Thunderbolt in the Thunderbox!

Sermon, Reformation. Wed Oct 21/Sun Oct 25, 2020

Romans 3:19-28 

          19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

              John 8:31-36

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

 

I took the opportunity to read a book in this COVID time. It comes to my mind this Reformation weekend. It was a historical biography of Martin Luther, the person from whom we Lutherans get our name.

I know the general story of how God did great work through Luther way back five hundred years ago. But this recent 21st century telling helped me see some new things.

New York social commentator, speaker and writer, Eric Mataxis, wrote the book. Eric is a Christian in the Baptist/Reformed part of the Christian church. He is not a theologian or academic. So, his great contribution is coming at the Luther and Reformation story from a lay person’s perspective.

We come from this Reformation that was begun by the Lord through Luther and others. So on Reformation weekend I offer a couple of important things for us.

One is that this Romans text we heard is at the heart of being a Christian.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. 

This was THE word from the Spirit that transformed our little German Augustinian monk, from the inside out.

Luther had been on a long journey to this word. He smelt a rat in the practices and beliefs of the church of his day – a rat that was poisoning people with overwhelming guilt and fear. It produced a never-ending slavery trying to earn your way into a distant and angry God’s favour by various means.

He himself was a ‘bulldog’ in this pursuit. He was in one of the toughest communities of monks. He lived it full on and got himself tangled up in blue day after day, week after week.

He says he was lost in a never ending slavish cycle of feeling the accusation of the 10 Commandments, confessing every little way in which he minute-by-minute broke those commandments, receiving forgiveness from his Abbot but then immediately breaking the law again…..plunging him into a dark room of anger and, resentment of God, and loathing of himself for which he could find no relief.

Sound familiar? has this been you? Has this been someone you know?

Luther was a thinker. One day he posted his concerns about the church on the university notice board in Wittenberg where he was a young University lecturer in the Bible. There we 95 thoughts. He wanted an in-house university student and faculty conversation.

Turns out that this one little act set an explosion off! Things caught like wildfire; like when a person posts a photo or comment or poem on Facebook for his or her circle of friends, only to find that a million people have seen it and shared it all over the world!

This huge shift in the world called the Reformation, and Luther’s life in it, is there to be learned by any interested person.

I don’t think Martin Luther would be too interested in going viral and being famous, even though he did and is. What he would care about is this Word from God to the world and to you now.

It says that we are all lost, condemned by the law as lawbreakers because we are slaves to it since our first parents placed themselves and us there. They wanted to be like God, they wanted to be God for themselves. We do too, in a million ways.

That we want to be gods of our galaxy puts us into a never ending slavery to self-interest, self-justification, self-glorying to survive in this broken creation.

Sometimes we feel this enough to acknowledge it, and even reach out the God. A lot of the time we don’t. Being our own life-shaper and self-determiner often at the cost to others comes naturally to us. That is our brokenness. That is what sin actually is, not just doing wrong things.

Sin is an addiction that keeps on taking until there is nothing left to take.

This slavery to self kills us and destroys relationships. “The wages of sin is death”, says the New Testament. (Romans 6:22)

As we earn and strive and justify ourselves, kid ourselves: just not understand ourselves, we hurt, and we hurt others and the spiritual damage goes viral. It is much worse than COVID 19. It is not temporary. There will never be any humanly manufactured vaccine.

But, here’s something I learned….

While in hiding from the authorities in the famous Wartburg Castle in southern Germany, one day when probably sitting at the base of the tower in the ‘small room’, the Spirit interrupted the bodily proceedings with this thunderbolt in the thunderbox! The Spirit made the Word a thunderbolt of transformational news as Luther pondered this very word from the Bible.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. 

“Martin, I can deal with your selfish dark heart and your slavery to self the same way you can deal with what needs to be expelled from your body in this small room!”

The bad smelly stuff can be expelled and the beautiful fragrant freedom of grace can be enjoyed – and not by anything you can do to earn it or achieve it, but only because Jesus Christ gives it.

In more biblical words:

24 all [people] can be …… justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….

Yes;

23 …..the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is never-ending life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is our heart as a church of Jesus’ grace only ever simply received (not earned) by faith in him.

Friend, are you hearing this for yourself?

If you have been an enemy of God, he has found you and friended you at great cost to himself.

If you have been lost in self-serving, he has come not to be served but to serve you with his own words, life, death and rising.

If you have been loving people and things too much or too little or too selfishly, he loves you now with self-less laser focussed higher, deeper, longer, completing love.

If you have been living in a lonely exile longing for someone to notice. He does and the belonging starts now.

Another thing I learned is that this gospel of grace really costs. It really cost Luther – in hard work and in the pain of conflict.

He wrote millions of words, he preached thousands of sermons, he wrote pastoral letter to people in need, he loved his wife and children. He gave his all for this fragrant freedom.

He challenged not just the church authorities but his closest associates that wavered from this stunning gospel of grace. Some did not want to hear of grace and others did delight in receiving it but then returned to rules and control and power over people.

Strange – the best thing God could ever give a broken sinner – grace – is resisted or subverted! Oh, how broken we still are this side of the final resurrection!

We want to do something. We still want others to do something. We want God to do something on OUR terms – power, manipulation, competitiveness, fear, control, human vision, human rules….

Luther resisted any hint of us trying to jump in the driver’s seat of life again by any means.

Friends, I pray that you would receive this gospel thunderbolt in the thunderbox or any other box! I pray that you would feel the renewing breeze of the Spirit’s gospel word move through you this Reformation weekend. I pray that at your heart is Jesus’ gospel heart.

I pray we would be a community of the gospel; a community of grace in a million ways with many broken people, whether they think they are or not!

I pray that we will willingly pay the cost of confessing this gracious Father and the Son, Jesus, no matter the cost, because it actually is our very life and our very hope and enables to truly love.

I pray that you receive God’s thunderbolt good news for you in your room.

In the small room, the dark room, the lounge room, the work room and every other room, the golden gospel is the gold in the room, because;

 36 …. if the Son sets you free, are free indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Presence Crisis

Sermon, 20th A Pentecost, Wed October 14/Sun October 18, 2020

Exodus 33:1-3, 12-23

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants.” I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.’

12 Moses said to the Lord, ‘You have been telling me, “Lead these people,” but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, “I know you by name and you have found favour with me.” 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.’

14 The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’

15 Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’

17 And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.’

18 Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’

19 And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’

21 Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.’

Watch this week’s Worship and Sermon here >  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oi7lBQgVQBM

I heard a term this week that I think names a real situation that we Christians experience at times: “Presence Crisis”. A crisis of God’s presence.

It is one thing to know in your head that God is present. But it is another thing to then know for sure that the Lord is still FOR me.

When it has been a terrible week, when you have endured great heartache or pain, or you said or did the wrong thing, or you stayed silent when you needed to speak up or when you are dealing with some bad news that has cast a shadow over your future, you know in theory that God is still around, but you want to know for sure again that he is still FOR you; that you have hope and future.

Moses is right here. He is in a ‘presence crisis’.

The people have done very badly around that golden calf. God is God and is still here, but is he still FOR us, after what we did to him?

Moses, the who is reported to have been a the man “who spoke face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11), again speaks with the Lord.

The conversation does not start well.

God has said that he will NOT destroy his disappointing people. That is good!

But things are different now. The best the Lord can now do is send a third party to lead his people as they leave the scene of their great crime.

Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised….. I will send an angel before you and drive out the ‘locals’….. 3 .…..But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.’

Like a mum who has had enough of a strong-willed little guy for the day and hands the little man to Dad saying, “Here, you take him!”, the best God seems able to do at this point to keep his promises, is to lead them via one of his ‘messengers’, his angels. Good luck, Mr Angel!

The conversation continues….. And can you sense just how close, personal, trusting and bold this conversation is? I wonder why?

Moses says,

‘You have been telling me, “Lead these people,” but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, “I know you by name and you have found favour with me.” 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.’

What’s Moses doing in the ‘presence crisis’? Three things…. Moses….

  1. Names it: name the issue. “You are not coming with me and without you I have no confidence to keep going let alone lead”.
  2. Remembers: Remember the promises. God, you remember your promises because I do! He asks the Lord to remember. “You said, Lord, you would be our God and we would be your treasured people of promise in the world with a sure future in you”.
  3. Asks: He asks for what he needs. “…teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you”. In other words, “Lord to teach him how to lead well and keep these people in your promises”.

That’s what you do in a presence crisis.

  1. Name it: Name the issue as you see it. Lodge your complaint openly and honestly to the Lord.
  2. Remember the promises. Recall the Lord’s promises to you and ask the Lord to remember his promises to you.
  3. Ask what you need from him in the moment.

God listens. God agrees to remain with Moses and the people (Exodus 33:14).

Moses is on a roll. Now he is showing us the heart of it.

15 Then Moses said…., ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?

What’s at the heart of this conversation? It is definitely not some impersonal deal or demanding of rights on Moses’ part? Why?

Because Moses is asking for the Lord, not just what the Lord can give. That’s what is at the heart of this conversation. That is why it is so honest, straight and bold. It is a conversation between friends who know each other and want to know each other, more than just securing what can happen.

Moses does not just want safety, security, things, power, achievement or even the Lord’s blessing by themselves. He wants the Lord. Moses wants the Lord himself more than what the Lord can give.

Is that you today? “Lord, I need You, not just what you can do”. Would you characterise your talking with the Lord as being based on a relationship with him, more than what you can get from him?

The Spirit is speaking into our time. He is calling us back to the Lord; his character, his promises, his presence way above what he can do for us or give to us.

Sure, we pray for things and people and situations and gifts and power to live in the Spirit of Jesus every day. But if that is all we ever speak about to the Lord, we are living in a distant relationship.

It is one where we want what the Lord can give us but not him. We want the gifts without the conversation, the blessing without the talk, the good stuff without the relationship stuff.

The Lord ends up being for so many a Jeanie in the bottle that we speak to when we are desperate enough, but with little interest in actually knowing him and his promises and purposes for us.

God becomes our private butler whose sole purpose in our day is to serve the drinks, meet our personal needs, make sure we are comfortable without ever calling us to a face-to-face relationship that lives and breathes and challenges us.

Moses shows us here that prayer is a relationship not a check list. It is a conversation not a deal.

The Lord responds……

17 And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.’

Prayer is conversation founded on knowing not just doing.

Can you hear this for your present presence crisis?

Friends, we can speak this way to God. We have Jesus, the new Moses+, the very Son of God who prayed and lived in his Heavenly Father’s love more than Moses speaks this to you now, friend.

If you ask anything in my name, I will do it (John 14:14)

With Jesus, you are now free to speak with his Father and yours as you;

  1. Name it: Name the issue as you see it. Lodge your complaint openly and honestly to Jesus.
  2. Remember the promises. Recall Jesus’ promises to you and ask him to remember his promises to you.
  3. Ask what you need from him in the moment.

Moses wants the Lord and nothing less. He goes on where angels fear to tread.

18 Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’

“Lord, reveal your holy, pure wonderful presence to me. That is what I really need more than anything. I need you, not just what you can do”.

We have this too, and even more! The Lord has revealed his grace to us in all his glory.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3)

For Moses here, the Lord reveals himself in the famous crag in the rock passing back of the Lord flashing across Moses life.

For us, the Son of God himself lives, speaks, dies and rises to rule as one of us.

Friend, The Lord ids present with you and he says he is FOR you in any crisis.

He still hides himself – not in a rock but in human flesh and blood so fragile, but now gloriously raised and ruling.

So be like Moses. Confidently:

Name it. Name your struggle.

Remember the promises of the Lord in Jesus to you.

Ask the Lord Jesus for what you need.

But under it all and after it all and before it all, seek his presence. Seek him more than what you want, or he can give.

Go ahead.  “(your name), speak face to face with Jesus, as one speaks to a friend”.

 

 

Everyone Needs a Moses

SermonPentecost 19th A, Sunday Wednesday October 7/Sunday October 11, 2020

Exodus 32:1-14 

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 

2 Aaron answered them, ‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’ 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ 

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.’ 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterwards they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. 

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 

9 ‘I have seen these people,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.’ 

11 But Moses sought the favour of the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance for ever.”’ 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. 

 “Is the Lord with us or not?”. Been asking that lately?   

 It is a question everyone asks at some level sometimes. Maybe you have been asking it this year?  

 What is going on in these strange COVID times and is God with us it or not?  

God’s people asked this question in their tough moments. They usually got it very wrong before they heard it truly right.  

This moment at the foot of Mount Sinai is one of their questioning moments. It is known as their great fall. 

The Lord has heard them in Egyptian slavery. He has given them himself, his leader, Moses, and everything they will ever need to live long and prosper.  

He has made his vows to stick with them and give them what everybody wants in life – a home, a place, a name, a family, a future with him 

And they have just said, “Yes”. “Yes, to you, Yahweh. You be our God and we will be your treasured people in your world 

But Moses has been gone a long time. The people are getting restless. God might be pulling out on us. Moses might have been pulled out! We might be left here alone, isolated, unsure, hung out to dry by God and Moses. Is the Lord still with us or not?  

 Aaron, Moses’ brother and 2IC, is in a bindThe people come to him: 

‘Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 

They are not waiting to find out if the Lord is with them or not. They will return to what they know – the worship of many godsAfter all, life was clearer, more settled; better in Egypt….. There was less risk, less change, less need to trust the unseen. You could just go along and be comfortable in your slavery….. You were used to it.   

Aaron says, ‘Yes” but also “No”.  

2 ……. ‘Take off the gold earrings …. and bring them to me.’…. Aaron took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf…. 

The golden calf; a widely accepted symbol of fertility, blessing and life for any ancient person.   

But let’s make a statue but to the Lord. Let’s still make it about the Lord.  

Phew! At least we are still worshipping the Lord and not ‘gods”. Think Aaron?   

But no! The people say to each other, 

 ‘These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ 

Oh dear! Aaron acts 

5  Aaron …. built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.’  

Ahh. So, we are still worshipping the Lord….. we think; we hope!  

Morning comes 

6  Next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. 

Starts off civil. But then things get rather ‘festive”! 

6  ….. Afterwards they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. 

This is pure feeding the out of control human heart searching for pleasure and avoiding the pain and fear  

See how once we take matters into our own hands with worship apart from the Lord’s promises on his terms, the gods other than him to which our wayward heart tends to cling win us over?   

The Fall is complete. Everyone is implicated. Aaron has failed in leadership. People have failed the Lord.  

What breaks this fall? What heals this cavernous rift between God and these broken people?  

Moses. We all need a Moses.   

Where is he? He is up on that mountain meeting with the smoky, fiery awesome God. He is up close, speaking with a red-hot, holy God who is about ready to give up on his promises to these people.  

9 ‘I have seen these people,’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. 

Stiff-necked, stubborn, unaware, totally focussedonself people: Locked into a slavery to which we have gotten used to again. We trudge on looking for a morsel of pleasure where we can…..  

God’s says, ‘Moses. It is just you and me then. I will start again with you, like I did with Noah. I will make another nation with you.  

Not too hopeful for the current people! But here comes the beginning of hope.  

Moses could have said, ‘Yes please, GodGet me out of here! Anything is better than being with this mob!  

But he didn’t. Instead, he sticks his own neck out and goes into bat for these people.  

11 But Moses sought the favour of the Lord his God. 

“Don’t wipe them out, Lord”, he says.  Why? Three reasons: 

  1. You have done good. This is a good thing; making them a people and giving them freedom and promise.  
  2. The world will dismiss you if you destroy what you havpromised to sustain 
  3. You have made promises to all those who have gone before us. You have not broken your promises so far. Don’t start now. Your faithfulness to your promises is our only hope! 

And amazingly we hear: God ‘relented’or, God ‘repented’. God turned back to his promises. He keeps them and his people.  

Everyone needs a Moses. You have one. Jesus is your new Moses +. You are one.  In Jesus, God did the unthinkable. He entered this out of control party as one of us. Jesus sees it all, knows it all, understand me in it all but amazingly, does not fall at all  

He took this wondering, self-focussed pleasureseeking heart that falls so far so often into his own heart; his own body where it was lanced, run through, nail, judged, condemned, dead.  

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, …. – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)  

So, now he speaks with his loving Father for us all the time in a new covenant relationship that he promises to never end.   

Jesus is our mediator and his faithfulness is our only hope.   

Friends, you have a Moses+. You have Jesus.   

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death….. God did this by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] …….. in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4) 

 Even more; 

You have the Holy Spirit representing you in emotion and knowing, beyond words – in groans and sighs before the Father.   

15 ….. the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, ‘Abba,[g] Father.’ 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  (Romans 8:15-16) 

 So, God’s restored, loved child adopted in Spirit-filled Baptism, you still need a Moses and so does everyone you know. Guess who that is You! Us!  

Turn away from the calf. Turn to your new Moses and his Father. Relent and repent of trusting yourself above his word and put that word of promises back on the altar of your life.   

Then be a Moses to them all. Praying, pleading, working; representing your friends and enemies before a holy God, and sharing him and his words of forgiveness and promises you know.  

Everyone needs a Moses. It is why we care, why we pray, why we be a church, why we change and listen and bring people before the Lord and showing them his promise  

Is the Lord with us? Yes. But who is with everyone else? You.   

Everyone needs a Moses.  

 

No Deal! Only Faith.

Sermon, Wednesday October 2/Sunday October 4, 2020

Pentecost 18th A.

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work,

“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

I wonder whether you have done a deal with someone lately? You renegotiated your bed time with the parents. You signed up for a Uni/TAFE course. You bought a car or a house. You got married! You took on a volunteer job. You made a commitment to do something or pay something and the other party promised to deliver something to you in return. You do your part. They do theirs, and that’s the deal.

That is what is going on here with these famous ten commandments. The commandments are part of new deal…. But a deal with a difference that makes all the difference.

The arrangement is between God and his people. The commandments are the finer detail of how the ongoing relationship needs to work for it to be kept in good faith.

And that is the big thing to get. These rules are not just random rules. They are rules with relationship in mind. These commandments are all about relationship way more than rules. But the rules enable the relationship to survive and prosper.

Here are the newly free people of God on their desert journey from homelessness to a new home, from being nobodies in the world to being somebodies, from having nothing much to offer or do for the world to being the lynch-pin for the whole world when it comes to a living relationship of blessing and life with the Creator of all things.

And God really wants them and this relationship!

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possessions. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nations” (Exodus 19:4-6).  

We hear that God gives people these rules:

  1. So that people could be his very own treasures belonging with him, and
  2. So that through his treasured people, God could love all other people.

In this relationship, God’s people get to be treasured by God and given a job.

Their new job in the world is to be priests for the whole world – bringing God’s promises to people and bringing people to God.

Here’s how they keep the deal:

“Love God with all you are and have and love each other in all aspects of life”. That is the way Jesus would sum up these ten things later on.

Sounds so simple. Sounds like a good deal. God does his bit. We do ours. And it is all good. What could go wrong?! Answer? Plenty. “No deal”!

Truth is, we cannot do this deal. We cannot keep our end of the bargain. Our wayward, searching, broken, rebellious heart makes this impossible. God calls for complete love and devotion to him and other people and we can’t love God as he is to be loved or love each other so fully.

The biblical story is brutally honest about this. We are dismal at keeping up our end of this bargain! Worse. We are less than dismal. We are incapable.

If you read on from this high moment, you will see how quickly the people break the relationship. It has to do with a certain golden calf…

If you read on you will know just how many times God’s people and all people break this agreement.

Or in New Testament terms:

“All have sinned (against this agreement) and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23).

And

“we do the very things we know we should not do and leave the things we know we should do (according to these commandments) undone”, says Paul in Romans 7.

You know the struggle. As you hear these ten rules for life with God, do you sense your failure? I do.

So, what do we do with our failure, our inability to keep this deal, and the guilt I feel?

We have two choices.

  1. Get angry with myself or with God or both, and leave the relationship. Many have. Many still do.
  2. Give up and become a crushed needy person always apologising for everything hoping one day I will be good enough somehow…..

Which is it this morning? Angry at God or crushed by God or both?

But, there is something very different about how God does deals with people. That difference is our guilt remover and life saver today.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself……. (Exod 19:4-6).  

God is doing a lot. God is actually doing everything. This a different kind of deal.

Let me explain…… In the ancient world there were two kinds of deals between nations. One was a deal between two equal powers. EG. Two countries do a deal about a section of land. Two people of equal standing agree on a price and ownership of the land is transferred to the other.

But then there was an unequal agreement. EG. When a nation was defeated by a stronger one, a deal is made on what the defeated country has to pay the winning country for all the damage and costs etc. Often, the price was unjustly high – like a whole nation being wiped out or turned into slaves for the stronger nation.

Now which kind of agreement do you think God is making with his people here at Mt Sinai? Equal or unequal? Yes. Unequal and hopelessly so!

This is not a deal between two equal parties, this is a one-sided agreement by God with God doing all the work to make it work! That is how God does ‘deals’ with us.

God does pretty much everything for the people while the people don’t do much at all for him. In other words, this ‘deal’ is actually ‘no deal’ at all!

This is a RELATIONSHIP made from love; deep love for us incapable, unequal creations.

Here’s the good news: Our God makes unequal agreements because of love for people who can’t make the deal.

He chooses to relate to and love people who have no hope of loving back the same way. God actually does it all, and the other party – his people, us, can’t do a thing to make this agreement happen.

  • He is the one who hears his people’s suffering in slavery.
  • The Lord is the one who defeats evil in those ten plagues.
  • He is the one who opens up the Red Sea in which his people are baptised into their new relationship with him.
  • He is the one who shows them how to love him, worship him and love each other.

He is the one who gives them a job in the world and promises land and future in him, DESPITE THEIR INABILITY to love him; to keep up an end of the deal.

Are you hearing Jesus yet? I am!

In Jesus, God did his kind of unequal dealing again.

Jesus was obedient to God’s way, even to the extent of giving up his life for the world on that cross. This changed the deal. He did is all, paid it all, suffered it all so I could have it all and be loved in it all. He lived the perfect life so I could have a life.

  • It was he who entered our struggle and pain to remove our shame.
  • He rose from the grave smashing our slavery to self and to things and people.
  • He buried you and resurrected you in your own Red Sea at the font.
  • He gave us the same mission he has always had – to draw all humans into a relationship of love with him and each other.

Friend, in these 10 words which are for us now a curb to keep you from wandering out of his grace, a mirror to tell you the truth and drive you back to grace in Jesus and a guide for loving, sense him carrying you back to your place of being his treasured person. Trust the Spirit reinvigorating you in your priestly job – representing the Lord’s love to people and representing their needs and their lives to God.

Hear Jesus, now. He speaks to you his treasured person;

  • No need to trust anyone or anything else for your life – you can trust trust me.
  • No need to use my name as something cheap – you can use it to give thanks, pray and praise.
  • No need to neglect my Word – you can regard it as holy and listen to it and apply it gladly.
  • No need to treat your parents or others in authority badly – you are free to honour them all and serve them.
  • No need to kill – you can help people in all their physical needs.
  • No need to sleep around or be unfaithful – you can respect your partner and honour people.
  • No need to steal – you can help people improve their lot in life and help people look after their possessions
  • No need to betray people – you can put the best construction on things; do your best speak well of people
  • No need to deceive people or long for what others have – you are free to help people remain loyal and help people keep their possessions.

In the name of Christ

Amen

Scenic Valley – Boring ourselves to death?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Go to Scenic Valley Podcast to listen….. 

Lots of people seem to be pondering what COVID has done to us and what shape it will leave us in. I read something this week that got me thinking about it in a ‘big picture’ way.

Greg Sheridan wrote a piece in the Weekend Australian that was a summary of a new book. The book is written by a guy named Ross Douthat. It is called, The Decadent Society, How we became victims of our own success.

His opinion goes like this:

The West, is caught in the slowly suffocating grip of a decadence we do not understand. We have been in this grip for 50 years.

By ‘decadent’ he doesn’t mean too much drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll. Decadence is sort of being at a dead end. It is “economic stagnation, institutional decay, and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of material prosperity and technological development”.

That is us. We live in a very high level of material prosperity and technological development. Are we stagnated, decaying and exhausted? Maybe.

Douthat says that the huge changes in post WWII society, then the massive shifts in the 1960s have never been resolved. We have been left with a certain aimlessness even though we have never had it so good. In the 60’s we got fired up about being on the moon, but that in the end has not amounted to much. Neither has all the advances in technology. Politics has declined into permanent gridlock.

Douthat quotes the French writer, Jacques Barzun, who says that this decadence: “Sees no clear lines of advance. Life seem exhausted; the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result. Boredom and fatigue are great historical forces … When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.”

I do wonder whether we do indeed accept futility and the absurd as normal. News seems so trivial. Why do I listen to a story about someone in Poland who I will never know getting a pet cat out of the tree and then the number of people who died today from coronavirus in my country and just receive this so called ‘news’ as of the same weight, or even worse, of no particular meaning? Social media is worse when it comes to totally disconnected stories that makes everything trivial – both the trivial things themselves but also the really important things.

What about all our technology. Has it really done much good? Douthat reckons the one great technological innovation of our age is the internet; the digital universe. The biggest effect of the digital world has been on our minds and personalities. It might not rule our lives as much as past inventions like the light bulb and the steam train and car have ruled, but in entertainment and addiction digital technology reigns supreme. It has had negative effects on the human personality.

For EG, Douthat is a critic and opponent of pornography. It is de-humanising in every way. This and other aspects of digital technology have ended up having a tranquillizing effect on the human psyche.

EG. Sheridan says that this industrial-level porn has produced alienation and depression. Younger people are linking up and forming long term partnerships, whether marriages or stable de facto relationships, less than ever before. And they are having less sex. The sexual revolution of the 1960s, and the accompanying spread of porn, has apparently resulted in less sex and fewer marriages.

This is one of the factors contributing to very low birth rates. Suicides, social isolation, drug overdoses, alcoholism and obesity have been on the rise. Apparently, young people today are the most medicated generation in human history. And disproportionately they are alone and unhappy. In 2018 the highest proportion ever of prime-age American males — 11 per cent — were not in the work force, not deriving the self-respect that comes from systematic, gainful employment. And of course not becoming very attractive marriage partners.

In the West the birthrate has collapsed in recent years, The only Western nation that still has a replacement level or above birthrate is Israel. Douthat says that Israel is the one Western nation that is not decadent, because it is still fired by a nation-building and people-building project and strives mightily to make the impossible not only possible but real.

Is that still us Aussies? Are we willing to build and forge new things and grab hold of the gifts we have been given and use them for the good of all? Or are we just bored, unsure, struggling to find meaning and something to pursue that is worthwhile in life – worthwhile not just for self, but more for others I love and our country and the world?

Sheridan agrees with Douthat when he says that ‘…decadence won’t last forever. One of two things replace it: Either it can collapse or be replaced within one’s own country, or it can be destroyed by a more vigorous external enemy, or by some external challenge, a plague or an environmental collapse, which it cannot deal with.

What is COVID doing for us? Is it finally bringing our end as we sleep our way to a death we hardly notice because we are so bored by the trivial, or it is firing us up to forge ahead as we have done after two world wars, depression, pandemic and living in this land of fire and flood, drought and driving rain?

I hope we are firing up and waking up to what we have been given. I hope we are being shoved out of our boredom and inspired to build and work and live together for each other.

Maybe a new appreciation of the giver of all we have might raise us up to truly live post-COVID…..

Scenic Valley Podcast – All Dads Matter

I been given cause to reflect on Fathers this Father’s Day from a different angle. It was from within the Black Lives Matter movement that has been renewed since the death of George Floyd.

John Anderson, the former deputy Prime Minister, now social commentator and author, pointed to a problem that he and many others believe is deeper and as worthy of our best efforts as those we apply to dealing with racism. He spoke of the crippling problem of fatherlessness.

Sure, dad’s are not perfect. My dad was not perfect. We had our rocky times. I have not been a perfect dad. I am aware that for many, Father’s Day is troubling and difficult.

And for some, the pain is so deep that they can only avoid Father’s Day and write off their father or even go so far as to write off the whole place of fathers in their own and in our community’s life. I do not believe this is the best way to go.

John Anderson made the point in the Weekend Australian that racism is not the only problem we are facing as a culture. He says “the problem is fatherlessness, and it’s increasingly being recognised not only as the greatest problem facing African-Americans, but America itself. (https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/black-lives-matter-but-dads-should-matter-first/news-story/6a15df9eeb3ffcbe6a9ae5a92dff1400)

There can be no doubt that today many men are feeling a mixture of confusion and self-doubt, which is spiralling into a crisis of confidence about what it is to be a man. The explosive success of Jordan­ Peterson’s writings and lecture tours, much of which speaks to men struggling to find their role in the face of often virul­ent criticism, testifies to this. I have had the great honour of coming to know Peterson and it was he who personally introduced me to ­Warren Farrell.

Speaking to Farrell at his home in California, I was deeply impressed­ by his mastery of the facts and figures and also by his genuine concern for the largely ­silent plight of men. With the decline­ of the family and traditionally male-dominated industries — manufacturing, mining, farming — we have inherited a serious problem for men, what Farrell and Gray call the “purpose void”.

Men without purpose are easily manipulated by charismatic men who can make them feel important. In our age of deep and wide social­ division, the last thing we need is a generation of men who can be manipulated by fringe milit­ant ideological movements, right or left.

This is something that we would do well to reflect on around Fathers Day. “The most important single crisis in developed countries,” write ­Farrell and Gray, is “dad-deprived children and especially dad-­deprived boys.”

This crisis is not just for the Americans. It is part of our community too. I have certainly seen dad-deprived boys and men in 30 years of working in churches and schools. So many girls and boys I have come across have absent or simply unaffectionate/disconnected Fathers. Dad is always working. Dad does not engage with the kids when he is home. He is keener to be anywhere else than with the family….. And so it goes.

These are the girls and boys who often soak up any moment of real interest and kindness shown to them by an adult male. Sometime they can very ‘clingy’ as they search for any morsel of affirmation and kindness. Either that, or they just withdraw further because they just don’t know what to do with an adult male who actually cares and shows some interest in them as a person. Heartbreaking, either way.

But Anderson wants to say that Fathers matter. I agree. I am a father of four and fathers have their crucial place.

Andersons tells us that

“a 2011 Australian Institute of Family Studies report summarised research finding that “Australian fathers play a vital role in their families” and that fathers’ parenting is “sometimes different, but complementary to, the role of mothers.” Furthermore, there are positive associations between measures of fathering and children’s socio-emotional and learning outcomes. In other words, fathers matter, uniquely”.

Apparently Paul Amato, a professor and expert in family ­research at Penn State University, calls this unique and crucial role “the Father Effect”. When this special role is unfulfilled it is not good for anyone. Amato says, “When boys are hurt, they hurt us — physically, psychologically and economically.”

I wonder whether we see this hurt in men being played out all the time – from the effects of an angry Dad, and angry abusing husband, an Alpha man bent on winning at all costs to a lone wolf hater of some particular religious or racial group. Hurt men hurt people.

I need to hear that my role as Father in my family and in my country is real and unique and very needed, and then to learn how to be that man who helps the hurt be less. I need to know that I am really important and that I as Father bring special gifts to the world. I need to share this affirmation with the men I know.

I want to say to all families and all in our community, Fathers lives matter. All fathers matter. With the long term humility and strength, gentleness and compassion of fathers our boys and girls won’t grow up to hurt as much, and therefore won’t hurt so much.

Also available at;

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adriankitson.com 

 

Irrevocable

Sermon, Pentecost 11thA, Wed/Sun August 16, 2020

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

I ask then: did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel:

29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[a] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

I remember that it took around two years for my Dad to finally adjust to asking the first serious questions about what it would be like to have his wife (my step mum) living in a place of care rather than with him at home. He knew that she now needed more care than he could provide, and that really worried him.

The thing that made this decision so difficult was faithfulness. Dad was absolutely committed to those vows he made in their marriage ceremony before family and friends. They were irrevocable for him. He told me this. Dad said that he had said, “Til death do us part’, and he meant it. He was immovable on this vow; this decision.

This immovable irrevocable kind of decision is what Paul is reflecting on when it comes to who he knows God to be and how God rolls.

God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 

“Irrevocable”: Like a judge giving the verdict, a new home owner signing on the dotted line, a couple making their vows, like the AFL chief declaring which city is going to get the AFL Grand Final this year, once the words are said, there is no taking them back!

God decides to call, and you are called. God decides to give, and you are given gifts.

It is like when I used to be at Mr and Mr’s Adler’s house after worship for Sunday lunch, when I was 16. It was always “Eat more, Eat more!” from the tiny little Mrs Adler. So, I did! Mrs Adler had decided to cook a huge meal to feed an army and it was to be eaten.

Paul speaks about God’s decisions like this. He speaks of God’s unchangeable mind when it comes to calling us and gifting us as he asks one of his big questions throughout this letter:

Did God reject his people?

But Paul looks around and he sees that his own people have largely rejected God’s decision to call them and gifts them by being truly with them ‘in the flesh’ in his Son, Jesus.

Because God’s people won’t eat that choice lunch; because they have rejected God’s “I do” vow to them in Jesus, Paul asks if this means that God’s vow, God’s call, God’s gifts right from creation to Abraham to David to the Prophets and to Jesus have failed?

No way! says Paul.

God’s plans don’t fail because God’s love does not fail. His decisions, his promises, his vow of love and commitment to his people and to the Gentiles (all of us) have not and could never fail, Paul declares.

Why? Because it is God who makes them, not us. What God says God does, and what God does is exactly what he says.

Once God decides to love, he loves. Once God decides to heal, he heals, Once God decides to promise, he promises.

And even more than yours or my decisions at times, God’s decision is irrevocable. He does not take his decisions back. He does not fudge on his commitments. He does not make empty promises that he may or may not deliver on, depending on the wind or the sin or the kin.

And what has God decided for you? This is how Paul beautifully puts it:

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:6-8).

God has decided to love you when he did not have to love you; when you could not love him enough, and still does. God has decided to call you and gift you when your purposes were unclear and your gifts a bit shabby.

But so many do not know this, trust this or want this. We know what it is like to be Paul – looking around we also see that it looks like God is failing to convince them, the show them, the get them to see and know his decisions to love and heal and renew, both the Jew and the Gentile, the churched and the unchurched or de-churched, the prideful and the desperate; the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, the religious and the irreligious.

Even in this, Paul is 100% sure that God’s decision is still current and effective. Yes, there are Jews and Gentiles; those who know God’s decision to love them and those who don’t and are currently convinced that they are indeed good enough for their own love.

But even this can change. Things can change over time. Paul says that just as nations rise and fall, so does the living in the loving decisions of God.

Once it was the Jews who knew God’s presence and promises personally. For the time being, they have missed his greatest decision to love. Now the non-Jewish people know the promises and presence of God more than God’s own people. Things wax and wane.

We are the same.

  • Sometimes we live as we say we believe. We actually trust Jesus. We know him personally.
  • We delight in his promises and his presence by his Spirit and his love affects everything in our life – what we sign or don’t sign, what we do and don’t do, where we serve and where we don’t serve.
  • We are close and we live as we believe. We are loyal. We are committed and we know God’s love and give it.

At other times,

  • we don’t live like we say we believe.
  • We don’t trust.
  • We reject God’s word as we largely ignore it and him.
  • We turn away from God’s promises and go it alone or trust ourselves or others to be good enough, wise enough, loving enough, without this greater love from this greater man – Jesus.

The thing Paul seems to say in all this waxing and waning between Jews and Gentiles, between Christians and pagans or atheists, between the forgetful or the lax or the unclear and struggling, is that God has decided; God has decided to love, to call and to gift, and this will not change.

So, when you wax and wane, he won’t. When your family and friends reject, he won’t. When you go chasing other ways to make life happen, God won’t stop chasing you.

God will love.

30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[a] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 

So, one person trusts and receives and knows the love of God given in their baptism and live in that grace gift. Another used to but now does not or never has.

And somehow love and mercy will prevail for one or both of them because;

32  …God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Sounds strange. God makes people fickle and disobedient or unresponsive to his decisions to love so that he can eventually love.

But, whatever this means, either way, God’s decision to call and gift people because he loves them remains. Love wins.

God’s decisions remain bankable, trustworthy, solid and effective the way God intends for each person.

Friend, he has decided to love you. Consider yourself loved.

He has called you. Consider yourself still called.

He has gifted you inside and out, consider life a gift of his love and use those gifts in love to him and his world.

This is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and it is love.

 

 

 

Mission Heartache to Hope

SermonPentecost 10thA, Wednesday 5th and Sunday 9th AugustSt Petri 

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’[aBut the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’[b] (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the deep?”’[c] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’[d] that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 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. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’[e12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[f]  

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’[g] 

 Friends, can you hear Paul’s heart bleeding for his own kin, his nation, his people? I feel his angst. I think of all the people I know and the many I don’t know who are in the same position of the Jewish people of whom Paul speaks – they are zealous’ (for making a good life happenbut without knowledge (of where real good life comes from).  

I see people trying to establish themselves in God’s new life of promise and peace (righteousness) rather than simply humbling themselves before God and receiving the promise and peace of new life achieved for them in Jesus’s death and resurrection that is way more and way better than any life they can manufacture. Truth is, this is me too. Sometimes I live this way.   

But wish so many people I know had that knowledge, that deep knowing, that experience of the grace of God given in full in Jesus of Nazareth. I wish that many friends and strangers would humble themselves before this gracious God and simply receive all he has achieved and promises for them today and into his future for them and this whole world.   

I know there a lot of people at St Petri who have this desire in their heart tooI thank the Lord for a long story of walking the talk in the St Petri community story. It is a good story.   

Of course, the story is never perfect because none of us are perfect. There are other stories in our storycomplacency in this missiona lack of concern for the saving love and life the gospel gives to people. It is easy to get very secure and very internally focused.   

But marvel at Paul’s mission heart, and his love.  

I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit – 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel.  (Romans 9:1-4)

 Wow. That is love. He is willing to be cut off from his kind and loving heavenly Father whom he has come to love and trust in because of his personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus on that Damascus Road, SO OTHER PEOPLE COULD HAVE THIS GIFT on their road  

This is the key character for the church. This is our key character benchmark for being St Petri here. Not numbers or look or making the church something it used to be or making it like the church up the road – but self-giving, self-sacrificing love for people.    

But how? What does is look like for Christians to willingly give up our place, our needs, our comforts, our position, our safety that we enjoy in Jesus for the sake of the people at the Coop, the people at the club, the people at the netball and the footy and Probis and Lions, the pub, the park, the school and ……?  

Here is how, according to Paul… Using your feet and speak! 

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone proclaiming to them? 15 And how can anyone proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’[g] 

Feet to speakWalking among people with all of their fear, pride, sadness, shame, guilt, divorce, drugs, dysfunctional relationships, depressed spirits and diseased bodies. Walking and speaking Jesus’ words of love into all of this.   

We have beautiful feet. Feet of sent people carrying sent words in your mouthSpeaking feet! Feet that get you into the place to speak to people.  

And this takes real intention, some planning, some action, some effort.   

Like when you go shopping.   

You get your list together. You get your shopping bags out ready to go. And then you walk – to the car, the bicycle or the shops  

Like going shopping, walking the talk and talking our walk takes planning and resources and effort.   

Because, remember, when we go shopping we are actually fishing – being “fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19)  

Wmake our list by listen to our friends. See what they need – know their struggles, understand their troubles, get a sense of how they need to be re-supplied with God’s grace.   

We get or gear. We listen to Jesus’ words and think about how Jesus has spoken into our lives and how we can then speak into those things. We pray for our fiends…..  

We walk with Jesus and we talk his words in our own words as we are invited to talk our walk.   

And that is being church. We are not called so much to be ‘home shoppers’ but people talking and doing with all the other shoppers.   

That is Paul’s solution to the angst in his heart for those he loves because he knows God loves them all and wants a conversation with them allWalking, talking feet and mouths where people live and love.  

And how God loves them all, and us!  

To the Jewish people Paul recalls;  

Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory [cloud on the mountain, in the Tabernacle, in the Temple] , the covenants (Abraham, David, Solomon, Ezra], the receiving of the law [Moses on Sinai], the temple worship and the promises [forgiveness, name, purpose, place, future]. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob], and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah [the new King David]…. (9:4-5) 

But they have ignored this latest and best gift that encompasses all the other gifts and super-charges them – God human with us.   

What might we say of our people?  

Theirs is the Sunday school bible stories. Theirs are the worship gatherings, the church buildings, the Christian gospel story. Theirs is the caring of parents, the praying of parents and other people, the giving of life in the font, the forgiveness and new life in the body and blood….  

But so many are still they are zealous for some kind of ‘god connection, but their zeal is self-driven and nowhere as full and free as life lived on the knowing of Jesus  God with us and for us.   

But friends, Paul declares to his own people and we declare to our friends, family, enemies and strangers, God still loves, and he still speaks and wants a conversation.   

And then grace talks as we walk 

The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 

Friend,  

‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ 

This is your hope. This is your God of love. This is his grace in you.  

This God does not stand off afar  

He walks toward you with feet bloodied by nails and then beautiful as he kicks off the grave cloths and walks out of death for you.   

The risen Jesus is walking toward you with his beautiful feet and he is speaking:  

‘Anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved from missing out on his love and life. 

Call on his name today.   

Receive all his gifts of life and then make that list, get your gear in order and put those beautiful feet to work so you can speak those beautiful words as you go.    

‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! 

Scenic Valley Podcast – Values Re-Valued

Listen to Podcast here

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Go to Scenic Valley Podcast to Listen

 

I have heard a lot about us all being “reset” as we experience a lock down on life.

When the tough restrictions were first announced, I sensed some kind of unspoken relief for some people around me, and even within myself;

Relief that we could stop, that we could experience quiet, calm, uncluttered, unfettered rest and recreation for a lengthy time.

Relief that something beyond our control that is blame free will allow us to do what all know we need to do – stop!

I was talking with a mum of four young children the other day. She has four young children. Her husband is luckily, still working. This mum works part-time in the people care arena. She was wondering whether our community is having its values re-valued.

Maybe: In this forced restriction of personal freedoms that are not anyone’s fault, are we finally getting the time and the guilt free space to discover what is driving us as we go about life?

Are the values that drive the many things we find ourselves doing, and find ourselves complaining about, as if we are on this merry-go-round we cannot get off, finally being exposed?

Is our busyness being re-valued and replaced by the value of rest and time to think.

Is our endless search for things being re-valued and replaced by a thankfulness for what we have got.

Is the insatiable need to always be doing things, taking the kids here, getting them into that, getting ourselves into that , achieving this, winning this, being replaced with a focus on relationships and time with people as the priority?

Are we getting a serious challenge to the way we live to be less into the accumulation of things and way more into the to giving self to people.

As someone who has gone through a major health scare some time ago, I can tell you that it is important in these light bulb moments’ in life to write a list of the new values that are emerging for you and then make a commitment to actually do something about some of them. If your list is something like;

  • Value my partner more highly – spend more time my partner, with the kids,
  • Make more effort in staying in touch with my close friends and extended family
  • Take more holidays. Do that around Australia trip
  • Get rid of all that stuff in the shed I never use and don’t need,
  • Declutter the house and keep it that way and etc.

You’ll never do all of them. Pick two and actually do them.

For us it was take all our leave when it is due and go bush a  lot more. We bought a camper trailer to do this. We have used it quite a lot.

The other thing was renewed commitment to good eating and good exercise.

In this moment of re-valued values, nothing will come of it and life will go back to being lived on the values that have been exposed as dodgy in no time – of you don’t actually do something concrete as a result of what you are learning about yourself.

This might be an opportunity to re-value what you are finding is truly valuable.

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