Blog Archives

Sunday 18 April 2021 @ BBP – YOU ARE WITNESSES OF THESE THINGS

Readings: Luke 24:36-48; Acts 1:1-8

Message:

Did you ever hear any ghost stories in your childhood?

There were family tales of haunted houses, campfire stories, and even on our Sunday School picnics in the Methodist church, we would catch a train to this park for a day trip, and up the hill under the trees was this lonely grave – and there were ghost stories there too. My parents told of places where they saw ghosts. Usually someone had died unnaturally or prematurely in the places which were said  to be haunted. And as kids in the mid 60s we were a tad terrified of the radio program that ran for 45 episodes called “The Creaking Door”. When you look at the titles of those stories, too many ghosts and scary things. Even Ghost busters only had 10 scary seconds in the theme tune, and the rest was quite cheerful. It was labelled as a supernatural comedy though. Our kids used to read “goosebump” stories, and loved terrifying movies as they grew up.

I’ve never seen ghosts. I’ve had a sense of the presence of evil, but never seen incorporeal spooky figures like Casper and his friends. Oh I did see dead people once but that was a side effect of medication after surgery. My only witness of a “ghost” ghost was in a play – watching Hamlet somewhere along the line. But in the real world, it is scary when dead people show up.

And so it’s not surprising that this appearance of Jesus in Luke 24, like the ones in John,  got them spooked. They would have heard the women’s accounts (remember how they called them rubbish – nonsense – leiros is the word.” The two on the Emmaus road had come back with the news of their encounter. So it shouldn’t have been a huge surprise. Yeah right comes to mind.

Jesus materializes, and they’re not ready for it. Startled and frightened is an understatement in v24. (Old Afrikaans is nice – geweldig geskrik – or the Message “scared half to death”)

Fear is a reasonable human response.

You would have heard my cemetery stories –  getting lost in Auckland once when at a meeting and my driver turning into a cemetery in the dark.

Or the old one of a guy who took a short cut through a cemetery and fell into a newly dug grave. He had to wait for sunrise, as you couldn’t really leap out of the thing. The next guy who fell in did leap out again when he heard a voice saying “good evening” in the darkness of the grave. That may be where the saying comes from “in for the high jump.”

The account by Luke goes like this:

Luk 24:36  While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Luk 24:37  They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. Luk 24:38  He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” (literally  hearts).  Perhaps he’d forgotten the bit about him being dead and buried.

Like Mary and Thomas last week, Jesus meets them where they are and gives them the opportunity to touch and see. Asking for something to eat settled the matter.

He quickly moves to the key issue. The fish finished, the teaching starts.

Like Cleopas and Mary on the Emmaus road he gives them this picture in broad strokes of the Messianic story going back to Moses, the prophets and the Psalms. Luke continues:

Luk 24:45  Then he opened their minds (νοῦς)  to understand the Scriptures, Luk 24:46  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, Luk 24:47  and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

He ends his classroom time with the simple “You are witnesses of these things.” (Luk 24:48) 

Tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection – and get people to respond. Why? It’s all done for them to deal with their sins and mess. So with the resurrection story comes the missionary task: “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

In his second book, the Acts of the Apostles, the same job is outlined: Act 1:4  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. Act 1:5  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”Act 1:6  So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Act 1:7  He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. Act 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Not only does Jesus turn everything on its head in terms of death, resurrection, the place of the body (in the context of a dominant Platonic culture that focused on the spirit or spiritual as the important, diminishing the body), he turns their world upside down.

Up to now they went to Jerusalem for their festivals. To the temple. It’s a centripetal motion.

At is death the curtain of the temple is torn in two, as heaven breaks through again – God’s people after this take God’s presence with them into the whole world.

To all nations. And from the centre outwards, rather than the other way around. A centrifugal movement.

The truth is, the modern church, whether our kind with its historical roots and story, or the modern no name brand versions, is still doing the centripetal thing – getting people to move towards a place where it all happens. In stead of a Temple it’s a center of entertainment often. We still worry about how to get people in here.

The movement is outward looking. It was that which he opens their minds to: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, Luk 24:47  and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luk 24:48  You are witnesses of these things.

In our Acts reading it goes like this: Act 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

They weren’t expected to do this from a position of weakness and fear. They would be empowered by the Holy Spirit. “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…”

Our motto as a church is always to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. Not because of a government policy, or a vaccination against a pandemic, or the movement to save the planet or whales or dolphins.

Hope comes out of resurrection. And the resurrection of Jesus is the story with a great ending. It’s the victory dealing with the mess of our past and the guarantee of the success of our future.

Resurrection is at the centre.

In fact, it was a requirement of the first apostleship – being a witness to the resurrection. So when Judas is replaced in Acts 1:22 Luke explains “For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” They elect Matthias.

In Acts we will find that they always focused on the resurrection. Peter’s sermons in Acts,2,3,4 and 5 culminate in the story of the resurrection. As an example, in Acts 5 Peter declares:

Act 5:30  The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. Act 5:31  God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. Act 5:32  We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

I love the account in Acts 17 when Paul is in Athens. I’m always excited about  Athens –  you may have noticed. Act_17:18  A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers  began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

It’s the heart of everything. The spirit of God who raised Jesus to life transforms us and empowers us to tell the story and live it out.

  • We’re still in the coming- in mode – agonizing over who we can invite to church.
  • We’re actually people who GO. And people on the GO.
  • We go out of here every week back into the mission field.

In my last parish back in our old country, I put a sign up above the door which you could see as you left the building:  “You are now entering the mission field”. When we went back a couple of years ago, it had been replaced with a more permanent one than my laminated bit of paper.

And we have all we need to share the story. And we need to know the story well too. Our job while we’re in this building is to get to know the story well.

It’s our job. Being witnesses. Together and separately – every day until we are not able to get out there anymore.

Then we can do it on the phone, on-line, by email. We can still pray for those who need the love of Jesus to help them see the point of life.

We are to be witnesses as long as we have breath.

  • And will they end up here on a Sunday? Maybe not. Probably not if we don’t include them in our ordinary lives.
  • And if they come along, they probably wont stay if we’re still cliquey and don’t open our lives and homes to them.
  • And they’ll never get anywhere unless we are witnesses. Someone has to tell the story. There’s a whole generation who don’t have a clue what it’s about.

We’re probably better at sharing ghost stories or the latest gossip or bad news than the story  of Messiah Jesus who overcame death and the grave.

And will ultimately transform everything.

And we’ll never be effective witnesses without the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us. And if it was anything that transformed them from lock-down in their upper room to going all over the world for Jesus and  risking and often giving up their lives, it was the Holy Spirit’s power transforming their fear to faith. Their powerlessness to passion. Amen.

Easter Sunday Message – 4 April 2021 – “And Peter”.

EASTER SUNDAY                                                                                 

1Co 15:1  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 1Co 15:2  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1Co 15:3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:5  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 1Co 15:6  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 1Co 15:7  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 1Co 15:8  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1Co 15:9  For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1Co 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1Co 15:11  Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

Mar 16:1  When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Mar 16:2  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb Mar 16:3  and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” Mar 16:4  But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. Mar 16:5  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. Mar 16:6  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. Mar 16:7  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” Mar 16:8  Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

MESSAGE: “AND PETER

We mentioned on Thursday night how depressing it must have been for Jesus.

It’s hard to imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind that night. But consider this:

After the institution of the Lord’s supper, we read these words:

Luk 22:21  But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. Luk 22:22  The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.

  • His disciples of course question among themselves who it could be. As if unmoved by this shock announcement, they then debate which of them was considered to be the greatest. So he has to teach them about serving again.
  • And then, just to add to the pretty daunting scene, he predicts that Peter would betray him. Peter  replies, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
  • They go to the mount of Olives – to Gethsemane, where Jesus prays. And of course, they fall asleep.

It’s interesting that Jesus in Gethsemane was so troubled. Mark tells us: “he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. Mar 14:34  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,”

Someone said that he was troubled because he knew what was coming. We on the other hand get anxious because we don’t know what’s coming.

What must have been really troubling was how these disciples would cope.

Especially Peter – who would still  have to lead the group.

Mar 14:27  “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ Mar 14:28  But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Mar 14:29  Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Mar 14:30  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” 31  But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.

There’s something quite nice about the message given to the women at the empty tomb:

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.   Mar 16:7  But go, tell his disciples and Peter…

And Paul, in our reading from 1 Corinthians 15 says this: 1Co 15:3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:5  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

Peter, some suggest, might have been a Zealot. I’m not convinced about that. But he is the one who takes out his sword and cuts Malchus’ ear off in the garden.

I think what Peter didn’t understand was the idea that Jesus would suffer and die. He argued about it from the beginning – straight after his confession of faith ”you are the Christ” – rebuking Jesus.

Graham Greene in one of his later novels Monsignor Quixote, has this Spanish priest Father Quixote in debate with the communist ex-mayor of their town. I guess triggered by the mayor’s Marxist utopian ideals, the priest has a dream. In this dream, in short, Jesus doesn’t die on the cross but calls down legions of angels who get him off alive. Everyone is happy, and the whole world rejoices and bows down. There is no death, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and resurrection. When he wakes up, the priest is relieved that it didn’t happen like that. He would have been without a job.

The point is – easter would be meaningless for us if there had not been that awful day when our Lord Jesus suffered the agony of the cross.

Think of all the pagan easter symbols which are in Spring in the northern hemisphere.

  • If flowers didn’t die, seeds producing new plants wouldn’t matter.
  • If rabbits didn’t get old, you would need new baby bunnies.
  • New life only means something because the old life dies.
  • Spring following spring would not mean much either. Light is useful because of the dark.

Peter wanted it all to be successful. He had to fail to learn to grow stronger and face the greater challenges that would await him. He’s the New Testament Job in  a sense. Only Luke records these important words of Jesus to Peter: 31  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Peter was never able to read Martin Luther sadly. One writer puts it like his:

Luther suggests that if all were quiet and one had the promise of peace and prosperity, then one could be sure that the devil was very near.

If on the other hand it appeared as tough all hell were breaking loose and one were likely to suffer pain and hurt, one could be very sure that God was very near.

Luther’s view was that it is the cross of Jesus that enables us to be realistic about the way things really are.

Father Quixote’s dream is a nightmare for him because his ministry would have no meaning for anyone. In fact, no one would remember who Jesus was. Another messianic dot in history.

William Lane in his commentary writes:

Were it not for his resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth might have appeared as no more than a line in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, if he were mentioned at all. The witness of the four Gospels is unequivocal that following the crucifixion Jesus’ disciples were scattered, their hopes shattered by the course of events. What halted the dissolution of the messianic movement centered in Jesus was the resurrection. It is the resurrection which creates “the good news concerning Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” – which is what Mark’s gospel starts with.

Mark’s gospel ends with these words: Mar 16:8  Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

  • That stone, the tomb, the young man in white – mix that with the grief and torment of those three days, and you would understand their response.
  • And in any case people didn’t believe women in those days. They were not accepted as witnesses in a law court.

Luke writing his historical account puts it like this:

Luk 24:9  When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. Luk 24:10  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. Luk 24:11  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. (I preached on this in Easter 2019 – how their words seemed like rubbish. Leyros is the word. Literally a load of …. I’m sure you remember!)

Mark’s account makes sense. He was a disciple of Peter – so would be thinking about his mentor. And he of course ran away naked from Gethsemane. He would have been sympathetic with the terrified women.

The resurrection is first importance stuff, says Paul in the reading from 1 Corinthians we heard.

  • The failure and restoration of Peter is a great help to us when we fail.
  • The hope of resurrection is hugely helpful in a pandemic where people are dying in their droves.
  • The promise of Easter – victory over death – is our only hope when we stare into the grave, or face our own mortality, or the challenge of aging or degenerative diseases..
  • The power of the resurrection now means we live life in the light when things are dark, in spring when it is winter, and in permanent daylight saving when the night is long. We can steal Ben King’s words then: “When the night has come; And the land is dark; And the moon is the only light we’ll see; No, I won’t be afraid; Oh, I won’t be afraid; Because we know you  will be there for us!” (The orignial song has: Just as long as you stand, stand by me).

He is risen indeed. Peter had to hear this. So do we.

Amen.

12 April 2020: day 18 of lock down and Easter Sunday – hearing the voice of Jesus in the dead-ends of our lives.

Readings: Matthew 18:1-10; John 20:11-18

 

 

 

 

Message 29 March 2020 – Jesus’ compassion and the hope we have in Him

Readings: Psalm 130; John 11:1-45

Message

Click on this link to watch this message

People are sometimes fascinated by bible statistics. Like the longest and shortest verses.

If I were to ask you what the shortest one is you may say 1Thess 5:17  “pray continually”. Or the verse before that verse 16: “Rejoice always”.

In the Old Testament NIV its Job 3:2 – “He said”. It’s a grim passage. I think the translators who did the verses were having an off day really. Although in that chapter he says quit a lot of bad stuff.

Most people would go for “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. It certainly is powerful in its brevity.

Here’s the passage where you find it: Joh 11:33  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  Joh 11:34  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Joh 11:35  Jesus wept. It’s interesting how “come and see” keeps cropping up in John’s gospel.

In the current crisis the world finds itself in – and our version of it in New Zealand, one of the burning questions is this: how long will it be like this?” Hope is dashed for many – jobs have been lost – plans wrecked – and loved ones taken too soon. And it’s a waiting game in many ways – wait and see. And so the first thing to consider in our readings today, and especially in this story in Bethany –  is this:

  1. How do people deal with losing hope and waiting, waiting, waiting.

It’s an interesting scenario really. Up to this point waiting for Jesus to come would have been tough for Mary and Martha. Jesus – when first told about Lazarus being sick (v3) we are told that he “loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v5). Intriguingly he stays on there another two days. You get another classic kind of double talk. Nicodemus and the two births. The woman at the well and two kinds of water. Here Jesus says:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” Joh 11:12  His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”

There it is – the mystery of two different realms – that fourth dimension. John goes on:

Joh 11:13  Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. Joh 11:14  So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, Joh 11:15  and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Mary and Martha must have struggled. Like we do – when we are holding on to hope – praying desperately. There are hundreds of thousands facing that kind of waiting for news of critically ill patients around the world.

Psalm 130 we heard read today speaks about waiting for the Lord. It starts off quite desperately too: Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;  O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. (verses 1-2)

And in the hoping and waiting there is often impatience. When Jesus gets to Bethany three times people have a go at him – if you’d just got here quicker.

Jesus always knew the bigger picture of Lazarus being raised to life again.

  1. He still wept

Jesus’ compassion is always a help for us. His humanity means he knows and feels it all as we do. He still does when you are facing troubled or challenging times. Twice in the John passage it says Jesus was “deeply moved”.

There is of course another angle on this as well. Jesus weeps elsewhere over Jerusalem and their lack of faith. But the translations hide an angle on his response. “Deeply moved” is also translated as terribly upset, groaning in himself and very sad. The NLT and the message pick up the other meaning of this emotion:

Verse 33: (NIV84)  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

 (NLT)  When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

(MSG)  When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him.

Verse 38: (NIV84)  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.

 (NLT)  Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance.

(MSG)  Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it.

There’s a great debate about why Jesus would be angry – their unbelief, the power of death, a realisation that he would face it too. This pandemic with rows and rows of coffins also shoves death in your face doesn’t it.

But he refocuses on what he’s there for and gets them to role away the stone.

There’s another short phrase here- yes its not a whole verse – but basically the people there say (in the King James Bible) “he stinketh”. This is  real earthy stuff – that’s why when they’re use an ice rink to store the dead, its grim and surreal. This is the wage of sin – death. From Adam to today. BUT – as Paul reminds us – the gift of God is eternal life. Lazarus will rise – but he will die later and eventually be raised again forever. Like Jesus.

  1. Resurrection is the bigger picture

Jesus uses every opportunity to teach his followers the bigger picture. In every sign he performs in John’s gospel, profound teaching follows. Think of Nathanael, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and later “doubting” Thomas. In this case

interacting with Martha he says this:  “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). It’s a great question for us to consider as well today.

If people start dying here in New Zealand – we must share our hope for the life to come with people.

Later in John 14:1 he says “Trust in God, trust also in me.”

That’s all we can do. And of course he tells them about those many mansions – rooms – baches – that he will prepare for us, and  then come back for us so we can be with him.

Don’t lose hope. Remember Jesus’ compassion. And his victory over the last enemy -death. Wait on him. Wait for him to work in every situation which promotes death – let’s be  ready to give a reason for the hope we have and tell others about the eternal life that is given to those who believe in God’s one and only Son given for the world he loves.

Amen.

 

Easter Sunday Message – 21 April 2019: Their words seemed like rubbish…

Readings: Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12

Key verse: Luk 24:11  “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (NIV)

“καὶ ἐφάνησαν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λῆρος τὰ ῥήματα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἠπίστουν αὐταῖς.” (GNT – TR)

“…but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (ESV)

MESSAGE:

I wonder if you’ve ever been “dissed”? It’s an interesting word. It means to be treated with disrespect. I discovered it to be a popular word when working with teenagers. It’s crept into the English language since the 1980s – through hip hop music I am told. Back in the 1920s it meant you were disconnected – like a telephone not working. Something loose in the head. Either way it isn’t a very nice thing – to be disrespected – or dismissed. Or disempowered.

An amazing thing happens in this story of the life of Jesus – through his teachings, death and especially his resurrection. The people who were usually disempowered at the time were taken seriously – lifted above their status in life. Galatians 3:28 sums it up well:

Gal 3:26  You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:27  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:29  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

So – there are women in the group from the beginning. They would have been “dissed” by people in those days:

  • Disempowered mainly,
  • Dismissed if they had an opinion.
  • Discarded in divorce if a man got bored with them.

But they are there in Jesus’ team. From early on.

And on Easter Sunday in Luke’s account they are the first witnesses.

The “dissing” continues sadly. Even though there are at least three women named as witnesses.

The translators are kind to us – keeping things polite. In the NIV we read: Luk 24:11  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Nonsense.

The word is LEYROS. It’s used once only in the New Testament. Here.

It’s translated as an idle tale, nonsense, foolishness, and a fairy tale. Its deeper meaning is more crass. Vulgar. “What a load of…”

And that’s the response you get today to when you tell people that a dead man got up again.

Telling the Christian story today in this generation will get you “dissed” too.

People will think you’re nuts. Loony. Weird. Strange. Daft.

But that is okay.

  • Seeing the impossible.
  • Believing the unlikely.
  • Having hope for the hopeless.
  • Courage in the face of death because you know that it’s not the last word – well let them think you’re mad.

It’s a mad but glad tale – that someone who was dead was raised up

  • That he appeared in locked rooms
  • That he cooked a barbeque of fish for them on the beach
  • That he restored a man who denied him three times and gave him an amazing and exciting job to do
  • That he showed up over 40 days to people – up to 500 at one time, meaning they weren’t all hallucinating
  • That he sent them with a message of good news to the world
  • That he promised never to leave them
  • That they were to wait to for the gift of His Spirit – who would empower them to do the work given

Other writers help us to make sense of the story. Luke records the words of Peter in Acts 10:

Act 10:39  “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, Act 10:40  but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. Act 10:41  He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Act 10:42  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. Act 10:43  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Those who dismiss this story and your testimony of your love for Christ – this risen saviour – will discover that he is judge and the end of all things.

This resurrection account is central in the story of the New testament and the Christian life through the centuries – we speak to, worship, praise, and hear from this Jesus.

Paul writing to the Corinthians prioritises it like this writing to the Corinthians: 1 Co 15:3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

And later he says:1Co 15:42  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 1Co 15:43  it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 1Co 15:44  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

What great news is this for us.

Death is not particularly attractive. We grow cold and begin to decompose quite quickly. Like Lazarus who had been dead four days, well quoting the King James Bible, – in John 11:39, one of those words only used once – the phrase is “he stinketh”

Being raised imperishable, in glory, in power as a spiritual body sounds wonderful.

Going back to Luke 24 – where the women are dismissed, Peter seems to have some redeeming factors. Luk 24:12  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

He went to look – and gave it some thought. The penny drops eventually. And Jesus appears to him with three questions about his love – as he restores his failed life – because he had dissed Jesus three times – disowned him. He does it over breakfast – that restorative chat.

Hopefully people today will investigate this amazing story as well. If you haven’t figured it out yet – I encourage you to have a closer look. You should while you can – it’s to late when you die and people will say of you if you hang around too long –  “he stinketh’.

Today is a good day to investigate this empty tomb, and to put your faith in Christ the risen Lord. Because the witness of those women was not an idle tale, but a brand new truth to change the world. Death was defeated!

Scripture often says this: now is the hour of salvation. Put your trust in  him today. It won’t only guarantee a new resurrection body in the future. It will mean a real relationship with the risen Jesus today. A friend and Saviour, a guide and provider for you to depend on.

Amen

 

21 April 2019 Easter Sunday Sunrise Service – Peace be with you

Reading:

John 20:19-22  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Message

With Anzac Day coming up – there’s a lot of talk about security and keeping the peace. And at a personal level there are many people who don’t experience peace in their lives. Anxiety tends to crowd peace out in this day and age.

What I like about this Easter account in John 20 is how Jesus greeted these fearful, distressed and confused disciples with a greeting of peace. In this short passage it happens twice.

I wonder what peace means to you?

Here are some of the things that peace does not mean:

  1. Peace does not mean we can pretend that war or conflict or failure has never happened.
  2. Peace does not mean that there need be no apology or remorse.
  3. Peace does not mean there should be no accountability for things that are criminally wrong.

Pretending that something didn’t happen is the worst thing. It makes people feel devalued.

In every part of life people abuse both power and position in very damaging ways. Historians looking back on World War 1 especially can see how foolish the worlds leaders were in taking the world to war. And how often don’t you hear people praying for leaders today to becoming peace makers. Leadership is probably one of the most important areas of life in every arena – good leaders often determine the fate of nations and the world.

At that first Easter it was the leaders who were in trouble. After the terrible execution of Jesus – and the failure of his disciples – particularly Peter – it must have tough when Jesus kept appearing in their lives.

In John 21 the peace making continues. They had gone back to what they knew best – they went fishing.

And Jesus meets them there – in their retreat to the old world they knew before they met him. He takes them back to their better days as disciples by doing the miraculous fish thing again – and he gets their attention. Listen to the tone of this conversation:

Joh 21:5  Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”  Joh 21:6  He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. (ESV)

Then he invites them to breakfast. It’s a great example for us – eating together is the best place to sit and really share one’s life with another, and to have those difficult conversations.

  • The details are there – the thoughtfulness
  • He has the Barbeque going – he has fish and bread already.
  • He meets their basic needs –while allowing them to catch an abundance of fish as well.
  • And then proceeds to restore Peter. Peter who had denied him three times publicly. Those denials had to be addressed for him to come to a place of peace.

And by the way – if you don’t get how serious this was – imagine your best friend, or loved one being arrested and executed for no good reason. And you denied knowing him or her. ( hymn: Do your friends despise, forsake you?)

Jesus asks Peter – three times –

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Three times – one for each of the three terrible denials. He uses Simon his old name – meaning a reed. And not the new name he’d given him – Peter – the rock. Peter would have understood the implication. At hearing the third question we are told that Peter was hurt. Ironic – considering how he’d treated Jesus.

I do think he understood true remorse and sorrow.

Luke records that he had wept bitterly when he failed.

And Jesus fed him at that breakfast. That act of kindness was part of the restorative process. Three times he responded to Jesus – “I love you”. Three times Jesus gave him the pastoral care job that was to be his – “feed my lambs – tend my sheep – feed my sheep”.

I love reading Peter’s words as an older and wiser person:

In 1Pe_1:2 he says in his greeting:  (to God’s elect )who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

He goes on to say in 1Pe 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1Pe 1:4  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,

He also writes in his second letter: 2 Pet 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Later he writes: 2Pe 3:13  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 2Pe_3:14  So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

There is an interesting end to this passage.  Jesus gives Peter the good news that he will live until old age – but also predicts his death. Like the other disciples – Peter would give up his life for Jesus at some point. I think Peter would have been at peace about this too.

This peace is something that Jesus gives us. Do you have it? He also said this:

Joh_14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Joh_16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

And returning to today’s passage: Joh_20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

We need peace to take the gospel of His peace to others – and to be peacemakers. And we need his peace in abundance.

Receive the peace of Christ today wherever you are.

Amen,

1 April 2018 Sunday Message – MARY AND THE GARDENER

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Message.

We went to a memorial service recently. On Waitangi Day actually. We were able to take some of our friend’s ashes and scatter them in the garden of the church in the city.

The interesting experience for me happened when we first arrived. We were walking around the grounds and I passed the gardener who was on his haunches digging away in one of the beds. Amazing – I thought – on a public holiday too. He had an old floppy hat on, and typical non-descript gardening gear. Not your Sunday best.

When I walked past him a second him he got up – and I discovered I knew him very well. And had done so for over ten years.

I couldn’t help at that moment thinking of Mary at the tomb.

“Thinking he was the gardener…” (v15) – she asks Jesus where his body was.

It raises questions for the curious mind. What was Jesus wearing?

His burial gear was in the tomb.

She doesn’t recognize him at all.

Did he look like a gardener?

Or is this the stuff that happens when you’ve lost a loved one and your mind plays tricks on you.

Grief does strange things. I remember a good friend who died at 19. I was his youth leader. Yes, I know you find that strange – I was young enough once to be a youth leader.

I’d seen Duncan after he died. I went with his parents to support them at the viewing.

So, I knew my mind was playing tricks when I thought I saw him a couple of times in a crowd. Or in public place.

It’s like a fog when you grieve.

The responses of all the disciples are understandable over that weekend.

They knew he was dead.

It would have torn their hearts in two.

Sometimes we live in that kind of fog – of protracted grief and sorrow – not only because we mourn our loved ones – because we have all kinds of losses we still mourn.

  • For immigrants – the country of our birth.
  • For those of us who feel the weariness of aging – we mourn our youth.
  • For those whose marriage had died – there is mourning for lost love.
  • For those who feel alone – there is grieving for the years when we really enjoyed intimate close friends.
  • For those who suffer – we mourn the loss of those care free days when getting out of bed was pain free and worry free.
  • For children changing school or moving home there are real losses too.

They all have their own kind of fog – those emotions.

Which makes the Easter story even more powerful. Even when people in their pain cry out that God is unfair and that if he were so loving he would understand our agony and do something about it – Easter tells us that he does and that he did.

He does understand, and he did do something.

Jesus took all this mess and agony on the cross.

He really does understand our pain.

And like Mary in the garden – our focus can be wrong.

Mary didn’t need to go to Specsavers.

You often see what you expect to see. Or you don’t see what you have ruled out as a possibility.

What changes this?

He calls her name.   

Joh 20:16  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

It is one of the most beautiful moments in the whole of Scripture.

In her complicated life hearing Jesus speak her name before was a sacramental moment of grace – she was drawn into a new life and community by this amazing appealing attractive man who drew all kinds of people to himself – the ones needing healing, the ones who made holes in the roof – those Greeks who were wanting to see him – tax collectors, outcastes, rejects.

Many heard him speak their name.

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)

“Mary”.

She knew that voice. No wax in those ears.

This is that intimate voice and a personal address.

Not a distant cosmic Lord but a close, loving address from someone who knows our deepest needs, our histories, our dreams and our losses.

It sounds a bit like John 10 – that passage about the Good Shepherd:

“The sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). Thereafter the Good Shepherd says, “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14).

It’s not surprising that Mary recognizes the risen Christ when this Good Shepherd’s voice is heard calling her name.

Let Jesus call your own name, and the name of whoever you’ve brought with you, whoever needs his love and healing today.

Maybe for the first time – or maybe if it’s a long time since you heard his voice.

He really is alive and speaks today.

For Easter to be real we all need to hear the good shepherd speak our name.

Personally. Intimately.

We become part of this Easter community. That is what church really is.

A people of the resurrection who know Jesus now. And who know His voice.

A people whose grief is healed, whose fog is lifted, and who know what their purpose is – glorifying God, enjoying Him forever, and sharing the good news of Easter every day.

  • That Christ has died.
  • Christ is risen
  • Christ will come again.

For now, we live in that waiting zone, living for him until he comes. –

Amen.

 

14 April 2017 – Good Friday: Windows on the cross of Jesus.

READING: Luke 23:32-47

MESSAGE 

We’re going to carry that cross after we’re done here today. It’s a fair weight, but not full size.

We had a volunteer up on it last Friday. A young girl. It was about her size.

No nails. No ropes. She was just standing on the top of her chair with her hands in the right place and her feet where they would be resting on a platform – so that she could push herself up to breathe.

I asked her how she was feeling at the end of the reflection on the cross – and she said – “tired”.

Jesus’ cross would have been a bit bigger. About 7 to 9 feet tall (2,1m to 2,7m), and would have weighed up to 300 pounds (136kg)

  • It had to bear his full weight – which would pull on those nails. (And you thought a thorn in your foot was bad.)
  • His thorns were pressed down into his head.

What is your response to seeing Jesus on the cross?

  • We heard a creative narrative describing Jesus’ Mother’s response.
  • And the thoughts of the centurion.

What about us?

The cross was a horrible symbol of Roman power and control. if you had a relative or friend nailed on one, it would have acted as a warning to you and your family to behave and submit.

It would have been enough to give you nightmares and probably post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • That horrible symbol of torture – we wear in shiny gold or silver.
  • And as Christians we look at it with gratitude and hope, praise and thanksgiving.

Why? What happened with this one crucifixion amongst many thousands more – that made this possible? That this Friday should be called “Good”?

There are many ways to see the cross.

Like an orchestra with many parts, they all combine together in an amazing declaration of the love of God. Perhaps today a quintet is enough – just five of them:

  • Perhaps foremost in our thinking is punishment for our sins. That Jesus did this in our place. Although this is understood better in cultures that favour crime and punishment. We sing songs these days about the wrath of God being satisfied. Some people struggle with this – trying to balance it with His love in John 3:16 and 17. Believing that His son being sent motivated by love and not vengeance. That he was sent to save the world (which means the people), and not to condemn them. Of course, we should not be surprised at God’s righteous anger. We share some of that at times, although our motives are not always clear.

Related to that is the broader question of justice. The difference in our human justice system is that the people who have been wronged are often angry about the outcome and often want convicted criminals to pay more. Whereas the judges are not emotional at all. They are all about the balance and proportion of justice. Parents have to be careful here that they don’t punish children out of anger. Our emotional anger is very different from God’s righteous anger.

  • Shame and honour are another window on the cross. For some cultures, shame and honour are a bigger issue than punishment and wrath. When it comes to concepts like honour, many of us don’t understand honour cultures at all. Sin brings dishonour on us. And only Jesus can pay that debt. It’s an old theory of satisfaction for sin developed by an archbishop of Canterbury a thousand years ago. Jesus took our shame – it was a shameful business being pinned up there, and often naked too.

He was shamed for us – he takes our shame – and he removes our shame. The scripture speaks of our cleansing from sin and with that shame is removed.  For example 1Peter 2:6 – For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 

  • Forgiveness is part of the package. It goes without saying. Our sins are dealt with because he dies for them. We are reconciled with God – the blood of Jesus cleansing us from our sins – and we experience this amazing mercy through faith in Jesus. We don’t have to feel guilty any longer. With forgiveness, we become friends of God. Paul reminds in his important summary in 1 Corinthians 15:

1Co 15:3  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture…

What scripture is he referring to here? Not just some proof texts, but the huge expectation in the Old Testament of someone coming who would deal with sin and bring forgiveness once and for all. Isaiah 53 gives us a glimpse of this:

Isa 53:5  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isa 53:6  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

  •  Then there is simply the change that happenswe are transformed. Paul talks about this whole process in Romans – our sin has consequences – how Jesus has dealt with those – how we are justified by faith – how there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus– and then in chapter 12 he uses that important word “therefore”

Rom 12:1  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Rom 12:2  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We are transformed – changed to be like Jesus. And that is not just about us as individuals – it influences our community life.

  • And so amongst other benefits of the cross and resurrection of Jesus is the creation of a new people. Last but not least. This is about us being here together today.

 Most of us who are not Jewish, says Paul in Ephesians 2, were… without hope and without God in the world. Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

He goes on:

Eph 2:14  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, Eph 2:15  by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, Eph 2:16  and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 

When we live out all these benefits in a community of reconciliation, that community includes people that would have normally been separated from each other.

Paul also reminds us in Galatians 3:28 Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And Jesus’ prayer for unity reinforces this: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:2–21)

This is an essential part our witness today when we gather as one people.

OUR RESPONSE TODAY

There are many more consequences to this death on the cross. So many books written – so many aspects and angles. Like that huge pink diamond sold earlier this month in Hong Kong which took nearly two years to cut, it has many facets and surfaces.

Like Mary, the centurion, any other characters in that Easter event, and people through the ages – we all have to respond one way or the other.

There is no escaping the demands the cross of Christ makes on us – to take note and react – and to take action ourselves.

How amazing that this one death does all this.

What has made the difference?

Do we have to wait until Sunday to find out?

Well no. Had this been any other death, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Unless we were tracing our family tree and found a relative who had been crucified, or some DNA connection that would make us think about our forefathers.

This is different – because of Sunday. The third day. The empty tomb.

The many appearances of Jesus to people. His eating food.

The fish barbeque on the beach.

The appearance of Jesus in locked rooms.

The holes in his hands and feet.

This is different – because of His unique position as the very first person to genuinely be resurrected. Yes, Lazarus and others were raised from the dead. They would have died from natural causes – probably in old age.

This Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith – is the first in the family – and we will follow. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1Co 15:20) 

  • We can’t speak about the cross without rejoicing in the resurrection.
  • And we can’t think of new life, resurrection life, without marveling at the amazing love of Christ – shown on the cross.

Paul’s words in Romans 5 help us end today:  Rom 5:7  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. Rom 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV84)

We thank Him for the cross today. Words can barely express our gratitude for His love.

Amen.

 

Sermon, 5 June 2016 – resurrection; then, and now, and then….

READINGS: 1 Kings 17:17-24; Luke 7:11-17

SERMON  

Last week it was the faith of the centurion we looked at – his faith led to the healing of his servant.

The very next story in Luke – and there is no faith to be seen.

  • It’s a funeral.
  • It’s grim.
  • There’s a widow and her only son has died.

The dead guy can’t have faith – and there is no expectation of faith at a funeral. Just pain and sorrow – deep grief.

The people around would have known about Elijah raising a widow’s son. Once word got out they would have joined the dots – here was another prophet empowered by God.

But put yourself in the story.

This is 5 miles away from Nazareth. 25 miles away from Capernaum where we were last week. Quite  a long walk really.

The death would have been very recent. They buried their dead within 24 hours. Not like our week’s mourning at most here. Or the Swedish custom of a couple of weeks between death and the funeral.

So the grief is still raw – this is a child – an only son of a widow – it’s a disaster from an economic survival point of view.

The professional mourners would have been there. Wailing.

Don’t think that’s a bizarre custom either. They cried loudly so that the real mourners would not be the centre of attention as they genuinely wept.

It was all healthy but raw.

And along comes this prophet like Elijah. Except things are different. Elijah knew the family and he was known to them. In this account Jesus didn’t.

  • Uninvited.
  • A stranger who walks in.
  • A crowd following him intersects with the funeral crowd.
  • Imagine someone doing that at a funeral you’re at. Unusual to say the least.

He touches the funeral bier. The coffin – which would have been an open kind of frame. It certainly brought the procession to a halt.

The key line is verse 13: Luk 7:13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

What a strange thing to say. Of course she would be crying. Grief specialists would say to her: “let it out dear. It’s okay to cry!”

  • It comes from compassion. In fact, a better translation is probably this:

13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” (NRSV)

  • It also comes from hope – and knowledge of what was possible.

He knew he could reverse this. He knew his ultimate destiny. He knew that resurrection would ultimately change the way we see the world.

I remember Nicky Gumbel talking about how interesting a person Jesus would have been to have around.

  • At a wedding.
  • At a picnic.
  • When out fishing.
  • During a storm at sea.
  • At a funeral.

The text is very matter of fact. Remember also that only Luke tells us this story. It’s not in the other gospel accounts. Listen again:

Luk 7:14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
Luk 7:15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Luk 7:16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”
Luk 7:17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

WHAT ABOUT US

What do you make of this?

At a factual and historical level, it’s Jesus showing his hand to the crowds. The word certainly would have got out, as was the case with the raising of Lazarus. In Lazarus’ case it was a nail in his own coffin as his enemies were provoked to plot his death.

There are two points to take home today really.

1. COMPASSION

For us today it is a reminder of His compassion – shown in so many other gospel accounts.

  • The hungry – he had compassion on them and fed them.
  • The sick – he healed them.
  • Blind beggars who called out to him – in compassion he healed them.
  • And two great stories in the bible – the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal son – are both about compassionate people – the Samaritan and the Father in the stories.

It has to speak to us about compassion – we at least have to be like that – from deep within. The word itself – compassion – in the original New Testament Language encompassed the bowels, heart, lungs, liver or kidneys – all seen in those days as the seat of human emotion.

It gets us here (point to gut).

Are we really compassionate? the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, said this: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Not a bad motto. To live by – not just to have on the wall or on your facebook page.

2. WOULD THAT JESUS SHOW UP IN ALL KINDS OF PLACES.

I bet no one afterwards at the funeral tea was resentful that this strange rabbi gate-crashed their ceremony.

“Who’s that bloke ‘ey stopping the procession?”

I’ve been watching too much British television I think.

Jesus is really keen to walk into the lives of our families and friends – he brings a whole new perspective on our sickness, pain, griefs and our dying. And our living!

And he really wants to walk into our mess too.

It’s ultimately about resurrection. Not about disembodied souls going to heaven. But about a whole new life at the end of it all.

And the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead – the Holy Spirit – is at work in us. (Romans 8:11).

That resurrection life begins now – we are made alive spiritually. He still breaks through into our messy world by His Holy Spirit.

Nicky Gumble tells the great story about a man who got really carried away in a very dull staid church. He was lifting his hands and shouting “hallelujah”- whereupon the Church warden came up to him at tapped him on the shoulder saying “we don’t do that here!” The man said excitedly – “but I’ve found religion”. The warden replied – “you didn’t get it here”.

If Jesus can walk into a funeral procession and turn things around, he can surely walk into our situations and change things too – bring new life and hope.

Next week when our guests are here there will be opportunities for us to receive prayer and really hear from the Lord. I encourage you to bring a friend along.

God still shows up in our lives. He changes us to make us compassionate.

He fills us with hope too – which is an infectious and helpful force in a pretty hopeless world. In fact, hope is the basis for our witnessing. Peter writes this:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

Hopeful people are joyful! Happy! There would nothing gloomy at that moment when the dead boy was returned to his mother alive and well.

Amen.

Sunday 8 May 2016, Easter 7 – Ascension Sunday

Readings: John 17:20-26; Luke 24:44-53

Message:

ascension

I love this cartoon. It shows up every year somewhere.

You’ll only really appreciate it fully if you’ve had a child with ADD grow up in your house.

I suspect the whole church may have Ascension Deficit Disorder.

  • We’re often missing it.
  • Missing the point.
  • Not seeing clearly how significant the Ascension is.

Thursday – Ascension Day – came and went – I mistakenly thought someone might pop in at church to pray sometime through the morning.

We miss the point of Jesus being Messiah King.

We had our Messy Church evening on Friday and looked at the 10 commandments. And we tried to get the kids tell us what mom’s ten big rules were, and what dad’s were. You know the drill for mom – make your bed, clean your teeth, go to the toilet before you go to bed. And dad’s rules – which include switch off that TV and less computer time please.

I suggested that the most important rule for dads to teach their kids is simply this: LOVE YOUR MOM. And of course God’s ten big rules include HONOUR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.

Jesus’ big rule is actually this – I AM MESSIAH KING. He is the “I am”. Look to me!

The whole of the Bible – all of life – everything that we do that has any meaning at all – has to be seen through that lens.

It’s like going to Specsavers. When you get these glasses on – it all makes total sense.

In Luke 24 (and I think you should  read the whole of this chapter) – in all the engagements with the disciples after the resurrection – especially the Emmaus walk – there is an attention deficit problem. That’s why he says to them in verse 25:

“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Luk 24:26  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Luk 24:27  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (It’s quite direct – and not very pastoral!).

Note that he speaks about himself here as the Christ – the Messiah – which means the King.

Here he says that the whole Bible is really about him.

  • When you start at creation – you have to recognise John 1 – that nothing was made that was not made through Jesus.
  • If you look at Moses – you have to see that Jesus is the perfect law giver.
  • If you look at any of the prophets – Jesus surpasses them all in clarity of message as he speaks God’s word – because he is the Word of God supreme.
  • If you look at any of the Old Testament characters – they are pointing to Jesus. Joshua shares his name but Jesus really brings us to the promised land. Joseph forgives his brothers – but Jesus forgives us all.

In fact, John Calvin’s most profound and moving writing has to be what he pens about “Christ in All the Scriptures, Christ for All Our Needs” in a preface to a translation of the New Testament in 1535. He puts it like this:

For, this is eternal life; to know one, only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom he has established as the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation.

He [Christ] is Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, but nevertheless did not succumb to the power of death.

He is Jacob the watchful shepherd, who has such great care for the sheep which he guards.

He is the good and compassionate brother Joseph, who in his glory was not ashamed to acknowledge his brothers, however lowly and abject their condition.

He is the great sacrificer and bishop Melchizedek, who has offered an eternal sacrifice once for all.

He is the sovereign lawgiver Moses, writing his law on the tables of our hearts by his Spirit.

He is the faithful captain and guide Joshua, to lead us to the Promised Land.

He is the victorious and noble king David, bringing by his hand all rebellious power to subjection.

He is the magnificent and triumphant king Solomon, governing his kingdom in peace and prosperity.

He is the strong and powerful Samson, who by his death has overwhelmed all his enemies.

He goes on to say:

If follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for Our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt cancelled, labour lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal.

Isn’t that  brilliant!

You have to begin to see the victorious Christ – the Messiah King – at His ascension.

When you see the ascension – you see the resurrection. You see the resurrection – you see the cross. You see the cross – and you see human sin. You see human sin and you see the fall of man. You see that and you understand the mess of the world and the need for hope. See that – and you see the need for a Saviour – one who can rescue us. Then you end up back at Christmas – with the birth of Jeshua – meaning “God saves”. You see that and you see people in relationship with God. You see that – and you see the point of life. You see the relationship people can have with God – and you see a better world where people get on and love like Jesus did.

And when you see that – you give thanks to God and worship the risen ascended Jesus – and not something else. All glory goes to Jesus! Not unto us! And it puts the ten commandments into perspective too – One God only, no idols, keeping His name holy – and keeping His day – this is all for Jesus too.

It’s all about Messiah – King Jesus.

He’s done all this – and he is the One who has to be at the centre of our lives.

Tim Keller – an American preacher in New York – talks about the deficit we have in our thinking about Christ the King in this way.

He tells the story of a British preacher John Guest who ends up living in American and visits Philadelphia and a revolutionary war museum – where he sees a sign that made him realise he really was in a different country.

It was from the time of the American revolution and on the wall in a pub or tavern. And it said this: “We serve no sovereign here”.

Keller goes on to say that democracy – and American democracy has got to be the most fascinating type in the world – has been described by C S Lewis as medicine and not food.

In Britain and Europe – and indeed the dominions like New Zealand where we are, Australia – and Canada – people still understand what it means to serve to a sovereign. In Asia people would see the benefit of respecting authority.

But not in America. America has sold us the idea of individual freedom more than any other power or philosophy. We all believe we have the right to veto everything.

If democracy is medicine and not food – what really feeds us?

Jesus hints at what really satisfies: John 4:34 – “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

C S Lewis suggests that we were made to be ruled. And if we don’t acknowledge Jesus as King (as Tim Keller puts it) we will serve somebody. Or something. Human nature is such that If it doesn’t get food it will gobble poison. Keller suggests simply:

  • Obey him – treat Him as King.
  • Trust him – faith means trust at a basic level.
  • Rely on Him – prayer if anything is talking to him about our need of his help and support and purpose. Don’t say you believe in Him and depend on your career – or your family – or your stuff – to give you worth and meaning in life.
  • Treat him as a king in prayer; expect much – John Newton has a hymn that captures this well: Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, None can ever ask too much; None can ever ask too much.

In the light of this, Jesus’ departing words make sense. Listen again:

Luk 24:44  Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Luk 24:45  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, Luk 24:46  and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, Luk 24:47  and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  

The whole Bible story – salvation history as we know it since the story of Adam and Eve where God is a missional God looking for Adam – is about Jesus the Messiah King. It all points to him and focusses on Him. And it will end with Him too when he comes again.

And the disciples clearly had their work cut out for them –  telling this story. So Jesus says:

Luk 24:48  You are witnesses of these things. Luk 24:49  And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luk 24:50  Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. Luk 24:51  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. Luk 24:52  And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; Luk 24:53  and they were continually in the temple blessing God.  

The story of Luke goes on in volume 2 – what we know as the book of Acts. They are to wait those long ten days for the promised Holy Spirit. We’ll be here Tuesday and next Sunday to consider that.

But for today – take this home. The gospel ends with them worshipping Him – bowing to a Sovereign King. And this King who is so reliable and worth serving and obeying – is doing what He always does – we see him in verse 50 and 51 – blessing them.

Let Him bless you as you take Him anew as Messiah King.

Amen.