Isaiah’s Prophesy

Monday in Holy Week
30/03/2015
Isaiah 42:1-9

Isaiah, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, prophesies:- vs 6&7
“I the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you known to be a covenant for the people and a light for the gentiles,
To open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”.

A three pronged prophesy, pointing forward to three aspects of one Divine thrust – from God to humankind.

The first thrust is a prophesy to the nation of Israel – the descendants of Abraham, the man of faith. The community of Israel has been called ‘in righteousness’ (God’s right actions in choosing this community in a personal way- (I will take hold of your hand) – therein is their security.

PAUSE to reflect

“I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the gentiles”:-

The faith community has been called to be part of God’s covenants responding in love and faith and joy to a personal God who both initiates the covenant and makes himself known to then and to non-Jews (the Gentiles); our God overcomes all barriers by doing away with them altogether:

PAUSE to reflect

-the community of faith has been raised up to do so-called impossible actions: To open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness – all this for God’s glory:

verse 8 “I am the Lord, that is my name! I will not give my glory to another”.

PAUSE to reflect

The community of Israel has a divine calling without limit – they are to act in faith because God is holding them by the hand, leading them.

Because of this calling, Our Lord Jesus Christ born into this community, is the fulfilment of the second prong of the prophetic thrust, focused on and in Him. He is the true Israel, the faithful one, God made flesh, the word, called in righteousness, the Father holding the son by his hand, a covenant for the people and a light for the gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness

This is fulfilled in Jesus

PAUSE to reflect

Today, Monday in Holy Week, we look in awe at Him as he offers himself as the sacrifice for the sin of the world, seen in his life, his ministry, his passion, his death and Resurrection. Jesus the name above all names, Jesus the sovereign Lord, Jesus the one in whom all prophesy is fulfilled.

The third prong of the Prophetic thrust settles like a soaking rain on… the church – on all believers, including us, all of us here this morning. Together, we are the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah:
“I the Lord have called you (individually or together) in righteousness,   (AMEN)
I will take hold of your hand,    (AMEN) – therein is our security!
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people (we are the people of our Lord’s new covenant) and a light for the gentiles (the light of Christ shining on all people through us)

We are people with work to do…

Work?

Yes:

• To open the eyes that are blind (literally and metaphorically) (Amen)
• To free captives of sin and Satan form prison (in Christ’s name, with His authority) (Amen)
• And to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness –
(as we bring the good news of God’s love to individuals) (Amen)

Isaiah’s prophesy is being fulfilled in you and in me because we are part of the community of faith, we are in Christ and He is in us, individually and corporately, NOW.
We are holy people, standing on holy ground as we follow Jesus again in 2015, through his cross and passion to the glory of His resurrection, and beyond, into His glorious future (Amen)

Awaiting and Anointing us day by day.

God’s gift

5 May 2013

Preaching at the local Methodist Church

Here’s a gift from God for you to use whenever you choose – the living presence of the Father and Jesus hidden within your heart.  Probably you know about this gift and have been aware of it for a long time; if not, and you think you might like to have the gift please reach for your Holy Bible, New Testament  page 128 John 14:23  “Jesus said,” If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

Now that is a promise from God Himself to us who believe.  It’s tied up with the First Commandment we know so well, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength.”  We are commanded to love God with our whole being; if you are trying to do that, then you are in line for the gift.  Now let’s fine tune it:

Jesus said, “if anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching”

Which teaching?

His teaching taken as a whole – which means maybe you’ve got to skim through the gospels, identify them and work out how many you are obeying and how many you are ignoring.  Sorry to give you homework, but if you are serious about receiving the gift of God’s presence you need to know!

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching”; and assuming you are being obedient, then the promise goes: “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with Him/Her.  That is a priceless gift and one worth having – to know that God the Father and Jesus have come to you and made their home with you.  WOW!  That’s life-transforming!

Now to help you a little:  at the Last Supper, after Judas had left to betray Jesus, and Jesus had washed their feet, he said “If I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (However you interpret washing of feet as an act of loving service); then Jesus said “a new commandment I give you: – Love one another – As I have loved you , then all will know that you are my disciples.”

[A handout distributed at this point]

Please turn to your handout.  Jesus’ love for us is FOCUSSED; and taking each letter in turn it means:-

F:  Jesus love for us is Faithful and True: we value friendship and loyalty from others:  now be faithful and true to your fellow-Christians.

O:  Jesus’ love for us is On-going and constant – no mood-swings here!  Our love for our fellow-Christians must be on-going and constant, too.

C: Compassionate:  Jesus always regards us with deep compassion as he pities us and helps us in our weakness:  we are to be compassionate to our fellow-believers, too.

U:   Unrestricted: Jesus love for His people, his enemies, his world is unrestricted: “God so loved the world that he gave….”  Our love for our fellow-Christians of whatever language and culture should be unrestricted, too.  In fact it should go out to any HUMAN BEING WE MEET.

SSacrificial : Love as I have loved you, focuses on the sacrificial offering of His life – he’s whole life, culminating in his offering for us on the Cross.

Our love for our fellow-Christians could have a good measure of self -sacrifice about it, too.

S: SURE : Jesus love for his church is constant and sure; there is no wavering, no doubt about it at all.  Our love for our fellow-Christians must be FOCUSSED, like his.

EEternal : Christ’s love for His church has an eternal element and dimension, for Jesus is God, at the Father’s Right hand, ever praying for us.  We who are in-Christ are called to show a quality of love for one another which is Christ-like and eternal.  We are to love with God’s love, which never gives up.

D: Deliberate:  An act of the WILL.  Jesus’ love for his Church is quite consciously deliberate – there is no half heartedness about it at all.

– So must ours be to our fellow-Christians; feelings have very little to do with it – we may not feel very loving to our fellow-Christians, but that doesn’t mean we stop doing it – instead, by an act of our will, we deliberately do what is best and right for him/her.

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me he/she will obey my teaching, my Father will love him/her and we will come to him/her and make our home with him/her.”

Pause for reflection

In-as-far as we obey the teachings of Our Lord, to that extent we will experience for ourselves the Love of the Father and the eternal, dynamic presence of Jesus within us – a gift beyond price – priceless!!!

May we take God’s FOCUSSED love for us seriously as we follow-through in our love for and our obedience to God and our love for our fellow-Christians.

Amen

 

 

Divine Voice

Easter III

John 21: 1 – 19

10 April 2016

Looking again at the Easter/Resurrection happenings with faith and hope, can be a thrilling experience.

In today’s gospel there are three very powerful pictures of Jesus which need to be pondered on and abso0rbed by us because they have power to help transform our lives.

If I may give you some homework, then: – take on and spend 20 minutes looking and pondering, the next day take the 2nd picture and on the 3rd day the 3rd picture.

Here are eye-witness accounts of very ordinary happenings with supernatural overtones.

  1. The first is the stranger on the shore
  2. The second is Jesus inviting his disciples to have breakfast
  3. And the third is Our Lord dealing with Peter who had very recently denied him.

The stranger on the shore:

Here are seven disciples not quite sure what to do with themselves, waiting around for the unseen, resurrected Jesus to take the initiative and come to them.

Peter wants to do what most naturally is part of his life – he says, almost impulsively, “I’m going out to fish.” “We’ll go with you”, they said.  So they got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”  “No”, they answered.  Then comes the command, the voice ringing out across the quiet waters, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some”.  The unbelieving men could have said, “Forget it – we’re tired – we’ve been at it all night- who does this ‘Charlie’ think he is – Let’s go home”.

But it is the divine voice speaking – the very same voice who said, in Genesis 1:3, “Let here be Light,” and there was light!  In Genesis 1:20 God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures” and verse 26 God said “Let us make man in our image in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea,” And it was so.

That voice! The voice which commanded water into wine, who revealed his glory and his disciples put their faith in him; the voice which said” I will destroy this temple and raise it again in three days”.

And to the Nobleman whose son was dying, “Unless you see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe – now go, your son will live”.

And to the invalid unable to walk for 38 years, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” and Later, “See, you are well again.  Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you,” And to the Jews, “My Father is always at his work to this very day and I too am working

Pause to Reflect

The Divine voice commands: “Throw your net on the Right side of the boat and you will find some!”

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. John discerns who the stranger is, “It is the Lord”, and when the fish are counted on the beach there are 153 large ones.

When God speaks, commands, things happen, always.

We often come to Our Lord with our wants, needs, desires. He is the Lord; we are the servants, not the other way around. We can never see the big picture as Jesus does – We live by faith, not by sight.  I am reminded of last Sunday’s gospel when Jesus addressing Thomas says, “Because you have seen me you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

That Voice! One day in the future that voice will command us to rise from the dust of the ground and to be reconstituted into our new Resurrection Bodies.

The last two lines of the Nicene Creed put it clearly, “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Pause to Reflect

That is part one of your homework.

From the stranger on the shore we look briefly at the divine invitation to “come and have breakfast”. St John 21:9 ‘When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread’ (a braai/barbecue Nogal!) Our proactive Lord sees to the physical needs of his disciples serving them again as he had done in the washing of their feet.  Another joyful reunion takes place, with one reservation: he didn’t look like Jesus, but they were sure he was. John 21:12 “none of the disciples dared ask him “who are you?”  They knew it was the Lord’.

That for me, is a reminder that the Lord comes to us often, mostly hidden though, in the people we meet. That adds a dimension to the Christian fellowship others without faith are unaware of.  Yet, for us, it affirms the importance of fellowship in the life of the Christian community.

“Come and have breakfast”, Come and have lunch”, “Come and have tea”, “Come this evening and have a meal”, always gives an opportunity of fellowship with the Lord, thinly veiled from our eyes. All this, though, must be balanced against another divine command:  (Luke 14:12)  “Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives or your rich neighbours, if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”.

That’s part two of your homework.

Pause for reflection

And so, to the restoration of Peter, and maybe, even ourselves. I apologise if you’ve heard this before, but our pew bibles translation of this passage leaves out the subtle nuances of what really was said:  What we have is: “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,

“Do you truly love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

“Alright then, feed my lambs”.

Again Jesus said;

“Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?”

“Yes Lord, you know that I love you”

“Then take care of my sheep”.

The third time he said to him;

“Simon, son of John do you love me?”

“Lord you know all things. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep”.

The Greek word for Love has many meanings covered by the word “love” in English. Here are the subtleties of this passage.

“Simon son of John, do you truly love me? (Agape: Sacrificial Love)

“Yes Lord, you know I am your friend (Phileo: Friendship)

Peter can’t bring himself to say he loves Jesus sacrificially because he has let him down so often and denied him three times!

“Simon, son of John do you truly love me?”

“Yes Lord, you know that I am your friend”

And then comes the arrow tot eh heart:

“Simon son of John, are you my friend?”

And Peter is hurt. He tells Jesus, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I am your friend.”  Before Jesus stands the penitent disciple, sorry indeed for the three denials and Jesus reinstates him.  “Take care of my sheep”.  It’s a new beginning for Peter.  He is re-instated as the Rock on which Jesus will build his church.

Now if that is true of Peter, how much more can it be true of us?

Try spend 20 minutes with this and answer Jesus;

“John, Sally, Mabel, Roy, Eric, Joan, Ann, do you TRULY love me? – Can you love me as sacrificially as I have loved you?  Or are you merely my friend?”

Pause for reflection

In your time with the Lord, give your answer, and in turn, receive from Our Lord Jesus Christ himself the divine commission to do whatever he tells you, and be blessed in the doing of it.

Amen

“Merciful God

Whose love will not let us go:

Restore in us the power of our calling

That we may boldly fulfill the tasks you set before us; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Who with you and the Holy Spirit is

Worthy of blessing and honour, glory and power, for ever and ever.

Amen”

God’s Rescue Mission

15/04/2014

Tuesday in Holy Week

1 Corinthians 1:18

St Paul speaks to us this morning:

“The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

How true that is; we all know people who do not understand the sacrifice of Jesus, or who refuse to think about it, or who reject it out of hand or who ignore it or who are totally ignorant of it.  They are our evangelistic, prayerful target, “because”, says St Paul, “they are perishing”.  They are on their way to eternal death, for if Jesus had not died on the cross as the sacrifice for humankind then all of us would have to carry the responsibility of our own sins and imperfections when we appear before the all Holy and Righteous judge – Christ the King.  Then, since no-one is perfect, and God’s Heaven is for perfect people only, and God never tells us that sin doesn’t matter, there is only the one-way street to eternal death for everyone.  God the Holy Trinity fore-saw this happening before the beginning of time; even then He was preparing the RESCUE MISSION to planet earth because of His great love for us.

Jesus Himself would lead the Rescue Mission assisted by God the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father:  St Paul wrote about this in Romans 3:21 – 26.  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, “And are justified (put right with God) by his grace through the redemption (the deliverance) that came through Jesus Christ.  “God presented Him as the one who would turn aside His wrath, taking away sin.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, for he justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Back to our New Testament lesson for this morning: 1 Corinthians 1:18.  “The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  We are being saved NOW by the power of God – that is the divine initiative taking place amongst us and in us.  That is why we are here this morning – to witness to the fact that we are being saved by the power of God.  Unlike those who do not believe, you and I have been born again of water (we have been baptised) and the Spirit (God’s Holy Spirit) part of the Body of Christ for Jesus presents Himself and Us to God the Father.  As the communion hymn puts it; “Look Father, Look on His annointed face and only look on us as found in Him, for lo, between our sins and their reward we set the passion of thy Son our Lord”.

This morning we thank God that we are being saved from rejection and eternal death; we are being saved to be with God forever, “in communion with the holy apostles, confessors and martyrs and all the blessed saints and aided by angels and archangels and all the armies of the heavenly host.”

You and I are privileged to be part of God’s Rescue Mission to all whose hearts God will open to listen and respond to Good News.  We are in the process of being saved in order that others, too, through us, may come to see, maybe for the first time, that the message of the Cross (that Jesus died for them as well) has power to save from sin and eternal death.

For Jesus, the Eternal Son of God died and rose again for the whole of humankind, past present and future, to the glory of God the Father.

We, too, are part of God’s Rescue Mission now, because we, too, are in the process of being saved – it is our privilege and responsibility.  For “the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  May the power of God in action amongst us this Holy Week and Easter bring many souls to glory.

Amen, Amen and Amen

Motivation for Palm Sunday

8am 20/03/16

PALM SUNDAY

It was good to listen to the ‘Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ’ – ‘good’ because it’s the only Sunday in the year when we hear it other than this Friday when the Passion is read from St John’s Gospel.

Good Friday is the Christian Holy Day of Atonement, where God the Father once offered his only Son as the sacrifice for the sins of humankind past, present and future.  So, please, (and I am talking to Christian believers) cancel everything else on that day and try to attend the celebration of the Lord’s passion at this church from 12 Noon – 3 PM.  Let the rest of the world do its own thing, but for yourself, come to the cross and reflect on what God is doing there. It’s  miraculous, it’s awe-inspiring, it’s holy and wonderful.

Pause to Reflect

In this short address I want to consider only one thing:  the motivation of Our Lord – what inspired him, what drove him, what was His passion?

Pause to Reflect

St Luke tells us in chapter 2, looking at Jesus as a boy of 12 attending the Feast of the Passover, staying behind in Jerusalem “while his parents travelled homewards thinking he was with their family and friends, and, not finding him, went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

“When his parents saw him His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this?  Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house” (some translations “to be about my Father’s Business”) But they did not understand what he was saying to them”.

In hindsight, we can understand, for His motivation is a laser-like focus, the determination to DO HIS FATHER’S WILL.  He is absolutely single-minded about it – This is his MISSION!

Pause to Reflect

The Lord’s Prayer which we know so well contains His motivation which at any time we can make our own.  The writer of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews gives his reason for the motivation of Jesus – chapter12 v 12 –

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right had of the throne of God”  (Joy is the fruit of a proper focus).   

Pause to Reflect

In looking at what motivates us in our various situations we often or sometimes have mixed motives, but what do you suppose motivated a paratrooper who three years ago braved Taliban gunfire to rescue a fallen comrade and became the first living soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross, the military decoration for valour in the face of the enemy?

Whilst serving in Afghanistan in 2013 Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey, 27 years, from Hampshire, UK, rushed across a barren hillside to tend the wounds of and rescue a stricken US marine, despite being under fire from 20 Taliban fighters.  He then returned to the top of the hill to retrieve two machine guns, though he was carrying 60 pounds of equipment, and bullets were – at one point- ricocheting off the frame of one of the guns. Later, having received his medal, Lance Corporal Leakey returned to his platoon.  Overall in WW2 181 men were awarded the Victoria Cross, 85 of them posthumously.

What  motivated them?  – an adrenalin rush?  Anger?  A  fierce determination to get it done?

Pause to Reflect

What motivates you and me to be a follower of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

Pause to Reflect

Whatever it is, there is always before us, Our Lord himself, the single-minded, courageous, holy, determined Son of God, washing his disciples feet – showing us what He wants us to become and how we are to conduct ourselves.

The focal point to which he is moving is the cross, on which He is to be God’s instrument of forgiveness and new life for humankind and for you and me.

Pause to Reflect

This Good Friday, our Christian Day of Atonement, may we discover again for ourselves the immeasurable, huge love of God in sending his son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.

Pause to Reflect

Our response to his self-sacrifice could re-ignite our own potential to become shining lights in the world desperate to see God’s love in action.  Your palm cross could help you this week to a fresh realization of God’s LOVE for His world.

Pause to Reflect

So may God continue to bless us all

AMEN

 

 

 

 

God’s New Covenant

(invited to preach at the local Methodist Church)

24/01/2010

Is the word “Covenant” strange to you?

When you were baptised, the Lord took the initiative in your life.  He made you a member of Christ, the child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven.  You promised – or your parents and God-parents did on your behalf, that you would be faithful and obedient to Christ and his Church all the days of your life.  The Lord, for his part, received you as a potentially living, vibrant, spirit-filled believer.  The Lord shed his blood on the cross for you, and you believed what he had done.  So you were Baptised!

That’s the meaning of Covenant.   It’s an agreement between two parents, initiated by God and sealed by the shedding of blood.  Its binding unless one party breaks covenant and says “no”, but there are obligations on both sides.  The prophet Jeremiah spells it out for us this morning; He looks back on many Covenant between God and his people (e.g. Ten Commandments) which they always disregarded and broke.  Now, a new covenant is about to be made in the Future once again initiated by God himself:  Its fulfilled in Jesus.

“I shall establish a new Covenant with the people of Israel and Judah…”

“I shall set my law within them, writing it on their hearts;”

“I shall be their God and they will be my people”

“All of them will know me”

Says the Lord, for I shall forgive them their wrongdoing and their sins, I shall call to mind no more”

There is to be a living ongoing relationship between believers and their God.  Is that your experience?  Having Jesus in your heart?

Jesus takes the cup on the evening before his passion and death, gives it to his disciples who all drink from it, share in it and Jesus proclaims; “this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, shed for many”  So together we are the people of God, his consecrated Covenant People, his very own, his faithful, forgiven people who are in constant touch with the living God.  That is our calling – our vocation- given by God Himself as His gift for the year of our lord 2010.

Sin and disobedience on our part can be repented of and forgiven by God because we belong to Him – the Lord – and He continually cleanses, renews, refreshes us.  We are the people of the new covenant!!  A people set apart to bring God glory in our lives!  It’s a joyful, awesome privilege and responsibility and we all know that it’s all come about by Gods grace (his undeserved favour) because He (the Lord) has chosen it to be so.

 WOW!

Here we are this morning basking in the worth and light of His kingdom, we’ve come again to worship our creator, to meet with our fellow inheritors and the kingdom of God to prepare ourselves for re-entry into the world where we live – the Eastern Cape – where the evil one prowls around like a hungry leopard.  Our job is to is to resist him in the Power of the Spirit, using the special armour of God in providing for us – the shield of Faith, the belt of Truth, the helmet of Salvation, the breastplate of Righteousness.  

It takes an attitude of mind, a predisposition to engage evil in the power God gives us, for so often I am surprised and caught unawares because my naivety and self-centredness.  This is God’s world not Satan’s!  This is Gods World – Jesus and His Father are in control.  Jesus our Lord and King has won the victory, and we are to live and work in His strength, to His glory, through sorrows, traumas, pains, joys and triumphs until the angels come to take us home.

“In the world you will have trouble” Jesus told his followers, “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”.

(Believe that)

So what’s the next step for ordinary people like you and me?  We need to step back in this Year of Grace 2010, step back and sit down to review our personal lives.

As God’s children of the Covenant Community

  1. What are we to continue doing?
  2. What are we to stop doing?
  3. We are to give God time to EMPOWER us day by day, more and more until we positively glow with the sacrificial love of God Himself.

Make time to meet with Jesus continually, allow Him to advise you, strengthen you, feed you, love you.  Give God Time.  Set time aside to be with him in silence.  If there’s noise and bustle about you, make time to be alone with God, like Jesus, deliberately, faithfully, prayerfully, Joyfully, expectantly and lovingly.  We are the people of Gods NEW COVENANT!!

If you are awake at 1am, 2am, 3am, consider your wakefulness as an opportunity to rise and be alone with Him.  Be adventurous!  Dress warmly and go out into your garden.  Look at the stars, feel the wind, the gentle breeze, – see the moon and the clouds sailing by.  Kneel down on the damp grass and praise your Creator.  Watch the dawn break, Listen to the roar of the waves. Then crawl back into bed and sleep soundly to God’s Glory.

For there are exciting things ahead this year for the covenanted people of God.  For example there are individuals’ whom God will place in your path to disciple, befriend, nurture and bring to faith in Christ Jesus.

“Hello!  Good to meet you! – come with me to meet the Lord I worship on Sunday Morning!  Meet God’s Saints-in-the-making too.  “Come be changed from the inside by Him who loves making all things new.  “I’ll meet you there – I ‘ll come and fetch you – I ‘ll introduce you around.”

Have you been baptised?  “As a baby 68 years ago”….”OK!”  Then I have good news for you – we’re part of the Covenanted Family of Christ Jesus who is our head, our leader, our facilitator and our friend.  What’s that? – No thank you? – Not today? – Well maybe next week then.  You’re going into hospital for a bypass?  Then let me pray for you and ask the good Lord to keep his hand on you.  Yes, right here now, in the shop!!  …. There we go…..!  I’ll be in touch, then Good bye”

You and I together, are living witness to our creator – God who lives in us, and loves through us.  We’re not here at worship this morning to play religious games.  We are here because we belong to the Almighty God who has covenanted with us in our baptism to live and work to His praise and Glory.

So may the Holy Spirit lead us forward into 2010 with grace and mercy as we bring Him glory moment by moment.

Now to God the Father who loves us and has covenanted with us,

To God the son who loves us and has brought us into the new covenant by shedding of his blood,

To God the Holy Spirit who loves others through us,

To the One, Holy, True God be all love and all glory

For time and eternity

AMEN

 

Baptism of Christ

Written: 09/01/2011

 John the Baptist said to Jesus who came to be baptised, “Do you come to me?  It is I who needs to be baptised by you”.  We would have said the same, because when the one without sin, God’s holy one, Jesus comes to be baptised by John the  Baptist, everyone knows that John’s baptism is for those who repent of their sins and need to be washed clean – so why is God’s Holy one coming for baptism?

Two reasons:

Firstly, Jesus has come to identify himself with those who fall short of Gods will for themselves.  HE has come to carry the sins of many and you cannot do that without being made one with sinners first.  Being baptised by John the Baptist seals that profound truth – that Jesus identifies Himself with sinners.  His name means “Saviour” and He has come to save us from our sins.

 Secondly, Baptism for Jesus marks a new beginning in his work. – he is switching his role in mid-career from being a master carpenter to representing his Heavenly father in a unique rescue mission to save all who will come to believe in God in a new way.  ‘No one comes to the father except by me’.  That’s the bottom line.  Three years of undiluted consecrated obedience to his fathers will.

Jesus was given his name 8 days after his birth when, as was expected of every Jewish boy, he was circumcised and became part of the covenant God made with Abraham.  Jewish/ Christian parents would expect their children to be part of the family of believers in the new covenant.  So the baptism of infant into the Christian family was a natural progression in the life of believers. 

This morning G and N (a South African family living in Australia), will present their twin daughters for baptism.
  Their family members are with us, including two of the grandparents.

Both parents, G and N, are committed members of the Christian church and so we ask the Lords Blessing on the whole family.

Today’s baptism will remind us of our own baptism when we became members of the body of Christ.  Baptism into Christ is not a once off ceremony, it is the beginning of a process in which each one will learn and be challenged to die to the old self-centred way of living and to tap in to the resurrection’s life of Jesus Himself – every day of our life.

By God’s grace – with his spiritual power – we are able to do what the world thinks impossible!

Now we can love with Christ’s self-sacrificial love, we can forgive to the innermost.

We can be divinely creative, even in mature age, able to think and do great things for God and our neighbours/ we can face adversity with courage and faith and inner joy. Moreover, we can face that most frightening of events, death, as the martyrs did, with long term foresight and patience.  The baptised person may be in this world for a few months or a few years or for 90 years, but on the other side of death there is a continuation of a life with God in a way now partially hidden from us, but a life which is real and true and joyful and eternal.  1 Corinthians 2:9 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

All this began in Holy Baptism when God the Holy Spirit in his creative, dynamic gentle way begins the relationship with each one which has to be nurtured, encouraged and received personally.  Here is no greater gift, anywhere, ever.  John the Baptist was spot-on when he told Jesus “I need to be baptised by you.”  Jesus Himself was the baptiser this morning. 

Welcome J and M to a real life – a new life with God forever.

 

Water into Wine

Sermon by John,  9am 17 January 2016, John 2:1 – 11

The Wedding in Cana of Galilee

Depending on which culture you come from, a wedding with the accompanying reception would last from a few hours to several days.  In Jesus time the reception would last days, which is why the wine would run out with all the guests enjoying themselves!

Jesus doesn’t want the wedding to end too soon because everyone (including him) is having fun. Where do you find more wine in a small town where every litre has been set aside (and used) for the wedding?  There is no more wine!

Sorry !

Clearly, something must be done, and Mary, our Lord’s mother does it.  She goes to her son – “We have a problem, please do  something.”  Initially, Jesus questions whether he needs at this stage in his life and ministry to become involved in human need.  He had already, in the wilderness rejected the temptation to turn stones into bread when he was hungry – why, now work a miracle?

This mother knows that she can trust her son to do whatever seems good to him, so she tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,”  And so Jesus, having thought and prayed about it for a few minutes, comes to a decision.  He tells the servants to fill six stone water jars with water (each jar holding  approximately 100 litres), and then to draw out the water now turned to wine and to take it to the Master of the Feast who is delighted to taste the best wine he’s ever experienced.  “You served the best wine only now”, he tells the bridegroom.

St John, (who is the only writer to record this) comments: – “this was the first of his miraculous signs” (more were to follow) and writes, significantly, “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him”. What a party it turned out to be – 600 litres of choice wine for the guests.  Later, the Pharisees were to call Jesus a drunk, a friend of sinners; they knew Jesus enjoyed God’s gifts of food and drink, as we do, and they tried to turn it against him.

[reflect on this for a moment]

Now some lessons for us from Cana in Galilee:

Firstly: God has made marriage and enjoys being present at wedding ceremonies and receptions.  God who is personal, enjoys people, and so should we.  There are receptions where the guests wait for the minister to leave before starting to enjoy themselves because they know he disapproves of dancing and the excesses sometimes seen at receptions. We must never be : ‘kill-joys’.  Jesus enjoyed people and laughed a good deal because he was  and is fully human.  When we aim at perfection in anything, like for example our behaviours, we must know that improving means becoming more fully human, like Jesus.

Secondly: we can never discuss marriage without also thinking about what happens when relationships break down in divorce.  Archbishop William Temple comments: “What is best to be done when the ideal is once made impossible, Jesus did not say.  He did not blame Moses for making a concession to the hardness of men’s hearts and there is no reason to suppose that a like liberty is forbidden to us. But He did say that only because hearts were hard was any concession given.” St Francis de Sales has this to say about marriage: “It is a happy thing when two souls meet who love each other only to love God better” And “What God unites cannot be separated” And “Love equalizes Love” And “the state of marriage is one which requires more virtue and constancy than any other; it is a perpetual exercise of mortification.” And “The closest and most fruitful union between husband and wife is that which is effected in holy devotion”.

Since our Lord Jesus Christ once turned water into wine, think of what He can do with you and me!  For example, take your habitual sins or troublesome faults, bring them to Jesus and ask Him to transform them into something very good and pleasing to God, your family and friends. Come in faith to Jesus this morning at the altar rail and ask Him to touch you in His unique and special way in order that you may become the very best you are capable of becoming here and now. May the good Lord be pleased with us as we come asking to be made more worthy of His great Love for us.  Allow God to transform you more and more so that others may be drawn to God through you and come to experience for themselves His power in their lives.

Changing water into wine was an act of sheer Grace on God’s part.  Changing you and me into His beloved and faithful sons and daughters is also an act of Grace on His part; May we both ask for and receive the very best to the Glory of God the Father.   Amen

Living Water

SERMON – LENT 3 – 19 / 3 / 2017 – ST.JOHN 4:5-42 (after singing Living Praise 164: O Breath of life come sweeping through us)

Today’s Gospel shows Our Lord Jesus Christ “gossiping” the Good News. Here is no manual to be learned off by heart,  instead he shows how fully human he is just by being Himself and being completely relaxed about it, for the fact is that he is tired and thirsty. It’s the middle of the day and he has been walking for several hours, so he chooses not to go in to the village with the others to buy food, and sits down at the well.

The Samaritan woman who walks out to the well alone has chosen to do this because she’s been ostracised (shunned) by her community; she’s had an eye for the men and had stolen 5 husbands using her abundant sex appeal. The Samaritan community is very angry about this!

Jesus asks her for a drink – he’s not afraid to share his need, and as we heard, she responds to Jesus’ offer of living water, misunderstanding him in the process but in a way which doesn’t offend Jesus at all.  In the course of this encounter Our Lord is quite straightforward:-

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

The woman responds in her own straight-forward, matter-of-fact way, “Where can you get this living water?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will never thirst again, but whosever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Instead the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman misunderstands because she is thinking “what if?” “Sir, I don’t want to be thirsty again nor do I want to come out in the heat of the day to avoid the scorn and bitter words of others. So,Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus knows that the woman is not understanding, so he changes the subject. “Go, call your husband and come back.”   “I have no husband” and Jesus tells her the facts of life:- “You’ve had five husbands and now you have a live-in lover.” He seems to know all about her, yet there are no words of condemnation.

The woman is surprised that Jesus knows everything but changes tack to deflect any further embarrassment – she’s learnt to defend herself in tight situations before.

“You Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Negative,” says Jesus, and then offers us all a spiritual principle:- “True worshippers worship the Father in spirit and truth. God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

In our worship of Almighty God we must come before him in penitence and faith, humbling ourselves before him, offering him, in love and obedience, our very lives, in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we can do that, we will be close to worshipping him in spirit and truth.

Again the woman changes tack. She’s out of her depth spiritually speaking:-  “I know that Messiah is coming – when he comes he will explain everything to us.”                                                                      And Jesus blows her away:-  “I am He.”                                                                                                                                We are not told whether Jesus ever got his water from the well. Hopefully he did!

Don’t ever get into a serious debate with Jesus over any issue close to God’s heart and mind – you’ll lose. No matter how much we duck and dive, the issue is ultimately is this: Are we going to submit and be obedient to God, or rebel and sin?  There is no middle course, and we are continually being challenged to choose God’s way as we go about our daily lives.

The next principle, arising from this morning’s Gospel, is:- “Jesus said to his disciples, “my food is to do the will of him who sent me and  to finish his work.”   Can we ever say that? We claim to be followers of Jesus – Good! But follow through, please – what is the will of Jesus for yourself?  Try writing what you believe to be God’s will for yourself down on paper.  Wrestle with the matter – get clarification from Our Lord himself – It’s just you and him, sitting at the well.  Being together with Jesus in the silence is important.  What is God’s will for yourself in Lent 2017?  This is, I believe, an important question.

St. John records that when the Samaritans came to him they urged him, pressed him, to stay with them, and he stayed two days. This is unheard of!  Jews accepting hospitality from a mixed-breed race, Jews are an exclusive people.  But Jesus breaks rules;  so often, God’s view-point is so different from our own. If you dare to consult with Jesus you will be challenged radically! Because of his staying 2 days  (and his disciples must have been powerfully disturbed initially, wanting to run away.  “This has never been done before – what is my family going to say?”)  But they soon relax and enjoy the new experience, as we will too when we allow Jesus to embarrass us to help us grow!

The net result of that visit was that (vs.43) many more became believers. “We have heard for ourselves” they said, “and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the World”, a conviction sometimes lacking amongst believers – which brings us back full circle, to the living water – the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to comfort, challenge, inspire and restore us to the divine benchmark we are called to be!

If you are confused, or not sure, or troubled about Our Lord Jesus Christ and his promise to satisfy your life fully, then you are to believe and take Jesus at his word, for his dialogue with the sassy Samaritan woman is in fact Christ’s personal dialogue and confrontation with you and me. So when you get home, open your Holy bible at St. John chapter 4:10 and burn it into your heart and mind:- “If I know the gift of God, and who it is speaking with me, I must reach out in faith to ask him to give me His very own Living Water.  Jesus said: “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never, ever, be thirsty again, for it will become in him/her a spring of water welling up to Eternal Life.” That will make a huge difference to our lives!

So, come Lord Jesus, and fill us to overflowing with this Divine Gift, tailor-made for us all. “Thank you Lord that we don’t have to draw water laboriously, as from a well”, our worship should not be hard work.

Instead, inside each of us this morning, please give us a living, spring of water (God’s Holy Spirit) welling up continually, affecting, influencing our personalities, our thoughts and our bodies. For Eternal life with our Creator and Saviour can be real and meaningful now, and it begins when we believe. Others will notice, and want this living water, too!    AMEN.