Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sunrise Service: Something dawned on them....

Something Dawned on them that first Easter Sunday

Dawn at our Sunrise Service on the African Highveld

In Matthew's gospel, he talks of Mary Magdalene going to the tomb early Sunday morning – there’s an earthquake, an angel, a proclamation: He is risen.

And something dawns on her.

The soldiers who experienced all the above as well,..... Matthew tells us they run and tell the chief priests, and they make a plan, they pay them to say “The disciples came and stole the body.”

They do this because something dawns on them, that morning.

And so we can run through all the Resurrection appearances: 
.....Peter runs into the empty tomb and something dawns on him
.....John doesn't barge into the tomb – he looks and something dawns on him
.....Two of Jesus’ followers are walking to Emmaus and a stranger joins them – and something dawns on them

The process of the Resurrection Truth dawning on people seems to be one that takes differing amounts of time in different people.

The disciples are all together behind locked doors and Jesus appears....and something dawns on them.
Thomas isn't there, and it takes longer, but a week later something dawns on him as well.

This process of coming to terms with the Resurrection is just that,........ a process.
Like the dawning of a new day........... there’s not a moment where you say it’s dawn and now it’s not, dawn is finished.

And so it was that things dawned on them and understanding began to filter into them, becoming brighter...clearer. 

If there is one verse in the whole Bible that speaks light on God’s eternal plan, it is surely John 3:16

When they first heard those words it was in the context of Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the dark of night and Jesus talking about being born again and in the midst of it all saying “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.”

I don’t think they understood that verse when Jesus first said it, but on Resurrection Sunday, it would have begun to dawn on them – friends may it dawn on you in some new way this Easter.

Because Jesus was raised from the dead 2000 years ago, may you and I change in some way today. 

God loves the world

This is an echo of the six days of creation. He saw each day’s work and it was good.
The sixth days work, which included the creation of you and me....of humans....was very good!

In John 3:16 comes the revelation that God loves the world and everyone in it – you and me. Let that dawn on you this morning. Bask in the light of that truth.

Not just His chosen nation, not just a few in His chosen nation – but the world.
He loves South African’s as much as… Nigerian's....
Americans as much as Iranians..................
Muslim’s as much as Christians as much as Buddhists................
Is there anyone God does not love?
He loves the world – if only that truth would dawn on all the people of the world it would change what we do to each other.
But oh, that it would just dawn on Christians and affect our born again behaviour.
And He not only loves us, but He loves us so much.

How much is so much – I saw a Easter Egg that cost €25 000 (1/4 million Rand)… it was chocolate studded with diamonds and the person said – this shows you love...implying, I think that this shows you love a lot.

God loved the world so much..... “ That He gave His only Son”.
That was Friday’s message, but it is in fact the message every season in every age.

You cannot really put a value to that and of course it eventually dawned on the early followers that Jesus the Son of God in living flesh was and had been and is forever… God the Son in eternity and then the idea of our God as Trinity began to dawn on them.

So God in fact gave Himself....and the giving of self is the greatest gift. You might have bought a diamond studded Easter Egg for someone you love, but be sensitive to the possibility that the person you love – a spouse, a child, a parent, might well be saying “I just want more of you”

Does that truth need to dawn on anyone or on any relationship this morning?

God so loved the world that He gave His Son........
So that everyone who believes in Him.

It would have dawned on the disciples that day, in fact it did dawn on them that this new religion required them to tell, to ‘tell on.’
Do you remember, ‘telling on’ – the fear that sometimes caused you, or the power it allowed you to exert. ‘I will tell on you.’

Christianity is a ‘telling on’ religion. Far more people are saved by being told about Jesus, than by reading about Jesus.
Almost everyone who discovers what’s happened on that first Easter Sunday is told to go and ‘tell on’...

Jesus was in the tomb but He’s not anymore, go and tell on Him.

Jesus was dead now He’s alive. Tell on.

There’s a sense in which satan thought: we had told Jesus to go ‘to the corner and stay there – the corner called death. 
But .....He doesn't stay there............... Amen.
He’s left the corner ..................... Amen.
And He says ‘Tell on me – tell everyone on me – this is not a naughty secret, this is the best news there ever was.’

Tell on.

Jesus was sent to the corner, the corner of death, from which no one has ever emerged, but He didn't stay there – tell on.
Parents, grandparents, tell this good news..... to your children........ often ......and be inventive.

If you’re a beer drinker (and I hope you’re not) but this works just as well for a cool drink drinker – take the cans, build a wall, put Jesus behind it and ask your children – did Jesus stay in the tomb???.....No!!!!!!!! and let them push the cans away with the words “He lives.”

If you’re a smoker (I hope you’re not) when the box is empty, tear out a silver man..... put him in the box......and tell your children ‘they buried Jesus” .....but did he stay there?? ............. and let them rip open the box. Tell on about the Jesus who did not stay where the political and religious leaders told him to stay – in the grave.

It dawned on the early disciples that they had to tell the whole world that God loved so much – what Jesus had done – why – so that all who believe will not perish but have eternal life themselves.

Has it dawned on you that what God did for Jesus, He will do for you. When you die physically but even when you die spiritually, die each time you sin – when you and I sin, something dies in us and in our relationship with Jesus. Let Jesus raise you from the death which is sin in your life. Die to sin friend, and believe that God the Holy Spirit can raise you up today to a new place of holiness.

Do you believe that God, the Holy Spirit, is powerful enough to not only save you from sin, but to save you from sinning, to help you if you let Him resist temptation.

How big is your God?

One of the best ways to ‘Tell on Jesus’ is by a life that is changed and changing. That's the best way to ‘tell on’ to ‘witness’: put on a life that is changing daily… from glory unto glory.

God can raise you to a new place today if you let Him – if you let Him enter the caves and tombs of darkness within you.

You needn't be perishing in this life because of sin... you can be raised daily by the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

It dawned on many people that first Easter Sunday, that life would never be the same again.
May it dawn on you this Easter Sunday, that your life need never be the same again.
Too many of us don’t change because we don’t believe we can change. May the truth of the power of the Resurrection dawn on us this Easter.

Let us choose to die to sin, to be raised to new life in Christ, and to walk in holiness.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Good Friday

Were you there when… Jesus died?

“At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
The 6th hour is noon. In vs 25 we have been told that Jesus was crucified at the third hour – ie 9am. 6 hours on the cross… for you, for me.
Were you there?
Are you there?

6 hours during which the devil is defeated with the very weapons he used to get victory over humans and over Jesus.
The devil conquered Adam by means of a tree. Christ conquered the devil by means of the tree of the Cross.
The tree sent Adam to hell. The tree of the cross brought him back from there.
The tree revealed Adam in his weakness, laying prostrate, naked and low. The tree of the cross manifested to all the world the Victorious Christ, naked and nailed on high.
Adam’s death sentence passed on to all who came after him. Christ’s death gives life to all His children.

Are you there… as Jesus dies.

 “At the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice… my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

Are you there?

 “with a loud cry, Jesus died”

Are you there?

 “Some women were watching from a distance among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed Him and cared for all His needs. Many other women who had come up with Him to Jerusalem were also there."

So… Jesus was not alone… are you there?

There is a story that when these verses were related in an African village where people had never heard the gospel, the village chief interrupted the narrator when he come to the point where Jesus was unjustly hung on the cross to die. The chief shouted: “Take Him down! I belong there!”

HE got the message… that happens when suddenly you realize that: You are there.

Each of us must come to the point where we enter into the mystery and realize that Jesus took our place on that cross.

We were there… we were there… we were there.

We were in His mind as He somehow looked ahead and saw… us.
We were in His hands and feet as our sin of yesterday, today, and tomorrow was driven into Him becoming the only thing that held Him up.
We were in His heart as He willingly did this for us out of deep, deep love.

So it’s not really  "were we there…"  because, yes, we were!

More importantly it’s “are we there…” faith. Is our religion present tense, is our faith present, is our belief present tense.

Reflect on that for a few moments.

The gospel must always have a personal affect on us and a social affect. There is no such thing as solitary religion. We've looked at the personal affect Good Friday should have on us. Let’s look at the women who were there and see what they can say to us about the social affect that Good Friday should have on us.

In there silence, they speak deeply into our beings. They could do nothing to stop what was happening to Jesus. All they could do was to stand helplessly by, looking on with broken hearts.

You and I know that feeling.
But was it all they did?
What did they do when they could do nothing?
For one thing they saw that this was a monstrous wrong and we know they didn't condone it.

They didn't say or feel: “we must adjust ourselves to this decision. Perhaps it is right.”...... “Perhaps the government does know what’s best. Perhaps our religious leaders do have our best interests at heart.”

This is often done in the presence of the apparent defeat of a good cause. Might is mistaken for right, and moral and spiritual judgment and wisdom become clouded.

It is a tremendous thing when even in helplessness people can say of triumphant evil: “This is utterly wrong, and no show of physical power can make it right.” Some of you are daily feeling helpless in the face of triumphant evil in your homes, workplaces, our nation. Even the Church of Jesus Christ, in her history has, and in her present, does... resort to evil, and we feel helpless as we watch.

Let us never stop saying: "This is utterly wrong and no show of physical power can make it right." Let us never ceasr to identify and name evil in our midst...never!

Going back to that group of women at the cross: the defeat of Calvary didn't shake their faith in Jesus or their devotion to Him. The overwhelming might of evil had no effect on their continuing loyalty. They didn't say “well this defeat settles it. We can’t go on believing as we did.”
They continued as an unshaken minority that became God’s instrument for the future. Let's learn from them.... Hang in there!

And this leads to the third thing these women teach us: Among this group who were helplessly watching were many who a little while later in the upper room in Jerusalem were launching a movement which would reverse the verdict that iron nails were the final power in the universe.

In these women who were there we see the role of the Christian who is by faith at Calvary today and always:

In the face of forces and events which we cannot overcome any more than the disciples at Calvary could restrain the Roman soldiers, we hold on to our belief that love is the ultimate force in the universe and we give ourselves in service to the tasks of that divine love in which we supremely believe.

Such people become the… lever... by which God tilts the world, our nation, Alberton, our church, our homes… the lever by which He tilts all these towards His kingdom.

Were you there… yes, you were.

Are you there…?

Holy Week and Good Friday 1790

Tue 30 Mar to Good Friday 2 Apr 1790: I went on to Macclesfield, and preached to a crowded audience, both this and the following night. On Thursday morning one of my horses died. I judged it best to leave the other till I could procure another, and took post-chaises to Stockport. A large congregation was ready at six in the evening. In the morning, on Good-Friday, we went on to Oldham. The new House would in nowise contain the congregation; but I preached to as many as it would contain, on 1 Cor. vi. 19; and at Manchester in the evening, Saturday, APRIL 3, on Heb. iv. 14.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Methodist work in Ireland

APRIL 2 1762. I rode to Parkgate, and found several ships; but the wind was contrary. I preached at five in the small House they have just built; and the hearers were remarkably serious. I gave notice of preaching at five in the morning. But at half-hour after four one brought us word that the wind was come fair, and Captain Jordan would sail in less than an hour. We were soon in the ship, wherein we found about threescore passengers. The sun shone bright, the wind was moderate, the sea smooth, and we wanted nothing but room to stir ourselves; the cabin being filled with hops, so that we could not get into it but by climbing over them on our hands and knees. In the afternoon we were abreast of Holyhead. But the scene was quickly changed: The wind rose higher and higher, and by seven o’clock blew a storm. The sea broke over us continually, and sometimes covered the ship, which both pitched and rolled in an uncommon manner. So I was informed; for, being a little sick, I lay down at six, and slept, with little intermission, till near six in the morning. We were then near Dublin Bay, where we went into a boat, which carried us to Dunleary. There we met with a chaise just ready, in which we went to Dublin.
I found much liberty of spirit in the evening while I was enforcing, "Now is the day of salvation." The congregation was uncommonly large in the morning, and seemed to be much alive. Many children, I find, are "brought to the birth:" And shall there not be strength to bring forth?
It was at this time that Mr. Grimshaw fell asleep. He was born September 3, 1708, at Brindle, six miles south of Preston, in Lancashire, and educated at the schools of Blackburn and Heskin, in the same county. Even then the thoughts of death and judgment made some impression upon him. At eighteen he was admitted at Christ's College, in Cambridge. Here bad example so carried him away, that for more than two years he seemed utterly to have lost all sense of seriousness; which did not revive till the day he was ordained Deacon, in the year 1731. On that day he was much affected with the sense of the importance of the ministerial office; and this was increased by his conversing with some at Rochdale, who met once a week to read, and sing, and pray. But on his removal to Todmorden soon after, he quite dropped his pious acquaintance, conformed to the world, followed all its diversions, and contented himself with "doing his duty" on Sundays.
But about the year 1734, he began to think seriously again. He left off all his diversions; he began to catechise the young people, to preach the absolute necessity of a devout life, and to visit his people, not in order to be merry with them as before, but to press them to seek the salvation of their souls.
At this period also he began himself to pray in secret four times a day; and the God of all grace, who prepared his heart to pray, soon gave the answer to his prayer; not, indeed, as he expected: Not in joy or peace; but by bringing upon him very strong and painful convictions of his own guilt, and helplessness, and misery; by discovering to him what he did not suspect before, that his heart was deceitful and desperately wicked; and, what was more afflicting still, that all his duties and labours could not procure him pardon, or gain him a title to eternal life. In this trouble he continued more than three years, not acquainting any one with the distress he suffered, till one day, (in 1742,) being in the utmost agony of mind, there was clearly represented to him, Jesus Christ pleading for him with God the Father, and gaining a free pardon for him. In that moment all his fears vanished away, and he was filled with joy unspeakable. "I was now," says he, "willing to renounce myself, and to embrace Christ for my all in all. O what light and comfort did I enjoy in my own soul, and what a taste of the pardoning love of God!"
All this time he was an entire stranger to the people called Methodists, whom afterwards he thought it his duty to countenance, and to labour with them in his neighbourhood. He was an entire stranger also to all their writings, till he came to Haworth, May 26, of this year. And the good effects of his preaching soon became visible: Many of his flock were brought into deep concern for salvation, were in a little time after filled with peace and joy through believing; and (as in ancient times) the whole congregation have been often seen in tears on account of their provocations against God, and under a sense of his goodness in yet sparing them.
His lively manner of representing the truths of God could not fail of being much talked of, and bringing many hundreds out of curiosity to Haworth church; who received so much benefit by what they heard, that, when the novelty was long over, the church continued to be full of people, many of whom came from far, and this for twenty years together.
Mr. Grimshaw was now too happy himself, in the knowledge of Christ, to rest satisfied without taking every method he thought likely to spread the knowledge of his God and Saviour. And as the very indigent constantly made their want of better clothes to appear in, an excuse for not going to church in the day-time, he contrived, for them chiefly, a lecture on Sunday evenings; though he had preached twice in the day before. God was pleased to give great success to these attempts, which animated him still more to spend and be spent for Christ. So the next year he began a method, which was continued by him for ever after, of preaching in each of the four hamlets he had under his care three times every month. By this means the old and infirm, who could not attend the church, had the truth of God brought to their houses; and many, who were so profane as to make the distance from the house of God a reason for scarce ever coming to it, were allured to hear. By this time the great labour with which he instructed his own people, the holiness of his conversation, and the benefit which very many from the neighbouring parishes had obtained by attending his ministry, concurred to bring upon him many earnest entreaties to come to their houses, who lived in neighbouring parishes, and expound the word of God to souls as ignorant as they had been themselves. This request he did not dare to refuse: So that while he provided abundantly for his own flock, he annually found opportunity of preaching near three hundred times to congregations in other parts.
And for a course of fifteen years, or upwards, he used to preach every week, fifteen, twenty, and sometimes thirty times, beside visiting the sick, and other occasional duties of his function. It is not easy to ascribe such unwearied diligence, chiefly among the poor, to any motive but the real one. He thought he would never keep silence, while he could speak to the honour of that God who had done so much for his soul. And while he saw sinners perishing for lack of knowledge, and no one breaking to them the bread of life, he was constrained, notwithstanding the reluctance he felt within, to give up his name to still greater reproach, as well as all his time and strength, to the work of the ministry.
During this intense application to what was the delight of his heart, God was exceeding favourable to him. In sixteen years he was only once suspended from his labour by sickness; though he dared all weathers, upon the bleak mountains, and used his body with less compassion than a merciful man would use his beast. His soul at various times enjoyed large manifestations of God’s love; and he drank deep into his Spirit. His cup ran over; and at some seasons his faith was so strong, and his hope so abundant, that higher degrees of spiritual delight would have overpowered his mortal frame.
In this manner Mr. Grimshaw employed all his powers and talents, even to his last illness; and his labours were not in vain in the Lord. He saw an effectual change take place in many of his flock; and a restraint from the commission of sin brought upon the parish in general. He saw the name of Jesus exalted, and many souls happy in the knowledge of him, and walking as became the Gospel. Happy he was himself, in being kept by the power of God, unblamable in his conversation: Happy in being beloved, in several of the last years of his life, by every one in his parish; who, whether they would be persuaded by him to forsake the evil of their ways, or no, had no doubt that Mr. Grimshaw was their cordial friend. Hence, at his departure a general concern was visible through his parish. Hence his body was interred with what is more ennobling than all the pomp of a royal funeral: For he was followed to the grave by a great multitiude, with affectionate sighs, and many tears; who cannot still hear his much-loved name, without weeping for the guide of their souls, to whom each of them was dear as children to their father.
His behaviour, throughout his last sickness, was of a piece with the last twenty years of his life: From the very first attack of his fever, he welcomed its approach. His intimate knowledge of Christ abolished all the reluctance nature feels to a dissolution; and, triumphing in Him, who is the resurrection and the life, he departed, April the 7th, in the fifty fifth year of his age, and the twenty-first of his eminent usefulness.
It may not be unacceptable to subjoin here one of his plain, rough letters, to the society in London:—
"Haworth, January 9, 1760.
"GRACE, mercy, and peace, be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus. It is well with four sorts of people, that you have had, or now have, to do with. It is well with those of you in Christ who are gone to God: It is well with those of you in Christ who are not gone to God: It is well with those who earnestly long to be in Christ, that they may go to God: It is well with those who neither desire to be in Christ, nor to go to God. And it is only bad with such who, being out of Christ, are gone to the devil. These it is best to let alone, and say no more about them.
"But, to be sure, it is well with the other four. It is well with those of you who, being in Christ, are gone to God. You Ministers and members of Christ have no more doubt or pain about them. They are now, and for ever, out of the reach of the world, flesh, and devil. They are gone 'where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.’ They are sweetly reposed in Abraham's bosom. They dwell in His presence who hath redeemed them; where ’there is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.' They are waiting the joyful morning of the resurrection, when their vile bodies shall be made like unto his glorious body, shall be re-united to their souls, shall receive the joyful sentence, and inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
"It is well also with those of you who are in Christ, though not gone to God. You live next door to them. Heaven is begun with you too. The kingdom of God is within you. You feel it. This is a kingdom of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It is begun in grace, and shall terminate in glory. Yea, it is ’Christ within you, the hope of glory.' Christ the rock, the foundation, laid in your hearts. Hope in the middle, and glory at the top. Christ, hope, glory; Christ, hope, glory. You are washed in the blood of the Lamb, justified, sanctified, and shall shortly be glorified. Yea, your lives are already ’hid with Christ in God.' You have your conversation already in heaven. Already you ’sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' What heavenly sentences are these! What can come nearer Paradise? Bless the Lord, O ye happy souls, and let all that is within you bless his holy name. Sing unto the Lord so long as you live, and praise your God while you have your being. And how long will that be? Through the endless ages of a glorious eternity.
O my dear brothers and sisters, this is my hope, and this is my purpose. But to whom and to what are we indebted for all this, and infinitely more than all the tongues and hearts of men or angels can tell or conceive? To our Redeemer only, and to his merits. Christ within us is Jesus to us. We were poor, lost, helpless sinners, ’aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,' and ’children of wrath;' but Jesus lived, and Jesus died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to the enjoyment of it.
"And what does all this require at our hands? Why, infinitely more than we can render him to all eternity. However, let us praise and glorify God in the best manner, and with the best member that we have. Let us do it constantly, cordially, cheerfully, so long as we live; and then, no doubt, we shall do it in heaven for ever.
"Keep close, I beseech you, to every means of grace. Strive to walk in all the ordinances and commandments of God blameless, ’giving all diligence to make your calling and election sure: Add to your faith virtue; to virtue knowledge; to knowledge temperance; to temperance patience; to patience godliness; to godliness brotherly kindness; to brotherly kindness charity.'—For ’if these things,' says St. Peter, ’be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Thus you will give the best token of your thankfulness to him for what he hath done for your souls; and you shall, not long hence, in heaven sing his praise with your happy brethren, gone thither before you.
"It is well, likewise, with all those of you who do truly desire to be in Christ, that you may go to God. Surely he owns you; your desires are from him; you shall enjoy his favour. By and by you shall have peace with him through our Lord Jesus Christ. Go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed ye by the Shepherd’s tents. Be constant in every means of grace. He will be found of them that diligently seek him. 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ Though your sins be never so many, never so monstrous, all shall be forgiven. He will have mercy upon you, and will abundantly pardon. For where sin hath abounded, grace doth much more abound. He who hath begun this good work in you will accomplish it to your eternal good, and his eternal glory. Therefore, doubt not, fear not. A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise. The deeper is your sorrow, the nearer is your joy. Your extremity is God's opportunity. It is usually darkest before day-break. You shall shortly find pardon, peace, and plenteous redemption, and at last rejoice in the common and glorious salvation of his saints.
"And, lastly, it is well for you, who neither truly desire to be in Christ, nor to go to God; for it is well for you that you are out of hell: It is well your day of grace is not utterly past. Behold, now is your accepted time; behold, now is the day of your salvation! O that you may employ the remainder of it in working out your salvation with fear and trembling! Now is faith to be had, saving faith; now you may be washed from all your sins in the Redeemer’s blood, justified, sanctified, and prepared for heaven. Take, I beseech you, the time while the time is: You have now the means of grace to use; the ordinances of God to enjoy; his word to read and hear; his Ministers to instruct you; and his members to converse with. You know not what a day may bring forth: You may die suddenly. As death leaves you, judgment will find you: And if you die as you are, out of Christ, void of true faith, unregenerate, unsanctified, snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest, God will rain upon you, (Psalm xi. 6,) as your eternal, intolerable portion to drink.
"Suffer me, therefore, thus far, one and all of you. God's glory and your everlasting welfare is all I aim at. What I look for in return from you is, I confess, much more than I deserve, your prayers. Pray for me, and I will pray for you, who am
Your affectionate brother,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Week and Easter 1773

Thu 8 Apr 1773: I preached in the Court-House at Molingar in the morning, and in that at Longford in the evening, and again at eight in the morning, (being Good-Friday,) and then went on to Athlone. I believe all the Officers, with a whole army of soldiers, were present in the evening: So were most of them the next. I would fain have preached abroad on Easter-Day, but the rain would not permit. However, the whole congregation in the House behaved with so remarkable a seriousness, that it was good to be there; and I could not be sorry, that we were driven into it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Were you there........when Jesus was anointed?

“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than 300 denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9

On this anointing of Jesus, contemporary Ugandan theologian Emmanuel Katongole has written, “She represents the ‘rebel consciousness’ that is essential to Jesus’ gospel. Wherever the gospel is preached, we must remember that its good news will make you crazy. Jesus will put you at odds with the economic and political systems of our world. This gospel will force you to act, interrupting the world as it is in ways that make even pious people indignant.”

Were you there........when Jesus was anointed?

You might be thinking – we’ve looked at this story recently and you would be correct. Two Sunday's ago it was the reading set for Lent 5 where John places the story at Bethany the day before Palm Sunday.
Mark in his gospel places it after Palm Sunday – in Holy Week.
It  might well be 2 different stories both at Bethany.
John’s takes place in Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ home. Mark's account is set in the home of Simon the Leper.
That opens up a whole can of worms!!! He’s a leper – is he cured or not? Why not Simon  who used to be a leper or who Jesus cured of leprosy (Mary Magdalene is often described as the woman who Jesus had delivered of 7 demons)
If he suffers from leprosy – everything in the house is unclean and makes everyone else unclean.

Then ..... a women comes in with an alabaster flask… ?
We don’t know her name – some speculate (based on similar accounts in the other gospels) she might have been a prostitute who invested her income well, but would still be a nameless person.
If she were a respectable women, she would have been named – especially as this story is going to be told everywhere, says Jesus.
All this just makes the story more complicated, doesn't it?

We’d like her to be respectable, because for the most part we like to surround ourselves with respectable people – we tend to keep ourselves and our children away from "unrespectable" people. Look around you in our sanctuary this many "unrespectable" people do you see

But there’s the problem – Jesus says “I didn’t really come for respectable people – healthy people don’t need a doctor… I didn’t come for people who are in anyway like me.”

So there’s a chance this story is taking place in the home of a diseased outcast who is visited by a very wealthy whore.

How does that make us feel – that’s the company that Jesus seems to have preferred to keep (unlike the religious hypocrites of His day).
Then the conversation moves to the poor........ another group of outcasts...... as the pious disciples (notice it’s not just Judas) find it necessary to point out that this is a waste.

And Jesus says “you will always have the poor with you… and whenever you want, you can do good for them.”
How often do Jesus disciples do ‘good for the poor’ today?

Notice she anoints Jesus on his head – this was something that was only done for a King. Yesterday we saw that one of the God intended consequences of Palm Sunday is that we recognize Him as our King.
This nameless women does just that........... so I think she was there when they laid palms at His feet.

And as I suggested yesterday...... it changes and me.....when we realise that we were there!
And it makes her a little bit crazy. Remember the quote from the beginning?
“She represents the ‘rebel consciousness’ that is essential to Jesus’ gospel. Wherever the gospel is preached, we must remember that its good news will make you crazy. Jesus will put you at odds with the economic and political systems of our world. This gospel will force you to act, interrupting the world as it is in ways that make even pious people indignant.”

Reflect – when last did the gospel make you do something crazy?

When next will the gospel make you do something crazy?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Palm Sunday: Were you there.....

Were you there when.......they laid palms at His feet
Our journey to Jerusalem, to the Cross, to the empty tomb… begins in earnest today.
Our theme for Holy Week and Easter this year is… were you there when…
and today we ask and hopefully answer the question… were you there when they laid palms at His feet?

One of the privileges of having the Bible as we have it today; accessible, in our own hands, in our own language, is that when we read it with the eyes, ears and heart of faith… when we read it asking the Holy Spirit to help us read, then the words can become a Living Word for us today.

So… we weren’t at Creation, but as we read Genesis 1 by faith we can see the beginning, hear the beginning, by faith we can be at the beginning.

So, let’s by faith, go back to the “beginning” of the first Holy Week:

 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.

The next day – that is the day after where we left off last week – the day after Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with that beautiful, expensive perfume in her act of sacrificial love.
The great crowd – there would have been +/- 250 000 pilgrims in Jerusalem for this, one of the 3 annual festivals that Jews were expected to attend in Jerusalem.
And they heard that Jesus was on His way – and remember that the story of Lazarus has wafted into Jerusalem. The man who raised Lazarus from the dead is here… HERE.

They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

I like to remind us every Palm Sunday that the palm branch was a nationalistic symbol in Israel at the time of Jesus, of similar significance as the Black Power salute of the 60’s. Just lifting a palm branch was saying “we want to be free Jews living in a free Israel”.... it was a dangerous thing to do in the presence of the Roman occupiers.
Hoshia ‘na
Hoshia… save
‘na… please
Save please… save please… save please.
Jesus is recognized as one who can save and the people shout: save… please.
You know that cry only too well… perhaps even now you’re crying out, save… please – save my job,.......... my marriage, save, please.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Now they are reciting Psalm 118 – a psalm about the Messiah. They are recognizing in this human being who has raised a man from the dead, and done lots of other miracles in Galilee and Judea, they are recognizing in Him… the one who exercises God’s power and authority on earth… they are recognizing the Messiah.

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
There is the statement that will get Jesus the cross. 
The Roman’s don’t care if someone is the Messiah, ...................the Roman’s don’t care if someone comes in the name of the Lord. ..................The Romans do care if someone comes as King. And the religious hypocrites of Jesus day, the Scribes, the Pharisee’s, the Sadducees…. today they would possibly include ministers, bishops, popes… the religious leaders will take Jesus to the Roman’s and say: “this man claims to be the King, but we have only one King and that is Caesar.”

O may the religious hypocrite in you, in me, be crucified and buried this Holy Week…
NEVER to rise up again.
O that religion will die and faith come alive in our midst this Holy Week.

Were you there when they laid palms at His feet?

If you were, you would have been caught up in the events… we all get caught up in events sometimes.

There is a sense in which even as we lived in South Africa in 1989, we were all caught up in the events that led to breaking down of the Berlin Wall – we were there,.............. even though we weren't there.

We were there, a month or two later when in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela was released from prison… we were there................. even though we weren't there.

Were you there when they laid palms at His feet?

I think we have yet to fully understand what the Risen Lord was doing on His planet in 1989, when He brought down the Berlin Wall, when He brought down communism, when He brought enemies to the peace table in our country.

But we were there… and the one thing we know is that these events haven’t had there God intended consequence. People who prayed for over 50 years for the end of Communism were not hoping and praying for what they see in that part of the world today.

People who prayed for the end of apartheid did not hope for what we see in our nation today.
We were there, but the one thing we know is that these events haven’t had their God intended consequences...........................................................................................yet!

We were there when they laid palms at His feet. We were there… but has Palm Sunday had its God intended consequences in you, in me, in our homes, in our  marriages, our church, our schools, our workplaces (mines), our nation?

What is Gods intended consequence for us as we celebrate Palm Sunday?

First:.... that we would recognize Him as King and be a people who live out what it means to say “We have no king but Him.”

Second:........... that we would bless Him with our praises… let us praise Him with our palm branches, our palms (i.e. our hands), our prayers, our money, let us praise Him with our very lives themselves and with hold nothing from Him.

Finally:..... it is Gods intended consequence of that first Palm Sunday, that this Palm Sunday we would cry out Hoshia ‘na.

Save ......please 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fifteenth Station

Our chapel will be open all day for worship and communion

Fifteenth Station” in the Chapel

Enjoy the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The elements have been consecrated and you are invited to receive the sacrament .
Feel free to use the Methodist Order of Service Book from page B12, or just have a sense of our Risen LORD meeting you at the table and inviting you to feed on Him by faith.

The Resurrection Of Jesus
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in Me will never die." —John 11:25
"If we have been united with Him through likeness to His death, so shall we be through a like resurrection." —Romans 6:5
"Death is swallowed up in victory." — 1 Corinthians 15:54
"There is nothing to fear. I am the First and the Last and the One Who lives. Once I was dead but now I live — forever and ever. I hold the keys of death and the nether world." —Revelation 1:17-18

Prayer: Alleluia! Jesus is risen! "This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it." (Ps 118:24) He's alive! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia forever!

Thirteenth Station

Area in our office block

The Thirteenth Station:  Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross.

1. What tender mourning!  Jesus' lifeless body lays in his mother's arms.  He has truly died.  A profound sacrifice, complete.

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. I behold this scene at the foot of the cross.  I contemplate touching, caressing his body.  I remember all his hands have touched, all who have been blessed by his warm embrace.
I pause to let it soak in.  He knows the mystery of death.  He has fallen into God's hands.

4. For me.  That I might love as I have been loved.  I pour out my heart to the God of all mercies.

5. "No one has gone up to heaven except the One Who came down from there — the Son of Man (Who is in heaven)." —John 3:13
"He ascended" —what does that mean but that He had first descended into the lower regions of the earth? He Who descended is the very One Who ascended high above the heavens, that He might fill all men with His gifts." —Ephesians 4:9-10
"Rather, He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that He humbled Himself." —Philippians 2:7-8

Prayer: Father, may I humble myself (Mt 23:12),
                                                                                                        PROCEED TO NEXT STATION

Twelfth Station

Youth Church parking lot

The Twelfth Station:  Jesus Dies On The Cross.

1. Between two criminals, a mocking title above his head, with only Mary and John and Mary Magdalene to support him, Jesus surrenders his last breath:  "Into your hands I commend my spirit." 

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. I stand there, at the foot of the cross, side by side with all of humanity, and behold our salvation.
I carefully watch and listen to all that is said.
And then, I experience the one who gives life pass from life to death, for me.  I console Mary and John and Mary.  And let them console me.

4. This is the hour to express the deepest feelings within me.

5. "Silence before Him, all the earth!" —Habakkuk 2:20
"Silence in the presence of the Lord God!" —Zephaniah 1:7 (see Zech 2:17)

Prayer: Jesus, You gave Your life for me; I give my life for You.


Eleventh Station

The Eleventh Station:  Jesus is Nailed to the Cross.

1. Huge nails are hammered through his hands and feet to fix him on the cross.  He is bleeding much more seriously now.  As the cross is lifted up, the weight of his life hangs on those nails.  Every time he struggles to pull himself up to breathe, his ability to cling to life slips away. 

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. I make myself watch the nails being driven through his flesh.  And I watch his face.
I contemplate the completeness of his entry into our lives.  Can there be any pain or agony he would not understand?

4. This is for me.  Nailed to a cross to forever proclaim liberty to captives.  What sorrow and gratitude fill my heart!

5. "He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by His stripes we were healed." —Isaiah 53:5
"I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on Him Whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over Him as one grieves over a first-born." —Zechariah 12:10
"As He said this He showed them His hands and feet." —Luke 24:40
"See, He comes amid the clouds! Every eye shall see Him, even of those who pierced Him. All the peoples of the earth shall lament Him bitterly. So it is to be! Amen!" —Revelation 1:7

Prayer: Father, pierce me with love and repentance when I look at the crucifix.


Tenth Station

More gardens around the kitchen and workshops

The Tenth Station:  Jesus is Stripped.

1. Part of the indignity is to be crucified naked. Jesus is completely stripped of any pride  The wounds on his back are torn open again.  He experiences the ultimate vulnerability of the defenseless. No shield or security protects him.  As they stare at him, his eyes turn to heaven.

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. I pause to watch the stripping.  I contemplate all that is taken from him.  And, how he faces his death with such nakedness.
I reflect upon how much of himself he has revealed to me.  Holding nothing back.

4. As I look at him in his humility, I know that this is for me, and I share my feelings of gratitude.

5. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves." —Genesis 3:17
"She gave birth to her first-born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger." —Luke 2:7
"There was a young man following Him who was covered by nothing but a linen cloth. As they seized him he left the cloth behind and ran off naked." —Mark 14:51-52
"Then the disciple Jesus loved cried out to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' on hearing it was the Lord, Simon Peter threw on some clothes — he was stripped— and jumped into the water." —John 21:7
"We groan while we are here, even as we yearn to have our heavenly habitation envelop us. This it will, provided we are found clothed and not naked. While we live in our present tent we groan; we are weighed down because we do not wish to be stripped naked but rather to have the heavenly dwelling envelop us, so that what is mortal may be absorbed by life." —2 Corinthians 5:2-4

Prayer: Father, "strip away everything vicious, everything deceitful; pretenses, jealousies, and disparaging remarks of any kind" (1 Pt 2:1). Then clothe me in righteousness.


Ninth Station

Once again, believe it or not, I cannot get this photo to rotate into the proper position...sorry!
Another narrow passage way, like the narrow streets of Jerusalem, below

The Ninth Station:  Jesus Falls the Third Time.

1. This last fall is devastating.  Jesus can barely proceed to the end.  Summoning all this remaining strength, supported by his inner trust in God, Jesus collapses under the weight of the cross.  His executioners look at him as a broken man, pathetic yet paying a price he deserves.  They help him up so he can make it up the hill of crucifixion.

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. I pause to contemplate him there on the ground. The brokeness that makes me whole.  The surrender that gives me life.
I pause to experience and receive how completely he loves me. He is indeed completely poured out for me.

4. As I treasure this gifted experience, I express what is in my heart.

5. "Jesus replied: 'I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have three times denied that you know Me.'" —Luke 22:34
"A third time Jesus asked him, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me?' Peter was hurt because He had asked a third time, 'Do you love Me?' so he said to Him: 'Lord, you know everything. You know well that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep.'" —John 21:17
"Those who accepted his message were baptized; some three thousand were added that day." —Acts 2:41
"He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up." —Hosea 6:2

Prayer: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You. Thank You, Jesus for rising from the third fall and rising on the third day. May I be transformed by my faith that You will raise me from the dead.


Eighth Station

More gardens

The Eighth Station:  Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.

1. The women of Jerusalem, and their children, come out to comfort and thank him.  They had seen his compassion and welcomed his words of healing and freedom.  He had broken all kinds of social and religious conventions to connect with them.  Now they are here to support him.  He feels their grief.  He suffers, knowing he can't remain to help them more in this life.  He knows the mystery of facing the separation of death.

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. I look at their faces.  So full of love and gratitude, loss and fear.  I contemplate what words might have passed between them.
I remember all his tender, compassionate, merciful love for me.  I place myself with these women and children to support him.

4. This is for me.  So, I let this scene stir up deep gratitude.

5. "Jesus wept." —Luke 19:41
"My tears are stored in your flask; are they not recorded in your book?" —Psalm 56:9
"Oh, that My head were a spring of water, my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night over the slain of the daughter of my people!" —Jeremiah 8:23
"Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people." —Jeremiah 14:17
"Thus says the Lord: 'In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more.' Thus says the Lord: 'Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward,' says the Lord, 'they shall return from the enemy's land. There is hope for your future.'" —Jeremiah 31:15-17

Prayer: Jesus, give me the gift of tears. May I weep for the same reason You did.


Seventh Station

More of our gardens

The Seventh Station:  Jesus Falls the Second Time.

1. Even with help, Jesus stumbles and falls to the ground.  In deep exhaustion he stares at the earth beneath him.  "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return."  He has seen death before.  Now he can feel the profound weakness of disability and disease and aging itself, there on his knees, under the weight of his cross.

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. I contemplate Jesus brought very low.  As I behold him there on the ground, with all the agony taking its toll on him, I let my heart go out to him.
I store up this image in my heart, knowing that I will never feel alone in my suffering or in any diminishment, with this image of Jesus on the ground before me.

4. This is for me, so I express the feelings in my heart.

5. "Later on, Jesus found him in the temple precincts and said to him: 'Remember, now, you have been cured. Give up your sins so that something worse may not overtake you.'" —John 5:14
"For when men have once been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and become sharers in the Holy Spirit, when they have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to make them repent again, since thy are crucifying the Son of God for themselves and holding Him up to contempt." —Hebrews 6:4-6
"If we sin willfully after receiving the truth, there remains for us no further sacrifice for sin — only a fearful expectation of judgment and a flaming fire to consume the adversaries of God." —Hebrews 10:26-27
"When men have fled a polluted world by recognizing the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then are caught up and overcome in pollution once more, their last condition is worse than their first. It would have been better for them not to have recognized the road to holiness than to have turned their backs on the holy law handed on to them once they had known it." —2 Peter 2:20-21 (see also Lk 11:24-26)

Prayer: Jesus, by Your grace may I never sin another time.


Sixth Station


The Sixth Station:  Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.

1. Jesus' journey is at times brutal.  He has entered into the terrible experiences of rejection and injustice.  He has been whipped and beaten. His face shows the signs of his solidarity with all who have ever suffered injustice and vile, abusive treatment.  He encounters a compassionate, loving disciple who wipes the vulgar spit and mocking blood from his face.  On her veil, she discovers the image of his face - his gift to her.  And, for us to contemplate forever.

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. What does the face of Jesus hold for me?  What do I see, as I look deeply into his face?
Can I try to comfort the agony and pain? Can I embrace him, with his face so covered with his passion?
4. The veil I behold is a true icon of his gift of himself. This is for me.  In wonder and awe, I behold his face now wiped clean, and see the depth of his suffering in solidarity with all flesh.

5. "Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." —Deuteronomy 34:10
"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." —2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV
"Even as many were amazed at Him — so marred was His look beyond that of man, and His appearance beyond that of mortals — So shall He startle many nations, because of Him kings shall stand speechless." —Isaiah 52:14-15
"His face became as dazzling as the sun." —Matthew 17:2
"Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face." —1 Corinthians 13:12
"They shall see Him face to face and bear His name on their foreheads." —Revelation 22:4

Prayer: Jesus, may I have the love and courage to "seek Your face."


Fifth Station

Believe it or not, I cannot get this photo to rotate into the proper position...sorry!
Passage way between offices which reminds me of the narrow streets of Jerusalem, below

The Fifth Station:  Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross.

1. Jesus even experiences our struggle to receive help.  He is made to experience the poverty of not being able to carry his burden alone.  He enters into the experience of all who must depend upon others to survive.  He is deprived of the satisfaction of carrying this burden on his own.

2. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

3. I look into his face and contemplate his struggle.  His weariness and fragility.  His impotence.
I see how he looks at Simon, with utmost humility and gratitude.

4. This is for me. So I feel anguish and gratitude.  I express my thanks that he can continue this journey.  That he has help.  That he knows my inability to carry my burden alone.
I say what is in my heart, with deep feeling.

5. "As they led Him away, they laid hold of one Simon the Cyrenean who was coming in from the fields. They put a crossbeam on Simon's shoulder for him to carry along behind Jesus." —Luke 23:26
"Insult has broken My heart, and I am weak, I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters and I found none." —Psalm 69:21
"The Lord saw this, and was aggrieved that right did not exist. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was none to intervene." —Isaiah 59:15-16
"The twelve accompanied Him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and maladies; Mary called the Magdalene, from whom seven devils had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who were assisting them out of their means." —Luke 8:1-3
"Roam the streets of Jerusalem, look about and observe, search through her public places to find even one who lives uprightly and seek to be faithful, and I will pardon her!" —Jeremiah 5:1

Prayer: Father, I offer my life to help complete Your plan of salvation.