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Sunday Sermon 15 November 2015 – Seeing, Seeking, Speaking…

Readings:  1 Corinthians 13:11 – 1 Corinthians 14:5;    1 Corinthians 14:14-15 & 26; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 4:16-24.

MESSAGE:

“Seeing – Seeking – Speaking”

  • Two weeks ago – body life.
  • Last week – bearing one another’s burdens.
  • Today – Seeing, Seeking, Speaking…

STORY:

A little boy was on a School tour of the local Anglican Church and the vicar was walking the children around the building and explaining the flags, banners, and memorial rolls on the wall. He stopped at the World War 1 and 2 memorial and announced: “these are the names of the people who died in the services.” “Which ones?” asked the boy. “Morning or evening services?

There is little chance of you dying in church, statistically. If I were to die at work, on the other hand, it could be quite spectacular.

Which reminds me of the story of a young visiting preacher who was preaching on the text ‘I am coming soon”. He did not know that the lectern was a bit wobbly and got carried away. The thing toppled over and he landed in the lap of a lady in the front row. “No worries” she declared. “You did warn me”.

You’re unlikely to die in church. There is a chance of being in church where things are quite dead of course.

Some people prefer it that way. The calmer and less disruptive the better. You get churches like that. Very quiet as even the kids are spirited away to a back room in silence.

And then you get churches like ours which sound like a morning market – so much animated conversation. Don’t we get excited when we see our mates!

Real life in worship is about the presence of God.

The Gospel reading today is a short extract from the story we know well – the woman at the well – that’s how well we well know it! 🙂 (Isn’t English interesting?)

I’ve often preached on this story – and many others have too – suggesting that she was there in the middle of the heat of the day to avoid the scrutiny of busy-bodies. Maybe.

We have often suggested that when Jesus gets to the heart of the issue, this unnamed Samaritan woman uses theology as an escape.

You know the story – when it gets personal, discuss theological theories and avoid the truth.

PERHAPS WE ARE WRONG ABOUT HER

It’s possible that she was a good person – who was widowed a lot (okay you may think it a stretch, but I’ve met people who have married often, and sometimes divorced and remarried the same person). David Lose says this when speaking of her:

Jesus at no point invites repentance or, for that matter, speaks of sin at all. She very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced. Five times would be heart-breaking, but not impossible.

Further, she could now be living with someone that she was dependent on, or be in what’s called a Levirate marriage (where a childless woman is married to her deceased husband’s brother in order to produce an heir yet is not always technically considered the brother’s wife). There are any number of ways, in fact, that one might imagine this woman’s story as tragic rather than scandalous.

(Workingpreacher.org)

It may well be that she is a genuine seeker. Listen again: “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.”

Sometimes “seeing” indicates wisdom, or spiritual growth. It’s often linked to belief (“seeing the light”).

At a basic level, people want to “see” Jesus – like the unnamed Greeks in John 12 (See Tuesday’s message).

https://bbpsermons.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/10-november-2015-tuesday-church-seeking-jesus/

Or the first disciples in John 1:  Andrew brings Simon Peter to Jesus. Jesus calls Philip.

Joh 1:45  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Joh 1:46  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

SEEING AND SEEKING

Seeking is seeing with one more letter.

When we see Jesus – perhaps just as a prophet or special man (for many today he is still great for his ethics alone – the golden rule for example, in Luke 6:31) – when we are drawn to him – the seeking begins.

Interestingly – it is God who is the seeker at first.

In the discussion that comes up with the Samaritan woman on worship, Jesus says this fascinating thing:

Joh 4:23  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

In Genesis 3 after they eat the forbidden fruit, Moses records:

Gen 3:7  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Gen 3:8  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Gen 3:9  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

The first game of hide and seek. Fail.

We are told to seek God. A number of well-known verses come to mind:

Deu_4:29  But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

 Isa_55:6  Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 

Hos_10:12  Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

And these two:

Pro_8:17  I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

Jer_29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Seeing – seeking – coming – as in the invitation to Jesus in Matthew 11:

GOD SEES US – HE SEEKS WORSHIPPERS – HE SPEAKS TO US

God doesn’t need worshippers.  He sees us and knows our need for community and transformation.

He seeks us because he wants us to be connected and found as his “church” – those who are “called out” and “called” together into assembly in His presence.

It is here that He speaks to us.

In the passages we read about worship in the Corinthian and Ephesian churches today – there’s a lot about communication.

JESUS IS THE LIVING WORD OF GOD

It follows that He speaks through His life, his teaching, and through His Holy Spirit.

The gifts of the Spirit are there because God speaks and acts.

Here are some of the key verses again:

1Co 14:1  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

1Co 14:2  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

1Co 14:3  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

Eph 5:18  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Eph 5:19  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Eph 5:20  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

And the key one:

1Co 14:26  What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

Worship is not a weekly recharge like an electric car charging station. It is a place for community encouragement and teaching from the Word. But it also means that what we have been “self-feeding” through the week can be shared to strengthen the church – building up one another – as in previous sermons dated:

25 October  https://bbpsermons.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/sunday-sermon-25-october-2015-monuments-or-footprints/

1 November  https://bbpsermons.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/sunday-sermon-1-november-2015-as-each-part-does-its-work/  )

Perhaps this helps to show what we can become:

missionalchurch

THIS IS WHO WE SHOULD BE

  1. He sees us – we see Him and the faith journey begins.
  2. He seeks our fellowship/relationship – we seek him
  3. He speaks to us in Christ and through word and spirit – we speak to him in praise and worship and to each other in mutual edification/strengthening.

YOU CAN’T AVOID THE SPEAKING BIT – he is not silent and neither can we be

Prophecy – speaking God’s word to one another. 1Co 14:1  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

1Co 14:3  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 

Worship – singing to one another.

Eph 5:19  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord…

There is always going to be noise! Sound! Notes! words!

Community – building one another up in sharing God’s story in our lives.

1Co 14:26  What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

There is always going to be interaction. Everyone! Lots of action and gifts in action.

Witnessing – the woman in John 4 leaves her bucket and goes off to speak again – this time to others – and about Jesus! There is always going to be a testimony – a story – an account given of “what we have seen and heard”. Like these passages –  

From Luke:  Act 4:18  Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Act 4:19  But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. Act 4:20  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And from John: 1Jn 1:3  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1Jn 1:4  We write this to make our joy complete.

1Jn 1:5  This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 

How about you? Are you seeing, seeking, speaking about what you have seen and heard?

Amen.

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.