Out of the Whirlwind

Sermon, Pentecost 22B, Sunday October 21, 2018, St Petri

Job 38:1-7

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. He said:

‘Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone –
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

I have been in some whirlwinds this last two weeks. Pushing into a 30 knot cross wind riding our bikes across the Hay Plains feels like you are in a whirlwind.

Leanne and I could hardly talk because of the 40 knot head wind rushing through the assorted gear on the roof rack of the Landcruiser on the way back from the West Coast too. It was just a hard, silent push.

From what I hear in this Book of Job this morning, I know that God speaks in whirlwinds winds like these.

As Pastor Trevor said last Sunday, God and Satan and this man named Job and his three friends have a long conversation in the Book of Job. We hear today that the conversation ends up in the whirlwind.

The conversation is about living through suffering. And surprise, surprise, that is where God is – in the whirlwind. It is from the whirlwind of suffering God speaks to Job.

I suspect, like me, you believe and prefer that God will speak in other places more comfortable, manageable, logical, understandable – not in the whirlwind, the cross wind, the head wind hammering you.

At first Job finds no voice of God in his suffering. He certainly finds no hope in the words of his three friends or his wife.

Job’s three friends do well at first. They don’t speak! They gather around Job to “console” him.  Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar see Job’s suffering and sit with him for seven days and don’t say a word.

Sitting together with family around faith-filled saints of Jesus like Elva Falland or Lorna Vogt who are in the whirlwind of serious illness of facing dying is always best done with minimal words. Caring is usually 90% presence; just being there.

Job’s mates do this well …… for a week. And then they don’t.

All three basically suggest that job is in the whirlwind of suffering because of his own fault. Job has sinned, knowingly or not, or is being a hard-head and not admitting his sins to God and so is cursed or being punished by God.

In their search to fix this, explain this, get this under control, be happy again or find answers to their own doubts about God, they blame Job. One says that Job should just “curse God” and get it over with – just end the suffering and die.

Job has none of it.

Job says that the suffering he is experiencing is not because he did something wrong. This suffering is not God’s punishment. He is not cursed. This is God’s doing for God’s purposes of which Job has little capacity to grasp.

In the whirlwind of suffering Job and God speak. Job boldly says, “Please Explain”!

“I cry to you and you do not answer me;

I stand and you just look at me.

You have turned cruel to me,

With the might of your hand you persecute me…

You toss me about in the roar of the storm…, says Job to God. (30:20-22)

Ever felt like that – tossed about in the roar of the whirlwind, like God is punishing you or that he has no feelings for you, no understanding of you or that person you love? I bet you have. I know I have many times. And how does the conversation go with God – if you dare to have one?

Do you think asking God to “please explain” is being far too disrespectful or even sinful? Many do. Many opt for keeping quiet about it all and either try to find the secret cause of theirs or their loved one’s suffering, or simply get angry and give up on God.

Not Job. Job does two things. He names his complaints to God and he seeks response from God, and both are the ways we are being shown to live with faith in suffering.

Name your pain to the Lord; make your complaint to him with all you’ve got. Ask your honest question – brutally if necessary. Even sing a sad song if you are bold enough, and then wait and listen to the Word from the whirlwind of it all.

From the whirlwind God speaks boldly to Job in response to Job’s bold “please explain”.

“Get yourself ready and take this like a man, Job.

I am going to question you now…

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world?

Tell me if you have any understanding.

Have you ever commanded the dawn since you have been alive?

Have you entered the source of the sea and walked around in its dark depths?

Have the gates to death been revealed to you?

Please say so if you know.

If I am Job, and I have been at times, I have to say, “I don’t know, God”. In the heavy crosswind of trouble I face I want to say to God with Job;

 “See, I am of such small account!

I will put my hand over my mouth now.

I have spoken once, and I will not answer now.

Twice, but I will not got any further.  (40:4-5)

I know that you can do all things

Therefore I have said things I didn’t understand

Things to wonderful for me, which I didn’t know”. (42:1-5)

Can you hear this morning that:

In the whirlwind is the place you need to speak to God.

In the whirlwind is where he will speaks with you.

 

That means that the whirlwind is not to be avoided or dismissed or considered something from which to escape as fast as you can. Quite the opposite: it is the place to listen and receive God.

Why so? Making your case and complaint against God is actually an act of faith. You may be angry with God or unsure if he exists at times but as you speak these words of pain and doubt you are by default, trusting that he is listening even if you can’t trust that he is responding. That comes in time….

Oh how we need more songs, more silence, more prayers and conversations that don’t avoid the questions and pain but that express them so we hear God in the whirlwind – in the suffering.

We need more laments. But alas, in this culture of endless happiness searching and controlling of life (like Job’s three friends) we will not allow it.

But we can allow a sad song to God, can’t we?

We have a God who has been through the whirlwind of our shame and pain to the full and calls us through it with him now.

We have a risen great high pastor who is familiar with all our ways, a suffering servant of people and a friend of sinners and man of human sorrows who prays for us and with us daily.

And as Job rightly said about the suffering upon him, all of this was not our doing. It was the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. Once we were not a person of Christ. Now we are the people of God in Christ.

You may be heading into a heavy cross wind today – a long, hard push without many words.

Speak. Speak to him. Complain. Speak a sad song. Ask your questions. Don’t hold back.

Go to the God in the whirlwind of suffering (not apart from it). He is on a cross hanging there in blood and pain for you – in pure, pure love for you. He is standing with raised arms and wounded hands and feet showing you his glory and his grace.

After the singing and the speaking and the silence and the questions the will speak as he did for Job. He speaks in the whirlwind.  Amen.

Job – Resurection Faith – Audio Sermon Pastor Trevor Reu

St Petri Audio Sermon – Sunday 14th October

Job – Resurrection Faith – Pastor Trevor Reu

One of the great books in the Bible is the book of Job.  It deals with two of the greatest predicaments facing the human race.  The problem of human suffering and whether a person will live again after death.

Job is a good man who suffers greatly – he loses his children, his property and is afflicted with a dreaded disease.  His friends visit him and try to help him by attempting to explain his suffering.  Instead of helping and comforting Job they only make matters worse.

Whatever argument they put forward as to why Job is suffering, Job has a counter argument.

Job has his problems with God too, and he on occasions challenges him.  But he does not lose faith in God.  he still has confidence in his saving help.  He declares, “I know that my Redeemer lives … I shall see God”.

Going the Distance

Going the Distance – Audio Sermon  Pastor Robert Voigt

Sunday 7th October – Pastor Robert Voigt

St Michael & All Angels – Audio Sermon Pastor Robert Voigt

Audio of Sermon preached on Sunday 30th September – Pastor Robert Voigt

The Feast of St Michael & All Angels – St Petri Lutheran Church

wise woman worthy

Sermon, Pentecost 18B, Sunday September 23, 2018

Proverbs 31:10-31

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.

16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I feel like I am taking my life into my own hands in listening to this first word from Proverbs. It is a last poem about ‘A wife of noble character’. Sounds so sexist to our modern ears!

I was going to avoid this text. All the more reason to not do that. I am glad I didn’t avoid it. There is good news in it – for woman and men.

This poem draws a strong response. It is either an affirming word to women or the dead opposite. Some find great affirmation of who they are and what they are called to do, and others find this is a totally male dominated word that expects the impossible from woman.

This ‘noble woman’ is perfect in some people’s eyes and in others, she a woman to be pitied for being oppressed and subservient to so many unreasonable expectations and wrong views of women!

This one woman, who is the “ideal” one, is also one that “a man cannot find”. No wonder! She’s working too hard!

She’s working hard everywhere (v 4, 15-16);

bringing her food from afar.

getting up while it is still night;

working for family and employees.

Buying real estate, planting vines. (v14, 16)

She is working on everything (verses 15a, 16, 18a, 19, 24a),

Food, land purchasing, business, making clothes

She is working for everybody (verses 12, 15b, 20, 21b, 24b, 27a).

Husband, family, staff, those in need, colleagues in industry

 

Is this picture of some ‘ideal’ woman a terrible work of patronizing male arrogance or something more?

I can see the question. Some site this poem in praise of wives and mums. But it is also easy to hear it as a male commendation of women and “woman’s work.” – a real put down of the value of a woman and her contribution to life in all spheres.

But in a closer look, I notice two things about her.

  1. This “perfect wife” is not contained to the kitchen scrubbing dishes.
  2. Nor is she some quite subservient mouse who never says anything.

While she clearly takes care of her husband (v 11-12) and household (v 15, 21, 27) and excels at household activities (v 13, 15, 19, 22) she is quite active in her world.

  • She is a successful businesswoman. She knows real estate, grapes and viticulture.
  • She works hard and plans ahead.
  • She knows how to dress for success, how to run a business and can match it with captains of merchant industry.
  • The reason her husband is well known has a lot to do with her character and contribution.

And she has a heart. She “opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy”.

This woman is also far from a silent partner who does not say boo. She speaks with wisdom and the “teaching of kindness” comes from her mouth.

 

This is no mere condescending male appraisal of what a woman should be to make his life better! This woman is an equal match for anyone. She does it all. and with wisdom and grace. This woman looks and sounds a lot like Lady Wisdom herself.

Many say that this is not a poem about a mythical perfect woman, but about God’s wisdom itself. I believe this is so. This woman is us – men and woman of faith in the Lord’s word in our daily world lived in his wisdom. This is who we all become more and more when we listen to the word of the Lord in our everyday.

But if this also at some level a poem about an ideal woman, then there are three things that are very good news for us all.

I read this comment from one female commentator this week;

“As a woman living in the 21st century, I am struck by an awful lot about women that Proverbs 31 doesn’t say, and that is worth noting, too”.

First, it doesn’t say that a wife’s worth is derived from her husband’s worth. She is not a woman who needs her husband to give her meaning, purpose and worth. She has all of these already – from the Lord. Her status in the world and before the Lord is sure because the Lord has given her this status.

As a result, she willingly makes her contribution to her partner, family, employees and business partners. I don’t hear any hint that her virtue lies in her submission to her husband, and his direction. Her own direction as a person of God is legitimate and she willingly offers her time and effort to him and all others for making life happen and caring for those in need.

In other words, she is free to lead her own life rather than following someone else’s. Yet she values her partner enough to care for him; her children, to care for them; her employees, to look after them.

Second: It is most unusual that the poem does not say anything about pregnancy or childbirth. In lots of other places in the Bible, and in ancient writing generally, these gifts of bearing children and being a mum are held up as key credentials for womanhood.

The poem only mentions children once in verse 28, “her children rise up and call her happy,” and when it does it does not refer to the mother-child relationship at all. Motherhood as a state of being or source of identity or virtue is not held up in the entire passage.  I am hearing that a woman’s status before the Lord and in our community is not dependent on whether or not she is a mum.

This woman is a mum but she is also many other things. All she contributes to family and community are valuable. She generates life in lots of ways, not only in having a baby. This woman “seeks,” “rises,” “buys,” and “provides,”. She is creating and cultivating a lot, and they obviously all count in God’s eyes.

And third: This picture of an ideal woman does not say one thing about her appearance or physical appeal. In this culture of ours that is fixated on just these things – appearance, body, looks, youthfulness, beauty, weight, muscle, etc, etc, etc,….what a relief to know that this is not held up as being central to our worth before the Lord. There is nothing about weight, shape, clothes (except in a savvy business sense and in the sense that she provides these for children), make-up or make-over, hair, fingernails, skin and etc, etc… This woman knows that her worth, value, meaning, purpose and place are not dependent on her looks. They are dependent on the Lord’s speaking.

For us who know Jesus the ultimate wisdom of the Lord in a human person, who we are begins with the noble things done by that Noble Man. Like this poem says,

            29 “Many women do noble things,

                        but you surpass them all.”

From our view post-resurrection, we can say that the ‘you’ is Jesus.

Many people do noble things

But you, Jesus, surpass them all.

  1. Woman, men, young people and children: your worth is not derived from someone else. You are free to love others.
  2. For women specifically, your worth and status in the world is not dependent on bearing children or being a mum, but you generate life in plenty of other ways, including those gifts if that is the Lord’s calling for you.
  3. It is not your looks, shape style or fashion that creates you or makes you, but the Word of Jesus you listen to and what he says about you – which is: “loved child of mine”.

 

“Many human beings do noble things,

    but you Jesus, Bridegroom of the Church, surpass them all.”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;

    but Jesus the Lord is to be praised.

Honour him for all that his hands have done,

    and let his works bring him praise at this city’s gate. 

Listen to Live

Sermon, Pentecost 17B, Sunday September 16, 2018, St Petri

Proverbs 1:20-33

20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square;

21 on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech:

22 ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?

How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?

23 Repent at my rebuke!

Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,

   I will make known to you my teachings.

24 But since you refuse to listen when I call

and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,

25 since you disregard all my advice  and do not accept my rebuke,

26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;

I will mock when calamity overtakes you –

27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,

when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,

when distress and trouble overwhelm you.

28 ‘Then they will call to me but I will not answer;

they will look for me but will not find me,

29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.

30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,

31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.

32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,

and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.’

Everybody wants a good life. No one wants to make mistakes that cause more pain or put their name, wealth, farm, house, business or family in peril. We all want to avoid bad relationships, the shame of stinging criticism, the embarrassment of getting it wrong. We all want to live in a free and fair community.

What is most important in living this life we long for when anything we fear can and will probably happen at some stage.

It is the view of the bible that it is our listening that determines our living: What and who we listen to determines our life’s direction, fulfillment and contribution more than anything else.

This is particularly the case in one of the three general literature types in the Bible; “The Writings”, or “wisdom literature”.

The Hebrew Bible is split into three great categories of writing; The law (Torah), The Prophets (Nephiliim) and the Writing (Kethubiim).

The law (Torah) is the Pentateuch; the first 5 books about creation and Exodus from slavery and Moses in the desert. Then comes the Prophets from Samuel the first prophet and king maker right through the Malachi 400 years before Jesus. Then there is the Writings – Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs; probably the writing we most associate with wisdom.

The proverbs come from Solomon and they are all about listening. They came from a listening heart, for which Solomon asked the Lord. He prayed,

” …..give your servant a listening heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. (1 Kings 3:8).

The Lord did this. Today we hear how Solomon’s wisdom words begin;

 Sophia or Lady Wisdom goes down to the central markets of the city and stands atop a counter with a microphone and calls out to anyone who will hear.

22 ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?

    How long will mockers delight in mockery

    and fools hate knowledge?

23 Repent at my rebuke!

    Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,

    I will make known to you my teachings.

 

She challenges the hearers to listen to her thoughts and teachings – her words.

Listening to her words are the difference between experiencing self-destructive foolishness and life-giving wisdom of God.

You will only listen to Lady Wisdom if you honour and acknowledge the source of Lady Wisdom’s wisdom! It is the ‘fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). Wisdom begins with the acknowledgment , respect and honouring of the Lord God.

God’s wisdom for living is so much more than mere information (we have plenty of that). Neither is wisdom a program – a set of simple steps to take, or even merely a ‘proven’ formula for success. At its heart is not more research, clear values and will to do them.

But God offers his wisdom for living in speaking words; speaking words together, listening to words together; words in song, in art, in prayers.

God’s wisdom only comes in the school of hard knocks – the school of experiences – but not just your own experience, but experiences shared, talked about sung about pained, reflected in verse in lyric…..

And this wisdom on offer from God is instilled by God in you only as you engage with it and wrestle with it. Wisdom is hard won. It does not come easy or all at once by following a few rules or keeping some values. Wisdom does not come from swatting up on 10 Proverbs. Wisdom can only come when you listen to one speaking into your actual experience in the moment.

EG. If you have never heard a leaky roof dripping all night and keeping you awake or if you have not actually got a partner or been around children at all, there is no way you would know what to do with this proverb:

A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome partner is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof. (Proverbs 19:13)

Once you simply receive God’s word with a great respect and trust him as he  speaks into your day in the rough and tumble experiences, Lady Wisdom’s teaching becomes many things;

  • Wisdom is a peacemaker – the most valuable life-giving thing we could acquire. (3:13-20)
  • Wisdom is actually governed by the Lord as he governs the whole universe and all of our experiences (3:13-20)
  • Wisdom’s purpose in revealing herself in experience is to help people trust in the Lord in all their life (22:19).
  • Wisdom guides good government and leadership (8:12-31). This is why we pray for the fit of God’s wisdom for those who govern – whether they acknowledge him or not – they need the Lord’s wisdom!

The opposite of wisdom is foolishness. Wisdom gives life but foolishness is the destruction of life. Foolishness is by nature destructive of self and others. Living life without the acknowledgement and listening to the Word of the Lord in your day; letting his word shape your experiences, is actually quite suicidal in nature;

 Hear, my child, your father’s instruction,
and don’t forsake your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head….
My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent.

……their feet run to evil,….they set an ambush for their own lives.
 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.
(Proverbs 1:8-19)

Friends, it is our listening that determines our destiny more than our intellect, our wealth, our peers, our control, our dreams and visions for ourselves or the world.

But here is what I find so good this morning.

I’ll ask a question: Where does Lady Wisdom do her calling?

Lady Wisdom does not do her calling and speaking in some special holy club or some little room or some inner circle of the especially wise! Lady Wisdom does her calling and teaching at the Central Market place – in the public square, at the local pub, in the local institute, the tourist hub, the crowded Adelaide Oval, the busy hospital.

And who is in this public space? The Foolish! Wisdom invites fools to know the wisdom of the Lord. Only the foolish are invited to the banquet that gives life and understanding and makes for wisdom.

In that parable Jesus told about the wedding banquet, those who believed themselves to be wise didn’t bother coming when invited. Only those who were not wise ended up feasting in joy!

That is good news for fools like me!

And even better news…… Nowhere does Lady Wisdom give God’s wisdom for life, future, marriage, family, work, love, health and real peace than in a person – a living, breathing real person of history.

Lady Wisdom only gives up her richest and fullest meaning when she is heard in light of Jesus of Nazareth.

He dazzled his listeners with his wisdom).

“….and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked (Matthew 13:54)

He claimed to be the new Solomon with ultimate wisdom.

“….and now something greater than Solomon is here” (Luke 11:31).

Lady Wisdom that is said to have created the world (Prov 8:22-31) is finally revealed to be Jesus, the Word of God, with whom God created all things;

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made… (John 1:1-4).

Paul actually can name Jesus very Wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24, 30). Jesus Christ crucified and risen is the person in whom all God’s wisdom is hidden;

“….namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. (Colossians 2:3).

This Jesus calls fools. This Jesus uses what seems foolish (his cross) to shame those who think they are wise enough already so that they and we ship of fools can find that the Lord is good and true in all aspects of our life, and so we know our wisdom is in him, not ourselves and he gets all the glory for all wisdom we live.

It is the listening that determines your living more than anything else.

We listen to live.

A few crumbs

Sermon, Sunday September 9, 2018 Pentecost 16B, St Petri

Mark 7:24-37

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a  Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

 27 ‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’

28 ‘Lord,’ she replied, ‘even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’

29 Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

 31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.[b32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spat and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’(which means ‘Be opened!’). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosed and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’

Every time come across this strange encounter between Jesus and a very persistent gentile mum desperate for some real help for her suffering daughter the seeming rudeness of the words Jesus says to this mum catch my ear.

He calls her, her sick daughter, and all those gentiles like her who are not the chosen few Jewish people, “little dogs”.

She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

Jesus says, ‘First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her, ‘for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’

This seems so harsh. What is this uncharacteristic rudeness? Is it rudeness at all? If Jesus refuses this desperate mother, does he or will he refuse me? Will he lump me in with all the other bad people of whatever group or name and write me off too?

Some context might help…..

Jesus is in Tyre. That is a long way away from his home place in kilometres and culture. He is alone. He is looking for some space. He wants to be incognito.

He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it…

He is like some hounded politician or movie star facing the unwanted assault of the paparazzi.

But there will be no space even way up here. Somehow this mum manages to find him. That would be like you having a coffee break at the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta only to for your next door neighbour to walk in!

The conversation is short and sharp. Is Jesus just caught with his compassion down here? Is he really human? Is he just like us when we are tired and alone and in need of R&R?

Nowhere else does he refuse a direct request to heal someone. Nowhere else does he respond to a seeking person with a bald insult like this, calling her and her sick daughter “dogs.”

Why the name? Are they “dogs” because they are wealthy, or because the Syrians and Phoenicians had historically not been Israel’s nicest neighbours? Is he lumping the mother and daughter together with other Tyrians who had recently oppressed the local Jewish population?

Although Jesus’ motives are not clear, his intent seems very clear. He refuses the request for help.

We have to make a decision about this harsh and uncharacteristic word from Jesus today. Is the woman passing a test or winning an argument?

Some say she is passing a test that Jesus sets. Jesus’ initial refusal to heal her daughter (verse 27) must have not been a cranky Jesus letting it fly but rather a Jesus speaking words with a playful gleam in his eye. His words are giving the woman a chance to express the faith he knows dwells within her before he gladly heals her daughter. In this case, she is passing a little test of faith.

Others say, no. There is no test. This is just plain “No”. Maybe Jesus means what he says and has no intention of freeing the daughter from her oppression and unwellness. He has that authority.

But what I noticed though, is that Jesus says,

27 First let the children eat all they want,’ he told her

“Let the children be fed first“. Not “Let them be the only ones fed forever”.

In other words, Jesus says to this mum that the time for her request is not right. God’s kingdom life may come to gentiles like her, in time, but for now God’s new life in Jesus are focussed on his chosen people – Israel. So, Jesus’ response to this mum’s request is not, “No. Absolutely never,” but “No. Not yet.”

I also notice what Jesus says in verse 29:

29 Then he told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’

Jesus eventually responds with a “yes”. He says he does so because of this mum’s ‘word’, her reply that “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs”. It is because of her “reasoning” or ‘word’” the woman puts forward that Jesus changes the plan and responds differently.

I think here of Moses reasoning with the Lord. Abraham reasoning with the Lord over Sodom and Gomorrah. Jacob, Elijah and others dialoging with the Lord and ‘talking the Lord into responding favourably to the situation.

This mum talks with the Lord with persistence, boldness, but humility and respect. She pleads her case and it is a good case. She talks to Jesus about what she needs. She asks him plainly with humility.

She does not “demand her rights”. She does not demand to be treated as one of the “children” (an Israelite). There are no banners, placards, media campaigns #metoo movements. Just plain honest and humble talk.

She is happy to receive few crumbs, not the whole table of food. She somehow recognizes that even a little bit of what Jesus can give will be more than enough for her need.

What strikes me is that Jesus listens. He listens even to this person whose time has not yet come. Jesus allows her time to come early; to be now. He allows her to jump the que and get what she can from God when she needs it.

Jesus is willing to change the plan. The timeline has been accelerated; the program can be changed. The unclean outsiders (gentiles) can receive blessings, too, even now, before their time.

Strange though. Jesus commends the woman’s ‘word’ (“reasoning”) but says nothing about her “faith”. Some say that this makes the Syrophoenician mother mostly a model of determination or clever words rather than faith.

But I see faith here. I reckon she makes us consider what “faith” really is at its core.

  • Notice, her persistence. She refuses to go away until she gets what she came for. Like Jacob (Genesis 32:26), she’s not letting go until she gets her blessing.
  • Notice her hopeful awareness. She refuses to believe even a tiny speck of grace isn’t out of reach and receiving just a scrap can make the difference for her.
  • Notice her trusting acceptance. She is willing to take Jesus at his word and journey home alone to confirm her daughter’s healing.

Isn’t this faith? Isn’t this the way faith works its way out in your life too?

Sure, desperation and tenacity aren’t always faith in The Lord, but when they are brought to Jesus with a trust that he is compassion and kindness, and that his Word is powerful food of healing and life, isn’t that faith in him?

For whatever sickness you face, what trouble is on your door, be this unnamed mum coming to Jesus.

Seek Jesus’s words with persistence. Refuse to go away until you get from the Lord what you come to him for.

Take this mum’s hopeful awareness of the power of Jesus’ word to heal and give life. Believe that even a tiny speck of his grace is in reach in Jesus’ word. Know just a scrap can make the difference for you, even with your own tiny mustard seed of faith.

Trust him to accept you like she does. Willingly take Jesus at his word and journey home alone to confirm what he has given you for the journey of faith.

He listens. You can talk to him. He will change his plans for you. he will offer you more than a few crumbs. he gives you himself and his healing word.

 

When the Good News is All Bad. Audio Sermon – Pastor Noel Due

Sunday 2nd September

Pastor Noel Due

To whom shall we go? Audio sermon Pastor Robert Voigt

Sunday 26th August

Joshua 24:1, 2a, 14-18

Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.

Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:

14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we travelled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

Wise bread for a Wise Head

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And POOF……

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

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

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

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

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

Solomon decides. He asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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