Tag: freedom

L.I.F.E

Sermon, Epiphany 4B, Sunday January 28, 2018  

St Petri, 10.30 service

 

1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

How do we Christians use our God given freedom to look after each other – especially when we disagree on something?

“Knowledge puffs up while love builds up”, says Paul to the troubled Corinthian Christians. So, we need to acknowledge that when we disagree on a belief and its practice we are capable of being puffed up like a big Cane Toad and not looking after each other very well!

It is possible to know everything but to love nothing. It is possible to be a genius in some area of human knowledge but be no more than a “noisy gong; a clanging cymbal”, as Paul says later on in chapter 13.

It is one thing to know a lot about a thing, it is another thing to use that knowledge to love others who don’t know much about that thing.

It is one thing to have a great family, a great property, a great history and place in the community, it is another to use that name and place and status to love those who don’t.

It is a great gift to have a privileged place of freedom and joy in this community of Christ, it is another thing to share it, give it away and build others up into these gifts with those who don’t see themselves as part of the church or are just different.

There is an issue that the Corinthian Christians had to face in their day. It was difficult because of their past, their culture and who made up the congregation.

It was the problem of eating food that has already slaughtered in the service/worship of various gods (little ‘g’).

In the ancient world, there was literally a god in every shop, on every corner of town, in every park, and in every home – and not just one or the same but many and different gods.

We still have this to a degree. Ever noticed a Buddha statue in a shop with a bowl of fruit near it?

In Geraldton in the West, a lot of Vietnamese people came to that place in the 80’s. If you go there today in the market garden part of town you will see bowls of fruit and nuts etc at the farm gate. These are an offering to a god to ensure prosperity, a good crop, protection from evil and fertility.

If you were offered that banana by a friendly market gardener there, would you eat it? Should a holy, loved baptised person of Christ eat lamb (on Australia Day!) that has been slaughtered in honour and with prayer to a god?

The Corinthian Christians said, “Yes”. We are free in Christ. They seemed to know what Jesus said. He said that nothing from outside a person can make him unclean or acceptable to God. It is only what comes out of the wayward heart of a person that makes him unclean – thigs like hatred, malice envy, lust and etc…(Mark 7:15). In other words, “Yes”.

Paul agrees. A piece of beef is a piece of beef.  It does not matter if that meat was offered as a sacrifice to a false god in a pagan temple or home or park.  Eating it will not hurt you.  This is because there’s no actual power in it to do damage to you.  Why?, Because gods (little ‘g’) are not God. They are just speechless, action-less, lifeless “things of stone and wood”.

But Paul has to say more. The Corinthians are not only right about their freedom, they are very proud of their freedom. Too proud. They think they know it all and that simply knowing a lot is the goal of their faith; as if Christianity was simply about being the smartest, and most right! It isn’t. Christianity is a relationship of trust in Jesus’ word with others. It is what you do with your knowledge for others that is the goal.

They have turned their freedom in Jesus into a weapon that is damaging those who don’t share all their knowledge or who find this issue of eating meat sacrifices to idols very difficult.

Some of the people in the congregation have only recently come from this pagan culture of idol worship. It is how they grew up. They have been taught all their lives to pay off the gods for the sake of themselves, their families, their farms and their society.

But now they hear and believe that “there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live” (v6), and that all those little gods are actually “…nothing at all in the world” (v 4).

Paul says that eating a chicken probably sacrificed to an idol by the butcher from which you purchased it in the privacy of your own home with people you know and who share your understanding of freedom to do so is one thing. But eating that chook at the church pot-luck lunch with new converts or people who have a tender conscience about it is another thing.

What if you, long standing Christian person with a substantial knowledge of the Word and experience in living as a disciple of Jesus that enables you to enjoy the freedom of eating any food at congregation pot luck lunch is seen eating this meat already sacrificed to an idol by a fellow believer who does not share your confidence, your understanding or experience? Wouldn’t eating that meat sacrificed to an idol confuse your brother or even encourage him to go back to what he used to always do which is going against the Lord’s will?

See how knowledge of the freedom you have in Jesus’ love without love for the different person, especially a fellow Christian and especially a more vulnerable person can have a harmful effect on that person?

Let’s use a real-life example that we are facing to see how Christian freedom works for us now…

What about the issue of how we re-shape this building in our mission? There is disagreement about this. It is a similar to food issue for the Corinthians because;

  1. It has no effect on our standing before the Lord as his loved people – that is already sure.
  2. We are within our right and quite free to disagree about it.

Most of us want to make that plan happen, but a significant number do not.

Again, hear Paul on using our freedom here;

But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Changing this building in the way suggested will not bring us closer to God or take us further away from him. We are no worse off as God’s loved people if we do not build and no better off when it comes to  our standing before the Lord if we do.

Then how do we proceed? This is how Luther understood Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:

  1. Christians have complete freedom and power over everything, and are under no obligation to anyone.
  2. Christians are servants of all, and are under complete obligation to everyone.                        Martin Luther: Freedom of the Christian

So, we are free and yet bound. We have rights, and yet we called to lay them done in service. We have knowledge of much, but we are called to use these to love each other (especially the vulnerable) so that our knowledge, our rights, our freedom are in the service of love for each other.

This year as the conversation goes on, I believe Paul (and Luther) would prompt us to ask the only question that really matters for free people in Christ who disagree on anything: “What is the loving thing to do?” – loving for us and loving for those who do not know the freedom and joy of Christ yet.

Or, how do we use our knowledge of our freedom in Jesus, our gifts from him, his considerable resources he has passed down to us to love him and love others more fully when it comes to deciding on how best to make use of this facility?

If our knowledge, experience, status and freedom is to serve love, then how do we do this disagreeing and finding one mind to move forward in?

For Paul, this is how:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Be “careful” be “full of care” for each other. That is how we go about living with each other in Christ and making decisions about thing on which we have a difference of opinion. We use our knowledge and experience in the service of love. Why? Because we are completely free to do so and we are completely bound together in this.

Friends, I hear today that being a Christian is not about winning over another person but about loving another person win, lose a draw, just as the Lord loves us when we win, when we lose and when we break even.

We love, we serve, we even sacrifice ourselves for each other and then we are a beautifully played cymbal in this orchestra called St Petri, and a wonderfully sounding gong that indicates God’s time, God’s will, God’s welcome invitation.

Let’s know a lot but let’s use what we know to love even more. Then we will be Living In Freedom Everyday!

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Read through the text slowly and deliberately keeping two questions in mind:

  1. What captures my mind/imagination; what do I find hard to skip over
  2. If there was a biblical scholar in the room, what questions would I ask.

 

This text is Paul teaching how Christian freedom in the church works. The issue he focusses on is a tricky one – especially for Jewish Christians in the congregation. The prevailing culture regularly offered food/produce to the many gods that were named/worshipped. They did this to find prosperity, wellbeing, blessing, protection, a good harvest and fertility.

For a Jewish person to eat meat that had been already offered to the gods was unthinkable. Animals needed to be slaughtered in a certain way. All blood had to be drained from the animal. Jewish people could not eat blood. Blood was the essence of a life and very much the Lord’s domain alone. But there was also the association with braking the first commandment (idolatry) – to not love the Lord with all your heart, mind and strength, or, to not trust the Lord for your prosperity, protection and blessing.

For non-Jewish people, it was still a problem. They grew up with many gods and the offering of many sacrifices to appease the many gods. Then they were taught that there is only one God (Father, Son and Spirit) and that all other gods are nothing but things of stone and wood. Idols have no power over you and are not worth appeasing!

But he Corinthian Christians knew this and they rightly knew they were free in Christ to eat and drink whatever was on offer – whether or not it had been sacrificed to idols or not.

What do you think about the example of a Vietnamese family offering you a banana from the little bowl of fruit next to their statue of Buddha? Would you eat the banana, or would you have to abstain because you felt you were too closely associating with their false belief in a false god?

To help the reflection along, read the next passage 1 Corinthians 9:19ff.

Also read Mark 7:15ff, Matthew 15:17-20. re Jesus’ words about this subject.

Note your conclusions on this…..

 

 

Can you see the problem of the misuse of freedom that Paul is trying to highlight? He says that not everyone shares the same understating or experience in the Christian faith.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.

So, from the example in the sermon, you as a mature Christian who know you are free to eat whatever food do so in a public setting (church pot-luck lunch) but there are new Christians there who know that the food has been sacrificed to an idol and they are very confused or even emboldened to take up their old pagan practices of doing the same which leads the back to a belief in many gods and having to appease the gods by doing things (keeping the Law). Or you deeply offend the Jewish Christian who cannot but see a too close association with unclean idol worship.

What do you think Paul is saying to help the Corinthians do this differently? If Paul were at the lunch, what would he urge you and I to do as we eat and drink in the presence of those different to us or ‘weaker’ in conscience?

Note your thoughts as you re-read Paul’s words – including Chapter 9:19ff

 

I used the issue of whether or not we as a congregation re-shape our church building along the lines of the plan give last year as a real life test of how we live our freedom as brothers and sister in Christ. Like eating food sacrificed to idols, it has no bearing on our standing with the Lord. We are free if we do build or don’t build and is not a matter of salvation at all. It is adiaphoron – neither right or wrong.

How do we exercise our freedom in Christ not relying on mere human knowledge – which Paul says will just puff us all up. When we are puffed up with prised we get angry and we hurt each other.

What, in your view, from this Word, makes all the difference and helps us use our freedom carefully and avoid getting puffed up?

 

What does this little quote from Martin Luther mean for you, or what does it direct you to do as a part of Jesus’ church at St Petri?

Christians have complete freedom and power over everything, and are under no obligation to anyone

Christians are servants of all, and are under complete obligation to everyone.

Martin Luther: Freedom of the Christian

Ask the Spirit to show you what action you may need to take or what attitude you need to adopt as we continue to live together in the bonds of Christian love sharing the love and hope of Jesus in our community.

Pray for our church, our building plans, the Lord’s will to be done, our schools as they recommence, anyone sick, a friend who is weak in conscience, a non-Christian friend whom you would love to see know the freedom of Jesus.

That’s Freedom!

SERMON,  Sunday July 2, 2017, St Petri.

4th Sunday after Pentecost (A) (Pastor Adrian Kitson)

Romans 6:12-23

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

“You may be an ambassador to England or France

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride

You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

It may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

 

Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk

You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread

You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed.

 

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

It may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”.

 

Words of Bob Dylan; Poet for a generation just before my time.

Bob was right. He must have read Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome.

In Romans, Paul tackles the problem we Christians have with our freedom: the challenge of actually living out our freedom in Christ while still having to cope with the old ways within us.

Paul is asking how on earth do we as people set free from self and evil and even death deal with the pull of sin and the Evil one to avoid responsibility, take the easy option, suit ourselves more than serve others, that still exists in and around us.

So Paul asks, Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1).

You may have come across this: “I am baptised. I am ‘free”. I can live the way I want. If I get it wrong because I mean to or I don’t, it does not matter because God is gracious and I will be forgiven. The more I do my own thing, even getting it wrong, the more God’s grace happens. I am doing God a favour!

“Not on your Nelly! Cries Paul. All of that is not God’s freedom. That is ‘self-freedom’ and actually, is no freedom at all, merely “self-serving”.

All of this old way was dead and buried with Jesus in your baptism into his righteousness. You have been raised to a new life of self-giving to others and the Lord. Going back to the old place once you have moved away makes no good sense. Why would you give up life forever in the new place of acceptance, love and light to go back to that old place where your pension is death? But ….

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?

 Does freedom in Christ mean no rules, now law, no Old Testament, no boundaries at all? Is any talk of sin, the 10 Commandments, and death and the evil one just being ‘negative”? Some think so.

Many people tend to believe that ‘freedom’ is the absence of responsibility, or “doing what we like”. Freedom is living life without the constraints of the work place, the school rules, the rules of grammar, the rules of the road, free from the teaching of church or school or parents, free from having to comply to anything or serve anyone.

Freedom is believing what you want, living the way you want. Freedom is partying until dawn all weekend – no rules, no responsibilities, no accountability…..

But this belief about freedom is deeply flawed. Paul says,

“You are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness” (17).

Remember Bob. “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord…”.

The reality we live with is not whether we will be follow something (or someone), but what (or who) we will follow.

The understanding of freedom as “not being a servant to anyone or anything” misleads us into believing that, if you are lucky or strong or bold or beautiful and powerful enough, you can live absent of any obligations, any commitments, any requirements whatsoever.

This does not end well for anyone. I am thinking of the three most evil world leaders of the 20th Century; Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pott. I am thinking of that rock star or sports star totally self-absorbed and self-destructing, teaching the young to do the same. I am thinking about extreme people on both sides of difficult issues who cry “freedom of speech” as long as your speech agrees with me!

God’s freedom is not like our view of freedom. God’s freedom is not escaping obeying or serving him or others. Freedom in Jesus is freely obeying and serving with true joy.

If it is true that to be truly free in the grace and love of God in Christ, we have to serve somebody or someone, then the question is will you serve? Who will you willingly follow; your old passions or Jesus’ new righteousness; out of control self or self-control? Will you follow self-focussed ambition or the honour of the friend and stranger? Will you follow the promises God made to you and you have made to him, or believe yourself exempt from those requirements now?

To help us, Paul invites the Christians in Rome — and by extension all of us — to consider that it is not whether to be obedient or free, but rather to what we will be freely obedient.

“Freely obedient” – Freely serving with joy. Isn’t that really living? Isn’t that being as Jesus really is – the one who gave up his power by becoming one of us for love and for our future rightness and peace with him? (Philippians 2). Isn’t it better to be freely obedient to the Lord? Freedom is not the absence of serving, true freedom is so free that you wholeheartedly serve with joy!

But how do we live like that? Where does the ability come from?

Surely from the One who comes to us not be served but to serve us. Jesus serves us with everything he has got. He makes it possible by his serving of us – all out of an enormous heart of love and kindness to us..

Paul suggests the Lord we gladly serve, first serves us in three places.

1), Baptism, the place where God names us as God’s own children (Rom. 6:1-11) and not because of what we have attained, accomplished, bought, or achieved, but simply because God has chosen to love us and adopt us as God’s own.

2) Christian community, the company of believers were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection (6:3-5) and that gathers to receive, remember and rehearse the promises of God and encourage each other in lives of righteousness.

3) Prayer in the Holy Spirit, which draws us more closely into relationship with God and neighbour and serves to remind us that we are, indeed, God’s own children (see 8:14-17).

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

It may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”.

Yes. It is true but it is no weighty burden when we trust that the Servant King is serving us with the will and the ways to freely serve as we are served.

We are so free that we are freely obedient to his word as we gladly serve everyone.

That’s freedom.

 

Friends, live in it.

Know your baptism

Live in a local church who serve others

Pray, sing and hear.

That’s freedom.

 

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Where or with who do you sense the most freedom in your life?

Speak of a time when you experienced the freedom of your sin forgiven and shame lifted.

In Romans 5 and 6, paul uses a particular kind of way of bringing out what it is to be a Christian. he uses a question that people have and then shows how that question is worked out in the light of Jesus’ forgiveness and new life (Rhis righteousness).

Thumb through chapters 5 and 6 and see if you can locate some of those questions he asks. They usually begin a whole new section in our English bible – so they ar easy to spot!

Romans 6:1 is one of these.

Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1).

See if you can summarise WHY this is a definite no!

Out text is a response to a slightly different way to ask the similar question – a question about how live our our freedom.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? (Romans 6:15)

If we are free in Christ by virtue of our baptism into his death and resurrection to new life (his righteousness) then can we just live any way we want?

Again the answer is a definite no. Can you follow Paul’s reasoning in our text? have a go….

 

in the end we get to what true freedom in Jesus’ forgiveness and new life is – serving. ‘

“…..it is not whether to be obedient or free, but rather to what we will be freely obedient”.

“Freely obedient” – Freedom is not the absence of serving. True freedom is so free that you wholeheartedly serve with joy!

But then Paul knows that this is not always easy. in fact by ourselves without any help from God we will fail in this and lock ourselves up again in a self-made prision of self-focus, self- serving life. So he gets practical.

There are three things that we turn to for the power to freely serve in joy. Have a look at these in the text and look up the additional texts quoted here.

1), Baptism, the place where God names us as God’s own children (Rom. 6:1-11) and not because of what we have attained, accomplished, bought, or achieved, but simply because God has chosen to love us and adopt us as God’s own.

2) Christian community, the company of believers were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection (6:3-5) and that gathers to receive, remember and rehearse the promises of God and encourage each other in lives of righteousness.

3) Prayer in the Holy Spirit, which draws us more closely into relationship with God and neighbour and serves to remind us that we are, indeed, God’s own children (see 8:14-17).

This is why I believe that the local Christian church is the hope of the world in which we live. These three gifts are on display and in action any given time Christians of all denominations gather in Jesus’ name to listen, learn, and pray.

 

Instruction: What have you learnt about God and yourself?

Confession: What do you need to confess and receive God’s forgiveness for?

Thanks: What do you want to give thank to God for as a result of hearing this Word.?

Supplication: Pray for yourself, family, church, friends and even enemies as a way of serving them in the freedom you have in Christ.

 

Compelled

Compelled

February 8, 2015

Sermoncompelled
Epiphany 5B Sunday February 8, 2015
St Petri

1 Corinthians 9:16-23
16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Compelled to win them
When I was in year 8 or 9, I met up with a guy the same age as me who used to be a very good friend. I had moved away and we had not seen each other for over a year. But it was holidays and we hooked up and each got ourselves into the city to meet. We saw a movie (I think it was one of the original Star Wars series).

In the time that we had not seen each other a lot had happened to me. By the insistence of my older sister I had made connections with a local church. I went to a camp they held and came back to regular church connection and new relationships with new people who were teaching me Jesus. I was a very different person now. But my friend knew none of this.

It did not take long for me to realise that I had changed a lot. The jokes, the stories, the values he revealed were not mine anymore. They used to be mine. I knew that Jesus had changed me and I had a bigger and better story to tell now.

In that moment I could have used my new hope and freedom to judge my friend as not worth my time or try and make him feel small. But something compelled me to listen, not judge, share what I could share and avoid what I couldn’t. I knew I had to compromise my own rights and feelings and needs for him so that a gospel seed might be planted and grow in time. I knew that this what Jesus had done for me. He used other people to bring me his hope and love.

Same 30 years later in the men’s soccer shed every Wednesday night for 6 years. Kev, Keith, Fulvio, Ken Dave, Justin, John, and the boys were guys I knew well. They had figured out that they could swear and tell off jokes around me and I would not flinch. I would not judge them as they thought I might. I wouldn’t laugh much sometimes and I never use the same colourful language they did. They noticed. The less I judged them the more they tested me and yet the more they in the end respected me. They would often modify their jokes and language for me – which I thought was great.

Eventually when tragedy struck the group in the form of a man lost by fatal car accident, they turned to me to help them through that. I was compelled to hang in there for these men; putting up with their dead-end view of themselves. Eventually, one of them brought his new baby daughter for baptism. That was a heck of a Sunday service.

In this country at every level of our community from the rich to the poor from the employed to jobless, in singleness and marriage there as so much fear, so much addiction, so much lovelessness in families and in marriages and relationships of any ilk. I was compelled by two things: The Call of Jesus to seek out and love the stranger, and compelled to be Jesus’ Good news man in a bad news world.

Is this being all things to all people? I think it is. Ever since coming to a living faith I have been compelled to try and be all things to all people – for their sake.

But please understand, being all things to all people does not mean compromising the gospel hope but compromising myself and my own right and needs.

Being all things to all people is not about blending in to:
• avoid conflict, let the gospel fall to ground; enter into the things of the world for personal enjoyment.
• a means to avoid challenge, difficulty in relationships or avoid conflict.
• save my own bacon or trying to be a witness of Jesus so that I stay in God’s good books.

Paul gives us the heart reason for our withholding of judgement and disapproval as much as we can and for our actions of love and kindness for as long as we can – it is for them! It is “to win them” for the gospel we love and the Jesus we know who is working in us with his mighty resurrection power that raises the dead and brings the lost home.

To a community quite puffed up about their own spiritual and intellectual genius, who are really struggling to be together in unity and love as a result, Paul speaks into their situation and offers himself as an example of what it means to be a gospel man; a gospel woman in the midst of all kinds of people.

He names four kinds of people in his community:
The Jewish people – Paul’s own ethnic group. Practicing Jews at Synagogue every Saturday: For us, Lutheran folks we know in the Valley. Church going and connected.

Those under the law – non Jewish people who resonated with the Jewish faith and were connected to the local synagogue community – at worship Saturday and keen to learn God’s Law as taught by the Jewish rabbis and people. For us the seekers. Those not cold to the church’s teaching, the gospel of Jesus – not born and bred Lutherans but those from with other family names, different faces and stories.

Those without law – not people out of control as we might picture, but those who also resonated with the Law of God as preached by the Jewish people but gentile converts in largely gentile churches who had no need for signs of Jewish culture and faith. They were, like all Christian, to be aware of and live within God’s moral law (10 Commandments), but not Old Testament ceremonial law.

The weak. This is probably in two ways: Those vulnerable to peer pressure who are easily led – especially by the long-time church members, the well-educated and the wealthy. And those who are actually poor in an economic sense.
Paul shows these Corinthian Christians that they are called to live and tell Jesus’ good news to all of them – in whatever ways are appropriate, in the hope that anyone from any of the groups might find hope, love and freedom form all human ties that bind.

Whether we are faithful worshipers of God, Lutheran of Lutherans with a German name and long Lutheran family history; or ring-ins with some strange sounding English or French or Spanish or Irish name and story but have been led here; or seekers looking and interested and longing for the hope that we can see but have not found personally; or wealthy or low in income, highly educated or not overly educated, doing our paid job well or unemployed and doing it tough, wounded greatly by relationships gone bad, unsure, easily led by anyone who looks like they have the good things we think we need, we are here with him – his gospel – his cross, his love, his calling – we are church.

He has “gospelised us” not to “laud it over people”, claiming to that we did any of this or made ourselves anything good, but he is calling us to be everything we can for every kind of person for the sake of the wonderful grace on offer in Jesus and his story, his purpose, his love.

Friends, be a gospel man; a gospel woman. Carefully, patiently, openheartedly adapt your expectations, your behaviour, your words, your attitudes to them all in the hope that you might win them to the good news; the kid at school, the friend you once knew, the lads at the club, the spouse who is unsure, the friend who is in your sphere.

The reward for this? Freedom, hope, his love, his peace, his future seen in part in our lifetime. A church community being his church community – a gospel community – the noble cause, the thing worth giving your life to the release of captives, new sigh for those who can’t yet see, restoration of bodies of relationships, resurrection of the dead and life in the world to come

Living Free Community

The Garden of GoodSermon
Epiphany 4B, Sunday February 1, 2015.
St Petri, 10.30 service

1 Corinthians 8: 1-13
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]
4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.
So knowledge isn’t everything. Understanding of the world and how it works valuable, but it is not everything, the only thing. In fact it cannot get us to where we long to be as community. There is another thing that does that.

Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
This is a direct challenge to a culture that seems to have replaced faith with reason believing that “education is the key”, “knowledge is power”, and as a result, loading school staff up with the unreasonable burden of fixing our community’s brokenness, fixing my child in every way and creating a better society – all through better education.

Paul says that an over-reliance on human, or even spiritual knowledge has the likely outcome of a self-centred pride and arrogance (puffed up) but self-sacrificing, divine love builds individuals and communities up in that self-giving, self-sacrificing character.

So in the pursuit of freedom, Paul is saying that there is a greater thing, a more complete thing, a greater force that transforms us and our many issues, a perfect thing, a beautiful thing – a thing to pin our hopes on and live in with complete confidence, freedom and joy, a thing in which we learn by Word and action, a thing by which we are shaped and shape others – a thing that makes reason and knowledge also beautiful because they are in the right place, the right order, the best ground to grow.

This thing is love – not romantic or even emotionally founded feeling – but action, doing, compassion, kindness – agape love – self-giving, self-emptying, prodigious, gracious, un-called for, over the top, fathomless, unreasonable love.

We call it Grace – undeserved love – and we have heard it is a person not a thing. God is love. God; Father, Son and Spirit – here and now, and God is calling us to pursue it.

Paul speaks to a local community in a large and very pagan city, who have had their hearts and minds transformed by the gracious presence of the Crucified Man of love, risen and present in their community by his holy Word. They have heard him. They are known by him. They have been loved and they are now trying to live in that love.

With their flawed human heart, they have fallen into their fair share of inflated egos, bragging about not only their great knowledge of the world and its reason, but of the spiritual things of the Spirit of God. Paul carefully reminds people that if you have to choose between being loving and being right, be loving.

Now there is a thing to ponder for our relationships.

“If you have to choose between being loving and being right, be loving”.

We all want to be right and we all have our vision of what is right and these can differ from the person next to us! Some people think we are too focused on ourselves and are not open enough to people outside the church. Others think we are giving too much of ourselves away in the attempt to reach out to others. We are all on a journey with our own experience, learning and story and we are all different. How do we live authentically and in the freedom of forgiveness we have received from Jesus?
As an example of Christian freedom to love Paul raises an everyday issue these followers of Jesus had to deal with. The problem of eating food (meat) already sacrifices to idols in home and temple pagan worship.
Suppose that there is a pot-luck tea on at St Petri. Someone brings a platter of food saying, “The local Satan-worshippers had a table set up at the mall today, giving away this food. It’s delicious!”
Would you eat it in front of everyone at the pot luck meal? What would it teach others if you did? “Everything matters because everything teaches”, don’t forget.

For Paul, a piece of meat is a piece of meat. It does not matter if that meat was offered as a sacrifice to a false god in a pagan temple. Eating it will not hurt you. There’s no actual power in it to do damage to you or to your faithfulness to God. Gods (little ‘g’) are not God. They are just speechless, action-less, lifeless “things of stone and wood” that we, with our internal idol making and chasing heart turn into something more.

But what impact might eating the stuff have on a young Confirmation kid just beginning to hear about the love of God in Jesus? What would it mean to a person new to the gospel or a sceptical person waiting to find a hole in our integrity to affirm their doubt in the reality of Jesus’ revolutionary love?
In a context where no one would have a problem with it, it would be fine: maybe your own family or among old friends of faith. In a context where someone might be led to take offense or be depleted in their trust in Jesus, (“fall”) because of it, it would be wrong.

Can you see that this Word about freedom and its use challenges everyone, both irreligious people who say, “I can do what I want”, and the irreligious who say “you can’t do anything right”. We all have our place and story and yet in the household of faith, we only owe each other one thing – love. Without self-giving love, there cannot be community.

The question Paul calls us to respond to together is this: How do we live in the freedom we have in the gracious love of God in a way that is faithful to that love together?
Here’s the question for us: How might we gauge the impact of our actions on the lives of others and how we might use that impact as a reason to restrict our own behaviour.

Friends, in church, school and community we cannot live any way we want if we want to be authentic in God’s gracious love for us. We are free and yet we are bound together.

Here’s how Luther put the situation for us free people in Jesus
1. Christians have complete freedom and power over everything, and are under no obligation to anyone
2. Christians are servants of all, and are under complete obligation to everyone.
Martin Luther: Freedom of the Christian
Let’s make it more us. (Let’s speak it together..)
1. I have complete freedom and power over everything, and am under no obligation to you.
2. I am a servant of you, and am under complete obligation to you.

1. St Petri has complete freedom and power over everything, and is under no obligation to this community.
2. St Petri is a servant of this community, and is under complete obligation to this community.

Friends, as individuals living in Jesus’ great freedom project, we as individuals in relationships and as communities need to tape this up on our mirror so that every time we see ourselves we also see these words:

‘Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by God.'”

People, if we have to choose between being loving and being right, be loving.
This is our freedom: this is our calling in community.

And why go for this greater thing – this crazy little thing called love? Why pursue faith more than reason, love more than knowledge of things? Because “whoever loves God is known by God”.

God knows love. God is love and in him there is no darkness or conceit. God knows the lover and loves the lover. Jesus Christ loves the world, with all its reason, and yet calls a church and a school to experience, pursue and live out this higher thing: self-sacrificing, serving, giving, gracious love of the holy community – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

To live in that love is to use our freedom in him to love.

What’s the point of going to church anyway?

Sermon, Pentecost 14C, Sunday August 25th, 2013. WTP-copy

Luke 13:10-17

For Rest and Freedom

 10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

 14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

 15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

 17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Do you ever wonder what it’s all about? Sunday, I mean. The gathering, the worship, the singing, reading, and preaching — why do we do it? I sometimes wonder if we get so caught up in preparing for Sunday, or just the weekly rhythm of Sundays — after all, they come every seven days, ready or not! — that we lose sight of what Sunday is really about in the first place.

A lot of people have certainly lost sight of what the worship gathering is about, or they have made up their mind that it is not about much!

This little account of another moment f compassion and healing for a woman with major back issues is all about worship. See, there is one big word that is THE point of this little moment in Jesus’ ministry. It is “Sabbath”.

Yes, Jesus again heals a person who is in real need of healing and yes, this speaks of his compassion and his power and this is a great thing – especially if you are the person needing the healing – or a close friend or family member!

But really, as happens often with Jesus, by his actions he raises a big issue for people and how we live and what we believe. The big issue here is “Sabbath”; Rest; Rest with the Lord – regularly and intentionally. Jesus heals on the Sabbath and this is in direct challenge to the belief and living of the day.

Today’s Jesus raises the issue of why bother gathering in the synagogue on the Sabbath, or for us, why bother being in the worship gathering on Sunday.

Now, in Jesus’ day Sabbath really has two major meanings or purposes attached to it. One, recorded in Exodus 20, links the Sabbath to the first creation account in Genesis, where God rests with his creation after six days of hard creative work – like an artist who has finally finished a masterpiece.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…… 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

So, the reason we practice Sabbath is to rest with God and he with us. As God rested, so do we with all of our households and even animals rest – and in a regular rhythm – every 7th day.

The second tradition, in Deuteronomy 5, however, links the Sabbath to the Exodus; that is, it links Sabbath to freedom, to liberty, to release from bondage and deliverance from captivity.

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy… 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

So, in the Old Testament before Jesus came God’s people kept the Sabbath for the reason of rest with God, like God rested in creation, and for the reason of remembering who the Lord had made them to be – how he had called them to live in fellowship with each other and him on that fiery Mt Sinai.

Sabbath is for rest with God and remembering of our calling.

Here in this gospel word, Jesus is talking about this second meaning of Sabbath when he beautifully frees this woman with overbearing weight on her shoulders! As he heals her he likens the releasing into freedom and healing for this troubled woman to a homeowner releasing his animals into the freedom of drinking water in the trough. Just as a local homeowner would untie his animal so it could have a good drink – even on the Sabbath Day, so God sets a person free from disease and pain on the Sabbath.

He actually characterizes the woman’s ill-health as being “bound by Satan.” So, to Jesus, of course it is just fine to set someone free on the Sabbath, because the Sabbath is all about freedom.

This is not a belief shared by many, as this little account reveals. Those running the show are angry – “indignant” – very angry that Jesus sees it this way and does it his way!

What’s their problem?

The Sabbath was absolutely central to the life of the Jewish people in Jesus’ day. It was the most obvious sign of your belonging and status as a Jewish person. It was 7 day rhythm of all life in the nation. This came from the most authoritative part of the scriptures – the first five books – the Pentateuch – Genesis through to Deuteronomy.

The Sabbath was directly commended by God in the ten commandments given to Moses and the people on Mt Sinai. It was the ordering of the community’s time and life as it lived with the Lord. It was like a school timetable or the shift hours for the day. Every seventh day, was a day of meeting with and resting in the Lord – bringing gifts (offerings), seeking forgiveness, bringing requests to the Lord, hearing the Torah – the Word of God so as to let it shape the other 6 days.

The problem was that as human beings are very capable of doing, they had turned the Sabbath into work not rest. The Sabbath by Jesus’ day had become a highly regulated day of rules. It is one more thing you had to do to be authentic – to be really OK with God. There were strict rules about exactly what could and could not be done to keep the third commandment;

“Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy”.

So, instead of the Sabbath being received as a gift from God for rest and freedom in his grace and love, it was now completely in the hands of human beings to make it holy in the way they did it. Instead of worship being a gift to be received with thanks and a moment to be enjoyed, it was now a rule to be kept, lest we incur God’s judgement on our disobedience or laziness or lack of concern.

And the rules went on and on and on – actually binding people up and locking them into endless judgementalism, forcing people into mental gymnastics to continually make sure they were not performing any “work” and that they were “resting” properly; keep the commandment of Sabbath keeping. Every seven days and all the days in between which were always meant to be lived in freedom now become days of bondage! The day of rest had become a day of rule keeping before an angry God ready to catch people out on any ‘breaking of the rest rules”. The religious leaders in the temple and synagogues had become worship police, keeping people imprisoned in the keeping of the law.

How revolutionary is Jesus when he heals sinners (unholy, unclean people) on the Sabbath?! How bold is he as he quotes stories from the Old Testament story of situations when the Sabbath rules were intentionally broken to save life or do good that had to be done (eg. see 1 Samuel 21:1-6 quoted by Jesus in Luke 6:1-5).

He heals on the Sabbath. He restores, he loves, he preaches the Word, he renews faith in the original intention of God for the Sabbath; to be a day of rest with him and celebrate freedom in him. He restores the day of rest and freedom – given by God to provide a regular rhythm of resting in him and enjoying the privilege of being together with him in complete freedom and joy.

Jesus boldly states

“The Sabbath was made for human beings, not human beings for the Sabbath(Mark 2:27)

 That’s the point. The regular gathering in the Lord’s presence is a gift of God’s grace to be received with joy and thanks, not a thing to be achieved, done, or earned by whatever means we determine.

Jesus declares,

“the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

 Yes. Jesus is the Sabbath now. He is the presence of God, the grace of God, the love of God, not bound to buildings or human effort to be holy, but freely giving himself to us when we were his enemies. It is by his grace through faith in him that we are now forgiven, restored and made holy and pleasing in the Lord’s sight, not by our own sacrifices in whatever form.

He is the place and the person and the name in which we gather and by his power and grace we are made holy, we are freed and we are free to rest in his Word, eat at his table and eat and drink the body and blood of the new temple, the new synagogue, the Christian church – a building of living stones.

How is your heart when you come to worship?

Is what happens here a work to be done?

Is this you keeping others happy. Keeping some unwritten rules?

Is this us determining how God is to be pleased; how God is to be praised?

Is this where we make judgement about others and their behaviour?

It is none of those things.

What happens here is pure gift and pure privilege.

We share in the freedom from bondage to our own worship of other things, people and ourselves to receiving the good news again that God is with us and for us and drawing us into his holy presence as we gather in his Son’s name in the power of God’s Spirit.

We feast, we rest, we listen, we experience the feast of angels, the Bread of angels, the life of the Saviour and we are blessed.

Our day of worship, while called “a Sabbath to the Lord,” isn’t finally for the Lord but is for us, for all of us who need rest and release, renewal and re-creation.

If all of this is true, then it is really important to be here!

If all of this is true, then this Christian life is a life of a seven day rhythm with God – resting in him, being freed by him to help others rest in him and find freedom in him.

We gather and we go in rest and freedom to be rest in God’s grace and freedom in his love.

As we gather and as he sends us to go we be the community through which this whole community is blessed by the Lord.

Then Sunday is new, inspiring, full of grace and a day of love and concern for anyone stooped over with the trouble of the world and St Petri is a place of rest and freedom for the many whom the Lord Jesus is drawing to himself; the many whom he so much wants to be saved into a life a rest and freedom with him.

Let’s reclaim Sunday not as a day of religious obligation but a day of rest and freedom, of release and of deliverance — in a word, a day of Sabbath for us and for those the Lord is gathering.

Talk about cause for rejoicing!

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-AU
X-NONE
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0cm;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
text-align:justify;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Imagine the scene of this gospel encounter with this woman who has suffered for so long with some kind of ailment that does not allow her to stand straight. She is sttoped over. How would that be? Ponder her predicament as if it were you….

Imagine how it must have been for her when she was enabled by Jesus to stand up straight for the first time in so long! Share your thoughts on this…

All of this happened on a Sabbath. Call to mind Luther’s small catechism and the explanation to the Thirds Commandment as shown below;

Third Commandment

Remember God’s special day and keep it holy.

(You can read this in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5)

What this means for us

We should honour and love God,

and so we should not

despise God’s word

or refuse to hear and learn it.

Instead, we should recognise

that God’s word is holy

and be glad to hear and learn it.


Recognising God’s word to be holy is no generally held thing in our society these days. Gladly hearing and learning the Word and gathering around it in public worship is also no given thing for many people these days.

  • Share your thoughts on the top three reasons why you bother coming to worship at St Petri.
  • Share some of the reasons you have heard for not worshiping the Lord from people who do not regularly bother with participating in worship.

 How do you find yourself responding to these reasons for not bothering with church? How do these things make you feel and what do you find yourself motivated to do as a result?

Have you ever heard anyone say that worship is all about “worth-ship” – that is, we worship to tell him how much he is worth to us? If/when you have heard this, how does that understanding fit with Jesus’ word that;

“The Sabbath was made for human beings, not human beings for the Sabbath(Mark 2:27)?

Often you may have heard it said in Lutheran churches that worship is not only about us telling God he is worth a lot to us, but that it more about God telling us that he values and loves us. This teaching of Jesus on the Sabbath day being a gift to be received and not a rule to keep to avoid God’s judgement is where it comes from.

The sermon said, “Our day of worship, while called “a Sabbath to the Lord,” isn’t finally for the Lord but is for us, for all of us who need rest and release, renewal and re-creation”.

How do you respond to this? Respond to the following prompts as you are able….

How is your heart when you come to worship?

Is what happens in worship a work to be done?

Is this you keeping others happy; keeping some unwritten expectations and rules?

Is this us determining how God is to be pleased; how God is to be praised?

Is this where we make judgements about others and their behaviour?

 

If our Sabbath day really is a gift of God for our benefit – our rest and continuing freedom, then our Christian life is a life of a seven day rhythm with God – resting in him, being freed by him to help others rest in him and find freedom in him.

We gather and we go in rest and freedom to be rest in God’s grace and freedom in his love. 

How can we rest and allow the Lord to free us in worship so that we can bring those precious gifts to others we come across during the week? Share your thoughts….

Greatness

Sermon

Pentecost 17B

Sunday September 23rd, 2012.

“Greatness”

Mark 9:30-37

30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered over to human hands. He will be killed, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

We step out on to the road of following the teacher, Jesus, around the dirt roads of Palestine today. We do so with the motley crew of people on the road, aware of Jesus and drawn to him, and yet so very unaware of what he is really doing and where he is asking them to go.

You can picture the scene: Jesus out in front on the dirt road (because you would never walk in front or even abreast of your rabbi) and the small band of follower moving along with him. This reminds me of the much loved family road trip…

Dad or Mum driving the family car; kids  and Mum or Dad (whoever is not driving) chatting, playing games and etc…. inevitably after two days of 8 hours in the saddle the odd argument or some bickering might take place – especially about when this trip is ever going to end!

This is what is going on here in this text. As these followers journey on together with Jesus out in front, Jesus overhears some kind of argument taking place among the group just behind him.

At some point earlier in the day, Jesus had occasion to tell them again, that things are going to get hard – even quite ugly. He speaks of death. He speaks of being raised from death – very mysterious….

For the second time now, Jesus just tells them outright. “I am going to be murdered and then I am going to rise from death”.

That’s it: No explanation as to why this is going to happen. They again don’t cope well with this news.  I don’t blame them! After all, dead people don’t rise from the dead. Also, Jesus is looking like a winner at this point. Surely it could not happen that he will be undone by mere human beings. He’s the Messiah, Peter said before!

And why die and rise again, anyway? If Jesus said he was going to heal the sick, the disciples would understand that because they knew the sick wanted to be healthy and alive again. But why die and rise again? What good would it do anyone?

Mark tells us that this group of followers was too scared to ask Jesus what he meant. Fair enough. Look what happened to Peter last time he spoke up and objected to all this death and dying and rising talk back in Caesarea Philippi! “Get behind me. Satan”, Jesus rebuked!

No one is saying anything at this point –like when you are a kid and you just know that if you talk back to Dad or Mum at this particular point, you might actually lose your life!

But then we hear that the silence is broken when the band of followers think they are out of earshot of Jesus as they talk behind him on the road back to Capernaum.

When they settle down at back at Peter’s house in Capernaum, Jesus asks about the conversation. So he did hear them! They were quite animated. In fact Mark tells us that they were arguing about “who is the greatest?”

Well everybody knows that – Mohamed Ali! He coined the phrase! He spent his boxing career telling the world ‘I am the greatest”!

In arguing about who is the best among them, they show that they are going to the default position of human beings when it comes to responding to God.

Obviously this talk of death and being handed over to human beings and rising again has raised the subject of who gets to look best in the new regime Jesus will bring in – when he takes up his rightful place as king, throws out the Romans and brings in the new age of peace and privilege for God’s people. …..

And that is the human problem on show here. When we don’t understand Jesus’ way, or reject it out of hand, or just won’t or can’t hear about it, we go to the default human position of looking good and justifying ourselves in the process of satisfying our own goals, desires, hopes and dreams.

To Trust the Law (our greatness) Is to Be Against God

To put our trust in looking good among others and before God is keeping the law to earn approval. This is always being hostile to God. Keeping our own law on life is little to do with loving God but really all about fearing God and others. It is actually living in fear.

This squabbling about greatness and position and power is a sign of the “sin under the sin”, as we have been talking about in the Prodigal God series. Sin is not merely doing, thinking or saying harmful things or not doing what we know God wants us to do, it is trying to be our own God – a breaking of the only commandment – the first one.

So, the followers of Jesus on this road don’t understand and they return to what they know – the law – keeping the rules, power over others, looking good and justifying themselves in the process.

But friends, we have an advantage here. We are living on the other side of the cross to these first followers. We trust that Jesus is on a cross for us.

 

See how Jesus does not give up on human beings trying to take his place. He continues to teach them. He tells these followers of his that he will be on a cross and in a grave and rise from it and even if they can’t understand now, they will then understand that Jesus will show the world once and for all that God is love ad his love drives out all human fear.

Jesus will show them that they can trust God more than looking good, jockeying for power and control. They can trust God so much that they no longer will need to constantly justify themselves in their own eyes – they will no longer have to seek freedom by keeping the law but by receiving the good news of God in the cross of Jesus.

 

To make the point he calls over a little child and places him in the middle of this scary bunch of adults and holds up this child as the model of being human – trusting God and serving others in all innocence and humility.

Jesus says that when we are trusting him we can happily be last or quite helpless in controlling life or gaining power and influence over others (like the disciples were trying to do).

With Jesus’ cross and resurrection coursing through our veins in our baptism and in the body and blood of Jesus, we are free in forgiveness; as free as can be.

Now our life is lived in the community of Jesus – the community of mutual serving and giving. It’s his way. Now, even in the midst of feeling quite helpless and vulnerable at times, we have a freedom. Our life is in Jesus and we are fine.

Friend, you are in Jesus. You are last with him and first with God and so you are free from having to argue with your family and friends as to who is the greatest. You no longer have to win, beat others, be better than others, smarter than others, faster than others, wealthier than others, or more right than others.

We are so free – free like a little child who just trust other unquestioningly.

Trust him. In Him you are freely to serve the last and the first in our community.