Tag: Temple

Free Falling

Sermon, Pentecost 26B, Sunday November 18, 2018, St Petri

Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25 Let us confidently draw near to God
Mark 13:1-8 
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

A few years back I remember trying to take in the enormity of what happened on September 11, 2001 in Manhattan as I walked around what is now “Ground Zero”: a memorial to that fateful day.

Unlike Jesus’ disciples who were looking up the stone columns with golden gold capital’s in the enormous Temple that Herod the Great commissioned and built over 60+ years, I was looking down at the two massive holes in the ground where those mighty Twin Towers used to be footed, but now had completely vanished.

I marvelled at how human beings can reach to the heavens as they construct these enormous buildings.

It made me reflect on how we human have this need to build things that seem permanent – be it a career, a portfolio, a body, a house, a farm, church or whatever. I was confronted with how the mighty and the seemingly permanent can fall so completely; how fragile it all can be.

For the citizens of the USA and the Western world, the Twin Towers were not just a building, but a symbol – a symbol of power, financial dominance, western civilisation’s solid footings in history past and future. Similar for the good people of Israel.

Herod’s temple was not just a building, but a symbol of power, solid future: something surely immovable because of its largeness, magnificence and beauty and because of what happened there on daily basis, rule of law, economic power house, centre of international relations and centre of family, spiritual and national life.

I don’t think Jesus could rip the rug out from underneath their feet any more brutally than he did right there that day. Jesus reveals that even what seems so solid, immovable and “future proof” will fall and the fall will be complete and final. It would like you going down to Adelaide oval on game day and saying that even this will all fall the the ground – don;t bet your life on all of this.

Jesus’ truth today is that even the greatest symbols of our human power and might or our attempts to be God, replace God, capture God or limit God to our own experience and understanding are never enough to last forever. They will fall. “Everyone brick will be thrown down”, Jesus says.

Jesus’ community struggle to take this unsettling news in. Self-preservation mode kicks in. “Tell us, Jesus, how to avoid this or at least be ready for it when it happens as you say.”

Jesus’ does not give them what they want. he does respond, but his response is only general at best.

Conflict, war, poverty, famine, disasters of earth and sea, death and injustice will show you that we are heading in this direction, he says. No specifics, just fair general warning that we are all heading somewhere.

What is he saying? On the one hand, all of this that seems so solid and strong and future proof is not. On the other, nothing is meaningless or outside Jesus’ awareness. We are moving somewhere together, and he will be there standing when all else is not.

How does this work for you? If everything eventually falls, why will I cling to now? If all will fall, why try and build anything? – a home, a school, a community, a church, a life…?

And then, why does it have to be this way? Why does it have to be so painful as a woman in labour pains. Why can’t it be easier or smoother or less pain-filled?

There is more to hear here. Whatever happens, whatever we do, whatever we go about there is something that will really count when all the bricks lay on the stand. And this thing that simply is, that lasts longer than anything else, is worth building and will sustain this world through anything.

And the ‘thing’? the gospel; this good news, this human man of love; this new place of God, this new holy temple of human flesh and bone and holy words – his words. That is permanent. That is worth building life on, that is what will keep us rock-solid and true, no matter what.

10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.

This gospel lasts and simply must be spoken and done by those who have received it from Jesus. It is the only thing that remains when the stones of your life’s work are all thrown down. Because it is the last thing standing, so are you. You, fallen person will stand when all else falls – with him, the last man standing.

That is why we build anything. The permanent gospel of Jesus is why we build, care, try, love, act, engage with others, with this town, why build a church building, why change it, why work hard to build a school community, a career, a family, a marriage, a life.

That is our life’s project: To proclaim him – the new temple, the new place of God’s grace, the good news of his grace for lost, untidy, broken, cracked, dark, prideful, miserable, shameful, people.

But how?

9 ‘You must be on your guard……. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

We go about life in Nuri as Christians with two things;
1. Laser-like vigilance attending to God’s word. It is the only thing by which we are sustained, and by which we will last beyond the pain, the loss, the ego and the dirt of your grave.
2. Trust in the Holy Spirit: Our words and actions are powered by, given by, sustained by and made effective by the one and only Holy Spirit of God, our Counsellor, our Advocate and our future.

Friends, I hear freedom today: freedom from trying to buld permanency, freedom from self-interest, from fear of disaster, from competitive “keeping up with the Jones’s” here. I also hear purpose in it all.

The freedom is this: even war and the violence and the poverty are heading toward something – or actually Someone. We build foundations we think will last but don’t. God has built a foundation that has and will last beyond the falling of civilizations, families, people and world.

Even the worst things are not bad enough to stop Him in his tracks. Not even the most tragic thing, the darkest thing, the most painful thing, the most evil thing can stop God’s movement, God’s plan, God’s desire, God’s activity, God’s future from coming to be.

The purpose is that you, baptised son and daughter of God, and holy community of God, St Petri are travelling to be completely fulfilled – fulfilled in Jesus.

So, if we have freedom to serve and love and give no matter what, and we have the One who will be standing when we and all else is not: and if we have the Spirit’s power and presence moving us on toward a complete joy, a complete love, a complete reward, then all we can do is proclaim Jesus with everything we are and have.

We build a family, a marriage, a career, a farm, a job, a business, a church building, a better invention, a better community to do only this one thing – the proclaim him and his Word.

We don’t build bigger barns a more solid future as our life’s goal because the barn and future could never be solid enough. You do all these things to proclaim him because only his word will last.

We don’t get too surprised by changes in our life-time in any sphere of life – business, marriage, parenting, education, architecture, machinery, art, health, body,….. because none of them are ever permanent. They don’t need to be anyway because we are permanent without them because we are permanent only in Christ. He is our permanent life and hope. His word is our only solid footing because it is his word; not mine or yours.

Friend’s you don’t have to build a life that lasts forever. You already have one in him. Now you are free to move and adapt and listen and love no matter what falls or rises….and eventually falls again. You are free falling. You fall freely in Jesus and rise too – all in him with feet planted on him – The Rock of Ages.

We rise and fall and rise again under the Son. We do so like this;

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25

On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Showing Promise – Thankful and Responsive

Sermonshowing promise title
Lent 1C,
February 14, 2016, St Petri

SHOWING PROMISE I: Thankful and Responsive

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name 3 and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God. 5 Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labour. 7 Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. 8 So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. 11 Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.

Theme Text for 2016. 2 Samuel 7:28

LORD, you are God!
Your covenant is trustworthy,
and you have promised good things to your servants.

Friends, we all have a story. Our stories are multi-layered. They are full of struggle, triumph, pain, joy and everything in between. But whatever our story has been or is now, by his cross and empty tomb, we are redeemed. At great cost to himself, he has given us the free gift of new life and hope for now and the future.

For us who have been redeemed from death and despair to life in his hope, Jesus has been our story. His community, the church, are part of our story too. Jesus’ word done and said over and over again has shaped our story. In him we belong to a story that begins before we ever were and points to the story yet to come that will be forever after we have finished the story of our lives here.

We as a church have a story, it is nearly 150 years long, and contains sadness, gladness, storm and calm, division and peace, moments of trouble and moments of great confidence in God’s power and love.

Here we are beginning another little journey – a Lenten journey. We believe that the Lord is calling us to engage in the journey of the cross, and to engage in the story that he is still writing with our lives in this community.

So, we have asked the question of the Lord this Lent: “What will we need this year to continue to live in God’s story – to live in his redeeming love; to be players in his mission to share the love of hope of Jesus in new ways or old ways renewed?

It seems that this is one of those pivot years – where a community of faith is called to take some risks, make some plans, commit them to each other and the Lord and go on boldly, carefully, wisely in faith as we respond to the Lord’s vision for us.

What does he want to give us this Lent? What do we need to hear and do as we reflect on his Word this Lent that will keep us faithful and free and fully engaged with our God and his mission among us?

We sense that the Lord is rebuilding this community of the redeemed – this local church. He is calling new people to this church. He is calling people to take up new service and learn new skills and find new relationships. He is calling those who have known this place as their spiritual home to keep on going as well as to allow others and others things to grow here as we share the journey of faith together.

So, you could say we are “showing promise” as a church. We are showing the promise God is creating, and we are then called to show his promise in whatever ways we can.

In this text from Deuteronomy today, Moses directs the people to be forever thankful to the Lord for all that he had done to make them into his very own people. They are to carry out this thankfulness in ritual where they express thanks to the Lord for giving them a family, a story, a present mission and a future glory. Thankfulness for the promise we are showing is what we need and what the Lord is giving us and calling us to show. I am thankful to him to be here at this time. I am thankful to be with you on this journey as a church. I pray that the Lord increase our thankfulness so we love each other eve more and that they know us by our love around here.

Another text for the year has come to light. This is also what the Lord is giving us, along with thankfulness. It is a Word from the Lord that underpins everything and everyone who has ever found themselves on the receiving end of the Lord rather large and boundless redeeming grace, including Moses; including us.

The text for the year is from David. It comes from his story of living in relationships with his Lord and it will be what underpins all we do together this year.

LORD, you are God!
Your covenant is trustworthy,
and you have promised good things to your servants. (2 Samuel 7:28)

David always wanted to build a great temple for the Lord. He always had it on his heart to provide a suitably beautiful and expansive dwelling place of God to which the people could come and pray and sing and receive blessing from the Lord for their lives. He said to the prophet, Nathan, “Here I am living in a palace while the Ark of the Covenant is out there is a tent” (2 Samuel 7:2).

It was true. The Ark of the Covenant, that golden box with the Cherubim and Seraphim fashioned onto it containing the stone tablets of the 10 Commandments given to Moses by the Lord – the place of God’s presence among his people, was still housed in the large tent that the Israelites had carried with them in the desert wandering (the tabernacle).

David asked the Lord about this a few times and through the Prophet, Nathan, the Lord said no to David. In the Lord’s grand scheme of things, David was not the one who would build a temple for the Lord.

David continues to ask if he can build a “house” for the Lord. God says something very surprising. He says you are not to build me a “house”. “I will build you a household”, says the Lord. David is overwhelmed with thankfulness. He is thinking too small!

God makes the astonishing promise to David that his family household will last forever. God tells David that the role of leadership in his kingdom is not to build big monuments like slaves have to do for their divine kings, but to shepherd and guide the nation under God’s divine rule.

God tells David that his family will last forever. His son, Solomon will build a temple as a dwelling place of God among the people. God’s community will be ruled by him through his underling – the king, and his spokesmen – the Prophets, and David’s household will never end.

David cannot believe the extent of God’s vision and grace for his family, the nation and the world!

“Who am I, O Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”, he asks (2 Samuel 7:19).

“What more can I say to you, Lord?”

“LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised good things to your servants”.

Like Moses before him and God’s people around him, he needed to show his thanks and live in thankfulness as the journey and the calling continued on. Same for us.

What more can we say to the Lord? He has given us life. He has called us into a community where love is the only rule. He has given us enough to know him closely – his Word – said and done together. He has given us a story, a history full of promise and a future full of the same.

In this year we may be making significant decisions about how we share the love and hope of the new Moses, the new David – Jesus of Nazareth, the king of all Kings and Good Shepherd of us all, we make all decisions concerning ministry directions, buildings development, financial stewardship, appointing and supporting of paid staff and everything else. He is overwhelming us with his vision for us and his extensive love for us. In this spirit of deep gratitude and simple trust in the goodness and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to continue to build his household of faith where we live we keep moving on.

We enter these 40 days asking the Lord to show us what we need to enact his house-building plans – building up of the people and supporting that work with the development and improvement of buildings – especially this great building for the worship of the Lord.

We enter this 40 days with the commitment to serve – to literally “show promise” – his promise to people who don’t think there is any. The Spirit of Jesus is building his household here and we as a local church in mission are certainly showing signs of promise. We are showing promise and we are called to show promise.

By our serving, giving, welcoming, fasting and praying we show the world that God is alive and serving his world still.

We are redeemed. We have life. We have hope. We live in peace beyond all peace. What else can we say as Lent begins than,

“LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised good things to your servants”.

Go ahead and show his promise with a thankful heart this Lent.

In the name of Christ.
Amen.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share or reflect on how things have been for you – share a high and low for time since you have seen each other or sat down to reflect……

Read the text from Deuteronomy slowly and deliberately pausing to let any questions or imagination come and note these. Share them…

Reflect on these alone and together – even writing down what comes from God’s Word as you go…..

Instruction: What does the text instruct you in about yourself, others, the world and the Lord?

Confession: What does the text call you to repent of?

Thanks: What does the text cause you to give thanks to God for?

Supplication: What does the text lead to ask God for?
Read the theme text in its context from 2 Samuel 7.

  •  Note the comment on the context of this text this in the sermon.
  • Maybe skim the whole chapter and even the one previous to understand what’s going on for David and how God speaks through Nathan the prophet…..
  • You could use a concordance or study bible notes to briefly trace David’s request of the Lord for permission build the Lord a temple if you have time….

Reflect on these alone and together – even writing down what comes from God’s Word as you go…..

Instruction: What does the text instruct you in about yourself, others, the world and the Lord?

Confession: What does the text call you to repent of?

Thanks: What does the text cause you to give thanks to God for?

Supplication: What does the text lead to ask God for?
PRAYER
Using the Lord’s Prayer as a ‘spine” or frame for you prayer, speak each of the parts and then put that individual part into your own words – very briefly or as long as you want.

EG.
Our Father in heaven:
Yes, lord you are beyond us and you created all things. You thoughts are not our thoughts but yet, you speak to us and have made yourself known to us in ways we can understand……We thank for this!

Hallowed be your name:
Yes, Lord, your name is holy and pure and great and we ask that help us honour your name today in all we do and say.

Your Kingdom come, your will be done…
Yes, Lord. Let you kingdom of grace ad mercy come to me and those I meet this week. Bring peace. Bring healing to those sick. Bring freedom to those captive to evil and sin……

Give us today our daily bread.
Yes, Lord. Provide for me and those I love today. Sustain our community and this world. Bring good harvest and bless the land and those who work it to feed the world…..

Forgive us as we forgive others…
Lord, help me to forgive wrongs done to me and forgive me when I get it wrong today.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Lord, protect me and my family and those I love from all harm and danger. Protect the innocent and bring the wrongdoer to justice.
Save me from hard testing. Provide the way out when it gets too much. Protect me from the Evil one. Help me to stand with others when they are wronged.

For yours is the kingdom, power and glory…

Yes, Lord, the glory for everything good is yours, not ours. We gladly speak words of praise about your goodness and seek to live out your love given to us as we love others today…

Amen.
Yes, Lord. May all this be so!

Hope brings Confidence – Sermon and Conversation Starters

SermonHope Confidence
Pentecost 25B, Sunday November 15, 2015, St Petri
Hope brings confidence under pressure because all Life heads somewhere good
Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25

Mark 13:1-8
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

 

IT CAN ALL COME TO NOUGHT

Last year I had the blessing of going go to the USA on a professional development journey. On that journey I had the time to get to New York city. I managed to visit Ground Zero of the September 11 attack that brought down those huge Twin Towers. Now there is only two massive holes in the ground where those enormous twin structures once stood. I marvelled at the enormity of what happened in this place. I marvelled at how human beings can reach to the heavens as they construct these enormous buildings, and also how fragile it all can be as even these symbols of wealth, power and human enterprise can be reduced to rubble in an afternoon. I remember remembering this very word of Jesus that day.

For the citizens of Jerusalem and all of Israel, Herod’s temple was similarly regarded – the place of power, the symbol of calm and wealth and future life – surely immovable because of its largeness, magnificence and beauty. Like that TV program, “Megastructures”, shows, human beings can create such magnificently large, technical and awe inspiring buildings. Why do we do it? Maybe to reach for the sky in an attempt to believe that we can master our own lives and destinies – as in the Tower of Babel. Or maybe it is our way of trying to express the vastness and beauty of God; like the gothic cathedrals of Europe. In the city of Jerusalem the Temple is all of this for the people.

As his disciples marvel at what seems sure and solid and everlasting to them, Jesus reveals that there is a day of reckoning for even the highest, surest most beautiful human thing – and for those humans who made it! He stunningly declares to his dumbfounded friends that there is a final judge who has complete authority and power to bring to nothing even the greatest symbols of our human power and might or our attempts to capture God. “Everyone brick will be thrown down”, he says. He declares that there will a day of reckoning for everyone and everything. There is an end point. There is a final word on life and death and how human beings live. There is One who has the power to fulfil perfect and right judgement and will do so.

PLEASE TELL US WHEN!

Like many of us who were witnessing those planes hit those towers, these disciples could not take in this news. Like those hearing Jesus, the blame shifted almost immediately to those who we thought should know of this catastrophe before it happened. Where was James Bond? Where was the FBI and the CIA and all of those names we hear in the movies?” If only we had had fair warning we could have avoided this destruction.”

The disciples are like that. They want to know. “Tell us, Jesus, how to avoid this or at least be ready for it when it happens as you say.” We are like that too. “Tell us Jesus. Tell us exactly what will happen so that we can be one step ahead of the rest”.

MINIMAL DETAIL ENOUGH

Jesus’ response of the frightening fact that human beings and their attempts to either be God or reach God or sum God up will eventually be destroyed, thwarted or so very limited is general at best.

Conflict, war, poverty, famine disasters of earth and sea will show you that we are heading in this direction. No specifics, just fair general warning of signs that God has us covered no matter what happens.

NO STOPPING GOD

And that is the comfort today – that even war and the violence and the poverty are heading toward something – or actually Someone and that somewhere and someone are very good. Evil within and without has its moments, but God has the final moment.

The hope Jesus gives these troubled people is that even the worst things are not bad enough to stop Him in his tracks. Not even the most tragic thing, the darkest thing, the most painful thing, the most evil thing can stop God’s movement, God’s plan, God’s desire, God’s activity, God’s future from coming to be.

Friend, our congregation, our families, our community, our lives are oriented toward fulfillment in Christ.

ACTIVE PRIEST

As we heard in that word to the Hebrews, by his suffering, pain, facing evil, entering death and rising, Jesus the Great High Priest “offered for all time a single sacrifice for human sins”, and “sat down at the right hand of God,” where he rules in grace and love. It is so very hopeful hearing that the Lord is not passively watching the “pain show”. The Priest of all is active in making the enemies of faith, love, peace, good health and great love “made a footstool for his feet.”

Jesus is actively engaged in this making all things new and right now. And so we have great hope. We trust that all wrongs will be made right, all evil will be dealt with finally. All injustice, poverty, pain and tragedy will be righted. Like a damaged ship at sea, there will be a safe harbour where all repairs are complete. We don’t seem to need too much detail. Like a patient in the hospital facing major surgery, too much detail does not help! Just assurance that you will get through it is enough.

WE ARE HEADING SOMEWHERE GOOD

Friends, even though our everyday lives are organized around various overlapping daily, weekly, and yearly cycles and schedules, we are heading somewhere and it is a good place. The Christian faith is essentially a linear faith. God has a mission, God is fulfilling and perfecting, God is shaping the future toward an end. We live in his hope. We are people with a golden hope to share. Life is going somewhere good, not because we say so but because he has done so. By faith in Jesus, the end is brilliant because we have already passed from death to life, according to the Bible. The end is more life – beautiful life in him – now in part, then in full.

WHAT DO WE DO WITH HOPE?

What do you do with confidence that comes from hope? Do we smugly keep it to ourselves? Do we separate ourselves from those we believe to be ‘unbelievers’ who are on the way to destruction like Herod’s temple? Do we rest on our laurels and do life our way believing that we are already in and therefore can live the way we choose without reference to the Judge of all things?

No. Again the writer to the Hebrews encourages us: Since we have confidence to enter the presence of our holy and true God by the sacrificial blood of Jesus, which has opened up for us a new and living way to hope and peace and love, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, who is familiar with all of our tragedies, loses, weakness and wins, we approach the Lord with a honest and open heart in full assurance that we are accepted, loved and holy by faith in Jesus, and so, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, here’s how we live out our hope;

  • By holding tight to the belief in Jesus who gives us our hope without wavering, for he who has promised that our lives and our world are heading somewhere good is faithful.
  • By “considering how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  and
  • “all the while not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

I am praying that you can pray with the ancient song writer;

“Protect me, O God, for in you I take cover.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol, the place of forgetfulness, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy…”.     Psalm 16

Hope brings confidence.

Amen.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What is the biggest or most beautiful human-made building you have ever seen? Tell your story…

Hear the Mark gospel text again as it is read slowly, imagining the scene, hearing the disciple’s question and what they are asking Jesus to do when he says that even this massive beautiful building will come to nothing under God’s final judgement.

What is your view of the times we are living in? Do you believe that what we see and hear are signs that the end is coming or do you believe that life has always been this way and that things are no better or worse but the one day it will come to an end….or something slightly different.? Share your thoughts/beliefs….

The disciples ask for some details on when this end will come but Jesus does not see to give them much, other than to say that even the worst things are not the determining factor in God’s plan for his world. Would you like to know more detail? Do you believe there is more detail to known in the Bible? What is the purpose of us Christian knowing more details about the end time things? Is it enough to simply trust that no matter hat happens, God will determine our end and our life? Why/why not?

I said our great hope is that nothing can stop God in his tracks. Our life is going somewhere and that this ‘somewhere and Someone” is very good. The Christian life is a linear life – it does have a progression, a direction and that gives up confidence to live through whatever “birth pangs” we are surrounded by. How do you feel about this belief?

We are meant to do something with this confidence that comes from hope. That passage from Hebrews gives us clear direction for living in the hope we have in Christ. How do you respond to those three directions given in Hebrews 10;

  • holding tight to the belief in Jesus who gives us our hope without wavering, for he who has promised that our lives and our world are heading somewhere good is faithful.
  • “considering how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,  and
  • “all the while not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

PRAY – Psalm 16.

Consumed

SermonJohn 2 13
Lent 3B Sunday March 8, 2015.
St Petri

John 2:13-22
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”[a]
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

With fire in his eyes and a whip in his hands, Jesus walks into St Petri this morning and takes a jack-hammer to the altar, throws down the paraments and art work, the large cross, the wooden cross. He drags the font outside, the pews outside…..We all stand watching on shocked, upset and offended.

Is this just angry destruction for its own sake? Has Jesus’ zeal for his Father’s house led him to violence? Or is something harming his sheep in this temple? Is there need to make something very, very clear – thus the dramatic movement?

To us, this place is the very location of God’s presence in our lives. We come here a lot. We pray to God here and so, we are offended by Jesus.

So we ask him why is he so forceful and determined and angry to remove what we come to surround ourselves with – and all in the worship of God too!

Like a policewoman wanting to see your driver’s license for proof of identity and authority to drive, we demand to hear Jesus’ credentials to upset our rhythm, unbalance our equilibrium and challenge our assumptions about what pleases God.

For some the proof has to be a divine sign. Do a miracle like Moses did. Give us a supernatural moment like that mountain of transfiguration or heal someone on the spot, we say.

For others it is wisdom. Make an irrefutable argument as to why you are dismantling my spiritual life before my eyes.

Jesus gives us neither a miraculous moment nor a launches some intellectual or even wise saying to satisfy human intelligence or spiritual need. He gives something totally out of those boxes – something truly transforming of both.

He clears the temple to make space for himself. It was not about destruction primarily. It was about making a place for us to be still where rest and trust meet at his feet.

He stopped the whole show so we could just see and hear him, in person. Like a protester disrupting the meeting of parliament from the gallery, Jesus gets our attention by unravelling our set rhythm, dismantling our set ways and upsetting our sensibilities.

When he has the attention of us all in this building he speaks. We can hear him now because all the trappings are gone. It is just the protester and the protestants, face to face.

“I am God’s sign, God’s presence, God’s power – all given in the opposite way the world expects and craves.

Humans drool over shows of miraculous power to trust in. Humans want irrefutable argument and secret wisdom to cling to. My life-message is foolishness to you but it also for you whole hope and life.
He says, I am the place of worship. I am the presence of God for you. I am a message; I speak. My word is what creates you and gives you life – not mere bricks and mortar or religious observance, tribal name or story, family achievement, genetic strength or mere human intellect and argument.

I give you a torture and death on a terrible instrument of both – a cross: I give you life here. This cross is the power of God himself to restore the world to peace, to new life, to hope – beyond endless misplaces trust in only outward religious observance or self made ways to understand God.

Will we let Jesus clear our tables, destroy our expectations of what being a Christian is, the things upon which we rely to trust that we are OK with God for a moment in time so that we can truly hear him and see only him when the tables, pews, bricks, altars, candles and all other trapping are gone?

Jesus is the presence of God. He goes on to conquer death and become the new place, the new person of worship. And this is how we all get through life.

He is saying to us this morning as he clears our church building of everything but his Word/himself speaking that our job, our relationships, our study, our search for hope and meaning, our well-being is only fully lived in joy and peace by receiving Jesus’ cross. Jesus’ cross is the place of God. It is the miracle. It is the sign. It is the wisdom of God to bring us all back home to community, belonging, forgiveness and life.

Ah. Now, with his blessing!

We can reassemble the altar, plug in the organ, the guitars, bang those drums, kneel at that altar and enjoy art made with human hands! Now, because in our upsetting, we can hear him, we know for sure that none of these things are there to get us to God, but there to help us receive God in the cross of Jesus.

Because our temple has been stripped bare of all our human trappings to the point where we could only hear and see Jesus, all of our well-chosen words of scripture in liturgy, song, prayer and sermon, font and altar of our beautifully made things of stone and wood and brick can be enjoyed with new joy because we know again that they are only temporary things top help us keep hearing him and seeing him as he speaks this foolish message of the cross which for us is life itself.

We are praying that he would open the eyes of our hearts so that we may know him better.

Will we dare to pray that prayer in earnest as he removes all things but himself from the core of our being – including things we have come to hold dear – like trade, temples, city buildings and a way of life?

Will we let his message run free in our soul so that his message consumes us and we are zealous in love and compassion and bearing witness to the foolishness of it all? “He conquered death, and that is how we get through life”. We are not widows of Jesus. We are connected to him and loved by him. We belong, we are together and we are his.

Friends, he is pulling down the temple of our inner god and replacing those empty promises with himself – “I AM” – and it is good. We are being built into a holy temple made of us and the stranger being drawn is that will outlive this holy house.

Lord, open the eyes of our hearts that we may know you better.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Read the text through carefully, noting your questions and your imagination as you hear it. Notice particularly the words of Jesus as he speaks right in the Temple Court. This place is the very heart of the Old Testament faith. Whatever Jesus does and says here is really important!

Jesus’ clearing of the Temple seems a very angry things to do. We suggested that this was not about destroying people’s lives but making space for them to hear his message – this message of Jesus being the new place of worship – the new temple, the new way through which we can approach a holy God and be assured that he accepts us and hear us.The Jewish people believed that by keeping the ritual laws they could stay in God’s favour. Jesus says no. Only be faith in him and the new temple he would bring into being that would replace this one of stone can anyone be in God’s forgiveness and favour.

As Christians, we probably know this. We live after the resurrection. But what about our belief in what pleases God and how he wants to be worshiped? I suggested that Jesus upsets us by clearing out our church and leaving just he and us face-to-face, not because he does not like our building, altar, art, music, pews and etc – but to create space for us to hear him again. How do you respond to this way of hearing this account of Jesus clearing the temple? Do you think this is indeed what he is doing in this text. If so, why and if not, why not? Share you thoughts with the group.

If a friend asked you to sum up what Jesus was doing this day in the temple, what would you tell that friend?

What do you hear Jesus telling you about his relationship with you in this text?

If you have time, you could practice Martin Luther’s “Simple Way to Pray” where he suggests unraveling this (and any) text like a four stranded rope.

I.C.T.S.

Instruction: What does this text teach me about God and myself?

Confession: What do i need to confess in response to this text?

Thanks: For what can i thank God as i hear this text?

Supplication: For what can I ask God as i hear this text?

 

Prayer

Lord, open the eyes of our hearts that we may hear you and know you better (Ephesians 1:17-18)

 

 

Down by the Poolside

Board shorts

Sermon, Easter 6C, Sunday May 5, 2013.

St Petri

Down by the Poolside

John 5:1-9

 5:1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

5:2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.

5:3 In these lay many invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed.

5:5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

5:7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”

5:8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”

5:9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.

There is nothing quite like sitting on one of those lazyboy outdoor chairs (like the magnificent one I told you about a while back that I now regularly use in my backyard). The one thing that really would top off my relaxation experience in my lazyboy outdoor chair would be a pool. How good is it to sit on a lazyboy chair in the warm sun with your swimmers on right on the edge of the pool while you slowly partake of a cold beverage of some kind!?

(What are the chances of the church putting in a pool at the manse?)

This little account of a rather strange little happening by the Pool of Bethesda in the city of Jerusalem in Jesus ministry probably was a little less frivolous and carefree than my poolside imagination – particularly for the many disabled people who spent all their waking hours trying to find a morsel of relief and hope in the healing waters of the bubbling pool.

It is festival time in the city, we hear. Jesus and his friends have made the journey from up north in Galilee, via Samaria where they met the woman at the well. Now they are in the over- crowded city packed with people from all over the country. This is now one very busy pool!

That means that it would have been even more difficult than it usually would be for this hapless old man with a significant disability to get himself into the water first when the spring bubbled up.

Jesus “sees” this crippled man. He somehow “finds out” that this man has been sitting on his mat at the pool side for a very long time!

The name, “Bethesda” can mean “House of Mercy”. Well, there is not much mercy on display here. It is survival of the fittest in the Darwinian scheme of things.

Lame Love

Pushing and shoving to get in first is the order of the day in this city. Only the able and powerful get the benefits of being well healed. Sounds something like our Western society?

Jesus, who is unknown to this man asks him what sounds like a strange question. Here is a man who has spent most of his life with a significant  disability trying to find a cure to his condition by sitting down by this pool of mercy everyday for years. Would you ask him if he wanted to be healed? Seems like a dumb question.

But is it? Does the man really want to be changed, healed, restored to former days? It would be hard to be able to walk after not being able to walk for so long. This man’s whole life has come to revolve around a comfortable and known routine and place. Every day he does the same thing. In this rhythm of the day he knows who he is and where he fits. In his day he can receive some help by begging – some income and some small mercy from others.

“Do you want to be healed? asks Jesus. “You are making all the right gestures and yet, it may be that it is easier for you stay comfortable and even content in your condition than be released from it and have to try and make a new life for yourself”.

We can be like this. “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t”, we say. Easier to stay miserable in our wrong doing and bad habits and relationships than be set free from them and have to live with the consequences of God’s healing change…

Lame Excuses

It is interesting how the old man responds to this question aimed at the heart. Instead of just saying, “Yes! I do want to be healed,” he moves to make excuses and shoves the blame on to someone else—a nameless “no one” who is “everyone”.

“They” stop me getting a chance at something better. Other people keep me down. “They are to blame for my trouble and my pain.

Sounds like us too at times? Easier to blame the government, the spouse, the kids, the parents, the system or the devil for my troubles and my anger and sadness than to face it and bring it to the God of healing and life in Jesus’ name and ask him to help, to heal and to change me.

A Worse Paralysis

So we are hearing that this old man is much more than blind, lame or paralysed physically. He is these things spiritually and that is a worse condition. Refusing to receive and live in Christ’s healing word leads to something “worse,” Jesus says (5:14). A greater sin. The sin of refusing to receive God’s mercy at its best and, therefore, the refusing to receive in the long run God’s own gracious self offered in Christ. What a shame! This is our ultimate illness and un-wellness.

Jesus Makes Well

Despite the invalid’s disability and inability to seek Jesus’ healing – God at his healing and loving best acts anyway. Jesus the “good shepherd” by the “sheep gate” who “saw,” “learned about,” and “asked him” about his desire to be made well, now simply heals this physically and spiritually crippled man – even without being asked.

Jesus is doing what our God-Father does—gives life to those whom he wishes and raises the dead. And the good news is that he wishes to give life to all life’s “invalids” —of which there are “many.”

Rise, Roll Up Your Excuses & Walk

Like a doctor’s visit, being touched by Jesus doesn’t have much of a lasting benefit without some follow-through and cooperation on the patient’s part. There is a “walk” that needs to go with the “talk”.

This healed man needs to respond and he does. He does what Jesus says. He picks up his little mat and walks off.

Jesus calls us to walk the talk too. He says to all of us today, “Rise, roll up the bed of excuses you’ve been lying on; see, you have been made well.”

  • We have been made well. We live in the House of Mercy under the care and protection of the Good Shepherd who is the Gate for the Sheep – the entrance to full and meaningful life in the here and now.
  • We live on the side of angels who show us the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
  • We live by God’s grace and authority in the festival city where the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month lives and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

There is nothing accursed found by God or each other in us anymore. What is in our lives in and our hearts is the throne of God and of the Lamb where we, his servants worship him; seeing his face and carrying his name – the name of Jesus in our healed and forgiven bodies.

A House of Mercy

Down by the poolside we got healed. We got saved. We got filled with the Spirit and now we who walk the talk are a “house of mercy”.

Like this old man, we did not deserve it or earn it. He did not even know who it was that healed him and gave him a way to walk on in life.

Jesus seeks this man out again later on. Jesus finds this now walking man in the temple – a place from which he had been excluded for those 38 years. His healing was also his forgiveness of the sin of not trusting God with all his heart, mind and strength. His healing and forgiveness are his restoration to community – the worshiping community – the new song of faith in the community of God.

Isn’t this what we want to be a part of in our local church? Don’t we want to help sinners find healing and restoration to their Creator and Saviour by the power of the Spirit. Isn’t that what church is really all about. Aren’t we the community who are a House of Mercy here? I believe so and I see so too.

We are a house of mercy and long may we grow in being even more a House of Mercy for all people.

To do so, we need to respond to that question Jesus aims right to the heart. Do you want to be healed?

As we say, “Yes, I do want to be healed – all the time; I do you want your word in my life; I do want your mercy in my veins; I do want your living water in my decisions, my relationships and my work”, then we will be walking the talk of faith and we will be his house of mercy.

Amen

GROUP STARTERS

  1. What are the one or two things that strike you as being a little unexpected about this account of Jesus and this crippled man? Write them down and share them.
  2. It is noteworthy that the man does not even know who Jesus is when Jesus heals him. The man does not really say “yes” to the question by Jesus, “Do you want to be healed?”. What do you make of that and what does this say to you about how Jesus treats people (and you and me)?
  3. What do you make of the healed man’s confession of faith he says to the religious leaders when they question him about how he got to walk? is bearing witness to Jesus in our own lives and situations really that simple?
  4. What does that last word from Jesus mean. he has healed this man. The man does not know who Jesus is. Jesus follows up when in the temple later on and says”Stop sinning or something worse might happen to you”.
  5. What is the man’s sin? Is it trusting a magic pool rather than the Word of Jesus?
  • Is it blaming others for his lack of opportunity to be well rather than seeking God for his wellness?
  • Is is not recognising God’s presence and activity in his life?
  • And what would a worse thing then being being crippled for 38 years and sitting by this pool trying to find healing? Would it be living your life without the freedom and healing of Jesus’ forgiveness and/or other things?

What would be worse than being crippled for 38 years and spending every waking hour trying to be healed? Maybe not living in God’s forgiveness given in Jesus? What do you think?

Receiving Heart

Sermon, Sunday July 22.

Pentecost 8B, Series: After God’s own heart. Final

 

Receiving Heart

2 Samuel 7:1-16

16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever. ’”

 “Less is more”. This is an old music saying. It is used by people in orchestra, choirs and bands. I think it originally came from the Jazz music tradition, where musicians can get a bit too busy and can overplay their instrument to the point that the music gets close to a cacophony!

 “Less is more”, means that if each person plays their part, simply, skillfully and with sensitivity to overall sound of the orchestra or band, the overall sound is balanced, open and beautiful. I as an individual become less so that the music is more.   

 ”Less is More”, can also be applied to being a person after God’s own heart. God  always is more and has more for us, and so, we can be and do less – in fact, we need to do less and so that God is more in our family, workplace and friendship circle.

 This is what David learned…

 David is now undisputed king going about task of building a nation – government, buildings, worship centre, taxation, education etc….. He is in the business of establishing his kingdom as king.

 It is totally expected that David would now ask God if he is the one to build a temple for the Lord in the new capital city, Jerusalem. This would be a fitting thing to do, since the Ark of the Covenant which he has had brought to the city (as we heard last week) is still in a tent.  

Building a temple is the obvious thing to do. It would be a sign of permanence and stability for the nation and fitting for the Lord’s name and for the faithful worship of the Lord with all the furniture, sacrificial system and living out of the Law. The temple would say to a nation that the worship of the Lord is at the centre of the nation’s life and mission – a very good message!  

But David will see that in being a person after God’s own heart, “Less is More”! 

David is bowled over by what response the Lord gives to his right and good request to build a dwelling place for the Lord – a temple. God tells David he has a much bigger plan! David wants to build a house for the Lord. The Lord says he will give David an everlasting global kingdom! David is building a kingdom and a building for God’s presence to be. The Lord is building an eternal, global and even cosmic community!  

16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me[b]; your throne will be established forever. ’” 

David learns that for a person after God’s own heart, God is more and we are less! He is also learning that because God always has more for us than we can imagine or even dare to ask for, we actually need to be and to do less. Why? So God can be more. 

2 Samuel 7 is right up there in terms of status and importance with other BIG Old Testament moments. This promise of an everlasting kingdom in the family of David is right up there with Genesis 1: creation of people, Genesis 3; our fall,; Genesis 12, the promise of land, name, mission and population to Abraham…… 

David gets what any self-respecting national leader would desire but never get– a guaranteed future in God’s blessing for eternity! What a gift! David and his descendents are now an everlasting kingdom that will never fade, be destroyed or come to end! 

Can you think of a time when you were as humbled and invigorated as David would have been when he was confronted with the BIGNESS and the LOVE of his God in giving him a gift that David would have never even dared to ask for and thought would have been impossible, even for the Lord?  

Can you remember a time when you just had to utter those words, “God is good!” in amazement that he would treat you so well and give you such hope and joy and help – much more than you expected or dared to ask for? 

God always has much more for us than we can imagine or ask for. This is what David discovered and what Israel based their life and hope on for the generations after this foundational promise.  

God is always more and he promises to bring more into our lives through the promised New David – the Messiah – Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus always has a bigger picture, more to give, a grander vision, a hopeful plan, a winning way ahead.  

How BIG is God?! How grand are his plans and how gracious that he would give such a cosmic promise with everlasting ramifications to a person after his own heart, like David.  

Of course we should know how this is. We have received the same grand plan, great gift, and loving promise. When we were baptized into the new King David and reborn into the Kingdom of the King Jesus, we received this promise too.  

We are “living the dream” as the holy baptized people of the living Jesus who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit to fulfill our vocation to participate in God mission to share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone.  

Whatever comes our way, we can trust that our baptism, our identity, our place in Jesus and his church will last forever, even beyond what looks and feels like the end – death itself.  

If this is all true, then why do WE want o be MORE and do MORE to the point that God is LESS? 

  • Why are we still so busy being more and God being less?
  • Why are we so worried about the church and about St Petri, as if it all depends on us being MORE and God being less?
  • Why do we find ourselves often concerned with very small things that don’t really mean much in the plans of the Lord for us?
  • Why do we sometimes find ourselves giving up on God’s promises by building our own little kingdom’s and bigger barns for more and more goods, services, status, people and accomplishments to feel “secure” knowing that our security is not in these passing things but in the Lord Jesus?  

Friends, people after God’s own heart need to be and do less, trusting it is always best when God is more – heard more, pondered more, asked more, trusted more.  

How can you be less and God more in your life? How can we dwell in Jesus’ word more by doing less? 

For the next 6 weeks, there will be a focus on one bible text at St Petri. We will not be having the usual three bible reading in our Services. We will be hearing and re-hearing that famous parable of the Prodigal Son that Jesus tells – over and over again.  

People after God’s own heart know that the Word of God is an event, not just information. Every time you hear the same bible text it hits you differently because you change and the Spirit of Jesus is voicing that word. It is Jesus’ word, and so it has a life of its own, even when spoken through a human voice – which is almost always is!  

Friends, less is more. Doing less is dwelling in God more and he always has more for us that we can imagine or dare to ask for.  

What will you be asking the Lord for in these next 6 weeks of one bible text? What dreams have you got? What plans have you made or would like to make?  

Where would you ask the Lord to be present in your life – what problems need fixing, what wounds need healing, what sin needs forgiving, what lifestyle choice need demolishing, what darkness needs enlightening? 

Less is more. Our less is good because God is more.  

Stop doing so much now and listen, talk, ponder, seek and share Him. It is always best when he is more.  

Amen