The Prodigal Story

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Prodigal Story, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday March 31, 2019. The Reading was Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

Missing the Story

Our bible reading today is the Prodigal Son.

How many of you would switch off at hearing that? That you’re so familiar with the story that you don’t actually need me to read it out? I’ll admit that I did that. When I saw what was the bible reading for today, I initially skipped it and didn’t read it through.

We all know the story. The son asks his father for his half of the estate, goes and loses it all, comes back, and asks to be a slave, and the father welcomes him back into the family. In the mean time, the elder son hears there’s a party happening, and refuses to come back in, and so the father goes out to him.

And we’re so familiar with this story, that we’re probably very familiar with the interpretation. The Father is God. The prodigal son is the Christian. The elder son is the Jewish people.

But if we believe that scripture is the living word of God, and that it continues to teach us and continues to show us new insights into the nature of God, then we have a duty to read it and hear it through fresh eyes.

And so, I’m not going to read our reading for today. Not right now. I’m going to shake things up – give my sermon first, and then we will read the scripture. Because I want to give you some information about the three characters that may change the way you hear this story.

Continue reading “The Prodigal Story”
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God’s Kingdom is Mercy

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, God’s Kingdom is Mercy, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday March 3, 2019. The Reading was Luke 6:27-38.

Follow the leader

Our reading today follows on from the reading we had last week, so it makes sense that my sermon should follow on in many aspects. We still have Jesus speaking to his disciples in that level place. But we also need to remember that Luke is writing this gospel for his congregation, and as such, much of what he is writing here are instructions for his church. Just as Jesus is saying this is how I want you to live, Luke is saying to his church “This is how you need to be as a church”.

In Jesus’ day, many groups believed that not only did the individual need to imitate their leader, but the community needed to imitate their leader as well. Therefore, the values that Jesus and God showed and show as central should also be the values that the church holds as central.

For us, in our passage today, that grounding is found right in the center of our reading. It’s a short verse, but it sums up everything that comes before and after it in the passage, as well as being our guide for what we should be as a community. Verse 36 says “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Continue reading “God’s Kingdom is Mercy”

Discipleship amidst the desolation

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Discipleship amidst the desolation, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday February 24, 2019. The Reading was Luke 6:17-26.

Placing us – Have you ever?

I want to start by playing a little game. I’m going to ask a question, and if it applies to you, I want you to raise your hand.

I want you to think back over the last week. Has anybody paid you a compliment? If someone has spoken some kind words about you in the last week, please raise your hands. (For those with their hands up, you might like to look to those with their hands down and see if you can repay that compliment).

Again, over the last week, if you can think of a time where you have laughed – either a little chuckle, or a full bellied guffaw, then raise your hands.

If you have food in your fridge, which is in a house that you are able to live in and gives you a safe place to sleep and to store the clothes that you are wearing, please raise your hands.

If you have money in your bank, some in your purse or wallet (either actual cash or accessible through a debit card), and some loose change in a dish at home somewhere, raise your hand.

Let me read this passage again.

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

Luke 6:20-26 (NRSV)

Did you know that if you have food in the fridge, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head with a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.

If you have money in the bank, in your purse or wallet, and spare change in a dish somewhere, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthiest people.

In response to those statistics, how do you feel about this reading?

Continue reading “Discipleship amidst the desolation”

Teaching, Catching, Calling

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Teaching, Catching, Calling, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday February 10, 2019. The Reading was Luke 5:1-11.

Big Picture

There are plenty of accounts of boats throughout the bible, and many of them involve fishing of some kind. But do you know where there is strangely no mention of fishing? In Chapter 7 of Genesis. Now, if you’re not up to date with your bible reading plan, and that reference doesn’t come straight to your head, let me refresh your memory. Genesis starts with the creation of the world, of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They get cast out of Egypt, and Cain murders Abel, and then civilisation expands, and we get all the descendents from Adam through to Noah, whom we meet in chapter 6. Chapter 7, therefore, is the great flood. And there is no fishing there. Do you want to know why Noah didn’t go fishing while on the ark? He only brought two worms.

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Good News Is Bad News Is Good News

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Good News Is Bad News Is Good News, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday January 27, 2019. The Reading was Luke 4:14-21.

Back Handed Compliments

The English language is a wonderful thing isn’t it? Our words have so many different meanings, all depending on where we place the emphasis. When my mum was working with refugees, helping other people to teach them to learn English, she would use the example of this sentence to show how difficult our language was, as this sentence can have different meanings all depending on where we place the emphasis.

Do I know Elvis Presley? Do I know Elvis Presley? Do I know Elvis Presley? Do I Know Elvis Presley? Do I know Elvis Presley? Do I know Elvis Presley?

Continue reading “Good News Is Bad News Is Good News”

Hope Where It’s Needed Most

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Hope where it’s needed most, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday May 27, 2018. The Reading was Luke 10:25-37.

Elizabeth Ballard of Chesapeake, Virginia, tells the story of a school teacher named Miss Jean Thompson.
Miss Thompson would greet her new students every September with the same words: “Boys and girls, I love you all the same. I have no favourites.” Of course, she wasn’t being completely truthful. Teachers do have favourites and what’s worse, they sometimes have students they just don’t like.
Teddy Stallard was one of these. Continue reading “Hope Where It’s Needed Most”

The Great Banquet

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Great Banquet, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday May 13, 2018. The Reading was Luke 14:12-24.

It’s 6:30am, and the temperature is in the single digits. I’m sitting on a picnic blanket on the lawns of Parliament House. To the left of me are two sisters and a friend who have travelled there from Adelaide. Next to them, a native Hawaiian who now lives in Sydney. Someone from Canberra. A couple from Newcastle. Behind me is a man recently arrived from Syria. And on the other side of the group, another man who originates from the Congo but arrived only last week into Australia from a refugee camp in Burundi. Prior to today, I had only met these people the night before as we watched the budget and shared in prayer and worship. Yet today, these people, from varied backgrounds and faith traditions, today we are family. We meet together to learn from scripture, and to be a voice for the unheard.

Over to our right, the news crews stand in readiness, ready to interview a range of politicians as they discuss this latest budget. And in front of us, a banquet table, jam-packed full of goodies to illustrate how the blessings of our abundance means that we have plenty to share with all who need it. Continue reading “The Great Banquet”

Don’t worry about what others think, but do what God asks

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Don’t worry about what others think, but do what God asks, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 28 August, 2016. The Reading was Luke 14:1, 7-14.

Did you know that there is only 119 days until Christmas? That’s 2856 hours, 171,300 minutes or 10,281,600 seconds. Not that I’m counting of course. Now, Christmas is a wonderful time of year because everyone is excited about the birth of Jesus, right? The whole world stops, and celebrates the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, because the whole world realises what an important and holy occasion this is, and that’s all that happens, right? No, for the vast majority of the western world, Christmas means one thing: Presents. Lots and lots of presents. The big department stores have already had their big Christmas lay-by sales, there will be more and more sales as we get closer and closer. Come next week we will probably start seeing Christmas decorations being put up into stores as they encourage us to spend more money to buy more presents because if we start buying earlier we can afford to buy more presents and buy bigger and better presents. But gift giving isn’t everything that it’s cracked up to be. Sheldon knows this. If you don’t know who Sheldon is, allow me to introduce you to him. Dr. Sheldon Cooper is one of the main characters from the TV Sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. He is a Caltech theoretical physicist who received his first Ph.D at the age of 16. He is incredibly smart, incredibly nerdy, and incredibly socially awkward. Now, despite coming from a deeply religious family from the Bible Belt of Texas, Sheldon doesn’t celebrate Christmas – or as he puts it, the pagan festival of Saturnalia. And he similarly doesn’t like the tradition of gift giving, as demonstrated here. Continue reading “Don’t worry about what others think, but do what God asks”

Who is my Neighbour?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Who is my Neighbour?, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 10 July, 2016. The Reading was Luke 10:25-37.

Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Before I get into looking at this text, I want to introduce you to one of my favourite theological concepts. See, I am a bit of a theology nerd.

Me on the inside (Credit: Adam4d.com)
Me on the inside (Credit: Adam4d.com)

That image up there? That’s me on the inside. And you see, this afternoon, I’m heading down to Melbourne to do a study unit. So a week of studying Theology means that

Me after a week of study. (Credit: Adam4d.com)
Me after a week of study. (Credit: Adam4d.com)

this will be me by the end of the week.

But enough about me. See, what I want to introduce to you is this idea of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  This is something that comes out of our own faith tradition, and is something that can be really helpful in coming to understand difficult issues. I’m just going to briefly touch on it today, because while I may not understand why everybody isn’t a theology nerd, I do understand that not everyone is a theology nerd. So we’ll just dabble today, and maybe that will spark something for you to become a theology nerd like me.

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Experience, Reason
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Experience, Reason

So for the Wesleyan faith, there are four things that they hold as valuable to our faith. These things are Scripture, of course, Tradition, Reason and Experience. So when looking at any particular issue, we look to see how it has been traditionally interpreted by the Church, Experience is our own individual experience, reason is the discerning and cogent thought that we give to the issue, and scripture of course is what the Word of God says. The way that we apply the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is that we look at all of these things, Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience, and we interpret them through the lens of Scripture. So Tradition, interpreted through scripture, Reason, interpreted through scripture, experience, interpreted through scripture, and Scripture, interpreted through Scripture. And as I said, going through this can be a really helpful way of dealing with difficult issues.

But, enough about that. I could be talking all day here. Continue reading “Who is my Neighbour?”

Jesus invites us to a party

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Jesus invites us to a party, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 6 March, 2016. The Reading was Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

We’re fine with equality so long as we come out on top.

Now, I’m hoping that you will appreciate my jokes a bit more than Liesl does, but I’d like to start off with a joke today. The story goes that this is an old Jewish story. There was a hardworking farmer, and the Lord appeared to him and in response to his hard work and faithfulness granted him three wishes, but with the condition that whatever he wished for, the Lord would give double to his neighbour. The farmer, scarcely believing his good fortune, wished for a hundred cattle. Immediately he received one hundred cattle and was overjoyed until he saw that his neighbour had two hundred. So he wished for a hundred acres of land, and again he was filled with joy  until he saw that his neighbour had two hundred acres of land. Rather than celebrating God’s goodness, the farmer could not escape feeling jealous and slighted because his neighbour had received more than he did. Finally, he stated his third wish – that God would strike him blind in one eye. And God wept. Continue reading “Jesus invites us to a party”