What are you looking for? Come and see.

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, What are you looking for? Come and see, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 15 January, 2017. The Reading was John 1:35-42.

Famous First Words

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase, Famous Last Words. However, have you heard of any famous first words? You might be able to remember your own kids first words, but so often these are either not remembered or of little importance that they are not noteworthy for those who go on to become famous. However, when you look at fictional characters, it’s easy to work out what their first words were. Sometimes, these first words are able to reveal to us some valuable information about that character.

16092For example, in the TV show the Simpsons, Marge Simpson’s first words are “Ooh, careful, Homer”. To which Homer responds with his first words, “There’s no time to be careful.” It explains a bit about these two characters.

In the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo Baggins’ first words are “What’s this? A ring!” Again, revealing an important part about this character, his discovery, and later obsession with this ring.

Of course, at other times, a character’s first lines just serve the plot. For example, Juliet’s first words in Romeo and Juliet is “How now, who calls? Continue reading “What are you looking for? Come and see.”

Understanding and the Trinity

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Understanding and the Trinity, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Trinity Sunday 22 May, 2016. The Reading was John 16:12-15.

Trinity?

Today in the life of the Church is what is called, Trinity Sunday. It’s a day where we celebrate one of the great mysteries of the Church. One of the great Theological conundrums. That we worship one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our Third doctrine says that “We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.” So we believe that our one God is three persons, but they can’t be divided. It’s something that can be a bit hard to understand. Continue reading “Understanding and the Trinity”

Feeling Safe

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Feeling Safe, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Mothers Day, Sunday 8 May, 2016. The Reading was John 17:20-26.

Feeling Safe

Liesl and I are very different in some respects. For example, I have no qualms about walking around at night alone. No worries at all. She, however, won’t step out at night unless she’s with someone. I would be more than happy to walk around the city at night, to take public transport or catch a taxi alone at night, where as those things would make her very nervous.

And I get it. I understand it. I am a privileged person. As a white male, I am less likely to suffer abuse when in those situations, than Liesl is. Still unlikely, but the unfortunate reality is that women grow up with an inherent understanding that if they are alone at night, they are in danger. Continue reading “Feeling Safe”

Listen to the voice of the shepherd

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Listen to the voice of the Shepherd, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 17 April, 2016. The Reading was John 10:22-30.

We listen for what we are trained

A guy was walking down Bourke Street, the hustle and bustle of everyone heading off to their jobs, trams going all over the place, cars beeping their horns, noise everywhere. And all of a sudden, a young guy taps him on the shoulder. The young guy says to guy, “Hey, can you hear that cricket?” And with an incredulous look, the guy says “Seriously? In amongst all this noise, you’re saying that you can hear the sound of a cricket?” So he stopped, looked at the guy, and dropped a coin onto the pavement. It was as if the whole street when suddenly quiet, as a number of people looked down to see where the coin was. The young guy said “I guess we hear what we want to hear”. Continue reading “Listen to the voice of the shepherd”

God’s Gifts

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, God’s Gifts, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 14 February, 2016. The Reading was John 21:1-23.

Societies Contrasting messages

As I’m sure you’re aware now, I turn 30 today. And it’s with these big birthdays that you start thinking about your life, about making sure that you’re doing things that you should be doing. So earlier this year, I went to get a skin check, and you probably saw me with a bandage on the back of my neck where I had a biopsy done. All clear, which is good, but it was a bit of a wake up as well. I want to make sure that I’m around for as long as I can be for my kids – but my word is the world a tough place to live in. Continue reading “God’s Gifts”

Don’t get stuck in the room

There may be some people who feel like we need to do like the disciples and just stay in our safe place for a while. To stay within our building and to allow ourselves time to work out what has happened. I want to say to you what Jesus said to his disciples – “As the father sent me, so I send you.”

It would be a mistake of us to feel like this building is going to bring people in. Sure, it might. There will probably be a few people who will want to come in and have a stickybeak. But let me tell you that this building isn’t going to turn sticky beaks into Christians. And once the newness of the building wears off, and the sticky beaks have come and gone, how will we be meeting the mission of God?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Don’t get stuck in the room, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 23 November, 2014, in our first Sunday back in our building following renovations. The Reading was John 20:19-23

Who knows what next Sunday is, in the Church’s calendar? That’s right, the first Sunday of Advent. Hands up, who puts their Christmas Decorations up on the first Sunday in Advent? And who puts them up on December 1? And who’s got them up already?

Here’s a trickier question – who knows what today is, in the Church Calendar? Today, in the Church Calendar, is what’s known as Christ the King Sunday. And it’s this day that confused me for a long time with the set readings for the day.
If you don’t know, many churches use what’s called a lectionary, which is usually a three year cycle of readings that they will use for their services. There’s a few different ones around, but for the most part – particularly for the high feast days, they will have the same, or similar readings. And this day is one of them, where they will usually have a story related to the crucifixion.
Now, I never really got that until recently. It seemed to make no chronological sense – we were right about to get into Advent, the period of time where we prepare for Christmas, and all of a sudden, we’re brought back to Easter.
I didn’t get it for a long time, until a realised that – through the lectionary – we were being reminded that the whole purpose of Christ’s birth, the whole reason we have Christmas, was so that he would eventually die on that cross, and rise again, and be able to invite us all into eternal life. Continue reading “Don’t get stuck in the room”

Jesus is alive! … so now what?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Jesus is alive!… so now what?, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 27 April, 2014. The Reading was John 21:1-25.

In the church, today is traditionally known as low Sunday. After the hype and busyness (for the ministers at least) of the Easter Weekend, we feel a bit low. My dad’s a minister, and is looking after an Anglican church at the moment in WA. He reckoned he did about 16 hours of service over the four days. Another one of my Anglican Priest friends did 13 services in 8 days, and that included getting arrested for praying in the offices of a member of federal parliament. For the church, Easter is a busy occasion, so when it’s all said and done, we feel a bit low following it, and the stats generally go the same way. I’ve been following the stats here quite rigorously, and I can tell you that last year, you actually increased your attendance on low Sunday as compared to Easter Sunday, but the year before you followed the pattern correctly, and dropped off quite significantly. And that’s ok. We are all feeling down, and low, and the energy is gone. Add ANZAC day in, and I am certainly empathetic with those of you who are feeling low in energy today.

Going backwards

I wonder if how we’re feeling is a bit how the disciples were feeling. They had certainly been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions over the weekend. They start with the great disappointment of Jesus dying, followed by the excitement of him rising. But then they don’t really know what to do. They’re trying to take it all in, and process it all. So Peter, being the man of action that he is, hops up and says “Well, we can’t just sit around here all day. I’m going fishing.” And those that were with him head out and do the same.

Now, Simon – as he was known then, remember that Jesus changed his name to Peter – was a fisherman before Jesus came along. So for him – and for those that were with him – they were returning back to what they knew. They were going backwards.

So they go out fishing, and they don’t catch anything all night. They’re thinking, maybe we’ve lost our touch – it had been three years after all. So they head back to shore, and someone yells out, “Haven’t you got any fish?” It’s almost like he’s mocking them from the shore – fisherman, going out and not bringing anything back. Then, he yells out, “Why don’t you try the other side!”

Peter’s probably thinking “Yea right, try the other side.” That would be like me going to Des over at the shop, asking “Haven’t you had any sales” and then telling him to put the open sign on the other door, or to turn his A-Frame sign around. But they decide to do it anyway, and low and behold, they catch a large haul of fish – 153! Now, some people try to look for significance in the number, but there isn’t really any significance, apart from to signify that it was a true account, and that it really happened.

Then someone clicks – it’s the Lord. It’s Jesus! Simon Peter swims to the shore and greets him, and they share a meal together.

Reinstating

Now Peter must have been feeling a bit sheepish. But not as much as he would be with what happens next. Remember, when Jesus had been taken by the chief priests, Peter says three times that he did not know Jesus. Now, after breakfast, Jesus tackles Peter on this.

He says, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Now there’s a few things to point out just in that question alone. First, note that Jesus has returned to Peter’s original name – Simon. That must have hurt, but that’s what Peter did. He returned to his old self by going back fishing. Second, there’s no indication as to what Jesus is indicating by “these” – he could be pointing to the fish, he could be pointing to the other disciples, we don’t actually know. But either way, Peter responds and says “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.”

Now, we actually lose something here in the translation – and I try to avoid heading into the Greek because it can get boring and stuffy, but we need to understand that there are a few different words for love in the Greek language. There’s eros (ερος), which is the erotic love, and we don’t get a lot of that word in the gospels. Then there’s phileos (φιλεος), which is the love of a friend, and then there’s agapao (αγαπαο), which is brotherly or sacrificial love. So when Jesus poses the question, he uses the word agapao. But Peter responds with phileos.

Jesus asks again, using agapao, and again Peter responds with phileos. Finally, Jesus asks a third time, this time using the word phileos. At that point, Peter realises what he was missing.

So often through the Gospels, Jesus spoke to his disciples on a heavenly plane, that they just didn’t get, and would eventually break it down for them in terms they would understand. Here we get the same thing – Jesus is aiming for Peter to think higher, to think heavenly, but when it’s apparent that he can’t – not at that moment, Jesus comes to him, and meets Peter where he’s at.

Jesus still does that today. We’re tired. We’re exhausted. But Jesus gets that. We’re hurt. We’re sore. But Jesus gets that. We’re unsure about our faith. We’re not sure what to do with what we’ve heard over the weekend. But Jesus gets that. Jesus comes, and meets us, where we are, and says “Follow me.”

Going forwards

So Peter follows Jesus, and sees “the disciple whom Jesus loves” – thought to be John – following, and asks “what about him?” And Jesus turns to him and says “what is it to you what I do with him. You, follow me.” Jesus says, quite clearly, that we are not to concern ourselves with what Jesus is calling others to do, or to concern ourselves with how others are living. Instead, we are to focus in on what we need to do in order to follow Jesus.

Don’t concern yourselves with what others are doing, because their path is different to your own. You’re all individuals! Everyone comes from a different place, with different experiences, but Jesus’ call to everyone is the same – Follow me! From wherever you are, I will meet you there, and follow me! Don’t get distracted by what other people may or may not have to deal with, but instead, focus on what you have to deal with. The path may not always be easy – indeed, Jesus highlighted how Peter was to die because of following Jesus – but still we are called to follow him.

So today, are you going to allow Jesus to meet you where you are, and follow him? As we sing, you’re invited to come and to spend time in prayer, to meet Jesus where you are, and to seek out where he is leading you. Perhaps you’ve never met Jesus, but today you want him to come and to meet you where you are, and to invite him into your life and to say that you want to follow him. Someone will come and pray with you, and will support you through that. Or if there’s someone that you want to bring forward to pray with you feel free to do that as well, or even just to pray in your seats, but let’s sing, and meet Jesus where we are, and say “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you, and that I will follow you”

Enter the Impossible Love of God

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Enter the Impossible Love of God, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 16 March, 2014. The Bible reading was John 2:23-3:21

Did you know that it was impossible for Jesus to be a Christian? Think about it – a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, and if you follow yourself you’ll just end up going around in circles. It was impossible for Jesus to follow himself and to be a Christian.

The reading today is one that is probably fairly familiar to those that have been in the church for a while, and I expanded it out a bit to get some context into what we normally read. It deals a lot with what is possible, and what is impossible.

So we’re asking some big questions this morning. What is your big, impossible dreams? On arriving here in Devonport, one of Liesl and my early impossible dreams is to buy the old abandoned hospital and turn it into emergency housing for the homeless. Is it impossible? With our current funding – yes. But we’ll keep praying, because we know God has a funny way of making the impossible possible.

Another big question for you – do you limit God to the possible? Continue reading “Enter the Impossible Love of God”

The right to become children of God

Incipit Page of the Gospel of John.
The incipit page from the Gospel of John (Image by peterjr1961 via Flickr)

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

John 1:12-13
This is a beautiful passage from the beginning of John’s gospel, that says that all who believe in Jesus, all who accept him and trust in him, have the right to become a child of God, and accept all the inheritance that comes with that, to receive God’s care and protection.

This NIV translation has some interesting changes in verse 13. The NRSV translation of verse 13 reads “who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” They both use the plural, “who were” or “children” as opposed to the singular “who was” which some old translations have. The singular implies that it is only Jesus that this passage is talking about, where as the plural implies that it is talking about everyone that accepts and believes in Jesus. But the next part, skipping the “not of blood” with the NIV translating that as being “not of natural descent” is a nicer translation, if not entirely correct, but it does reduce the chance of confusion. E.C. Hoskyns in his book The Fourth Gospel writes “The Evangelist cannot write that the Christians were not born of blood (singular), because their birth does in fact depend upon a death which later he describes as involving the outpouring of blood.” This depends on whether you believe that salvation comes through the death of Christ, or as this verse seems to imply only through belief in his name. Note that one does not discredit the other, it is all in which way your beliefs take you.

There are many who would say that belief that doesn’t include salvation through the cross makes you not a “real” Christian. To them, I would give this verse, “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Personally, I believe that Christ died to forgive our sins as an amazing act of grace. He did this for all the children of God, all those who believe in his name.