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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.

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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.”

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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?

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Still others… still needs to happen

Well the big weekend is over. The Salvation Army in Australia is now one territory, and judging by the events that happened over the weekend, you could be given to thinking that everything was rosy, and the future of The Salvation Army in Australia is great and that this weekend is a once off event and now that it’s over we can go off and live our own lives.

But if you think that, then you are mightily mistaken.

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Holiness and New Life

Replacing Addictions and Habits

Black Coffee in a Red Keep Cup
Coffee

I don’t know if you’ve ever been addicted to anything. According to Liesl, I’m addicted to coffee. It’s true. I do love the stuff. And it would indeed be a rare day that I would not have a coffee. And I keep saying to her that I could give it up any time, I just don’t want to.

Alright. So maybe I am addicted.

But I have gone through times of giving it up. Sometimes for health reasons, sometimes to prove to Liesl that I wasn’t addicted. But I have successfully gone for periods of not drinking coffee. And what I’ve found is that in order for me to give up something that I may or may not be addicted to, I need to replace it with something else. Preferably something that is healthier.

So for example, when I gave up coffee, I would replace it with water. I would drink lots of water, and I would have hot water to replace the social aspect in my brain of having a hot drink.

In the times that Liesl and I have come into contact with Salvation Army rehab units, we’ve discovered a similar thing. Most recovering drug addicts and alcoholics take up smoking, and most centres are ok with it, because it is giving up a damaging addiction and replacing it with something less damaging. They realise that if you take the addiction away but don’t replace it with anything, then it won’t be a long term solution.

Or maybe you’ve tried to get rid of an old habit? In the very same way, it is a deliberate action that we must take to replace a bad habit with a good habit.

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Unity in Diversity

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Unity in Diversity, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday August 5, 2018. The Reading was Ephesians 4:1-16.

One Body, One Spirit, One mind?

This past week, Liesl and I have been at Officer’s Fellowship – the first Officer’s Fellowship of the unified Victorian division. Now you may be wondering what we do at Officer’s Fellowship. Do we get away for a week of frivolity, where the rules are somewhat relaxed? No. Do we spend the week in deep and rigorous bible study that enriches the mind and spirit, but leaves you physically tired? No. The reality is somewhere in the middle.

Of course, this year was somewhat different. This was the first year we have had one Victorian Division. In past years, there would be a fellowship for each division – so last year, there was a retreat for officers in Western Victoria Division, Eastern Victoria Division, Central Victorian Division and the State Social Command. This year, all of those came into one – with the result being 178 officers in attendance. So it was massive. Continue reading Unity in Diversity

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Come Away to a Deserted Place

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Come Away to a Deserted Place, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday July 22, 2018. The Reading was Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.

The many things we need to do

What’s your standard response to the question, “How are you?” Do you say “I’m Good” or “I’m Well”, or “Fine” or something else? In a couple of weeks, Liesl and I will be at Officer’s Fellowship, which will be the first one for the whole of Victoria division. Apart from being much larger than normal, and fairly crazy as a result, I suspect that with a number of catch ups, there will be the question asked “How are you” and more than a few responses of “I’m Busy.”

In today’s society, “Busy” is almost becoming a default response. Our default responses are the way that we want to be seen. How often have you responded “I’m Well” when you have a cold? And as such, “Busy” is seen as something we want to be. If we are busy, we have many things on the go. If we’re busy, we’re doing lots of things. “Busy” seems to be the ideal, much better than “oh, nothing much” Continue reading Come Away to a Deserted Place

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Grace Through Our Weakness

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Grace Through our Weakness, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday July 8, 2018. The Reading was 2 Corinthians 12:2-10.

Young, Old, Weak, Strong

Who here is celebrating a birthday today? No one? Are you sure? I have a list of Birthdays here, let me see who’s on it.

Well, I don’t have everyone, but you get the idea – we are all celebrating a birthday, because every day is another day since our birth. I heard someone once say that today is the oldest you have ever been, AND it is also the youngest you will ever be again. I don’t know whether that’s a good or a bad thing to realise, but it’s true. Continue reading Grace Through Our Weakness

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Who is Jesus?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, A Most Unlikely Hero, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday June 24 2018. The Reading was Mark 4:35-41.

Expect the unexpected

I know that there might be a bit of a feeling that Liesl and I preach very differently. That when I’m preaching, you will get a bit more of a standard sermon, that hopefully teaches, inspires and puts a new spin on the reading for you. Where as Liesl…. Well, anything can be expected. You might even expect the unexpected. And that’s ok, we need both, and I know Liesl and I are both glad we don’t preach exactly like the other, because my style will connect with some better than hers, and she will connect better with others. So if you’re one who connects more with Liesl’s preaching, I apologise but you have me again. I’ll try not to put you to sleep.

One of the shows that I watched a lot of in my teenage and early adult years was Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I loved the weird, British humour, and the older I’ve become, the more I appreciate what they were doing through their skits. One of the skits I remember well was the Spanish Inquisition. Now I bet you didn’t expect me to bring up the Spanish Inquisition.

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The Kingdom of God is like a Seed

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Kingdom of God is like a Seed, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday June 17, 2018. The Reading was Mark 4:26-34.

Context is King

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Context is King” – it’s this idea that without knowing the context surrounding a passage, you aren’t fully understanding what is happening.

As you all know, I love Star Trek. I recently finished re-watching The Original Series on Netflix. And one of the things that I love about Star Trek, and Sci-Fi in general, is that it reflects the current day issues in a futuristic context. Without understanding the context that the sci-fi was written in, you’re not fully understanding the meaning.

For example, watching The Original Series today with modern eyes is slightly jarring. The role of women in the series is often portrayed as helpless, or as administrative assistants, which did reflect the role of women in the 60’s when the show was produced. While the men wore a uniform fit for work and battle, the women were often in very short skirts. If it was made like this today, it would be decried as out of date and out of touch. Continue reading The Kingdom of God is like a Seed