Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Psalty and Elvis at Alberton Methodist

The evening started with a few numbers from different groups:
Please note that most of these photos are from a cell-phone and some pics just didn't come out well, so not all the items are included

Here, some of the office staff sing Whisper His Name

Some Children's Church teachers render a fantastic rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody

These 2 characters wondered in off the street, and being a church, we had to welcome them :-)

Some of our children really ministered to us in colourful song and dance (my pics don't do them justice)

This is the God we serve and who drew us together this evening, and His Son's name is:

It eventually had to come to a STOP, so that Psalty could begin

Risky Rat (above) becomes Pierrrrrrre Rat le Mal (below)
 Charity (the AMC) Churchmouse, falls for Pierrrrre (above), but fails to convince Psalty and the team of his 
"good intentions"

Wedding bells chime as the Marriage Officer and Pierrrre wait for Charity

Grande Finale 


Friday, August 30, 2013

Pentecost 15: Be Humble or Be Humbled

In the reading before us today, Jesus goes to the home of a leading Pharisee on the Sabbath to eat a meal.
That sentence is fraught with tension – kind of like when we heard a few years ago that Nelson Mandela was going to have tea with Betsie Verwoerd. Jesus, by this stage in His ministry has had a number of run-ins with the Pharisees (they’re beginning to hate Him and all that He stands for) and particularly around the issue of the Sabbath.
In our reading, Jesus addresses the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law, then in verse 7 He addresses all of them, and in verse 12 He addresses His host.  But everyone was listening of course, and we need to as well because there’s a bit of Pharisee in each of us,...... we’re also often part of the crowd ........and sometimes we are the host or hostess.

May Jesus speak to us today.

“One Sabbath, Jesus went to eat a meal at the home of one of the leading Pharisees; and people were watching Jesus closely.”

Did you notice that........ and people were watching Jesus closely.  Do you ever feel that way…watched closely,.......or that you’ve been or are being... set up?  Find comfort in the truth that Jesus knew that feeling well.

“A man whose legs and arms were swollen came to Jesus…”  

Now isn’t that a surprise?  Jesus has been invited to the home of a leading Pharisee, on the Sabbath, and surprise, surprise, a sick man appears.  What’s he doing there?  He’s been planted there;...... that’s why everyone’s watching closely, because they know what’s coming.  Sick people are sometimes used, like Rent-A-Crowd. ....... Find me someone with HIV or Aids to hug – make sure you get a photo.  
If you’ve ever been used, paraded, put on show, know that Jesus has a special place in His heart for you. 

And it’s all a setup and Jesus, as always, sees right through it:

Jesus asked the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, ‘Does our Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?’  But they would not say anything.

You’re not allowed to work on the Sabbath, and healing is work, but likewise, to leave a person uncured who could be cured is unethical and wrong.  And because He knows how Pharisees think…ie: they would say “Heal him the next day”…Jesus says if your son or even your ox fell into a well on the Sabbath, you would work and get him out, you wouldn’t say, "wait till tomorrow, I can’t work on the Sabbath."

And Jesus healed the man and…sent him away.  He wasn’t a guest, you see...... it was ALL a set up.
And there’s a stunned silence during which Jesus looks around:

“Jesus noticed how some of the guests were choosing the best places, so he told this parable to all of them: ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place.  It could happen that someone more important than you has been invited and your host, who invited both of you would have to come and say to you, “Let him have this place.”  Then you would be embarrassed and have to sit in the lowest place.  Instead, when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place so that your host will come to you and say, “Come on up, my friend, to a better place.”  This will bring you honour in the presence of all the other guests.  For everyone who makes himself great will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be made great.’”

These words are addressed to you and to me in all of the different capacities we have........ and Jesus’ message is:
 BE HUMBLE or else you will BE HUMBLED.  

Humility is the key to unlocking the blessings of God’s Kingdom.  I came across this true story.  A government official who entered American President Lincoln’s Office (of course you can never be sure what you might come across in the Oval Office) was startled to see the President polishing his shoes.  “Sir” he gasped, “surely you do not polish your own shoes.”  “Of course” replied the President, “whose do you polish?”  

The greatness of the person is evidenced by their humility.  

There’s a saying, “The higher the bamboo grows, the lower it bends.”  Humility is what bends us, whatever high position we might hold,.... it is the key that unlocks the blessings of God’s Kingdom in our life.

The highest title God ever allows in His Church is……servant,...... and so Jesus turns to His host and to each of us, and gives a command which, as we consider it and meditate on it, helps us to see whether we are humble or not; whether we really understand Kingdom service or not.

“The Jesus said to His host, ‘When you give a lunch or dinner, do not invite your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbours – for they will invite you back, and in this way you will be paid for what you did.  When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind; and you will be blessed.’” 

The Pharisees would not be seen with these types of people…would you?...there’s a good chance they would not know any of these people who in those days were social you?  We so often turn people who are different to us into outcasts, don’t we?  You don’t "mix with them"…we might say to ourselves or our children.  And the Pharisee in each of us would say the same and would add, “If I do invite these types, they’ll case my house while they eat, and come back next week to break in and steal from me.”

And so those who refuse to embrace the humility which Jesus modeled and expected from His disciples, will never do this, choosing rather to disobey/ignore this command of Jesus rather than submit to His teaching.

Notice what happens if we do humbly obey this command (remember the whole context of this teaching of Jesus is humility): 

When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind; and you will be blessed.  

This is therefore another way to receive God’s blessing – it is a beatitude.  Serve others in this way and you will be blessed…Humble service.  

Humility is the key that unlocks the blessings of God’s Kingdom.  Let us reach for that key.
Reach for it by bending down.  
Bend down so low and serve so much that the Pharisee in us dies.  
Be humble or be humbled – I don’t know exactly what this means for you and for me this week or today, but can I encourage us to explore what it might mean?  

I close with Jesus' words:

For everyone who makes himself great will be humbled and everyone who humbles himself will be made great.

After a long interval of deadness, God is again visiting this poor people

4 Sept, 1774. The rain drove us into the house at St. Agnes. At one it was fair, so I preached in the street at Redruth. But the glorious congregation was assembled at five in the amphitheatre at Gwennap. They were judged to cover four-score yards, and yet those farthest off could hear.
Today I received the following note:
            The sermon you preached last Thursday evening was, by the grace of God, of great good to my soul. And when you prayed so earnestly for backsliders (of whom I am one), an arrow dipped in blood reached my heart. Ever since, I have been resolved never to rest till I find again the rest that remains for the people of God. I am, dear sir,
                                    A vile backslider,
                                    from the pure love of Jesus,
                                    and from the society at Gwennap.
Monday 5, I preached at Cubert, Tuesday 6, at Port Isaac. Wednesday 7, having preached at Camelford and Launceston, I did not think of preaching at Tavistock; but finding a congregation waiting, I began without delay. I had scarce half finished my discourse in the square at Plymouth Dock when the rain began. At first I did not regard it, but as it grew heavier and heavier, I thought it best to shorten my sermon.
It seems, after a long interval of deadness, God is again visiting this poor people. The society is nearly doubled within this year and is still continually increasing. And many are athirst for full salvation, particularly the young men. Friday 9, I set out early from the dock and the next afternoon reached Bristol.

"Charley Wesley is come to town"

31 Aug 1743. I spoke severally with those of the society, who were about one hundred and twenty. Near an hundred of these had found peace with God. Such is the blessing of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake! As we were going to church at eleven, a large company at the market-place welcomed us with a loud huzza—wit as harmless as a ditty sung under my window (composed, one assured me, by a gentlewoman of their own town):
               Charley Wesley is come to town,
               To try if he can pull the churches down.
In the evening I explained ‘the promise of the Father’. After preaching, many began to be turbulent. But John Nelson went into the midst of them and spoke a little to the loudest, who answered not again but went quietly away.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

JW's cure for toothache

I, the DentalMethodist, just love JW's cure for toothache! Praise our LORD that he stuck (mainly) to theology....although his dabblings into medicine were also quite frightening, particularly his interest in electrocuting the sick!

29 Aug 1757: We rode through vehement wind and many hard showers to Launceston. This gave me a violent fit of the toothache, which however did not hinder my preaching. Such a night I never remember to have passed before, but all is good which lies in the way to glory. On Tues we rode to Camelford, where my toothache was cured by rubbing treacle upon my cheek. At six I preached in the market-place. How are the lions in this town also become lambs!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pentecost 13. "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."

So often we hear the message that Jesus has come to give us a peaceful, easy feeling in our hearts and peace in our homes in the present, and that only at the end of time will there be fire and a great division. And yet, both the gospel narratives and the witness of so many courageous Jesus-followers reveal a quite different picture: we're called to stand right now today with Jesus "in the fire"—even at the cost of conflict in our most cherished relationships—and we can do so because of our allegiance to the peaceable kingdom which is the world's coming future.

The strongest ties and responsibilities in Jewish society are those of family. If the words in verse 53 (They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law) seem strange to us, try to imagine how they were heard by a society based on the family unit. Separation from family would have potentially led to disinheritance and loss of status with all those around you. Is Jesus promoting or advocating family strife: NO, His purpose is not to create trouble, but to end it! Yet He knows that tension might result when some members of a family trust Him, while others do not. Think of the issue of tithing…….a wife who converts decides that 1/10 of the family income now belongs and goes to God….the unconverted husband may (?) disagree…….division will result! That is what Jesus predicts here. It’s a warning………choosing to live my way is going to give rise to problems with the people around you. Try being an accountant in a firm that wrangles the books a bit and you now have to tell them I can’t do the books that way anymore. Can you see why Jesus says “I have come to bring division.” Jesus is emphasising that the true disciple will need to be ready for conflict even with those who are closest to them. So why is our natural tendency to stay quiet? Conflict seems somehow wrong, so we compromise our stance in order to be accepted and not stand out from the crowd.

Increasingly the views of believers are marginalised in society and many of us say nothing. Perhaps we no longer know what to say. We have become like the people of Jesus’ day – not knowing how to interpret and speak out about the issues of the day.

Jesus’ challenge to us is that we should be willing to stand up for what we believe – whatever the cost.

People say they have problems with parts of the Old Testament or with Paul’s letters, but the most disturbing words often come from Jesus’ lips. I’ve noticed that the NG Kerk opposite Alberton High School has a big sign saying: “Jesus het wat gese?”

 Here the Prince of Peace speaks of fire on earth and division in families. Fire is destructive and frightening. It can also energise, however, and put passion into a person.

When we make a stand as Christians, we will win approval from some and disapproval from others. Clarity of conviction, matched by a distinctive lifestyle, always polarises response, even amongst those who are close in other ways. Here is Jesus’ wake-up call to the lethargic, a call to wholehearted discipleship.

It is love and truth on fire that change society. (Shireen’s story) The spark to ignite them is found in the costly passion of our Lord, into which Jesus would soon be plunged “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” That weekend of death and resurrection would ignite a worldwide movement that continues to this day.  

The focus moves from fire to weather. People carefully notice the wind direction and clouds when their livelihood is at stake. So the people that Jesus was talking to knew that a wind from the Mediterranean to the west brought rain and that a wind from the southern deserts brought heat. He says to them that they need to apply the same intelligence to interpreting spiritual things. If they do not, they are clearly only pretending to be interested in the spiritual, and so He justifiably calls them hypocrites. Yet the people were slow to learn from the times and forecast the future.

For Jesus’ generation there was a reluctance to face the consequences of the growing move towards rebellion against Rome. Sadly, inevitably, disaster crashed down a generation later. Nor would they see who was standing before them, speaking. But do we? What do you see in our times?

With the click of a mouse or the tap of a smartphone, we have the weather forecast for the day. We trust that someone reliable has read the signs well, and we dress for the day and plan our activities accordingly.

With Jesus, as we’ve seen these last few weeks during this series, all the signs of the approaching reign of God have been given: "the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them" (Luke 7:22). How hypocritical for someone to act on faith in a weather forecast or an economic forecast or the gestures of love in a relationship budding toward bloom, and yet remain noncommittal about the signs of the visitation of God that is already taking place among us!

Jesus has come!......and His coming demands a response on our part. He warns us today that our positive response to Him might well draw a negative response from those we love. If this is your experience, take heart and hang in there. He does not yet rule the world in all His glory, so the time of the fulfilment of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies of world peace are not yet realised….we don’t yet see people beating their swords, assault rifles, drones into ploughshares! But that doesn’t stop us praying for His Kingdom to come, knowing, because He has warned us, that being Kingdom people will actually bring division…..some will acknowledge Him as Messiah, while others will not, even in the same family, so families will be split down the middle on this issue.
In Him, there is strength to stand apart from the crowd, even when that crowd is people we love and who actually love us….that’s the sad irony.

So often we hear the message that Jesus has come to give us a peaceful, easy feeling in our hearts and peace in our homes in the present, and that only at the end of time will there be fire and a great division. And yet, both the gospel narratives and the witness of so many courageous Jesus-followers reveal a quite different picture: we're called to stand right now today with Jesus "in the fire"—even at the cost of conflict in our most cherished relationships—and we can do so because of our allegiance to the peaceable kingdom which is the world's coming future.

Make no mistake, in Jesus God is accomplishing peace. He is the "dawn from on high breaking upon guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78-79). 

Lord, you said that the peacemakers are blessed. Mold me into an instrument of your peace, and keep me that way when others take offense. Make me a messenger of the future victory you have already won. Amen.

Grand Jury appointed for Wesley's trial

16 Aug 1737. Mrs. Williamson swore to and signed an affidavit, insinuating much more than it asserted; but asserting that Mr. Wesley had many times proposed marriage to her, all which proposals she had rejected. Of this I desired a copy. Mr. Causton replied, ‘Sir, you may have one from any of the newspapers in America.’
On Thursday or Friday was delivered out a list of twenty-six men who were to meet as a grand jury on Monday the 22nd. But this list was called in the next day, and twenty-four names added to it. Of this grand jury (forty-four of whom only met), one was a Frenchman who did not understand English, one a Papist, one a professed infidel, three Baptists, sixteen or seventeen others, dissenters, and several others who had personal quarrels against me, and had openly vowed revenge.
To this grand jury, on Monday the 22nd, Mr. Causton gave a long and earnest charge ‘to beware of spiritual tyranny, and to oppose the new illegal authority which was usurped over their consciences’. Then Mrs. Williamson’s affidavit was read; after which Mr. Causton delivered to the grand jury a paper entitled, ‘A List of Grievances, presented by the Grand Jury for Savannah this ---- day of Aug. 1737.’ This the majority of the grand jury altered in some particulars and on Thursday, September 1, delivered it again to the court, under the form of two presentments, containing ten bills, which were then read to the people.
Herein they asserted, upon oath,
That John Wesley, Clerk, had ‘broken the laws of the realm, contrary to the peace of our sovereign lord the King, his crown and dignity’,
1. By speaking and writing to Mrs. Williamson, against her husband’s consent;
2. By repelling her from the Holy Communion;
3. By not declaring his adherence to the Church of England;
4. By dividing the morning service on Sundays;
5. By refusing to baptize Mr. Parker’s child otherwise than by dipping, except the parents would certify it was weak, and not able to bear it;
6. By repelling Wm. Gough from the Holy Communion;
7. By refusing to read the Burial Service over the body of Nathanael Polhill;
8. By calling himself ‘Ordinary’ of Savannah;
9. By refusing to receive Wm. Aglionby as a godfather, only because he was not a communicant;
10. By refusing Jacob Matthews for the same reason; and baptizing an Indian trader’s child with only two sponsors.
(This, I own, was wrong; for I ought at all hazards to have refused baptizing it till he had procured a third.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

JW visits clergyman under death sentence for rape

28 Aug 1743. I preached at seven to a handful of people. The sermon we heard at church was quite innocent of meaning; what that in the afternoon was, I know not; for I could not hear a single sentence. From church I went to the Castle, where were gathered together (as some imagined) half the grown persons in the city. It was an awful sight. So vast a congregation in that solemn amphitheatre! And all silent and still, while I explained at large and enforced that glorious truth, ‘Happy are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.’
I went thence to poor Mr. V [hanged at Exeter for rape], the clergyman, lying under sentence of death. He had for some time acted the lunatic; but I soon put him out of his play, and he appeared to have wit enough in his anger. I designed to close in with him immediately; but two cruelly-impertinent gentlemen would needs come into the room, so that I could say no more, but was obliged to leave him in their hands.
The lad who was to die the next day was quite of another spirit. He appeared deeply affected while we were speaking, and yet more during our prayer. And no sooner were we gone than he broke out into a bitter cry. Who knows but he might be heard by him that made him?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pentecost 12: Does Jesus Really Mean What He Says

Our journey this far in our series from Luke, Learning from the Master, has had Jesus teaching us who our neighbor is in the parable of the Good Samaritan; about the importance of prioritizing in the story of Mary and Martha; how to pray with the assurance of God’s positive answer to all our prayers; last week He taught us what God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit consider to be foolish behavior on our part.

We are Learning from the Master what it means to be Kingdom people, which, remember, is central to the prayer Jesus taught us 2 weeks ago: “Thy Kingdom come”: God’s Kingdom comes when you and I live like Kingdom people.

And so, our reading for today, begins with a command and a promise:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.”

You’ve often heard me say that this command, the most repeated command in Scripture “do not be afraid”, occurs 365 times……Phillip Yancey suggests that is once for each day of the year!  Jesus commands you and me: “Do not be afraid.”

And He goes on and tells us why we needn’t be afraid: it is because God has given us the Kingdom!  This is an incredibly amazing statement ...... you……I……have the Kingdom of God……IN US! (Later, in 17:21, Jesus will say, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”)  Therefore……what do we need to be afraid of?

Obviously, I need to ask: Do you have the Kingdom of God in you?……this is not something we need ever have any doubt about, because Jesus can be taken at His Word.  If He says it’s been given……it has!  If He says it’s within you……it is!

So, is the Kingdom within you?  This is an incredibly important question because it is only if the Kingdom of God is within us, that we can be sources of it into the world around us.  The deep river of God can only flow from us, as Jesus said it would (come to Me and drink and streams of life-giving water will flow from you)......... if it is first in us.

Perhaps the reason that God’s Kingdom does not come (wherever you live) even though we pray, “Your Kingdom come” is because the Kingdom is not in those who pray the prayer.

So what is this Kingdom that Jesus says has been given to believers and is within believers?  Paul answers that question perfectly for us in Romans 14:17.

The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

We’ve looked at this before, so I don’t need to remind you that righteousness is not sinlessness, peace is not the absence of war or trouble and joy has nothing to do with happiness.

Do you have the Kingdom of God within you? Do you have this righteousness, peace and joy.Is Jesus speaking the truth when He says in our reading “The Father is just so pleased to give it to you”?  (Please remember: Ask, seek and knock from 2 weeks ago if your answer is no.)  This is really important, because it is only with the Kingdom within us that we have any chance of “not being afraid.”  And it is also because He has given us the Kingdom that He can command us 365 times to “fear not” or “be not afraid.”  The people of the world cannot understand this can they; praise God that (in the words of Jesus) we are no longer of this world.  And it’s only because of His Kingdom within us that Jesus dares, yes, dares to say:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

The people of the world, when they hear these words, think to themselves or ask one another: “What was Jesus smoking when He made this outrageous statement?”  It must have been good stuff because He’s obviously in the clouds when He says:

“Build up treasure in Heaven.”

Praise God, once again, that we are no longer “of this world” and that we know that Jesus wasn’t on drugs.  Praise God that we are people who believe that Jesus means what He says.

So what does He mean?

Remember that this teaching of Jesus follows last week's when we looked at the foolish rich man who built barns for his excess income.

So what must I do with my excess wealth? Must I throw it away? Must I go and bury it in the ground? No, that would be bad stewardship and Jesus condemns bad stewardship. 
You must invest it. 
Where must I invest it? 
Well, here’s Jesus’ investment tip. Some people pay other people lots of money to get their investment tips about investing in this or that. Here is an investment for you, for me, for today and always:

In vs 33,  Store up your treasure in the bank of heaven and God will give you what you need in your time of need. 

I would imagine that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Heaven is probably God himself. Wouldn’t it be nice to invest your money there? To put it in his hand, as it were, and to know that if you need it, he’ll give it back. 
Jesus commands us to store up treasure in heaven. How do I obey that command? .................You know, we can really be tempted to think, when we read this verse, that this is airy-fairy stuff, this is spiritual stuff that doesn’t make earthly sense,....... give me something concrete and down to earth. What kind of investment tip is that – store it up in heaven? How do I do that? Is there a simple answer to that question, Cedric? 

There is. It’s found in Proverbs 19:17, the Good News Bible puts it like this: 

“When you give to the poor it is like lending to the Lord, and the Lord will pay you back.” 

Do you believe that? Do you have faith in God and his promises? The King James Version puts it like this: “He who has pity on the poor, lends it to the Lord, and God will pay him back what he has given.” 

“Cedric you have R10 000 right now that you don’t need right now. Invest it in heaven by giving it to the poor. When you need it I will give it back to you.” 

That either sounds like incredible wisdom or it sounds like absolute foolishness. Last week we looked at God's point of view regarding what is wise and what is foolish.

And then Jesus says:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

This is a warning more than a statement.  It sums up what was wrong with the man God called, “You fool” in verse 20 of this chapter, which we looked at last week.  The man was a fool because his heart was where his treasure is – that didn’t make him a fool though; what made him a fool was that his treasure was in his investments, and that meant that was where his heart was.  

I asked last week and I ask again this week:  Where is your heart?

And then Jesus continues by teaching about His return, His Second Coming……and He speaks very specifically, in 2 short parables, about being ready.

“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

That’s really what everything today is about……being ready and living as if we really do expect Jesus to return.

So, in conclusion, let’s look at what can distract us from being ready for Christ’s return:

Worry and fear can be a terrible distraction……so Jesus says: “Do not be afraid” and goes on to give us good reason to not be afraid or worried.

Our possessions can be a terrible distraction, so He encourages us and gives us good reason to hold on to them loosely, rather than tightly.

And finally, He once again begs us to have our priorities right, to remember that the greatest treasure we have, the pearl of immense value, the treasure worth selling everything else for in order to get it is: 

the Kingdom of God which is given to us and which is within us.

Questions based on Does Jesus Really Mean What He Says

Read the sermon here
1.     Do you have the righteousness, peace and joy that is God’s Promise to you?

2.    Has God given you the Kingdom?  If your answer is “Yes”, how has that affected the way you have lived this past week?  If your answer is “No”, what does that mean?  If your answer is “I don’t know”, what does that mean?

3.    Are you afraid of anything?

4.    What does Jesus mean when He says:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor?
(We’ve explored this is much more detail previously.  If you want to access my teaching on this subject, please visit

5.    Is it true that: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”?

6.    Where is your heart?

7.    What does it mean to “live as if it we really do expect Jesus to return at any time”?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Warrant served on JW and bail demanded but refused

Tue. 9 Aug 1737: Mr. Jones, the constable, served the warrant, and carried me before Mr. Bailiff  Parker and Mr. Recorder. My answer to them was that the giving or refusing the Lord’s Supper being a matter purely ecclesiastical, I could not acknowledge their power to interrogate me upon it. Mr. Parker told me, ‘However, you must appear at the next court holden for Savannah.’ Mr.Williamson (who stood by) said, ‘Gentlemen, I desire Mr. Wesley may give bail for his appearance.’ But Mr. Parker immediately replied, ‘Sir, Mr. Wesley’s word is sufficient.’

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pentecost 11: Speaking About Fools

Luke 12:13-21
This parable is entitled in my Bible, “The Parable of the Rich Fool.”  Fool is a powerful word and it is a word that Jesus cautions us against using, but He Himself uses it on two other occasions in parables; the parable of the foolish virgins and the parable of the foolish man who built his house on sand.

Jesus never called a person a fool – what He did do was tell parables about fools and, as always in a parable, it’s up to us to recognize who we identify with.  That’s the power of the parable, but it's also its weakness – it only tells us what we will allow it to tell us.  Jesus says if we have eyes that want to see and ears that want to hear, then He can lead us into all truth – about Himself and about ourselves.  May He lead us into truth today.

So, in this case it’s about a rich fool – you can of course get a poor fool, a stupid fool, a clever fool, a young fool, an old fool. This parable is about a rich fool.  I think this parable teaches us what a fool is, so let’s work briefly through it and see what we can learn, because one thing I think we probably all agree on, is that we don't want to be......foolish.

 “A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide with me the property our father left us.’ ”

Notice the crowd: so this is a teaching for the multitude – ie: for you and for me.

 “Jesus answered him, ‘My friend, who gave Me the right to judge or to divide the property between you two?’ ”

These words may surprise us but friends, there is a sense in which Jesus didn’t come to earth to solve family disputes.  Jesus is saying here, “I am not a judge of worldly things” and later He will say His Kingdom is not of this world.  He is a judge in the Kingdom of God.

“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘There was once a rich man who had land which bore good crops.  He began to think to himself, “I haven’t anywhere to keep all my crops.  What can I do?”’ ”

Now we’re getting to the crux of the matter:What can I do? The advice he gets is: Invest in property and develop that property.  Tear down and build up.  How often do we ask: What can I do?  
What should I desire?  What is the right answer? Jesus' answer is:  Build up treasure in Heaven.  
But the man in our story doesn’t, and God says to him and to anyone who fails to build up treasure in Heaven…

 ‘You fool!’ 

Why fool?......because to try and satisfy your soul with earthly goods and to depend on living many years is foolish.  Notice (please) the problem is not riches; the problem is not being rich in God’s sight

“And Jesus concluded, ‘This is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in God’s sight.’

What does it mean to be rich in God’s sight..........we've looked at this recently so I'll just summarise: To be rich in God's sight is to be rich in love, in faith and in good works.

The rich man was concerned for no-one else, and he had no care for God.  With no eternal perspective, the man’s life was completely focused on the temporal, the now.  His goal to take it easy and to eat, drink and be merry reveals his desire for mere self-indulgence.  He thought that, with his barns storing up mountains of wealth for the future, he had everything completely under control.  The rich man had a fatal flaw: he had forgotten to put God at the centre of his life......that makes him ....a fool. That's what makes you and me fools as well!

The moral of the story: fools spend all their time storing up earthly wealth but neglect to have a rich relationship with God.  
How is your relationship with God?  
We are foolish to neglect it.  We make a mistake if we only consider this story in the light of material possessions – too many cars, too many TV’s, too many clothes, too big a house, too much in the bank – since that was certainly the rich man’s problem.  But Jesus’ comment at the end does not specify money or possessions: 
“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich in God’s sight.”  
Are you rich in God’s sight?  Satan tempts us to build up treasure in many ways.  We might consider friendships or children or physical health to be our greatest possessions.  We might even store up spiritual treasure after spiritual treasure, taking in as many as possible (Alpha Courses, Bible Studies, quiet time.....etc) , living for the sense of God’s presence to the exclusion of all else. Without realising it we sometimes are tempted to think: “Soul, you have had ample religious experiences and picked up spiritual insights and wisdom to last a lifetime.  Relax.”  And God could just as easily respond, “You fool!  This very night your life is being demanded of you.  And the spirituality you have hidden for yourself alone, who will benefit from it now?”  We can make a god or a treasure out of prayer, Bible studies, Church, W.A., giving.  We can live for our experiences rather than the God who is the source of them.  We can hoard what we have learned and never share with others who are struggling.  Richness should be in God Himself, not in anything else.

Who or what do you live for? 
Who or what is at the centre of your life?

That’s really what this parable is about.  Regardless of whether you are rich or poor, clever or not so clever, young or old, healthy or sick – the answer to the above questions need to be:  God......who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Only He can really guide you regarding what to do with your riches, your money, your possessions; 
Only He can really guide you regarding how to live if you are poverty stricken;
Only He can really guide you regarding how to use your brain to its full ability. 
When God is at the centre of your existence, then being rich or poor, employed or unemployed, healthy or sick, being happy or sad or depressed..... when God is at the centre of our existence these things don’t disappear, .................but they are put into their proper place which always will be somewhere other than the centre of your existence.  When God is at the centre of our existence these things lose their power to define who you are and what you do.

Is God at the centre of your life?

Questions based on "About Fools"

Read "About Fools"

1.     What was the real problem with the brothers at the introduction to this story?  Do you have any such problems with your brothers and sisters?  How do you resolve them?

2.    Read verse 14.  When have we become judges over matters which are not any of our business?

3.    Of what does a person’s life really consist?  What is really important?

4.    Why did Jesus call the rich man a fool?

5.    Jesus said, “This very night you will have to give up your life.”  Do you think of your death very often?  Describe your thoughts?

6.    Is it a sin to buy up treasure for ourselves?  Is it a sin to plan for your retirement?

7.    What does it mean to be rich in God’s sight?