love is also a powerful weapon. After war Love is the only thing that can heal the wounds.It can infect sinners.It can soften even the hardest of hearts – it humbles the strongest of us. And it can strengthen the very weakest of us.

It can take a boy like David and make him a wise King.It can take a murderer like Saul and turn him into Paul – the greatest and most fearless of all Apostles. And it can work in all of you – and can make you what God wants you to be.

In John 3:16 – possibly the most well-known verse in the Bible – we read:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

If something is holding you back – just let go.Your life will never be the same again.

Try and attend an Anzac Day service tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be a Dawn Service. And say a prayer of thanks for all those who have made our life here in New Zealand easier.

In conclusion I would like to read for you the poem:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Let us pray:

Lord, Please be with those who do not acknowledge You. Through your Holy Spirit please minister to us all. Have patience with us and please give us Your peace. Guide us we pray as we make our way in the world this week. In Jesus Name. Amen

Sunday 24 April, archived sermon – A New Commandment I give unto you

A sermon on Anzac weekend. (From the archives April 2013)

Readings:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; John 13:31-35

 31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come. 34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

Message

I wonder if you remember this song:

-1-
We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord. (x2)
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

Chorus
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,
By our Love,
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

-2-
We will work with each other,
We will work side by side. (x2)
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity
And save each man’s pride.

Chorus

-3-

We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand. (x2)
And together we’ll spread the News
that God is in our land.

All praise to the Father from whom all things come…

copyright 1966 Peter Scholte

It was a great song. I’m not sure why songs written in the 1960s needed so many repeats! Maybe it was the 60s. People might have needed reminding of things. Who knows.

Ironically that song fell out of the book Living Praise because the owners withdrew the copyright. Not very loving – the new edition had a blank page with apologies instead of music.

So what has happened to the church after all these years?

So many times we sang this song from John 13.

So many sermons on this passage:

34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another? “Yeah right” is the classic kiwi approach!

sermon outline 28 April

WE DO GET IT RIGHT THOUGH

Today we remember those who gave their lives for their country – in whatever war you think of there have been terrible losses and sacrifice.

In the face of such devastation – many have shown the love of Christ in action in the face of terrible risk and threat.

  • Like those who stuck up for the persecuted Jewish people – and hid them or rescued them.
  • Those who refused to fight as pacifists – but served in amazing ways as peacemakers or medical staff
  • Chaplains who were with their people on the front lines praying and ministering to the dying
  • And many who nursed the wounded at great risk themselves. And the endless sacrifice of soldiers…

HOW NEW IS NEW?

What is new about this new commandment that Jesus gave?

Loving your neighbour wasn’t new – that was already in the Old Testament or Jewish Bible.

Listen and look again:

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU – is the key.

Love for Jesus was more than words – more than his teaching about love – but an action.

God so loved the world so much that he sent a text or telegram? I don’t think so.

God so Loved the world so much that he GAVE HIS ONLY SON. (John 3:16).

Jesus laid down his life for us. In fact, when he was preparing his followers for his death he said this (in the previous chapter in John):

23 Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!’

You find that passage – especially verse 24 – on memorials and cenotaphs throughout the world (κενοτάφιον – empty tomb; kenos – “empty”, and taphos – tomb) – memorials that are empty because the people remembered are elsewhere – on Flanders field or some unknown place of terrible sadness and death.

…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Paul says something very similar to husbands in Ephesians 5:

Eph 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Sacrifice! A great reminder!

So as we give thanks for those who have sacrificed today – let’s commit ourselves to really love each other as Jesus loves us!

  • It’s a tall order!
  • It is possible – by His grace and through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit!
  • It is essential for Christian witness – people know we follow Jesus because of our love
  • It is not PERFECTION – real love is honest, not pretentious, and knows how to say sorry and move on when things go wrong!

But – you may be thinking – “my life is too hard – this command is too hard”. You say to me, maybe – “you don’t know the people that I have to deal with” or “you don’t know my family, pastor!”

Let’s dig a little deeper into this passage before we go home today. Go back to verse 31of John 13:

It begins with this innocuous line: 31 When he was gone, Jesus said…

And of course context is everything.

The “he” is Judas. And Jesus loved Judas – he was one of his team.

And prior to that in John 13 Jesus had washed their feet – despite the protestations of Peter.

What is coming – for Jesus – is a betrayal and a denial – a cruel trial, flogging, a crown of thorns and an agonizing crucifixion.

It’s from that cross that Jesus forgives his tormentors.

This Jesus – who will need tremendous courage and strength – is the one who says here:

33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer.

In fact some translations have “Little children” here…

It’s a tender address. No parables here – no mysteries and riddles to crack.

They knew they had to love their neighbour (Leviticus 19:18).

It probable figured that they had to love each other.

Listen to the whole passage preceding the commandment again:

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come.

It would not feel like glorification for Jesus or his followers. It would feel like defeat.

Glorification is not about success, but obedience now in the short term – and reward in the long term!

We’re back to sacrifice are we not?

Back to our soldiers who give up their lives for others.

Heroes who rescue their friends on the battle field.

One can understand the feelings of their comrades at this time.

There is a sense of enormous gratitude – when you are rescued, protected, or saved by someone. I’d like to know – we’d all like to know – that there is someone we can depend upon, someone who will defend us if we are attacked or in danger.

So too Jesus – who died for us. He saves us.

So too those tens of thousands of New Zealanders who gave their lives in war or protecting others in some way.

Love is shown in sacrifice.

Amen.

Sunday sermon 13 January – Tell them I love them

Preacher: Ann Martin

Readings:  Isaiah 43:1-7;  Psalm 29;  Luke 3:15-17, 21 & 22

“Tell them I love them”

When I was preparing for today;  I read the readings supplied in the Lectionary and asked God,“What would You have me say?”

The words just jumped off the page, “Tell them I love them”.

So “God loves you”    Shortest sermon in History?

We all know the song, “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

But Love is more than a song we sing or something we talk about.    It’s a way of life.

But not everyone is secure in God’s Love for them.    In fact, Joyce Meyer says, “there is an epidemic of

insecurity in our society and I believe it is because people just don’t know how much they are loved by God.

The Bible says God is Love.    It’s not just something He does;  it’s who He is.

Everything He does is based on Love.    His mercy and grace are poured out on us every single day because of His Love.    He comforts us when we’re hurting and corrects us when we need it because He loves us.    Even when He doesn’t give us something we think we really want or need, it is because He loves us and knows what is best for us according to His purpose and plan for our lives.

Galatians 6 v 10 encourages us to look for ways and opportunities to be a blessing to people and I believe that’s what God had in mind when He said, “Tell them I love them.”    It starts with a simple truth.

“God loves you”    It couldn’t be any more simple.

As people start to believe, trust and grow more secure in this truth, they want to share His great Love.

Love is expressed in words and actions.    So “tell them I love them”, and find as many ways as you can to say it.

Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world, and though the world would have you believe that you do not count and that you are but a speck in the mass, God says, “I know you”    How wonderful is that?

Have you noticed how everyone seems to have an opinion about you?    And how so many people are quick to drag you down?    Sometimes it’s too hard to ignore what they say and we let their words rob us of our self-worth.    Take a moment and consider the things in life that rob us of self-esteem.    Words such as “I don’t want you”,   I don’t love you anymore” or “You’re unsuitable for the job, sorry but we’ll have to let you go” or “You keep making the same stupid mistakes.    You’ll never get it right”.    “You’re stupid, you’re useless” or “Why can’t you be like your brother, or your sister, or?”  and they leave us feeling like old bubblegum that’s been scraped off the bottom of a shoe.

Understand this 1. Your self-esteem cannot be based on what you do for a living because when you can no longer do it you’ll feel worthless.    Think about some of the famous people you know,  athletes, artists.

speakers, etc.    When they can no longer do what they do they often get depressed, even suicidal.

2. Your self-esteem cannot be based on what you own.    Recently, during the world recession, the housing market for many lost up to 40% of it’s value in one year.    Millions of people saw their social status go down and their financial security go up in smoke.

3. Your self-esteem cannot be based on other people’s opinion because it will always make you vulnerable to rejection.

So!   What’s the solution?    Discover what God thinks about you and build your life on it.    “thus says the Lord, who created you, who redeemed you.    I have called you by name.    You are mine.    Isaiah 43 v 1

It doesn’t get any better than that!

You need to know your identity in order to determine what you’ll do.    It won’t work the other way around, because if what you do is taken away or you fail doing it, you’ll feel like a nobody.

So where does your identity come from?    Not from your driver’s license, which is fortunate for most of us!    Not from your passport, that just shows where you’ve been.   And it doesn’t come from your school records—which is good, because many of us still battle the negative messages we got back then!

How about you?- does your identity depend solely on what you do?    If so, it’s time to seek God’s face and find out who you really are.    God says “I’ve called you by name you are Mine.”    That means when you can no longer do what you do, you’ll still be who you are in God’s eyes.    What could be better?

Your identity comes from God.    He gives it before He sends you on an assignment.    Before Abram became great, God changed his name to Abraham which means “father of many nations”

Gideon was the least in his family.    But when God commissioned him to build an army to defeat Midian, He changed Gideon’s identity and gave him a new self-image.

“The Lord is with you, you mighty man of Valour”  Judges 6 v 12.    What credentials!

No matter what opinions others may form of you, it’s only God’s opinion of you that really matters.

God wants you to know how precious, how valuable, how important you are to Him.    You matter—He loves you just as you are.    Find out from God’s word some of the things God says about you and never lose sight of your true value, your true worth!

If you’re struggling with feelings of unworthiness then praying longer, working harder and vowing to do better won’t necessarily change how you feel.    You’ve got to address the foundation.    To do that, you must begin seeing yourself as God sees you.    Only then will you experience the stability and security you seek.

Have you any idea how God feels about you?

He sees you as:

1. Loveable…”You are precious to Me.    You are honoured and I love you.    Do not be afraid for I am with you…Isaiah 43 v 4-5.    What assurance!

2. Valuable;    if you grew up feeling unwanted, you got the wrong message.    God established your worth at the cross…”the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you. Galatians 2 v 20.    The slogan on Hallmark cards says,    “When you care enough to send the very best.”    That’s what God did for you at the Cross.

3. Capable.    Without a supportive environment to grow up in, you can end up with a diminished sense of

Ability.    It’s why we compensate by overachieving.    But God know that you are capable because He’s given you special abilities.   1 Peter 4 v 10.    Furthermore He has us with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom.    So stay in your seat, and don’t let anybody tell you that your life doesn’t matter, it does, because God says so!

God knew every flaw and weakness you would have and every mistake you would make when He called you into relationship with Himself.    Nothing about you surprises Him.     God knows—and has always known

everything about you.    He knows what you will think, do and say every day for the rest of your life on earth.    He also knows hoe He will help you, teach, you, correct and encourage you, and give you grace for all your faults and failures.    He is always for you, never against you, no matter what you do.    This truth should set you free to lighten up, enjoy being who God made you to be and have a laugh at yourself.

You are who you are.    You do what you do, and it’s not always perfect.    In fact, sometimes you really mess up!    That’s part of being human.    But if you also love God, have a heart to change, and ask Him to help you, then you can relax.    God is working on you, changing you every day, helping you grow.    God is not mad at you.    Enjoy Him and enjoy yourself even though you are not perfected yet.

After all, the first question in the Catechism is “What is the chief end of men?”    To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

You are destined to be moulded into the image of Christ and nothing can stop that from happening if you will simply co-operate with the Holy Spirit and spend time with God.    You don’t have to clean up your act first.    You can come as you are, and God will make you what you ought to be.    When people come as they are, God will work miracles.

God loves us unconditionally, and that means He accepts us the way we are and then helps us to be all we can be.

I hope you also know how pleased and delighted God is with you.    Can you imagine walking around your house or driving in your car singing, “God is pleased with me and He delights in me”    Do you have that kind of confidence?    We should believe what God says in His word about how He feels toward us.    God may not be pleased with all our behaviour, but He is pleased with us if we love Him and want to make progress.

Jesus says that there is one way people will know whether we belong to Him or not, and that is our love for one another.    Love is the distinguishing sign or characteristic of a Christian.

It’s what sets us apart from the rest of the world.    The world is looking for something to believe in, something real, something tangible.    They are looking for love.    And God is love. 1 John 4 v 8. “Whoever does not love does not know God for God is love”    We need to show them Jesus.    We do that by walking in His love and demonstrating that love to others.    What we do for others does not always need to be a big thing.    It is often little acts of kindness that mean the most.

Charles Spurgeon said that Faith goes up the stairs that love has built.    “Faith works by love”    Love provides the energy for our faith.    Knowing God’s love for us as individuals and learning to allow His love to flow through us to others is the power behind our faith.    Just as a car needs petrol in order to move, our faith needs love in order to take us where we need to go.

Man’s love fails and gives up, but God’s love does not.    Man’s love is finite and comes to an end, but God’s love is infinite and eternal.    Man’s love is dependent on favourable behaviour and circumstances,  God’s love is not.     People place conditions on their, but God’s love is unconditional.

Loving people unconditionally is a very big challenge.    I am tempted to say it is impossible.    But God tells us to do it, and He never commands us to do something and then leaves us to perform it on our own.    His grace,, His power, His ability and favour is sufficient for us, which means He enables us to do what He has called us to do.    Sometimes God actually sends some people into our lives to function as ‘sandpaper’ to help smooth our rough edges.

Learning to walk in love with ‘unlovely’ people is one of the most important tools God uses to develop our spiritual maturity.    Romans 5 v 8 says “He loved us before the world was formed, before we loved Him or believed in Him”
God does not require us to earn His love.    We couldn’t anyway.    Love is something we are to become’  it is not something we do and then don’t do.

As followers of Jesus Christ, the love we are to show to the world is the unconditional love of God flowing through us to them.    When we have God’s love in us, we can give it away.

It is like the waves on the beach.    We use up one but there is always another on the way so we will never run out.

We can choose to love others lavishly and unconditionally, as He has loved us.

The love of God is the most wonderful gift we are given.    It flows to us, and then it should flow through us to others.    Loving God, yourself and other people should be our focus in life.    Remember what Don said a week or two ago.    He said about JOY.    “Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between”.    Receive God’s amazing unconditional love, then you can love yourself and live to give the love away that God has given to you.

Jesus gave us the command to love in Matthew 22 v 37—39    “You should love one another, just as I have loved you”    By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

You cannot give away something you don’t have.    And unless we possess love for ourselves, we can never progress in the will of God, which is to love other people.    We all need to accept ourselves, knowing that although we are not where we need to be, we are making progress.    Jesus died for us because we have weaknesses and imperfections, and we don’t have to reject ourselves while we are letting Him work in us.    Choose to believe what God says about you!

You train others to treat you by how your treat yourself.    So go to God today, and ask Him to tell you who you are and what you’re worth.    He will say, “You are precious to Me.   You are honoured and I love you.”    That’s God’s opinion—make it yours!    You can make your life an experiment of living in the love of God.    Every morning when you wake up let your first words be “I’m loved by God.”

Write these words on a card and carry them with you.    When you’re tempted to despair because you’ve blown it, take out the card and look at it.    When you’re overwhelmed by all you have to do, read it over and over to yourself.    Take it out when you’re tempted to sin, to dishonour God, to lash out in anger and hurt someone, or deceive someone, or use someone.     When you’re afraid, when you’re anxious, when you’re alone, remember and feast on the words that give life.    “I’m loved by God.”

God loves you.                        Believe it.

To Him be the glory.

Amen!