Called to be Holy

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Called to be Holy, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 15 June, 2014. The Reading was Matthew 28:16-20

Have you ever felt that you were too small to really make a difference? Thinking, “this town is too big for me to make a difference” or “how can I make a difference in this world that is so large” or “why would anyone listen to me?”

One of my best friends is absolutely incredible. She’s lived an incredible life – which is another talk in itself – and has been through all sorts of things in that time as well. In 2009, Daena committed to completing one random act of kindness each day, until her 25th birthday. She opened it up so that others could submit their acts of kindness as well, in the hope of getting 1000 acts of kindness by her birthday. Since then, she’s committed to completing a random act of kindness every day, and has done so – apart from a recent 3 month hiatus due to significant family issues – up until this date. On her blog, she says that she is “just an ordinary person looking to make a difference to the world, one small act of kindness at a time.”

I’m reminded of a story from the bible, where 5000 men, with women and children on top of that, were gathered, listening to Jesus teaching. With the crowd being hungry, Jesus poses the question to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip answered saying that “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Then Andrew pipes up, “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves, and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Continue reading “Called to be Holy”

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The Best Gift of all time

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Best Gift of all time, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 8 June, 2014, Pentecost Sunday. The Reading was Acts 2:1-21

What was the best gift that you’ve ever been given? Think back over all your birthdays, Christmas, random gifts just for being gorgeous, what was the best gift that you’ve ever received?

907470Wikipedia_SNES_PALWhen I think back, there’s three gifts that really stand out for me. I’ve brought two of them here today, so I’ll talk first about the one I don’t have. Back when I was about 10, for my birthday I was given a SNES by my parents. This was my first gaming console, and started me on a wonderful journey of gaming that progressed through the Gameboy, N64 and eventually onto PC gaming. I don’t really want to admit how much money I’ve spent on gaming products, but that first system, that SNES, that holds a special place because it was, for me, my first introduction to the world of gaming.

The picture of how I had my room painted.
The picture of how I had my room painted.

The second gift was this painting, which is currently normally hangs in our lounge room. This was my 21st birthday present from my parents. I was repainting my room, and I wanted it to reflect my love of the violin. So we colourmatched my violin, and I painted two black F-holes on the wall, and we chose this painting to hang between them. I look at this painting, and I remember back to my 21st, I think of my parents, and the support they’ve given me over the years.

Finally, we come to this, my violin. The label says that it is a 1796 Josef Klotz, however it’s actually a copy, made around 1900 by an unknown German luthier. When I started to take the violin seriously, I needed a better quality violin than the one that I had, which was a 1995 Chinese copy of a Stradivarius. My dad knew of this woman, who had lent him this violin when I first started. She offered to lend me the violin while I was taking my exams.

My violin
My violin

All through high school, and then into University, I played this instrument. I learnt it, and through playing its tone which had sat dormant for many years, developed and became my tone. But while it was my tone, I knew that it wasn’t my instrument, and that one day I would need to give it back. My thought was that once I finished my university degree, that I would need to give it back. I played my graduation recital, and invited the owner of the violin to come to dinner afterwards. At dinner, she announced that the violin was now mine, that it was her gift to me. So while those other two gifts were incredible, if push came to shove, I would have to say that this was the best gift I ever received. Continue reading “The Best Gift of all time”

The Budget, Two Parables and some Teaching from Jesus

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Budget, Two Parables and some Teaching from Jesus, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 18 May, 2014. The Reading was Luke 18:1-30

On Tuesday night, I sat myself down at my computer, loaded up the live stream of ABC24 and watched Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget speech. Due to the numerous leaks and strategic misinformation that was around, I was prepared for a lot of what would be presented. But that still didn’t make it any easier. In a word, ouch.

There’s a lot of pain in that budget, and in some ways the only upside that I can see is that we will be getting a lot more people through our doors, just that they’ll all be for our Doorways service. But as I thought about how this budget would affect our nation, I turned to the teachings of Jesus. And I wrote a whole sermon out, and then last night I threw it away and started again. When I returned to the passage, and widened my view, I saw that Jesus’ teaching throughout this chapter, and even the passage following, Jesus’ parables and teaching is just as relevant for us today as it was to those he was with back then. Continue reading “The Budget, Two Parables and some Teaching from Jesus”

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”

The God Twist: The unexpected death

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The God Twist: The unexpected death, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Good Friday, 18 April, 2014. The Reading was John 18:1-19:42.

You know, I never was one to pay much attention in Synagogue classes. Sure, my mother sent me there, wanting me to get an education, but really, all I ever really wanted to do was to be a fisherman. I loved being out on the water with my dad, and I dreamt of taking over his business. Being out on the water, there was nothing to worry about. I mean, sure, you had to worry about doing the right thing and staying safe, but eventually that just became second nature. Out on the water, there was just you, God, and the fish. Continue reading “The God Twist: The unexpected death”

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.

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”

Fasting is not for your benefit

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Fasting is not for your benefit, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 9 March, 2014. The Bible reading was Isaiah 58:1-12

Fasting is not for your benefit, but for the benefit of others

Wednesday marked the start of Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter where the church traditionally enters a time of fasting. This coincides with the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before being tempted by the Devil, and then starting his ministry.

Here’s a question for you: are you fasting from anything during this Lenten period?

Have you ever done a fast during lent?

Lenten fasts are usually one thing. People might give up Chocolate, or coffee, or maybe coke. Fasts in ancient times would prohibit all animal products, some permitting fish and fowl (such as chicken), but prohibit fruit and eggs, while others would eat only bread. The common theme is this: We take something away, with the idea being that when we would normally have that, we focus on God.

We are selfish people, and even in our fasting we do it for selfish reasons

Now I hate to burst the bubble of those who are fasting, but the reality is that while we may say we are fasting for the Lord, we are often fasting for selfish reasons. We give up chocolate, coffee, coke – because deep down we know that we really don’t need them, so this is a time where we can feel good about giving them up.

And the reality is that teaching on fasting – which was a common thing in the ancient church – has gone by the wayside, because people have the same complaint that the prophet identified in today’s reading.

Their intentions sound good: “day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways… they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to god.” But they question the use of their fasting; “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” We fast, but fail to find anything of value. We do it out of obligation, not from a desire to be closer to God. So people will give it a try, then either give up half way through, or come to the end of the fast and find that they didn’t get anything out of it, so they fast from fasting until they are convicted to try again – often out of obligation once again, and the vicious cycle continues.

The prophet calls them on their fasting. “You serve your own interest on your fast day.” The fast isn’t for your own benefit. They fasted, but their hearts weren’t in the right space. They oppressed their workers, they quarrelled and fought. The prophet’s words are harsh but true: “Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.” Which is to say, fasting alone will not make God hear your requests, if your other actions don’t meet up with the rest of what God requires.

The prophet continues, “Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?” This is lining up with the teaching that Jesus gives on fasting in Matthew 6:

 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and dishevelled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private.”

The people that the prophet was speaking to, their fasting was so that other people would see them fasting. It wasn’t for the benefit of others, it was for the benefit of themselves – others would see them doing it, and see how “righteous” they were.

Instead of fasting from something, fast by taking up something

The prophet goes on to describe the fast that the Lord prefers: “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”

So what’s the difference between the fast that they were doing, and the fast that the Lord prefers? The fast the Lord requires is of benefit to other people, not to us, and it requires us to do something, not to give up something. Now, it may be that in doing something we need to give up something – as we are doing for our self-denial appeal – but the point of fact is that we are doing something for the benefit of others.

It’s all about others. We’ve had that as part of our history for so long, but do we really remember it?

Christmas Eve, 1910, General William Booth was sick, and unable to attend the Army’s annual convention. The suggestion was made that he send a telegram to the convention to be read out as an encouragement. But knowing that funds were limited – and preferring to use money on things that really mattered – he decided to send as short a message as possible – because in those days, telegrams cost by the word.

The thousands of delegates met, and the moderator announced that Booth wouldn’t be there due to failing health an eyesight. The mood dropped significantly. Then the moderator announced that General Booth had sent a message to be read for the opening of the first session. He opened and read the following message:

“Others!
Signed, General Booth.”

Booth knew it. Jesus knew it. The prophet knew it. We live not to glorify ourselves, but to glorify God, and to do that we need to get right with God by helping others.

The thing I love about the fast the prophet describes is that it’s something that we all can do. Let’s be realistic – we can all have grand dreams about breaking injustice – and standing together as one we, as a worldwide church, can do that – but individually, that’s a little bit harder. Maybe you can stand up for someone being oppressed at your workplace, but even that can be difficult on your own. But the second part of his description is something we all can do. To feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, and to love your neighbour as yourself.

This is what Jesus is talking about towards the end of Matthew’s gospel. It’s a bit of a long reading, so I’ll just paraphrase it, but if you want to look it up it’s Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus is talking about the final judgement, where the Son of Man separates the people, with his sheep at his right hand, and the goats on the left. The Sheep are the ones who fed The King when he was hungry, gave him a drink when he was thirsty, invited him into the home when he was a stranger, gave him clothing, cared for him when he was sick, and visited him in prison. When they ask when it was that they did it, he says “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

So we have an opportunity to take up something as a fast that pleases the Lord. Maybe God is calling you to something practical – maybe volunteering some time in the Thrift Shop, helping to clothe those who have no clothes. Or maybe it’s something that we can do that helps others, such as sponsoring a child through the Salvation Army Child Sponsorship program, or making a microloan through a program such as Kiva, where something as little as $25 can go to help people all over the world start businesses and get themselves out of poverty. Or maybe you want to find out more about a particular injustice that is happening in our world – Asylum seekers, poverty, homelessness, human trafficking, and the many others that are out there. Take this time of lent as a time to take up something that promotes others over yourself.

The Lord hears us, guides us, and lets our light shine

The prophet says that when we do these things, it’s then that we find the glory of the Lord, and we start finding his responses to our calls. “Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer”. If we remove the yoke of injustice, offer food to the hungry, satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then our light rises in the darkness. Our vision as a church is to be a lighthouse to the community. Now a lighthouse is a wonderful thing, but unless someone turns the light on, then a lighthouse is just as useless as any other building. We need to turn on the light, to shine it into this dark world, to take the light of Jesus into the community, and we do that by doing what the Lord requires.

This Lent, take up the fast that the Lord has chosen

So this Lent, I encourage you not to give up something that in the end gives benefit to yourself, but instead take up the call of William Booth – Others! Make Others! Be your Lenten prayer. We’re going to watch a video, a song by Israel Houghton called Others, which has as the chorus, “I want to love like you love, love like you love, want to love others the way that You love me.” And while we watch this, consider what you can take up this Lenten period. As always the mercy seat and holiness table is open for all, as a place of prayer, of commitment, for you to come and to seek God’s guidance. Someone will come and pray with you, or feel free to ask someone to come with you to pray with you. As we listen, seek out what God is calling you to do, to love others.

 

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”

Welcome at church?

Today, we had an “Observation Sunday” which is where we go to a different church, to observe worship there. This is a great idea, as we get ideas on how other people structure their services, buildings, morning tea, etc. But as with all things, you can often learn what not to do. Today’s experience had us asking all sorts of questions, because it could have been so good. But, if we were looking for a church to attend, we wouldn’t go back to the one we went to today. In fact, had we not been going to observe, we probably would not have gone in at all. Continue reading “Welcome at church?”