Love… but how?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Room for All, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday October 15, 2017. The Reading was Matthew 22:34–40

Snooker at Bethesda

For a year or so, my dad held a position at a Nursing Home near our house in Greenwood. I was in year 7 at the time, and had to take public transport home, which involved catching two busses. But some days, generally once a week, I would get to catch the bus, and stop in at my dad’s work. I really looked forward to these days. It may seem odd for a year 7 student to look forward to getting to spend an afternoon at a nursing home, but I really enjoyed it. While I was there, one of the jobs they would get me to do was to help serve the residents dinner. For those that weren’t able to head to the dining room, I would take around their dinner and jugs of water to their rooms. And I loved being able to help out in that way. But I think the bigger attraction for me was that once all of the dinners were served, and the rest of the residents were in the dining room having their dinner, I would get to play on the snooker table. I would play by myself, trying to see the highest score I could get, seeing how many I could sink in a row before missing. I would play until my dad was ready to head home, and I had the greatest fun. One of the things I especially liked doing was practicing the break. I tried to perfect where I needed to place the cue ball, where I needed to hit on the triangle, with how much force, so that whenever I broke, I could immediately sink one of the red balls. But I could place the ball in the right spot every time, I could aim at the right spot, I could use exactly the right amount of force, but if I didn’t hit the cue ball in exactly the right spot, then I would have no chance of sinking a red ball. I needed to ensure that my connection to the cue ball was right. Continue reading “Love… but how?”

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E-mail to Brett Whiteley, MP re Humanitarian Intake

Hi Brett,
I write to you in regards to your suggestion to quarantine the increase of humanitarian refugees to Christians (and other persecuted minorities) from Syria and Iraq. While I do commend the increasing of the humanitarian intake, and do recommend that you continue to fight for this, I must question the limiting of it to Christians.
As a former Pastor, I am sure you are aware of Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan. It has much to tell us about being hospitable, and being neighbourly. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new in how the Jews and the Samaritans weren’t exactly on the best of terms. You might even suggest that the customs around being separate could breed the fear of the different and unknown that is similarly striking around Australia at the moment. So it is striking that it was the Samaritan, not the Priest or Levite, who helped the Jew who had been attacked by bandits. And in Luke 10:37, in response to Jesus’ question of who acted like a neighbour, even the Lawyer couldn’t bring himself to say that it was the Samaritan, instead saying “The one who showed him mercy.”
This is what being a neighbour is about. This is what being a Christian is about. Even though the Samaritan may not had the same religion as the Jew, or agreed about the same things, when he was in trouble, none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was helping those who were not able to help themselves.
So with your announcement, you are suggesting that we protect our own, and not look after those who are different. You are effectively saying that as a nation, we should discriminate based on religion – that those who might be Muslim and fleeing persecution, fleeing a war zone, are less deserving of our protection than a Christian. And that goes right against what Christ taught. Christ teaches us that we are to love all, no matter of their ethnicity or religious identification.
So Brett, I ask you to keep fighting, and being Christ’s light in the parliament. But remember that Christ taught us to love all people, and it doesn’t matter who they are, what they’ve done, where they’ve come from, why they’ve come, or anything else. We are to show love to them, to be hospitable to them, and to be neighbourly to them.
With thanks,
Ben
This e-mail was sent to Brett Whiteley’s office on 7 September, 2015. He must have been waiting for responses, as this came back very quickly:

Thanks Ben for your response.

I hear your concerns and encouragement to consider widening the net so to speak.

As I have said previously the role of an MP is often one of balancing all aspects of the debate.

If we want to carry the community with us on an increased humanitarian intake we need to hear their thoughts and concerns as well.

Over the last few weeks I have held numerous community meetings. It is clear that there is not community support for a blanket intake.

I welcome your input.

Regards

Brett

Get out of the Birdcage

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Get out of the Birdcage, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 13 July, 2014. The Reading was John 3:14-21

How good are you at making a choice? Let’s play a little game. I’ll have two pictures on the screen, if you would choose the one on the right, put your hand up. If you choose the one on the left, leave your hand down.

  • Coke or Pepsi
  • Chocolate or Chips
  • James Bond or Indiana Jones
  • Star Wars or The Notebook
  • 7 course degustation  or Steak and 3 Veg
  • “Chucking a sickie” or full day of work
  • Blowing your own trumpet or giving a compliment to someone else

Continue reading “Get out of the Birdcage”

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 Jesus Creed

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Jesus Creed was given at Fusion Youth Service at Waverley Salvation Army on Sunday 3 November, 2013. The Bible reading was Mark 12:28-34

“Which is the greatest?” It’s a question that is very common, to find out where you stand on certain important issues. Who was the greatest batsman? Well, you’ve got to go with the Don, but if you take him out, who was the greatest modern day batsman? Do you go with Ponting, or Tendulkar? Or who was the greatest Bond? Do you go Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, maybe Daniel Craig, or perhaps Linda? This question of the greatest goes a long way in telling us what the priorities of a person are, and whether they align with our own. Continue reading “The Jesus Creed”

Who is my neighbour?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijna...
The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants (1670) shows the Good Samaritan tending the injured man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Luke 10, we find the “Parable of the Good Samaritan”, where an expert in the law comes to Jesus and asks, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds by asking him what is written in the law, to which the expert answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” These two laws are also found in Matthew 22 and Mark 12 in the context of the Two Great Commandments. There’s a general rule in biblical literature. If it’s said once, it’s important. If it’s said twice, it’s really important. If it’s said three times, you better listen, because this is so very important. EG: Holy is the Lord – important. Holy of Holies – really important. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty – so very important. We’ve got these two great commandments repeated in three of the Gospels – there’s something rather important about what is said here.

The expert goes on to ask a really good question: “Who is my neighbour?” which Jesus then launches into this parable.

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Luke 10:30-35 (NIV – Bible Gateway)

As with many bible stories, the modern listener loses a lot of the intricacies that are involved here. It seems like a rather nice story, but instead, it would have provoked his audience, it would have shocked them. Continue reading “Who is my neighbour?”

My wonderful wife

I’m sorry for anyone who isn’t my wife who reads this, because this may get a bit mushy. But I’ve only got 30 minutes of battery on my laptop, so I may have to cut it short, but I want to dedicate this post to my beautiful wife.

She’s been waiting for this post for a while, as she one day discovered a journal entry I had written about a summer crush I once had. She was worried that she wasn’t journal material.

Well, I’m telling you now, and the entire world, that she was much more than journal material, she is wife material. Continue reading “My wonderful wife”

My Favourite Word: Love

"Pure love is a willingness to give witho...
Image by Parvin ♣( OFF for a while ) via Flickr

I think Love would have to be my favourite word. Yes, there are far more interesting words out there. There are many more words that are more fun to say. But Love is my favourite, because of the wonderful associations I hold with it.

For God so Loved the world that he gave his only son.

Why did God give Jesus up to die? Love! What are the two great commandments? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind and all your soul; and Love your neighbour as yourself.

I am lucky in that I can say that I share in the Love of my parents. But thankfully, since getting married, I not only share in the love of my wife, but also the love of her parents, and her grandparents. I also share in the love of my church community, and in the love of my old church.

Love makes us able to get through the tough days, because those that love us encourage us.

The Way of Love

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

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Priorities: God vs Man

I was driving to work today, and an odd thought came into my mind. The thought was of priorities, and how we can often have very different ones. One example came to my mind about different priorities my fiancée and I have. I studied music at Uni, and hence have a very different perspective of rehearsals than my fiancee. We’re in the Songsters at my Corps – a choir that gives a message during the morning service. We rehearse each Wednesday, and sometimes, my fiancee has a slightly “less professional” attitude than myself. Where as for me, I can’t stand being late for a rehearsal, let alone missing one without a valid reason. If it were up to me, I would be arriving at least 15 minutes before the rehearsal was due to begin, where as my fiancee would prefer to arrive right when it’s due to start.

My priorities during rehearsal are also somewhat different to those sitting next to me. I pay attention, sing, run through my part in my mind when the conductor is working with other parts, and stop singing when he requests. Others will muck around, not pay attention, and continue to sing for a little bit after the conductor has finished. We have different priorities, based on what we have experienced.

How do we reconcile different priorities between each other? Also, how do we reconcile when our priorities are different to what God’s priorities are? Continue reading “Priorities: God vs Man”

Success

fameI went to see Fame tonight, with a few friends. Despite having heard of some bad reviews, I really enjoyed it. Perhaps having not seen the original meant that I could enjoy this on its merits. There were a couple of parts of the movie that really stuck with me that I wanted to share.

Kevin, a dancer, knows at his audition that he’s going to get a job in a professional ballet company. However, despite working harder than any other dancer, he just doesn’t become the strong dancer that he needed to be. When the dance teacher declines his request for a letter of recommendation, he is distraught. And then, horror of all horrors, she goes on to suggest that he might become a wonderful teacher. *shudder* His life long hopes and dreams crushed, he goes down to the subway to catch a ride home, and comes very close to ending his life.

A bit later, Jenny is giving a speech on stage. I would have loved to find the text, but I can’t find it anywhere on the net yet. But she talks about how Success isn’t measured by fame, or money, but by love, and by waking up every morning and flying out the door because you’re so happy to be doing what you’re doing.

Continue reading “Success”