Sermon Snippets from Ian 2014
I've just seen a face.
Jesus is the path that helps us find God.
You have seen him. It is gospel truth that to see the face of Jesus, and through him see the face of God, you must participate compassionately in your community with your neighbours and particularly with your most unfortunate and unattractive neighbours: the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden, the imprisoned, the naked, and the blind.
Do you believe in Jesus? You have seen him!
The Fool On the Hill
The 'man in the street', the 'normal, average citizen', has always liked to prescribe the wisdom of this world as 'common sense', but in the book of Corinthians we are told we should become fools to become wise, for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.
Jesus is prepared to be the fool; to speak and live by the uncommon wisdom. Jesus is prepared to take the old laws and take their observance to a new level. The higher standard that Jesus applies is an original version of what we call Political Correctness. Jesus was politically correct. His standards were politically correct.
People like to mock political correctness, but political correctness is basically remembering in love the human rights of the disadvantaged; of women, children, the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the foreigners and immigrants, the bereaved, the marginalised, the homeless, the sick, the disabled, the hungry, the beggar, the prisoner and the enemy.
Jesus was the champion of unconditional love; foolhardy, dangerous love.
He was the Fool on the Hill when giving the Sermon on the Mount. He was the Fool on the Hill for the sake of his enemies and those who despised him on Good Friday.
Jesus is the Fool on the Hill for you and I when we are not brave enough to be wise fools for God. When we cannot quite be perfect as God is perfect, Jesus will be the Fool on the Hill for us.
King of the Road
This week the new generation of royals, the new favourite royals, William, Kate and George, came to our town. They got right up close to lots of people, Kate accepted a little girl's cake, they were comfortable and familiar with ordinary Blenheim people. That is how we like our Royal Family to behave on there visits. Who taught them to behave in this popular way? Maybe it was Jesus! Their style of visit may well be modelled on the humble and accessible approach of Jesus in the Palm Sunday story.
The Jesus story is consistently of a humble king; not king of the palace, but king of the road.
Just like starting over.
Let us try to maintain a church fellowship which does justice, loves kindness and walks humbly with God, rather than one that simply maintains traditional practices and rituals.
Let's be a church that you are proud to maintain in God's love.
Today we will review how we personally respond to God's love. Our responses to God's love will lead to us collectively providing for God's work through our church, our parish. Let's revive our church!
In My Life.
Why are you here?
Are you here because of traditional Jesus stories? Is your faith based on Bible readings, church traditions, worship rituals? Are you here because someone else told you their incredible life story?
Or are you here because Jesus has featured in your life? Are you still here because the living presence of Jesus has had an impact in your life?
Sermon Snippets From Ian 2015
The Door is Still Open [Deconsecration of Trinity Church, Tua Marina, Sept 2014]
The love and assurance of God allows us today to take the practical and pragmatic action of closing a place of worship.
We don't like closing this church, but we feel sure it is no longer the direction of our future. Now we can see that this building is in the wrong location, and its shape and form is of restricted usefulness. It does not hold an attraction in an age of the hand held screens of social media. If we as church people ever instigate a revival, what will we need? Probably not this building.
It served well in its day, and we honour that fact and we will never forget it. We have preserved our past by the gifting and transfer of our more historic building, the original 1875 Trinity building, to Brayshaw Park where it will stand into the future as a memorial and tribute to Tua Marina's past.
There is no doubt that we take our action today with mixed feelings. Although we close, deconsecrate, strip the building of its holy purpose, strip the building of its furnishings in preparation for sale, we do it longing for the door to still be open; longing for the people who used to fill our pews to come right back, longing for the 1000 people of Marlborough who mark themselves as Methodist in the census to walk in our doors. We must act in faith. We close a building knowing that Christ's work is performed through the hearts of his people. We can close this building today, because we can hear Jesus saying, "The door is still open to my heart'.
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
This is a brilliant parable. Jesus suddenly stomps in like King Kong. This Jesus, this gentle Jesus meek and mild, beautiful presence, loving Jesus, takes on the persona of judge and king that some Christians have been waiting for over-eagerly.
…Yet Jesus the king says, I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, a prisoner, and you are blessed, you are part of my family, because you helped me, you came to my assistance. The ideal is, after all, your self denying compassion, your unconditional love, your putting yourself last and serving one of the least in society.
…Then the king turns to his left and becomes a monstrous King Kong to those proud respectable people who kept their distance when offended by the presence of the poor and hungry, the strange and different, the naked and immoral, the prisoners and lawbreakers. These proud respectable people who always put their own family first, did not do it for Jesus. They are now fed with justice, eternally. It is a strong image.
That is why I used the image of King Kong.
There Must Be An Angel
We think of 'angels' in our lives as someone who has rescued us, or an invisible angel who has guarded us from harm. The gospel Christmas story angels are not guardian angels, but messengers, God's messengers. I've never had a strong concept of angels; but I've always recognised messages. I find messages in Beatles' songs, in novels, in comics, on TV shows, in conversations and always in ordinary commonplace things. I find a message in Luke's story that his angels brought the good news to ordinary, tough, dirty, vulgar shepherds in the rugged outdoors.
You could keep watch, stay alert for messengers in your life.
There must be an angel with a message just for you.
What Do You Want?
Read the gospels and tell me if Jesus says anywhere that the greatest virtue is individual freedom. Jesus does say, in quoting Isaiah, that he has come to set the prisoners free. This is part of his call for justice for the oppressed. But for us personally, individually, we are called to be servants to others; to put ourselves last. If we choose to enter into Christ's new covenant, we freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Christ's disposal.
What do you want? The point is that we must trust in what our compassionate and provident God wants for us.
Like A Rolling Stone
Who will roll away all the doubts and questions you have about the resurrection, and reveal it all plainly to you? I will ask you the question that Bob Dylan asks in this song. How does it feel? How does the resurrection story feel for you? What does it do for you? How does it feel when you feel a burst of new life? How does it feel when you feel like you've come back from the dead?
How does it feel? Your feelings are important, for no matter how many times you have heard the gospel stories, and how many ways preachers have interpreted them, you wouldn't be here if you didn't feel something! The living Christ is an experience in your life, not a tale from long ago.