Tag: Divine interruption

“Laying Troubles Aside”: God brings good gifts

Sermon: Advent 3AAdvent -Christmas Title Pic 2013

Divine Interruption: “Laying Troubles Aside”: God brings good gifts

Video: Mary

 

Matthew 11:2-11                                                                       

11:2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 11:3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 11:4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 11:5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 11:6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” 11:7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 11:8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 11:9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 11:10 This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11:11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

 

She thought that angel had come to the wrong house. She was just a girl – a girl from the back blocks – a place where nothing much ever happens and no one ever notices. 

But when Jesus finally came she forgot all about her pain and relationship issues, and community judgements.  Jesus has that affect on people. The troubles remain but he changes you in them and you can let your troubles go and be caught up in him.  

John the Baptist had plenty of trouble. He was imprisoned and awaiting the fickle hand of the crazy power mogul, Herod. The death knell could come any day.  

In his trouble and suffering he just had to know for sure. When he heard that Rabbi Jesus was healing and setting people free and teaching in his own authority, John just had to check again. He asks his helpers to seek out Jesus and ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Good question. Good question for us.

Jesus says, “Yes”. I am that one you have been waiting for – the one for whom you now suffer in prison. Yes John, you were faithful. You are right. You are true because I am right and faithful and true.  

“You too, Mary. That angel did not come to the wrong house and good things – even the very best thing – comes from you and your town”.  

Do you believe this of yourself, friend? Can good things come to you and from you? Are the angels at the right house this Advent? Is the Holy Spirit at the right heart?  

The thing both Mary and John did was trust the good news they heard. John heard his students report back that Jesus said he is the Man. That word of prophecy that Jesus himself uttered in that Capernaum synagogue was true;

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me  to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19)

When you hear news you either have to reject it as untrue or embrace it as true and then let the news re-shape your view, your actions and words. That’s why it is news – and not just information or some theory about something. News has to be received and adjusted to. News interrupts us.   

The gospel of Jesus is news. It is a divine interruption. It is not information, theory, a philosophical system or even a thing of mere intellectual or emotional agreement. The gospel of this “God with us” is news – good news. The gospel writers don’t inform us, or sit us down in a classroom to teach us a theory of the world or God – they just tell good news; like you do when you heard the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. It was news. You had to trust it was true or reject is as mere inconsequential rumour. News interrupts. News has to be dealt with and adjusted to.  

So it is with John. He has heard the good news of God delivering on his promise to make a radical difference to the way of things for human beings and God. And so, John simply had to trust the word of Jesus and what the word was doing in people’s lives. He trusted Jesus with his life.  

Same with Mary. Mary had to trust that angel, her husband to be, the voice of God telling her that she is much more valuable to God than she thought and her life was much bigger than she could age ever imagined. She did.

To do that they had to simply receive this news and follow its consequences – easy and hard. For John it was prison and injustice and eventual giving of his life. For Mary it was a long and dangerous trip to an unknown place – birth in a shed, letting go of her boy as he fulfilled his calling, watching him suffer and die in extreme circumstances, losing a son but then receive the incredible mystery of being the one through whom the world was changed forever – for the better.  

Is Jesus the one who has come and made your life bigger than it ever could be and more valuable to the world, the church and your family that it would be without him, or are you still looking for someone or something else to make your life count? 

Money, accumulation of wealth and property, fame, skill, beating the competitors and etc may seem to deliver a life you want to live, but they are short-term and can’t fill the heart with love and thankfulness and joy.  

Jesus’ entry into the world is the beginning of the end of the need to put our life in the hands of all of these things.  

Jesus’ life is beginning of a life lived that is neither religious or irreligious, not a life of keeping the rules to earn God’s favour and peace, not ignoring God’s good news and getting ourselves lost in doing whatever we want to do.

Jesus’ presence with us now is the new way – the grace way, the third way – a way of peace that is God-created and sustained and borne out of love for us – pure love, pure life for all – even a Mary from the backblocks and a John in prison.  

Well Advent is news. Good news. What are you doing with the news? How are your responding to angels’ voices, shepherds’ witness, a young woman’s trust, a faithful man on death row and his simple and fiery trust in what he hears from Jesus?  

The news is coming at you. It is interrupting you – for good reason. God has got the right address and he has come to the right heart – yours. He chose your place and your life to be in today.  

His news of presence and peace and new life is no theory or text book presentation – it is news – good news that travels like wild-fire and changes a woman and a man and young person and a child.  

Friends, let me say to you what needs to be said this Advent day;

“Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He has come with judgement, no to condemn you but to rightly make account for everything and actually help you, saver you, love you.”

Because of this news and this man and this stable and feeding trough and this living story of faith, your eyes that can be so blind are opened, and the ears that are filled with all the trappings of wealth and activity, and Christmas the worldly way are now unstopped.

With old legs, a broken heart, a damaged mind, a heavy heart, there is room in the inn this Advent for you to leap like a deer, and the there is a calling for us as a local church community to let our speechless tongues wag away because God has changed the weather, broken the dam wall that held us up, cracked open that tough exterior we sometimes hide behind and let his life flood in as we hear this good news of the child.  

We long for the waters to break and the news to be out. He is here. He is with us. He is with me. Streams of light and life are in my life and can be in yours. Simply trust – like Mary, like John. Friends, as we receive and trust the news of God this Christmas like Mary, John and the others did that first Christmas our thirst will be quenched – thirst for hope, future, love, meaning in our work, purpose  to our life – quenched by the news – the good news of God.  

Will you receive big news for you these weeks of Advent and this Christmas? It is big news and good news that God has not come to the wrong address or place or heart.  

He has come to you and he knows your place, your ways, your weaknesses and your sin and stays at your place anyway – calling you out of the dark shed and into the light of the angels in his glorious gospel – good news that simply need to be heard and believed.  

You count. Your life counts. God values you and has called you to bear Jesus where you are, like Mary and John.  

There is no need to wait for someone or something else. He’s here.  

Mary says, “I knew that he would change everything because he had already changed me”. 

Has he? Is he? Will he?

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share your high and low for the week…

 

Read the text slowly and deliberately asking the Spirit to bring things into your focus as you hear God’s word. Note things down

            What got your imagination going/stuck out to you?

If there was a biblical scholar in the room, what questions would you like to know the answer to in this text?

 

Mary said that when the angel messenger came to her door she thought that angel had come to the wrong house. She was just a girl – a girl from the back blocks – a place where nothing much ever happens and no one ever notices.

 

I asked, “Do you believe this of yourself, friend? Can good things come to you and from you? Are the angels at the right house this Advent? Is the Holy Spirit at the right heart?”

Share your response to Mary and this question….

 

John also asked an important question for every person. “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” I asked, “Are you still looking for someone or something else to make your life count?” Are you? If so (and we all do at times), what things do you look to in order to make yourself be OK? Share your thoughts…

 

What do you hear Jesus saying to you this Advent about  looking to him to make your life count and be OK?

 

Advent and Christmas are news – good news. Like any news, it interrupts us and has to be either accepted and true and good and then readjusted to or it has to be rejected as inconsequential for our lives. I asked, “What are you doing with the Advent news?” Share your thoughts……

 

News is proclaimed and either trusted or rejected. How do you think people in your circle of friends and family respond to the news of God becoming a human being to take all human pain and suffering and sin on himself so that a new way of grace and love with God becomes a possibility for people? Why do you think this really is good news for some people, bad news for others or news of no consequence to others? When you get to the bottom of this question – let me know!  Share your thoughts……

 

 

Mary says, “I knew that he would change everything because he had already changed me”. How is this true for you as a Christian and part of a local Christian community? Shasre your thoughts…..

 

 

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

We become the news readers/tellers. We simply tell the news and it up to the Spirit as to how any person responds. How does this work out in your own experience in the time when you have simply told the news of God’s love with another person? Share your stories……

 

PRAY:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the news that has changed our lives and given us a story to live and tell. We thank you for your undeserved love given in a way we can really trust – Jesus – a real person just like us and giving his life for us. Help us to trust that you really have come to our house and heart and that you can bring much good to other from us. Help us tell the world of this good news and trust you for how people respond. Amen.

 

 

 

Letting Life In

Sermon, Advent 2A. Sunday December 8, 2013. Divine Interruption: “Letting Life In”: God makes life in barren places      Advent -Christmas Title Pic 2013

Romans 15:4-13          

15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
15:5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus,
15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15:7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
15:8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
15:9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”;
15:10 and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
15:11 and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”;
15:12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“God is making life out of the barren places”

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1

God, I’m watching the news and sometimes I wonder if you have left us to our own devices.

God, it’s not the arguing I can’t stand any more its the silence.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my children look at me like I am an idiot.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my parents don’t have a clue who I really am.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God I am getting older and more unwell

God, I am aimless and unsure of what I am meant to be doing

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, isn’t Christmas supposed to bring us together?

God is making life out of the barren places.

Is he? Is he for you? Is he in your circle of people? Is he in your life journey?

BARREN

Elizabeth: a woman of age without children. In her day called a cutting, dead word, “barren”. A barren person: In a time when a woman’s worth was measured in how many children she had, in a time when, if you had many children it was seen as God being happy with you. If you had no children, it was because God was angry at you…that you were sinful…that you were being punished for something….”barren”.

 A barren job. In a time unlike any other when men and women are defined by their job – by what they do – the first question people ask you at parties – “What do you do?”…Barren.

A barren marriage, a barren bank account, a barren purpose to my life….- “barren”. It just sits there like a oversized wet weather jacket on you – just hanging off you and weighing you down…”Barren”

A “barren” woman who wanted children; A woman who needed children in her society and yet, never given the desire of her heart.

God, I am barren and I did not ask for this and I have prayed that you would “un-barren” me….but I am still barren…

God is making life out of the barren places

Is he? Can he? Will he…for me?

That is the Advent question for you and me as we sense our barren places and feel the weight of that – Will God bring life in me, my family, my future, my whole life….?

LONGING

And then there is the longing; Longing for newness; longing for a break in the weather, a change of fortune, a word of hope, a new relationship of fun and friendship, a new person to recognise me, want to ask me how I am going, a word of super-encouragement from someone….please!

Elizabeth: What was it like for her? What is it like to have to constantly deal with being disappointed and feel incomplete – longing for something you just can’t seem to find or are never given?

Imagine longing for a thing and being quite certain now that after years of that hoping and dreaming for this thing, then eventually admitting that it will never come to be – saying you are OK with that now; you have dealt with that now….only to be rudely interrupted by divine intervention late in the game! The barrenness and the longing just cease – in one instant; by one word from The One!

LETTING GO

The impossible thing longed for but acknowledged as being out of reach is received.

Now that is a Divine interruption! And that would take some readjustment!

That would mean letting go of anger about never being given the gift you longed for. That would mean letting the constant disappointment and feelings of frustration go, lest you not enjoy this great thing that has been given to you.

So, what are you barren in? And, what are you longing for? What have you relegated to the “too hard” “impossible basket but if it ever were to be given, all the disappointment and anger and regret would just vanish in the cloud of thankfulness and joy?

  • New faith for the kids?
  • New faith and life in the grace of God for you?
  • New job away from what has been for the last 2 or 3 decades or 2 or 3 weeks?
  • New involvement in some very needy and worthwhile cause that you know would fill your heart with pride and thanks because you were now not just “working for the weekend” – but truly working for the world – for people, for making a difference?

DIVINE INTERRUPTION:DIVINE GIFT

Friend, the Gift is here. The new man, the new word, the new power, the new love, the new growth from what seemed barren and out of reach is here.

A great gift is given to you now in these weeks – new belief in God’s presence in this troubling world, and your needy life. New hope that what you thought was certain – your guilt, your self-pride, your never ending pain, your being a victim of others behaviour is now at an end. 

God says there is life in that pain. There is an end to sorrow, an end to your weaknesses. There are signs of new hope and life and you are it. You are the sign for those around you. You are the light. You are the salt that preserves the new life growing out of what was barren.

There is an end to your lack of understanding, and end to the hurt you have experienced, and end to that ill-health, an end to the mountain of a challenge you are trying to climb at the moment and he is not only the end of it but with you moving toward the end of it. That’s the miracle of God becoming one of us.

But will you see this and trust him?

Elizabeth expresses two things about God’s gift of new life in barren places

  1. people didn’t see the miracle
  2. this is just too much of a gift to be real

Why didn’t they see? Maybe because they were not looking. Maybe because they had given up on God ever being involved, understanding them, actually doing anything in the situation….., not expecting anything from God anyway.

Why couldn’t they receive the gift of new hope and life? Maybe because life’s experiences can make you cynical. “There are no free lunches” in this life. “Nothing good ever happens”. “You can’t trust others, you can only trust yourself”…..

God chooses to simply interrupt hardened people, confused people, non-expectant and untrusting people – not to chastise them but to bring new life and hope to people.

Hear St Paul praying that prayer calling for God’s hope to fill you joy because he knows both – God’s amazing ability to bring good things out of hopelessness and everyday people bound together in God’s holy community needing God’s creative hope.

Paul prays that the Lord would fill people with joy in the hope we have in God’s ability to make new things come from old dead things, make light things come from dark things, make joyful things come from sorrowful things.

Paul is confident in this ability of God. Are you?

Will you let the light of the coming of the Saviour into a dark, old, and troubled world take you by surprise? Will you let God’s new life in? Will you let his hope change your view of that hopeless thing, that hopeless person, that seemingly hopeless situation and trust him more than you trust your own ability to make your own hope?

Elizabeth the now fertile and fulfilled one knew this:

  1. He has not forgotten you.
  2. He will never leave you alone to fend for yourself.

So did Paul.

So do we, his baptised and loved people.

Whatever you are facing, whatever you are longing for and whatever is dying or even dead in your relationships, vocation and faith, there is life in it. There is his life in you. There is life and where there is life there is hope and that hope is the Light of the Lord – Jesus.

God, I’m watching the news and I am trusting that you have not left us and you are actually making new life in even these barren looking placers

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my children look at me like I am an idiot and I responding with calm and quiet persistence trusting that the winds will change in time because you are involved.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my parents don’t have a clue who I really am but I am trusting that you do and that as I give them room, treat them as human beings and get on with you calling in my life you will get us through this.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God I am getting older and more unwell, but I am aware that you are with me and calling me to keep engaged in other people’s lives for their good, making the most of every opportunity to share Jesus in a humble way until you take me home.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, I am aimless and unsure of what I am meant to be doing, but I commit myself to you and your Word and ask you to give me a hunger and new focus on your Word and your people, trusting that you will guide me into clarity and confidence in my callings in life.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, isn’t Christmas supposed to bring us together? God, make us the ones who are your living signs – the ones who bring people together and speak of your presence, light and life this Christmas.

God is making life out of the barren places.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share a high and a low for your week…

We talked about Elizabeth and her experience of being a “barren” woman in her time when it meant that she was considered less than legitimate, not fruitful, not “normal”, even cursed by God for her inability to bear a child. Do you have some experience of this in the group, either in the story of those present their families and friends?

Share you stories for a while about being “barren”.

We talked about longing for a thing or an event or a time or place and then admitting that this thing would never happen, only then to discover that the very thing you had relegated to the “too hard for God” basket actually happens! Elizabeth certainly had to adjust to God’s interruption in her life. Have you ever had to adjust to God’s interruption of something you longed for, wrote off as impossible and then received when it happened?

Share your stories.

Paul shows his unwavering trust in God’s ability to respond to our longing for life and our feeling of being barren or dead or incapable to bring the thing longed for into being in this text in Romans.

Read the test through slowly, even pausing now and again so tat people can jot down a note or word that sticks out to them – especially the words that reveal great trust in the Lord.

Share your jottings/thoughts with the group…

Matthew tells us about the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of God to bring new life out of barren places in the person of John the baptist, then Jesus.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,‘Prepare the way for the Lord,  make straight paths for him.’”

John is the announcer of the promise now to be renewed in full in the person, teaching, suffering and death of Jesus. John was the witness. We are too. We are the witness to God’s ongoing promise to bring new life out of any barren/lifeless place. How do you think we can do this among our family and friends this Christmas?

Share your thoughts….

PRAY: O come, O come Immanuel and ransom us captive people so tat we rejoice, rejoice this Advent!

BLESS EACH OTHER

Choose a partner and speak God’s word of blessing to that person (each in turn for each other)  to end…

(Person’s name), Child of God, the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13