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Anzac sermon 2019 – the New Commandment

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

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

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

Message

I wonder if you remember this song:

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

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

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

Chorus

-3-

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

All praise to the Father from whom all things come…

copyright 1966 Peter Scholte

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

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

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

So many times we sang this song from John 13.

So many sermons on this passage:

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

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

sermon outline 28 April

WE DO GET IT RIGHT THOUGH

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

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

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

HOW NEW IS NEW?

What is new about this new commandment that Jesus gave?

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

Listen and look again:

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

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU – is the key.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul says something very similar to husbands in Ephesians 5:

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

Sacrifice! A great reminder!

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

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

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

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

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

And of course context is everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact some translations have “Little children” here…

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

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

It probably figured that they had to love each other.

Listen to the whole passage preceding the commandment again:

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

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

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

We’re back to sacrifice are we not?

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

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

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

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

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

We should remember them.

Amen.

 

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7 April 2019 Sunday Message – Pouring our our lives in extravagant love for Jesus

Reading: John 12:1-8

Message

It’s hard to believe Easter is at hand. I suppose our little ones look forward to it with some obvious enthusiasm. Who can resist those chocolate bunnies and yummy eggs? Mainly music and Messy Church were both quite animated this week by the idea of bunnies and chocolates. At Mainly Music we held off on real chocolate eggs as one of the team managed to find some rubber bouncing ones. The easter egg hunt at Messy Church was a hit I am sure.

For Jesus, the impending suffering he was about to face would have been less than enticing. Thankfully there were people in his life who expressed love and commitment to him in extravagant ways, ways which would have been hugely inspiring and encouraging.

Early on that extravagance was seen in Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. If you don’t know the story, it’s a great one. The wine had run out. Jesus’ supporters were there. Mary his mother for example. Your mum is always your best supporter.

At the wedding her advice to the servants has got to be the most sensible advice for us all: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

The surprising extravagance seen in buckets of new wine (transformed bath water!) is a joy and a surprise in every sense. Jesus loved breaking conventions (bringing out the best wine last is an example at the wedding).

That story is in John chapter 2. Jump ten chapters in John’s Gospel and another Mary extravagantly shows her love for Jesus and fills the house with the fragrance of a pint of perfume poured out on his feet.

The story is recorded elsewhere and in the other accounts the perfume or nard is poured on his head. Here it’s on his feet – and there’s this interesting and sensual act by Mary (Lazarus’ sister) of wiping his feet with her hair. Mind you Mary was the one who sat at his feet listening to his teaching. It wasn’t an unfamiliar place for her to be.

This anointing of Jesus is an intimate and generous moment which would have affirmed and emboldened him as he faced a terrifying and tortuous Passover – the event we celebrate with lollies (chocolates and sweets, if you don’t know the kiwi word).

The Passover for him would not be the celebration of liberation from slavery by eating a delicious sacrificial roast lamb.

He would be the sacrifice.

I think I may be slowly understanding the effect of extravagant love like Mary’s for Jesus. I think I love him extravagantly. I hope he understands and knows this. I seek to pour out my life in praise and adoration every moment. And in sacrifice.When we have levels of intense pain and physical struggle in our lives, perhaps we will begin to have a sense of sharing in his suffering and becoming like him in his death (Phil 3:10).

On those days maybe we too will be inspired by those who love us extravagantly.

For me – whatever the fragrance is, and there are many that are beautiful and enriching – from sandalwood to lavender, vanilla, rosemary, cinnamon, or some other lovely aroma – our lives are meant to be a lovely aroma for him and for others.

May the fragrance of Jesus fill our lives. Remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:14: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”

Mary’s beautiful gift which incensed those who saw its dollar value was both incense and myrrh. It foreshadowed his death and enriched his life.

We should also be grateful to those who love us and show it generously. It helps us enormously when we have to face my passovers of pain.

The rather starting and amazing thing about this sacrificial gift of a year’s worth of precious spikenard was that it may well have been all she had – perhaps her inheritance. But she loved him more. Only the characters in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR have to sing “I don’t know how to love him”. We do. We know. Scripture tells us how. Wesley’s hymn reminds us: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” We can learn new ways of loving him of course.

What is really beautiful too is that it would not be long between this dinner where he his anointed so sensually and completely and his horrible crucifixion. And while the nails were being slammed into his wrists, while the whip cracked on his back, and while he had to haul himself up for every breath on the cross in such naked and violent agony, he would still have had the residue of the nard on his skin – the aroma would have still been there. The aromatic memory that he was totally loved – that would have been comfort and courage.

This generous sacrifice and most beautiful act of giving all happened at a dinner given in Jesus’ honour. We meet in Jesus’ honour each week.

May our lives be a banquet in honour of this Jesus whose mum would still like to remind us today: “Do whatever he tells you!” And may we pour out our lives and precious ointments at his feet.

Amen.

Anzac Sunday Sermon, 24 April 2016 – Winning the Peace

Speaker: Sean Cloete

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

Message

Good Morning everyone and welcome to Anzac Day Sunday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

Just listen to these words ……

Shall we pray?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And goes on to say….

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

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

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

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

He writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Flanders Fields

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

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

Let us pray:

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

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

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

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

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

Message

I wonder if you remember this song:

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

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

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

Chorus

-3-

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

All praise to the Father from whom all things come…

copyright 1966 Peter Scholte

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

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

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

So many times we sang this song from John 13.

So many sermons on this passage:

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

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

sermon outline 28 April

WE DO GET IT RIGHT THOUGH

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

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

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

HOW NEW IS NEW?

What is new about this new commandment that Jesus gave?

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

Listen and look again:

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

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU – is the key.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul says something very similar to husbands in Ephesians 5:

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

Sacrifice! A great reminder!

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

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

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

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

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

And of course context is everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact some translations have “Little children” here…

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

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

It probable figured that they had to love each other.

Listen to the whole passage preceding the commandment again:

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

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

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

We’re back to sacrifice are we not?

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

Heroes who rescue their friends on the battle field.

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

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

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

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

Love is shown in sacrifice.

Amen.

Sunday sermon 25 October 2015 – Monuments or Footprints

Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:26-13:3; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 16:13-19;

Message

Do you have your name on a monument somewhere?

There’s always a danger when it comes to monuments. Like memorials erected for great leaders or movements.

Ask Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, or Saddam Hussein. Personal monuments have a way of being toppled. (That’s not John Lennon by the way – the other one with one ‘n’. Vladimir. In time Vladimir Putin will also fall out of favour. Like Australian Prime ministers.) The best Vladimir Lenin can do here is a bar named after him on Auckland’s Princes Wharf. A vodka bar. 🙂

Some churches end up as monuments.

Not this one. If you show up on some days during the week – the church is not here at all.

You’ll find a building – but not the biblical church – the body of Christ.

And the building was never designed to be pretentious. More like a stable. Its beauty is in its people and their creative gifts – those that last on the walls and the thousands of words of prayer and worship, songs and musical notes that have floated off into space and eternity.

We’re not into monuments. God forbid that my photo be permanently on a wall at any of the churches where I have served.

Footprints are better – far superior. (William Faulkner said that – “monuments tell us we got so far and no further; footprints tell us we kept on moving”.)

A footprint means that people have passed this way on a bigger and greater journey. They leave their mark. But move on. In time we all do.

The movie sequel of Back to the Future had a day this week as the big day – 21 October 2015. It was great to see clips of the young Michael J Fox on TV this week – one of my most esteemed heroes.

That day – the back to the future day – has also come and gone.

And eventually we move on in a permanent sense – into eternity.

Eternity is a bigger concept. Some have moved on into God’s eternal presence.

Others who made life interesting for people here have also moved on – hopefully to happier places where they have been less conflicted with people and about things. (Together with footprints we sometimes leave dents. Sadly some have been badly dented too. Fortunately, we are in the forgiveness business. 🙂 )

Others – the far majority who have passed through these doors over these 50 years – have left a solid influence and foundation which we treasure and remember. Most have taken the good news of Jesus to other places where they have been led to live, work and worship.

We all move on in some way or another.

But we should all move forward.

The living body of Christ is the key.

The church – the body of Christ – is an organism first – and an organisation second.

It starts here – in Matthew 16 – with Peter’s confession:

Mat 16:18  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

On what rock? Not on Peter himself, but on his faith and trust in Jesus the Christ. “Revealed by my father in heaven” because you can’t get to that conviction by argument or logic. Peter like you and me on our difficult days, would have been too stubborn to be convinced by mere reason.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”- that’s the rock of a good confession. Paul puts it this way:

Rom 10:8  But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: Rom 10:9  That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom 10:10  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are savedRom 10:11  As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

And to Timothy Paul writes:

1Ti 6:12  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

The head of the church is not Peter or his successors. Paul again makes this clear when speaking of Jesus:

Eph 1:22  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, Eph 1:23  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

And here in Ephesians, like 1 Corinthians 12 – part of which we heard today, there are gifts for the building up of the church:

Eph 4:11  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, Eph 4:12  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up Eph 4:13  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:14  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Eph 4:15  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Eph 4:16  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

  • We are to be founded on the rock – Christ the solid rock – in our faith in him as Christ and Son of God.
  • We are to move forward in growth in our faith journey – becoming mature (Ephesians 4:13)
  • We are grow up into him who is the Head of the body – Christ.

It is from Christ the head that we as church find the life and growth – we grow and build ourselves up in love as each part of the body does its work (4:16)

There are no monuments to the pastors of the church who have served here – or the elders – or the members over these 50 years. We are all parts of this body – this living organism.

In our series on Philippians earlier this year we looked at two difficult women who had issues with each other. Clearly they weren’t part of our church – ha ha! But look at what Paul says in his pleading for unity: 

Php 4:2  I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Php 4:3  Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

No monuments – only footprints – as we trudge or stride out boldly towards the end – where our names are recorded – as Jesus says to the 72 in Luke’s gospel:

Luk 10:17  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Luk 10:18  He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luk 10:19  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. Luk 10:20  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

There’s only one list that matters. When the roll is called up yonder – that matters.

And that the legacy that we pass on in the next 50 years means that the next generation will need to hear the message about Jesus and come to know Him too.

WHAT IS REMEMBERED MOST

Here’s the irony. I learned this very quickly working in a school. I had issues with my colleagues often – especially when children were vilified and objectified – labelled and boxed. When it was all about statistics and conformity to the teacher’s way of thinking. I had to work hard towards better narrative counselling and restorative practices – sometimes it felt like we were dragging people along toward community.

Someone put it this way speaking to teachers (and headmasters): “People don’t remember everything you said or taught them. But they do remember how you made them feel.” 

Now I am not saying that all our sermons should be sugar or saccharine. The whole counsel of God must be proclaimed.

But the knowledge of the love of God and the power of his love (through the indwelling Holy Spirit) is the real deal (Romans 5:5). That’s how the forgiveness comes. That’s how we learn that there are some things that we can change, and some things we can’t. How we operate in grace rather than grumpiness.

That famous serenity prayer is still relevant:

 God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Of course the biblical version goes like this:

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know it’s me.

Paul, talking about gifts in the church – the body of Christ which has the potential to suffer or rejoice as part of the one organic body – says this at the end of 1 Corinthians 12:

And now I will show you the most excellent way.

  •  1Co 13:1  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (Compare this to the humility of Jesus – Philippians 2:6)
  • 1Co 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (Compare this to Jesus’ emptying of himself – Philippians 2:7)
  • 1Co 13:3  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (Compare this to the real sacrifice of Jesus – Philippians 2:8)

You know the rest – which somehow gets reserved for weddings and these days – funerals – about love and what it is. Read it again in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It’s a great passage.

Hopefully Paul would have prayed this about St Cuthberts – about us – in the past and in the future: Eph 1:15  For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saintsEph 1:16  I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Eph 1:17  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you Simon…”)

You can’t do this church stuff by human strength and ingenuity. By God’s power – you can.

  • Knowing Jesus better – that’s moving forward.
  • Building up the living body of Christ in the power of His love, wherever we have landed up –  that’s moving forward.
  • Real forgiveness that leaves bold and courageous footprints giving others a reason to follow in our footprints – that’s moving forward.

It remains true: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6).

Amen.

Sunday sermon 28 April – As I Have Loved You

A sermon on Anzac weekend.

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

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

Message

I wonder if you remember this song:

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


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


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


Chorus


-3-

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

All praise to the Father from whom all things come…

copyright 1966 Peter Scholte

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

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

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

So many times we sang this song from John 13.

So many sermons on this passage:

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

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

sermon outline 28 April

WE DO GET IT RIGHT THOUGH

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

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

·         Like those who stuck up for the persecuted Jewish people – and hid them or rescued them.

·         Those who refused to fight as pacifists – but served in amazing ways as peacemakers or medical staff

·         Chaplains who were with their people on the front lines praying and ministering to the dying

·         And many who nursed the wounded at great risk themselves. And the endless sacrifice of soldiers…

HOW NEW IS NEW?

What is new about this new commandment that Jesus gave?

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

Listen and look again:

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

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU – is the key.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul says something very similar to husbands in Ephesians 5:

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

Sacrifice! A great reminder!

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

·         It’s a tall order!

·         It is possible – by His grace and through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit!

·         It is essential for Christian witness – people know we follow Jesus because of our love

·         It is not PERFECTION – real love is honest, not pretentious, and knows how to say sorry and move on when things go wrong!

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

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

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

And of course context is everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact some translations have “Little children” here…

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

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

It probable figured that they had to love each other.

Listen to the whole passage preceding the commandment again:

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

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

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

We’re back to sacrifice are we not?

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

Heroes who rescue their friends on the battle field.

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

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

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

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

Love is shown in sacrifice.

Sunday sermon 17 March – poured out at his feet

Reading: John 12:1-8

Joh 12:1  Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

Joh 12:2  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.

Joh 12:3  Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Joh 12:4  But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,

Joh 12:5  “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”

Joh 12:6  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Joh 12:7  “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.

Joh 12:8  You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Message

We are moving rapidly towards Easter.

Jesus is with his closest friends, at a special dinner given in his honour.

In this private place Mary performs and intimate and moving act – pouring this costly perfume on Jesus’ feet, and wiping them with her hair.

I’ve only had my feet washed once by a fellow Christian. It was here in Browns Bay actually, and it was very moving. This act of sacrifice is more intense than foot washing.

This act of sacrifice gives us an insight into the real commitment of discipleship – the commitment of sacrificial service and love for Jesus, manifested in generous and risky giving. It’s an act of following Jesus and surrendering to Jesus.

One writer has suggested this: In this context Mary and the nard perfume become the father in the parable of the prodigal — extravagant love incarnated.

This is merely the extravagant love of the Father in last week’s prodigal son parable – manifest in extravagant love of a follower for Jesus.This act goes way beyond the washing of feet.

It reminds me of the hymn so well loved:

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

The verse which goes like this:

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose,
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

– is sometimes left out so not as to embarrass people. The truth is the writer of the hymn (Frances Havergal) used to meditate on it each Advent (the season when she wrote it) and came under the conviction of giving her jewellery and treasures to the Church Missionary Society of the day. (The same society that supported Samuel Marsden who brought the gospel to New Zealand on Christmas day 1815).

The hymn ends with

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.

The value of the gift poured on a rabbi’s feet – is staggering. A year’s wages. The Judas-reaction is quite predicable and we see this kind of reaction sometimes in churches which decide to become gloriously generous in giving money away. People want to see where the money goes! To control their gift – forgetting that when you give a gift it is no longer yours!

Remember that Judas was the treasurer. Of course when you read Mark and Matthew’s account of this it was not just Judas who struggled with the extent of the gift’s value.

MARY’S  MOTIVATION?

1. Perhaps gratitude to the Lord Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus.

At the time her sister Martha was quite grumpy wasn’t she? Remember her saying:

John 11:21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

They go on to talk about the resurrection – a wonderful passage where Martha professes her belief in the resurrection.

Of Mary we read:

John 11:32 –When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

She also was at his feet that time when Martha played the irritated sister. We read:

Luke 10:39  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  And in the next verse we read: But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 

Mary was in the right place. I think all this is about being a disciple of Jesus. Sitting at his feet, having faith in Him, and worshiping him. Her life was poured out at his feet – and so too this sacrificial intimate gift of worship. We forget that the word “worship” in the New Testament means to bow down and kiss the feet of another.

If you want to follow the church’s motto or mission statement here in Browns Bay, which is – building loving communities that help people find and follow Jesus – we too  have to sit at Jesus’ feet, listen to him, and get intimate. Wherever you are and wherever you worship, this is the key for you too!

Yes gratitude for the resurrection of Lazarus is a possibility – but it was also about her devotion and love for her Lord. And there’s more:

2. Lavish generosity is part of this story.

I think Jesus is not just speaking to Judas here. He’s speaking to us too.

Listen to verse 7 again: Joh 12:7  “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”

This is not the anointing on the head of a king – rather the anointing for burial. Something beautiful that preempts a more beautiful and yet grotesque sacrifice for us.

How can I make this real today?

Something like this – flowers at a funeral are one thing. But sacrificial love for a person while they are alive – that’s something else altogether.

Verse 7 is challenging. If it was intended for the day of his burial – why then was it poured out on this day?

Perhaps it was a powerful sign – in addition to lavish love and generosity – the cost of discipleship in giving up everything for Jesus – a sign of his impending death. The process had begun. In fact, it began the moment he preached in the synagogue on the day they tried to throw him over a cliff. And – as we heard on Tuesday – when we talked about the day when he healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda – his enemies were always going to be after him. Death was always lurking.

We must not be derailed by the last sentence about the poor. The focus is on the moment on this day – between Mary and Jesus.  Jesus us saying – never mind what could be done with the money Judas (and Robin, Ian, Janet, Susan and George – whoever we are here today).

Listen again to Jesus’ words:  John 12:8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

It simply means that there will be plenty of opportunities to help the poor in the future for his disciples. And they did exactly that in the early church – they sold assets to make sure that no one went without in the community. They fasted on certain days so they could make sure others did not go hungry. And we need to do this today as well.

“Leave her alone,” is the word we need to hear. This is a worship moment.

Christians – take heed here. If people worship with the hands in the air or flat on their faces – if they generously give to Jesus and do radical things – stay out of it. It’s a holy moment and has nothing to do with you. Our responsibility is to sort ourselves out before God. 🙂

This woman – Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus – was ministering to Jesus in an intimate way – a profound way – and we can learn from this.

He has not finished with us yet. For some we have not even begun. We started last week as prodigals standing before the Lord admitting we were lost and now found.

Let’s take many more steps closer in our intimate worship of Jesus the resurrected Lord and Christ.

What would you do? What could you give?

He’s not finished with us – in worship and radical devotion, in extravagant generosity, in sacrificial service, in compassion for the poor, in love for Jesus and one another!

Amen.