All One in Christ Jesus

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, All One in Christ Jesus, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 19 June, 2016. The Reading was Galatians 3:23-29.

I am, perhaps showing my lack of age here. And I mean that in no disrespect to my elders. Just recently, Liesl and I watched the movie, The Butler. If you haven’t seen it, I really do recommend it. It tells the story of an African American who started picking cotton, then after his father was shot was brought inside and trained as – to use the terminology from the movie – a “house nigger”. You follow him as he eventually becomes a butler, and finally a butler within the White House.

As you watch the movie, you get a real sense of the exclusion that was held at the time. That they couldn’t sit at the same lunch counter. Sit in the same seats on the bus. Drink from the same water fountains. And when I watch other films dealing with similar issues, such as The Help, or read books like To Kill a Mockingbird, you get an understanding that these things were held to be “just the way things are”.

And then I realise that segregation was outlawed in 1964, some 52 years ago. And that’s what hit me – when my parents was born, the United States of America was still segregated. I think nothing of it these days, because that’s the way it’s always been for me. I have to remember that it wasn’t always that way. Continue reading “All One in Christ Jesus”

From Extremist to Evangelist: Paul’s Conversion and Ours

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, From Extremist to Evangelist: Paul’s Conversion and Ours, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Trinity Sunday 5 June, 2016. The Reading was Galatians 1:11-24.

Autobiography Titles

I’m doing a lot of reading at the moment. For my 30th birthday, I set myself a challenge to read 30 books in my 30th year – books that I had been meaning to read, or I really should have read, by my 30th. So I’ve already read books like Frankenstein, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and a the moment, I’m Reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, titled Long Walk to Freedom. And I was thinking this week about the titles of Autobiographies. And there are some fantastic titles out there. Such as the lead singer of the band KISS, Gene Simmons, who titled his autobiography, Kiss and Make Up. Or Davy Jones’ autobiography – They made a Monkee out of me. One of my favourites that I’ve read – Never have your Dog Stuffed: and other things I’ve learned by Alan Alda. There’s a wonderful spoonerism in Tori Spelling’s book, sTORI Telling. And David Hasselhoff plays on his name with his book, Don’t Hassel the Hoff.

Picking the title of your Autobiography can be quite tough. Trying to sum up your life in a short, eye catching phrase, or in just a few words. I wonder what your autobiography might be called. I’ve got a few thoughts for mine: This is my story, this is my song. Or maybe What’s a Violinist doing in the Salvation Army? Could be an interesting read.

Our reading today is Paul telling the Galatians a little bit of his own story. And I read through it, and I think I’ve got the perfect title for Paul’s Autobiography: Paul: From Extremist to Evangelist. What do you think? Would you read it? Continue reading “From Extremist to Evangelist: Paul’s Conversion and Ours”

The Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

When I was doing my music degree, I was introduced to the concept of Controlled Breathing. The idea was that through learning how to control your breathing, you can control your nerves. By taking long, slow breaths, it puts more oxygen into your blood stream, which means your heart doesn’t need to work so hard, so it slows down, which will lead to you not sweating as much, and feeling calmer. Likewise, if you take short, shallow breaths, your heart rate will increase, as it’s not getting as much oxygen and needs to work harder.

I was reminded of this while attending my first Salvation Army service. I had missed being ready to head along to my church (darned 9am start time), and my girlfriend (who is a Salvo), was going to her 10:30 service. I realised I had enough time to have a shower and get down there, so I decided to see what a Salvo service is like. The sermon was on love, being the third week of advent. But the line that caught my attention was “But the fruit of the spirit is… self-control.”

Even though I’ve heard this scripture many times, I guess my thoughts kinda leant towards that if you were faithful, the spirit would bring these things out in your life. However, I realised yesterday that it is infact the complete opposite. By showing these “fruits” we actually invite the spirit into our lives, and the spirit will help us to use these gifts for God’s work.

The reason I was reminded about my controlled breathing experiences was that it showed me that we don’t need to wait for the spirit to show up in order to do these things. We can be joyful, loving, peaceful, patient, self controlled etc by making a conscious decision to do so, and by doing that, we invite the spirit to be present in our lives.

I pray that we can have the courage to be loving to the unloved, joyful in dark times, peaceful in a violent world, patient in our busy lives, kind to those who are unkind, good to the evil ones, faithful in a sceptical world, gentle in a harsh world, and self controlled where we are tempted. Amen.