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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!

Christmas Day sermon 25 December 2013 – God chose who?

Readings:  Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:8-20

Message

We’ve looked at Mary through these weeks – her soul and spirit response to God’s call on her and the awesome responsibility of being mum to Jesus.

We looked at Joseph too – a man of God so open to God’s word and direction – a loving righteous man not wanting to submit Mary to public disgrace.

Last night we looked at the inn keeper  – and asked ourselves about our own openness to Jesus and His family – and by implication to all people in need of shelter and protection – the least of His little ones or brothers. Whatever we do to them – we do to Jesus! What a responsibility!

Today we look at the shepherds.

God chose them – angels spoke to them – and they too were stunned.

Matthew Henry says they were sent to: “…poor, humble pious industrious shepherds, who were in the business of their calling, keeping watch over their flock”

He goes on to say that we are not out of the way of Divine visits, when we are employed in an honest calling and abide with God in it”.

There are simple things we can learn from these illiterate and simple men:

  1. 1.      God gets their attention – and they investigate further.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

There is no mention of who keeps watch over their sheep!

Simply an urgency:

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

  1. 2.      God speaks to whom he chooses – and often outside of the religious establishment.

I’m not a fan of organised religion. That sounds odd really because I live indebted to organised religion.

The point is SYSTEMS and IMPORTANT PEOPLE are not always the vehicles through which God moves and acts.

The people in Jerusalem who advised Herod knew that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. But they didn’t make the 7 or 8 km journey to see. They were too busy with their systems.

(Nicky Gumbel – story of the Anglican warden who tapped a man on the shoulder and said:  we don’t do that here” when he raised his hands in worship. The man said “but I’ve found the Lord” to which the warden replied “well you didn’t find him here!”)

God sovereignly spoke to these shepherds – it was all unexpected.

Let’s watch this kids production “An unexpected Christmas”. (Video)

An unexpected Christmas

Surprises galore! (Key line – they’ll not be expecting that!)

  1. 3.      Good news is always worth sharing – and it’s normal to do so! 

The passage goes on to say:

17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. They were evangelists – they shared good news! And people were amazed – at the story, and you can be sure – t he story tellers themselves! Shepherds – seeing holy visions? What’s up here?

  1. 4.      Worship and praise are an appropriate response to this story! 

Suddenly Luke returns to Mary – who in his words:

19 But Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

 Then he goes onto the shepherds again:

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

It was back to work for them – but to be sure their attitudes were changed!

God spoke

They investigated

It was JUST AS THEY HAD BEEN TOLD!

The implications – that the Lord shared the good news with THEM and they weren’t in a trance or imagining things.

This was the real thing.

When we walk away from listening to this story – what is the impact on our lives?

A great question!

Only you can answer that. But God surely knows your heart – as do you.

Amen.

Christmas Eve sermon 24 December 2013 – any room?

Readings:

Titus 2:11-14 and Luke 2:1-14

Message

So how much room is there in your home and heart for Jesus?

Let’s watch this video!

The kids play is pretty direct – especially the people shutting their doors on Jesus!  No room in the inn – the doors kept shutting.

But there was a plan!

GOD”S PLAN seldom lines up with ours. We sometimes think that our spiritual lives have no connection with the ordinary things and the people around us in the world – with our political systems – our finances – our social lives – the complications of our society today.

It may seem to some that Christians hide away in church from all of this. The point is – it is all God’s! God’s world and God’s people.

Paul writes to Titus and reminds him of this universal and international intention of God: 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

While we recognise that Mary and Joseph were uniquely open to God – other people who probably weren’t that open are also used by him:

  • Caesar Augustus for one – issued a census that meant Mary and Joseph would be in the right place for Jesus to be born – Bethlehem.
  • The innkeeper  – who did not recognise the significance of who these three were – yet made a plan out of compassion – and set the tone for Jesus’ life amongst ordinary people and creatures of the earth.
  • The shepherds – not your average literate bible-knowing church goers of the day. God gets their attention  Why? Because he uses humble ordinary people for his purposes. The first visitors model for us the simple obedience that should be ours. More about that tomorrow!

The innkeeper – the man who made a plan – who could have been a kiwi with a “she’ll be right” attitude – organised a place where God affirms the simple things of creation and the humility of this new King. An upside down Kingdom indeed.

Are you prepared to go to any lengths to let Jesus in? Are you really wanting him in your life – in every part of it? There is a danger that we leave Jesus outside of those places that we regard as not very spiritual.

Well he made that stable a palace. And he can make your workshop, your garage, your office, your street – a place where his presence is known. And especially our homes. What a comfort to those who live alone –  through choice, circumstance, bereavement or poverty. We can have this Son of God right there with us. Psalm 68:6 is such an encouragement – “God sets the lonely in families”. The church can become such an extended family.

There needs to be room for Him in our inns of every shape, size and description.

Amen.