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Power to the Powerless

Rosa ParksIt’s December 1st, 1955. A sensibly dressed woman in her forties gets on a bus in the early evening. Despite having spent all day bent over an ironing board in the basement tailor shop at Montgomery Fair department store, she carries her swollen feet and aching shoulders erectly. She sits in the first row of the Coloured section on the bus, and watches the bus fill with riders. Until, that is, the driver orders her to give her seat to a white passenger. Her response was just a single word, but that word was filled with so much meaning and started something that would only be realised later. She said, “No.”

The Story goes that Rosa Parks was tired of being pushed around and decided to sit down. For me, this is part of the story that resonates with me. After years of fighting for the rights of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Australia, Christian leaders are tired. They have worked, and continue to work the political process. They have written letters, signed petitions, visited politicians on all sides of the spectrum, and still our nations treats those in the most need in ever increasingly worse ways. We are tired of fighting and getting nowhere.

Praying inside Senator Bushby's office
Praying inside Senator Bushby’s office

So on Tuesday, I joined in with a movement of other tired Christian leaders, and with five others, we sat. We asked for a response, and got none. So we sat. We prayed. And we waited for a response.

Ben being led out by the police after being arrested
Ben being led out by the police after being arrested

We sat, asking the Senator to release a statement saying that it was abhorrent that there were 127 children in immigration detention. We offered for him to be a hero to these children, insisting to the Prime Minister and Immigration minister to release them and their families immediately. But we received no response. So we sat, and we prayed, and having received no response, we were eventually arrested.

Ben in the Divvy van
Ben in the Divvy van

So we sat in the Divvy van, knowing that while the police had treated us well, there were many in Manus Island and Nauru who have been treated harshly by security guards and police.

The Love Makes A Way group in the watch house
The Love Makes A Way group in the watch house

So we sat in the watch house, while the wonderful police officers promptly filled out the paperwork and processed us, knowing that there still has not been one asylum seeker claim that has been processed on Manus Island.

The Love Makes A Way crew, released on bail
The Love Makes A Way crew, released on bail

And as we walked free from the Police Station, into the waiting arms of our support crew, we go knowing that there are still 127 children locked away in immigration detention. That there are still over 2000 people locked away in immigration detention, many who have been there for over two years. And that while the boats may have appeared to have stopped, that there are still millions of people seeking protection and asylum all over our world, seeking safety from oppression.

Aside – My Love Makes A Way Action

I feel, at this point, that I need to step aside and clarify a few things that may have been raised in your mind. Firstly, this action has been a long time coming. I have been preparing myself for this action for over a year, and planning for this action started in April. I also sought, and received, approval and support to take part in this from both the Territorial Commander and the Divisional Commander. So I didn’t act on this alone, but with the approval and support of leadership. You may wonder why I hadn’t mentioned that I was intending to take this action. Part of it is that it is kept confidential, so as not to alert the senator and his office prior to the action. Another part is that it helps gain discussion throughout the community and social media, with people surprised that it is happening. This is a vital part to continue the discussion, as we aim to not only change the policy, but also to change the discussion within the community and within the church. And while we weren’t able to change the policy in this action, we are still able to change the discussion in the community and in the church. So feel free to come up and chat with me about anything relating to Asylum Seekers if you have any questions.

There are people in this world who are oppressed

The reality is that in our world today, there are many people who are oppressed. They are oppressed by people who have power. They have their rights taken away from them by people who have power. They could be asylum seekers seeking safety from war-torn countries. They could be the disabled, facing uncertainty about the level of support by a government intent on reducing our welfare bill. They could be Aboriginals, being pushed out of their traditional lands. That’s just a few situations that are happening right here in Australia, but there are thousands more all around the world. And quite often, people in those situations will think that they have no hope. How can they possibly change the world – they are, after all, just one person.

But that’s exactly what Jesus was teaching right here in this passage. Jesus was giving those people who were oppressed the opportunity to be seen as an equal. To give them some power back. How? Let me show you.

First, I need a volunteer. Now, back in Jesus’ day, there were very strict rules as to what you would do with your hands. One of the things is that you would only ever slap someone with your right hand. So, please put your left hand behind your back. Now, there are two ways to slap someone. Open handed, or back-handed. Now, Open handed slaps, they were for men of equal standing. Think of those days of old, or possibly in the movies, where someone would challenge another to a duel by slapping them. But a back-handed slap, that was for someone who was lower than you – a master slapping his slave for example.

So if you were only to use your right hand while slapping, and you were going to slap me on the right cheek, would you have to do it open-handed or back-handed? And this would be known by the crowd – if someone slapped you on the right cheek, it was because someone saw you as less than them. However, if you then turned the other cheek, forcing them to hit you on the left cheek – there was only two options for them. To slap you again, this time with an open hand, signifying you as equal, or to walk away, surrendering their position. In this way, Jesus was able to put power back into the hands of the powerless.

In the same way, if someone was suing you to take your coat – it was only because you had nothing else left to give. For someone to sue you for your coat means that they are so insistent on damaging you that they will take everything that you have. The cloak – that was effectively their last layer of clothing, it was the only thing giving them any dignity. So when Jesus says, give them your cloak, he was effectively saying for them to disrobe, to get naked. Why? Because it gave the powerless a voice. It was allowing the person being sued an opportunity to say to the oppressor, “look at what you are doing to me. You have reduced me to this – that I have no dignity left.” And by doing that, it forces the oppressor to think about what he is doing – to be the person that left someone naked (and lose standing in the community), or to give up his claim on the other person. Again, Jesus was putting power back into the hands of the powerless.

This is an accurate photo of a Roman centurion, right?
This is an accurate photo of a Roman centurion, right?

The final example Jesus gives is going the second mile. Now, we know that the Romans were occupying Israel at the time, and a Centurion was able to conscript a Jewish person to carry their pack for them, but only for the distance of one mile, no more. If it was carried further, then the Centurion was able to get in quite serious trouble. So if a Jew was to get to that one mile mark, and to just keep on walking, the Centurion would be running behind them, pleading with them to put the pack down. And with that, the power has once again gone from the powerful to the powerless.

Jesus gives us dignity through our choices

This is what Jesus was hoping to achieve through this. He wanted to give power to the powerless. To give them a dignity in life. And he offers that same dignity to us as well. It’s unlikely that you will be slapped in today’s age, and our understanding of position and customs are different from what they were back then. Taking off your cloak will not have the same effect that it did in Jesus’ day. And there aren’t any Roman Centurions around to force us to carry their packs. But through what Jesus is saying here, we can take his message and apply it to our own lives. In every situation, we have a choice on how we act. We can choose to act and show love to all people. We can choose to treat all people as equals. And we can choose to stand up and be a voice for those whose voices are oppressed by people in power. In Proverbs 31:8-9 it reads “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” This is what God is all about – because we are all God’s creation, and we are all created equally in God’s image.

We can see all people equally, and love all people equally

When we start to see all people equally, we start to see them how God created them. When we start to see them how God created them, we start to understand that they deserve to be treated with the same love and respect that God shows us. The same love and respect that gave us dignity in our choices. The same love and respect that doesn’t force us to worship him, but invites us to come and worship him as we see fit. The same love and respect that sent his son to die for our sins, so that we could enter into a full relationship with him.

Go, love your neighbour, and all others

That same love that God shows us, he calls us to love each other. Because if God shows it to us, and we are all created equal, then we should show it to all others as well. So we need to Go out from our building here, and show love to all people that we meet. We need to give love and dignity to all people that we come in contact with, because that’s what God gives us. And whether we are the powerful or we are the powerless, we need to treat all people as equals.

What’s God telling you today? Maybe he’s asking you to speak out for those who have no voice. Maybe he’s showing you people who you need to treat with love and respect. Maybe he’s showing you a way to stand up and be treated with love and respect.

In our response time today, you’re welcome to come and pray about whatever it is that GOd has told you today. Maybe you just want to come and pray for the 127 children who are still in detention. Or maybe you want to come and pray for the children in our community who go to school without breakfast or lunch. To pray for those around the world suffering in war zones, or to pray for God’s creation, and the way it has been ravaged by humanity’s greed.

As we do that, you are invited to join in this song that says “God of the Poor, friend of the weak, give us compassion we pray. Melt our cold hearts, let tears fall like rain. Come, change our love from a spark to a flame.”

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The Gift of Grace

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Gift of Grace, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 21 September, 2014. The Reading was Matthew 20:1-16

Have you ever received a gift, but it wasn’t what you were expecting? I’d like to tell you about a guy who was going to college in America. His father had told him that on his graduation, he would get the same present as his brothers – a new car. Now, this wasn’t just any car, but it was the top of the range, Porsche 911

A 2014 Porsche 911 GT3
A 2014 Porsche 911 GT3

, with all the trimmings. It was this that kept him going through college. He pushed through every class, he studied hard every night and passed his exams, and eventually came to graduation. He got up on stage, got his paper, and after the ceremony, his dad came over to him and handed him a present. He opened up the present, hoping to see the keys to his new car, but instead, what he found was a bible.

He was furious. He said to his dad, “I’ve spent four years working as hard as I can, to get the grades to let me pass, and all you give me at the end of it is this stupid book!” He marched off home, and threw the book in the corner of his room, never even opening it. He never talked to his father again.

Years later, one of his brothers called him to tell him that his father had died. He’d moved many times since, but he still had that bible. He opened it up, and found a letter, tucked inside. The letter said, “I am, and always will be, proud of you, my son. Your car is waiting for you at the dealership, all you need to do is pick it up.” Continue reading The Gift of Grace

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Sowing Seeds of Hope

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Sowing Seeds of Hope, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 30 March, 2014, which was the Altar Service for our self-denial campaign, with the theme “Sowing Seeds of Hope”. The Bible reading was Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Sowing Seeds of Hope

Do you have hope? How important is hope for you in your life? Where does your hope come from? What do you do when your hope is gone?

In 1965, naval aviator James B. Stockdale became one of the first American pilots to be shot down during the Vientam War. As a prisoner of the Vietcong, he spent seven years as a P.O.W., during which he was frequently tortured in an attempt to break him and get him to denounce the U.S. involvement in the war. He was chained for days at a time with his hands above his head so that he could not even swat the mosquitoes. Today, he still cannot bend his left knee and walks with a severe limp from having his leg broken by his captors and never reset. One of the worst things done to him was that he was held in isolation away from the other American P.O.W.s and allowed to see only his guards and interrogators.

How could anyone survive seven years of such treatment? As he looks back on that time, Stockdale says that it was his hope that kept him alive. Hope of one day going home, that each day could be the day of his release. Without hope, he knew that he would die in hopelessness, as others had done.

Indeed, Victor Frankl, the successor of Sigmund Freud at Vienna, argued that the “loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect on a man.” As a result of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl contended that when a man no longer possesses a motive for living, no future to look toward he curls up in a corner and dies. Is there really any wonder that asylum seekers, when told they have no hope of ever being settled, are willing to risk their lives in protest, or are willing to attempt to take their own life, as their last sliver of hope is removed?

There is a dying world

The reality of our world is that it is a dying world. Alcohol, Drugs and Gambling hold a firm grip over our society. Football season is back, which leads to gambling ads returning at every break in play, and more alcohol ads than you can point a stick at. We have wars, famines, pestilence, violence. The poor are poorer and the rich make themselves richer. Homelessness – an in particular youth homelessness is at an all time high, and there’s very little housing available for them.

We are living in a dying world, where people look around them and see no hope. Generational poverty is still a massive problem, where children see their parents and their grandparents living in poverty, and give up hope, and – as Frankl said – curl up in a corner and wait to die.

Hope provides the opportunity to save the dying world.

But just as a lack of hope can cause people to curl up and die, when you can give that hope back, you have the opportunity to give life to people. Hope gave James Stockdale the ability to survive. Because Leigh Ann Tuohy had faith in Michael Oher, she invested in him, gave him a family, gave him hope, and was able to turn his life around to becoming a first round NFL Draft pick, as depicted in The Blind Side. Hope gives us the ability to turn lives around.

But it’s important that that hope is in the right place. Gamblers hope that their bet will be the one that wins them the jackpot, and not the one that loses them their house. Alcoholics hope that the next drink will be the one that dulls the pain, and not the one that causes them to do something that could get them in trouble.

Our hope has to come from the source of all hope – from God, through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. When we have that hope, we can then take on the role of the planter, scattering seeds of hope wherever we go.

Planting hope gives us and others life

We need to take on that role of the planter. Have you ever put yourself in his shoes when looking at this reading? So often, we use this reading to ask the question, well where am I in my spiritual journey? Am I in the good soil, and growing strong, or am I in the rocky ground, having had a strong start, but soon to die and fade away? And while that’s a really important analogy, we can gain just as much from putting ourselves in the shoes of the sower.

Now, I’m not great at planting seeds. We’ve got a bunch of pots of dirt that I water regularly, but the seeds that were in there… well I’m guessing that they got eaten up by the birds because there’s certainly no plant there now. However, one thing that I do know is that if I am to gain the most success, then I need to start it off in some really good soil. I’m going to get some seed-raising soil mix, and put the seed in, and theoretically, so long as I give it just the right amount of water and the birds don’t steal it, then I should get some lovely plants.

However, the sower that Jesus depicts – he’s a bit different than me. He’s almost a bit lazy. The way he’s depicted, it’s almost like he’s being paid by the bag of seed that he’s used, and they don’t care where it goes. Or maybe he’s like the Oprah of sowers, “You get some seed, and You get some seed, EVERYBODY GETS SOME SEED!”

But this is what I love about the depiction. The sower doesn’t care about where the seed goes. While you would think that he should direct the majority of the seed to the good soil, he throws it wherever he goes, it lands wherever it lands, and what happens to it is whatever happens to it.

That’s how we need to be with sowing the seeds of hope. We could sow only with those people we think are in good soil, but there’s two reasons why we shouldn’t.

First – those who are in good soil already have reason to hope. They’ve got the good stuff. They’ve got all the right conditions around them to make them succeed. Sure, they need hope too, but we can’t restrict it just to them.

Secondly – how are we to really know who is in good soil and who isn’t? We don’t know. What we are called to do is to be faithful, and to sow seeds wherever we go.

Plant seeds of hope wherever you go

Today, we planted seeds of hope in Bangladesh, in Bolivia, in China and Tanzania. But today, commit to planting seeds of hope in the way that the sower did. Wherever you go, plant hope. Form relationships with people. Encourage them. Show them love and joy, be at peace with them and have patience with them. Be kind and generous to them, and faithful towards them. These are the fruit of the spirit, which as Paul says, there is no law against such things. When we live out the gospel, when we live out the glory of Christ, when we let the spirit guide our lives, then wherever we go we will have the opportunity to plant hope. And when we plant hope, we can then let God take over – We don’t know if the seed we planted landed in good soil, or whether it landed on a path that God is about to rip up and turn into good soil. So be faithful, trust in God, and this week, plant the seeds of hope everywhere you go.

As we think on that, we’re going to sing a song, the words may be familiar but the tune may be new. But these words speak of where our hope comes from, and what it can do. The opening lines states that “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” And the chorus says what it can do: “Weak made strong in the saviour’s love. It’s through Jesus that we can do it, and when that time comes, with trumpet sound, then we will be found in him, and that is our hope, that we will be dressed in his righteousness, and can stand faultless before his throne.

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Living Lives of Love

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Living lives of love, was given at Devonport Salvation Army on Sunday 16 February, 2014. The Bible reading was Matthew 5:17-37.

I wonder what your families were like when you were growing up. Were there any topics of conversation that you didn’t talk about? Maybe football was completely off the table – bring it up and you’d get sent to your room. Or maybe it was politics, or religion. In my Dad’s family, the taboo topic was divorce. You didn’t talk about it when my grandparents were in the room – it just wasn’t done. And I don’t know why, because it was the sort of thing that, while we did ignore it, it didn’t ignore our family. In fact, the only one of my Dad’s family who hasn’t got divorced is my Dad. All this in a family where Divorce just wasn’t talked about. Looking back, I would say that the divorce was a good thing for all of my aunties and uncles. So when I look at today’s reading, and I read Jesus speak out so harshly against divorce, I have a bit of trouble accepting that. I’m not saying that I advocate divorce – I think it’s a shocking indictment on the church that there are just as many divorces within the church as there are outside of the church – but I feel like there must be more to this passage than the first, initial reading. Continue reading Living Lives of Love

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The gifts that we bring to offer our King

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The gifts that we bring to offer our king, was given at the Church of Christ Wembley Downs on Sunday 6 January, 2013. The Bible reading was Matthew 2:1-12.

Annabelle in Wrapping PaperToday is the last day of our Christmas season. I hope it’s been a good season for you. It’s been a very special season for me, as it has been Annabelle’s first Christmas, and it was very special to be able to spend it here at home. But that presented itself with some other challenges. Everyone wanted to give Annabelle lots of presents, but we had to remember that everything that we received, we had to make sure that we could fit it all in our suitcases to take back to Melbourne. Thankfully we didn’t receive many large presents, but we’re still hoping that we’ll come in under our baggage allowance. Continue reading The gifts that we bring to offer our King

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The Fruits of the Tenants

This sermon was given at Floreat Salvation Army on October 2 at the 6.00pm meeting. It is based on the passage Matthew 21:33-46.

It is not enough to simply be a tenant of God’s vineyard. He invested in us, and wants us to return a profit.

Let’s take a look at this parable. At times, it seems like a fairly straightforward parable – a pointed message at the Pharisees – however, as we look into it, we can find all sorts of meaning. Continue reading The Fruits of the Tenants

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You can feed 5000 (or more)

This is the sermon that I delivered at York Salvation Army on Sunday 7 August, 2011. The Bible passage it is based on is Matthew 14:13-21.

Preaching seated

I apologise that I’m preaching seated down. I hope you can all see me. Just over a year ago, I was playing basketball in my E division Salvos comp team, the aptly named Team Victory, because we never win. I was making a drive in towards the left, and my knee collapsed from under me. At the time, it was suspected that it was just a dislocated patella, but after I reinjured my knee earlier this year while making a coffee, it became apparent that my Anterior Cruciate Ligament had actually been ruptured, with the only fix being Surgery. I had that almost two weeks ago, and as such, standing isn’t great, so I’m going to have to be seated for this sermon.

However, you’ll know that Jesus taught many sermons seated. These are mostly in the Gospel of Matthew, as this gospel was written for a Jewish audience, who understood that respected teachers taught while seated. So I thought I’d look at those to see if that was what God was wanting me to talk about today. But they didn’t grab my attention so much, however, the Feeding of the Five Thousand sparked something that I thought was where God was leading me today.

“You Feed Them”

The disciples come to Jesus saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus responds by saying “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

This was something that really stood out to me. Jesus instructs his followers to perform the miracle of feeding all these people. However, the disciples can’t see past the physical need of food, when Jesus is actually telling the disciples that they are able to feed these people spiritually. However, they lack the faith at this time to see past the physical, to see what Jesus is talking about, and to see the possibilities.

Lack of Faith stories

The Feeding of the 5000 is the only story that appears in all four gospels, and in three of the gospels, they are accompanied by other stories where the disciples showed a lack of Faith.

In the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples didn’t have the faith that they were able to feed the people, even though Jesus knew that they were able.

Following this story in Matthew, Mark and John is the story of Jesus walking on the water, where Peter steps out from the boat, then lacks faith and begins to sink.

Finally, in John 6:30, the crowd says to Jesus “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?” This crowd is the very same crowd that was at the feeding of the five thousand – the same crowd that made Jesus withdraw himself from the crowds because (as John 6:15 puts it) “they were about to come and take him by force to make him king.” Yet they lacked the faith to trust him a day later, and asked him to perform another sign.

Has there been a time in your life where you’ve lacked faith? I’m sure at certain points there has been times where we’ve all questioned whether God exists, or whether God is able to help in this or that situation. These times aren’t to be shunned, you shouldn’t feel bad about them. Because I believe that they are healthy, as it is through questioning that we become stronger in our belief.

Likewise, in each of these occasions where the Disciples or the crowd showed a lack of faith, Jesus provided the food for them to restore that faith. Jesus provided Food for the five thousand, pulled Peter out of the water, and calmed the seas, and spiritually fed the crowd by saying he was the bread of life.

Feed them through Jesus

In the feeding of the five thousand, it was only through Jesus that the disciples were able to feed those that were there. The disciples brought what they had, five loaves and two fish – basic Galilean rations. Jesus blessed it, gave it to the disciples and they distributed it.

The important thing here is that the disciples brought what they had to Jesus, and once Jesus had blessed it, they were able to feed the crowds with what they had. Jesus enabled their small blessing to feed thousands.

What this means to us is that no matter how small our gift is, when we give it to Jesus, he is able to multiply it to give blessing to a multitude of people.

An example. I studied Music at university, and as part of that I developed skills in arranging. One afternoon this year, I got home from work, and sat down and worked on an arrangement of Rueben Morgan’s song, Let the Weak say I am strong, for our Songsters at Floreat. I was completed by dinner. It was very little work for me. However, I presented it to our Songster Leader, and he distributed parts for our Songsters and we rehearsed it. Last Sunday, we performed it, and while I wasn’t able to join in thanks to my knee, I was up the back recording it on my phone. That has been uploaded onto YouTube, where that small effort of mine has continued to bless people who I may never know or meet. When I give my gifts to Jesus – no matter how small they may be, Jesus is able to use them to allow me to give blessing to others.

Disciples able to feed others

A couple of months ago, we celebrated Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came down and empowered the believers. At this time, Peter, the apostle who ran away from Jesus when he was questioned during the crucifixion, the apostle who blurted out at the transfiguration not understanding what he was saying, the apostle who stepped out of the boat and lacked the faith and began to sink, delivered this incredible sermon.

Now, Peter was a fisherman, unschooled, unlearned, having not studied the Torah. Yet, in the sermon that is recorded in Acts 2, about 40% of the sermon is quotations from scripture. There’s a large passage from the prophet Joel, and two passages of David. This is quite an amazing feat for someone who is uneducated, yet through the Holy Spirit, Peter’s small amount was magnified, and there were 3,000 new converts that day.

I’ve been reading Bill Hybel’s book, Just Walk across the room, where he encourages us to walk across the room and make relationships with people. He suggests that when we’re open to the guidance of the holy spirit, we are then able to be aware of opportunities to talk about faith with friends, to be open to opportunities to invite them to church. When we offer up our everyday life, such a little, mundane, thing, and allow the holy spirit to bless it, then we open ourselves up to the possibility of feeding 5,000.

5000 (and women and children)

In conclusion, a short note about the last verse: “five thousand men, besides women and children.” This was the norm for how numbers were recorded. For example, in Exodus 12:37, it is recorded that six hundred thousand men, besides children journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. The reason Matthew included this is to show that there was no exclusion to who received the blessings of God. No group was to be excluded from the glory of God, and likewise no group should be excluded from your ministry.

So if you’re to take only one thing from today, let it be this: Take what you have, give it to Jesus to bless, allow the Holy spirit to magnify it, and let it bless anyone and everyone that you know.

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Let your light shine

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14,16
This passage from the Sermon on the mount is rather famous. It is part of a number of instructions to how his disciples should behave. Here, he is calling his disciples to be examples to the rest of the world, that their good deeds may encourage others to glorify God. In the Tyndale commentary, he writes,

But the disciples of Christ must not, through fear of being an unworthy influence, remain silent about their religion. They can, and they must, bear witness to the faith that is in them through personal example. This is the truth underlying the metaphor used by Jesus when He tells them they are the light of the world.

So the disciples must not hide themselves, but live and work in places where their influence may be felt, and the light that is in them be most fully manifested to others – not for their own glorification, but that others may see that the light of real Christian goodness, finding expression in practical acts of loving-kindness and service, is a light not of this world but coming from God, and may in consequence be led to give honour and praise to its Giver

The Gospel According to St Matthew, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (General Editor Prof. R.V.G. Tasker), 1979 printing page 64.

I’ve heard this manifested in many different ways. People, like Major Brendan Nottle who runs the Melbourne 614 corps, working with the homeless, the poor and needy. I’ve heard it in suggestions to Christians that they should start each day with a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, meaning that they need to not only be in touch with God, but also in touch with the world. I’ve heard of it being manifested in people who are known as “the Christian” at work, who anyone can turn to when they’re going through a rough time.

What sort of things do you do to let your light shine?

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You can feed five thousand

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
A depiction of Jesus, teaching seated. (Image via Wikipedia)

Liesl and I have been asked to lead a service at the York Corps on August 7, and it’s apparently my turn to preach. Now, I’m due to have knee surgery on Tuesday (if I don’t there’s a whole heap of other problems happening, but I’m not going into that), which means I may well be on crutches when we do the service. So I’m planning to preach sitting down. Jesus often sat down while teaching, so why shouldn’t I?

It got me thinking about the times Jesus did sit down to preach, which mostly appear in Matthew’s gospel. This is all because Matthew’s gospel was written for a mostly Jewish audience, where Teachers would teach seated. So there’s the Sermon on the Mount, and the parable of the Sower and the seeds that fall on various ground, but these didn’t seem to grab me. I turned to chapter 14 and read of the feeding of the five thousand.

After this, I read the relating passage in the Tyndale commentary that we were given a while ago and I now have a bookcase to display them so I grabbed this commentary and this little bit sparked an idea.

As the day wore on, the disciples urged Him to discontinue His healing activity and to send the crowds away to obtain provisions before it was too late. Jesus, still moved with compassion for the hungry, shepherdless throng that surrounded Him, decides to use His miraculous power to satisfy their needs. But first He brings home to His disciples indirectly the fundamental truth that he has called them to be shepherds of the new Israel which constitute the Messiah’s flock, but that they will never be able to discharge that function in their own strength. All the power necessary for ‘feeding the sheep’ comes from Him, the chief Shepherd of the flock, and from Him alone. Such would seem to be the significance of Jesus’ words “They need not depart; give ye them to eat.” When they point out that their available supplies, “but five loaves, and two fishes” are totally inadequate for a catering task of such magnitude, He bids them bring their resources to Him; and in His hands they become so wonderfully multiplied that when the disciples receive them back from Him and distribute the broken pieces to the people they are found to be more than adequate for the entire company.

The Gospel According to St. Matthew Tyndale Commentary (General editor Professor R.V.G. Tasker), 1961. Page 143-144
Reading this passage sparked a light in me. When Jesus says “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (NRSV), he’s telling the disciples that they are able to feed the people spiritually. Yet they aren’t able to see past the physical needs into the spiritual needs. And then as the commentary points out, it is only through Jesus, the “chief Shepherd” that we have the power to feed five thousand people, spiritually, and when we come to him, when we rely on him, we are able to do the seemingly impossible.

So, that’s where my thoughts are at a couple of weeks out from the sermon. We’ll see how they turn out. But for now, a question for you to think about: Do you think you could feed five thousand? If not, how many could you feed?

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Random Acts of Kindness

The cover of Daena's 365 days of kindness… journal.

Today I’m putting the focus on my friend’s blog, 365 Days of Kindness. Daena is an incredible young lady, and one of my close friends. Last year, she started Project 25, encouraging people to do random acts of kindness.

This year, she decided to expand, and challenge herself to do a random good deed every day for a year. She’s writing them down in a journal, and slowly uploading them to her blog. She’s a bit behind (having only recently uploaded the ones for January), however it is a fantastic project, and a wonderful challenge.

We find this mentioned in the gospels of Jesus.

“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (MSG)

The second commandment that Jesus lists here – love others as you love yourself – is just what Daena is practicing here, Loving others, whoever they may be, as she loves herself. Wouldn’t the world be an amazing place if we all followed Daena’s lead and looked for ways to show love to others?