Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sermon for Sunday 27 October 2013 – Luke 4:16-26, Isaiah 45:22-25 and Romans 15:1-6, Kim

Today is Bible Sunday and all the readings are for today. I could talk about The Bible and it is importance and I could talk about the important work that the Bible Society does but you may already know these things. I want to share with you one particular message that comes out of the Gospel passage and links with the other readings.

 In order to understand all the significance of Luke 4: 16-24, we must understand the Jewish synagogue system of worship. In the synagogue, sacrifice was not done. The synagogue was a place for teaching and reading. The temple in Jerusalem was the place for the priests to offer sacrifice to God, but in the synagogue, men came to learn. In the temple the priests were in charge; in the synagogue there was no priest, no preacher. Each man had an opportunity to participate in the time of reading and learning. A man would volunteer to read a passage from the scrolls of the Old Testament, and then afterwards, he would sit down and explain what those passages he read meant to him.

So on this day, Jesus was taking his turn in the synagogue to read the lesson and then to explain it. He picked a lesson that was very familiar to the Jews and contained a message that the Jews were passionate about.   The passage was from Isaiah, chapter 61, verse 2 - a passage of hope, of deliverance, that reminded the Jews that God was indeed still with them, still caring for them.  A passage that everyone in the world needs to hear today.

After he had finished his reading Jesus handed the scroll back to be put away.  He returned to his seat, and proceeded to explain the passage to them. Jesus begins his sermon with the most amazing sentence, saying, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Jesus is saying that today he has fulfilled this scripture, and today he is God’s salvation to the world. The Bible shows me that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

Isaiah 61:1-2 was written 700 years prior to the moment when Christ read it.  The people had returned from captivity in Babylon. They were trying to rebuild their temple, but things weren’t going very well. The people were getting discouraged: they thought God had abandoned them. Times were hard, food was scarce, and hope for the future was in short supply. The people were so desperate so full of mourning that they even covered their heads with ashes, and wore sackcloth, the garment of mourning.  But Isaiah came and said to the people, “God is here; He will deliver; He will save; He will make you a mighty nation. Through you, God will keep his promise to bring salvation to the world”.

This passage is one of hope, of freedom, of release, and of salvation. But up till that time it was only a message of hope.  People dreamed about the day that hope would be realised.   So when Jesus said, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Jesus was saying the same thing. Jesus is saying to the people and to us that He is the one to bring God’s salvation to the world. Jesus is dropping a bomb shell on this congregation.  He is telling them/us that he is God’s salvation in the world. Through him God’s deliverance, God’s promise of hope, of freedom has come to his people.  Jesus is was revealing something about himself; he was making clear his mission, his calling, his task as he goes about his ministry on this earth.  Jesus is telling them that he is the one to bring hope and salvation to all people. We have been given this ministry.

We all acknowledge that we believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour but I sometimes wonder if we have  got so used to the terms ‘Lord’ and ‘Saviour’ that they mean very little to us?  And this is why we have to be reminded of them over and over again. We need to know why Jesus came into the world. Verse 18 gives us some answers.  Jesus came into the world:

To share the Good News of the Gospel to the poor.  People who do not yet know the riches of life in Christ.  Not just to preach to them but to speak to their hearts. Sometimes "the poor" can be really hard to talk to, especially those who are looking for something else to make their life meaningful.  So we are to bring the Good News to them in any way we can.

God has sent Jesus to heal the broken-hearted. Jesus is the Great Physician not just to our bodies but to our souls as well.  There are thousands of broken-hearted people around us... most don’t understand why they are broken-hearted and they are helpless to deal with their problems. The question is, How can we heal them?  We are called to tell of the Good news of repentance and forgiveness.  Our task is to help people know what is wrong with them, and help them to understand that the way to God is a humble spirit.  Jesus said in Matt 5:3 says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven “. And in Ps. 147:3 says, “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds”.  

To give freedom to the captives. Captives are not just prisoners of war.  They are also people who are in need of forgiveness and deliverance: those with destructive habits and addictions, or hearts filled with anger, hatred, unforgiveness and revenge.  To put it plainly; not believing in Jesus puts you in the worst captivity ever.  This is why we are needed in our community – to share the Good News.

To bring recovery of sight to the blind. We all know that Blindness can be a handicap.  In those days the only means of survival for the blind was to beg for money and food.  So to be blind in those days was to be a nuisance for others, and very often suffered rejection.  But Jesus accepted the blind whenever he came across them, healed them and set them free from their prison of both poverty and blindness.  And because of what he did, blind people were able to live normal lives.   What does this mean to us today?  People are not just suffering from physical blindness but there are also people who are spiritually blind. And like when people are blind, people who do not know the true God, they too grope about in darkness.  They need their sight to be restored so that they can know the true God.   Another reason why we should share the Good News.

To set free those who are oppressed. As Christians we cannot be possessed by evil spirits, but they can still influence our lives.  And I have seen with my own eyes how the Devil can control a person physically and emotionally, I can tell you it is a sad sight because the person does not even know it or admit it.  There might be times in our lives when we have given up on our dreams, our hopes. BUT Jesus never quits on us. Jesus is always there waiting and wanting to set us free. There will always be those times in our lives when we feel broken-hearted and life seems hopeless and we look for the day that Jesus will lighten our burdens and free our spirits. But 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “… where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. 

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD. This is the year of Jubilee, the year when we are restored and set free.  What year is that? Well you may have already had your Jubilee but there are many who have yet to have their Jubilee year. It is the year when you know the Lord and see the truth.  It may be right now. All those/these years you were or may be wandering in the dark.  Your prejudice with people may or may have put you in the dark. Your anger at your predicaments has or may have blinded you. Or you may or have been blinded by your wealth and position and life of comfort.   It all starts with the year you accept your condition without Christ;
the year you accept the fact that you need a Saviour;
you accepted that the blood of the Lamb of God has atoned for our sin;
you accept that your life is no longer your own but brought at a price;
you accept that you are going to serve, praise, worship, honour, seek and obey Him for the rest of our life.
That is your jubilee, the year of your release.   And we should proclaim it everywhere we go. Another reason why we should share the Good News.

The Isaiah reading it says ‘Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.’ Unless we share the Good News, people who don’t know God won’t know this. The Romans reading said that we should bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. We should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up. We don’t know what God will do when we share His character with others, I do know from my experience, it is very good.

We come to Church every Sunday, just as Jesus went to the synagogue each week, to hear God’s word for our lives.  But we need to hear the message of the Bible so that we may be filled with it to carry the message of hope and grace into the world around us, as well as into our lives.  We are Christ’s instrument in this world, but before we can be effective instruments we have to be sharpened by the Word of God. We have to be living the freedom Jesus brings us. How can we bring freedom to others? – next door – down the street – in our town – in our world? By showing others what it looks like to live in the freedom that Jesus died to give us. In all aspects of our lives we can make decisions that show we are living free from fear of death, anger and jealousy. Our words and actions can either enhance or detract from other people’s freedom. So let’s live in such a way that brings the true freedom of Christ to those around us by the words that we use, the things that we do and the way in which we live. Jesus also gave us His blessing,
‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind towards each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice (God’s mind and voice) you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.

1. How often do you read the Bible? If not often, what stops you from reading it?
2. We all acknowledge that we believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour but I sometimes wonder if we have  got  so used to the terms ‘Lord’ and ‘Saviour’ that they mean very little to us?  Is this true or false for you?
3. How do you feel about being God’s instrument today in the community, world?
4. Are you able to communication in whatever manner (talk, action etc.) is comfortable to you, Jesus to others?
5. What stops you doing so? How can we help?

For Extra Study:
Freedom people  - Here are just some of the things Jesus gives us freedom from:
• Freedom from sin, death, condemnation, guilt and shame – Romans 8.1-17
• Freedom from our weaknesses (anger, jealousy, gossip, bitterness) – Galatians 5.1
• Freedom from fear - Romans 8.15

He gives us:
• Freedom on the inside – see Psalm 40 1-3
• Freedom to live life to the full – see John 10.10
• Freedom to know God – see Hebrews 9.15
• Freedom to be God’s children and to call him “Abba” – Daddy. – Romans 8.15
• Freedom to be the friends of God – John 15.15
• Freedom to be filled with His Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – Galatians 5
• Freedom to do the things that Jesus did – John 14.12

Who is this freedom for?
The Jewish people were longing for political liberation from the Romans. But Jesus came to bring spiritual freedom for everyone today and in the years to come.

Just sometime to smile about.

They lie on the table side by side, The Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
One is well worn and cherished with pride.
Not the Bible, but the TV Guide.
One is used daily to help folk decide.
No, not the Bible, but the TV Guide.
As the pages are turned, what shall they see?
Oh, what does it matter, turn on the TV.
So they open the book in which they confide.
No, not the Bible, but the TV Guide.
The Word of God is seldom read.
Maybe a verse before they fall into bed.
Exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be.
Not from reading the Bible, from watching TV.
So then back to the table side by side, Lie the Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
No time for prayer, no time for the Word,
The plan of Salvation is seldom heard.
But forgiveness of sin, so full and free,
Is found in the Bible, not on TV.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sunday 20 October 2013, Genesis 32:22-32, Luke 18:1-8, Bruce

(A sermon for a Zone at Liquid Church)

Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.
Our opening hymn this morning is a powerful reminder of God’s grandeur, power, holiness and might.  And yet – Jesus told us to call God our Father.  He lived a life of trust in his Father, and encouraged us to do the same.  Luke tells us the story of the Prodigal Father, who lavishes love on his wasteful and disrespectful son, and gives us many examples of Jesus consistently in prayer and telling us to do the same.
Our gospel reading today is a parable that might at first seem strange.  Can God really be compared to an unjust judge?  I would say no. 
The judge in ancient Israel had absolute power.  He could do what he liked.  There was no jury or court of appeal.  The widow seems to have had no family to speak for her or help her.  She is powerless and helpless.  It is an uneven contest which she is bound to lose.  Except for one thing.  She is shameless and tireless in calling for her wrongs to be put right.  She pursues the judge relentlessly.  In the end the judge gives in.  He does not turn over a new leaf, or become a better human being and more just judge.  He is just worn down by the widow going on and on and on.
Can God really be compared to an unjust judge?  I would say no.  Jesus had earlier talked about earthly fathers being asked for a fish and handing over a snake, or being asked for an egg and giving a scorpion. (Luke 11:11)  His point there was that if an imperfect human father might do try to do his best, then we can count on our heavenly Father always to answer prayer.  His point here is that we should always pray and never give up.  Even if our situation seems hopeless, we should carry on and on.  God is on our side; it is just that sometimes we cannot see it.  Sometimes we seem to be surrounded by trials and difficulties that grind us down.
Why then do we not get easy, instant answers to our prayers?
First, creation is in a fearful mess, where good and evil fight each other in heaven and in this world.  It took the death of Jesus to win the victory and the aftershocks of that conflict are still being played out in real time.  When we announce Jesus to you as the light and hope of the world, we are not commending a philosophy or way of life for you to consider and debate, and adopt if it takes your fancy.  This is a battle of life and death and we are all caught up in it.  Jesus told this story to remind us to “Never stop, never stop fighting till the fight is done.”
Second, we are in a fearful mess.  When we come to faith in Jesus, we become part of the new creation, children of our heavenly father and members of the family.  We still have a lifetime of habits and worldview that fill our minds and colour our thoughts.  Look at the life of Jacob.  His name means “one who grabs the heel, supplanter, cheat”.  As a young man he stole the blessing – the birthright and moral authority to inherit all his father Isaac’s wealth.  It wall went wrong and he had to flee.  He has been an exile and has got rich, apparently by tricking his uncle Laban, and he is on the move again.
In this mysterious story, Jacob has a fight.  Is it with a man or an angel?  It is unclear but at the end Jacob announces that he has seen God.  They wrestle each other to a draw, but Jacob will not let go.  “Bless me!”  “I have fought and manoeuvred and tricked all my life but I know that I am missing that true birthright, that true blessing which will make me whole.”  If you read back over Jacob’s life, he has never really encountered God for himself before; it has always been the God of his father and grandfather, it has never been personal to him.  The struggle seems to have been needed to bring Jacob to the place where he could really Encounter God for himself, and start to grow in him.
God is looking for justice and mercy to be all over his creation, and he looks to each one of us to keep seeking him in prayer, for his name to be hallowed, for his kingdom to come, for his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  We should continue to seek him to provide all our needs and to keep us from the time of trial and to deliver us from the evil one.  One day we will be in the New Jerusalem, in the presence of the immortal invisible one.  Until then we are called to pray at all times and for all people.  Never stop, never stop fighting till the fight is done.
Discussion Starters
1.     Both Jacob and the widow seem to have reached a point of desperation.  What does this suggest to you about the nature of prayer?
2.     How comfortable are you with the idea that struggle and persistence are an essential part of faith?
3.     How do these stories help you when thinking about God and your relationship with him?

4.     Is there a prayer or concern that continues to bother you, which you could share so that others can join with you in prayer?
See also:

Seecern that continues to bother you, which you could share so that others can join with you in prayer?

Sunday 13 October 2013, Trinity 20, 1 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15, Luke 17:11-19, Bruce

a.        We are going to examine two characters today.  Together they give us clues about the meaning of life and help us answer a key question:
2.       How can I be a true worshipper?
a.        We operate with the Purpose Statement “To Encounter God and Grow in Him.
b.       Many of us may find ourselves questioning how real our experience of God can be.
c.        How helpful are buildings, songs, forms of worship?  How do they connect with real life?
d.       As we look at the lives of Naaman and the ten lepers, we discover that:
3.       It all starts with desperate need.
a.        Naaman was a powerful, favoured warrior, in the kingdom of Aram (today’s Syria), but his life was in tatters.
b.       A skin disease that was then feared and incurable put you on the edge.  You could not take part in regular society and life.
c.        The ten lepers would have been forced to leave family and friends and live in the wilderness, on the edge of society. 
d.       They may have been a disparate bunch of Jews and Samaritans, people who would normally have stayed clear of each other, but who had banded together for mutual support and protection.
e.       Although this may not have been exact condition that text books defined as leprosy today, their disease made them the most pitiable of outcasts.  They were truly desperate.
4.       Our need is met by God’s mercy.
a.        The servant girl belonging to Naaman’s wife tells of a God who can save.
b.       The king of Syria assumes that the channel will be through the king of Israel.
c.        Elisha announces that there is indeed a prophet in Israel.
d.       The ten lepers meet Jesus!
e.       He was walking along the border between Samaria and Galilee: he meets people on the edge.  Are we sometimes too comfortable?
f.         The lepers do the right thing: they stand at a distance.
g.        They cry out to Jesus for mercy, for favour, eleison.
h.       Jesus tells them to obey the Old Testament Law and show themselves to the priests, so that they can be declared clean.
i.         All ten of them did what they were told.  I wonder what they were thinking?
5.       Our response
a.        At different times we may each respond in different ways to God’s love.
b.       Naaman is perhaps obedient and hopeful as he travels to Israel in search of cleansing.
                                                               i.      His first thought is that God’s cleansing will come to him in a way that matches up to his high opinion of himself.  It will be the king of Israel that God uses, or he will be commanded to undertake some valiant quest.
                                                              ii.      The reality of encountering God seems to be a bit beneath him, and his first response is to go off in a huff.
                                                            iii.      He seems to have been a lovable man, though, because he has servants who plead with him, and he submits.  He baptises himself the required seven times in the river Jordan, and emerges – cleansed!
                                                            iv.      His response is to declare that Jahweh is the true God, and later in the chapter we discover that he has become a worshipper.
c.        All ten lepers set off to find a priest, in obedience to Jesus’ command.  On the way they discover that they have been cleansed.
                                                               i.      One, and only one, of them turns back.  In doing this he seems to be disobeying!
                                                              ii.      He throws himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks him – he eucharizes him.
                                                            iii.      Jesus notices that this is a Samaritan, a foreigner (like Naaman was), one on the edge.
                                                            iv.      The fact that he thanks Jesus for God’s cleansing seems to put the seal on it.  “Rise and go, your faith has saved you.”  A thankful heart is what unites us with God – it makes us into true worshippers.
d.       We hear no more about the other nine, except that Jesus wonders about them.
                                                               i.      They have been separated from wives, children, and parents.  In their joy and delight, have they very understandably forgotten everything else, grabbed their certificates and gone home?
                                                              ii.      They presumable went to the temple to worship, but Jesus obviously feels they should have come to him.
                                                            iii.      There are so many benefits to being a part of the church community.  We get friendship and support, we receive teaching and guidance, we can experience delight at the beauty of a building or a piece of music.
                                                            iv.      All of this is good, but can leave us missing out the most vital thing, to truly have a heart’s encounter with God.
e.       What see in both Naaman and the unnamed but thankful Samaritan leper is a heart that has been deeply touched.  They have truly and encountered God, and they have been changed.
f.         In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light.  To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him.
g.        Naaman immersed himself in the Jordan, and that was a symbol of him being immersed in God’s love and cleansing power.
h.       The cleansed leper immersed himself in a river of thankfulness for the new start in life that Jesus was giving him.
i.         We are called to immerse ourselves in God’s grace and mercy.                               
                                                               i.      Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
j.         All           It is right to give thanks and praise.
k.        Today we rejoice with Catherine as she is immersed in God’s love during this baptism service, and together we join in a thanksgiving, a eucharist, we share in a public act of sharing in God’s presence through the symbols of broken bread and shared wine.

Discussion Starters
1.       How much do you know about leprosy and how affected people were treated in ancient times?
2.       A quote from New Wine this year:  “When we hear of miracles in overseas countries, I do not think that they have more faith than us, but that they are more desperate than us in prayer.”  What do you think of this?
3.       If asked to define what worship is, how would you answer?  What examples would you give?
4.       What do you think about the place of foreigners or those “on the edge” in these stories?  How would you answer the opinion that we are sometimes too comfortable with the familiar and safe inside our church buildings?

5.       Have you any specific suggestions about things that hinder your worship that we could see about changing?  Or are there any things that we could do more of as they are a blessing to you?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday 6 October 2013, Harvest Morning Service, Leviticus 23:33-43, John 7:37-39, Bruce

The church has been decorated beautifully for harvest.  One member joked that with all that effort, it was good that harvest comes only once a year.  I had to inform them that the Israel had three!  There was a harvest celebration at the time of the Passover in the spring, a harvest celebration 50 days later at the time of Pentecost, and the third main one in the autumn after the Day of Atonement.  This last one involved tents.
The people of Israel went down into Egypt in the time of Joseph.  400 years later Moses led them out, through the Red Sea and into the wilderness.  For 40 years the people lived in tents, and God was among them in the Tabernacle.  One significant event occurred when the people were running out of water; at Horeb God commanded Moses to strike the rock, and water gushed out.
In our reading from Leviticus we read about the autumn harvest festival, to be held over eight days.  It was called the Feast of Tabernacles or the feast of Booths.  As well as sacrifices and feasting, the people were commanded to move out of their houses for the week and live in booths or temporary tents.  Even when they were settled in their promised land, they were to be reminded every year that they had been wanderers, depending upon God and his constant mercy and provision.
By the time of Jesus the festival was still being celebrated.  An important part of the festival in Jerusalem was the ceremonial pouring out of water; it was collected from the Pool of Siloam, paraded through the city and poured out before the Lord in the temple.  The procession through Jerusalem was an occasion of great joy.
It was on the last day of the feast, when the celebrations were at their height, that Jesus stood up and shouted that anyone who is thirsty should come to him; out their inner most being would flow rivers of living water.
The key requirement is that we should be thirsty.  John explains carefully that Jesus is not being literal when he speaks of water; he is speaking of the Holy Spirit.  The key thing is to Encounter God and Grow in Him.  The key thing is to learn to believe: to trust and rely upon Jesus.  This was the lesson learned in the wilderness and reinforced every year at the festival. 
When Jesus calls us to satisfy our thirst, it is not just to meet our personal needs.  The plan is that out of innermost being would flow rivers of living water – the Holy Spirit reaching out to bless our family members, neighbours, colleagues and friends.
To summarise:
·         Thanks to God for all that he gives
·         Remember that we are “tent dwellers”
·         Believe = to depend / rely upon absolutely
·         Direct encounter with God, by his Holy Spirit
·         Share his love with all around