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Sunday message 27 August 2017 – Romans series Part 5 – Let them use their gifts

READING: Romans 12:3-18

MESSAGE

So –  you’ve been waiting for the winner of the competition for shortest sermon of the year.

Me too. The thing is I get excited about the treasures we find in Scripture. Psalm 19 makes it clear – this is gold. Look at the number of words describing how rich God’s word to us is: Psa 19:7  The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psa 19:8  The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psa 19:9  The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. Psa 19:10  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

So what do we glean today from Romans 12? What new  treasures. Sweetness. Richness.

Quite a lot really.

Those who offer themselves as living sacrifices (see last week’s message) – in service or 24/7 worship – giving glory to – God, acknowledging his worth –  that He is worthy of all recognition and praise, have all kinds of options to make this practical.

In relation to God’s infinite greatness in rescuing us and receiving the credit in or praise and thanksgiving, we must however look out that we don’t make ourselves as important as God. That after all is the Adam and Eve trap – wanting to be like God. Or making ourselves equal to God (compare Jesus in Phil 2 – Php 2:5  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Php 2:6  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, Php 2:7  but made himself nothing ).

So – verse 3 could keep us busy today: Rom 12:3  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

You could lay this alongside Philippians 2 again:

Php 2:3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Php 2:4  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others

While we are living sacrifices worshipping God every day at work and play, we are to put ourselves into perspective in the context of the body of Christ – the church.

Rom 12:4  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, Rom 12:5  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Paul then proceeds to talk about giftedness. You see this humility is not self-loathing or hiding one’s light under a bushel or a bowl because the tall poppy syndrome makes you think your light is useless.

We have gifts, he says. Use them.

That’s why churches put people to use. Not because we are obsessed with our programs. People then become commodities.

No, rather because we are obsessed with the generous grace of God. “Grace” means “gift”.

Charismata – from which we get the word “charismatic” is the word for “gifts” in the plural.

Ephesians 4 lists people gifts. Pastor, teacher, evangelist, apostle and prophet. 1 Corinthians 12 lists “spirituals” including tongues, prophecy, healing etc.

Romans 12 lists people’s gifting. Simply put – if a person has gift A, then let him use it in proportion to his faith. In other words as he or she trusts God to make that gift fruitful.

The list is there:

Rom 12:6  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.

Rom 12:7  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;

Rom 12:8  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

What do you notice about these gifts?

They are all for the benefit of others.

Prophecy – in 1 Corinthians 14 terms needs three things to be genuine. (Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 1 Cor 14:3)

Serving – serves others. (versus self-serving)

Teaching is about the learners learning. (Tired teachers miss this! “School is so nice when the kids are on holiday!”)

Encouragement obviously helps the recipients to keep going! They need to be helped not to give up!

Contributing to the needs of others is obviously for others.

Leadership – is meant to help people follow! It’s for the group, not the leader. (As the saying goes – if you’re out front leading and no one is following you’re – you’re really just out for a walk.)

And mercy – well that too is to be shown cheerfully. Interesting idea – you can’ really show mercy with a gloomy grumpy attitude. Would seem a bit strange if we said: “Ah well I suppose I’d better be merciful. Sigh. You don’t deserve it and i don’t feel like it, but there it is””

In a word –  this is not all about you and me! And your and my needs. It’s about the needs of others.

Strangely obvious really.

But for some reason people don’t pick up on it.

They are locked into the thinking of the age – their minds are clearly not transformed (Romans 12:2) – because it’s all about them. Consumer Christianity abounds.

So much time wasted because people are “not having their needs met”.

Now don’t get me wrong. We should be helping people grow in faith. But they should be able to feed themselves too – like children learn to feed themselves physically.

Serving, teaching and encouraging should be working for people’s good.

But note that this is a letter to the church in Rome. Not to Timothy or some individual – or to elders or pastors.

These people gifts are, to put it bluntly, often hiding in the pew. As the story goes – church is a bit like football (aka soccer) – 22 people charging around on the field in great need of a rests, and 22 000 others in the stands in great need of exercise.

THE PAST

So when we have our ACM today and receive reports about what we have managed to do through the past year – remember that we are looking back.

And let’s be honest financial accountability is a key part of this – with a dose of transparency. And a lot of gratitude for the resources we have. And that especially includes people.

When we meet at this meeting today – whether you stay or not this applies. If for some reason you have been left out in the long lists of thanks. Please remember – it’s probably just an oversight.

Remember this too – it’s not about me. Or you. It’s about giving glory to God. And being a blessing to others. And as Jesus taught in Luke 17: Luk 17:10  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’

THE FUTURE

Point 2 of the sermon is really a question. How are you doing when it comes to using the gifts God has given you?

Sometimes the only one stopping you using your gifts is you.

If you have a desire to be part of the future teams making things work here so that we can reach people here and beyond with good news, and help care for those who do need encouragement and mercy because life can be tough – please use the gifts God has given you in proportion to your faith.

As you step out and have a go, your faith will become stronger too.

It’s a wonderful ride and great to be part of a team of which it can be said – we are working on Romans 12:9-18. Sincere love, brotherly love and devotion, harmony and peace – well you can read the rest of those verses. We don’t get it all right. But we really do have a heart for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in this place. (I recommend that you read Romans 12:11-18 as you reflect on this through the week.)

Amen.

 

 

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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 9 October 2016: The Lord’s Prayer part 8 – Kingdom, Power and Glory, forever!

Readings: 1 Chronicles 29:6-13; Psalm 63:1-4; Matthew 6:6-13 (including footnote in NIV).

“For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

SERMON

So we’ve reached the end of this series on the Lord’s Prayer. We’re still saying it together. I wonder if these reflections have made any difference to you? As you pray?

Just a question – how many of you heard the whole series? All seven plus today? Well done!

Anyone read the ones you missed on the  bbpsermons  website? Well done too!

Some highlights as we look back. The line that I enjoyed the most quoted from Tim Keller was this one. It’s about who we pray to. You may remember this. It was part 2 – Hallowed by thy name.

  • His fatherliness makes his heavenliness non-intimidating.
  • His heavenliness makes his fatherliness not just comforting but absolutely liberating – he is all powerful to keep his promises. Amen!

In that same week I said this:

And so we are to “hallow” God’s name – to honour and revere it.  It’s really about adoration and praise. To honour his name is to give him the credit for who he is and what he has done. To focus on God rather than all other things.

Here’s the test question: What preoccupies you when you are in thought – wrestling with the things of life? 

Tim Keller suggests this: what is always on your mind – that’s usually what you adore – what you love the most.

Today we pick this up in a sense – as we look at the doxology at the end of the prayer:

For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.(v13) 

We’ve looked at the kingdom, and the power.

It’s the glory that jumps out from the page for me. Yours is the glory!

David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29 came to mind as soon as I looked at this again. David had just done what many people have done here, and can still do. He provided for the next generation through a bequest. Not only does he dedicate the nation’s wealth for his son Solomon to use in the building of the temple when he is gone – he also gives his personal wealth for the project. He gives it while still alive.

1Ch 29:3  Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God:

That’s the context of the other giving of the leaders – and his beautiful prayer.

It struck me that we might not be here were it not for bequests from previous generations. And we have the same choice to leave something for the work here at Browns Bay when we die. That’s by the way. It has to be said. Have you made some provision for the future of the work here when you have gone?

Look how David’s giving releases giving on behalf of all the people.

1Ch 29:6  Then the leaders of ancestral houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of the thousands and of the hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work. 1Ch 29:7  They gave for the service of the house of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze, and one hundred thousand talents of iron. 1Ch 29:8  Whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the LORD, into the care of Jehiel the Gershonite.  1Ch 29:9  Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the LORD; King David also rejoiced greatly.

And then David prays:

1Ch 29:11  Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.

1Ch 29:12  Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.

1Ch 29:13  And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.

I reckon we could use this as an offering prayer. In fact, I remember Durban North Presbyterian singing this during the offering back in the 1970s.

In the reading from the Psalms today the same pattern comes up:

Psa 63:2  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Psa 63:3  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psa 63:4  So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

Three words. In David’s prayers. And the one we have in Matthew in the Lord’s Prayer.

Kingdom. – we know this. That’s what we are to seek first.

Power. –  this helps us in our praying. This father has the power to provide for his children.

Glory. – this is new. We don’t talk much about the glory of God.

  • Do we understand this concept?
  • Do we seek to give him glory?
  • The glory is his. Is this something we can give him? Or is this also something we should seek?
  • Let’s explore this word. It has different facets to it.

 

SO ABOUT GLORY – FIRSTLY.

The Old Testament word is Kabhod.

You may recognise the word in the name of an unfortunate character named Ichabod – in 1 Samuel. That’s a tale in itself. He was the grandson of Eli – when the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines and Eli’s rebellious sons Hophni and Phineas are killed. Eli hears the bad news and falls of his chair in shock, breaking his neck. Phineas’ wife goes into labour and Ichabod is born. His mother names his this because “the glory has departed from Israel” (1 Sam 4:21-22.)

God’s glory – kabhod – was his presence. The word also means “heavy”.

You get the sense of the weight of his presence. We seek his glory when we seek his presence.

When Solomon’s temple is built later, he prays that God will make his presence real (2 Chronicles 6:41-42). In the next verse 2 Chronicles 7:1 we read:

2Ch 7:1  When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2Ch 7:2  The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 2Ch 7:3  When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”

There are moments in worship for us too, when we are aware of his presence, there’s a weight on us, the presence of his glory.

 

SECONDLY

Glory – in the new Testament – is the word DOXA from which we get the word “doxology” – a short declaration of praise.

The word also means splendour or brightness. So we get for example in Hebrews 1 this powerful statement:

Heb 1:1  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,

  • Heb 1:2  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Heb 1:3  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

And of course that well known John 1:14 – the culminating verse of the prologue to John’s gospel:

  • Joh 1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth

I was saying at tea last week that when we see Jesus we are unlikely to come up with the questions we say we’d like to ask him. Like “why did you let me get this disease?” I think we will be silent and prostrate on the ground like John in Revelation 1:

  • Rev 1:14  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  Rev 1:15  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. Rev 1:16  In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brillianceRev 1:17  When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 

There’s some glory there – splendour and brightness. His presence.

There’s something about worship that is often not understood. We’ve talked about it before – and in this series – about entering the presence of the King. A Holy God.

When his glory is revealed – that heaviness of his presence, and his splendour and brightness – we stop nattering and yapping to each other – the focus is on God. And often we are silent.

The prophet Habakkuk says this in the context of the people’s worship of idols: Hab 2:20  But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”

His glory involves his presence and his splendour. And it can silence us when we are in awe of who He is.

 

THIRDLY we give Him glory in worship – in the songs we sing, and the prayers we  pray. We also give Him glory when we we do all these things we have looked at in the last couple of months:

We give Him glory when we live by the tenets of this prayer template called the Lord’s Prayer.

  • We hallow his name – honour his name.
  • Pray for his kingdom as a priority (elsewhere Jesus says “Seek first the Kingdom of God”.)
  • Do his will – bringing heaven to earth.
  • Trust him for our daily needs – one day at a time.
  • Forgive like him – celebrating our forgiveness.
  • Ask for his protection from trials and freedom and deliverance from the evil one.
  • Because it’s His Kingdom that matters, his power that makes it possible for us to do this, and his name which receives the glory. Not us. It’s never about us.

Two weeks ago we listen to a song entitled “Hidden”. I gave you the words.

We’ll get to sing it at some point. The last part of the song captures some of this. Listen again:

Verse 3

The sun, moon and stars, Shout Your name, they give you reverence; And I, will do the same, With all my heart I give You glory  |2x|

 Chorus 3

I want to seek You first, I want to love You more; I want to give You the honour You deserve; So I’ll bow before You, I am overcome, By the beauty of this perfect love. |2x|

Are we seeking him first? Loving him more? Giving him the honour he deserves? I encourage you to explore a more intimate relationship with God. And entering into worship with all your heart is part of that.

  • Be open. The songs we sing – sing them with all your heart. Both here and on your own. Listen to them at home.
  • Focus on God – seek his presence and the fullness of his Spirit.
  • Seek his glory both here and in your wider life.

Draw near to him and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Let’s pray David’s prayer as we close:

1Ch 29:11  Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 1Ch 29:12  Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. 1Ch 29:13  And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.

Amen

 

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

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

MESSAGE:

“Seeing – Seeking – Speaking”

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

STORY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real life in worship is about the presence of God.

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

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

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

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

PERHAPS WE ARE WRONG ABOUT HER

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

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

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

(Workingpreacher.org)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEEING AND SEEKING

Seeking is seeing with one more letter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first game of hide and seek. Fail.

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

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

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

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

And these two:

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is here that He speaks to us.

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

JESUS IS THE LIVING WORD OF GOD

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

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

Here are some of the key verses again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the key one:

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

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

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

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

Perhaps this helps to show what we can become:

missionalchurch

THIS IS WHO WE SHOULD BE

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

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

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

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

Worship – singing to one another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Sunday sermon 5 April 2015 – Easter Sunday

Readings:  1 Corinthians 15:1-11;  Matthew 28:1-10

Message – Facing Jesus again:

Have you ridden in a hearse before? I have, over the years. I’ve had to help funeral directors load people into the back too.

My piano was a gift. I was playing piano at a conference, and and member of our church years ago came up to me and asked if I had a piano at home. An odd question to ask a pianist. I confessed I did not. “We have two” she said. “we would like to give you one of them.” Very biblical, not so.

We discussed how to move the piano while arranging another friend’s mother’s funeral. It had to travel about 110 kms to our town. “I can do that” said my undertaker friend. Sure enough the piano arrived in a van marked “Saffas” a funeral company. Interesting look from the neighbours. It wasn’t a hearse thankfully. Kind of a mortuary van. One can only imagine the neighbours peering over the fence.

Here’s one of my favourite stories about hearses. True story. A Methodist minister was asked to conduct a graveside service for a member of his church. The only problem was, the cemetery was more than an hour and a half away from the church. The minister wasn’t feeling well so he decided to ride with the Funeral Director in the hearse. In the front seat.

By the time they arrived at the cemetery, the flu had invaded completely and he said he felt terrible. Feverish and sick, he made it through the service, but he was starting to look like most flu victims, like death warmed over.

As they headed back home, the funeral director suggested the minister stretch out in the back of the hearse. It had curtains and nobody would see him. The minister thought it was a good idea and promptly fell asleep.He awoke when the vehicle stopped. Taking a few minutes to fully awaken, he slowly sat up and drew the side curtain to see where he was. He was face to face with a petrol station attendant, who was surprised and shocked to see a body in the back of the hearse staring back at him.

With all the colour drained out of him and his eyes as wide as saucers, the petrol pump flew into the air, and the attendant ran on shaky legs back into the gas station, while the funeral director tried to catch up to explain the whole situation.

We’re not really used to dead people getting up again. Not from a grave, a hearse or a mortuary van!

And even if the disciples had actually believed Jesus, they weren’t really hanging around the tomb to see the “what if” scenario. What if he does rise?

Death has that terrible effect of shutting down possibilities like that. It is very final.

But these women seem to be keeping an eye on things – according to Matthew. Verse one tells us this: Mat 28:1  After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. And in the previous chapter, chapter 27, they were there too. They were at the cross, the burial and back on the third day. Have a look:

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61)

Here’s the fascinating thing. You know we’ve talked before about Jesus eating fish on the beach and also appearing in locked rooms? Well here – let me read it to you again:

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. (Matthew 28:1-3)

What doesn’t happen here? They witness the stone rolling back. You would expect Jesus to come out – a bit like Lazarus. But no. He doesn’t.

What do you think this means then? Perhaps this – He didn’t need the stone to be rolled away for his resurrection. They needed the stone rolled away to see he wasn’t there!

The guards are still there. The next verse puts their military prowess on the line: Mat 28:4  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. They are spooked by the angel. Do they faint? It certainly seems so.

The women hold their ground. Perhaps their watching – their vigil – is more than just bringing spices to the tomb (as in Mark). Matthew sees it differently. Perhaps they had an expectation?

By the way, Jews in those days believed that the soul kind of hung around the body for three days – and then moved on. Just saying. One of those interesting things. And people prayed at the tomb – even in the tomb – for a week. So the spices were helpful. Archaeology has revealed tombs with a part dug down inside, made lower, so people could stand upright in the tomb and pray. Jews stood and prayed.

That’s the girls for you. Always on the lookout. Happy to tell the story. Teach boys and girls and you will always find the girls have much more to say!! (No I’m not sexist!)

THE GIRLS ARE TO TELL THE BOYS

So the girls are instructed by the angel (that caused the big burly Roman soldiers to pass out in shock)

  • Not to fear – he knew what they were up to (verse 5) “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.”
  • What has happened (verse 6) “He is not here, He has risen, just as he said!”
  • Have a look at where he lay in the tomb (verse 6) “Come and see the place where he lay.”
  • Where he was to be seen – in Galilee (verse 7) “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.”

Off they go: Mat 28:8  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.- the boys – where to expect him (verse 7). Off they go.

But just in case an angel’s instruction is not enough, Jesus appears to them too – while they are on the run: Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  (Matthew 28:9-10)

IT’S A FACINATING ACCOUNT. Imagine this. So you’re one of those men/boys – disciples. The A team – mainly men – who had not done that well (one betrayal, one denial, one hanging around, on running off and leaving his clothes behind).

And these women (both Marys – see Mark 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.) … these women pass on the message from Jesus: “Jesus says – go to Galilee – you will see him there.”

O dear. Do we want to see Jesus – after we failed him? We ran away – denied him, and one of the team betrayed him and we didn’t even see that coming.

  • What are we going to say to him? How awkward! We really thought that we knew Judas as well!
  • If this is true – is he really alive? Or are the Marys losing their minds?

Matthew stands alone in this respect. Only here in this gospel do the women see, touch and worship Jesus. (verse 9)

And the word for worship takes us all the way back to the beginning of Matthew.

The men obviously listen and go to Galilee – Galilee of the gentiles (Isaiah 9).

And about that “worship” word. It is the gentile magi – the so called wise men – who “worship” baby Jesus with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The word for “worship” is the same here. It means to bow down and to kiss.

Worship is the appropriate response for the women. The men will work it out in their own ways – from Peter’s restoration to Thomas’ touching his wounds.

And the special, unique factor in this account is verse 10. The women are met and encounter Jesus in a way that works for them.

For the boys – there is this unique authority in this instruction. I will read it again – listen up! What do you think the key is?

Mat 28:10  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

There’s no other place where this happens where he speaks of them as brothers (apart from John 20:17). A preacher called Mark Trotter puts it like this: Something as deep and mysterious as the Resurrection of our Lord has many levels of meaning. But Matthew wants you to consider this one. It reveals a God whose love for us is like a parent’s love for a prodigal child. Even if we reject God, God will never, never reject us. And if we do evil things, then God, out of God’s love, will find a way to make something good come out of it.

Like the reconciliation in the Old Testament between Joseph and his brothers: “as for you, you meant it for evil; but God meant it for good.”

You could put it like this: Go tell my brethren, [who fell asleep instead of watching and praying, who betrayed me, or who ran away] that I will meet them in Galilee, [to forgive them and give them new life.]

There are a series of resurrection appearances – appropriate for all. Paul records in 1 Corinthians 15. Listen to what he says again:

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. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  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.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians  15:1-8)

How about you? Have you had an encounter with the risen Jesus? My prayer is that you certainly do! You can – in prayer, in faith and trust, in communion – in whatever way is appropriate to you, you can meet him as he did the women and men back then.

Take the time to meet Him!

Sunday sermon 15 February 2015 – Mountains and voices

Reading: Matthew 16:24 – 7:8

MESSAGE

There are three accounts of this Transfiguration in the gospels. Like eye-witness accounts of any event, they differ from each other.

In all three, Moses and Elijah are seen. We’re not always sure what to do with that. Elijah was transported straight to heaven. Moses was buried by God, according to Deuteronomy 34. In Moab – at an unknown site. Of course there is an interesting reference to his death in Jude 1:9. Have a read through the week.

What do we learn from this?

In the context of Matthew, Peter is in the background before we even read this account. He’s the first to recognise Jesus as Messiah. He doesn’t fancy the news that Jesus will die – so becomes Satan in the plot. Then he (with the twins with issues – James and John) are given the encouragement of this amazing vision on a mountain.

And Peter again gets a bit confused – wanting to camp out on the mountain in booths or tabernacles. I don’t think Elijah and Moses were planning a vacation up there. Mark says in his observation – “He did not know what to say, they were so frightened”. Luke is more blunt, noting that Peter “did not know what he was saying” which sounds like a euphemism for losing the plot.

We too like Peter have our ups and downs. The mountain top experiences don’t last. And we too would have been afraid.

Visions can be scary. When I was teaching I used to tell my students about the time I saw dead people. Being boys they loved those stories. And the one about the man who was dead for four days and then raised from his coffin. He came to speak at our local pastor’s association – that was interesting! And the boys loved the story of the funeral I did for a gangster. I digress.

The time I saw dead people walk through the walls is the point. It can be scary. In this case the hallucinations were the side effect of post-operative drugs. That was the time – you may remember – that while wrestling with a fever and hallucinations, the phone rang. I answered it and one of Sheilagh’s business associates was on the line. I told her that we were on a high mountain (the Drakensberg which is the name know to Africans) – and that the phone did not work at that altitude. “Please call her on her mobile” I said, and cut her off.

A different mountain. Tom Wright writes about the mountain in these words:

Mount Tabor is a large, round hill in central Galilee. When you go there today with a party of pilgrims, you have to get out of your bus and take a taxi to the top. They say that God is especially pleased with the Mount Tabor taxi-drivers, because more praying goes on in the few minutes hurtling up or down the narrow mountain road in those cars than in the rest of the day, or possibly the week.

He goes on to say:

Mount Tabor is the traditional site of the transfiguration, the extraordinary incident which Matthew, Mark and Luke all relate about Jesus.  Actually, we don’t know for sure that it took place there. It is just as likely that Jesus would have taken Peter, James and John– his closest associates– up Mount Hermon, which is close to Caesarea Philippi, where the previous conversation took place. Mount Hermon is more remote and inaccessible, which is of course why parties of pilgrims have long favoured Mount Tabor. From both mountains you get a stunning view of Galilee, spread out in front of you. *

They weren’t up there for the view, says Wright. This is one of those key moments – like Jesus’ baptism – where he is affirmed by a voice, and his followers are stunned and also told not to tell the story to anyone. There was obviously something specific for the three key men in Jesus’ team.

Here’s the key:

  • Mark 9:7 – Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
  •  Matthew 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5  While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
  • Luke 9:34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
    35  A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
    36  When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.

There’s a conversation happening between Moses, Elijah and Jesus.

Peter makes a plan to build shelters and starts sharing his ideas.

In two of the three gospel accounts, while Peter is speaking – God interrupts.

Does he? Or is in fact Peter interrupting God’s work. The cloud of the presence descends. Things grow strange, perhaps a little dark – all three gospels talk about them being “enveloped” by the cloud.

  • Then the voice.
  • And the identification of the Son – Jesus – how he is valued, loved, chosen, with whom God is well pleased.
  • And then the command: listen to Him.

APPLICATION

Peter was on the wrong page really. But he got there in the end.

When Jesus was pinned up on the cross on another mountain – Calvary, Peter did badly again. As Lent begins this week and we prepare for 40 days until Easter, we are faced with our own faith response.

Are we sometimes on the wrong page? Think about that for a while. There were voices at our Session meeting this week – as we wrestled with some issues.

It was about when we meet for worship. Since my speech issues, we have been meeting at one combined service. We will ask you for your thoughts.

There was one voice that won’t go away in my head. It was the question about how we reach the people of Browns Bay on a Sunday morning – those down at the market.

That one I think will come around again.

On Mount Tabor – or Hermon, whichever it was, there was a command to the disciples: Listen to Him.

And when all is said and done, the commands of Jesus are crucial.

I suspect that the important ones include:

  • Love one another as I have loved you.
  • Do this in remembrance of me (communion today)
  • Go into all the world
  • Make disciples of all nations

You’ve probably got some that grab your attention too.

The disciples did listen to him. They made mistakes, they got things wrong, but they did follow Jesus! And most of them gave their lives in the service of the gospel.

I want to quote Tom Wright again – I can’t say it better:

Matthew, here as elsewhere, highlights the parallel between Jesus and Moses. Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and then, before completing his task, went up Mount Sinai to receive the law. He then went up again, after the Israelites had drastically broken the law, to pray for them and to beg for God’s mercy. (Elijah, too, met God in a special way on Mount Sinai; but Matthew’s interest, throughout the gospel, is in the way in which Jesus is like Moses, only more so.) Towards the end of Moses’ life, God promised to send the people a prophet just like him (Deuteronomy 18), and gave the command: you must listen to him. Now, as Moses once again meets God on the mountain, the voice from the cloud draws attention to Jesus, confirming what Peter had said in the previous chapter. Jesus isn’t just a prophet; he is God’s own son, the Messiah, and God is delighted with what he is doing. The word to the disciples then is just as much a word to us today. If you want to find the way– the way to God, the way to the promised land– you must listen to him. *

That’s the gospel we have to tell others about. That’s why we are here.

May we listen to Him.

Amen.

 

* Wright, Tom (2002-03-22). Matthew for Everyone Part 2: Pt. 2 (New Testament for Everyone). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

Sunday sermon at BBP – 29 December 2013 – Called to serve

Gospel Reading:  St. Mark 10: 42 — 45;  Preacher: Bill Davey

How are we to respond to the Incarnate One?

We know the Lord can change New Zealand ― if we each play our part!

We are, however, needed to help re-kindle the faith in the Christ of the Gospels.  We have a clear exhortation about our service among His people:

 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to givehis life as a ransom for many.”  

Introduction

We will briefly review of some recent Advent Scriptures ― followed by a review of our Gospel reading this morning.

Advent

Every year we begin a great journey ― the story about God among His people: Meaning all humankind ― including you, me, indeed everyone is invited.

Advent (I) ― God’s Plan ― Journey’s End

Advent (I) began with a great thought ― our final focus on journey’s end:

Matthew 24: 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Our Christian story runs from Genesis (The Creation) to Revelation and ends with the Return of Christ to the earth.

Revelation 22: 20 reads: He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come Lord Jesus. The Return of Christ at the end of the age is our ultimate target throughout life.

― sometimes called the Second Coming or
― the culmination or consummation of all things.

Be watching ― Be praying ― Beware of false teachers ― Beware of idolatry

Advent (II) ― God’s Plan ― A great starting point

Advent (II) followed with the first baptisms ― a great start point ― Baptism.

Matthew 3: 11 – “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Advent (III) God’s Plan ― A New Way of living

Advent (III) Jesus demonstrated a new way of living and then He presented a eulogy to John the Baptist, with a paradox we find hard to understand.

Advent (IV) ― God’s Plan ― The Birth of Jesus

Advent (IV) The Joseph and Mary story.

Five days ago we celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who became our Messiah, Redeemer and Saviour on the Cross at Calvary.   Most of us have known this Christmas story ― about the Incarnation ― (“How God became man and came to live among us”) from our childhood. It has always been the cornerstone of our Christian culture and heritage.

Question: Is it still true ― for the children,  and children’s children in   New Zealand today?

During the family service we spoke of the ministry of John the Baptist. Our minister, Robin, recalled the words of Jesus to the people ― they are part of the eulogy to John the Baptist:

Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: `I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

I want to focus on the final words of the eulogy in verse 11: I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

What do we make of the paradox in verse 11? I tell you the truth: I tell you the truth also translates as “Verily, verilly, I say unto you. I suggest that we do well to highlight or underline all such sentences and ponder them ― They are always the kernel of a significant truth.

Now the paradox declares:

Among those born of women. Nobody “greater than John the Baptist” has been born. We continue: there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. What is this greater-ness of which He spoke?  I understand the Lord was saying, ′that He was demonstrating His leadership and authority ― not with military muscle or through conquest, but by being a servant of servants, and as a slave of the slaves′.

If you remain unsure of the meaning of the paradox, please do what the Baptist told his disciples to do, Go ask him yourself:  Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Can you recall the response of Jesus? “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

Please note how giving the good news to the poor is valued by the Lord ― It is the equal of healing or raising the dead.  Surely we can all tell someone about the goodness of the Lord to us?

Now what is our Church response and direction going to be in 2014?

Returning to our Gospel Reading

Our Lord gave a very clear exhortation about humble service among His followers:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  St. Mark 10: 42 — 45                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Our Lord gave a very clear exhortation about humble service among His followers: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

How will we respond the exhortation of Jesus?

Here are seven possible priorities for our consideration for 2014?

1.     Hospitality: Highlighting the dignity of being members of the Household of God.

2.     Caring: Helping any person in need, especially those experiencing misfortune or suffering from some disability.

3.     Reconciliation:    Seeking the recovery and restoration of those who have been separated in any way from God.

4.     Worship:   Guiding private and public worship. ― Time with God in prayer and study.

5.     Formation: Fostering the spiritual life of each member of our Fellowship and all who       wish to be associated in any way.

6.     Education: Providing appropriate learning experiences ranging from simple guided learning to advanced leadership training and studies.

7.     Evangelisation:     Pursuing opportunities to communicate the living vitality of our Lord Jesus with all in need of His love and care.

Summary

Our Lord’s new and living way is our example!

Are we willing to be a servant of servants and a slave of fellow slaves?

What will we consider the priority ministries in our own life this year?

Some thoughts as we finish:

Recall, the Lord can change New Zealand ― if we each play our part!

and we are all needed to help re-kindle the faith in the Christ of the Gospels.

It will work best ― when we gather one person at a time.   Amen!

Closing Prayer: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance toward you and give you peace!

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.

Sunday sermon 17 February – The temptations of Jesus

The Temptations of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’[a]

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[b]

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[
c]

12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 4:4 Deut. 8:3
  2. Luke 4:8 Deut. 6:13
  3. Luke 4:11 Psalm 91:11,12
  4. Luke 4:12 Deut. 6:16

 

Sunday Message

There are two Adams in the Bible. And the comparison between the two is a very helpful way of looking at the story of God’s rescue plan of the world. The Christian story.

In Luke’s gospel – in the previous chapter – there is a fascinating verse which gets us thinking again today about the two Adams. Luke outlines the genealogy of Jesus – his family tree – after the account of his baptism, and ends with this verse, verse 38: 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

  • Adam – the first Adam – the son of God.
  • Jesus – the second or last Adam – the son of God.  (1 Corinthians 15:54)

It doesn’t take much to figure out what the main difference is between these two! It’s in how they respond to the devil’s temptation.

THE TEMPTATIONS

Funny that we don’t always take them seriously – in the sense that we are NOT the son of God so we assume that the temptations Jesus faced were unique to him.

Good news, or bad news if you like – we are sons of Adam by birth and nature. The same stuff comes at us, but in different ways. So let’s look at the passage today.

Temptation 1 – Serving Self.

Luke 4:  Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

This is very close to home. The first temptation involves food. That pretty much settles things doesn’t it? Standing before the fridge at odd hours we have a new incentive to lock the door (of the fridge I mean). In the country where I came from you could lock your fridge which is not a bad thing if you have midnight raiders!

This temptation comes to Jesus at a time of extreme hunger. And one has to be sympathetic.

On Tuesday at our morning worship (See http://wp.me/p2bTnS-7f ) I shared about the three assumptions Jesus made when he spoke to his followers in Matthew 6 – when you give, when you pray and when you fast! We did not do a survey about who actually fasts as the congregation believes me usually – and the passage told us not to tell anyone!

But I know it’s not common! We hardly skip meals. Can you imagine what Jesus went through?

But this is about more than the food. The temptation to make food from rocks is only a symptom.

At his first day at work, in a sense, Jesus is tempted to use his power to serve his own needs.

Later on the cross he would be tempted in a similar way by the voices who taunted him by saying:   “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35).

Of course it didn’t stop there. The soldiers:  “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” (Luke 25:36). And one of the criminals hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39).

It’s about using your power to serve your own needs.

We have different power available in our lives. Resources, time, money are all forms of empowerment. Perhaps the temptation of Greed is related to this problem that we have – we could easily use our resources not to please ourselves but to be a blessing to the needy and poor.

We have power in the organisations we work in or serve in. The classic adult bully abuses that power in a self- serving way. Positive influence on the other hand is a blessing to others!

Many things we influence in the church are actually not about others but about ourselves. That’s the truth. The temptation is to serve ourselves.

The dialogue in the text today goes like this:

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’[a] 

Of course he was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Jesus resists this temptation because he knows his bible – which teaches that life comes from God in the fullest sense. Only the real life we have in God makes us fully alive! (song from NW)

We are fooled in thinking that getting our own way satisfies.

The story continues in the second temptation:

Temptation 2 –  The temptation to take control through compromising true worship.

For Jesus is was a stark choice:

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

It would have been so easy to embrace the expectations of the people and become a political Messiah. Military and civil power – the power to rule and control the nations – is a great temptation. It could be achieved by a brief moment of worshipping Satan.

Like the turning of stones into bread – it’s another short cut option.

I’ve already talked a little about our abuse use of power.

So many of our temptations are about short cuts bringing instant gratification.

And of course the Kingdom Jesus was ushering in was quite different from political hopes the locals had. It was about a long hard obedience to a new set of truths and assumptions about life.

  • Is this a real temptation?
  • Was Jesus REALLY tempted to worship the Devil?
  • And are we?

I’m not going to try to answer those questions. I’d rather point you to a key verse in the Bible:

Hebrews 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

And behind this saga in the narrative is the same command that applies to all human beings:

Exodus 20:3  “You shall have no other gods before me.

Power and worship are close allies. It’s about the things that capture our hearts! We are dealing here with Jesus who became fully human.

We need to be so very careful here, because we know that the stuff of this world doesn’t really satisfy. Two illustrations help here. The first is by the 17th century French Philosopher Blaise Pascal:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in humanity a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This we try in vain to fill with everything around us, seeking in things that are not there the help we cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God alone.”
Blaise Pascal, Pensee 10.148.

And then more well-known perhaps from Augustine the 4th century African bishop of Hippo, the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria:

“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”
St. Augustine, Confessions 1.1.1

It’s the on-going temptation to seek fulfillment in things and from other sources.

Worship is about what we give worth too – what captures our hearts and imaginations. And we are very vulnerable to this idolatry.

Temptation 3 – The third but not final temptation – a cross-avoiding spectacle

And so we come to the third one. It would have been much easier to perform a stunt. Listen again:

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[
c]

12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

A couple of things come to mind here. The misuse of the Bible – how easy it is to abuse scripture.

  • Again the short cuts of wanting instant results.
  • But especially the avoidance of the cross.

Most real achievement comes with long hard commitment and courage. The cross required that in the extreme.

We too should not test God (I am not sure if we do take huge risks though). It’s probably the most difficult temptation to get our heads around and to apply to our lives.

SOME CONCLUSIONS AND SOLUTIONS

I think in all of them there is a FAITH as TRUST issue here. Jesus had to trust His Father fully. So what about us?

  • Do we really believe that God’s way is best for us?
  • Do WE want to force His hand?
  • Are there things we don’t really trust Him for?

LET’S WATCH THIS PRESENTATION OF THE TEMPTATIONS BY CHILDREN – it will give us some insights into the problem and some solutions. It may make this sermon more memorable.

WATCH VIDEO:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntnvr5sbl04

I loved the hamburger thrown in. Typical kids. But the “on my knees” theme is the key! The song grabbed my attention – as did the Lord’s prayer reminder.

The chorus in the song: On my knees! I am on my knees! I’m on my knees!

  • Prayer is at the heart of our victory against temptation.
  • We pray better when we know our Bibles!
  • When we’ve been on our knees (literally or not – it means devoting time to prayer) then the decisions when on our feet through the day become so much simpler. The power of the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God to our lives means that like Paul we can say: “But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16 )

So for your encouragement, read this passage which helps press on and not give up:

Hebrews 4:14-16:  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Amen.

Sunday sermon 25 November – Christ the King

Christ the King.

Readings: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-134; Phil 2:8-15; John 18:33-37; Rev 1:4-8

I read an account this week of a Canadian lady who lives in two worlds, so to speak. Not heaven and earth – but in two countries. Her name is Cecille and she visits the United States dozens of times a day – when she makes tea, for example, or goes to the backdoor or the fridge. She reads and sleeps in Canada though. And she eats in Canada – because she sits at the north end of her dining room table.

The reason? Her house was already there in 1842 when politicians decided in London where the official boundary line would be. A citizen of Canada, she spends a lot of her time in another country while staying in the same place. Sound familiar to you?

It’s a great story and a kind of a parable of the Christian life for us.

Paul tells us in Philippians (not read today):

Php 3:18  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Php 3:19  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

Php 3:20  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Php 3:21  who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Citizenship in heaven. And yet we live totally absorbed with the things of this world. And when Jesus’ ministry got going He preached about the Kingdom coming! In their midst!

We live in two Kingdoms.

Today’s Gospel reading

In the Gospel reading today Pilate and Jesus are talking about Jesus as King but they are talking about different Kingdoms.

It’s a fascinating conversation that John records for us. Listen again.

Joh 18:33  Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Joh 18:34  “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Joh 18:35  “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

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

Joh 18:37  “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Pilate would have no issue with the idea of Jesus as King of the Jews. A bit bizarre, that’s all. Not a threat. He’s just a bible teacher from a small town.

Pilate is a pragmatic politician. He tries to figure this out and therefore asks a great question:

“What is it you have done?”

Of course this doesn’t really help him, because Jesus’ answer is couched in language and concepts of the other world – another reality – the other “Kingdom” to which he belongs:

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

That is troublesome really for Pilate. He can only respond with “You are a king, then!”  One can only imagine what he was thinking. You are a king -or not. What on earth are you talking about?

Jesus makes it as clear as he can for this Roman: He answers:  “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

I had this great discussion this week with one of our elders about a verse in Matthew which goes like this:

Mat 7:6  “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. (If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.)

Well maybe this is an example of a tremendous truth that simply goes over someone’s head – because they’re not there. There is no way Pilate was going to understand the truth of Jesus and his Kingdom.

We live in these two worlds then. And what people believe about Jesus (in the Christian family) swings between these two worlds in a sense. There are those who believe that it is our job to make Jesus Lord and King of this world – so they fight for truth and justice.

And they are right in a sense – even if they become nutter activists. They plunge into the affairs of this world – or worse still spend all their time debating the affairs of this world – the politicians, the political parties, the social issues of poverty and corruption. Some just talk about the stuff all the time – using the social media or any opportunity to debate causes. They don’t always get involved of course.

One can’t dispute the fact that God calls people to be social reformers. The William Wilberforces of this world are a gift to all – it was he who spent his whole life fighting slavery. Watch “Amazing Grace” sometime and you will get what I mean.

And then on the opposite extreme there are those who spend all their energy and time focussing on spiritual matters – the Kingdom of God and its benefits for us as Christians – with equally unbalanced ways of doing things that are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.

BOTH ARE REAL AND NECESSARY

Both worlds are real and necessary. Don’t we pray each week” Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

If our Canadian lady who lives in her house which straddles a national border were to spend all her time at the backdoor or at the fridge (in America), she would not get to sleep at all (which she does in Canada).

It is a pretty strange kind of way to live, but Christians are a peculiar lot anyway. The old KJV calls us a “peculiar people” which is rather nice. (1 Peter 2:9 – meaning his own possession).

Extreme 1

We can’t retreat permanently from the world and spend our time “in church” gazing upwards and enjoying being with the Lord all the time. Not normally at any rate (although God does call some people to a permanent retreat at times).

We do need to look past the obvious and life and stare into the eternal – we need to be in relationship with Jesus our King because he is not only the one who gives us our orders, but he is the one who empowers us and gives us all we need to be his people in the world. And he calls us to get involved in the world of pain, suffering, hunger, disease and heartache.

Extreme 2

Likewise we can’t spend all our time in the struggles of this world, as that too would mean half the job done. We are to be there with a purpose – and point people to the other Kingdom – to the King who in the most amazing way defines everything that makes sense about Kingship. A Christian who doesn’t point people to Jesus and the gospel becomes a political or social activist and no longer a servant of the Kingdom of God.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD KING?

Since Prince Charles came to visit with his old friend and now wife Camilla, the debate about royalty has started up here again.

And the basic question is this – “what makes for a good king?” What kind of King would this be?

In fact the whole trial and crucifixion is about this issue. Even from his birth it was clear that Jesus was to be a king:

  • Mat_2:2  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” The wise men present him gold – fit for a king – as one of his gifts.
  • Early on he is identified in this way: Joh_1:49  Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
  • Then they tried to make him king here – when he fed the 5000 with a boy’s lunch (potential to solve world food shortages!): Joh_6:15  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
  • And of course about Palm Sunday when he road into Jerusalem – John quotes the Old Testament: Joh_12:15  “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” (Quoting Zechariah 9:9)

THE TRIAL AND CRUCIFIXION

  • And as the trial progresses we hear Pilate saying: Joh_18:39  But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
  • And then the soldiers: Joh_19:3  and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.
  • And the story continues:  Joh_19:12  From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
    • Joh_19:14  It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
    • Joh_19:15  But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

 Joh_19:19  Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

The question is – what kind of King?

In his human life – a servant king – touching the untouchables, restoring the broken, dying on a tree for our sins.

In his RESURRECTION raised in glorious splendour – the one who is to be worshipped as Lord, the one before whom every knee shall bow.

There is Jesus the human and Jesus the Divine. And His Kingdom had its effect on those around him as the future broke into the present – the sick were healed, the dead raised, and demons – evil spirits – defeated.

We live in between the then and the not yet – our now is a battle as we try to resist the devil who wants to suck us back into his kingdom of darkness.

Peter –who tells us to resist the devil – also writes this (which we have referred to already in regard to the word “peculiar”):

1Pe_2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

KINGDOM CHOICES AND CALLING

Let’s not be duped into thinking that this is just a question of choosing to be nice rather than unpleasant. Sometimes we reduce the Christian journey to a matter of ethical choices – like those who make Jesus a good teacher and no more.

This is war. The darkness and the light are at war with each other.

The truth prevails. As it will in every human conflict. Those who try to manipulate the truth will be exposed.

WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO PILATE IN TODAY’S READING

Pilate tried to crucify the Truth!

Putting a crown of thorns on Jesus and a mocking sign “The King of the Jews” would not change that. And in a fascinating twist Pilate was in fact announcing the truth about Jesus.

  • Pilate embodies the opposite of Jesus’ Kingdom. He controls and keeps the peace so that he will keep control and therefore keep his job. He lords it over people. He kills Jesus.
  • Jesus on the other hand empowers others and washes the feet of those he leads.
  • Pilate’s rule brings terror, even in the midst of calm.
  • Jesus’ rule brings peace, even in the midst of terror.
  • Pilate’s power comes from Caesar and is temporary.
  • Jesus’ authority comes from God and is eternal.

And from the cross Jesus is the suffering servant in the complete sense. Forgiving them. And even caring for them by creating a new community – when he appoints John as Mary’s son and Mary as John’s mother, this is more than just a family and friend thing. It’s a whole new community of love that is greater than family ties, gender, race and earthly citizenship. It’s the church that is being born – God’s family on earth – and the people who are showing forth the Kingdom.

So this is “Christ the King” Sunday.

All this information about Jesus and what he did to achieve our salvation and freedom is known to us. Paul reminds us that as a result of his death, he is exalted as Lord of all. Listen again:

Php 2:8  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Php 2:9  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

Php 2:10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Php 2:11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And so much in the New Testament is shaped by this passage from Daniel 7:

Dan 7:9  “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.

Dan 7:10  A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

Dan 7:13  “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

Dan 7:14  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

IS HE YOUR KING?

The bottom line is this: Is He our King? Or do we serve others? Are we really passionate about His Kingdom? It influences who we are and everything we do. Listen again to John in Revelation 1:5-6:

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

THE KINGDOM IS ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

One commentator puts it this way:

We are made a kingdom (RSV). John gives us here a fascinating insight into the kingdom theology of the New Testament. The kingdom of God is not seen in the New Testament in territorial terms, but rather in relationship terms. “It is the Kingly Reign of Jesus Christ” (Bonhoeffer).

Ordinary and garden-variety people who receive the love and freedom from Christ are the ones who, as we are willing to become Christ’s servants (Rev_1:1), thereby become His very kingdom in the world.

The apostle John continues: Rev 1:7  Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

Rev 1:8  “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Those who don’t believe will see eventually. In the meantime we live to praise His name and to proclaim His Kingdom – living it out in community here in this place.

May this truth be real for us today.

Amen.