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.