The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Let’s join in a word of prayer:
O God our Loving Father, we live in your presence, we share in our fellowship, and we look to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to discover wisdom. By your Holy Spirit, guide our time together that we may engage with your message for us, and discover some small measure of your plan for our lives, and our worshipping community. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Christ Jesus, Amen.
Jesus speaks to us with words that appear to the world around us as a contradiction. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” But, as people of faith, we recognize this as the work of the Holy Spirit in us to care for one another with humility toward God and each other.
Some years ago St. Paul School of Theology in the United States was seeking a new president. Over one hundred candidates applied for the position. The search committee narrowed the list to five eminently qualified persons. Then somebody came up with a brilliant idea: “let’s send a person to the institutions where each of the five finalists is currently employed, and let’s interview the janitor at each place, asking him what he thinks of the man seeking to be our president.”
This was done and a janitor gave such a glowing appraisal of one of the candidates that he was selected President of St. Paul’s School of Theology.
Somebody on that search committee understood that those who live close to Christ become so secure in his love that they no longer relate to other people according to rank or power or money or prestige. They treat janitors and governors with equal dignity. They regard everyone as a VIP.
Children seem to do this intuitively; as adult Christians, we need to re-learn it, most often over and over again.
And Paul prays for us today in the reading, ‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.’
Paul reminds us in Galatians that we can be wise and humble by letting God’s Holy Spirit cultivate his fruit in us. Paul writes, ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. … Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.’
At one point, Jesus even confronted the conceit, and jealousy simmering among the apostles. After they settled in Capernaum for a time, Jesus ‘asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.’ It is clear that the apostles are ashamed of their discussion.
Now, before we think poorly of the disciples for their banter, we need to expand our view of chapter 9 of Mark. Jesus went up to the mount of transfiguration with Peter, James and John. Why Jesus chose these three to reveal his greatness in that special way, we are not told. It could have been that they were ready to receive that kind of revelation, or it could have been that they needed to receive it. In any case, it appears that this set these three apart from the other apostles.
And while they were up on the mountain, the other apostles and disciples are in the valley trying to drive out a violent evil spirit driving a young man into convulsions. But the disciples could not help the young man. So, we see an atmosphere of competition and insecurity among the disciples.
And so, Jesus spoke gently to the Twelve that “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and be the servant of all.”
I smile when I read what Jesus did to demonstrate his message for the Apostles and to us. ‘He took a little child and had him stand among them. ‘Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”’
Coming out of isolation, we still can’t even shake hands. It is OK to want contact with other people. To shake hands, feel an arm around our shoulder, and even receive a gentle hug. Jesus took a small child in his arms. I must admit that a strong memory rose up for me when I read this passage over the past week. One that hadn’t even entered my mind for such a long time, and I have never shared.
I can remember that after I first heard this passage as a child in Sunday School, I would sometimes cuddle in my blanket at night and fall asleep thinking about being held in the arms of Jesus. That was such a comfort on a cold night. I didn’t even think about what was going on with the apostles.
Even during the recent isolation to combat the pandemic, I have been privileged to witness all the comforting attitudes and actions that display God’s presence in our lives. United by our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ who makes life, and fellowship, and family possible. Displays of comfort during difficult times that make us feel as secure as that child being held in the arms of Jesus.
It’s kind of like the story of a tribe of aborigines who were living next to a very swift and dangerous river. The current was so strong that if somebody happened to fall in or stumbled into it, they could be swept away downstream.
One day the tribe was attacked by a hostile group of settlers. They found themselves with their backs against the river. They were outnumbered and their only chance for escape was to cross the rushing river.
They huddled together and those who were strong picked up the weak and put them on their shoulders. With the weak on their backs, those who were strong waded out into the river. To their surprise they discovered that the weight on their shoulders from carrying the least of their brothers and sisters, helped them to keep their footing and to make it safely across the river.
Paul shares with us, that ‘Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.’ Whether we are dancing together in the good times or carrying each other through the hard times.
One thing that comes out clearly during this difficult time, is that even in all our faults and frailties, we are still united in the love of Jesus. And Jesus never abandons us, even when we feel all alone in our homes. Or that we are coming up short in our care for one another.
May the grace and peace of our Triune God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
19th September 2021 17th Sunday after Pentecost Todays service will be held @ 9am If you are in Port Macquarie you are very welcome. Service will be lead by: David Thompson The theme of the address will be ” If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
17th Sunday after Pentecost Worship Service led by: David Thompson
Holy Communion: David Thompson Communion Assistant: Corrine McLean Communion Prep.: Corrine McLean Bible Readings: Narelle Clarke 1st Reading: Jeremiah 11:18-20 A plot against Jeremiah’s life 2nd Reading: James 3:13-4:3,7,8a The wisdom from Heaven Gospel: Mark 9:30-37 The servant of all is the greatest Prayers lead by: John McLean Stewards: Joan Watson and Dale Ampt Music: Aileen Audio/ Computer: Dr. Gordon Watson
Next Sunday 26th September
Pentecost 18 Worship Service led by: Dr. Gordon Watson Holy Communion: Dr. Gordon Watson Communion Assistant: David Thompson Communion Prep.: Corrine McLean Bible Readings: Derryl Huf 1st Reading: Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29 Moses chooses 70 leaders 2nd Reading: James 5:13-20 Prayer offered in faith Gospel: Mark 9:38-50 Acting in Jesus’ name; temptations to sin Prayers lead by: Don McLean Stewards: Don and Carol McLean Music: Narelle Audio/ Computer: Tayte Schultz
St Peters Lutheran Church: Condition of entry. The Use of QR COVID Safe Check-in is a requirement. Masks must be worn at all times. COVID Marshal 12-09-2021
In our thoughts and Prayers: John McLean, Rosemary Conran, Kathy Mitchell, Renate Radmacher, Jenelle Francis, Jenny Montgomery, Tony Koch, Aileen Huf, Bob Rayward, Helga Mathies, Clive Reeve. Carole Rogers.
In our thoughts and Prayers: It is with deep sadness that we note the passing of Ivan Francis last Sunday morning. Our sympathy is extended to Jenelle and her family. Please keep them in your prayers. His funeral service will be held on Monday the 20th September at 10am in St.Peter’s Lutheran Church 13 Kemp St. This service will be available on livestream by clicking on the following link. https://youtu.be/wS1Ybl8lld8 Live Streaming will commence at 10.00am The wake will be at Waters Edge Hotel, (Country Comfort), On the Edge Res-taurant, 1 Buller St, Port Macquarie at 12 noon.
Church Stewards: Please make sure all attendees sanitise, sign-in and supervise 1.5 m rule. Roster: Church Cleaning: October: Carol and Don McLean Cleaners please wash hands before and after cleaning and wear gloves.
Roster: Morning tea: NO MORNING TEA DUE TO C19
Sermons: All past sermons are available to read on our web page. stpetersptmacquarie.com Stay connected with : Lutheran Media Livest reaming.
Web page. People who visited the website in the last week, including 22 Aust. 5USA. 9 China. 1 Canada. We now have 86 followers.
2018: 2,515 2019: 1,864 2020: 2,496 2021: 1,471
Statistic: Sunday Service 12th September Attendance was 31
Church Council Meeting: Friday 24th September at 2pm.
Did you know? Jesus began his ministry by being hungry, yet He is the bread of life. Jesus ended his earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet He is the Living Water. Jesus was weary, yet He is our rest. Jesus paid tribute, yet He is our King. Jesus was accused of having a demon, yet He cast out demons. Jesus wept, yet He wipes away our tears. Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeemed the world. Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd. Jesus died, yet by His death He destroyed the power of death .
St Peters Chess Club:
Thursday from 6 – 7.30 pm. Everyone welcome
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2) Read Isaiah 55:1–5 Do you do a regular budget? Do you like to notice where you are spending your money and plan to buy things when you need them? But how many of us spend our money on things that are not really what we need? In today’s reading, you and I are invited to come – to come and buy some-thing valuable without money and without cost. This sounds too good to be true. Surely there is a catch? Or perhaps you might think this is an absolute bargain. The invitation is to those who are thirsty and those who have no money. But is the invitation only for those who have no money? ‘Come buy and eat’ sug-gests there might have been some food – maybe bread – that goes along with the wine and the milk. This is starting to sound like a banquet for free. ‘Come buy without money’ – so this is simply to receive. Come and receive the wonderful blessings of a feast. But now the suggestion is that perhaps people with money and work are invited too. Why spend your money on what is not bread or work for what will not satisfy? So do you spend your money on the right things? Are you working for the things that satisfy you? Perhaps you are building up riches for yourself and working for what you might imagine will get you to heaven or give you eter-nal joy? Or are you coming to receive the free gifts of God, his love, his mercy, his grace, his forgiveness and his healing? Come and receive the free gifts of God in his Son, Jesus. Come without money. Come as you are to receive forgiveness, eternal life and salvation. Come to be saved from sin, eternal death and the power of the devil because of the work of Jesus on the cross for you. This gift is offered as a feast to you in faith by the very word of God. Working for and spending money on the right things is easy as you follow Jesus. Easy as you accept his invitation to come and walk with him in faith. So live out the freedom you have in Jesus, boldly keeping your eyes on your Lord. The best thing is that he will give you the strength to do so.
Prayer; O Lord, thank you so much for all you give me without cost, except that of your only Son Jesus who suffered and died for my sins and won the victory over sin, death and the devil – all because you love me. Let me feast on your goodness, your love, your mercy, your grace and your peace in Jesus’name. Amen.
Something to think about:
Humility is to receive praise and to pass it on to God untouched. It is not a great thing to be humble when you are brought low, but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment Two men are being chased by a bear when one stops to put on his trainers. The other man yells, “You idiot! You can’t outrun a bear!” The first man gasps, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you!:
A woman approached the minister after the sermon, and thanked him for his talk. “I found it so helpful,” she said. The minister replied: “I hope it will not prove as helpful as the last sermon you heard me preach.” “Why, what do you mean?” asked the astonished woman. “Well,” said the minister, “ that sermon lasted you three months.”
One summer evening during a violent thunderstorm a mother was tucking her son into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice, “Mummy, will you sleep in my bed tonight?” His mother smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. “I can’t dear,” she said. “I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.” A long silence was broken at last by his shaky little voice. “The big sissy.” The new father, beside himself with excitement over the birth of his son, was determined to follow all the rules to the letter. “So, tell me, nurse,” he said. “what time should we wake the little guy in the morning?”
When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in a manner so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice. While on a long car journey, a couple stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. The woman unfortunately left her sunglasses on the table, but didn’t miss them until they were back on the motorway. By then, they had to travel to the next junction before they could turn around. The man fussed and complained all the way back to the restaurant. When they finally arrived, as the woman got out of the car to find her sun-glasses, the man said, “While you’re in there, you may as well get my hat,too.”
The wheel was man’s greatest invention… until he got behind it. A small boy is sent to bed by his father. Five minutes later… “Da-ad…” “What?” “I’m thirsty. Can you bring me a drink of water?” “No. You had your chance, Lights out.” Five minutes later: “Da-aaad…” “What?” “I’m THIRSTY. Can I have a drink of water?” “I told you NO! If you ask again, I’ll have to discipline!” you!” Five minutes later… “Daaa-aaad…” “What!” “When you come in to discipline me, can you bring a drink of water?”
There was a preacher who entered his pulpit one Sunday morning and said: “Oh Lord, give thy servant this mornin’ the eyes of the eagle and the wisdom of the owl; connect his soul with the gospel telephone in the skies; illuminate his brow with the Sun of Heaven; possess his mind with love for the people; turpentine his imagination; grease his lips with possum oil; electrify his brain with lightnin’ of the Word; put perpetual motion in his arms; fill him plumb full of dynamite of Thy glory; anoint him all over with kerosene of salvation, and set him on fire. Amen!”
If you are suffering from tooth decay you should consult your dentist. If you are suffering from truth decay, you should consult your Bible.
If you had a bank that credited your account with $86,000, that carried over no balance from day to day, allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day, what would you do? Draw out every dollar every day, of course, and use it to your advantage! Well, you have such a bank, and its name is TIME! Every morning it credits you with 86,000 seconds. Every night it rules off as lost whatever of this you failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balances, it allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow.
Martin Luther King said, ‘On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”
When criticised, try to remember an important truth from John Bunyan: “ If my life is fruitless, it doesn’t matter who praises me, and If my life is fruitful, it doesn’t matter who criticises me.” Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish one’s growth without destroying one’s roots
When life seems dark, choose joy. Let your smile be a win-dow of hope reflecting God’s love and the light of his pres-ence in your life.
If we discovered that we had five minutes left to say all we wanted to say, every telephone line would be occupied by people calling other people to stammer that they love them. Why wait until the last five minutes
Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; Argument is an exchange of ignorance. Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. A young man said to his father at breakfast one morning, “Dad, I’m going to get married.” “How do you know you’re ready to get married?” asked the Father. “Are you in love?” “I sure am,” said the son. “How do you know you’re in love?” asked the father. “Last night as I was kissing my girlfriend goodnight, her dog bit me and I didn’t feel the pain until I got home.”
A local priest and rabbi were fishing by the side of the road. After some discussion they thoughtfully made a sign saying, “The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it’s to late!” and showed it to each passing car. One driver that drove by didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted at them: “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!” Shortly afterwards they heard a big splash. They looked at each other and the priest said to the rabbi, “You think we should just put up a sign that says ‘Bridge Out’instead?”
The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted it on the tray, “Take only one. God is watching.” Moving further along the lunch line was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. One child whispered to another, “Take all you want, God is watching the apples.” A Rabbi said to a precocious six year old boy: “So your mother says your prayers for you each night? Very commendable . What does she say?” The little boy replied, “Thank God he’s in bed!”
The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. A teenage boy has just passed his driving test and asked his father when they could discuss his use of the car? His father says he’ll make a deal: “You bring your grades up from C to a B average, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.” Done! After about six weeks, his father says: “Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t had your hair cut.” The boy says, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair, and there’s strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.” “Yes,” replies his father. “But did you also notice they all walked everywhere they went
A minister was being constantly criticized by a member of his congregation. After six months of this the poor man could stand it no more. He went out on a hot summer’s afternoon for a drive in the countryside. He wound down the window and after about an hour of driving began to feel much better. Driving down a narrow country lane, however, he was horrified to see a car careering towards him out of control. As it approached, he realized with even greater horror that the lady driving the car was the very woman who had been harassing him. As they passed within an inch of each other, the woman shouted the word “PIG!” Months of built-up tension got the better of the minister and he shouted back, “COW!” Then he drove around the corner and hit the pig.
A new bishop was visiting the homes in the village. At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks on the door. Therefore, he took out a business card and wrote “Revelation 3:20” on the back and stuck it under the door. The following Sunday he found that his card had been returned to his office door. Added to it was this cryptic message, “Genesis3:10.” Reaching for his Bible to check out the verse, he broke up in gales of laughter Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked: so I hid.”
Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up. Galatians 6:9 Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.
Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half is composed of those who have nothing to say and keep on saying it
During the minister’s prayer one Sunday, there was a loud whistle from one of the back pews. Gary’s mother was horrified. She pinched him into silence, and after church, asked: “Gary, whatever made you do such a thing?” Gary answered soberly: “I asked God to teach me to whistle…And He just did!”
Yesterday is gone. Today is here. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Enjoy the blessings that God has already provided and prepare yourself for what He has planned for you.
If you’re grateful for what you have and you focus on the positives, it has tremendous benefits for heart health, mental health, and reducing stress.
Stories of Life is an annual writing competition that calls on Australian writers to share a personal story of faith in one of three categories: under 18 years of age, open category under 500 words, and open category under 1500 words. The best 50 stories are published each year in an anthology and many are also recorded and read on different Christian radio stations. The deadline for this year is the end of July. If you have a story to tell, ask Pastor Mark about Stories of Life, as he is on the steering committee and is one of the editors. He would be happy to help you get started.
Two elderly couples were chatting together. One of the men asked the other. “Fred, how was your visit to the memory clinic last month?” “Outstanding. They taught us some of the latest techniques for remembering things. It was great.” “What was the name of the clinic?” asked the other man. Fred’s mind went blank. Then he smiled and asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?” “A Rose?” “Yes!” He turned to his wife: “Rose, what was the name of that memory clinic?”
M-O-T-H-E-R “M” is for the million things she gave me, “O” means only that she’s growing old, “T” is for the tears she shed to save me, “H” is for her heart of purest gold, “E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining, “R” means right, and right she’ll always be, Put them all together, they spell MOTHER A word that means the world to me
Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of Ice cream fall from the cone
Ever notice that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster than you is a maniac Action: Did is a word of achievement Won’t is a word of retreat Might is a word of bereavement Can’t is a word of defeat Ought is a word of duty Try is a word for each hour Will is a word of beauty Can is a word of power.
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.” Charles Colson.
If a matter is not serious enough to pray about, then it is not serious enough to worry about; and if it is serious enough to pray about, and we have prayed about it, then there is no need to worry about it.
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was diffi-cult to change the world, so I tried to change the nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation. I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realise the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realise that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town, Their im-pact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
What You Give to God, He Multiplies Hattie May Wiatt, a six-year-old girl, lived near Grace Baptist Church in Phil-adelphia, USA. The Sunday school was very crowded. Russell H. Conwell, the minister, told her that one day they would have buildings big enough to allow everyone to attend. She said, ‘I hope you will. It is so crowded I am afraid to go there alone.’ He replied, ‘When we get the money we will construct one large enough to get all the children in.’ Two years later, in 1886, Hattie May died. After the funeral Hattie’s mother gave the minister a little bag they had found under their daughter’s pillow con-taining 57 cents in change that she had saved up. Alongside it was a note in her handwriting: ‘To help build bigger building so that more children can go to Sunday school.’ The minister changed all the money into pennies and offered each one for sale. He received $250 – and 54 of the cents were given back. The $250 was itself changed into pennies and sold by the newly formed ‘Wiatt Mite Society’. In this way, her 57 cents kept on multiplying. Twenty-six years later, in a talk entitled, ‘The history of the 57 cents’, the min-ister explained the results of her 57-cent donation: a church with a membership of over 5,600 people, a hospital where tens of thousands of people had been treated, 80,000 young people going through university, 2,000 people going out to preach the gospel – all this happened ‘because Hattie May Wiatt invested her 57 cents’. The theme of multiplication runs throughout the Bible. What cannot be achieved by addition, God does by multiplication. You reap what you sow, only many times more. What you give to the Lord, he multiplies.
A couple was invited to dinner by their elderly neighbours. The old gentle-man endearingly preceded every request to his wife with “Honey”, “Darling”, “Sweetheart”, “Pumpkin”, etc. The neighbours were impressed since the couple had been married for almost 70 years. While the wife was off in the kitchen, the neighbour said to the gentleman, “I think it’s wonderful that after all the years you’ve been married, you still refer to your wife in those terms.” The elderly gentleman hung his head. “Actually, forgot the old lady’s name about ten years ago.”
Compassion: A little boy about ten years old was standing before a shoe store on the road-way, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, “My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in the window?” “I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” was the boy’s reply. The lady took him by the hand and went into the store and asked the assistant to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could get her a basin of water and a towel. He brought them to her. She took the little boy to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried with a towel. By this time the assistant had returned with the socks Placing a pair on the boy’s feet, she bought him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, “No doubt. My little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?” As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears in his eyes, answered the question with these words: “Are you God’s wife?”
A kindergarten teacher was walking around observing her classroom of children while they were drawing pictures. As she got to one girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.” The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.” Without looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”
A smile is a light in the window of a face which shows that the heart is at home.
Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.
Life: Perhaps when we grow very old, our bodies get worn out, or certain parts break down, like … an old car. None of us can be sure of how long we live… I think we should try not to think too much about dying but Think about all the nice things around us that make life so precious to us all.
A vision without a task is a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. But the two together are the hope of the world. A young and foolish pilot wanted to sound cool and show who was boss on the aviation frequencies. So, the first time he approached an airfield at night, instead of making his official request to the tower, he said: “Guess who?” The controller switched the field lights off and replied: “Guess where!”
Two boys were walking home from church after hearing a strong preach-ing on the devil. One said to the oth-er, “What do you think about all this Satan Stuff?” The other boy replied, “Well, you know how Santa Claus turned out. It’s Probably just your dad.”
Home is where the heart is…. Because of the shortage near a military base where he was stationed, a young doctor and his wife and three children had to live in cramped quarters in a hotel. A friend said to the doctor’s six year old daughter, “Isn’t it too bad that you don’t have a home?” “Oh we have a home,” the youngster quickly replied, “We just don’t have a house to put it in.”
When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer. You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.
Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
‘Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.’ Trust God and learn to live one day at a time.
An old dollar bill and an even older $20 arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. “I’ve had a pretty good life,” the $20 says. “I’ve been to Vegas, the finest restaurants in New York, and even on a Caribbean cruise.” “You did have an exciting life!” the dollar says. “Where have you been?” the $20 asks. “Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist church, the Baptist church, spent some time with the Lutherans…” “Wait,” the $20 interrupts. “What’s a church?”
“Do not resist growing old— many are denied the privilege.” “One of the pleasures of old age is giving things up” Abraham waited for 25 years. Joseph waited 13 years. Moses waited 40 years. Jesus waited 30 years. If God makes you wait, you are in good company.!!!!
If you’re ever headed the wrong way in life, remember the road to Heaven allows U-turns
Known by the Almighty: Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world, and though the world would have you believe that you don’t count and that you are but a speck in the mass, God says, “I know you.”
Our lives as Books: There are people in the world around us who have never opened or read a Bible. — But are they reading us. Are they able to say of us to others “That man, that woman reminds me of Jesus?” Do we let our light so shine that men may see, not us, but our Father in Heaven? This is the real test.
Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:18) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1.)
Something to think about: Mr. Smith, I am pleased to inform you that I have made arrangements to pay off all your debts in full. I cannot proceed without your consent, however, and I ask that you contact me as soon as possible to receive your gift. Your loving Servant. Jesus
Kindness: You never really know the true impact you have on those around you. You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them. You never know how much your kindness turned someone’s entire life around. You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk. So! Don’t wait to be kind, don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change. Just be kind. Because you never know how much someone needed it.
Time: We don’t need to fear that there is not enough time, but we only need to remember to appreciate the time God gives us.
Sacrifice. In 1937, a man by the name of John Griffiths found a job tending one of the railroad bridges that crossed the Mississippi River. Every day he would control the gears of the bridge to allow barges and ships through. One day John decided to allow his eight-year-old son Greg to help him. He and his boy packed their lunches with great excitement and hopes for the fu-ture and went to work. The morning went quickly and at noon they headed off for lunch, down a narrow catwalk onto an observation platform about 50 feet above the Mississippi. John told his son stories about the ships as they passed by. Suddenly, they were jolted back to reality by the shrill sound of an engine’s whistle. Looking at his watch, John realized to his horror that it was 1.07 pm, that the Memphis Express was due any time and that the bridge was still raised. He calmly told Greg to stay put and then ran back to the controls. Once there he looked beneath the bridge to make sure there was nothing below. As his eyes moved downwards he saw something so terrible that he froze. For there, lying on the gears, was his beloved son. Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Immediately, John realized the horrifying choice before him: either to lower the bridge and kill his son, or keep the bridge raised and kill everyone on board the train. As 400 people moved closer to the bridge, John realized what he had to do. Burying his face under his arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were instantly drowned out by the noise of the bridge grinding slowly into position. John wiped the tears from his eyes as the train passed by. A Conductor was collecting tickets in his usual way. A Businessman was casually reading the newspaper. Ladies were drinking afternoon tea. Children were playing. Most of the passengers were engaged in idle chatter. No one heard the cries of a heartbroken father.
A LITTLE EXTRA FROM THE PAST.
Never Argue with Children. A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small. The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it is physically impossible. The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.” The teacher asked. “What if Jonah went to hell?” The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”
Storms Did you know that an Eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The Eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the Eagle is soaring above it. The Eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm. When the storms of life come upon us – and all of us will experience them – we can rise above them setting our minds and our belief toward God. The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God’s power to lift us above them. God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment in our lives. We can soar above the storm. Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we han-dle them. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like Eagles” Isaiah 40:31
Beginnings: Begin difficult things while they are easy, Do great things when they are small, The difficult things of the world must have once been easy: The great things must have been small .., A thousand mile journey begins with one step.
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Some-body would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.
Let’s join in a word of prayer: God our Loving Father, we are so blessed to fellowship together again, and celebrate our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We honour You, our creator and redeemer. We rely upon your Holy Spirit to help us know how to live your way, and encourage us in all the times of our lives. Break down all the barriers we experience so strongly in our isolation, and meet us with the power of Your precious Word. God our Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
As I was thinking about the sermon for today, I kept thinking of the words to a song from the BeeGees:
‘It’s only words, and words are all I have To take your heart away.
You think that I don’t even mean a single word I say – but words are all I have to take your heart away’.
Some of the things I most missed during our isolation, were the words of songs remembered during worship, words of Scripture heard during worship, words of prayers shared during worship, and the kind words and smiles we shared in our fellowship during worship. We are so blessed to be together again.
Today, we have words to bind our hearts and minds to our Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul once wrote in Romans, ‘faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.’
But, during the lockdown, we also heard a lot of words, and we held out for our 11am ‘days of our lives’ briefing. Most of those words were not words we wanted to hear. Words that couldn’t encourage our faith like the message of Christ Jesus.
Words can be both good and bad to hear and to share.
There’s an old story that the Jewish rabbis tell. As the story goes, one day a rabbi asked his cook to go and buy some good food for him in the market. When the cook returned home, he presented the rabbi with beef tongue. The next day, the rabbi tried it a different way, and told the cook to go the market and buy some bad food. Again, the cook returned with beef tongue.
The rabbi then asked the cook why he returned with beef tongue on both occasions. The cook answered and said, “Good comes from it and bad comes from it. When the tongue is good there is nothing better, and when it is bad there is nothing worse.”
(From a sermon by T. Scott Womble, Careless Speech Sins, 7/27/2010)
If we were to ask each other, I am sure that we would agree wholehearted with the Rabbi’s Cook. In any Congregation that has been around as long as St Peter’s, there are always times when heated words bring hurts, and soothing words bring comfort. Coming out of isolation, we look forward to the soothing words that will overcome the stress and anxiety of our lockdown.
James speaks about controlling our words, ‘People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God.’
The best example I could come up with of this is the Gospel for this morning. Peter demonstrates the words of James perfectly. When asked by Jesus, “Who do you say I am?” It was Peter who spoke up, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus commended Peter for his words and said he was blessed by them.
Then, when Jesus explained what it meant to be the Messiah, once again it was Peter who spoke up, taking Jesus aside and telling him he shouldn’t say things like that.
I have been blessed to listen to the words of Christ Jesus in response to Peter as I received an intuition of the Gospel in those words. In the New Revised Standard Version, it reads: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” The intuition that I received was that Jesus was truly speaking to the devil when he said “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus was placing himself between Peter who was being tempted, and Satan who was trying to divert Christ Jesus from his journey to the cross.
Then Jesus turned to Peter and called him to task for holding onto a human definition of the death on a cross, rather than the divine plan of God to bring salvation by this gruesome task.
But Jesus wasn’t finished. Jesus spoke to all of his disciples and followers, and to us, passing on words saying that “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.” Within the context of minding our words, I would say that taking up our crosses means that we should hold back from every angry word that would feel so good. And withstanding the mixed messages of others without malice.
John Crawford once wrote, ‘Decisions are public displays of our character’.
Isaiah wrote for today, ‘The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I do not rebel or turn away.’
God has given to each of us his Holy Spirit, to guide our words and display his fruit in our actions and attitudes. We are without excuse when we decide to speak words of cursing, of gossip, of lies, and of anger.
Matthew records Jesus saying: “whatever is in your heart determines what you say. I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.” (Matt 12:36)
Billions of words will be accounted for. And we accumulate this massive total without really thinking about it. It’s been said, humorously, that it takes about two years for a baby to learn to talk, but it takes fifty years for a person to learn when to keep silent. Thank God, we’re constantly talking; constantly communicating. So it is no wonder that Scripture pays close attention to this topic. Our passage today is one of the classic texts that address this.
It’s pretty clear that James takes a serious view of the words we use. His view comes from the particular way in which he describes how God gives us salvation. Earlier in his letter, James spoke out that ‘Our heavenly Father made us his children by the powerful word he addressed to us, ‘the word of truth’ (1:18). ‘As his children, we should be marked out by carefully controlled speech’ (1:26). What James says in his letter, the rest of the Bible also says in so many other ways, that there is hardly a greater temptation than that of idle speech.
Words can be used to promote the Gospel or they can be used to condemn the Gospel message. We use God’s words combined with water to bring God’s gift of salvation and life eternal in the baptism of our precious children. We use God’s words, combined with the elements of Holy Communion as they become for us the body and blood of our Saviour.
We can be reminded that Jesus sits at the centre of the Kingdom of God, as the light of all life. His words sustain us in this life, when we hear him saying, “God so loved the world that He gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him shall be saved.” And we look forward to those special words from him, we will hear from him in eternity, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
As we come out of isolation, we hold onto the reality that, the words we use are so much more than what we actually say out loud. We cannot speak without formulating thoughts into words; we cannot plan without describing to ourselves step by step what we intend to do; we cannot imagine without painting word-pictures before our inward eyes; we cannot write a letter or a book without ‘talking it through’ in our minds before committing it to paper.
But if our words are so well under control that we refuse to formulate the sense of self-pity, the images of lustfulness, the thoughts of anger and resentment, then these temptations are disarmed before they have a chance to live: discipline has deprived these words of any power to control our lives, and our attitudes.
So, I thank God that we can rely upon the Holy Spirit to train our hearts and our words, as we cling to our gift of faith, even in those times when we slip and fail to control our words.
Because we have a God who provides us with wonderful words of absolution, of forgiveness, of compassion and of love from his nature and his heart of love for us.
As we take up our crosses and follow our Saviour, may we honour our Lord Jesus Christ with the words that He puts in our hearts. And may the grace and peace of our Triune God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in our Great High Priest. AMEN.
Are there times you have prayed to God, and you end up confused and even wonder if God has even heard your desperate prayers. Have you ever wondered why God has allowed to happen the very thing you prayed to God not to happen?
Like the woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon, our most anxious prayers to God are for the sake of a loved one. For them to be relieved of the suffering that we see them go through. For them to be healed so they can be free of the sickness, the pain, the suffering, the oppression that has overcome them.
Have you prayed over a friend and couldn’t understand why it feels as though you weren’t heard? Have you prayed for healing, but it appeared God was not listening, not to the way we wanted them healed anyway? You persisted in prayer for even a crumb. But they became worse a lot quicker than predicted.
So, why do we pray? It’s because like the Syrophoenician woman we pray to Jesus because we know he alone can heal. We read the acts of healing Jesus performed in the bible, we hear how people are healed in Jesus’ name, so why not heal our friend. Why then are loved ones not healed or still gripped by depression and anxiety?
Many say: “I can’t believe in a God who allows bad things to happen to innocent children.” Perhaps these people have prayed to God for their child and felt as if their request fell on silent ears. Have you ever felt like the Psalm writer in Psalm 22? My God, … why are you so far away? Won’t you listen to my groans and come to my rescue? I cry out day and night, but you don’t answer, and I can never rest (Psalm 22:1-2).
Then there are the times we can see how God has responded. We can all probably think of times where we have seen God answer our prayers in amazing ways. Some people would realise an amazing coincidence how things worked out. There are no co-incidences. They are all God-incidents. Even if they don’t turn out how we expect they are all God-incidents as God has said he works for the good of all those who love him.
It’s easy to ride on the highs of our Christian experience and be elated over the way we have seen God work in our lives. There was once a news item where a man walked away from what looked like a mangled car resting against a tree. Posts on social media were saying he should buy a lottery ticket, others said it wasn’t his time, and yet another, somebody was watching over him.
Our experiences of prayer and answer to prayer can seem like a roller coast experience. It can be smooth and calm where things are going well in our lives and we give thanks to God for his goodness. Then all of a sudden there are twists and turns in our life that cause us to be anxious and plead for Jesus to help us get through these twists and turns.
Today we hear where Jesus was in Gentile territory and had gone into a house for a rest and to get away from the crowds. But as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.
While we cannot know exactly what Jesus was thinking, as this Syrophoenician woman came to him, Jesus’ immediate response is to appeal to the limits of his mission, his call to serve his own people. In Matthew’s version of this story, Jesus begins by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). In Mark 7 Jesus says, “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
That’s sounds a bit nasty of Jesus.
But this desperate mother comes back at him with a clever response, “Sir, even the little dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28), Jesus can only agree. “For saying that, you may go”, Jesus says. The demon has left your daughter” (Mark 7:29). Jesus shows that God’s love and healing power know no ethnic, political, or social boundaries. Jesus praises the woman’s faith, and tells her, her daughter is healed. She receives the gift of salvation.
Like the Syrophoenician woman we come to Jesus assured of the promise to ask and you shall receive, and whatever you ask for in my name it will be given. Even though we are not even worthy to come into Jesus’ presence because of the sin in our lives, it because we have heard about Jesus, we come to him with our prayers.
In boldness we ask for even a crumb of mercy. As Martin Luther approached his death, he spoke these words. ‘We are beggars this is true’. As beggars we open ourselves to Jesus’ mercy.
Just as the Syrophoenician women received far more than just a crumb, we have confidence Jesus will answer our prayers according to his goodness and mercy. So, what is it that gives us the confidence to persist in prayer even though sometimes it appears Jesus is not interested in helping?
Let’s look at this way. If you need help with something, whether it’s at work, or home, or you’re in the middle of doing something and you need help, who do you call upon? Why do you ask that person and not some else? Is it because you know they are trustworthy and you can confidently call upon in a time of need?
That’s the reason we continue to pray to Jesus. We believe he hears our prayers, and gives us much, much more than crumbs. Even though we all come as beggars to the table, it is solely by God’s grace that we receive healing and salvation. Even though as beggars we could only ask for crumbs, Jesus has given more than enough. He gives to us abundant life.
Jesus does not leave any of us in a state of beggarliness. He seats us at the table and claims us as God’s beloved children — children from every tribe and language and nation. God’s table is immeasurably larger than we can imagine.
Because we know God’s heart and his character of love and mercy, we have confidence to come to God through Jesus in prayer. Even though there are times when God may appear silent, or perhaps even appear cruel, it is then when we cling to what Jesus words of promise, ‘Behold I am with you always’.
It’s what gives us the confidence to know that even though our loved ones didn’t receive temporary healing in response to our prayers, they did receive complete healing, of no more pain, no more suffering, no more death, and are living in God’s eternal presence free from any evil spirit.
In faith and confidence, in our weakness, we can continue to bring our requests to God through Jesus, because we know we will receive far more than crumbs.
When we read this Gospel, we get the impression that the Pharisees were talking about hands, but Jesus talks about hearts.
Hands and hearts seem to have totally different functions, so why does Jesus do this? Why does he talk about the cleansing of hearts when the Pharisees want to talk about the washing of hands?
Well, firstly let’s consider the accusation of the Pharisees.
We often picture the Pharisees as bad people. They’re always hanging around in the background of Jesus’ work, criticising him, questioning him, and accusing him and his disciples. But the Pharisees are like you and me. They’re faithful people of God trying to do the right thing. They’re trying to be faithful to God’s teachings.
So, when they see someone doing something incorrectly, such as not performing the ritual of washing their hands in the right way, or not sitting still during the sermon, or not singing theologically correct songs, or not wearing appropriate clothes for worship, or anything else that wasn’t faithfully true to their religion, they were going to say something about it!
They’re deeply concerned about doing the right thing in accordance with their understanding of what God says in his Word. But this meant the Pharisees can seem like theological police who took it upon themselves to make sure everyone behaved the correct way.
We still do this today, both in our own church context, but also in public life. We communicate religious or cultural expectations on each other thinking that, if only everyone did the right thing, no one would get hurt.
For example, the wider church has been appropriately criticized for their inaction (or bad reactions) to reported abuse. A common reaction is to communicate clear expectations of how everyone should behave through sermons or newsletters or magazines or professional standards. If only we all behaved properly, then nothing will go wrong.
Now, this isn’t necessarily wrong, because we should seek to treat each other with love and concern and respect and compassion, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. It’s just making sure we know how to perform the right actions with our hands – at least when anyone is looking.
Similarly, the secular world is doing similar things. There are secular Pharisees trying to restrict or control or guide what we do or not do, or what we say or not say. Many would call this ‘political correctness’, but it’s still another way we communicate clear expectations of each other so everyone will do the right thing, that no one gets hurt, and we’ll finally live in a perfect world!
Again, it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. It either makes more Pharisees who are concerned with doing the right thing when anyone is watching, or it encourages people to hide or justify their sin of rebellion as they disobey these expectations and laws and guidelines.
But more importantly, it denies a basic truth we’re told in Scripture.
It denies the biblical teaching on original sin which can’t be controlled by laws or rules or commandments or directives or rituals or guidelines or political correctness.
You see, we’re not sinners just because we fail to control our feet or lips or eyes or hands from doing the wrong thing, but we’re sinners because of what’s going on in our hearts. We’re all born with the sickness of sin which was inherited from our original ancestors. Our outward actions are only the symptoms of a deeper disease which affects the very centre of our being – our hearts!
Now, when Jesus speaks about our hearts, he isn’t so much talking about that fleshy muscle which repeatedly pumps blood through our veins, but he’s referring to the place where our will or motivation or self-determination resides which will affect what we do.
For example, if our heart is set on having one more piece of cake, our hands and mouth will often follow suit. If our heart is afraid of something or someone, our body will seek to avoid that situation or that person. If our heart trusts the only way to get what we want is by throwing a tantrum, then our lips and hands and other parts of our body will follow suit. If our heart is set on thinking we’re right and everyone else is wrong, that judgment will sooner or later leak out our rolling eyes, our arrogant lips, and our offended body actions.
You could say, the sin which we do with our hands or lips or any other part if our bodies is the ‘what’, but the sin behind the sin is the ‘why’ which lies within our hearts.
For instance, if we were to apply Luther’s explanation of the first commandment to any sin we do, which is: ‘we should fear, love and trust God above all things’, this means we will sin with our body whenever our heart fears, loves or trusts anything else apart from God, even for a moment.
So, let’s say you didn’t like it when your father grounded you for doing something wrong. In response you openly criticised him behind his back, trying to make others think badly of him. In that case you broke the fourth commandment by not honouring your father. You also broke the eighth commandment by bearing false witness.
This was the ‘what’ which you did, but the ‘why’ is because you may have feared losing face in front of your friends and you’d rather your father lose face instead of you. It could be you’re missing out on something you love or desire, and so you’re going to punish him for stopping you from getting what you want. It could also be you trust others will now do the fighting for you so they can convince your father to give you what you want.
But it also works when you don’t think you’re sinning but trying to live a holy life (just like the Pharisees)!
In this case, let’s say you’re trying to please your father and will do everything possible to please him. Sounds great doesn’t it? Isn’t this trying to keep the fourth commandment? There’s no sin in doing this, is there?
But what if the motivation for doing this isn’t because you fear, love and trust God, but because you fear your father is going to punish you if you don’t? What if you’re doing this with the hope he’ll give you what you love or desire as a reward? What if you’re trusting this is the only way you can get your father to finally love or approve of you?
This means, we not only sin when we’re doing the wrong thing, but even when we’re doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. This means what’s going on in our hearts is always going to give us away!
But, how does Jesus know what’s going on in our hearts?
Well, apart from the fact he’s God and God alone can see what’s truly in our heart and all our motivations for everything we say or do, he judges our hearts, not so much with what goes into it, but what comes out of it.
Now, we might think as obedient and faithful people of God our heart is always filled with love and compassion and respect; but all someone needs to do is ‘push our buttons’, or present us with a temptation, or threaten whatever we’re trusting in and we’ll soon see what comes out of our hearts!
This is why Jesus lists the things which come out of people’s hearts (which by the way isn’t an exhaustive list), but it indicates that out of the selfish desires, anxious fears, and misplaced trusts of our hearts come all these impure thoughts, words and actions.
Since our hands and lips and thoughts only do what our heart directs them to do, this means our hands and lips and thoughts betray where the motivations of our hearts truly lie. The ugly truth is our words, actions, and thoughts end up convicting us our heart is in fact far from God!
No wonder King David, when convicted of his sins, prayed:
‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’ (Ps 51:10)
This means we don’t have behaviour management problems in our church or society. We have sick and selfish hearts which need to be cleansed, healed and sanctified. The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do, and the work of Jesus through the church is to cleanse and heal people’s hearts.
Jesus didn’t come to make sure we’re all behaving the right way, but to perform heart surgery on you and me through his gracious forgiveness which transforms our stubborn and pride-filled hearts into clean and pure hearts which love and serve others with that same grace and mercy.
How does he do this? He does it this way:
The good news is, by the free and undeserving grace of God, we’re all forgiven for our actions which hurt others.
We’re forgiven for ostracizing others as outcasts from our circle of approved friends.
We’re forgiven for criticizing others because they didn’t live up to our standards.
We’re forgiven for thinking ourselves better than others because of our own arrogance or pride.
We’re forgiven for not honouring our parents properly.
We’re forgiven for our failures as parents.
We’re forgiven for spreading those juicy pieces of gossip and for speaking those swear words when we got frustrated.
We’re forgiven for all our indecent and wrongful actions and words and thoughts.
The next time we’re offered the very body and blood of our Saviour, we’ll see him come to us in the form of bread and wine. We’ll take his holy body in those same hands which hurt others, and so those hands will be purified by him.
We’ll also receive his holy blood on those same lips which have criticised and insulted and gossiped, and so our lips will be purified to speak holy words of love and forgiveness to others.
His holy body and blood will be absorbed into our blood stream to pulse through our hearts so that, by faith, our hearts will beat with the same love, and determination to serve, as Jesus’ own heart.
Through trusting these precious and holy means of grace – his Word and Sacraments – we and our hearts are made pure and clean and holy once more. By God’s grace, which is revealed through the willing actions of Jesus Christ (who truly reveals God’s own heart to us), he comes to restore his relationship with us and bring our hearts closer to his own heart.
No matter how far our hearts were, or are, from God, only God can cleanse and create new hearts which truly fear, love, and trust God.
Only God, through the work of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can restore our relationship with God, and our relationships with others. Only God can draw our hearts closer to his own heart.
For this reason, we can pray along with King David, that God would create in us clean hearts, and renew a right spirit within us. Amen.
So, where are you going to go? Who are you going to turn to? Whose words are you going to believe?
In a sense, this is what faith boils down to. Who are you going to trust and believe?
In response, you might be tempted to say: ‘Well, we must all believe in Jesus Christ!’ And you’re right, but it’s not that easy!
You see, we don’t always want to trust in Jesus. There are a lot of other enticing and appealing voices in our world today which attract people, even though they’re ultimately empty of hope and peace.
On top of this, what Jesus says doesn’t always make perfect sense – we don’t always get what he means, and we don’t want to live according to his words and ways.
It’s like we think we know better, and what the world offers is more enjoyable. We seem to trust our own thoughts, understanding, and logic rather than trust what Jesus says. We don’t want what he offers.
In our text today, Jesus has just been teaching a crowd of his disciples – you know, the types of people who actually wanted to learn from him – they weren’t just curious passers-by. In a sense they’re like us – followers of Jesus. But even though they were following him, they didn’t like what they heard.
They heard they had to eat his flesh – swallow the truth about him, so to speak. But they’d seen him grow up. They saw how human he was. They knew his parents. And now he was saying he came from God! In fact, he was saying he was God in human flesh! He was the great and holy God: the ‘I Am’!
This was hard for them to swallow; hard for them to believe. Apart from his miracles and his wise and authoritative teaching, he just seemed so…normal!
Since they were offended by the teaching that Jesus came from heaven, then Jesus teased them with a question of what if he went up into heaven? Would they finally be convinced then, or would they still have trouble swallowing this?
What’s more, they heard they had to drink his blood – swallow the truth about what he came to do. In this way, he wasn’t going to be the king and miracle worker they wanted, but he was going to shed his blood as a sacrifice for their sin.
This meant they needed him to die for them, but they didn’t think they needed this. They were God’s chosen people. They were good people. They thought themselves faithful people. They didn’t think they needed anyone to take their place at an execution.
Then again, perhaps it offended them because it all seemed too easy. Eternal life simply by believing? But what about being good enough for heaven?
Surely only the good, faithful, obedient, and specially chosen people of God get this eternal life, or is God really offering this heavenly privilege to everyone simply through faith? What’s the point of all our obedience and servitude then?
Well, after hearing all this, they figured he wasn’t giving them what they wanted, so they stopped following him. What he said about himself was too much. What he wanted them to believe is ludicrous and absurd. So, they left him to find someone or something else who would give them what they wanted.
Despite Jesus himself proclaiming the gospel in its truth and purity, they left him. The gospel will turn some people away – especially those who want a different type of good news for their own desires, or a different type of good news that fits their own thinking.
In the end just the twelve were left. Well, there may have been other disciples who didn’t leave, but Jesus specifically turned to his chosen twelve. Would they leave too?
If so many stopped following Jesus, how would Christ’s obedience, suffering, and death save the world if there were so few to believe…and even some of those were suspect!
Then Peter confessed there’s nowhere and no-one else they can turn to. Even though what Jesus says is hard to believe, trusting his word is the only way to eternal life.
His words were enough. Even if there were no more miracles, his words would truly satisfy them in this earthly life, and they were the only words which would guarantee their eternal life.
But what about us? Do we also want certain miracles, different teachings, or to live out our faith another way? Or are Jesus’ words enough for us? Do we trust what he says, even if what he says is the opposite to what we want to hear, or are difficult to believe?
Well, let’s consider his words in relation to baptism.
If you think about it, it’s just a little splash of water. What on earth can that do? It wasn’t even a very good wash! Most likely you were already clean anyway!
Yet, as Luther says, it’s not just water. It’s water used according to God’s command and connected with God’s word. Because of its connection to the Word of God—the Word made flesh—baptism brings about forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it.
The power of baptism lies in trusting the Word of God, as ludicrous and far-fetched as it may seem. Without this trust in God’s Word, it’s only a quaint ceremony which is easily forgotten. But with trust in God’s Word, it grants heavenly blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
As simple and earthly as it seems, it brings heavenly benefits through faith: after all, those who believe and are baptised are saved, but those who don’t believe will be condemned (Mk 16:16).
Similarly, let’s consider Jesus’ words in connection with Holy Communion.
On the surface it’s just a wafer of dry and almost tasteless bread (which can easily stick to the roof of our mouth), and a sip of wine. It’s not even enough to call it a snack, let alone a meal which satisfies!
Yet, it’s not just bread and wine, but it’s these simple elements used according to God’s command and again connected to his Word. Even the eating and drinking itself doesn’t do anything, but the power of God’s Word and your trust in his Word.
This is why Luther says of everyone who eats and drinks this meal in faith: whoever believes in these words: ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin’, has what they declare and state, namely, the forgiveness of sin.
Again, it’s about trusting God’s Word, even though it sounds absurd. We eat and drink according to God’s command and trust what he says actually happens.
Through faith in God’s Word, you receive what he promises. Through faith we feast on Christ’s body and blood and receive all the benefits of his life, death, and resurrection. Through faith we gather with angels, with all the other people who eat and drink in faith across the world, and with all the residents of heaven.
A simple and earthly meal, yet the benefits of trusting God’s Word brings heavenly benefits.
In fact, in every stage of life, his words of the Old and New Testaments, as the means by which God gives his Holy Spirit, grants faith to trust even when things go wrong in your life. His words have power to satisfy, comfort, and nourish broken hearts.
For example, when we’re being tempted or tested, we can trust what God says through his apostles, that we’ll experience no temptation except those common to all. God is faithful; he won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. And even when we’re tempted, he’ll provide a way out so that we can stand (1 Corinthians 10:13).
When we’re facing spiritual attack; we trust God clothes us with the full armour of God, which includes the sword of the Spirit – the word of God (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18).
When we’ve sinned against others and hurt them deeply, or even when people have abused or hurt us deeply, we trust and know the Lord is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
When a loved one who trusts in Christ is dying, we trust the promise of Jesus who says ‘those who believe in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die’ (John 11:25-26).
When we’re suffering in your body, feeling depressed, or simply struggling with getting old, we trust God’s promises so we don’t lose heart. Because St Paul says even though outwardly we may be wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed every day. Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs all our troubles. So, we trust him by fixing our eyes on what is unseen, because what is seen is temporary, while what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
When we’re afraid, trust the Lord is our light and salvation. The Lord is the stronghold of our life, so of whom should we be afraid? (Psalm 27:1) Since we trust the Lord is our helper, there’s no reason to be afraid, after all, what can humans do to us to separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus? (Psalm 118:6-7 and Romans 8:38-39)
When we’re struggling with direction and purpose in your life, trust Jesus that we should first seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).
As hard as some of God’s words are, especially those spoken and fulfilled by Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who else can offer so much?
His word brings comfort, direction, warning, forgiveness, and peace. Our trust in his word stabs the devil. Our trust in his word brings life – even life with him in his eternal kingdom. The alternative to trusting his words aren’t as nearly as good as we first think!
So, to whom shall we go? The Lord has the words of eternal life! Amen.
Modern Myth 2 – “All religions are much the same”. Myth 3 is really the other side of the coin and follows from Myth 2. “All Religions lead to God”. We saw that Myth 2 was false and I shall show that Myth 3 is also false. That in fact all religions do not lead to God.
Myth 3 is a result of muddled thinking. For a start there are quite different religions with very different objectives-goals.
+There are occult religions-such as animism, witchcraft-magic some elements of new Age. These are concerned with spirits, often evil spirits that need to be placated-manipulated. Occult religions are about spirits, not about God.
+Secondly there are “Imperial religions”. They are not about God either. They are about the highest political authority which demands total allegiance. Examples are the divine kings of Egypt-Caesars, Roman Emperors –Shinto Emperors of Japan. In recent times there were Hitler-Stalin-Mao. Stalin and Mao had giant pictures of themselves plastered everywhere. Hitler used messianic language about himself and predicted a 1,000 year Reich.
+ Thirdly there are the “ascetic religions” such as Buddhism, some strand of Hinduism. They are not about God either but about renunciation. The self is renounced-mortified-disciplined to diminish its grip of being tied to this world. These kinds of religions have nothing to do with God.
+ Fourthly there are the fertility cults-they worship sex. This is a very ancient as well as modern religion. The fertility cults of the Canaanites in Biblical times-to today’s XXX films and videos and the astronomical sales of pornography. The most widespread use of the internet is for pornography.
+ There are the prophetic religions which arise from the dynamic leadership and moral challenge of a great leader. Islam which made enormous inroads into the Middle East and North Africa within a few decades of the death of Muhammad is one example. Marxism is another. It influenced many people within a few decades of Marx’s death. Although it was atheistic Marxism had a creed-ideals, it promoted self sacrifice for the cause and clear convictions about the future in common with many religions. Its adherents would gladly die for it as would the devoted followers of Islam. But even Islam despite its high view of God does not offer the worshipper intimacy with God; ”Allah reveals his will, he never reveals himself”. The worshipper prays to Allah but cannot be said in any way to know him or have a relationship with him. Such a claim is blasphemous to a Muslim and you could get yourself killed for making it.
+ Finally there are the revelatory religions. Judaism and Christianity both teach that God can be known by the believer. Judaism tells of God’s revelation of himself through his mighty deeds of deliverance for Israel and through the words of the prophets. But with not temple today, Judaism is reduced to religious law and synagogue worship.
Christianity teaches that God has given a reliable-personal disclosure of himself to people through his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the fulfilment of all God’s promises to Israel and is the final revelation of God. Jesus was “Emmanuel”-“God with us”. Being able to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus is what the Christian faith is all about. That cannot be claimed for any of the other religions.
So it really is ludicrous to suppose that “all religions lead to God”; when Buddhism does not believe there is any God at all; when Islam makes him a very distant God with whom one cannot have a relationship’ when Hinduism offers extinction after many reincarnations and encourages idolatry on a massive scale.
How can all religions lead to God when they have such different beliefs about God- the after life and how one can attain it?
Take for example the two views of history represented by Christianity and Hinduism. This is shown by the difference between the wheel and the road. The great emblem for Hinduism is the wheel embodying the cycle of birth-growth-death-rebirth. And the cycle is repeated endlessly. You keep going around and around in ceaseless movement. It’s a bit like a merry go round that never stops. So you can never get off-you just have to keep going around and around-in different forms of reincarnation, getting nowhere.
The emblem for Christianity is the road. That is the view of history taken by Christianity. It has a clearly defined beginning in time-(Creation); a midpoint (the coming of Jesus Christ) and a goal-the end of time. The Christian view is that history is going somewhere. It has a conclusion-purpose.
The goal for Christians is to enjoy fellowship with the Lord and his people forever in heaven. For the Christian there is birth-growth-death-heaven
There are two powerful reasons why all religions do not lead to God. The first is the nature of God. The prophet Isaiah describes a majestic God: (40:21,22,15)
How can we possibly climb up to him? It cannot be done. Far from all religions leading to God, no religion can lead to God. He is too great. The creature cannot possibly discover the creator unless He chooses to disclose-reveal himself. That is one reason why all religions are bound to disappoint.
Since “religion” is humanity’s search for the Divine, it is bound to fail. We do not need a religion, but a revelation. And that is precisely what Christianity claims to be. Unlike the other “holy Books”, the Bible does not record the story of humans searching for God but of God searching for man- Adam hiding in the garden-Abraham etc.
The second reason why no religion will ever reach through to God is because of the nature of humans. The does not give a very flattering description of humans but one that is uncomfortably close to the mark. It tells us that we are sinners- that the human heart is deceitful and wicked. It tells us that murders-adulteries-lies-evil actions do not come from our circumstances, but from our hearts. It tells us that there is no room for us to be judgemental because all have sinned and come short of God’s standard. It tells us that people love the darkness rather than the light. It tells us there is a serious flaw in our nature alongside with much that is good. As a result we do not want God interfering in our lives. We want to paddle our own canoe. We do not want to acknowledge God as our master we want to be our own master.
No one can find God through their own search because He is too great for us. And also because as humans we are too self centred –too ego centric to really want to get close to God. We want God on our terms not on his and consequently our searching does not discover the true God only our images of what we think God should be like.
So the greatness of God and the sinfulness of human beings are two massive reasons why all religions do not lead to God.
People all claim that all religions lead to God use the image of a mountain with a number of routes going to the top. It does not matter what route you take because they will all get you to your destination. But as we have seen, that view is untenable- it simply is not true. A more accurate image would be of people trying to find their way through a maze. There are lots of different paths in a maze but most of them bring you to a dead end. They fail to get you out of the maze and find the exit. There is only one way through
That is the astounding claim of Christian. As Jesus said, “I am the Way, Truth and the life, No one comes to the Father but by me”.
People have been known to make outlandish-bizarre claims. When I was studying Psychology at Adelaide University we made a visit to Parkside mental home.
I remember meeting a man who claimed to be Napoleon. And there was woman cradling a doll in her arms. She said she was the Virgin Mary and the doll was the baby Jesus. Because of their mental illness, these people were obviously deluded.
Jesus also made some rather striking-unusual claims. On one occasion he said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE”. And he wasn’t the baker at the local mental hospital. This statement is in fact the first of the 7 great “I am” statements of Jesus recorded in John’s gospel.
I am: “The Light of the world” -”The Door”-“The Good Shepherd”-“the Vine”-“The Resurrection and the Life”-“The Way, Truth and the Life”.
Now these are tremendous claims. They are saying that Jesus I not a mere mortal man. They are in fact claims to be divine. It is Jesus’ way of saying that he was the Son of God-that he was One with God.
This morning we focus on the first of these claims-“I am the Bread of Life”.
Note that Jesus didn’t say, “I am the medicine of Life”. That would have implied
that he was only for emergencies-sickness-particular needs. Unfortunately that is how many people treat Jesus. They only turn to him when they are in trouble-desperate.
Jesus didn’t say, “I am the desert of life”. That would have implied that Jesus was an extra, but not really necessary.
He didn’t say, “I am the tea-coffee of life”. He says, “I am the Bread of life”.
Throughout history, bread has been the staple –basic source of nourishment.. It was called the “staff of life”. It was nutritious-healthy. For the people of the Middle East food meant bread. So it was culturally appropriate for Jesus to say, “I am the Bread of Life”.
Italy: The pizza of life. America: The MacDonald’s of life. Asia: The Rice of life:
Germany: the Schnitzel of Life. Sound better than the sauerkraut of life:
Ireland: the Potato of life. Hungary: The goulash of life. Australia: The BBQ-meat pie.
In Israel at the time of Jesus it was appropriate to say, “I am the Bread of life” because bread was the basic-essential food of those times.
The day before Jesus made this remarkable claim was the time when he fed the crowd of 5,000 with the 5 small loaves and two fish. And as a result of that miracle the crowd wanted to make Jesus their King. But it wasn’t for the right reason –it wasn’t because of their commitment to him-it wasn’t because they wanted to be his loyal subjects. They simply saw Jesus as providing an easy life for them. They wanted Jesus to be their King who would provide for all their needs. They then could have an easy-care free life.
It is in this context that Jesus makes this striking statement. “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE; HE WHO COMES TO ME WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY AND WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER THIRST”.
It is quite clear that Jesus was not talking about ordinary bread. You can eat bread (any food) and that will satisfy you hunger for a little while-stop you stomach from rumbling. But after you have eaten and your stomach has digested the food you begin to feel hungry again. That is the pattern with ordinary food.
But Jesus says quite emphatically, “HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NEVER HUNGER”.
What Jesus means is that he can meet all our needs. Not just the physical needs the people were focussing on but in particular our spiritual needs. Jesus can satisfy all our hungers-thirsts. He said, “Blessed are those that hunger-thirst for righteousness”. Those who want to know God-to have a relationship with God.
It is interesting to note that that many people who seem to have “made it” in the world-people who have acquired fame-wealth-status-power-influence, often don’t seem to be very happy-satisfied. Many of these “high flyers” have made psychiatrists very wealthy. To be having “therapy” was the “in thing-trendy-fashionable thing for many of the Hollywood set. Pop stars commit suicide in large numbers-Janis Joplin-Jimmy Hendrix-brain Hutchence-the comedian Tony Hancock. The list is endless. Fame-wealth-success is no guarantee of happiness-satisfaction. Take Howard Hughes-Paul Getty for example. Success with material things does not-cannot- bring true satisfaction-happiness.
Jesus said it many years ago, “ A MAN’S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS”.
Perhaps you have experienced that for yourself. There was something you really wanted –a large screen TV-DVD player-new car-new furniture-new hobby etc. But once you have got it-once you have reached your goal, it soon looses its appeal. It doesn’t seem as important as it once did.
The reason why we don’t often find satisfaction is that we are looking for satisfaction from things that ultimately are unable to satisfy. When Jesus says, “HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NOT HUNGER-HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NOT THIRST”, he is claiming that he can satisfy All our needs-spiritual-emotional.
But for this to happen we need to come to him- accept his invitation-believe-trust in him. His promise is that he will meet our unsatisfied longings.
The spiritual hunger that we have, can only-will only be met when we really come to know Jesus personally. That is when we experience his love-concern for us. Then and only then, will the restless soul find rest-the hungry heart be satisfied.
You know it is a strange thing. Our generation is probably the best off as far as material possessions-comforts are concerned. And yet so many people don’t seem to be happy-satisfied- despite all the things they have.
That is why some people flock in droves to the various New Age alternatives-astrology-Buddhism-Eastern religions-even witchcraft-Between 1996-2001 there was a 140% in people turning to witchcraft in Australia.
The reason is quite simple. More and more people are discovering that material possessions-outward success don’t and can’t ultimately satisfy the human spirit.
St Augustine knew the reason for that. He said, “OUR HEARTS ARE NOT AT REST UNTIL THEY REST IN GOD”.
And the only way our hearts can rest in God is when we come to know Jesus who is the Bread of life.
There is a song by Andy Park “Only You” .
No one but you Lord can satisfy the longing in my heart.
Nothing I do Lord can take the place of drawing near to you.
One of our current buzz words is “globalization”. It refers to the fact that our world is closely interconnected. What happens in one part of the world affects the rest of the world. The cost of petrol in Australia is affected by what happens on the other side of the world. Western Pop music is played in China and India as much as in the Western world. Our world is increasingly become a “global village”.
Australia is a multi-cultural society and multi-religious society. In the cities we find Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists walking our streets and staffing our shops. They are as much citizens of this country as those of us born here with the same rights and duties.
This has led some people to think that the various religions are much the same. They see the different religions as merely different ways of understanding the same God.
This is a very attractive idea for some people. Far too many disagreements-wars-persecutions have arisen because of religious differences. So let’s assume that there is one God whom the different religions are seeking in their particular ways. Let the Christians, Muslims. Buddhist, Hindu’s agree that they are worshipping the same God but in different ways and leave it at that.
To some people that would be the common-sense view and the tolerant view. Tolerance is a very attractive view, especially these days when traditional religious beliefs and morals are widely discounted and ignored by so many in our communities.
Furthermore most of the great religions have a lot of moral-ethical teachings in common. They generally teach respect for others-kindness-peace etc. So why not take the common ethical teachings of the different religions and build up a composite picture of God. Surely that would lead to world peace and understanding.
This view has wide appeal and was espoused by the late Indian Hindu leader Mahatma Ghandi who said, “The soul of religions is one but it is encased in a number of forms”. This is quite an old view. The Roman Emperor Septimus Severus hedged his bets by having statues of the former Roman Emperors’ but also miracles workers including Jesus Christ. It is a popular and widely spread view today.
This view is called Syncretism. The Hebrew people were tempted by this view. God made it clear that this was totally unacceptable. The First Commandment (You shall have no other gods) was specifically given to counter the view of Syncretism. It was not acceptable to God then and is not acceptable today.
Why not? There are a number of reasons.
+ Firstly if you ask the actual worshippers of the different faiths whether all religions are the same you will get an emphatic denial. They know very well that Christians are different from Muslims and Hindus. Some are so emphatic about the rightness of their religion they will even attack members of other religions and burn their churches-mosques-temples. Fanatical Muslims have burnt a number of churches in Indonesia in recent times. The Quran says sura 9:5 “Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them”. And that has happened to Christians in Indonesia, Nigeria and the Sudan in recent times. It is only Academics who write books saying that all religions are the same or people who don’t have any particular faith. But people who actually practice their religion certainly don’t say that.
+ Secondly the different religions hold diametrically opposing views of what God is like. The Hindus believe there are 350 million gods or deities, but they are not personal as the God we worship. Buddhism is a religion without a personal God and without even a final existence.
The Muslims worship Allah and believe he is the only God. They acknowledge Jesus as a prophet but not the Son of God.
Christianity teaches that we have a personal God who forgives and also offers supernatural aid. Whereas in Hinduism and Buddhism there is no concept of sin-forgiveness only ruthless karma –fate.
Islam denies that Allah ever reveals himself in person to people; he only reveals his Will and the proper response to Allah’s will is “Islam” which means “submission”.
Christianity teaches that God not only reveals his will but his person. Indeed he revealed himself to us thought his Son Jesus so we could know what God is like. That after all is what Christmas celebrates.
+ There is also a great difference between the religions in the goal of our lives and where we are heading after this life on earth.
The goal of all existence in Buddhism is Nirvana-extinction or the complete cessation of all desire and personality-“nothingness”. Incidentally it took the Buddha 547 reincarnations to attain that state.
Muslims look forward to a sensual paradise with wine, women and song.
The goal of Christianity is to live forever with God and his redeemed people in eternity. So what the different religions teach differs enormously.
+ But the greatest difference is in the area of salvation.
Christianity teaches that none of us can save ourselves or make us acceptable to God, try as we might.
Whereas all the other religions assert that by keeping their teachings a person can be saved or in the case of Buddhism they can be reborn.
Nothing spells out this contrast more powerfully than the Buddhist story which starts of like the parable of the Prodigal son. The spendthrift boy comes home after wasting his inheritance. He is met by his father and then has to work off the penalty for his past misdeeds by years of servitude to his father. He virtually becomes a slave to his father.
How different this is from forgiving love of the father in the gospel story who gives a great party to celebrate the sons return. And far from making his son work as a servant, the father reinstates the prodigal as his son-party-ring-sandals-robe.
Indeed the basic world view of Christianity, that a loving personal God longs to have a relationship with his people, is in irreconcilable contrast with the view of Eastern religions that there is no personal God and the best we can hope for is extinction- to be absorbed into nothingness.
These are some of the differences between the different religions. And they clearly show that many people who say, “All the religions are the same”, have never thought deeply about it or are totally ignorant of the differences as I have outlined them.
The fact is that Christianity stands out from all other faiths. It maintains that the living God has come to share our human situation-which he died an agonizing death in which he took upon himself the penalty for human sin-wickedness-that he broke the power of death on the first Easter day-and that he is preparing a place for to spend eternity in the presence of God and his redeemed people.
No other faith claims anything like that. Nobody with their head screwed on can claim that it is just like other religions.
Whether people like it or not, we cannot honestly say that all religions are much the same. Amen
Prayer: “Lord as you fed the crowd with loaves and fishes; please feed us today with your Word”.
What is the difference between an optimist and a pessimist? Glass of water-is it half full or half empty?
The optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty. The pessimist sees a difficulty in every opportunity. Which one are you?
In the gospel lesson for today we meet two of Jesus’ disciples-one is a pessimist-the other is an optimist.
Background: Significant story-apart from the resurrection accounts this is the only story to appear in all four gospels.
There are times when we all need to have a break-get away from the pressures-routines of daily life. We need time to recharge our physical-spiritual-emotional batteries. It was much the same with Jesus and the disciples.
There were times when Jesus needed to get away from the pressure of ministry- from teaching-preaching-healing-ministering to people. His work was demanding-exhausting.
Jesus favourite place for these times of R and R were the hills around Lake Galilee. On this occasion Jesus set sail with the disciples for the hills on the far side of the Lake for some rest and recreation. But this was not to be. The crowds that were following Jesus could see the direction the boat was taking. So they followed along the shore of the Lake.
At the sight of the vast crowd, Jesus felt compassion for them. He could see that they were tired-hungry. Many had walked long distances to see him. So Jesus decided they should be fed.
Now there are many aspects of this story that we could look at-concern for those in need-the miracle of feeding such a large crowd with such meagre resources-5 barley loaves and 2 small fish. That wouldn’t feed a family leave alone a crowd of over 5,000.
But what I want to do is to consider the reaction of 3 people-two disciples and the boy.
Philip: Jesus turns to Philip and asks him where they could buy sufficient food to feed the crowd. Philip was the natural person to ask because he came from Bethsaida-a nearby town and would have local knowledge. John-the gospel writer makes it clear that Jesus asks Philip the question as a means of testing him. Jesus already knew what he would do. He asked the question to see how much faith-trust
Philip had in him.
And we notice that Philip doesn’t do very well. His answer is full of pessimism. He says that even if they had sufficient money- 8 months wages (which they don’t) and even if they could find a place to buy food (which they can’t) –there still wouldn’t be enough for everybody to have a bite. That was Philip’s contribution to solving the problem. In effect he was saying, “It’s impossible! It can’t be done!” Its a hopeless situation”.
The problem with Philip of course was that he couldn’t think outside the square. He could only see the human resources-he didn’t even consider God’s resources. That is why he gave up so easily. Perhaps there are times when we respond like Philip: Times when we can only see the difficulties-impossibilities and we give up too easily. We forget the promises God makes:
“MY GOD WILL SUPPY ALL YOUR NEEDS”.
Andrew: If Philip was the pessimist, Andrew was the optimist. Andrew said, “I’ll see what I can do and trust Jesus to do the rest. Andrew had what I call the ministry of “bringing people to Jesus”. It was Andrew who brought his brother Peter to Jesus and you know how significant that was.
On this occasion Andrew brought the young lad to Jesus and in doing this made the miracle possible. Andrew wasn’t exactly sure how Jesus could use this small offering but the trusts that Jesus will be able to do something.
No one knows what will happen and what the outcome will be when we bring someone to Jesus. If parents bring up their children to know-love God who can say what great things that child may one day do for God-Timothy-St Augustine-Isaac Watts-John Wesley.
The story is told of a German school teacher in the late 15th century who when he entered the classroom on the morning would take off his cap and bow to the boys. When asked why he did this he replied, “You never know what one of these boys may someday become”.
He was right because one of the boys in his class was Martin Luther.
Andrew really had no idea what the result would be when he brought the young lad with his 5 bread rolls and 2 small fish to Jesus that day. But what he was doing was to provide the materials for a miracle. Let us never forget that. We never know what possibilities we are releasing when we invite someone to come and meet Jesus. We don’t know how God might use such a person.
Albert McMakin was a 24 year old farmer who had come to faith in Christ. Albert was keen to get his friend to come to a meeting to hear about Jesus but this young man was hard to persuade. Eventually Albert managed to persuade the young man to come by letting him drive the truck. The young man was attracted by what he heard and one night gave his life to Christ. The young man who drove the truck was Billy Graham. The year was 1934. Since then Billy Graham has presented the gospel to millions around the world.
Now we cannot all be like Billy Graham but we can be like Albert –we can bring our friends to Jesus and leaving the result to him. That is what Andrew did.
May this example encourage us to share our faith with others-to tell others about Jesus. Our job is to offer the invitation –the result we leave to the Holy Spirit.
Let us not be a pessimist like Philip who could only see the impossibility in the situation. Rather let us be an optimist like Andrew who knew that Jesus could turn impossibilities into possibilities.
The Young lad:
He did not have much to offer-5 barley loaves-the size of bread rolls and two small fish-not tuna or barramundi, rather the size of sardines. That was not a very promising start-in fact it was a rather meagre offering. Yet out of that small amount Jesus was able to work a miracle.
In some ways we are rather like that young man. We may not think that we have much to offer to God. But the point is that God can make use of whatever gift we have to offer. It doesn’t have to be large-great-spectacular. Look what Jesus did with the young lad’s small offering.
So don’t feel embarrassed –inadequate that you don’t have more to offer to God. Simply bring to God who you are and what you have. And God will do the rest.
Remember: 5 small bread rolls and two small fish in the hands of Jesus fed a crowd-and there were 12 baskets full left over after they had filled themselves up.
Key Thought: A little can become a lot in the hands of Jesus.
Who knows what miracle the Lord might do with the little that we offer to him.