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Sunday message 19 March 2017 – “The kind of worshippers the Father seeks”

Readings: Psalm 95:-17; John 4:5-24

MESSAGE

I hope you enjoyed the Star Wars video. It was a suitable contrast I imagine to the “total devotion” of the song from Grease a couple of weeks ago. Even Darth Vader can fall in love. There is hope for all. The truth is that Rob kindly edited out the sad bits of course. It turns out that the lovely lady in pink already had a boyfriend called Chris.

A bit like our lady in John 4 – the woman at the well – relationships are not always simple.

She had been through a series of husbands – and Jesus knows about them all. And the current partner she is living with who is not her husband. It explains why she is fetching water at midday – no one else would normally be there. She might have been a social pariah – an exile.

Jesus has a way of getting people’s attention.

And it’s not surprising that the conversation turns to worship.

After all Jesus is really after her heart.

Did you notice that the Psalm today neatly covers all the aspects of this relationship with God we call worship.

The Psalmist calls us to

  • sing for joy
  • shout aloud (v1)

 come before him with thanksgiving

  • extol him with music and song (v2)

and

  • bow down in worship,
  • kneel before the LORD our Maker (v6)

It’s all there.

We call it praise and worship.

It’s all part of a relationship of worship – living our lives daily in the realisation that he is WORTHY of recognition for all He is and all he does.

CS Lewis put it like this:

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. If it were possible for a created soul fully to ‘appreciate,’ that is, to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme blessedness. To praise God fully we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God, drowned in, dissolved by that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression. Our joy is no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds.

The woman at the well discusses theory – that kind of conversation is theological. We study and discuss how our lives intersect with God, and look at what is acceptable and what is not.

After his surprising revelation that he knows all about her, she puts out a theological proposition which should have stimulated theological discussion:

Joh 4:19  “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Joh 4:20  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

His response is to the point:

Joh 4:21  Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Joh 4:22  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Joh 4:23  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. Joh 4:24  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Listen again: the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

So often we read in scripture that we are the seekers.

For example these well known passages:

  • Deu 4:29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Or David’s song in 2 Chronicles:

  • 1Ch 16:8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 1Ch 16:9  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 1Ch 16:10  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Or the beautiful Isaiah 55:

  • Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isa 55:7  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Or the rich imagery of Hosea 10:

  • Hos 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.

Or Jeremiah’s promise to the exiles that God has plans for them – not to prosper them or harm them, but to give them a hope and a future. He goes on to say:

  • Jer 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jer 29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

We seek Him – and he seeks worshippers. The two must intersect. They do – in the person of Jesus Christ.

It’s not about the place – says Jesus to the bucket lady at the well. It’s about me. This is Jesus the way, the truth and the life. Worship is in spirit – in God who is spirit – and in truth – in Messiah Jesus.

Read the rest of John 4 at home. It’s a remarkable meeting and transformation. Would be great to know what happens at home as she talks to the man who is not her husband about Jesus.

There would have been a conversation about the man who “… told me everything I ever did.” (verse 39).

And about living water:

Joh 4:13  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, Joh 4:14  but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

There must have been a conversation about what it means to have your thirst for love and life really quenched. Real satisfaction.

And about this God who seeks our hearts and devotion.

Who changes our hearts.

Whom we love with all our hearts… and everything else we are.

Amen.

Sunday Sermon, 26 June 2016 – “I will follow Him”

Reading: Luke 9:51-62

SERMON

This will bring back some memories – the song “I will follow Him” from Sister Act:

Don’t you love that number? For once you are allowed to yell out “whoopee!”

“I will follow him.”

Will you really?

The training of Jesus’ first disciples in Luke 9 and 10 is a fascinating series of successes and blunders. In the gospels overall – it’s your typical training scenario. Ups and downs – moments of success and real stupidity.

You can’t really blame them for wanting to call down fire from heaven on those inhospitable Samaritans. They were the equivalent of various disliked groups for some people today – it seems legitimate to take them out.

I had coffee with an old student this week who joined the army reserve here in NZ and has an Arabic surname that begins with Al. You can imagine some of his army trainers and their attitudes – especially when he filled in a form and said his religion was Muslim/Presbyterian. They had some questions for him. It’s a great story.

We know the whole story of the New Testament which they didn’t have back then – we know that Good Samaritans actually exist. And we are not keen on ethnic cleansing.

So Jesus does have a little word with James and John – who are not called the sons of thunder for nothing.

He basically rebukes them.

That’s the first challenge today.

Perhaps we have attitudes that need rebuking. If you follow Jesus – you really have to tow the party line as it were.

John Wesley’s comment on this passage was this: “‘Ye know not what manner of spirit’ – The spirit of Christianity is. It is not a spirit of wrath and vengeance, but of peace, and gentleness, and love.”

The key word which unlocks the whole passage I suspect is found in verse 51:

Luke 9:51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

Resolutely is the word. It also means to set your face firmly or steadfastly – it’s about a decision on Jesus’ part to go to the place where he will ultimately die. And it’s quite early on really in the narrative.

The followers of Jesus are expected to have the same steadiness of purpose. Single mindedness if you like.

So they move on to another village – and there are three encounters with would-be disciples. Remember that a disciple is essentially two things – a follower and a learner.

Either way it is a costly business – as these examples illustrate.

One he calls to follow him.

Two volunteer.

Like the Sister Act song – the first volunteer says exactly that: – “wherever you go.”

Luk 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus doesn’t reply in an English accent, “O how lovely” or like a kiwi with a : “Sweet as!”

Luk 9:58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Warning bells should sound for the reader of the gospel – Jesus is resolutely going to Jerusalem where he will die.

Jesus’ response may seem blunt – but that’s the reality. There can be no expectation of payoff for being a disciple. Rather – you could end up homeless. Despised and rejected.

The second follower Jesus calls.

The man’s response seems reasonable. Let me bury my father first. The commandments made it clear that people were to honour their parents. And many of us do exactly that – we put our plans on hold to care for aging parents.

We don’t know whether the person’s father was ill or had in fact died.

Either way Jesus’ response is a tough one.

Luk 9:60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Suddenly the lines are drawn. It’s not the church that is central here. In fact, Jesus says very little about the church.

He’s not bothered about the spaces between our chairs and rows here.

He’s interested in whether we buy into the Kingdom values and principles that we pray for in the Lord’s prayer – “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” – the Kingdom that he spoke about when he said “no worries, be happy by seeking first the Kingdom of God”…

I’m not sure that he was insensitive to the bereaved or those who care for aging parents and put their lives on hold for a season.

I think what he means is that spiritual things are central – let the spiritually dead deal with the other things that are not lasting – that are not important in the bigger scheme of things.

We need to be at peace with what is gone – and embrace what lies before us as we embrace the kingdom.

Different principles, values, morals, ethics, and purpose for living. Passion!

  • People who stand for light and truth in the midst of darkness and deception.
  • Love and grace in the face of hatred and bitterness.
  • Worship and gratitude in the face of grumbling and grabbing – that grasping entitlement of this generation and indeed this nation.

Our third potential customer in this passage is another volunteer. Listen again:

Luk 9:61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Luk 9:62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Here’s the thing. Even Elisha was allowed to go back to his family to say goodbye before he took up his prophetic mantle (1 Kings 19:19-21).

Being a disciple of Christ is a stronger calling, Not everyone endures to the end. People fall by the wayside. They look back. (Lot’s wife comes to mind).

Jesus does us a favour to warn us that we should not start something and give up half way.

If we start ploughing and look back with regret – we’re not fit for service.

Failed WOF basically. We get yellow-stickered – taken off the road.

You have to look ahead – otherwise the field ends up in a mess with a track behind us that is all over the place.

We too have to set our faces towards Jerusalem – the heavenly city. Towards a loftier goal of a new Kingdom and life in Christ.

And on the road we too have to confront all that which contradicts the truths of the kingdom – just as Jesus did – he had to speak out prophetically to the religious establishment more than anything else – he confronts them and eventually turns over their tables – with a desire to reform and rescue them.

So should we. In fact its one of my jobs – to challenge people in their stuckness.

Two out of three of these people in the passage today were volunteers. It seemed good at the time. One Jesus called – and he too was a dubious starter.

How are you doing? How’s your single-mindedness? Not for your pet theory, but for Jesus? “All for Jesus” is the song we sang.

How’s your passion? Passion is caught, not taught. We need some infectious passion for Jesus and His Kingdom.

Amen.