Category: सेर्मों

Epiphany 3C
Sunday January 24, 2010.
Ocean Forest

Eat the fat and drink the wine
Luke 4:18-19, Nehemiah

It was a grand plan that God had for community.

It was the way in which people would live their lives with freedom from any kind of oppression, which included escaping overwhelming debt, having community and family relationships restored repeatedly. It was a plan that would have a community of people renewing itself and living peaceably with each other and most importantly, at rest and peace in the love and kindness of their God. It was called Jubilee – which literally means Trumpet blast – in ancient terms, ram’s horn blast!

Jubilee: what a plan from a gracious and wise God with a heart for the release from any oppression or burden – spiritual, relational or economic.

In God’s land among his community, all land was to be returned to God every seven years. Just as God had rested on the seventh day, so the land was to rest on the seventh year – a whole year of Sabbath – rest with God – no sowing and reaping and any wild seed that sprouted was to be shared by all – especially those without income or means. There was also to be no buying or selling of land for this seventh year. The best you could do was lease it out.

On the seventh Sabbath year; the seventh cycle of seven year cycles – every 50th year, amazingly, all land was to be returned to its original tribal/kin group. All debts between people were to be cancelled and those with and without land were given a new beginning; a fresh start in terms of their family and economic relationships. Families could return to their ancestral lands every 50 years. Imagine what that would be like for a minute…

How connected to the land would we be? How much would be committed to caring for the land! We would all live connected to a place and know that this place was to be cared for and managed well because it would always be in the family – a lot like a family farm. How different would our ecology be, our salinity, our clearing a thousand trees a minute in the lungs of the world – our forests.
How connected would our families be? Every generation there is a return to original place. There would be so much connection to each other. It would ensure a return to connected extended families. A return to raising children in a connected community….. looking after our seniors in the family, sharing the load of life….

How different would our attitude be to wealth and consuming. No need to be self-made, just thankful a lot more!

It is doubtful whether God’s community could ever live in his grand design for community. The decades and centuries of God’s community is laden with the enemies of peaceful and just relationships holding sway –
• the greed of a king or two, the tyrannical rule of a legalistic religious system which keeps people in fear of God, rather than embracing him and his Word, the idolatry of a whole community, replacing God with self…..
• Surely this whole Jubilee gift of God was a long gone pipe dream

Maybe this is how we feel about those ideals of youth or of earlier times in our life? That goal that inspired us seems out of reach. That deep longing inside for a particular role or relationship or way of overcoming the evil we know……Nothing can be done about that.

Surely the people in the main street of Capernaum would have given this whole scheme of a complete re-shuffle of “how thing are” up long ago. It could never be that the daily grind of making money and looking after one’s own stuff would ever end. To be truly a community of mercy and justice, ending poverty and giving new beginnings to those who have not fared well….who would do that?!

But then this local man in his far north home town hall rises one average Saturday morning to declare that Jubilee is being restored!

So intentionally the local carpenter places the pointer down on the sacred Torah scroll before the hometown congregation in the weekly gathering. He speaks the words of a hope long gone that everyone probably still longed for, but could never believe they could ever happen.

They are words from the prophet Isaiah and they reflect the original communal pattern God intended in Leviticus.

“Jubilee: I have come to announce the year of Jubilee”, says Joe’s son.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (The year of Jubilee!)

He is saying the dream is not lost. God can bring good change. Families can be re-connected and children can grow up in a new place. Spiralling debt can be arrested. There is hope for families and communities and whole countries that crushing debt and the greedy fights for one upmanship and hording stuff to themselves can be replaced with contentment, a new goal, a new life’s work, a new hope for justice and fairness and above all – compassion.

We know that Jesus did what he said he was going to do. We know those accounts of healings and freeing. The Promised One delivered on his promise and fulfilled his gaol to do exactly what he said he could and would do – albeit in ways that no one expected or fully understood at the time!

And, he had announced his Jubilee to us too. In that gift of baptism we began to live in his Spirit, anointed with his power, freed from our chains of self-serving, healed of our terminal blindness to God’s ways and his love, set free from only serving our own desires to receiving new desires and callings. And in him we become him and we become his Jubilee to the people of our day

But, we long for more of his freedom and his sight and understanding. We know we are still growing into this time of Jubilee. Jesus’ time of jubilee can seem so far away and we wonder why. Where is your blessing, Lord? Why is it so hard to understand – myself, other people, my task, how to truly love, where you want me to serve and what you are making of me….?

For what are you longing from God today, friend? Where does this gift of jubilee – of the Lord’s favour and blessing and power need to be more in your life now?
Is there someone or something oppressing you?

• Are you poor in some ability or understanding that you long to be rich in?
• Is there something you would love to understand about God, or a relationships or yourself but somehow feel as though you just cannot get a hold of it?
• Are you longing for a new direction or for more understanding of the one he has already given?

I hear today that we do not have to lose hope in Jesus’ jubilee. I am hearing that new things are possible in my life and that the Lord is in this. I am hearing that he wants new connection with him, and that his power and love are present and possible for me and you and our community.

The way to receive this hope for good things called – Jubilee is to enjoy it! The prophet calls out to those beginning to trust in God’s jubilee, “eat the fat and drink the choice wine”. He says this to a people who had been totally gutted and were only just now beginning to find their way again.

They had come back from exile and had been given the onerous task of rebuilding Jerusalem to its former glory with no money or protection…. Someone discover the Book of the Law _ the Bible) and they read it and hope began. On the day they heard God speak – many for the first time in their lives, they were overwhelmed with their failures and yet, directed to eat the choice meat and drink the wine and enjoy God’s gifts.

Friend, begin to hope for that thing again. Begin to trust in God’s jubilee intentions for you and your relationships. We can do this because his jubilee is underway. He signed and sealed it in the giving of his Son, the resurrection of Jesus, that personal resurrection gift to you in the font in which you were baptised and now live.

Seek that new sight. Ask for those new legs. Cry out for release from that oppressive thing.

Enjoy today. Enjoy the jubilee of God’s favour and love and invite others to receive the good food and wine as well. 2010 is a jubilee year. Enjoy it with the Lord. Enjoy it with each other as we eat the best food and drink the best wine – the bread and wine of God’s jubilee.

Epiphany 4C
Sunday January 31st, 2010
Ocean Forest

I think I can, I think I can
Jeremiah 1:4-10

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Living this Christian life can sure seem like climbing big mountains – like that little engine! It can feel like we have to keep geeing ourselves up with pure determination and grit all the time. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I know I can…….”.

We all have mountains to climb. Here’s some I can think of….
• I want to be the most loving and effective parent I can be to give me kids the best possible start in life that I can. I will not ever hurt them. I will always listen. I will not make mistakes. I will protest tem from all harm and danger so that they never experience any pain or sorrow……. impossible expectations!

• I want to maintain a worthy body – I want to look like those magazine and TV people. I want to be fit, never get sick, avoid all disease, be able to leap building in a single bound and be cool enough to wear my red underpants on the outside of my blue tights!

• I want be a faithful person of God. I want to love and serve. I never want to hurt anyone. I never want to disagree with anyone. I want to be clean living and morally perfect so that God can’t lay a finger on me. I want to know my bible so I can win any arguments about creation or Jesus or God. I want to forgive everyone all the time quickly and easily. I want to be able to make the right decisions all the time about my job and family……

What’s your mountain at the moment – I can think of a few possible contestants for the little engine award!

What’s the mountain? How are you going to get yourself over it?

Will it be a matter of being that little engine that could? I hope not. I am sure that this is not the way of Jesus – to have to convince ourselves that we really can do the impossible tasks he has set before us from our own resources. This is not how he has ever worked. Just look at Jeremiah.
God calls a young man (maybe 16-18yrs old) and Jerry can’t handle it. What excuses does Jerry give? (can’t speak – too young/doesn’t know enough….)

Let’s place our current stuff in this account of Jerry.

Name you mountain or mountains………………………………..

Name your inadequacies about getting over that mountains…………………………………

Note: You probably are inadequate for the task – especially if it is a “God-mountain”.
Message to self: It’s okay to be inadequate for a “God chosen mountain”. That’s pretty much how God intends it to be.

Let me tell you how this usually works.
1. God calls a person
2. The person objects and focuses on his/her inadequacies and the enormous impossibility of the calling
3. God responds to the person’s called fear, doubt, unbelief and self-focus by giving a gift for the calling – a reasurance that the task actually is humanly impossible and the truth that the person is inadequate for the calling and the promise that this is how it is meant to be because God’s got it covered in mountain climbing
4. God follows up by giving the person called a sign of his promise and presence in their life and in their calling and reaffirms the person in his call

Here’s how it worked for Jerry.
God calls him to be a prophet to all nations – and particularly to the under pressure, faithless people of Israel.
• In his lifetime, Israel will seemingly come to an end when in 587BC, the capital city is razed to the ground and its leading people taken off to exile in Babylon by King Nebbedkednezzer.
• Quite a task to call a nation back to God in repentance and faith in God – quite difficult. Just ask Jesus as he goes to his home town and they try to kill him!
• The tried to kill Jerry too. In fact, every prophet was quite reluctant when God showed up with that Calling! None of them wanted the job. Remember Moses at the burning bush? He also said he was not up for the call. Remember Isaiah? “Woe to me a man of unclean lips” – a profound sense of personal sin and inadequacy for the calling.

God does not give up. He is actually the little engine that can – because he can!
“Well Jerry, you say you cannot speak well and you don’t know enough; you have not got enough experience for the job? I know. No worries. I will speak through you. I will speak my word through you. It will be me working in you in this calling. You’re not the little engine that thinks he can. I am and I know we can”.

God goes further. In Jerry’s doubt and fear and ducking for cover, God gives Jerry a gift. He puts out his hand and touches Jerry’s mouth. This is the sign that God’s words are in Jerry’s mouth for this impossible calling.

God completes the picture and the call: He reaffirms his call on Jerry’s life; but now with this special gift to take into it. “See, Jerry, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

How is it working for you?
You have been called and commissioned by God.
• If you’re not sure about that, reflect on your baptism. That’s the commissioning ceremony where you are called into God’s family and ordained for a life of service to him and his people.
• But also, recall those moments you have had when God gave you a specific nudge to do that thing in that place with those people.
• Also, reflect on the day you got married or the day your child was born (not too long ago for Ruth and Charlie!)
• Reflect on now. What’s God’s call now?

Whichever way you look at it, you are called and commissioned by God to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” Romans

Now, what are your inadequacies that you keep reminding yourself, others and God about? It’s probably a long list ranging from thing like…
i. Don’t know the bible enough
ii. You want people to like you and you know they won’t if you start getting religious on them
iii. You can’t love enough; you’re too impatient, not wise enough
iv. You’re not appealing enough; you have not got the stature, the looks, the respect you think you need
v. insert own inadequacies here……..

God is responding to you today.
• Don’t know enough? “No. You don’t. But I do”, says the Lord.
• Want people to like you? Yes. Everyone does. True, this is impossible. Not everyone will like you and it will cost you, being faithful to Jesus.
• “But I like you”, he says. “I love you. I love you a lot. I formed you in the womb and have known you since birth”.
• Whatever your inadequacies are and how ever you feel unable to climb the mountain, God is responding to you and continues to Call you today

And what of a sign for you of God’s continued calling?
• Signs can be many and varied. A visible spiritual experience, like Jerry received. A palpable dream that was more than imagination, a word of scripture that enlarged to fill your being for a moment and you just knew. A quiet word from another that created a ripple effect in your life and thinking about yourself and God
• And let’s not forget those visible signs of God’s presence that he gives – that visible moment when the Holy Spirit came to free you and live in you – baptism – a sign that was real, that happened in your personal history and on your physical body when water and Spirit flowed. And then that sign of Jesus’ continued healing, encouragement, power and peace – the holy meal of his body and blood in bread and wine shared with his body, the church.
• Do you need a sign from God that affirms you and reassures you that you are still in his calling and that the mountain is a mole hill in God’s love and power?
• Ask for a sign. Seek a sign. Seek his breath, his Spirit in his Word and among his people. He will come through. The mountain will somehow be reduced into a mole hill and it will be conquered because we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us”.

And there is it; A final re-commissioning of you.
You are called by God to be his mouthpiece and presence where you are. That is the truth of who we are and what we are.

No need for excuses. No need to try and get ourselves over the mountains before us. Only a need to seek the Spirit and receive his gifts, his love, his power.

The psalm writer gets it. He utters are prayer of the heart for the called person of God living in the world today – a prayer for every lived day in the call of Jesus for every mountain.

Psalm 71:1-6
In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.

Transfiguration Day
Sunday February 14th, 2010.
Ocean Forest

Lifting the veil
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
3:12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness,
3:13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.
3:14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.
3:15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;
3:16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
3:18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
4:1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
4:2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

I had an embarrassing moment related to a veil once. I was conducting a wedding in a packed church with the beautiful bride and groom. There is that part of the wedding rite where the vows have been exchanged and the moment everyone want to see is about to happen. As the minister, you can finally let the great moment happen by saying, “You may now kiss the bride”, or you can say the same thing in a little more subtle and modest way, “You may now lift the veil”. Well, I got it a bit mixed up on this occasion and ended up saying to the Groom, “You may now lift the bride”! The large laugh was on me!

Speaking of veils….. I have often wondered what is must be like to be a Muslim woman who must wear the veil. I have often been saddened as I imagine what it must be like for a women to have to wear the birka – that full heavy clothing that covers the whole body except for the eyes.

The great man of God, Moses had some experience of wearing a veil. He has a shine problem! On the many occasions he spoke directly with God, the result was a face that radiated extreme light. Quite a problem for those around him! On the mountain of the Lord (Mt Horeb) in the glory cloud and in the Tabernacle in the glory cloud, his face would shine like the sun when the conversation with the Lord was over. So he would strap on his veil as he exited God’s presence so that the people were not overwhelmed.

Because of all this direct connection with God, Moses stands out as one of those very rare and extremely highly regarded people of God.

There was also another very unique man who had a direct/special connection with the Lord. The prophet Elijah and Moses shared a common greatness – both of them had a unique end to their earthly life. Moses dies on Mt Nebo in God’s presence and God buried Moses in a place that noone could ever find. Elijah was taken up into the skies on that famous chariot of fire.

So, if you are Peter and the others on that cloudy mountain of this Transfiguration, you would be in total awe at the sight of Elijah and Moses, let alone Jesus being transfigured like Moses used to be.

You can imagine what euphoria this cloudy mountain experience must have created for Peter and the others! The two greatest men with this very special man they had left everything to follow these two years – right there – in the “veil” of the glory cloud that obscured the light of God enough to enable mere humans like Peter, James and John to see enough of the three great men in a knowing conversation.

No wonder Peter says in some kind of euphoric daze – “let’s make this last forever!”

Of course, this moment does not last forever. it is back down the mountain to the valley of that last journey to Jerusalem, veiled in human suffering, injustice and death for Jesus.

Jesus will join the ranks of the great men. He will surpass both Elijah and Moses in his death. he will be buried for sure; A human death; a death where the veil of death seems to win over love. But he will be raised from death. The veil of death that overshadows all creation will be lifted for all creation and all time. What a death!

No wonder St Paul makes much of this in all of his preaching and teaching around the known world. We hear a bit of his talk about the lifting of the veil of death for human beings and God. Actually, he speaks of this veil as a real power that actually does things to people. Its power is the law. The high demands of a holy God hit a flawed, imperfect and rebellious human heart and the end result is darkness, ignorance, separation, lovelessness, alienation and in the extreme – death.

This veil of human striving to try and appease God by keeping the rules and being very good all the time misses the truth. It casts a shadow alienation between people and God like a veil isolates a person from others.
But the veil can be lifted. Unity, peace and love in God can be experienced and lived by flawed people. Paul can say that we are not like Moses. When a person turns to God in repentance and faith, this veil of alienation from God is removed and there is open access; open conversation, an experience and a knowing of God’s deep love and compassion; a receiving of God’s glorious gift – the forgiveness of all sin and the removal of death is accomplished by God for us.

Of course, the veil has not completely disappeared yet. We can fall back into law keeping to try and win God’s favour and actually put that old veil back on. We can put up walls around our heart out of fear or guilt or shame or pain caused by others and not turn to God for freedom from these things. We can dice with death in our addictions and self-seeking passions.

But there is no reason we have to stay under the veil. The veil of alienation and death has been removed for us. We are being called today to let God lift the veil and draw us close. We are his baptised and loved people after all. We are all his bride – the one, holy universal Christian church.

And this veil lifting is a process too. We live in Jesus’ peace and power and this constantly transforms us from the old shadow people to light people.

3:18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Friend, is it a time to let God bury you and resurrect you? Is it a time to turn to God in all humility and trust and let him lift that pain; lift that guilt; lift that shame and receive the gift of freedom for which you so long?

3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Ahh Yes. Freedom from that sense of failure that hangs over me like a dark shadow. Freedom from those addictions. Freedom from those flaws. Freedom from which to truly live and love and contribute good things….

We need the veil lifted. We need to be transformed. Things are not meant to stay static. We have been called into a relationship with God that grows and deepens in trust and appreciation, like a young married couple. Married people are meant to grow and deepen in understanding and love for each other. Actually, human beings are meant to grow together in understanding and love.

Will you turn back to the lover of your soul today again and receive the freedom the Spirit brings; have that veil of sadness or sickness or sorrow or sin lifted and start again with the Lord?

As we all do that by a simple seeking of God’s power and forgiveness, we will enjoy a hopefulness for our life; a boldness of faith that comes from having that veil between us and God lifted.
3:12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness,

And with this hope and this bold appraoch to living in God’s grace and power, we share in this ministry of lifting the veil on darkness, despair and death we see all around us.

4:1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

With our heart fully engaged in our work, our family, our spiritual journey, our church community, we are ministers of veil lifting – or hope giving, of freedom giving.

Imagine that – imagine being a community that lifts the veil of darkness for people? imagine working together to lift the veil of despair and alienation we see – among the young and the old?

Imagine being a church and college community where for moments in the life of a parent or a child, there is real freedom, a real lifting of the veil of guilt and pain – hope springs up and the freedom of the Holy Spirit is powerfully present.

Yes Lord Jesus. yes Spirit of God. yes Father in heaven. Lift the veil of alienation from you. Bring a gift of true freedom today. Make us you community of veil lifters and draw us and many more into your loving presence and peace. Amen.