Sermon: Lost sheep

Sermon for Longview 19 September 2013

Luke 15:1-10

This is very well-known parable,- we can see a picture of a little lost lamb, bleating in the wilderness, away from the rest of the flock. Jesus, the shepherd, leaves the others all together – they like being together, because sheep follow a leader and huddle up together for safety. Then the shepherd goes away, in search of the lost one.

What can that mean for people? Continue reading

Sermon: Jesus is coming…

Sermon Longview 15 August 2013

Luk 12:32-40

There is a bumper bar sticker that says  “Jesus is coming – look busy! It sums up in a sort of a way part of our Gospel. But it’s not enough just to look busy. And busyness can be such an idol in this world. We need to be ready, not just taking up all our time and energy with feverish activity. Now it might seem a bit odd me talking about feverish activity here in Longview, a Rest-home. Now is the time for you to be resting from a long and busy life, but there are still things that go on for you. Continue reading

Sermon: The Parable of the Good Samaritan

The parable of the Good Samaritan

This is another of those really well-known parables, one that many of us will have heard as children. It often comes with the message – be nice. But there’s another message in it. Jesus told this parable to highlight how the culture his hearers were living in gets in the way of doing God’s will. The priest avoided the injured man, more concerned about his own possible uncleanness as a result of contact with him. The Levite too, a sort of church worker, who would be on all the rosters – was more concerned with the laws of their culture and religion than with care for a fellow human being. But the Samaritan was from outside that culture – he was from the hated next-door people, who were similar enough to rouse a lot of animosity. Just think about NZ and Australia, head-to-head over the cricket! Continue reading

How does God speak to you?

How does God speak to you? Does God speak to us? It would be great if we can hear an audible voice whenever we need guidance, but for nearly everyone, we don’t hear God speaking that way. What we do have is the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is the only book we are likely to read with the author available to pinpoint bits for us. Have you had the experience of reading a passage of the Bible, and a line jumps off the page at you, as if it is highlighted, or in 3-D? That is a common way for God to guide us. It’s different every time, with every reader, and you may have read the passage many times before, without that particular point striking you. God gives us what we need, if we are receptive and open to it, by ‘highlighting’ something. When we are listening to Scripture it can be like that too. We sit down (or stand) and prepare ourselves to listen to the reading, following along on the screen if it’s up there. Sometimes we can be distracted by the words being in a different version, but often we’ll discover that we’re not still tracking along with the reading. Something has stopped us listening, and we’re going off on a tangent. Noticing those points where we stop listening is a helpful way of becoming aware of God speaking to us. It’s as if God has put up a road-block for us, a diversion for our mind, and wants to speak to us through the diversion. Next time this happens to you, take note of what you had just heard before the ‘stop’ – think and pray about it, and ask God, what is it you want to say to me here?

Sermon: Jesus sends the seventy-two disciples.

St Christopher’s Tawa

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

When I have been at post-ordination training sessions, our teacher Tony Gerritsen has an interesting way of encouraging us to listen to the scripture readings. He says, “Notice when you stop listening.’ In other words, when something strikes you, and you think  -oh. I haven’t noticed that before. Have you had those moments? Well I had a moment like that when I was reading through today’s gospel during the week. Did you notice in the first verse, Jesus sent his people to places where he himself intended to go? Continue reading

Sermon: The forgiven sinner

Luke 7:36-50

This is such a well-known story. It’s a vivid picture – a woman of questionable reputation gate-crashes a private dinner, weeping all over the guest’s feet, then she dried them with her hair. That would have been quite a sight – her hair must have been really long!

And then she pours sweet-smelling ointment from an expensive jar all over Jesus’ feet! Now, this sort of thing would be very strange in today’s context. It’s certainly not regular mealtime behaviour. But in first-century Palestine, when a guest arrived, the servants would attend to him during the appetizers of the meal. They would offer water and perfumed oil, so that the guest would be comfortable and let’s face it sweet-smelling during the main meal.

But when Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus over for a meal, he didn’t extend this usual custom to him. He subtly insulted Jesus by not greeting him with a kiss, and he didn’t have the servants wash his feet. Jesus points this out, and I’m sure Simon would have squirmed a bit.

Simon is also puffed up with righteous indignation at the sort of woman who was touching Jesus. In those days any physical contact was limited to spouses and close family members, and a woman touching Jesus could have made him ritually unclean. Simon starts to mock Jesus, saying that if he was really a prophet he should know what type of woman she was. Simon thought that prophets would be Pharisees like him, rejecting the woman for legalistic purity reasons.

Jesus did know all about the woman – she had come to Jesus in gratitude for the forgiveness of her sins. We are not told what sort of sins she was guilty of, but that doesn’t matter here. What is more important is that Jesus had the power to forgive those sins, and the woman recognized that. Poor old Simon must have been furious – first an unclean woman, then his plan to discredit Jesus seems to backfire. Jesus tells the small parable about forgiveness of a greater debt leading to more love. He doesn’t spell out what that means for us – he leaves us, as he often does, to join up the dots.

So what sort of dots can we join? No matter what sort of sin, no matter how huge, it is not too big to be forgiven. And this also applies to tiny sins too. Nothing is too small for Jesus to forgive. We can bring anything that is on our conscience to Jesus for forgiveness, and as we feel the load lifted from our shoulders, we can accept joyfully that forgiveness.

Our kids learnt this song at the holdiay programme last year, and it sums it all up really.

Keep us from falling into sin…

Keep us from falling into sin, and running into danger.

Whenever I hear this prayer, as part of the Daily Office in A New Zealand Prayer Book, I wonder whether all too often we run into sin, rather than falling into sin. People are so quick to find bad choices appealing, no doubt helped by the enemy, who is all too quick to exploit our weaknesses.

When I use my computer there seem to be adds that pop up, relying on my recent web-surfing for interests. This is how I knew that my son had used my computer to find some adult material that he shouldn’t have! Suddenly there were adds coming up for me to find ‘singles,’ hot Asian girls’, and the like. How easy it is to run into sin, and to fall into sin, when our internet useage is tracked like this.

We need to be ever vigilant, for ourselves and for our families, of this sort of thing. Many Christians are addicted to porn, and it must be very hard to fight these temptations when they are right under our noses.

What can we do? We need to be open about supporting people with various addictions, and asking for support for our own addcitions. We need to be ever prayerful, whenever we may be in a situaiton that could cause temptation. We pray, ‘save us from the time of trial’, but there must also be a commitment on our own part to be responsible, to fight against falling into sin, or runnign headlong into it. We can exert our self-control – it’s not easy., but the Holy Spirit will help us, no matter how shameful the problem. We just need to ask.

Healing at the cross?

I was watching television the other day, and an advertisement came on for throat lozenges, which contain healing as well as soothing ingredients. The image used to depict healing was a cross, a square one, like the Red Cross, but in green.

I got to thinking – if the wider world recognizes the cross as a symbol of healing, what are we in the church doing about it? Are we telling our communities that they can come to the cross for healing, that they can ask for healing prayer, and that this will be effective in many cases? I know in my own family of countless instances of healing when we pray.

( see the posts about Josiah’s healing when he couldn’t walk last year.)

If the world can recognize a cross as a symbol of healing, we need to re-claim that cross, the empty cross of the Risen Christ, and tell the world around us just why it is that God can heal.

And we also need to trust God ourselves to heal us. Sometimes healing can happen without medical intervention, sometimes it needs everything we can throw at it, but surely one of the first things we must do when we are sick is pray?

Sermon: Be One

John 17:20-end

Today’s reading is part of Jesus’ farewell prayer, a long prayer that covers all the future situations. It’s almost like he’s writing a list of all the situations that may arise. Do you remember back to the days when you had a babysitter coming to mind the children, and you left a list of instructions? That list can get pretty long, as you think of all the eventualities. Continue reading

The phone rang…

I was asleep, when the sound of the phone started to weave itself into my dreams. Why is the phone ringing? It’s the middle of the night!

Something told me I shouldn’t ignore it, so I found my glasses and stumbled to the kitchen, where the phone promptly got to its allotted 8 rings and stopped to go to answerphone. I checked the number that had called – my parents’ number. Oh no. Dad. Continue reading