Saturday, 28 June 2014

Sermon 29th June 2014 Its an Adventure Following Jesus Anne

Do you remember, when you were in school,  ever being in one of those lessons where instead of putting your hand up to answer the teacher’s questions, the teacher just picks on someone and you don’t want that someone to be you!   You know a really tricky question is coming and as you sit there waiting to be put on the spot, you get more and more anxious,
and you can hear your heart pounding and the palms of your hands get clammy and sweaty and you think that by looking down, she won’t pick on you!   And as you’re looking down you’re thinking to yourself  don’t make eye contact with her!  Whatever you do, don’t look up and catch her gaze.  And suddenly your desk becomes so fascinating as you look intently at it, or you pretend you’re still writing, going over the last word 10 times.  And all the time you’re thinking that no matter what,  don’t… look…up!  And then … phew!  Some other poor student who hasn’t quite mastered the “averting gaze, looking busy avoidance strategy” gets picked on.  And you relax… and in confidence you look smugly around the room thinking  “that was a lucky escape”. 

I wonder if it was like that for the disciples when Jesus asks them tricky questions. 
In the Gospel reading this morning, Jesus asks them two questions.  The first seems straightforward enough  “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” he asks them.

That’s ok – they’ve heard what others think about Jesus and all they have to do to answer the question, is report back what they’ve overheard.  Maybe they listened to what the crowds were saying when Jesus healed the sick or when he fed a multitude with just five loaves and two fishes.  They heard that some people thought he was one of the prophets; maybe people in the crowds noticed that some of John the Baptist’s followers were now following Jesus and put 2 and 2 together and made 5.  Or maybe they connected Jesus with the prophet Elijah because they both came from the North and were Godly, Holy men.  Or maybe they thought he was the prophet Jeremiah because like Jeremiah, Jesus opposed the political and religious leaders of the day.  So all this was easy to report back – it was straightforward to answer the question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”.  

But then .. Jesus asks the ‘eye averting, looking busy, please don’t ask me to answer that…’ sort of a question… the killer question that puts you right on the spot.  “But what about you”, he says, “who do you say that I am?” 

And Peter, impulsive Peter, doesn’t dodge the question, he doesn’t launch into the avoidance strategy – he blurts out what God has revealed to him, he says, “You are the Messiah the Son of the living God”.   He’s saying, ‘Jesus, you are the Christ, God’s anointed Son - You are the Saviour.’

And Jesus blesses him – not for his accomplishments or his strengths as a disciple (in fact, we know that Peter was anything but the perfect disciple, because later he even denies knowing Jesus!) - he blesses him for his testimony or witness to who Jesus is.  His public declaration is saying  “what I’ve experienced in you, Jesus, is that you are the Messiah.  You are the one who restores my relationship with God”.

This weekend, Patrick and I are having an exciting time and we’re both celebrating.  Yesterday, I was ordained as a priest and today Patrick is being baptised.  These are significant moments in our lives.  Just like Peter, we are both making a public declaration about who we believe Jesus is.  So, I am going to invite Patrick to come up here as well … and share some of his thoughts with us …

Sample of Questions for Patrick:  
When and how did you first become aware of Jesus?  When did you realise you wanted to be baptised?  What made you decide you wanted to be baptised?  Some people talk about following Jesus as an adventure, what are you looking forward to in your adventure?
How are you celebrating after the service?

There will of course be ups and downs for both of us as we continue our adventure following Jesus; there were ups and downs for Peter too.  His adventure takes him on a journey of joy and desperation, of exposure to his short comings and to Spirit filled excitement and as we can see from the Acts reading, to imprisonment. 

Maybe you’ve experienced some ups and downs in your relationship with God, or in your adventure following Jesus  – I know I have.  I was a few years older than Patrick when I became a Christian.  I was away on a weekend with other teenagers from the church youth club.  Graham, the man playing the guitar and leading the singing, asked us if we wanted to ask Jesus into our lives.  I answered that question Jesus asks the disciples “who do you think I am?” and prayed to him as my Saviour and Lord.  Incidentally, Patrick and his family happen to have chosen a song for the service today, Shine Jesus Shine,  that was written by Graham.  But, like many teenagers though, I left church when I was 18 – I moved away from home, away from my church community, from Jesus and from God.  

But God was hanging on to me.  I often describe my experience as if I was at the end of a bungee rope, you know, those heavy duty long elastic ropes that people are attached to when they do bungee jumping.  As I seemed to get further and further away from God, at the bottom of the fall, I was catapulted back into His arms.   And, as you can see, my adventure took a different turn! 

I don’t know where you are on your adventure…  Maybe as yet,  you’re not quite sure who this Jesus actually is; it’s easy to answer the question “who do people say that I am” but when it comes to the killer question “who do you say that I am?” that one makes you want to look down – don’t catch His gaze! 

Or, maybe for you, you’re at the end of the bungee rope and being here today, as you look around and hear the worship, it brings you back to your history of being in church and you’re now yearning to be catapulted back into his arms -  and who knows, where He’ll lead you

Or maybe for you, you are settled and already resting in His loving arms.  

Where ever you are on your adventure, you can pray that God might reveal his Son to you – and be reassured that Jesus wants to restore your relationship with God and that as you come to know Him more, he blesses you. 

And, to start our celebrations,  Patrick and I thought we’d share a DVD clip with you – just as a reminder that it certainly is an adventure following Jesus!


1.         What’s your reaction to Jesus’ question “Who do you say the Son of Man is?”

2.         Can you identify the ups and downs of your adventure with Jesus?

3.         What aspects of your adventure with Jesus would you like to celebrate?

Saturday, 21 June 2014

22 JUNE 2014.  LIFE, LIGHT & TRUTH – IN LOVE.      Robert

Jeremiah 20 : 7 – 13          Romans 6 : 1b – 11            Matthew 10 : 24 – 39

How exactly the three readings we have heard this morning were put together is one of life’s mysteries. But they do shed fascinating light, from very different angles, on some of the most important contrasts that stand at the heart of the Christian understanding of life.  We have truth versus error – or, more exactly, truth versus aggressive, malicious opposition; light versus darkness; and life versus death. That’s a stark set of opposites, setting the true Christian way of living over against its opposite. We want to live by the truth. We want to live in the light. And we want to take the path that leads to a true quality of life, not the broad road to destruction.

I have chosen as a text, Jesus’ words in Matthew 10: 27: “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.”

With that in mind, let me begin with Jeremiah. He tells us that God had called him from his mother’s womb to be a prophet. And the truth he was called to proclaim from the roof-tops and in whatever other dramatic ways he could think of, was not at all what people wanted to hear. God’s word through him to Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah was that the people – including the religious establishment – had strayed so far from God that they were all now under God’s judgment. And they had become so ungodly in their lives and worship, that they would be utterly conquered by the current great world power, Babylon, and either put to the slaughter, or dragged away into exile – unless, of course, they changed their ways very dramatically and pretty quickly.

This did not go down well, and he was attacked and persecuted in all manner of ways. Go back a few verses, and you will find that he had just been beaten and put in the stocks overnight! This is the background to the passage we heard read today. It is hardly surprising that Jeremiah complains bitterly to God that he has been given this prophetic commission. If he could, he would just shut up, and let events take their course. But, as he tells us in this passage, the fire of prophecy burnt so strongly within him, that he just had to proclaim God’s message, no matter what the consequences. And, of course, his prophecy came true. Judah was laid waste, the temple destroyed, and the people dragged off into a 40 year exile in Babylon. He shouted the truth from the roof-tops, and took the consequences.

Think forward to John the Baptist. He was a prophet who didn’t mince his words – you only have to read (for example) Matthew chapter 3 to get a good insight into his preaching as he called people to a baptism of repentance. He calls the Pharisees a ‘brood of vipers’ for example, and I don’t suppose that went down very well either. He then went on very publicly to criticise Herod Antipas and his (now) wife Herodias for their marriage. Herod has married the wife of his brother Philip, and this was adulterous. This didn’t go down well with either Herod or Herodias, as you may imagine. We all know how that story ended. Herodias took her revenge and John lost his head. Speaking the truth can have very serious consequences.

Think forward again to Jesus, whose preaching caused great offence – nor to say fear – to the religious establishment of Pharisees and Sadducees. They plot to kill him, and Jesus is crucified. Proclaiming God’s word, especially if it implies criticism of the accepted standards, values and practices of the audience, is not a popular pursuit. We have just returned from the former East Germany, and we heard of numerous cases where (in the Communist era) the merest mention of criticism of the communist system could only too easily land you in a very unpleasant prison. Who would be foolish enough – or brave enough – to speak the truth?

The Christian Gospel is full of contrasts. In John chapter 3: 19, Jesus says: “This is the verdict. Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done, has been done through God.”

The Christian Gospel is wonderful good news for the world, because it speaks of forgiveness, love and a new start in the power of God. But it also stands over against so many of the normally accepted standards and values of the our time. And before there can be forgiveness, there has to be repentance and a change of life.

And so Jesus tells us not to be afraid of God’s truth, but to proclaim it, even if it causes opposition and division. And that division will sometimes cause problems even within a family, even among closest friends.

So we are called to live by the truth, and proclaim the truth. But - It’s often very difficult to know where God’s truth lies. We are all immersed in the standards and culture of our time. To us they are the ‘norm’. Where do we draw the line? Paul tells us in Romans 12: 2 that our minds need to be ‘renewed’ – transformed – with a new outlook and perspective – so that (he says) we may be able to ”test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will”, as he puts it.

This is not easy to do. There are some obvious things which are either right or wrong, and to start with the ten commandments is an obvious beginning. There was a time when they were displayed publicly in churches. But we know only too well that black and white shades into very many tones of grey as soon as you start to look closely.

Perhaps we have to begin with self-examination. How easy it is to fool ourselves into believing that what we are doing is acceptable, when in God’s sight it is not. Our powers of self deception are enormous often because we are copying what everyone else does or thinks. So is there an element of denial – an elephant in the room which we choose not to notice? Christians are called to self-examination in the light of God’s Word and prayer for discernment and guidance. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”. Are we living in the light? Or in some more comfortable shade of grey?

Until we begin to get that right, it’s hard to criticise the standards and practices of the world around us, let alone proclaim it from the roof-tops. So how can we live in the truth and light of Jesus, and journey on the road that leads to life?

Paul tells us in our reading this morning from Romans 6 that the Christian’s old, worldly life has been put to death, and we have been raised to a new life – a resurrected life – where we are no longer slaves to sin (as he puts it) but rather we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection, and on the path to glory.

Of course, he is the first to acknowledge that we fall far short of that standard, which is why we have constantly to come back to confession, and receive God’s forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit to change what needs to be changed, and begin with fresh courage and purpose. With Christ, there is always the possibility of a new start.

But there are positive ways in which we can change ourselves, and also have something positive to say to a world which has strayed so far from God. And it’s with these that I would want to leave uppermost in your minds this morning.

In his letter to the Christians at Philippi (chapter 4: 8) Paul writes: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, what is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  Put aside the tabloids, all the stories of sex and crime that can become so addictive. Feed your minds, not with junk food, but with a healthy diet of fresh fruit. Feed your minds on God’s Word in scripture, and on your daily conversation with God through prayer. They say that we become what we eat. It’s also the case that we easily become what we think. The mind focused on God will be healthy – it will feed on truth and beauty, and bask in the light.

And as we interact with other people, our guiding principle is laid down for us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. There is no higher gift of the Holy Spirit than love. Tell the truth in love – never just in anger or gossip or with malicious intent. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

If we can aim at that goal, looking to Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, we may not be perfect and certainly not so sinless that we can judge the world, but we will at the very least be living the life of God to the very full, living in the full light of day, and have something truly positive to say to a world that often seems totally lost.  To live like that is perhaps to have more impact than you will ever know. As John writes in his first letter (1 John 4:16) “God is love, and those who in love, live in God; and God lives in them.”


1. Which of the ten commandments do you think is most important in society in this country today?
2. How do we know when we are living in the light and truth of God?
3. What does it mean in practice to live in love? Which bit of 1 Corinthians 13 do you think most important in your daily life, speaking from your own experience?
4. What does it mean to tell the truth in love?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Trinity Sunday 15 June 2014 Matthew 28:26-20 Bruce

What is the most important word in our Gospel reading today? If you had to underline what you thought was the most significant word or phrase, which would you choose? When I was first a Christian, I think I would have chosen “I am with you always”. What a comfort! We say as part of the liturgy “The Lord is here, his Spirit is with us.” We have not been left as orphans. More recently I have been thinking about the word “Go”. Jesus never commanded us to sit in church waiting to see who turns up. Instead we talk about the “Great Commission”, where Jesus tells us to go. Except … What Jesus actually says is “As you are going, disciple the nations, the peoples of the world”. He assumes that we will be going, and he focusses on the main task, which is to “Disciple” others. What he does not say: make converts, recruit members, try to drag people into the kingdom. Even to use the phrase to “make disciples” implies that we are doing something to change people from what they are at the moment into something else. When we disciple people, we look for those who are open for all that God has for them, and are seeking after God. I am convinced that there are many like this. The problem is that they may not be in the church! Therefore we have to go, to have a chance of meeting them! We have to spend time alongside folk, sharing their lives and their concerns, and sharing with them our personal journey with God. They are not necessarily looking for experts, but friends to accompany them. If to “disciple” is the active, doing word, and “going” is the participle, the “ing” word, then there are two other “ing” words that Jesus gives us in this passage to show how we do this. By “baptising” folk, we immerse them in the life of God and his family here on earth, the church. Baptism is a service, a collection of words and action that we call liturgy. As we share with those we are called to disciple the life of the church that we have received over 2000 years, the traditions that have been handed down to us, so we enable them to take their part in a community that has been worshipping continuously since before the beginning of time. We join in the song of angels and those around the throne: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!” We learn to sing praise in good times and bad: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, worship his holy name.” There is a sharing, a fellowship, a koinoia, which spills over in everyday acts of love and kindness that speak of God’s presence in us and among us. By “teaching”, we help each other to know and obey the commands of Jesus. If you think that you can keep coming to church and yet remain the way you are now, you will be disappointed. We each have a duty and a calling to “provoke one another to good works”. As we seek to live well, so our characters are being changed by God to become more and more like that of Jesus. it is our constant and persistent failures that have an effect; we learn to place our trust not in ourselves and our own moral vigour, but in God and his Holy Spirit who is at work within us. Why do we do all this? Because Jesus has been given “all authority” over the whole of creation. To follow and obey Jesus is not an optional extra, for those keen and gifted Christians who are in some way set apart, while the rest of us get on with it, content to live at a lower and perhaps less demanding level. Notice that the disciples obeyed the command of Jesus through the women and went to the mountain where he had told them to go. Some doubted, but they all went, and they all received this command to disciple the nations. They were all to take their part in going, baptising and teaching, and perhaps in the getting more involved their doubts were addressed. The best cure for a fear of water can be to jump in and to start swimming. And what about the Trinity? Take heart. This is not a plot to make things more difficult for you, as in: “there is the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the virgin birth, and also this extra complexity we have dreamed up for you – the Trinity!” Rather, God is so great, so wonderful, that we cannot fully understand him or describe him. Christians early on worked out that they were called to worship and proclaim Jesus as God, while also believing in the God of the Old Testament, whom Jesus taught them call Father. They therefore evolved a belief in a Binity! But as they wrestled with scripture and the words of Jesus, so they came to believe that God’s Spirit was a distinct personality within the totality of God. This is merely a way to try think about God – it does not try to make God into something different that he was not before. For us at St Michael’s who have heard the call to “encounter God and grow in him”, the call is make Jesus Christ central in our lives. Every one of us is called to be a disciple, a learner, patiently seeking to be remodelled to be more like Jesus. Every one of us is called to disciple others by actively being their servants, being involved in ministry. Every one of us is called to actively build the community of faith by baptising, teaching, sharing, loving, joining and supporting small groups. Every one of us is called in our “going”, to disciple those outside our community, telling the good news and listening to those who would share their lives with us. Discussion Starters 1. “All authority is given to me” “Go therefore ..” Why, in your opinion, does the authority of Jesus lead to this imperative for us to go? 2. What difference does it make if we see the word “disciple” as a verb and not just a noun? 3. To whom could you be going?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Sermon for the 8th June 2014 Acts 2:1-21 and John 20:19-23 Kim

Have you stayed in the Hilton Hotel, owned a Rolls Royce or dined with the Queen? I have stayed at the Hilton but that was paid for by my work, Rolls Royce and the Queen I haven’t, and I very much doubt I ever will. Some things in life are reserved for the select few, while the majority of us have to make do with more run-of-the mill facilities and occasions. The people of the Old Testament believed that this was true of the Spirit of God, convinced that it was a rare and special gift which only the privileged elite would experience. There was no way in the world they would be filled by that Spirit; such an honour went to those like Gideon, Samuel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and others of similar stature. For the rank and file, God would always be one step removed; access to him was to be mediated by priest and temple. The words of the prophet Joel, wonderful though they sounded, must have raised more than a few eyebrows when first spoken, for they revealed an entirely new relationship with God. Yet that is the relationship experienced by the Apostles on the so called day of Pentecost, and it is a gift offered to us in turn. God is not remote and detached, but can be experienced as a living reality within – encouraging, teaching, empowering, guiding – ever at work in our lives. There is no favouritism with God. One privilege is for us all to enjoy: the inner presence of the Holy Spirit – surely the greatest privilege there can be! For Jesus poured out his Spirit on both men and women, young and old, slave, and free, God pours His Spirit on us all. The Spirit redefined what it meant to be the people of God. Pentecost was and is an act of great inclusion. In a day when women were treated like property, God gave them the Spirit in equal measure. To older ones discarded and discounted, God gave the Spirit. To the young, often abused and neglected, God gave the Spirit. To the oppressed, enslaves, God gave the liberating Spirit. God was personally breaking down barriers welcoming those who too often get left out. And God does this today! Do we truly know this? And Jesus modelled for the disciples, as well as for us, what life can be like if we walk in the Spirit. Jesus and the Spirit are in relationship and in every part of Jesus’ ministry it was done in the power of the Spirit of God. Jesus and the Spirit worked together, Jesus was led by and clearly walked in the Spirit. Jesus arranged His life around the practices, experiences and relationships that would keep Him connected to the life and work of the Spirit. Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit and He prayed, He read the Scripture and knew it by heart and He allow the Holy Spirit to guide, strengthen and sustain Him. Being human, how else would He have willingly gone to and endure the cross?! The good news is that we have all that too but do we truly know this? Do we actually ask the Holy Spirit for strength when we are up against it, to guide us, to give us the right words to say or do the right thing? We have the Holy Spirit in us, honest! He is there to help us. Having been given the Holy Spirit, the disciples have to walk in the Spirit and it should show daily, moment-by-moment holiness. And that goes for us too! Hmm…….. It can be like that if we consciously choose by faith to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in our thought, our words and deed. Failure to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance will result in us not living up to the calling and standing that salvation provides (John 3:3; Ephesians 4:1. Philippians 1:27). We can know that we are walking in the Spirit if our lives are showing the Fruit of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). Are we producing fruit? Being filled with the Spirit is the same as allowing the word of Christ to richly dwell in us, to follow the Spirit’s leading, allowing Him to guide our steps and to conform our minds to His. So if we have received Christ by faith, by faith He asks us to walk in Him, until we are taken to heaven and will hear from the Master, “Well Done!” (Colossians 2:5; Matthew 25,23). So what is God waiting for? I believe God is waiting for the emergence of Spirit-led, Spirited-intoxicated, Spirit-empowered people, who know that in this life, the life and power of the kingdom of God. It has happened before, it can happen again. It happened yesterday and it can happen today. God wants every Christian to produce good fruit and has given us the Holy Spirit so that we can live a life like Jesus, a life of love and power. Another one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is that of gift-giver. 1 Corinthians 12 describes the spiritual gifts given to believers in order that we may function as the body of Christ on earth. All of us have been given gifts, none are better than others. All these gifts, both great and small, are given by the Spirit so that we may be His ambassadors to the world, showing forth His grace and glorifying Him. It is not easy walking in the Spirit today. We live in a fallen world, we are under constant pressures, demands, sin and evil are all around. But we are called to be in the world but not part of it. We don’t have to be involved in the sin of the world but in the world to help in the transformation of it – ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ – we say it every Sunday at least. When the Spirit is at work in a follower of Christ, change happens! It can be slow and a gradual, or sudden and radical, but transformation always takes place. We need to recognise His presence and welcome His power to change us more and more into the image of Jesus and as we do so and become more dependent on the Holy Spirit; we will begin to see changes in the people we interact with because the love of God will flow from us to them. This will lead to a change in the home, workplace, estate or town where we live, it will be slow but sure, but if we don’t do our bit; nothing will change not even us. Remember the same Peter who denied Jesus three times is now Peter, boldly telling others about Jesus as Saviour. The Holy Spirit changed Peter’s attitude and actions. What has the Holy Spirit changed in you as you have allowed the Spirit to work in you? What more are you going to be able to do for the glory of God by allowing the Holy Spirit to come alongside? As you walk your way through your life this week, doing whatever you have to do, are you going to take God with you? Are you going to allow the Holy Spirit to be involved? Questions: 1. What does being filled with the Holy Spirit mean to you? 2. Having been given the Holy Spirit, we are to walk in the Spirit and it should show daily, moment-by-moment holiness! How are you doing? Are you producing Fruit? What Bible verses can we take comfort from with this? 3. What has the Holy Spirit changed in you as you have allowed the Spirit to work in you? 4. What more are you going to be able to do for the glory of God by allowing the Holy Spirit to come alongside?