Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, March 22, 2019

Lent 3: There is No Need to Sin....Ever

Isaiah contains this wonderful promise/offer to all people to come to God … and to be satisfied, to be content, to have a sense that… the Lord is my Shepherd, therefore… I have everything I need.

This great invitation from God, saying to you and to me, today… Come… I have an abundance of the things you need… do you want some?

In Luke Jesus speaks about sin and then tells a parable... in a sense He says: “stop sinning and bear fruit.’

The fig tree in Scripture, like the vineyard, is usually always a metaphor for God’s people… you and me. So God is saying to us, to you, to me, stop sinning and bear fruit.

In our first year in our new home in Norwich we planted a fig tree, two olive trees and a grapevine (in Scripture these are all signs of having reached the place of settling down). The fig bore fruit the next year, the vine last year, and we still await our first olive crop.
In the parable, the fig tree (God’s people… God’s Church… you and me) hasn’t born fruit for 3 years.

3 is such a symbolic number, an important number, in Scripture… it often signifies completion or perfection; or wholeness. Here we have a tree (a people, a church) that should be whole and complete and doing what it should be doing, bearing fruit.
But it isn’t, and the owner says: Pull it up, get rid of it. But the person tending the tree in the vineyard, in other words, the vine-dresser, who in another parable Jesus says is “My Father”…. The vine-dresser says… Wait… give it one more year and I’ll dig, I’ll fertilize, I’ll feed it, and let's see what happens.

God is so patient, so caring, so “long suffering” towards His people, His Church, you and me.......isn't He?

The God who in Isaiah invites us to feast off His abundance, the Lord who supplies all our needs… is patient when we don’t allow His provision to feed us, sustain us, and bring us to fruit bearing in the world around us… bearing and providing for the thirsty, hungry world around us…. Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, humility, and self control.

So in this season of Lent, this season which encourages us to do without to abstain or fast in some way… here in the 3rd week God teases us with the promise of abundance, of provision, of supply for our needs… which the Biblical story is full of.

The Biblical story is also full of the truth that our sin is a barrier between us and our God and therefor between us and the abundance that God seeks to shower upon us. As an umbrella keeps rain off us, our sin keeps Gods overflowing abundance off us. But, praise God, just as an umbrella does not separate all the rain from us, so too, praise God, does our sin not keep all of God’s abundance away from us. Otherwise, we would, truly, be dead.

So in Luke Jesus says: “Stop sinning… not because I want to spoil your fun, but because I want to feed and fertilize you and bring you to full fruit bearing – I want you to be everything I know you can be, everything I created you to be, but your sin… hinders my work in you."

Stop sinning… bear fruit.

Can I stop sinning?

Let’s find an answer to that question in our reading from Corinthians and let’s uncover the truth about temptation – a truth that perhaps will set us free – free from sin and free to bear fruit.

Six truths reveal themselves in our reading:

1.    Temptations are the primary reason you desire to sin. The fall into sin is always preceded by a temptation that has overtaken you.

2.    Temptations are particularly dangerous when you think you can’t fall – that’s interesting isn’t it? You’d think it would be the opposite… that you would be strong when you think you are strong… but that’s when we’re at our weakest.

3.    Temptations seek to overtake you. They are not inactive, but active. But here is a wonderful truth. Before every sin lies it’s temptation. If you defeat the temptation… you will not commit the sin.

4.    The temptations you experience are never unique, but always common. This is the beginning of good news, of gospel: Your temptation is not unique, or bigger than anyone else’s temptation.

Now comes the really Good News:
5.    Temptations aren’t allowed to go beyond your ability to resist them. Because of His faithfulness to us, God will not allow you or me to be tempted beyond our ability to resist temptation. Isn’t that Good News… God limits temptation.

It gets even better.
6.    Temptations are always accompanied by the Lord’s way of escape. God provides – he is Jehovah Jireh...... My provider.

So Jesus says: Stop sinning and bear fruit, and this is a command of God throughout Scripture.

Stop sinning: Not in order to be saved. We are not saved by whether we stop sinning or not.

We are saved… by faith.

So don’t stop sinning in order to be saved, stop sinning because you are saved and in order to bear fruit.

Come to the God who says… Come.
Come to the God who says… Eat.
Come to the God who says… Drink.

Com to the God who promises to provide all He knows you need right now.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sermon on Mount: Fasting

This is the third of the “when you …” statements of Jesus. We’ve looked at when you give and we’ve looked at when you pray. Today our subject is fasting. Jesus says, “when you fast …”

Lent: Reflection, Repentance, Prayer & Action

                                                                  image sourced here

The cross, O the wonderful cross
What Glory, what victory, I've found
I'll come to the wonderful cross
And my whole life I lay down

These words from The Wonder of the Cross by Robin Mark (listen to it here) are a wonderful reminder of one of the reasons for the season of Lent: Over a period of 40 days, starting on Ash Wednesday, we undertake a spiritual journey deep into ourselves but with our eyes focussed on the Cross, and hopefully rediscover or perhaps even discover for the first time, the glory and the victory which are ours because of what Jesus did and then lay our whole lives down for Him again….or, perhaps, for the first time. I really hope that is what Lent 2019 will be for us all.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

First Words at Home

First Words at Home

We have been looking at some firsts in Jesus' life over the last few weeks. Last week… Jesus’ first miracle.
This week… Jesus’ first words as a preacher in His home town.

Our focus today is on the Word of God, the Bible, and the influence, the authority, we give to it in our lives.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Water into Wine

John 2:1-11

Today’s gospel is the wonderful story of Jesus turning water into wine. But the focus of this reading isn't so much on wine as it is on the announcement that Jesus is the Messiah. There are Old Testament passages that proclaim that when the Messianic Kingdom comes, there will be an abundance of food and drink. The Messiah will bring in a new fullness and grace. Jesus now appears, and in this first miracle He makes more wine than a wedding party would possibly drink.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Baptism of Jesus: What does Your Baptism Mean?

Genesis 1:1-5 Mark 1:4-11

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
 And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.

One of the first things we hear about what I will call pre-creation is that the writer of Genesis describes there being waters: surface of the deep and hovering over the waters. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Epiphany of the LORD

Epiphany of the LORD

In our reading from Isaiah, he prophesies to a people just returning from 70 years of exile in Babylon, and he says that the day will come when all nations will “come to their light…”. And in our gospel reading we find a fulfilment of that prophesy as visitors from the East, Magi, i.e.  not Jewish people, not chosen race people… such folk come to Jesus, the light of the world.

Will you come to Him in some new way this year, perhaps even this day?

Let’s work through our gospel reading and see if it perhaps leads us, like a star, to some new place.

 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

Not much is known about these men from the East, called Magi, or wise men. We know from Persian documents that they were a priestly class with expertise in astrology, magic and divination. Now, our Scriptures strongly condemn these things, and this reading mustn’t be taken to mean that these things are now acceptable. Rather what this passage shows is that God will reveal himself wherever people are looking for Him.
He reserves the right to reveal himself wherever He chooses....perhaps in a temple, perhaps in a stable, perhaps in a beggar on a street corner.

They asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Notice the response that Jesus draws from these pagan astrologers: They want to worship Him.
Do you, do I, travel here (to this church)… to worship Him?
Can 2019 be a year perhaps when we stop coming to church… and start coming to worship?

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

The response of the pagan astrologers was… worship.
The response of Herod (and all Jerusalem) was … disturbed.
Isn’t that strange? The King of the Jews has been born – pagans are excited about – but Jerusalem, city of David – is disturbed, troubled, worried.
“Religious” people don’t always respond well to Good News, or to the possibility of change.
We can understand Herod,...... he is a tyrant, he is not the rightful heir to the throne of David, he’s only there because the Romans have installed him as “king”.
We can understand him being disturbed by this threat to his position.
But “all Jerusalem” disturbed as well…??
These were people who went to the Temple, many of them daily and did all the right things… made sacrifices, ..........kept holy days,..............kept Sabbath......
I think part of the problem was that they were a people who went to the Temple, but who never went to worship.

When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

The chief priests were Sadducees, the teachers of the Law were Pharisees – and these 2 groups didn’t like each other or even respect each others beliefs, but they are brought together at the birth of Christ.
They will often be brought together again during the ministry of Jesus, always with the intention of trying to catch Jesus out, and ultimately it is their coming together at the end of Jesus ministry that will ensure His murder.....If the religious people agree that this man is bad, He must be bad.
Religious people are dangerous in the Kingdom of God.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.

And the Magi tell him – it was 2 years ago. Why does Herod want to know the exact time – because he needs to know exactly who to exterminate in order to get rid of the threat of a new king.
So Jesus, by the time the Magi visit Him… is… 2 years old.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Notice once again of the joy of these pagans as opposed to the worry of the religious Jews.

 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary,

Notice that Jesus is now… in a house. Born in a barn two years before during the census when town was full, but now living in a home. Joseph had obviously decided to settle in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth.

And they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

There is of course much significance in these gifts which has no doubt been explored in previous years, today I just want to say that these gifts would have provided the financial resources for Joseph and Mary’s trip to Egypt and back which they needed to make in a hurry in order to avoid the slaughter of all 2 year olds and younger. Joseph had to shut up his business overnight and flee.

Our God is a God who provides!

So much for the reading set for today – what star, what light does it provide for us as we journey into 2019?

The gospel must always shine light on our path before we seek to discern how it should light up someone else’s life. The word of God must always cut us like a sharp two edged sword before we can use it in the life of others.

We have before us today, Herod, the religious people of the day… and the pagans/Magi.
Which group would we be comfortable in? Which group perhaps describes us best?
Herod...................religious people..............pagans
Perhaps the group of Herod, where hatred and fear dictate our behaviour?
Perhaps the group of the religious people… those of us in this group, we know the Bible, we know Gods word, we know what God says about… homosexuality … horoscopes… death penalty… about divorce… pork… tattoo’s…gun control..... about gambling etc etc.

In this group, we know stuff, especially religious stuff, and like the religious people of Jesus’ day, we are indifferent and blind to the new thing that God might be doing and we don’t even bother to explore,.........we don’t bother going to Bethlehem to see for ourselves.

So we have the group of Herod and the group of religious people.

Then we have the pagan/Magi group – this group.......... journeys,................ explores,................. gives.................... and worships.

Put another way, the Herod group is a group of fear and hatred, the religious group is a group governed by indifference, the Magi group is a group looking for and led by the shining star of joy and worship

Let us pray.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Epiphany Sunday: Eureka

A few Sundays in the year have special names, such as Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Ascension Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, Christ the King Sunday, etc. This Sunday is called Epiphany and you might well what? Epiphany is the Sunday closest to (or on) January 6th, the