Author: Adrian Kitson (page 1 of 21)

Wise bread for a Wise Head

Sermon, Sunday August 19, 2018, Pentecost 13B, St Petri

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

10 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned for forty years over Israel – seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.

Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’

Solomon answered, ‘You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

‘Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or numberSo give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honour – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.’

 

 King David’s son to Bathsheba became king when he was nowhere near ready. That is often how it is in life; things come upon us for which we feel very under-qualified. Solomon was young, inexperienced among many in the palace who weren’t and who would not mind having the power the King had, and he was an illegitimate child, who had no family right to be king. Not a good place to be! He needed wisdom!

This week I asked a few people to describe what wisdom is. One said, “Knowing your limitations”. Others said wisdom is not just knowledge, but how you use the knowledge you have gained. Wisdom is accumulated understanding about living life from accumulated experience – especially your failures.

Wisdom seems to be linked with humility. Knowing who you are and valuing others contribution. Everyone said these only come from listening to God and others because the honour of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom starts with listening to others.

Young Solomon gets this opportunity to ask for anything he wants. He gets one wish that will be given by the Lord God himself. He’d better make it count!

He reminds me of three blokes on a deserted desert island…..

As the days slowly went by on their little island, these three men dreamed of what it would be like to be at home with their friends and family, to be back at their jobs doing the things they loved.

One day one of the men found a bottle that contained a genie. He opened the bottle and the genie announced that he would grant each of them one wish.

One of the men said, “Boy, I want to be back in the Barossa with my wife and kids.” POOF–he was gone.

The second man immediately said, “I want to be back in Adelaide with my fiancé” and again in a flash he was gone.

The third man was left all alone sitting on the sandy beach. He said, “Boy, it really is lonely with my friends gone. I sure wish they were back here with me again.

And POOF……

You would think that Solomon would ask for control and power over the situation and people. He needed the help. You might too at the moment.

Solomon would more need than $80M Lotto winning on offer last week. There was a Temple to run, a Palace to maintain, a military budget to meet, a public service to uphold and international relationships to sustain. Surely he would asked God for wealth and long-term prosperity.

With that he might have asked for the praise and high opinion of himself from others. He could have asked for high status in the world.

Maybe Solomon was like his counterparts over in Egypt who built those huge burial chambers in the shape of pyramids. I read once that the majority of us work hard to ensure that something will outlive us, be it a house, a farm, our children, a monument for something, a name on an awards board….

What are you asking for today for your challenges? What do you need from God? What would you do to get what you need. What are young doing to meet that need now?

Solomon decides. He asks.

Solomon asks for big ears; for special ears. Not like Mr Spock! No, he asked for inner ears; listening ears. Specially tuned ears like a cochlea implant – tuned not to only human sounds but God’s wise voice in them; God’s wise word leading; God’s promises given; God’s direction received.

The Hebrew puts it well. Solomon asks for a “listening heart”, or ‘discerning heart”.

If wisdom begins with honouring God and listening to him speak, then this was a good ask!

With a heart tuned into the Lord’s voice this young leader to be will have the essential gift that any of God’s people need to get through complex decisions, big moments, tough situations and times of doubt and fear – wisdom. A listening heart tuned into to God’s words all the time gives the ability to know what to do and when to do it or not do it – what to say and when to keep silent and for how long.

I want that gift too. Seems like all I need to do is ask for it. God seems pleased to give us new ears to hear him speaking so we are of great use to his kingdom. Maybe you should ask? Maybe you should ask the Spirit to tune you in to God’s Word anew so you can discern the good from the bad, the silly from the smart, the left from the right in what you are facing?

This gift of new ears seems to have served Solomon and his people very well …… for a while at least.

And that is an intriguing thing. Even this gift of listening heart and the wise decisions that came from it did not last for Solomon. Things did not go so well in the latter years. How come?

The writers tell us. I noticed for the first time that even with listening ears and a wise approach Solomon had a divided heart. Did you hear? “He was a good king, except that he worshipped on the high places”.

Worshipping anywhere else other than God’s designated one place of worship in Jerusalem was in direct conflict with the Lord’s expressed direction for him. Even though it seems that he sacrificed a thousand animals at Gibeon later on, and it seems to have been in thanks and praise to the Lord, not idols, it was still an act of disobedience to the Lord. It was a well- intentioned act but against the Lord’s direction to do all worship in Jerusalem. The Lord insisted on worship only at Jerusalem for a reason – to stamp out the use of idols and high altars of pagan gods in Israel. Only this would bring real and full life in God’s land for his people.

But here is the stunning thing I notice. Even though Solomon asked for the best thing it was still a big risk for the Lord to give it to him – and the lord still does! Even though Solomon would end up being quite unwise in many ways, the Lord still gave him the best gift and trusted him with it.

This tells me that this is our God. This is how he rolls. He gives the gift at great risk to himself and his name among the world’s people before we are ready or able to guarantee that we will use it well.

The ultimate gift and the biggest risk for God? I think of the Lord coming into our humanity, into our flesh; giving his Son, the Bread for life, his wisdom in human flesh, with no guarantee that we would take him in, treat him well.

We didn’t. We still don’t. We chew on plenty of other bread, like Solomon ended up doing. But the Lord still gave himself in full. he still gives himself now – in full.

I think of my baptism. The Lord buried my sin and raised me to life with no guarantee for him that I would ever respond in faith and love. I think of the Lord’s Supper. He gives himself for forgiveness and life with no guarantees that we will do much better this week.

Friend, you may be wishing for things. You may be longing for a fix to something or someone or yourself and you, as a baptised child of God in Christ may be going about this by outwardly worshipping the Lord but actually doing what you want the way you want.

Go the Wisdom Jesus and his words on life. Ask for these ears to receive his words of life. Eat this bread of life. Worship at THE high place – Jesus. He is the altar and the bread and the place all in one. He is our wisdom. His voice gives us the way the truth and new life to live in joy.

 

 

 

 

 

Imitate

Sermon, Pentecost 13B, Sunday August 12, 2018

St Petri Ladies Guild 90th Anniversary.

 Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

 John 6:35,41-51

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’  Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

They always told us at Sem’ that getting along with your Ladies Guild was a must for a pastor. ‘Whatever you do, do not cheese of the Ladies Guild’, they said! Why? Because they know how to serve and they do serve. Ladies Guilds can support the congregation’s ministry enormously.

This is true. The Ladies Guilds and other groups of committed women of God can make things happen in a local congregation. They certainly have in this one – for 90 years. They are a powerhouse of service in the church and with their support, good things happen.

But trying to tell a Ladies Guild what to do is like trying to herd a bunch of cats. Impossible! They like their independence and like to make decisions in their way. Fair enough. But when they support something in the congregation, they really support!

I would like to know how many catering functions, how much money, how many projects, small and large that the St Petri women have supported over the 90 years of its existence. I think we would all be amazed at just how consistent, generous and effective their serving has been for the gospel work, not just at St Petri but across the LCA and in our local community too.

When I think of Ladies Guilds, Branching Out, all kinds of other groups of women who serve others for various purposes and in various ways I always find myself recalling those women around Jesus.

The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. (Luke 8: 1-3).

I think of Mary Magdalene at the Crucifixion along with Mary his mother and the same Mary Magdalene at the Easter tomb.

Then I think about the women mentioned in the Book of Acts and in the New Testament letters who obviously were a very supportive group when it came to the gospel mission in their locality.

I think of the evangelist Euidia and Syntyche who “struggled together with Paul in the ministry of the gospel” (Ephesians 4:9,10). Then there is Phoebe: patron and servant in the Roman church (Romans 16:1-2); Lydia, the maker of purple cloth who seemed to also sponsor the new church in Philippi (Acts 16:14-15, 40).

And then I ponder how different Jesus’ treatment of women was for his culture. I read an article by a Franciscan scholar (Barbara Leonhard) this week who said;

Jesus refuses to treat women as inferior. He recognises their dignity and their gifts.

He names the woman with the intolerable bleeding “Daughter of Abraham” in full public view. (Luke 13:16).

He initiates conversation with a foreigner (the Samaritan Woman at the well) and respects her questions and her search and her pain.

 https://www.franciscanmedia.org/jesus-extraordinary-treatment-of-women/

The list goes on. In short Jesus is quite revolutionary, as is Paul in the way women are recognised and regarded as having dignity in God’s church and gifts for his mission.

So, I believe it is fair to say that the women of this congregation have “walked in the way” Paul speaks of with his people in Ephesus. They have indeed been ‘imitators of God’, as he encourages them to be. They have ‘walked the way of love’ over the years, as Jesus has walked with us giving himself up for us and being a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Women of God are indeed a fragrant perfume as they give of themselves for the work of the Lord in their way.

I have seen a certain good humour, a certain earthiness among our women. I have seen self-less service mixed with a tinge of fun, deep care for each other, willing hearts of service, all mixed with the scars of a life well lived but lived in the world for real. When they gather they are a group carrying the wisdom that comes from faith in real experience over the long haul. They can speak of injustices, inequalities, harder things than that, and yet do so with a living joy, a living faith, a living awareness of Jesus being with them all the way along and still.

Of course, even the lovely Ladies Guild women are not always a sweet fragrance. Same with the blokes. Same for everyone. Sometimes we are actually on the nose. Paul speaks of what this being ‘on the nose’ looks like.

We are on the nose to the Lord when we do not sacrifice our own needs for others but demand they meet ours more than we give of ourselves to them.

We are on the nose when delve into the bitterness of past regrets and pain to pay people back, or act in some malicious way to get our own back or do some damage because it feels good – for a while.

The smell is not so good when we let the sun go down on our anger and keep it all locked up beneath the sun – hide it all away. Of course, no one can do this forever. Eventually is pops out of the hidden place into full view. All it can take is someone trying to shed some light on it or the sun simply shining on it. Then we turn to rage. Then damage is done.

Paul says, that we sweet smelling baptised people of Jesus can give the Evil one a foothold in our heart by keeping troubles, regrets, pain, loss, grief and anger hidden. The Devil’s foothold is that by which he climbs all over us with the goal to squash us. It stinks. He stinks.

But there is a beautiful Offering of God that heals our wounds by his own wounds. In love he closes up those footholds and kicks the Evil One off of us.

Jesus, the sweet-smelling sacrifice of God comes to us and simply says that he is special food for getting us back to where we long to be – at peace, in rest, in love, in open-hearted serving and giving to others not out of duty, but because of delight – delight in Jesus – the Bread of Life.

He is the difference between the old rage and hidden pain and anger and the ability to share your anger carefully and quickly in a way that does not tear down but actually builds up.

Jesus is the difference between endless self-serving and a life-time of self-giving and the joy and the fulness that kind of service creates.

The Bread of Life is the difference between dismissing and damaging women out of a lack of love and respect and treating women with the dignity and value they have as fellow creatures and workers in this gospel mission we all share – with all their considerable and unique gifts.

Next time you are at a function hosted by our faithful women and you pick up that much favoured curried egg sandwich with its magnificent perfume (then and a little later!), think about the Bread of Life and how he is your life and gives your life and then imitate his sacrifice, his giving, his loving, as our women have done faithfully and mostly joyfully for so long. His word and gifts are the way to what we all want – compassion, kindness, and forgiveness.

Just like the beautiful curried egg smell that wafts through the hall, so will your serving and giving and sacrificial loving be a sweet-smelling fragrance for others that help them find the Bread of Life and his beautiful promises of unity, love and hope.

Bread for Life – CONFIRMATION DAY

Sermon, Sunday August 5th 2018 

Confirmation Sunday, St Petri.

Pentecost 11B 

John 6:24-35

24 Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’

26 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

28 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

29 Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

30 So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”[c]’

32 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’

34 ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’

35 Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

It was the first time. It was like Confirmation for Jesus. What Jesus says here in the local synagogue in the town of Capernaum was like a faith statement that each of our confirmees will speak soon.

He uses words that are radical – never heard quite like this before. He will speak of who God is and who he is in a way that both inspires and upsets.

He explains what has happened just the day before, when he fed thousands abundant bread by the sea.

After that feeding of bread comes the speaking of what the sign points to.

His words are shocking. He uses words to describe who he is that are reserved for the holiest people on the holiest days of the year.

What are the radical first words? “I am”. For the first time Jesus says “:I AM”.

To you and I that may sound like no big deal. But “I AM” is how the Lord of heaven and earth described himself way back on Mt Sinai to his man, Moses.

God introduces himself personally by that burning bush to Moses and the whole world. “I AM”. I AM WHO I AM. I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE”. I JUST AM”.

In English; “THE LORD”. In Hebrew, four letters that are unpronounceable without some additional vowels to make them speakable – “Yahweh”.

What is Jesus saying?

Jesus is saying “HE IS”. “I AM is me”. I AM is here with you. I, Jesus of Nazareth am THE LORD of the burning bush, the Exodus, the Temple in Jerusalem, the creator of everything here with you now. Now that is radical!

Too radical for some. They will soon ‘murmur’ about this (John 6:41). They will call it blasphemy. Blasphemy is to speak harmfully or stupidly or wrongly. Blasphemy is speaking wrongly, stupidly, harmfully of God.

And then more. “I AM what? I AM Bread”.

What’s bread for ancient middle eastern people, and a lot of people still today? The staple diet of millions. The essential food that is eaten daily to sustain life, family, work.

If Jesus were in Africa or Asia, I reckon he would have said “I am Rice”. Two thirds of the world’s people in our time live on rice.

“I am the Bread of Life” – Jesus is declaring that he is the Lord God and that he is the staple diet upon which our life and all life is sustained. He is the food on which we survive in the hard times and thrive in the good times. In all times he is the thing that sustains us, gives us health, keeps us alive and helps us grow.

But what does he mean that he is ‘bread’? He is not flour, water and yeast! These people know what he manes – what ‘bread ‘is.

Bread is God’s word. Bread is God’s law that keeps them and shapes them. Bread is God’s promises, his presence, his blessing, his forgiveness, for their wrongs, his healing for their diseases, their hope for the future and the present. “Bread” is God. Bread is his words of life that make them who they are. The Lord’s Word is their staple diet that sustains them. Sounds really important to eat this ‘bread” – to eat the Word daily.

But how do you get this bread, this life, this hope, this healing and love?

28 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

What ‘works” do we have to do to get more of what you just gave, Jesus. How do we do enough to ensure that we will be fed and looked after all through our life? How good does a young person have to be to get God’s blessing on their future career, decisions, relationships? How good, how smart, how much do we have to pray, what secret info do we need to live the good life and get this bread, this Word of life into us?

Good questions but questions that show a completely out of sync understanding of what Jesus is offering and who he is.

They are still thinking, ‘work’. Work for the bread.

They still think that the bread has to be paid for by them. They have to be good, be smart enough, have the right nationality, the right name, the secret code to get this special bread, this special miracle, this special drink to be satisfied, to be loved, to be accepted by the Lord of Creation.

Jesus is saying, don’t bother. I AM. I just AM. I AM bread. I am Word, I am your sustenance for all your life. This bread, this staple diet that will sustain you and make you thrive is a gift, not payment for services done or reward for work completed or consequence of things understood.

It is simply Bread, Life, Word on offer. He does not say “Earn it”. He says, “Take and eat it”.

Oh, how we want children and young people and adults of all ages to receive this bread this way! Oh, how we work to try and help this happen at this local church!

This staple diet that sustains you and makes you grow is only found in one person and it is freely given not because you earnt it, or baked it yourself or controlled the process or achieved the result, but because I AM JUST IS and JUST GIVES. He is the Bread and the Baker of the bread and his Bread is his Word which is life for dead sinners and baptised saints.

That is you, young people. You have tasted this Bread of Life in this time of intensive reflection. You have tasted that this Bread is very good. You have been baptised into this Bread of life and raised to life with the Bread of Life. He now gives himself to you in his special meal of bread and wine, body and blood – for life, freedom and healing – all the time for any time.

As he gives the gift he gifts the call. You are called. Now it is time to take this Bread and feed on him with teenage ears and eyes. Soon it will change again to young adult ears and eyes, with all of its new decisions and responsibilities.

The Bread of his Word will sustain you, if you listen and eat it; eat the Bread.

We are here to support you as you take this bread and be the bread of life to those among whom Jesus places you.

We call on you to turn away from working for what goes off; your own strength, effort, understanding, desires, visions and dreams for yourself.

The Bread of life says, “Take me and eat me. Listen to me”. That grace does not go off. It lasts, and it makes you flourish in love and justice and serving that lasts.

 ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

Everything else will come from that believing. “Believing” is not just thinking or a theory. Believing is all of you and all of life; living in the grace of God daily for others.

 “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”.

As you continue your journey with us and those you love, don’t work for bread that is short term, eventually unsatisfying and unfulfilling. Go for this bread, the Word, this man, this Church this undeserved love and the true fulfilment, joy and love he delivers like no other.

We are praying that together we can all help you and each other no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of teaching, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

Eat the Bread. It is truth and love. That is how you grow up in faith.

 

Satisfy

Sermon, Sunday July 29, 2018, Pentecost 10B

St Petri

John 6:1-21

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing those who were ill. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

 Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’

 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

 10 Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

 14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[b] they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

 

It must have been scary to be on the far side of sea, but good things happen with Jesus on the far side of the sea.

That is where Jesus leads his friends and the searching crowd. Like a peloton chasing the breakaway rider in the Tour de France, the crowd is in pursuit.

It must have been such a big day. This feeding of thousands is the only event that all four gospel writers record, other than the Crucifixion. Here, even the very different Apostle John, lines up with the others, Matthew, Mark and Luke.

It is all about bread. It a sign of God’s feeding. It is a moment of overwhelming satisfaction of body, mind and spirit. It is a moment where the Old Testament they know in their bones, off by heart, comes to life right before their eyes.

Jesus is up a mountain as Moses was with the Lord often, as Elijah was too.

Jesus sits down to teach. Same as Moses and any of the great prophets and rabbis. They sit to teach God’s word to the people.

The Word is the bread upon which all life is sustained.

There is not enough food for hungry people. Same with David and his band of soldiers when David gave the Ok to eat the consecrated bread in the temple. Same when Elisha fed 100 people from twenty barley loaves, and they had some left over (2 Kings 4:42-44)

Jesus “gave thanks” (Eucharist) to God. Only John tells us that this feeding occurred at Passover time. Again – Jesus is the new Moses, the Prophet of prophets and more. He is the bread and the life and the way and the truth and in him is life to the full (John 10:10).

The point? Jesus himself is doing it all. In other words, Jesus is more and everything. He is the bread for living. He is deep satisfaction for living. He is the food and the provider of the food for life in God’s grace.

Many are already believing something about him. Some are sure that Jesus is a prophet. But now they see this sign and eat their fill and they can vision him as not only prophet but king!

Is this the moment when they finally get the new king long promised to rule over them and lead them to victory and freedom as Moses did and the prophets promised?

Is this the power king of worldly status and means who will get the world in shape by power and politics and military means?

Seems not. Jesus rejects this king making stuff. He is everything and more but not that kind of King. He is a bread king, a heart satisfaction king, a life to the full king beyond mere politics or power.

But where are you in all of this? In your longing for satisfaction and fulfillment in your life, where are you with Jesus?

Are you Phillip? He seems to be only able to see the practical impossibility of the situation.

Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bight!’

Phillip can see just how little they have and just how big is the need and concludes that all the tea in China would not be enough to deal with their lack of ability to feed people.

Are you Andrew?

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

Andrew does more than be overwhelmed by the lack of ability. He seems to go down the “Mr fix it” road. He does some reconnaissance. He sees the need and gets to work in his own strength and frame of reference. But his own ability is found severely wanting. He finds the boy only has a bit of bread and a couple of fish.

Which road do you go down when things are beyond you? Do you find yourself unable to be anything but overwhelmed by your lack of ability like Phillip? Are you Andrew who hops into action to try and fix it and fight it in your own understanding and ability?

As for the people, the sense a good thing.

14…they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ 

Why wouldn’t they want Jesus to be that king they need? I too want to be without suffering and oppression. I want good things and the good life and this guy can deliver it. Let’s make him the man of power and influence to dominate and control the world!

They fall for old trap. They want what the king can give but not the king. They want trouble-free life without  receiving the Bread of Life. They want the power without the suffering, the glory without the cross,  the perfection without the struggle.

15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Staying overwhelmed in our own inadequacy or trying to overcome them by fixing themselves our way on our terms, or wanting what Jesus can give but not a relationship with Jesus is denying Jesus for who he really is. This is our eternal problem.

Here’s the irony of John’s telling of this feeding King: The One who is already King has come to open his Kingdom to people; but in their blindness, people try to force the King to be the kind of King they want; thus failing to get the King they want and losing the Kingdom life he offers. (Bailey in Morris, John, p346).

Are you losing the Kingdom this King offers because you are searching for your own version of ‘King”? Are you content to stay overwhelmed by your lack of ability, or disinterested in the satisfying of human needs of others with the Bread of Life?

Have you concluded that it is better to play it safe, keep under the radar of Jesus’ mission to let his Kingdom come here?

Are you so active and reliant on your own ability and understanding about life that you are missing his life at work in you and in others around you?

Are you so busy trying to fix things that you refuse to be fixed? Are you wanting the things that God can deliver without a living relationship with this, and only this Jesus, the Bread of Life?

Are you wanting the good things of God without the Bread of God – the Word of Jesus?

If you are one or all of these or someone else, eat the bread and come to the water. They are good food and good place.

Come out to the far side of the sea and see his mastery of even the wind and the sea. Know your own immersion in his water of grace where the evil one was knocked off his throne and you were seated with Jesus on his.

Feed on him, the Servant King, the new Passover Lamb, slain for all of our misguided belief and overwhelming fears. Take the bread in your ears and in your mouth. He is life beyond your problems and in them.

With Peter and the others, let the stranger/ghost be your teacher, mentor and friend, as well as Saviour Servant King. Let fear of an unknown God subside and welcome this human God into your boat and let him take you to the destination with him.

Why? Because good things happen with Jesus on the far side of the sea: Satisfied soul, healed body and mind; peace with the One who created the land and the sea and all their creatures, patience in suffering, wisdom in decisions, love in hate, his power in weakness, his forgiveness for an empty and wayward heart.

He is all and more and he satisfies any hungry body and spirit with the very presence of God up the mountains, on the shore, at home or away. He is is bread for you today.

Hope Rising

Sermon: Pentecost 8B, Sunday July 15, 2018

St Petri

Ephesians 1:3-14

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[c] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen,[d] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

 

The world is a brutal place. It is now, and it was in Jesus’ time. It is brutal because people can be brutal. From the first murder recorded in Genesis, that of Abel at the hand of his own brother, Cain, to all that is happening in Syria and Turkey and in our own cities and towns, life can be very brutal. A few years back in Geneva, UN human rights expert, Ben Emmerson named human rights violations at the hands of ISIS and etc these last years as occurring on “an industrial scale”. (June 22, 2015, (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16122&LangID=E))

This hurts. People hurt. How telling it is that Jesus hurts too? Jesus obviously knows the pain of injustice and violence personally. We hear it today. His cousin, John the Baptiser. John was brutally killed for no noble reason. Jesus knows unjust, innocent suffering and its dark grief.

Here’s what we know. Jesus feels as we feel. He knows loss. He knows grief. He knows brutality. When he stands outside his best friend’s stinking tomb he hurts to weep. When his own blood stains his own body as he is brutally ridiculed, tortured and crucified, and his public shame complete – he drinks this violence to the last drop.

And because he knows our pain and stays the course through it with love unyielding, there is another story to tell alongside this grizzly tale. There is a grand story of light and love at work among us, even in the unfair, unjust brutality we know and fear in our day.

This other story is beautifully proclaimed by another man who knows the pain of life. he also proclaims this story of love and life from an unjust brutal prison cell to a community he loves. Paul dictates a letter to his trusted friend and co-worker Tychicus from a prison cell in Rome toward the end of his missionary work.

His beginning words to his people in Ephesus lift us out of dark damp despair of any kind. These high words lift us out of human brutality, fear and the many, many questions that feel like a prison at times.

This is two hundred Greek words strung together without a comma or full stop in 1:3-14! So much to grasp, so much to see – all compressed into these 11 verses!

Would you lift your eyes from your concerns, your questions, your pain to gaze in wonder and praise at the awesome sight of the universe moving in procession to its appointed goal of being “gathered up in Christ (1:10)

1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

A brutal world blessed. A dark mind enlightened by grace. Dead person Spirit filled. Heaven here, not just at the end or far away. Heavenly spiritual life in life today, not just tomorrow.

1:4 …just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love, he destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ according to his good pleasure and will. .

Family. Divine family. Holy friends, we are. All his choice of you; his awareness and commitment to you. You; an adopted child; one of billions. You are fully known and fully ‘in’. You have his name; his family name. When suffering comes we call on his name and remember ours – ‘Son, Daughter”, “bride”, “beloved”, “child”, “church”, “holy, blameless, accepted”, “people of the Way”; “Christian”, “Baptised”.

1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins…

Once we were dead in self worship; unable to find the family or the Father. When suffering comes all we had was us; our skills, our pep talks, our self-help, our best guess. But now we can do better than guess. We can trust. Wan seek and we can receive that glorious gift above all gifts – forgiveness with all its hope and possibility and joy.

And as many a mate or parents has said “A man needs a plan”, and so does a woman and so does God. it is a grand plan and it is here – even if it is mysterious stuff!

1:9  God has made known the mystery of his will that he put into action in Jesus.

Our life in God, beyond our own is a mystery. Like anything a bit mysterious, this plan can only be received in good faith. This mystery into which we have been baptised and called is lived only by faith and trust. By trusting what the Lord Jesus does and says we are lifted into his story beyond our own.

1:10 Now God has put a plan in place for the fullness of time. That is, the plan will come to fulfilment in his good time. But what is the plan?

I worry about the world, and I am anxious about my place in it, and our place in it.  From a prison cell, or a community surrounded by many gods of self to families falling apart to a fight with a friend, there is this plan that will bring fulfilment of it all. Like a band or orchestra searching for that final resolving note, we will resolve. he will resolve it and us. The tune will eventually be sweet and complete.

What’s the detail of the plan?

1: 10  …to “gather up” all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.

God is a gathering God. Like a bower bird or a collector of fine things, the Lord is the God who gathers friends like shoes. God is collector of people. God welcomes strangers in and adopts them as his own kids. Jesus the Son is the gate, the door through which the Father welcomes us and adopts us into his large house. Jesus is the shepherd too who finds the sheep and brings them on home.

Friend, in your questions, your suffering, your pain and your worry about the world and your own family, the truth is that all that is alienated, disjointed, lonely, hard, unfair and doubtful will be sure. You and I and we as a church community are always being put back together, like Humpty Dumpty’s shell. That is what our God does. he is always gathering, planning, working, drawing us in, inviting us to know and love and be known and loved.

The world may be brutal, but it is still the Lord’s, and the Lord of Church has a plan to end the brutality and sadness.

No more talk of ‘the church dying’ or you ‘dying’ as if there is no plan of Jesus in you and ahead of you. Only pray, trust, thanks, words of witness to his presence and you hope as a result.

Sense hope rising again today – for whatever has squashed it lately or a long time ago. Hear the hope and give the thanks. Be free from prisons and darkness and pain in Jesus. He is hope and light and love.

Hope, mysterious hope! Hope against all hope! You can because there is a plan and a God who is working the plan.

I’ll invite again……Would you lift your eyes from your concerns, your questions, your pain to gaze in wonder and praise at the awesome sight of the universe moving in procession to its appointed goal of being “gathered up in Christ” (1:10)?

Let the Spirit give hope rising for your today and tomorrow. that is faith and that is life.

PRAY

Lord Jesus, lift us up into your hope rising that we be patient, confident, loving people of yours where you have placed us.

 Amen

Called to be Sent

Sermon, Sunday July 8, 2018, 7th Sunday after Pentecost.

St Petri

 

Mark 6:1-13 

Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.

Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff  no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them.

One of the unspoken rules of sending a pastor out from Seminary after he is ordained is to never send him back to his own home town. The wisdom on this comes from this text about Jesus doing exactly that – going back to his home town once he has begun his public ministry. It does not go well!

These people knew Jesus when he was knee high to a grasshopper. They saw him crying in church, walking around with a snotty nose when he had a cold at aged 2. They saw him break out in pimples when he hit the teens. They saw him learn his trade skills with his Dad, Joe, whom they also have known all their lives.

He is just like them. And maybe 1st Century Jewish people were like us 21st century Aussies. If there is one thing we dislike it is someone we know big noting themselves. We tend to cut leaders down to size if we feel they are getting too big for their britches.

Here’s Jesus, now becoming a ‘big man’ in the region. Who does he think he is?!” they cry!

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.

There it is: “They took offence at him”.

“Offence” – Guess what the original Greek word is: “Skandalizo” They took ‘scandal’ with him. He was a scandal to them. He became a challenge to their views, their expectations, their assumptions. He caused them some displeasure about their understanding of God, faith, and their reputation. He did not fit into their small world anymore and they disapproved of him for that. They would not listen to him. He made them uncomfortable and they got angry at him for that.

What’s Jesus’ response to being cut down to size by his home town relatives and friends?

Does he runaway; sit on the synagogue steps crying and saying sorry for being the Son of God sent by the Father to face off against Evil and kill death so that even these rejecting people can have forgiveness and life forever in the Father’s love? No.

Does he fight them; get into a slanging match and try and win the argument and guilt them into taking notice of him? No.

Does he call down a couple of legions of angels and give them a show they will never forget to prove to them by sign and miracle that he is who he says he is – God with them and for them in love, not wrath, come to love them not condemn them? No.

He does not retreat, ignore, cave in, fire up in anger or put on a show of power to shock and awe them into hearing him.

None of those things will get his mission done. These things would kiss salvation of billions of broken sinners goodbye.

So what does he do?

  1. He confronts them.
  2. He calls people towards him.
  3. He sends those he calls.

He confronts them. “He was amazed at their unbelief”.

He calls people towards him. He does not push them away. He continues to call them to himself – into his forgiveness and love.

He sends those he calls. He sends them into the fire of his mission with his authority to speak and do his mission of love.

And who does he call into the furnace of Kingdom work? People. Ordinary people. People who for whatever reason sense his love, his authority and know they need it. Disciples – students, learners. No big noting here. No ‘special people”; just people who know they need him, and not just what they can get from him. people who find themselves seeking his forgiveness and healing and peace.

What does he send them to? A fair chance of rejection, criticism and harsh judgement. But also, the chance to be part of people being freed; people being given a new life; people being restored to the bottom of their soul and back; new eyes to see the world and see God; new hears to hear people’s pain and hear God’s promises of peace and hope; the immense satisfaction of not living for yourself or your own ego, but for the coming of life in death, hope in despair and depression, healing in a broken marriage, freedom from being a people-pleaser, joy in knowing you are never not loved and called by the God of all creation who is the centre of your whole life and hope of this generation.

What does he send them out with? Two things, maybe three: He sends them with;

  1. his own authority and
  2. with each other and
  3. with friendly strangers to receive and help them.

He sends them out into the fray with his authority; with himself and his words in them. He speaks in them as they simply tell of what they have seen and heard of him and he makes it all work.

And they are not Lone Rangers: he sends them out with each other as support. He sends them out in pairs, never alone. They have each other to remind each other of him and what they have seen and heard from him. They have each other to help each other provide their basic needs. They have each other to correct each other, challenge each other and share the good and the bad – the rejection, the hurt, the anger the suffering and the joy, the satisfaction of one more sinner now saved, one more family now restores, one more person on the outer now in.

They are always partners with him and each other in this mission. No one person gets to do whatever they want. It is always doing and speaking together in partnership and with his word and power. And he sends them out to make relationships with those he loves.

He even sends them out with a need to depend on others, not just themselves for survival. That is so that they have to meet friendly looking strangers who can welcome the message and work with them in the mission.

Friend, this local church is hopefully your home town place of support and love. But you are called, and you are sent.

Our ongoing issue as long-term Christians is getting way too comfortable with where we are now and forgetting where we are still sent and with what and who.

We are called to him in Baptism. We are sent out with his authority to forgive and proclaim him at Baptism. We are sent into the fray with each other – never alone and always together with him and his authority, his words, his presence and his power. We are called to relate to friendly looking strangers who will welcome the message and take up the mission with us.

And the incredible gift is that we have a God who does not call us and send us from some lofty heavenly cotton wool blue sky world of bliss. He calls us from the blood and guts and rocks and sand and cold stone of the cross and the tomb.

The person who sends us out knows the cost and call us anyway. He can do that because he sends us out with him – his authority – his word of truth, his Spirit of power.

Hear the call. Come to him. Go with others and engage with a stranger. And repeat that daily.

And if they don’t listen? And if they think you are a scandal? If they take offense at the good news of him you know and love?

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

(2 Corinthians 12: 9)

Talitha koumi!’

Sermon, Pentecost 6B, Sunday July 1, 2018

 Mark 5:21-43

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered round him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed round him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned round in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’

31 ‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, “Who touched me?”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’

36 Overhearing[a] what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Twelve years is a long time.

  • It’s the time between beginning grade 1 and being ready to break into the world as an adult at year 12.
  • It is the time between being a team at their peak and then at their worst and then at their peak again.
  • It is the time from when your marriage began in wonderfully free bliss to coping with the challenges of life that test you both.
  • It’s the time it takes to start a business venture and know you are going to be OK, or not.
  • It’s the time between learning your craft and practicing it with skill for the life ahead.

It is a long time to bleed. Constantly bleed. Nothing can stop it. Money all spent. Pain endured by quack treatments. Isolation from family, society and church. Beyond all available help. Always alone. Always on the outside of everything and everybody…..

Can you imagine that unnamed woman?

“No one knows what it’s like to be me. No one knows what I’ve been through. No one knows the shame. It’s the blood. Not like the rest. Not every month or so. All the time. All the time! And you know what that means! Yes it means unclean, unclean. No big deal if its just once a month for a few days. That passes. But I’m different. I am the difference walking around; walking around bloody, unclean, unclean! No church, no markets, no easy family gatherings”.

Systems to constantly managing my disease every waking moment. Relentless attention to it that wears you down and takes over your whole day every day. No relationship. No love. Just self-survival.

But she has heard about him; this Jewish rabbi. He heals people. He’s the magic man, the miracle man. “Maybe this is my chance. Maybe if I get close enough and just touch the little tassels on his coat that hand low to the ground his magic will rub off on me”. Anything is worth a try.

“But no one can know. The pain of the shame would be too much. I need magic without relationship. I need what I need on my terms”. I need what he can give me not who he is for me.

“But should I touch him? The pain of stretching. Pushing my way through. Touching. Touching just his dangling tassel on his cloak. No one will know. No one needs to know”.

“I’m driven. I’m, begging. I’m desperate. I am beyond my limits and my disease is way beyond what I or anyone can achieve”.

“Touch his tassel! Touch his tassel. Push through reach out, get in close behind and touch his tassel, just lightly, just enough; no one will see. Here I go, get out of the road, yes I’ve made it, got it; no I didn’t pull it; just touched it. No one saw me. It was like I was reaching out for my life”.

“Something happened. Instant relief. I knew that my body was different. My body still shudders as I think about it. The magic worked. Healing magic came my way”.

“But, then the worst thing that I feared would happen did. He knew. And then they knew. Then everyone knew. He got mad: ‘Who touched?!’ he cried. I squirmed. I’d stirred up that angry God out of reach but now coming to get me for my sneaky behaviour.

She’s like a kid who has stolen a Mars bar from Foodland being caught in the mall for all to see.

The disciples cannot believe the question he asks. “Who touched me?” Are you kidding?! “They all touched you! They are pressing in on you like some rock star and we are the body guards fending of the swelling and desperate crowd!”

She could have melted into the sand when he stopped and turned around and started asking, who did it – who touched me?

“Yes, who touched him? Asks Jairus, the desperate dad. Who slowed us down from where we are going. We are on our way to my daughter who is facing death itself. We don’t have time for this”.

The disciples agree. “We are on the way to respond to someone who counts – a leader in this community. We just saw Jairus do the unthinkable. He of all people, got down on his knees in the sand and pleaded with the teacher to come quickly to his house because his twelve-year old girl is really touch and go”.

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 

 Why is that? Why did he stop and try and find this woman?

She could not keep the secret anymore. Now, she is the one grovelling in the sand at his feet.

33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.

She tells ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. She is like that kid in the mall just blurting out that he did indeed steal the Mars bar.

She is defenceless before this seething group of bearded men and a Jewish Rabbi. They and he can cut he down to size in a word. He could increase the shame, continue the abuse, and keep up this cursed life she has been living…..

And then something wonderful happens that completes the picture, shifts their universe, shows there is another universe at work in theirs. His next word turns the magic into a person – a real person with real intent changing the whole person and not just doing a bit of ‘faith healing’ or superstitious magic.

 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

“Daughter”. One word: new world. One name: new person. One voice: new human being. In his word she goes from unnamed, ashamed and unclean to fully known, highly esteemed and pure.

From no place: now given the keys to family home.

No love: now all loves excelling.

No community: to divine Father-daughter relationship with all the other sons and daughters of God.

From curse to forgiveness, from twelve years a suffering slave to all years and more a free-wheeling daughter of the King of kings.

This is why he had to know who it was that touched him. This is why he puts the other task on hold to find her. To change her magic view to a loving God encounter. He has to speak to do this.

 He has to name her to love her and not just fix her. He wonderfully names her in the highest. He shows it by not just healing her physically but resurrecting her whole person.

He names you then and now. He named you, “Son”, “Daughter” of the heavenly Father at the font. One word: new world. One name: new person. One voice: new human being. In his word you have been moved from unnamed to fully named by God; from having no place: now given the keys to family home. No love: now all loves excelling.

His healing is love not magic. His healing is not done by hokus pokus or achieved by our right prayer or knowing the secret formula or being squeaky clean. His healing is HIS healing FOR us and he gives it on our knees in the sand. And his healing is complete.

He will stop on another dusty road soon and be forced to give up his body of bloody scars and reach the full depth of death, disease and suffering – and all for us.

Because he stops there and goes there where we cannot, his love is personal and human and real. His forgiveness is not just legal theory but transforming healing of body, mind and soul – whether we are physically healed at any point or not. His love remains, our status as sons and daughters remains, unwell, disabled, mentally scared, emotionally broken – sons and daughters of the inheritance of hope – always.

His healing is not just about fixing my problems but loving me in total. Indeed, whether the healing is physical or not is not the greatest thing here. It is that other word he bestows on her as he moves on to raise another 12 year old female.

“Shalom”. Now there is a word. “Complete divine wellness and acceptance to you”.

Take this daughter, the young daughter and Jairus courage today. Jesus calls it faith even if it is a bit misdirected or not fully understood. He calls you to take courage to reach out to him and touch him. He calls that faith.

‘Daughter, Son, whoever you are and whoever you think you are or what they say you are, ‘Talitha koum! Arise today. Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

Amen

Conversation Starters

Use S.O.A.P to reflect on this text…

Scripture – hear it aloud and slowly….

Observation –  what do you observe/ what do you learn, what questions do you have…

Application – where are you in this and what is the Word giving you, calling you into..

Prayer – what prayers of thanks, asking, interceding for others do you feel prompted to pray……

Healthy Words: Hold On

Sermon, Sunday June 24th, 2018

St Petri, Augsburg Confession Day 

1Timothy 6: 11-16

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen.

Here’s eight things that pastors hope to hear….but probably won’t:

  1. Hey! It’s my turn to sit in the front pew!
  2. I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went for 25 minutes extra
  3. Personally I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.
  4. I’ve decided to give our congregation $500.00 a month I used to give to TV evangelists
  5. Let’s forget about the standard pastor’s salary. Let’s pay our pastor enough so that he can holiday in the Fiji once a year.
  6. I love it when I sing songs I have never heard before.
  7. Pastor, we would like to send you to a bible seminar in the south of France.
  8. Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment to being Lutheran like Augsburg Confession Sunday!

I wonder whether the young pastor Timothy in Ephesus ever heard anything like these things said to him by the people under his care? He seemed to have his fair share of difficult things and people to deal with if Paul’s letter to him is anything to go by.

Paul writes to keep Timothy from giving up the ministry or even the faith. It must have been tough!

There are people abandoning the faith and being led by deceptive people who were proven to in it for only personal power and gain (4:1-5). They did their deceptive work by deceptive TEACHING. That is what we teach and preach ad do is so crucial and to be guarded and taken serious. It is teaching that can build up or tear down. Everything matters because everything teaches in the Christian community.

They were teaching untrue unhealthy words and doctrines that only tell people what they must do to make sure they are okay with God – they only taught the law. Added to that there are all kinds of myths and old tales of stars and magic around that people are getting sucked into.

Paul writes to help his young man get through tough things with tough people. In the process, Paul speaks of what makes any community work, grow and reach out to others.

Sounds like the kind of community we are wanting to be? a community of people work, grow and reach out to others.

I wonder what Paul is saying to us?

Maybe we would want him to say things like, “Ask God for things like protection from evil, strength to carry on, wisdom to make good decisions, love to let ‘em know we are Christians and etc”. The are all good things but Paul doesn’t really say any of that here. He is pointing to something else that seems even more foundational and important to return to work, grow and reach out together.

Paul’s remedy to Timothy for being a pastor and a local church who stays the course and continues to be gospel people is to hold on to the good confession of faith that was made at the time of Timothy’s baptism.

In tough times with huge temptation to fall for trying to either make it on your own without God, or try to keep God happy by doing all the right things, Paul says hold on to this confession of faith you have already been given.

This confession of faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has already given to us in our baptism. We don’t need things and protection and inner peace and a comfortable life anywhere near as much as we need God himself in all his grace and kindness, proclaimed in us by the Spirit’s power.

A community of people in the middle ages had the opportunity to do before many witnesses at great risk to themselves.These people saw similar things that St Paul and Timothy saw in Ephesus. They saw unhealthy and untrue teaching damaging people’s lives. They saw that the transforming grace of Jesus being lost in all the rules and laws about how to make God happy. In our time it might be the opposite – the gospel being lost as people either turn their back on that confession of faith in which they have been baptised or people simply never finding it.

In 16th Century Europe, Emperor Charles V called a public assembly to unify Europe in face the coming onslaught of Islam. He needed the church to be unified. The church was to a large extend the institution that held society together. The church was powerful but disunified to its core.

Charles told the Roman Catholics, and those wanting to reform the Church, to present a summary of their teaching at this ‘Diet’. The Reformers, by the work of Luther (who could not be there because his life was still under threat) and Luther’s offsider, Philip Melanchthon, penned this confession of their faith now called the Augsburg Confession.

On June 25th,1530 at 3.00pm, the 28 part confession of the ‘evangelical’ faith (the gospel centred faith) was read in the German city of Augsburg by Christian Bayer. Apparently, he read it pretty loudly. People outside could hear it. Although not loud enough it seems because Emperor Charles nodded off!

The AC has become the most widely accepted and highly held confession of faith for the 65 million Lutherans all over the world.

It isn’t that for a lot of Australian Lutherans. I suspect that hardly anyone here has ever read it, and most don’t know if its existence anymore.

Maybe, if we are game enough to ask  big questions about who we really are and what our place is in the world and the church we might seek the Augsburg Confession. Maybe when we are hard pressed enough by various alternative faiths. gods and assumptions, we might eventually find some gold in the AC as many have these last 500+ years.

As far as I can tell, the AC says three things to Christians of all traditions and denominations.

  1. ONE CHURCH: Lutherans have no interest in being some sect or cutting ourselves off from all Christians, as if we are superior or special or anything but gospel centred human beings.
    • Being Lutheran is not being German or Barossan or being difficult or morbid or uncaring or averse to change.
    • Being Lutheran is being a Christian person who is part of the One holy ‘catholic’ community of the gospel of Jesus.
  2. ONE WORD: The only thing that binds us together, helps us navigate our way through complex stuff and receive the gift of God’s grace in Jesus by the power of the Spirit is the Word of God.
    • It is in the Spirit-powered living Word, and not from within ourselves or by some meditation technique or heady philosophy or experience we may have that we find God speaking to our many questions and giving us unity upon which we move together.
    • It is the word shared, sung, prayed, spoken, proclaimed and done in Baptism, Absolution and Holy Communion that the Sprit makes us new.
  3. ONE GOSPEL: The very heart and soul of me and you and us as a church and the Word itself is the man, Jesus the Messiah.
    • Our heart is not being to be a cut above the rest or being squeaky clean or being ‘super spiritual’ or getting God to make our life comfortable or meaningful or whatever, our heart is God’s heart for us – given in Jesus. Our heart is that the freely given but costly paid kindness and love of God in the face of Jesus Christ which can only ever be gratefully received as an underserved gift.

What else would you like your church to be about? What else would you pin your very life on? What else would you have courage to speak even if this confession of faith is something many might trip over, find offensive or silly or weak or misguided?

Would we want to say anything else than these things to our country; to this community; to our friends and family? Is there anything better we could say and do for the battlers, the powerful but still lonely, the oppressed, the grieving, the abused, those struggling with gender and identity, the young, the old, the loved and the unloved?

Isn’t Jesus’ body (the church), Jesus’ word and Jesus’ heart for us revealed in the Word what we need to hear this morning and what people need to hear from us tomorrow?

I am convinced they are ad this little confession and the faith it was made in is faithful and true and of great use. It will help us navigate our way through any time with the gospel in our hearts.

Let’s pray for courage and boldness to hold to the confession of faith in those Creeds we speak, this Confession of faith we live. This is how we will be a true people, a straight people, a people of love immersed in the grace of God in Jesus the Saviour for a world in need of his new word.

If that is ‘Lutheran’, then I’m in. I pray you hold on well and find yourself in too!

CONVERSATIONS STARTERS

What do you find yourself holding on to in life? make a list and see how those things relate to the faith you have received.

People seem to relate the word “Confession” to confessing wrongdoing. here, in 1 Timotyh, ‘confession’ is not owning up to wrojg doing but speaking your faith. Saying what you believe about God, Father, Son and Spirit. If a friend were to ask you what you actually believe about who God is, what kind of things would you say and on what basis?

Woud your confession of faith be different to what you find in the Apostle’s Creed

 

A good version of the AC can be found ere with some good notes to help you make sense of it. it might be worthwhile to read the first 10 articles (They are very short). They sum up the faith well. The language is a little old for us, but we can still get what it is saying for the most part.

https://www.stpls.com/uploads/4/4/8/0/44802893/augsburg-confession.pdf

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

maker of heaven and earth.

 

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

    born of the Virgin Mary,

    suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven,

and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty,

from thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

 

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.

 

This is the statement of belief that has come from the most ancient of times in the Christian church and arose together with the practice of baptism. it is often called the “baptismal Creed” as a result. Of course it is built on the very earliest statements of belief found in the early church (Romans 10:19 – “….if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”).

Think again about what you actually believe. How is it different, how is it the same?

What does it mean for you when Paul says to Timothy, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called….”?

Notice how Paul hold up Jesus as the first to confess faith. What did Jesus confess before Pilate – check it out in John from chapter 18, verse 28 on…

What helps you hold on to the faith that others have confessed that have enabled you to believe today? How do you help others hold on to this confession of faith?

Those who confessed the gospel-centred (evangelical) faith in Augsburg sis so at great threat to their lives. it would he been very easy for Charles V to just execute them or banish them to some godforsaken place. Would you confess the faith you have come to trust in and the One you trust in under threat?

This is always a theoretical question for us. Just ask St Peter! He said he would die for Jesus but couldn’t do it when it became real.

we pray for courage today – courage to speak and do God’s grace in Jesus where he has placed us. We cannot know the rest!

 

 

Scatter, Notice, Reap

Sermon, Sunday June 17, 2018

Pentecost 4B, St Petri

Mark 4:26-34

26 He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’
30 Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’

Farmers, to urban people seem to talk slowly, move slowly, have a considerable less frenetic lifestyle (which is envied by some). Farmers don’t seem to be chasing fashion – especially in Western Queensland where the utes are huge, the rugby shorts short and the ten-gallon hats large!

This parable seems like one a farmer would tell. I must say, at first, I find this parable ho-hum.

The farmer sows the seed in the ground. He sleeps, he rises and he waits. It does not seem to matter what he does. He does not even tend it: No sprays; no fertiliser to maximise yield. He sees that the crop is ready to be harvested. He sends in the sickle to it and hey presto. That’s it.

This guy seems very laid back! He is not like my brother in law and his son whom I saw one year take the 200 or so tines from their 60ft seeding bar and manually weld all 200 of them the same way to achieve a 10mm change in angle – all to get the absolute maximum rip and depth on that bar for their 9000 acres of crop! It took them two weeks of hard, hard work!
Isn’t that how we do things? We are anything but ‘laid back’. We are busy. We are pushing for more. We are wanting to maximise everything we do. “If you are going to do something, do it properly”, I can hear my Dad saying.

This farmer does not seem to be like that at all. He has no idea how the seed grows. He sleeps, he wakes, he sleeps…. If this guy had a performance review on his key performance indicators there would no indicators indicating any performance!

Are we supposed to be that laid back about the gospel? Doesn’t it really matter what you do or say or how awake or asleep you are to the existence and movement of Jesus’ kingdom because he will grow it anyway.

To us ‘maximising’, busy Christians prone to being either oblivious to the kingdom’s growth, disinterested in its progress or simply misled by superficial observations of people and situations precisely because we are so stressed and busy, is Jesus really saying, “just put your feet up, switch on the Telly and let me do it all”. “Relax people! “Chill out, Christians. Take a Panadol Pastor and have a lie down. No need to do anything much because God will grow his kingdom with or without you anyway”.

I don’t like this parable! It goes against everything I have learnt about how much effort it takes to sow gospel seeds and reap them in people/kingdom terms!
It goes against how I was raised and how I have been taught in the church. It is unsettling! I don’t like being told that I can’t control growth, maximise it, plan it, strategize it, make it happen more or faster.

But here it is and here we are – a church with a mission to sow words of Jesus, who will himself be The Seed rising from the dead ground to bring new life and growth to dead sinners.
But then I found something. We do get to be involved after all. We are called to do more than be sleepy Christians, disinterested Christians, or non-watching and praying Christians.

The farmer actually gets to do three things in this seed growing/kingdom coming enterprise?
• He scatters the seeds on the ground.
• He notices when the plant that has grown
• He takes the sickle to it.

He scatters and he notices and reaps, and in between he sleeps, rises, sleeps and rises and the seed grows…..

Scatter, notice and Reap/act when the moment of harvest dawns. That is our part.

We usually work out the best plan, work the plan hard to maximise the results, and get the best results we can. But here the rhythm is different:
Scattering, noticing and reaping – and we are not in control of all three. We don’t make any of it happen. We just play our part.

Scattering seeds of the gospel must be exactly that; scattering gospel words, doing grace actions among others that can seem as insignificant as a mustard seed to them and us, but not the Lord.

Scattering gospel seeds is not an exact science either. Sowing for this farmer was a very inaccurate. No 60 ft seeding bars and agronomist to get the fertiliser and depth and GPS and moisture just right. No, just human fingers throwing seed into roughly tilled soil and pretty much hit and miss as to germination. Scatter. Sow. Plant. An inexact activity but enough for the kingdom to take root, according to the One who makes the garden grow.

And then wait and notice or “reap”. I think I know how this works…
The other Friday night at Shed Happens I was scattering Jesus’ words among the blokes gathered. Later I heard from one of the guys who puts the thing together that one of our regular non-church blokes thought my message was a bit morbid, a bit negative.

So, I scattered a gospel seed as best as I could with human words and this man heard it. He must have to make that comment. Maybe the seed is germinating in him.
And maybe the guy who was standing next to this guy was doing the noticing. And maybe the job now is for both of us to wait and notice some more and when there is some sign of a growth in trust in Jesus (usually in the form of a comment or a question), we take the sickle to the guy!

But how? What about reaping? I reckon this is where we Lutherans struggle. We scatter the gospel seeds pretty well. We notice that comment at Christmas or that word used by someone at the shops or that change of heart from someone at work or school, or wrong friends.

But what we seem to really struggle with is the confidence to get the harvest sickle going!

  • Is it because we don’t like conflict or feeling uncomfortable or the sense that we may to be liked for a bit. Probably.
  • It may be that we have somehow heard all our lives so far that we have not got much of a story to share. That’s not true.
  • It may be that we are just not that full of Jesus stories to share either. Maybe?

What do you do when you notice there is an opening for a word, an action, a short exchange of something about your faith, who you know Jesus to be, your perspective on that issue? I think we tend to put the sickle away for some reason.

Here is the really good news. Ours is only a PART of this Kingdom of God’s grace growing! The Holy Spirit is the heavy lifter with the bold plan and the mega resources to make is all happen.

Phew! I can try and get it wrong, and try again. This is not all on me. I can be quite laid back about scattering, noticing and reaping like this farmer in the parable.

I can do a couple of things to grow in confidence as a gospel farmer who can reap when necessary:

  1. I can brush up on my Jesus stories in my words. I have time to do that. I can read them again and remember them.
  2. I can ask for help in getting my own story in place so I can share it because I count and my story counts, no matter how much like a insignificant mustard seed I think it is. God doesn’t think all he has been doing in your life so far is ho-hum! Neither will another person. The Lord will make sure of it!

Yes. With stories of the faith and my own story to share, relax alright.

Friend, scatter as best as you can. It is not an exact science. It does not have to be.

Notice people and changes. Listen a lot.

Reap. Wait and then share, act, invite, welcome, comment and leave it at that. Job done today.

There will come tomorrow and another opportunity.

Scatter, Notice and Reap. That is the kingdom way.
Amen

HOME WORK.

  1. Recall two or three Jesus parables or stories you already know and imagine telling them in your words.
  2. Get your life story in order.
    If you sensed it was right, what would you say to bring glory to Jesus and his grace in your life to a person. Make it short but make it you.

Long Live the King!

Sermon, Sunday June 10, 2018
Third Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[a] us, such as all the other nations have.’
6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.’
10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.
16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[a] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.’
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. 20 Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’

Something funny happened this week at St Petri.

We had forty five little Pre School children from Redeemer with us for part of a morning. They come every year. We go into the church building and talk about what is in here and why and respond to a million questions!

Then we came across to the hall and did a mini “Messy Church” kind of activity. The kids coloured in and cut out little pictures of all kinds of people and placed them in an envelop that looked like a little church building. One of the pictures they had to cut out was a picture of the pastor (me).

The children were cutting out these little pictures. Sharon asked one little girl who it was in one particular little square (photo of me). The little girl shouted out for all to hear, “That’s Jesus!”! Sharon said, “Well close….!”.

Little kids sometimes do this when you are a Pastor, but everyone knows that the Pastor is not Jesus. No one else can be Jesus. He is the only King of all kings and Saviour of all, no matter what we think.

Getting mixed up with who is the real king of our lives has always been a problem. Here, Israel go searching for a more tangible, more immediate King so they finally could be “just like the other nations”.

To be fair, there is need of a king. Up until this time, Israel had been a loose rabble of 12 tribes ruled by people whom the Lord would raise up from time-to-time (when things got bad enough!) to ensure the nation’s and Abraham’s covenant’s survival (‘Judges’).

The nation’s Elders concluded that something had to change.
1. Samuel’s sons are not like their Dad. Samuel’s boys are more than likely to be as corrupt as they come.
2. Samuel is old.
3. Those agro Philistines are very threatening – all the time!

So they go to the Prophet Samuel and ask him to ask the Lord to anoint Israel’s first king. Samuel is not impressed.

“……this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you……”

“….they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you”.

Only the Lord is King; not Samuel, not any other person. Asking for a political and military king shows a lack of trust in the Lord’s promises and presence.

This is blindness too. Asking for a political and military solution to their ongoing ‘heart problem’ of lack of trust and honest appraisal of themselves before the Lord is like choosing to use a straw to eat a big steak. it is the wrong tool for the job!

Their lack of peace, their despair for the future, their fears for the present, their lack of ability to deal with issues facing families, their lack of communal cohesion is not at the core, because they have not got a king, or the right government or enough weapons and cash. At the root is that they,

“forsake me and serving other gods” says the only God and King.

Same for me and you personally? Same for Australia? Same of us as a church? I believe so.

I believe I and we do indeed enthrone all kinds of ideas, people, things in our lives and therefore never get to the heart of the problems we struggle in.
We enthrone new ‘kings’. We enthrone old ‘kings’ we have enthroned before. It is our remaining human problem; this ability to deceive ourselves and each other; a certain ‘blindness’.

Remarkably, though, God lets his people have a king. Sort of, anyway. They will have a king, but he will not be like other kings and they will never be like other nations. They don’t need to be.

This king they want will never ever replace God or even be god-like, as kings were generally understood to be in the those ‘other nations. In surrounding nations, the king was ordained by the gods. In fact, the king was god, or at least semi-god.

For example, in ancient Egypt, the highest god was Amon-Ra, the Sun God. Amon-Ra made life revolve each day as he appeared and disappeared and determined the cycles of season and of course – crops and food and water and life. Pharaoh was the Son of Amon Ra –the “Son of God”; a semi-divine being chosen by the gods to rule. Pharaoh ruled by ‘divine right’ because they were ‘chosen from above’.

But here, Israel’s king is never, ever God or even semi God. There is only one King above all kings, and that is the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. The king is mere servant of the people first and foremost and he is ‘chosen from below’ – anointed by the human hands and voice of God’s prophets.

Even with this very different God ordained kind of king over them, God’s people spend a lot of the next decades and centuries getting it wrong.

They put the king above the Lord as Saviour and fixer of all their problems, and kings believed this of themselves.

They replaced kings when the king refused to be enthroned like this. When their king let them down because he could not or would not pretend to deal with the heart problem of lack of repentance and trust in the Lord (as the prophets always proclaimed), they would depose that king and try and find another one who would pretend to be that good!

But all the way through this revolving door of kings, there is this promise by the Lord. One day there will be the complete, perfect, all-powerful king that will successfully deal with it all – the outward issues of war and peace, government and wealth and also the heart problem; the root cause of all our human troubles; our brokenness, our ability to deceive ourselves, our hard-hearted pride and our endless searching for quick fixes in outward things.

God becomes this king himself. And he arrived ‘from as below’ as is humanly possible!

He does not rule by political manipulation and power or technological advancement or by fear and spin. He rules by serving, by the greatest love a human being has ever done – love for the loveless, home for the homeless, forgiveness for the unclean, baptism for the unwashed, holy meal for the unholy disconnected.

He is our king. he is Jesus. Not me or you.
We can keep enthroning other kings in our lives like many others do, but it will cost us, as it did Israel.

We can spend an awful lot of energy, heart and time trying to please people, look powerful, pretend we have got it all together only to know deep down that we are empty, shallow, out of puff and a little lost.

I say, let the kings we enthrone fall where they will. Let the gods of our own making be crazy. We need the ONLY king who can be it all, deliver on all promises and guarantee our future of loving acceptance and peace in him.

He is the King of Kings who rules in grace, not law, and the love that casts out all fear.

That little girl got it wrong about me. I am not Jesus! Neither are you. Nor is any other person to be king over our lives.

Jesus the Christ is the only king worth enthroning because only he can truly heal me, forgive me, restore us to community and send us out to where his kingdom exists to serve as he serves, love as he loves, forgive as he forgives and rules as he rules.

The King might be calling you to let go of the kings you think you need and simply throw yourself at his mercy today. Go ahead. There is plenty of it there for you.

Long live the King!

Amen.

CONVERSATION STARTERS (S.O.A.P.)

Pray “Lord, give me a listening heart. Amen”

Scripture Read the text aloud slowly noting images, imagination and questions that arise in you.

1 Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[a] us, such as all the other nations have.’
6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.’
10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.
16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[a] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.’
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. 20 Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’

Observation

On ‘kings’ we ‘enthrone’

It is hard to identify the ‘kings’ we enthrone as masters of our activities and decisions in life. This is because of our ongoing problem of self-deception. You can attempt to identify the ‘kings’ to which you go for help more than the promises and presence of The King Jesus;

What is making me angry at the moment

What ideas, things, people, needs, that if someone threatens to take away from you makes you ‘come out swinging’?

What do you spend a lot of money on?

What do you spend a lot of time thinking about and desiring.

What do you pin your hope for a good outcome, a good life on?

 

What were God’s people pinning their hopes on and for what reasons in this particular text. (Note the last verse spoken by the Elders to Samuel)

Why is Samuel unimpressed by this request and what does the Lord express about this request?

Why do you think the Lord lets them have what they want?

What do you make of the warnings the Lord gives to the people about what this request will cost them.

Application

What are the ‘kings’ I am enthroning in my life costing me at the moment?

Am I will to keep paying that cost?

If not, what will I do to dethrone them and give my life to the Only King of all Kings who can deal with all of me and my life not just the outward things? (Hint: You cannot do this alone. You need a trusted conversation about this with a trusted person of gospel faith and then you need to actually do something physical or even symbolic to dethrone that king). The way the Scriptures say this happens is only be repenting of enthroning kings and receiving the forgiveness and acceptance you already have in your baptism from The King of Kings, Jesus.

Prayer

Jesus, you are my king. You are the Servant King who serves me with forgiveness, hope and love when I can neither earn it or achieve this for myself. I put myself at your feet today. In my life I enthrone you. Help me to serve and love as you serve and love me. Amen

 

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