Preach / / Service of Remembrance / / 4th Dec 2016

Talk from our annual ‘Service of Remembrance’, for those who have lost loved ones, at TRINITY Southover, 4th Dec, based on Psalm 46:1-7

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I expect many of you have read or seen the movie of ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, by CS Lewis?

In it, Narnia is in permanent winter, with no sign of Christmas or Spring. The cold is ever present, snow all around, lakes frozen, and with it much joy has been sucked from their world.

I sometimes wonder if winter isn’t a good analogy for pain and grief…

I mean I wonder if you have noticed the trees lately? it was just a few weeks ago I wrote a talk whilst gazing out my window and admiring the glorious autumn colours on the large Sycamore tree outside. Now it stands rather stark and bare with all that wonderful colour blown away.

Winter can be very stark. The trees are bare, looking like a shell of what they can be.

The air is often cold and crisp – on really cold mornings even breathing in can make us wince. The nights are longer, our afternoons fading into early darkness and we tend to find ourselves more often at home, wrapped up, shut in away from the cold.

 

There is something in the pain of losing a loved one that I think provokes those sort of feelings and reactions in us. We are stripped bare, we are not what we once were. Things can change so dramatically in such a short space of time. There may be mornings when we wake and find that drawing breath is such an effort.

We may want to hibernate, to shut ourselves away, as if we can hide from the awful reality that has hit us.

 

…o0O0o…

 

Grief brings with it such great uncertainty. The world as we knew it, will never be quite the same and how can we face the world with our new darker view of it?

At times like these finding some truth that we can hold on to, can be really helpful, a foundation for us to stand on when we need.

Perhaps that might be in a particular memory of our loved ones that we can cherish – nothing can take that away.

Or in something we do regularly just to have a moment of control, of certainty.

And for many of us, we find certainty by looking to the truth of God.

The Psalm we heard, Psalm 46, starts with these words:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

3 truths for us to hold on to:

 

God is a refuge.

God is a strength.

God is an ever-present help. Words of comfort and certainty and – because of those – our Psalm goes on:

 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging

 

We may well feel that the earth is giving way under the weight of our grief.

We may feel surrounded by the swirling of roaring waters as our emotions rage out of control. BUT there is still that point of truth around which we can turn and perhaps sometimes it is all we can do to cling on to it.

 

…o0O0o…

 

Do you need that refuge – somewhere to hide?

 

Let him be that refuge.

Seek solace in him.

Psalm 91 is another that talks of God as our refuge, and verse 4 says:

 

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…

 

What a wonderful picture – like a mother bird, drawing her young to her, protecting them, bringing them to the warmth of her own body, shielding them in their vulnerability from the outside world.

Perhaps that is where you need to be right now – just being, just being protected, being shielded form the world outside. Perhaps it is helpful to imagine yourself in that picture, under his wings…?

God is our refuge…

…o0O0o…

 

God is our strength too…

Or do you find yourself lacking strength to get though each day?

Pain, suffering, sorrow and loss are exhausting. Even the simplest of tasks can seem like mountains to be climbed.

Philippians 4:13 tells us

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

We need his help…

In our times of pain and weakness, God can be our strength. He longs to help us. In the Old Testament we can read of Moses, where he is facing a battle and at one point Joshua and Aaron come and hold up his arms when his strength is failing. All the while they are holding up his arms, they are winning the battle. And God can hold your arms up too.

I imagine for some of you, just coming here today might have been a huge step. If you are facing something that seems too huge, that you just don’t have the strength for, ask God for his strength – ask him to hold your arms up for you.

 

Jesus can be your strength.

 

 

…o0O0o…

And our third truth – Do you find yourself searching for that ever present God?

 

God is ever present? Sometimes that might seem laughable.

We may find ourselves questioning… wondering… not understanding

‘How could he let this happen?’

‘Why Lord?’

‘I don’t understand God…?’

And there may be no answers to those questions, there may never be, but he is always present – within what we are facing and what we are living with, of that we can be sure.

In Narnia, in the perpetual winter, there were rumours of Aslan’s return – Aslan, the lion, the king, who promised a hope for the future. ‘Aslan is on the move’ people would say. Fleeting glances were seen, snatched conversations were had amongst those who dared to hope even when they couldn’t be sure, when they couldn’t see him.

 

This is from the book after Aslan is mentioned…

And now a very curious thing happened… the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different…. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music has just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

Just as the children experienced in the story, they didn’t see Aslan nor could they be sure that he would return, and sometimes God is like that for us. Sometimes we can feel that we just don’t know where God is, we are in that roaring water the Psalm talked of, or a stark swirling snowstorm, stuck in that perpetual winter with no Spring in sight. But perhaps, just perhaps we might see a fleeting glimpse, we might sense him with us, we might just feel a glimmer of Hope, or recognise a truth we can cling to within that.

Perhaps in a passing sense of him truly being our refuge, a feeing of safety. Or maybe an unfathomable strength in a moment we thought we couldn’t face.

 

Psalm 56:8 notes:

 

You keep track of all my sorrows

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.

 

I know for myself, there is nothing God is afraid of, nothing he can’t face with us. He has been with me through illness, through pain and suffering, through dark times and sometimes his presence, fleeting as it might have been, has been the one thing that gave me the strength to keep going.

He is there in our joy and celebration, and he is there in our grief too. He knows our pain and walks with us in it.

God is an ever-present help in trouble

And my prayer is that you will recognize his presence with you as you walk through your own journey.

 

PREACH // John 20:1-18 / Mary Magdalene & the transforming power of Jesus

Preached at TRINITY, 9.30am // 20th November 2016 & 10am and 11.15am 27th November

‘The transforming power of encountering Jesus’

 

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Mary Magdalene //

The star of this piece (apart from Jesus obvs) is Mary Magdalene. Now I am sure it won’t be any surprise to you that I am a bit of a feminist, and so I really want us to start by taking a look at Mary Magdalene this morning.

So let me ask you, what do we know about her?

Answers…

Prostitute, Jesus’ wife, 7 demons cast out of her…

She is commonly referred to in modern Christian thought as a prostitute. But I want to tell you there is really no evidence for this whatsoever, it is total conjecture and theory throughout history that has been perpetuated down the years. So let’s just put something to right here! I don’t know really where this idea first came from but some suggestions are:

Perhaps this theory came about because when she is first mentioned in Luke 7, it comes straight after the passage where the ‘sinful woman’ anoints Jesus feet with perfume.

Or perhaps because when she is mentioned in Luke 8 with other woman, they are talked of having their own means, their own finances – how did they get them?

Or perhaps it is because nowhere is there any hint of a mention of family or lineage.

Or perhaps because we know that 7 demons were cast out of her (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2).

But is all of this enough evidence to label her as a whore? I don’t think so! Pretty weak case I’d say!

So what do we know about her…

In Luke 8 we read:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

She had demons cast out of her. And that she had her own means. So I would like to put forward another hypothesis here. Perhaps she actually came from a wealthy family – after all Magdalene where she came from (hence the name) had a prosperous textile industry. Imagine then she was the daughter of a wealthy family, who had tragically been afflicted by demons. What do you think her family’s response might be on seeing her free and healed from this? I wouldn’t be surprised if they literally threw money at Jesus! Or perhaps she decided to follow Jesus after this, and they were only too happy to support her in it?

Now of course her family aren’t mentioned as they are with some of the disciples, and many of them left home without even a backward glace, just following Jesus on his command ‘come follow me’.

And well as I said that’s just another theory, but we do know she was demonized…

So then we can be sure that her meeting with Jesus was more than a fleeting one – more than just a suggestion to follow him – I mean let’s just imagine her state, as demon possessed. In other biblical accounts of the demonised, we hear people are:

Mute (Matt 9:32)

Blind and mute (Matt 12:22)

Legion – uncontrollable, crying out, cutting himself with stones….

 

Mark 5:1-20

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

 

Can you imagine then, if you had been living with any of that and then you were healed and freed from it? The man with the legion of demons was said to then be

‘clothed and in his right mind’ and talking with Jesus. Having been shunned by society, possibly locked or chained up, and then one man frees you from this? What would you want to do?
Well, we know what Mary did, she devoted her life to following him.

And let’s just be clear here, she was just devoted to him, any why wouldn’t she be? Again there is no evidence whatsoever of her being in a relationship with him (which has also been suggested). But she knew who he was. She knew her life had been transformed by the power of Jesus.

In fact there is actually nothing bad or negative written about her – she did not deny Jesus (John 18, Luke 22), nor did she betray him (John 13, Luke 22), or make foolish comments (Luke 9:55 calling down from from heaven). And where she is mentioned with other women – Mark 16: her name is sometimes put first, before even Mary, Jesus’ mother…

She was there through it all. At his trial:

Mark 15:

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs…

At his crucifixion:

John 19:25

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

She had cared for Jesus own needs, she had followed him everywhere, she was not afraid or hiding at the trial or at the crucifixion.

And now here we see her in this passage, the first one to find the tomb empty, the first one to see the risen Lord, and the one to tell the other disciples that he was alive.

Let’s just clarify that, of the 12, or of those who knew Jesus and followed him, Mary M (according to John) was the first one to see him, the one to break the news. Mary Magdalene who history has suggested was a prostitute and sinner.

 

Theologian Tom Wright notes that:

John has told us nothing of her history; the little we know, we know from the other gospels. But her place here is spectacular. She is the first apostle, the apostle to the apostles: the first to bring the news that the tomb was empty. And… a greater privilege yet: the first to see, to meet, to speak with the risen master himself.

 

He calls her the apostle to apostles?!

You know if anyone wanted to make this story up, she is the absolute last person they would have chosen. So it’s pretty important that she is the one chosen here for that task.

And I just want to say that I am so glad to be in a church that supports women in leadership, I have been so blessed by peoples support on my journey to ordination, but as we know not everyone agrees. But this passage alone surely has to cause them some doubt!

 

Mary Magdalene’s encounter //

But I’m not here to give a feminist manifesto! Mary Magdalene is an important player in Jesus life story that’s why I am focussing on her here. And as always we must ask ourselves, what can we learn from her? What can we learn from this passage and her interaction with Jesus?

Well I think there’s a message for us all here and it is:

Situation – encounter – transformation – sharing

There is a situation and in that an encounter with the Lord, transformation takes place and then the good news is shared.

Any God given situation should lead to encounter with Jesus. Any encounter with the Jesus should transform those within it. And those who are transformed should be compelled to share the news of who Jesus is.

So this passage starts with Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb early in the morning, One commentator suggests that in order for it be dark it would have been between 3-6am in the morning which might seem like a strange time for a woman at that time to be wandering around in the dark. But there was a Jewish custom to mourn at the tomb of a loved one for 3 days after the death, as it was thought the soul was still present for that time. Perhaps she was going there to mourn, to just sit and be there.

 

Situation – encounter – transformation – sharing

 

Situation

So here she is, this is the situation she faces, an empty tomb. Jesus’ body gone. What are her emotions? Fear? who has taken the body? So she runs back to get help. Peter and we assume John (the beloved disciple the text says) run back to the tomb with her. See the scene and then head back to the others.

But Mary Magdalene, she stays. She weeps, looks into the tomb. And here is her encounter. Firstly with the angels, and then Jesus himself.

 

And she doesn’t recognise him, thinks he is the gardener.

 

I love verse 15 where he says to her:

“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

 

Because that surely is a key question to everyone who lives: who or what are you looking for? So often we seek our answers anywhere but in Jesus. This is a key question – WHO ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?!

And how often do we not recognise Jesus anyway? I think Jesus probably comes to us many times, even daily, and we don’t see him. But especially in times of trial – we are caught up in our own emotions, our own situation just as Mary Magdalene was here. We can’t see beyond the immediate situation and yet God longs to appear to us, if we would just open our eyes!

Here of course it is in mentioning her name ‘Mary’ that she finally recognises him.

 

And what a beautiful moment. ‘Mary’. He just says her name and in that her world is changed, transformed. Suddenly the one who was dead, gone, whose body has even been moved as she thought, is there in front of her and she knows him. (And is if she needed any extra confirmation, there are the angels too!)

Just in a moment – in him saying her name. And you know what, he knows our names too…

 

 

In Isaiah 43:1 the Lord is talking to the people of Israel and says:

‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine’

 

And Isaiah 49:16, also to Israel:

‘See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’

 

and in John 10:3 Jesus talks of himself as the Good Shepherd:

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 

Jesus knows your name too.

 

 

 

I wonder if you can remember the first time you encountered Jesus? Perhaps you have always known him with you, which is a wonderful gift so many of us don’t have, or perhaps there was a moment of realisation?

For me, one thing was a moment of realisation that I was loved. Truly and utterly, unconditionally. Phil, my husband, says, as we fell in love with God, we fell in love with each other all over again. And the knowledge that we were ourselves loved as we were, enabled us to experience God’s love for ourselves and in our lives, and to pour out that love on those around us. It was a transformation in our relationship and in our lives.

 

And here we see a moment of transformation –

as Mary Magdalene, seeing Jesus afresh, in a new encounter with him – she is transformed.

 

From weeping in grief and sorrow to the realisation he is there, she turns towards him, shouts out ‘rabboni’ and then what would be your next reaction? I think I would fling myself at him hugging him! Wouldn’t you?

st-mm1

And I think that is exactly what she did, when we read the next line:

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father…

‘do not hold on to me’, I just imagine her clinging on to him, as if he might disappear again!

 

She is transformed, from grief to joy, in an instant… Any encounter with Jesus should bring about transformation like that.

And transformation of course should happen when we meet Jesus for the first time, when we become Christians, but we need to go on being transformed into the likeness of who he is. Mary Magdalene knew Jesus, she had already decided to follow him, to support him, to care for him, but this is another encounter, a new step.

Do you have those moments? When you feel something new in your faith, a step forward, a realisation? I’ve had those moments in prayer, by myself or when other are praying for me; or in reading scripture, when suddenly something you’ve read 100 times before stands out in a new way and challenges your thinking or shows you something you’d not seen before of who Jesus is.

Or maybe you’ve had a more ‘powerful encounter – you’ve been healed, had an answer to prayer, seen a miracle happen before your very eyes.

Let’s be open to those things, let’s be seeking those things. I mean here for Mary Magdalene she wasn’t seeking the Lord particularly, she was lost in grief, but how much more do we see, recognise, realise the presence of od when we have our eyes open, our eyes fixed on him?

We could start each day by saying, ‘Lord show me a transforming encounter today’, or ‘I want to see you more in this day’, ‘show me where you are today’, ‘give me open eyes and ears to see and hear you today’…?

 

 

And what do we do with those encounters? Those moments?

 

Situation – encounter – transformation – sharing

 

And the response to an encounter with Jesus – should be sharing about it, telling the good news – evangelism!

As Jesus tells Mary Magdalene (though I’m not sure he needed to!) she goes and finds the disciples and shares what she has seen ‘I have seen the Lord’ and tells them all that he has said.
When I first became a Christian I described the desire in me to tell people about it, as being like feeling I needed a loud haler that I could stand on the street corner with and wanting to shout out who Jesus was and what he’d done in our lives. I could happily have done that – though I don’t think it’s a recommended form of evangelism TBH!

The Rev. Frank Teesdale, pastor of Garfield Ridge Baptist Church, preaches the Gospel at 18th Street and Loomis Boulevard in Chicago on Friday, June 10, 2011. (Terrence Antonio James/ Chicago Tribune) B581333380Z.1 ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS, NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, NEW YORK TIMES OUT, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION...

Instead I began to write about it and years later I’m still writing that blog! Because there is something about a transforming encounter with Jesus that compels us to share it with others.

And it is so powerful…

 

I love hearing people’s stories of how God has been at work in their lives, don’t you? It’s just so encouraging and inspiring. Last Sunday at the 6.30 we heard from a guy whose family have disowned him for his faith. And yet the ways God had worked in his life were just staggering.

 

At my last church, there we met a woman who was healed of terminal cancer.

I often start my day by asking God to use me to reach people. On holiday one time, I felt compelled to go and talk to a chap at a table in the restaurant where we were eating. Thankfully he spoke english… As I shared what I felt God was saying, he looked at me in total disbelief as I saw him transformed before my very eyes. He was not a Christian but had spent the day sitting in a church wondering what to do with his life and every word I spoke to him was an answer to that.

 

Testimony is so powerful…

 

Revelation 12 talks about a great battle in heaven and notes this:

 

Rev 12:11

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…

 

Victory was in what Jesus did and in out telling of what Jesus has done…

 

In Luke 8:38-39 – the man with all those demons:

begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying,  “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

 

 

In John 4 we read of the Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke to at the well, telling her everything she had done and that he was the water of life… she went back to her town and told them all about him and v 39 says:

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…

 

In our Situations – look for encounter, be ready to receive transformation and then go and share what the Lord has done…

 

So I want to ask you today, where are you encountering Jesus in your lives right now? How are you enabling others to encounter Jesus? how are you sharing what he has done for you?

 

…..lead into ministry…

 

 

 

Preach // 9/10/16 Folk Festival Evensong // God in music

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Morris dancers as part of the Folk Festival

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Preach from Lewes Folk Festival Evensong, 9th October, 2016

Based on 2 Chronicles, 5: 4-14 (second reading: Colossians 3:12-17)

I’m afraid I won’t be preaching in the style of a 17th or 18th Century fire and brimstone preacher today, (the cassock is about as far as I’ll go on that one!) but actually the sentiment is the same, that God, our wonderful heavenly Father, Jesus his son, the Holy Spirit within us, should be at the centre of our lives. And today I want to talk about God in our lives, through music. Of course – couldn’t talk about anything else really!

I grew up surrounded with music as my mum was and is, a great piano player. As tiny children we loved hearing ‘the penguin song’, and as my mum played me and my brother would waddle around pretending to be penguins, over and over again until My mum was fed up of playing it!

 

Now, I am married to a music lover and worship leader, and our kids have inherited that love too: between us all we own I think 5 guitars, a bass guitar, mandolin, flute, drum kit, piano and keyboard as well as countless shakers and harmonicas etc. 

We love to play and to sing, and particularly for us, to use music to worship God.

For me there is just something spiritual about music, something more than just the notes we hear or the words being sung.

I love that line from our 2 Chronicles passage:

indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord’

They were as one – if you’ve ever heard a perfect harmony, or a great choir all singing in unison, it sounds just like that – they are as one. And here in our passage it was of course in worship to God.

And BTW just in case you think you can’t sing, (although unlikely this afternoon I am sure) Psalm 98 tells us to:

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

 

It doesn’t say sing perfectly in tune – it just says make a joyful noise – it’s all about intention, about the heart behind it.

You know, historians suggest that we just don’t know the origin of music, but it could be that it grew out of naturally occurring sounds or rhythms. Perhaps early human music echoed those sounds, or used similar repeating patterns or tones.

Of course we just don’t know for sure but as a Christian I believe that God created the world and with that humans, and with that different giftings for us to be closer to him and to glorify him. In Exodus 35 we see a craftsman, Bezalel being filled with the Holy Spirit in order to create beautiful artistic designs for the temple. Why not the same with music?

In fact in Job 38 the Lord is speaking to Job and notes:

When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

I think human music-making is part of the music of creation. It reflects the order, beauty, and diversity of God’s creation. Which would explain quite why it carries so much power. I believe music carries the presence of God within it, it’s just that we don’t always recognise it as that. In our Chronicles passage we heard that during the singing:

that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

It was like their singing, their music carried the presence of God. It was so powerful they couldn’t continue their work!

Theologian Karl Barth suggested that singing is not an option for the people of God and that it is one of the essential ministries of the church.

He said:

The Christian church sings. It is not a choral society. Its singing is not a concert. But from inner, material necessity it sings. Singing is the highest form of human expression….What we can and must say quite confidently is that the church which does not sing is not the church. And where…it does not really sing but sighs and mumbles spasmodically, shamefacedly and with an ill grace, it can be at best only a troubled community which is not sure of its cause and of whose ministry and witness there can be no great expectation….The praise of God which finds its concrete culmination in the singing of the community is one of the indispensable forms of the ministry of the church.

Now I know not everyone here today will take this view, in fact many of you might not even accept that God exists, let alone be the author of music. But I hope we can agree that there is something extremely powerful in music, perhaps even something beyond the natural world.

I mean have you ever had one of those moments listening to music when you just have to stop, and listen? A piece of music that just touches something in you, you get goose bumps, maybe even shed a tear?

I had one of those a few weeks ago, looking at Facebook and a friend of mine had written a song about being a Child of God and put it on his page. It played automatically as I scrolled through my feed and it just hit me, it literally felt like the music was reaching into my soul. It was beautiful and haunting and it felt anointed, like it was full of God’s presence. I stopped. Tears filled my eyes and I listened to the song 4 times in a row. It was immensely powerful.

Aldous Huxley is quoted as saying:

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

indeed…

 

In our Chronicles passage the singers and musicians were part of the Priestly tribe, singing and making music was part of their calling, part of their God-given purpose. Just as today we might say that worship leaders, those who lead us in music in the church, are there to help us to encounter God, to lead us into the presence of God. Perhaps even into such a glorious presence that we cannot help but stop, like the Priests in our passage, just listen and breathe the atmosphere into our souls.

That is the power of music, as I believe the power of God in music. If you are a musician, or a singer, you have a calling, you have a gift, given to you by God to impact those around you. To help others experience something of God.

And of course the bible teaches us that the only way to the Father is through the son, through Jesus. We can experience something of God through music but if we want to truly know him, we have to know the son.

In our New Testament reading from Colossians, Paul says this at the end:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you.

Sing in your hearts to the Lord

Whatever you do, do it in the name of Jesus.

Music can help us to experience something of God but by itself, we see just part of the picture, a movement if you like, a verse maybe. Perhaps Jesus is like the Chorus, the point that everything builds up to, that brings a song alive, the part we remember most. The bible tells us that Jesus is the capstone, the person who holds everything together.

I’ve always loved music, but now that I know Jesus, when I sing, particularly in worship, there is so much more. Like another level of depth to a song, taking me both further into my soul and yet also further from myself, closer to my Saviour.

 

As we continue to sing our final hymn shortly, or perhaps as we listen to the music, let’s just think about where God is in the music, for us as individuals. What might we be experiencing through the music of worship? Why not take the opportunity to just think about Where Jesus is for us as we sing?

 

Harvest All Age Resource // Faithfulness

We did a Harvest All Age Service yesterday at TRINITY. A few people have asked what we did so here it all is. Any q’s do ask! The talks are not exact scripts but at least give you an idea.

 

All age Harvest resource // Theme – faithfulness:

Looking at Gods provision for us and our responsibility to share that, both in the physical provision but also in the gifts he has given us.

Resources needed

Powerpoint and ability to play a video (if you want not essential)

Large torch, Water pistol, Fake flowers/shoots x 6, Large letters spelling ‘Harvest’

Pens/ post its or paper, Large rainbow – board or fabric

Gifts to give away at end

We did this as 3 short talks/activities interspersed with hymns/songs, so here I’ve only included the talks/activities – we all have our favourite (or not) Harvest hymns!

Talk 1: Faithfulness

Video – Lego creation: Genesis 1


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT_uNFX_nTo 2 mins – stop at God rested (if you can crop in advance even better)

Good Morning, well as you have probably realised by now, today is our Harvest festival. Kids – who has had a harvest festival service at school ? great!

And so today we are looking at God’s faithfulness today. Faithfulness is a great topic to look at for Harvest as we think about God’s provision for us – the things he gives to us. Just as we saw in our video that God created the world and everything in it.

What did we see him create in that video? (ask for answers)

But God didn’t just create the world he also nurtures it so let’s have a look at what that means, and I need 6 volunteers.

(you need 7 but one has a water pistol so I would choose that person in advance!) 6 to be seeds or seedlings, one sun – torch and one rain – water pistol. I had small fake grass to be seedlings – they hold one each.

So these are 5 small seedlings, small plants – what do they need to grow? (ask for answers – you might get a few but pick out water and sunshine)

Water/light – get torch holder to wave the torch around over the seedlings

Rain – shall we water the seedlings then? – get person with water pistol to spray them all.

Then give a large plastic flower to each seedling – so as God nurtures our seedlings they flourish and grow. And this is not just for plants he does this for us too. He gives us all we need to grow and to flourish…

God created the world, he provided for us, and continues to provide for us, and just like the plants, he helps us to grow too. God is faithful!

 

2. Sharing what God has given us

Passage: (ask someone to read) Genesis 9:1-4 (MSG)

God blessed Noah and his sons: He said, “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the Earth! Every living creature—birds, animals, fish—will fall under your spell and be afraid of you. You’re responsible for them. All living creatures are yours for food; just as I gave you the plants, now I give you everything else.

 

So we are a bit further on in our story now, humans have made some mistakes and so they get sent out into the wide world, and then they make even more mistakes so God sends an enormous flood to wash over the whole world – who knows the name of the person at the centre of the story? (ask)

Noah. Noah was the one person who really loved God, was faithful and righteous, he was a good man so God looked after him. And after the flood, Noah and his family and all the animals God asked them to look after, are left on the earth, the only ones left. And as we hear God gives all living creatures to Noah – but I wonder, what is he supposed to do with them?

Again I need some volunteers – 7

Give each one of the letters to spell out harvest (I cut these out of cardboard but you can just print them out)

(now you want them to move into the different words as you go through, so tell them as they line up what you want them to do and then I had printed out the words on small pieces of paper and held them up so only they could see) – words to move to in capitals below.

So we are thinking about HARVEST – and God’s provision. And he gives us all that we need and we have to look after that and be careful with it. Because if we are not careful with what we HAVE to EAT, there won’t be enough for everyone. Some people might not be very happy, there might even be TEARS and in some places people might even STARVE. And this is of course not just about food, but with all that God has given us – and so we need to SHARE what we have. When God provides for us, we have a responsibility to do something with that.

 

But we are also part of the HARVEST. God gives us gifts too, and we are all different. We might be funny – any jokers out there? (ask) We might be caring and spend time looking out for people who are sad – any of those? (ask) We might be a really good friend (ask). And lots of other things – these are our gifts from God and we need to SHARE them too, because we are part of God’s HARVEST.

And we are going to share right now as we bring up our harvest gifts during the next hymn

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Cut from a large cardboard box!

3. Response – Being Thankful

Reading – again get one of the kids to read it – perhaps have it printed out in reasonable sized print! Genesis 9:8-13

God continued, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth.”

 

What happens when you get rain and sun at the same time? (ask)

Yes – a Rainbow!

So when God put a rainbow in the sky, he said it was a covenant – which means it was a promise between him and us, that he would never again destroy life on earth. It’s a promise, a great sign that he is faithful to us that he keeps his promises.

And do you know what Noah did after that? He said thank you to God – he made a sacrifice – he gave to God something that was precious to him – because that’s how they said thank you to God way back then.
So how can we say thank you to God for all he has done for us? For all he has given us? (ask for ideas then focus on…)

I think 2 things

  • we can really treasure our gifts, really recognise what a blessing they are. Whether that is the food on our tables, the house we live in, or the gifts God has given to us, inside of us. And as we have talked about we can share them.
  • Pray! We can say thank you to God by praying and saying thank you to him. Which is exactly what we are going to do now.

So the band are going to play and I want each of us to think of some things we can say thank you to God for. You should have had a post it given to you on the way in – if not hands up! So spend a few mins writing down what you want to say thank you to God for, or you can draw a picture and then when you are ready you can come and put them on the rainbow up here…. (we used a rainbow flag but anything rainbow would do, picture maybe)

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Some of our post it prayers and harvest gifts.

 

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I bagged up daffodil bulbs in small paper bags (less mess in the church!) &made the stickers myself but the image is below if you want to use it.

Ending – gifts

So today I want you to remember 3 things and to help you I am giving away some daffodil bulbs to help you remember that God is faithful.

So if you take one home and plant it in your garden or in a pot full of soil. – he will water it and send light on it and it will grow – he is faithful. When it grows into a flower, you can recognise it as a gift from God, but you can also share it – you can show it to other people and share its beauty, or you could cut it off and give it to someone else.

And lastly remember to say thank you to God for it! Perhaps whenever you see a rainbow you can just thank God for one thing he has done for you…

Finish with The Lord’s Prayer

Blessing: found at: http://www.faithandworship.com/creation_prayers.htm#ixzz4LdmJKBim

God of harvest,
 gardener supreme,
you place us at the centre, feed us, equip us and having provided for us look to a different harvest, a fruitfulness of lives
in service to you
and others.
God of harvest,
feed us,
prune us,
harvest us,
that our lives
might bring glory to you.

Amen

 

 

 

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Preach // John 17:6-19 // Standing in the Gap

Preach // John 17:6-19 // Standing in the Gap 

Now available to listen to here: Just click under the speakers tab and choose my name and you can see it.

TRINITY: 9.30 4/9/16; 10am & 11.15am, 18/9/16

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Anyone know who this is?

Have you heard of a man called D L Moody? D L Moody is known as one of the world’s greatest evangelists. He lived in the 19th Century and travelled mostly around America and England sharing the gospel. In a period of just 40 years he saw 1 million people become Christians as a result of his teaching and preaching. 1 million people. That’s staggering isn’t it? Even in today’s era of mass communication.

But more than that he also planted churches, founded Christian schools, launched a Christian publishing business, established a world-renowned Christian conference centre, supported the poor, and inspired literally thousands of preachers to win souls and conduct revivals.

And one story I love about Moody is that in his lifetime he wrote a list of 100 friends who he decided he would pray for to come to know Jesus. And he prayed for them regularly. By the time he died, 96 of them had become Christians. Pretty cool, right? But there’s more – the final 4 of the 100 – converted at his funeral!

Moody was a man who knew the power of prayer.

Why am I telling you this? because the passage today is Jesus’ prayer. And we are going to be looking at prayer this morning.

So a quick recap – we are continuing in our series from John’s Gospel, and we are looking at this passage which we should remember takes place at the last supper, in that upper room, the last time Jesus and the disciples are gathered together before he is arrested. And this passage is part of a prayer and also right at the end of what is called Jesus’ ‘Farewell discourse’ which runs from Ch. 13-17.

It was actually a fairly common practice in the ancient world, to give a parting speech or ‘farewell discourse’. When someone knew their end was approaching, they might share with those close to them, some thoughts, possibly some words of comfort and sometimes a prayer. So what Jesus is doing, or what John tells us of what Jesus does is not that uncommon and would certainly make sense to the Greek reader at the time.

 

So we are looking at Jesus’ praying…

And it’s actually interesting that very few of Jesus prayers are actually recorded. We know he prayed alone, at night, often by himself, withdrawn from others, he prayed for children as they came to him, he prayed outside in nature, on the mountainside or in lonely places, he prayed for his persecutors… In fact he prayed in lots of ways or situations but we don’t often see what he prayed in any detail. We have the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ of course, but this in fact is, I believe, the one time in the bible where we see the words Jesus prayed, recorded at length.

So Jesus’ prayer here has 3 strands to it, first he prays for himself, then as we have heard today, for his disciples, and then later for all believers.

This prayer is an intercessory prayer – it is Jesus interceding for the disciples, he is lifting them up to the Father – as we sometimes say, standing in the gap for them. He is the go between, the connector, the wifi router if you like. The one that connects them with the source.

So that is what I want to focus on today, for us to look at what it means to intercede for others in prayer, what we can learn from how Jesus prays and our role to intercede for others.

We are of course starting with this passage but we are going to look at a few other scriptures, so we will have them on the screen but if you have your bibles and want to look them up please do…

 

What does it mean that Jesus is an intercessor for us? 

We sometimes have the ‘intercessions’ in church – prayers in the service that specifically lift up others before the Lord.

And to intercede means: to act or interpose on behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, by pleading or petition…

So Jesus is the one who stands before the Father on behalf of us, he stands in that gap between us and the Father and brings the two together. He mediates on our behalf.

And in fact this isn’t the only passage in the bible on this theme of intercession.

In our Romans passage earlier (Romans 8: 28-39) we heard that ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ and that’s it, Jesus, as God, is soooo for us. He’s our biggest fan! And that passage goes on to say that God doesn’t condemn us, no, he is the one who intercedes for us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus. Nothing!

Because he will always be there, as our cheerleader, our encourager and mediator…

Hebrews 7 talks about what it means to be a Priest and notes that Jesus as our great high priest : ‘is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them’.

He is ALWAYS interceding before God, for us.

Isn’t that pretty amazing? It’s like having someone continually beating your drum, saying how amazing you are, but also defending you when you need it, being the one when you make a mistake who stands up for you, who fights your corner.

Who does that for you? Anyone? … Always?

Well Jesus does it for you, before the one who matters most, before the Father…

 

 

Other biblical examples of intercessors

There are other examples of great intercessors in the bible too – there are many people in the OT who were like forerunners of Jesus, from whom we can learn so much about Jesus. Moses is a great example and an amazing intercessor. He was interceding for the nation of Israel. So many times they messed up and he went before the Lord and pleaded for them, on behalf of them.

There was also Abraham prayed on behalf of the people of Sodom, Daniel prayed for the people of Israel, and then there’s this in Job:

 

Job endured great suffering, pouring out his heart to God and to his friends, says this (from the message version) Job 16:18-21

 

‘O Earth, don’t cover up the wrong done to me! Don’t muffle my cry!

There must be Someone in heaven who knows the truth about me,

 in highest heaven, some Attorney who can clear my name—

My Champion, my Friend, while I’m weeping my eyes out before God.

I appeal to the One who represents mortals before God

as a neighbor stands up for a neighbor.’

 

Who does that sound like if not an intercessor? If not THE intercessor.

 

So that’s just a few examples of bible heroes, if you like, who were great intercessors too.

 

But here in our passage, we have THE greatest intercessor, Jesus, interceding for his disciples,

So. What can we learn from how Jesus prays here? He is praying specifically for his disciples, he is not at this moment praying for all believers (see v. 9), that is to come.

As we know, this is the last supper. The last time Jesus will be with them before he is arrested and then killed. He has shared some thoughts with them, his final words or discourse and now he prays, in their presence it seems.

He knows what trials they will continue to face. To suffer persecution and pain and for all bar one of them (John interestingly) to die horribly, martyred for their faith.

What could he possibly pray for them?

I wonder how many times you have prayed for someone and just thought, what can I possibly pray? Their situation may seem so hopeless or impossible that we might find ourselves with so little faith.

But of course Jesus also knows here what great things the disciples will achieve in his name, and I think much of intercessory prayer is about stating some truths, biblical promises, declaring them over people, over situations, the truth of God.

Jesus does this too. So let’s just look at a few of the things he prays for and the things he declares:

 

He starts by declaring who he is, who the Father is and who the disciples are.

He says that disciples were the chosen ones of God in v 6: … ‘They were yours; you gave them to me’. Declaring that they belong to God, putting a spiritual seal on them if you like – like I’ve just been naming my kids uniform this week as they have just gone back to school – putting a label on which basically says: ‘this belongs to Joe Smith’. It’s a bit like Jesus is putting a label on them saying, these guys here, they are mine, they belong to God.

 

He goes on in verse 7-8

‘…they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me’

he is saying, declaring, this group of people, they are believers, they are followers of me, it’s a declaration of salvation. They have chosen to be part of the Kingdom of God.

Then in verse 10 he says they are bringers of God’s glory:

‘And glory has come to me through them.’

Again he is declaring what they have done, their work for the kingdom, and this is how God sees them.

 

He talks of the power of his name slide

v. 11-12

 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me

 

He is declaring over them, the power of Jesus name – that his prayer, carries great authority.

don’t forget they are there whilst he is praying – And he’s actually using words they would recognise, from their Jewish scriptures, our OT – praying for them but by declaring amazing truth through God’s word.

 

Proverbs 18:10:

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.

 

Jeremiah 10:6

No one is like you, Lord, you are great, and your name is mighty in power.

 

We pray: in Jesus name, it is the authority he has given us, through his name. Hugely powerful, and often I don’t think we grasp how powerful.

 

He prays for unity for them too

 

‘So that they may be one as we are one’. Again he is declaring the truth of who God is, here God as the Trinity – 3 in 1 and that the disciples will be united in the same way.

You know there is something so powerful about being united in God. Our Christian faith brings us together, unites us with people we might never have met or known otherwise.

 

Part of my old job involved me gathering churches in our area to work together for social justice and community projects. It was not easy work for sure! But it was so worthwhile. Spiritually I think it is powerful, I think the devil has only a few strategies to tear us from God and he uses the same ones over and over again! And this is one of them, to try and pit us against each other and so often even within the church, we fall for it.

Unity is powerful … and more than that it is also a great witness to those round us too, that we are a people of love and we love each other just as much as those who don’t know the Lord yet.

 

Unity is a weapon against the enemy and that’s what Jesus wants for the disciples – protection – he says it in verses 11,12, 15

 

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one

 

Round up –

When we intercede for others we are not pleading with God – we are declaring the truth even when it is not visible, even when it seems impossible. We might say of someone:

 

You ARE a child of God

You are a follower of Jesus Christ

You are loved by God

God is a healer

God is our guide

He is our comfort, our shield, our strong tower

These are all biblical truths of who God is.

 

 

And lastly here,

He prays for sanctification – the disciples are set apart. That’s what sanctification is, to be set apart, to be holy

And he says, verse 17:

‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.’

It’s a round up of what he has just been praying – he has declared the truth over them, God’s word, God’s truths – and so the conclusion of that is that they can be set apart for the kingdom. He is enabling them to be dedicated to their cause – Jesus’ cause.

 

 

So what does all this mean for us?

 

Jesus continues to intercede for us, we have seen the scriptures that tell us that, in Romans: Jesus is: is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

In Hebrews: ‘He he always lives to intercede for them

And we’ve seen examples of other great intercessors, pointing the way to Jesus: Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Job

 

But for us?

 

Well, just as the disciples had a mission to continue the work of Jesus, we have work to do, and part of that is to pray. And there are many ways of praying, and intercession is just one of them but it is a very important role.

 

I started by looking at DL Moody who saw millions of people won for Christ and for those closest to him he prayed them into the kingdom, with his list of 100 people. He was clearly an extraordinary man with an extraordinary faith but you know one thing he said was :

 

‘If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent’

 

Men and women of average talent! Not super spiritual people, not extraordinary people, just normal people, like any of us. And you know earlier this year the Church of England ran a campaign around prayer called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, they used the story of Moody’s list to help encourage people to pray for others and they suggested just choosing 5 people to pray for and to commit to praying for them, to intercede for them, to stand in the gap for them….

 

Who are you interceding for? Who are you standing in the gap for?

 

Some people have a real calling for this kind of prayer and will spend hours interceding for others. I have a friend who has been seriously ill for years and is often housebound and can’t get out. So she spends her time praying and she feels that is her calling. If I ever send out a prayer request via email I can guarantee she will be the first to answer.

But whether you have a particular calling for this, or not, we can all pray for others and I am sure we all know those who need prayer. Those who are sick or suffering. Those in need, those known to us and those not – persecuted Christians across the world for example.

Unanswered prayer;
And I just want to say here, I am sure there are many of you who are praying for others, or who have done, and yet you don’t see prayers answered, or you feel downhearted if people aren’t healed or their situations improved. And I’m afraid I’m not going to focus on that today, on why prayers don’t seem to be answered, on the disappointment that brings, except to say 2 things. 1 – I know that pain, I have been there, praying for others who haven’t been healed and also for myself, many people have prayed for me as I have a long term back condition which is not healed. So I know what it’s like. BUT, secondly, I think we have a choice. I have a made a choice – to trust in Jesus and all we know about him. And in the bible we see him healing everyone who came to him, we see miracles and prayers answered. That is my God. And whilst I may not understand why prayers don’t seem to be answered how we would like them, I refuse to get bogged down in that, so I choose, we can choose to focus on who God is and what he can do.

 

 

SO… let’s be great intercessors. I really feel that God is stirring up a hunger in people to pray more in this way and for our own communities, towns and countries too. I mean let’s just look around us, at this town of Lewes. I would love us as a church to really commit to praying for Lewes. And not because the church is doing it because as a family we feel stirred up as individuals to do that.

 

I mean there is so much to pray for here, in our town: The people, schools, how many schools are there here for example?! there is a hospital, a prison. In fact I love to go prayer walking – I just walk and pray, I go up on the downs so I can look over the town and pray and I come down by the back of the prison and I often wonder about the people in there.

 

Then when I was preparing for this preach I came across this story and I want to finish with this:

 

Jackie Pullinger is a missionary who has spent much of her life in Hong Kong ministering to drug addicts and criminals. At one time she went to visit the brother of a local drug Lord, in prison every week. She told him about Jesus, sharing the gospel every week for 9 months but he was completely unmoved. (Recommend book: The Lost Art of Intercession – by James W Goll)

She then asked others to pray, to intercede for him and to fast for him every Wednesday when she visited. Then a strange thing happened…

One day the governor of the jail was passing his cell and could smell something strange, like a perfume. Ali himself, the prisoner himself could not smell anything so they searched his cell. When they found nothing they searched him. Still they found nothing but they could still smell it. Ali asked himself what is that smell?! And as he did he felt something inside of him reminding him it was Wednesday and he realised he was smelling the aroma of prayer, like a holy incense of hundreds of prayers prayed just for him and pointed at his cell.

Of course he then talked to Jackie about it and finally a few weeks later he became a Christian devoting his life to the Lord. A hardened criminal, facing charges for murder and yet the power of prayer was so strong he could not resist.

And if you want to know, by the time he went before the judge, the judge just released him without even hearing the case! How’s that for the power of prayer!

 

 

Well, if you don’t know what to pray for – why not start with the inmates of the prison? Because whatever they have done wrong, you can bet that God’s heart is breaking for them as much as for their victims. Many prisoners have their own stories of heartbreak and how they came to be inside.

 

 

But lets ask ourselves.

Who you can pray for perhaps? Who can you stand in the gap for? Who is God asking us to stand in the gap for? Because there are millions of people around the world, millions of situations who need our prayers, let alone those on our own doorstep.

 

Let’s be the ones that stand in the gap….

 

 

‘I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…’ // Preach 24/07/16

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This is my preach from the 6.30pm at TRINITY on 24th July 2016. It is part of a series on The Apostles Creed, each talk based on a passage of scripture as well as a line from the creed.
As usual this is my notes/script so may not be exactly as I said it!

 

Preach // John 1: 1-18

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

 

So… do we?

I don’t think any of you here know my story or testimony, and I’m not going to share it all this evening, (but more than happy to chat about it if anyone wants to!)

However I spent my life from a baby to the age of about 18 going to church regularly, in several fairly traditional parish churches. I must have said that line ‘I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son’ and others from the Creeds, hundreds if not thousands of times. And yet for over 30 years I didn’t really know what it meant. I didn’t really know what I was saying, I just said it because that’s what we did in church.

After that I was in and out of church for years until my 30s. In fact the reason I stopped going to church eventually was because I couldn’t stand the fact that I didn’t understand what it was all about.

>In my mind it was all turmoil, did I believe in God? Or not? Who was Jesus? Did he actually live? Was he really God’s Son?

And finally I decided I didn’t want my kids to go through the same experience and uncertainty and so we stopped going.

Just like that.

For a few years I was in some kind of spiritual blender where I looked at various different faiths, explored meditation and mindfulness and tried to find some answers.

Then our lives changed when we had some work done on our house and a builder who was a committed Christian started to tell us about Jesus. Not just ‘Jesus Christ the Son of God’ whose name or title I had repeated all those years, but a Jesus who he knew, who was with him always, who was his friend, who he couldn’t live without.

This was a Jesus I had never heard of before, but I wanted to know more…

And there is of course a lot more to that story, the fact that I’m here and ordained is part of it! But the reason I wanted to share that is that for me, now, when I say those words: ‘I believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God’ I mean it. I mean it with all my heart and I mean it because I do know him, and I couldn’t say anything other than I believe in him. It’s not just repeating a name and a title because I don’t just believe – he is my reason for living

 

: Now we are focusing on The Apostles Creed, which is based on doctrine, which in itself is based on scripture.

And so to look at this line today, “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…” we are focusing on John 1:1-18 which is a fantastic passage because it declares such amazing truths about who Jesus is.

But I believe it also actually says as much about us as believers as it does about Jesus.

So we’re going to look at who he is but also who we are in him.

Now some of you will have similar stories to mine, some might not. Some will perhaps recognise where I was a few years ago, others may always have known Jesus, but wherever you are at, I hope that in what I share this evening, that all of us might know Jesus a little by more by the time we all leave this place, but also that we might seek to find who we are, in Christ also, to seek how he sees us. Is that ok?

  

So what does John tell us?

 This passage, is really John laying down what he believes, to frame the rest of the gospel. And the opening lines of the chapter here – vs.1-18 are like a prologue to the whole thing. It’s a bit like John’s creed, his declaration of who he believes Jesus to be: He says:

Jesus was there in the beginning

he had a part in creation – all things were created through him,

he gives light to all men,

he gives right to become children of God,

he brings grace,

John even takes us back to Moses and the law, just confirming again Jesus as the fulfilment of the law.

 

Those are some pretty big claims actually, so let’s take a closer look at some of them and what they might mean for us.

 

  • logos – foundation just as today

 

And he really starts by laying down a foundation stone:
‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God’.

 

This is a direct description of Jesus. And I love this about John’s gospel that he is far more poetic, mysterious even, more spiritual than the others, and this language here is really beautiful and creates an amazing picture of who Jesus is throughout this passage.

But even so, why does he use ‘word’ (or ‘logos’ in Greek) ? why doesn’t he just say ‘Jesus’? wouldn’t that be simpler?
Well if we imagine the time he was writing and those who would have read or heard these words, we know that he is appealing largely to two groups of people – the Greeks and the Jews.

So for the Greeks – As you might know the Greeks were very into thinking and reason, philosophical thought. So ‘logos’ was a word for reason – a way of referring to thought. Both in terms of inward thought – so our own ideas and things whizzing around our brain, but also an expression of thought in speech. Speaking thoughts out loud.

So, in referring to Jesus as the word, the ‘logos’ he was appealing to the idea of reason, not just declaring who Jesus is, but putting the idea of him into a framework the Greeks would understand. He’s saying there is a reason for life – and Jesus is it.

But John also appeals to the Jewish readers too. They would have understood that idea of the word ‘logos’ in a different way – as a revelation from God – a word spoken from God. For example in the Old Testament, prophets were God’s mouthpiece, he spoke his words directly to the prophets and they then shared that with the people.

In some scripture God’s word can almost be seen to have a life of its own in this sense –

Psalm 107:20 ‘God sent forth his word and healed them’

or Isaiah 55: 11 ‘… so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it’.

So actually John is, as well as being very arty and poetic, is actually being very clever in appealing to different readers using the same word, to help them to understand who Jesus is, in terms they might know.

So for us, as the modern reader, today, in our lives, are these helpful terms? Do they help us to get a better handle on who Jesus is? Can we imagine Jesus as our reason for living? Or can we picture him as someone sent out from God, to do his work?

If you imagine in those lines above that I read – imagine ‘word’ replaced with Jesus it can really help us to understand what is being said here:

God sent forth Jesus and healed them’

‘… Jesus will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent him’.

I think they are quite helpful actually as a foundation, but there is so much more to Jesus than that isn’t there?

Jesus as God – there in the beginning

And John doesn’t stop there, he goes even further than this, he wants to really cement that the word, Jesus, is not just a revelation or expression of God but that he is in fact God himself too. So he highlights:

‘he was there in the beginning, through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made’.

Which is also echoed in v10 – ‘through him the world was made’…)

Wait, so if it weren’t for Jesus, if it weren’t for ‘the word’ there would be no world? That’s enough for people to stand up and listen isn’t it?! And that’s the truth of how fundamental Jesus is to us too, that without him there would be nothing. Without him in our lives, is it all worth nothing?

Again John wants to reach a range of readers so he uses language to reach them. Jewish readers would know their own scripture, for example the Torah, the first 5 books of our Old Testament, was for teaching and all about the law and instruction.

And how does it all start? What are the very first words of the bible in Genesis

Anyone know….!?

 

‘In the beginning…’ the very same words John starts his Gospel with. He is aligning himself, his beliefs and Jesus, with the Jewish faith, placing Jesus as the Messiah, there at the very beginning. Of everything. Not just with God, but he was God.

But also again he’s appealing to the Greek reader who placed such emphasis on thought and reason with the very idea of ‘the beginning’ – what was the beginning? What was there, before there was anything?

Jesus was there ‘ in the beginning’. Just as later we read in Hebrews 13:

‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’

Jesus that was there in the beginning, was the same Jesus who came to earth as a baby, the same Jesus who died on the cross, the same Jesus who offers us eternal life now, if we choose it.

So for us, does this bring meaning to us? Personally I believe both show Jesus as a reason for life, but in different ways. So just as then, now we might understand Jesus as the Son of God, the reason for life, the reason we are here – bringing meaning to the universe and the world around us.

But also he continues to bring us the word of God, he is the one who enables us to know God the Father.

 

…o0O0o… 

So John goes on with his fundamental truths… and so far we have really looked at who Jesus is, but now, we get a sense of who he is for us or within us. For example in:

– In v.9 He is the ‘true light that gives light to every man…’

In v 12: ‘he gave the right to become children of God’ – this is for us today

In v14: the word dwelled amongst us

In v.16. through grace we receive blessing 

These are all amazing statements about who Jesus is for us, but I want to focus now on Jesus as the Son of God as we declare in that line:

 

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

So, in verse 12-13 John says:

‘he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, not of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jesus gives us, all of us, the right to become a child of God. We can call God our Father, we can call him our Dad. Strange though that might seem, Jesus’ came to restore each of us to a relationship with God, the kind of relationship that a truly loving Father has with his children. That is what is on offer for each of us!

And I wonder, can any of say that that is how we see God? That we truly believe that we have the kind of relationship with him where we see him as a truly loving Father?

It’s actually really hard to get our head around, especially if you may not have had a loving Father in life.

 

…o0O0o…

 

But it’s actually much more than that even – In the Jewish and Greek culture, generational lines and the importance of Father-Son relationships were hugely important. For example:

In Hebrew culture, a son or child was deemed to be so, not just by birth but by who the father chose or named as his son, so sometimes men would take others into their family and deemed them to be sons (sadly rarely happened with women!). Doing so not only meant that others then saw the new son’s status as the same as the Father but that they were representatives of the Father, they had his rights, could make decisions in his name. So a slave could (and did in some cases) be taken into a family and given the same rights as the head of the household.

 

…o0O0o…

 

In a way that’s what Jesus does for us – offers us adoption into his family. And how could he offer this? Because he was the son himself – he could share his inheritance with us…

For those of the day, unlike other religions of faith cultures, Jesus offered ‘membership’ if you like, to anyone. This was a world where status mattered hugely, from governors, army generals and Rabbis who carried importance, weight and power, to slaves who often had no rights of their own and no prospect of getting any.

 

Jesus and what would become Christianity, was something so different to anything seen before. It was a faith for everyone, irrespective of intelligence, age, gender, race or religious background.

They could all receive from Jesus.
We can all receive from Jesus.

And today there are still vast chasms between the rich and poor, between those with status and those without, sometimes just as arbitrary but nothing can keep us from Jesus – well nothing except ourselves.

Actually sometimes we put those barriers there ourselves, we question ourselves, our identity – many of us suffer with a real lack of self worth, but God’s word tells us that as Christians, as believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we are nothing less than the personally valued, dearly loved children of God, irrespective of how others may see us or even of how we see ourselves.

 

Romans 8:14-21 says this:

 

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

>>We get to be children of God, we get to share in his glory. You are special, every one of you. EVERY one of you. Can we believe that? <<

  

…o0O0o…

 

But it’s not just a theory either, not just something we choose to believe –

Jesus came here…

 

Verse 14 – I’m going to read it from the Message Version – have come across that? (explain)

Says this:

The Word became flesh and blood,

    and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

    the one-of-a-kind glory,

    like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

    true from start to finish

 

I love that – he moved into the neighbourhood. What a great way of describing it – because we can hear that Jesus was: the incarnation, he was born of Mary – but what did it mean?

So just imagine, Jesus moved into your neighbourhood – imagine Jesus was here in Lewes. He might have grown up on your street, he might have been at events you were at – a wedding maybe or a funeral, or you might have heard him speak at the Speakers festival this weekend!

 

Have you ever seen someone famous in real life? A celebrity? I’m sure there must be a few around Lewes! It’s like you see them on TV or maybe or read about them, you’ve seen plenty of photos of them, and then you bump into them in the street, or see them at an event. Undoubtedly they look a little bit different, but more than that, you will see them in the flesh, 3D if you like, you get to see them in all their glory – the fullness of who they are.

It’s the same with Jesus. This is John’s story – he saw Jesus, he knew Jesus, this is his testimony that he saw him.

Jesus (God) was actually here on earth, he dwelled among people like you and I, he revealed himself, as God, the Son of God, he was a revelation of God here amongst us.

 

Jesus is God but he also knows what it is to be human, to feel emotion, to feel pain – I know some can’t get around the theology of what Jesus could feel, but do you think as a child he never fell over, scraped his knee or stubbed his toe? Did he never get a cold? If he was fully human as well as fully God then he experienced these things just as we do. And we know, he certainly experienced suffering.

 

And he is still with us. Yes we don’t get to bump into him down at Tesco, but he’s here, in our hearts, longing for us to know him more.

 

…o0O0o…

 

 

And in fact the last few verses 16-18 just reiterate that too, and again I’m going to read from the Message:

 

 

We all live off his generous bounty,

        gift after gift after gift.

    We got the basics from Moses,

        and then this exuberant giving and receiving,

    This endless knowing and understanding—

        all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.

    No one has ever seen God,

        not so much as a glimpse.

    This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,

        who exists at the very heart of the Father,

        has made him plain as day.

 

 

Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the fulfillment of the Jewish faith.

And that word Messiah, by the way, is translated in the Greek as Kristos – Christ, It literally means ‘anointed one’ and it was often used as a title, for someone who was thought to be anointed – maybe a Priest or Prophet, even a King. So whist we know the word as solely referring to Jesus, it was something prior to his time on earth.

John is reiterating here again the history, going back to Moses – reminding the Jews of the heritage of their faith, Moses a fundamental figure for the Jews, here being superseded it seems by Jesus – he’s taking them forward, to the next level, Moses didn’t see God but we get to – we get to see him in Jesus. As do we today.

We get to receive this generous bounty – through grace – none of us deserve it but we get it anyway. We get to know Jesus. Jesus Christ the Son of God. The one who was there at the very beginning, will be at the very end and is here right now.

 

…o0O0o…

 

Ending…

 

So… When we say that line

 

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

 

Let’s ask ourselves – do we?

Because when we say this line (and the Creed as a whole) we are not just declaring what we believe in, but we are declaring who we are.

If Jesus lives within us, then we are also declaring our own identity.

 

So do we believe that Jesus is God, that he was there at the very beginning?

Do we believe that he is our very foundation? Our reason for living?

Do we we truly accept that we are Children of God? that we are special?

Can we say that we have received God’s grace? Undeserved and unearned, but there for each of us?

 

Those are the questions I want to leave you with, I’d love you to ponder on them this week, to think about your reason for living and who you are in Jesus.

…o0O0o…

 

Prayer and Ministry….

 

 

A Movement of Love | Preach 5th June 2016

Finally back online after moving house and the horror of no wi-fi for over a week, argh!! Busy few weeks moving, leaving our church and finishing college, and I have so much to write about but for now, here’s my preach from last weekend, our last one at The Point. It’s focussed on 1 Corinthians 13 and love with a bit of my testimony thrown in…

 

Preach // 2 Samuel 6 // Worship & God’s Presence

 

This morning’s preach from 2 Samuel 6 looking at worship, God’s presence and going to the next level with God… Text below:

 

Intro //

This morning we are continuing our series on David and we are looking specifically at Worship. Which is why I am preaching before we go into our time of sung worship. Because I’d love us to really learn from David’s experience this morning and perhaps take some of that with us as we sing and worship God.

So, our chapter starts as David has been made king. We know that he was, the bible says, was ‘a man after God’s heart’, a man of great faith, although not without his own mistakes of course as we have heard about in this series. But one thing I really love about this passage is how we see David putting God front and foremost of his new kingdom, he wants God at the centre of his new reign and he wants everyone to know about it. And we see him making a very public show of this when he attempts to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after it had been taken during battle. We truly see David as a ‘man after God’s heart’

Ark of the Covenant

So let’s just start by taking a quick look at the Ark of the Covenant – why was it so important to David? Well, in Exodus we can read how God told Moses to make the Ark of the Covenant, (Exodus 25:22) and said to him it would be the place he would meet with him. So that’s pretty amazing right? A place where the living God would meet with one man.

It was part of the tabernacle, or tent, like a traveling temple that went with the Israelites in the wilderness, and God said he would dwell among them there.

So as a result of this the Ark of the Covenant, symbolised God’s presence, God dwelling among his people.

It was also used to keep the tablets of the 10 commandments and according to Hebrews 9:4, Aarons rod that budded and a pot of manna. So there’s a lot of symbolism here, the tablets symbolising Gods law, or instruction; Aarons rod = symbolising new life, or life out of death, resurrection even; and the manna – God sustains, the bread of life.

On the ark was the ‘mercy seat’ where God was said to be, and on the Day of Atonement in Jewish law, the High Priest would sprinkle blood from the sacrifices over the mercy seat to atone for the sins of people, so they could be right with God. A symbol of forgiveness.

And this is important, al this symbolism and meaning, I will come back to that…

So… when David wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem, this was hugely significant, for him, and for the people. The Ark symbolised God’s presence. Something that David wanted to be with him in all things.

David’s Enthusiasm

However I think in his enthusiasm he has maybe got little bit carried away and not thought it all through. I bet we’ve all done that right?

Well I definitely have, I’m always coming up with crazy things to do (well I think they are amazing obvs) and then throwing myself into them without thinking through what it means or the consequences. I once ripped a hole in the wall of our house, convinced there was an old fire place behind it (there wasn’t) and another time I painted an entire room of our house bright red when my husband was away on business (I think it looked amazing, had to convince the husband!), and I am sure Phil, can fill you in on many of my hair brained schemes.

That I think is what David has done here, filled with enthusiasm, he’s thought yes I want God at the centre of my kingdom (admirable of course) let’s go get the ark, come on chaps lets go…. And David is a very prayerful man, we often see him enquiring of the Lord, or seeking God though interestingly we don’t here…

And then we see the results, a man dead, David living in fear.

Not quite what he had planned. Doesn’t sound very Godly does it?

 

/////

 

Well there’s two things I really want to highlight here. Firstly this is all about God’s presence, but secondly we also see God teaching David something new here, David, a faithful worshipper, being taken to the next level, as it were.

 

God’s presence

So firstly lets look at God’s presence – When God is present, things are revealed, the light shines into the darkness and shines on things that are hidden. So let’s look at how that impacts a few of our key characters…

Uzzah, we have to look at him, I mean poor chap, it seems a bit rough doesn’t it, he was just trying to help, wasn’t he?

Well actually God gave specific instructions for the Ark and other holy items, about holiness, reverence and care, (Numbers 4) which said amongst other things that only specific people were to carry the ark, using poles attached to it, and were not allowed to touch it or he says they would die.

Now we know that Uzzah was one of the sons of Abinadab in whose house the ark had been kept prior to this. I wonder if he really got it, what the ark was about. After all it had just been in his home for some time, perhaps just like any other bit of furniture. Perhaps he had been told to do this by his Father, you can imagine, Dad do I have to… begrudgingly going along.

 

He didn’t recognise the holiness of it, he didn’t respect God.

So there it was the holiest thing on earth and it’s on a cart (admittedly a new cart there was some thought…) and when Uzzah reached out to support it, just like any other piece of furniture, in God’s presence was revealed his apathy, and lack of reverence and respect for God.

///

And David, was does God’s presence reveal in David?

I think it’s pride. He thinks he’s doing the most amazing thing, but when it goes wrong, what’s his reaction? V8: anger

This was not what he had planned, a big triumphal entry, celebration, and instead it’s all gone wrong and a man is dead. Of course he’s angry, but he’s angry because of his pride and God’s presence reveals that.

Where was God in his planning?

I wonder, have you ever experienced that? That your plans have gone horribly wrong? Maybe people have got hurt?

 

Cut if need!

Years ago I ran an art gallery and it came to a point where I needed to sell it. Now I have to be honest I’m not sure I really consulted God on it all. I just knew it had to go and got on with dealing with it. And because of my lack of care and thought what happened was the people who worked for me pretty much went into revolt, and I was angry about their response.

 

I didn’t consider them in it all, I just forged ahead with my own plans. I know it seems so obvious and I certainly wouldn’t do it now, but then I just thought I was doing what I had to do.

And you know what made me realise? When God sent a Christian friend to talk to me, and I realised how foolish I had been. She brought God’s presence into the situation and for me, it revealed my own selfishness and pride.

Choice //

God’s presence reveals… but we usually have a choice what we do with that revelation (well apart from Uzzah…)

What does David do? he’s angry then fearful. I think he was worried about himself.

After all what would the people think? David has brought this God into the kingdom and someone had died? Not a great start right? Would the people rise up against him? And sends the ark off to Obed-Edoms’ house. And that I think is what rugby players call a ‘hospital pass’ – ie: you get thrown the ball just as some massive winger is about to thrown themselves at you. What on earth was Obed Edom thinking. Some poor chap has died just touching this ridiculous golden box and the king wants me to have it in my home? Er. No thanks!

But actually his family is blessed by the presence of the ark, probably I think because they treated it with reverence and fear. I mean wouldn’t you..?!

And David could have remained angry and cross and full of pride. I could have remained cross and angry at my staff and think I was in the right. But he sees he’s in the wrong and he chooses to do it all again, properly this time…

So the ark is carried as it should be, there are sacrifices after just 6 steps!! David was dressed in a linen ephod, which was a priestly garment, so he was joining with the other Priests in order to fully enter this ceremony with holiness. ( 1 Chronicles 15:27)

But basically it’s a full on party with much celebration, I bet there was some great Dad dancing going on!

///

And what about Michal, what do we see revealed in her through the presence of God? Hate and Pride. Hate is revealed. V 16 says she ‘despised David’ in all her heart when she saw him dancing. And she absolutely lays into him. Can you imagine, David must have come in from all that celebrating, totally elated, on a spiritual high – you know what is like, you’ve been in a really amazing service, just felt so close to God, you feel amazing! Ever experienced that?

And she just stuck a pin in it! ‘Do you know what you looked like? what an idiot! ‘ And that can happen to us too, people who have not experienced the presence of God for themselves, not understood what it means to follow Jesus, they can do the same to us too.

Michal is a spectator here too, have you noticed, she’s watching him from inside, from a window in the palace. Why wasn’t she joining in with the celebration like anyone else?

What is it that she doesn’t like? I think it is her own pride that is revealed. Perhaps she feels that she is reduced to the level of the servants, as his wife?

In God’s presence her pride and hate is revealed and she too has a choice. To be part of God’s kingdom with David, or stand with the old guard, the old kingdom, Saul her fathers kingdom the one that went against God and resulted in death.

This is Michal’s moment to choose, does she repent like David has and change her ways? Well we don’t know for sure.

v.23// barrenness

But there is an interesting line right at the end v.23 and I want to highlight this because it says that she had no children until the day she died. That can be a difficult thing to read, is there an assumption that God struck her because of her attitude? Well let me say right now, no! We do not believe that God strikes people down like this, we do not in any way think that childlessness for any reason is a curse from God.

In fact there could be other reasons for this line, for example it could be as simple as David was so annoyed with her that he never slept with her again (don’t forget he had several wives and concubines, he had options!!), but I think it is actually highlighting something different here because barrenness in the bible can symbolise spiritual barrenness.

The contrast between her and David here is vast. David, totally sold out on worshipping God and Michal criticising him. She is spiritually barren, unable to see God, unable to experience his presence, we don’t know why but one reason possibly is to remember she was the daughter of Saul, the previous king who tried so hard to kill David, and who went against God so many times. Perhaps she has just turned against God?

////

But we do see that David has changed – his response to her outburst?

Fresh from worship here he is revealed in God’s presence as he should be, a faithful servant, and he stands firm – ‘I will be even more undignified than this! (v.21-22)I will be humiliated’, he doesn’t care, because he knows he is worshipping God.

It is the presence of God that highlights things and can change things.

The presence of God that shines light into the darkness that reveals, that invites, that restores.

///

 

Another interesting thing…

So usually (not always) we think about coming to worship God, in order to encounter him don’t we? It’s through our praises that he is attracted to, that we get to encounter him. But here I actually think it’s the opposite, it is the presence of God through the ark of the covenant that looses David into such free and abandoned worship. It’s like it’s the opposite way round, does this make sense?

So, as David encounters God’s presence, is changed as a result, and renewed, his response is in utterly abandoned worship. Totally engaged in it, focussed on God, let go.

 

David Watson said that worship is a delight not a duty and it seems like here we see the delight in David’s worship.

///

I think what we see here is God taking David to another level of worship, of faith and of relationship with him. We know David is an amazingly faithful man, we know he is a man after God’s heart, we know he is prayerful and focussed on God, but here we are seeing something new. He made a mistake and there were consequences, but he put them right and he sought God in worship in a new way. And so often I find when we have dealt with something, or have been through something tough, or God has revealed himself to us and we respond to that, often that’s when God takes us onto something new, a new level of encounter with him.

In fact I have experienced that for myself, there was a time in a service where I was (not here I should say). Like Michal, feeling overly critical about some things that were going on, when I really felt God correcting me for my attitude. I saw that I was being judgemental and full of pride. I began to say sorry and at that moment someone came over and prayed for me. As they prayed there was a huge release of the Holy Spirit that touched me in ways I have never experienced before. And I believe that was through correction, and then my willingness to reach out to God and repent that he then took me to another level. Since then I have felt so much more released in worship, able to let go more and just be led by him.

////

 

And for us, what does all of this mean? Can we truly have the presence of God with us? Can we encounter God like David did?

It’s all about Jesus!

Well the thing is, we don’t need the Ark of the covenant to meet with God of course, because Jesus means we can meet with him whenever we like! We carry the presence of God within us, in Jesus. How amazing is that?! We don’t need to sacrifice before the mercy seat because Jesus has already done it for us. Jesus fulfils all that the ark signifies: the meeting place of God with his people, the symbol of atonement, of forgiveness, the taking of our sins, now it’s all in Jesus.

He is the fulfilment of the law (in the 10 commandments tablets), he is the resurrection, bringing us new life from death, he is our bread of life… he is all that we need…

^^THIS!!!!

 

And so, what is Jesus revealing in us? As we come into God’s presence, whether now in worship or in times of prayer, in fellowship times, what does he highlight in us?

Because we too have a choice – Do we want a life of apathy and lack of care like Uzzah? Or do we give in to a life of bitterness, criticising and hate like Michal? Or do we want a life of choosing Jesus, a life being abandoned to God like David (whatever that looks like for us?)

 

We have a choice too…

 

STAND

lead into worship/ministry time…

 

And as we go into worship now I would love us all to be truly seeking God’s presence and asking for a fresh revelation of who he is,

to give to him those things that might be holding us back from abandonment to him, for him to take us, all of us, to the next level

 

David & Honour // Preach on 1 Samuel 24

Preach from The Point Church 7/2/16 on David & Honour, from the series ‘King David: A Man After God’s Heart‘. You can listen using the link above or watch below (although the sound quality on the video is not great, sorry!)

Below are my planning notes which I used to structure the talk. Feel free to reuse.


1 Sam 24:1-22

INTRO //

1 Samuel – Amazing story read it! 

Intro – series on King David, through 1 Samuel. David we have heard was ‘ a man after God’s heart’ – a faithful man, sold out for God, guided by him in all things. A great role model!

Amazing story – like Hollywood Blockbuster.

 

Haven’t got time to go through it all again but there is a lot in there. I actually think God has something for us here something prophetic for our church in all this and it’s about honour, lack of honour, dishonour

And then of course finally here in the this passage we see David acting with honour and respecting Saul as the anointed one of God, even though he is pretty much delivered into his hands to kill.

 

But what even is honour?

 

WHAT IS HONOUR //

Dictionary:

Quality of worthiness, respectability

Honesty, fairness, integrity

Virtuous conduct

You know what I notice about those words? Honour is not a thing is it, not tangible, you can’ touch it, or see it alone. So when or how do we find honour? When do we see it? Well I think honour only becomes apparent in relationships, when people come together, through us and our actions.

 

I saw this this week, from Bill Johnson – he said that:

 ‘Giving honour actually releases the life of God into a situation.’

 

So then, if honour only becomes apparent when we interact with each other, when we do that we are actually allowing the presence and power of God into whatever situation we are in. Isn’t that what we see here with David and Saul, David gives honour, even where we might think it undeserved and it’s like Saul’s eyes are opened, God is released into the situation…

And how do we act with Honour?

Well I want to look at David specifically here, after all he is the focus of this series…

3 things I think are key here.

: David honours God. He is amazingly faithful, he seeks God for his guidance, he is focussed on what is God’s will. He is a servant of the Lord.

: He honours Saul – served Saul well despite being badly treated, having spears hurled at him for no reason! He dealt with Sauls’ jealousy and rage, his unreasonableness with patience and peace. (bible ref) pretty amazing right.

: He honours himself – he knows who God has made him to be. Firstly in the earlier story where he fights Goliath, despite ridicule from his brothers and poss others in the camp, he knows who he is, he knows he can beat this ‘giant’ and confidently does it. But he also recognises where God has put him. He is humble – He was not up himself, he didn’t even think he was good enough to marry the kings daughter (to become his son in law) he was humble, ‘I am only a poor man and little known’ he says. Bit not falsely humble either…

 

So honour God, honour each other and honour ourselves…

 And I think we can simplify this further – this is all about identity – knowing who we are in Christ – who God has made us to be. David knows who God is, he knows who he is and who God has made him to be but he also recognises who God has made Saul to be.

So let’s look at that a bit more. And I want to focus on what happened there in that cave

Saul was anointed by God (through Samuel) to be king. Now Saul was foolish we know and selfish and made wrong decisions. He knows the Lord but I don’t think he truly understands who God has made him to be. Because he tries to take things into his own hands, he rushes ahead and goes against what God has said. He doesn’t truly honour God or himself.

And yet David, David knows and honours God. Saul puts a hit out on him and he does not fight back. And finally after being chased into the desert and running for his life, here we see Saul ‘delivered into his hands’ as David’s men say, they believe God has delivered Saul to him so he can take his life.

But no. David says no ‘ I will not lift my hand against my master because he is the Lord’s anointed’

And there is something quite comical about this moment isn’t there, I can’t not talk about it. Saul has gone into the cave to take a pee basically (or worse). The very cave in the middle of this vast mountainous desert that David and his men are hiding in. not only that but he decides to take a leak. Now let’s not get into too much detail but we could probably say that for a man this could be his weakest moment. Right? He’s not going to have a hand on his sword, he’s not going to be focussing on what is around him and he’s exposed. Not only that but he does so in the cave where David is hiding.

This is the man who has hurled spears at his head, been unfairly hunting him down and David’s men say to him, look it’s the time, God is delivering him into your hands like he said he would. David creeps out, unseen and what does he do? He just cuts off a corner of his robe. You can imagine the men behind him face palming, what is he doing, this was it, the one moment and he’s fluffed it.

But David is grief stricken, what have I done, v6: the Lord forbid I should so such a thing…

The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord’ 

He honours the anointing of God on Saul, because he knows who God is, he knows who he is and who knows who Saul is in God’s eyes.

Now there’s something else here. Much of this whole story is prophetic.

So he cuts the corner of his robe, what is that reminiscent of?

In Ch 15: 27 Samuel rebukes Saul, telling him he has rejected the Lord and so the Lord has rejected him, then as he turns to leave Saul grabs his robe and it tore.

7 ‘As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.’

An action that is prophetic, that Saul, Saul is the one who has gone against God’s commands. He is the one who has defied him, and here he rips the robe from God’s prophet Samuel and in doing so, rips the kingdom of Israel from his own hands. Does that make sense?

 

So now, we see David cutting the corner of Saul’s robe, he has cut the kingdom from Saul into his own hands.

Robes were very important in OT times. They denote something of a person’s identity. So Saul’s robe would have showed he was the king, a royal robe, being cut away from him. Not just physically but prophetically too.

 

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So. David cuts the corner from Sauls cloak and is grief stricken he heads out of the cave and prostates himself he lays flat on the floor before Saul, makes himself even more vulnerable that Saul was in that cave and he calls out to him, he lays down the truth but in total humility and honour.

David is acting from a culture of honour. A way he lives his life in which he honours his relationship with God, he honours the people around him and he honours who he knows God has made him to be. And what happens? Things change. The presence and power of God is released into the situation.

And what is Saul’s response. He responds to that, he weeps, he apologises…

‘May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.’

 

So because David acted from a position of honour, he release the power of God and that culture of honour onto Saul, who is changed as a result from a position of dishonouring himself, his relationship with God and with David, to the opposite.

As David recognises the robe Saul is wearing, so Saul recognises David’s.

 

Mention book:

Danny Silk – ‘Culture of Honour’. He describes how we can try and live in an environment of honouring God, ourselves and each other and it is fab, definitely recommend it. Will give you a totally different view of situations and how you can handle them.

 

Xxxx

 

So then I said earlier I think God really has something for us as a church in this

It’s all about knowing who we truly are. Who God has made us to be. But not just that, for us to see who each other us.

I think God is challenging us, each of us, to see ourselves and each other in the robes that he has put upon us.

Can you see the robe you are wearing? Not just robes of righteousness

We did some teaching a while back about giftings and being part of the body of Christ but this is more than that, This I think is prophetic, it’s going to release us as a church into greater things, if we begin to act with more of a culture of honour – as we honour who we are, and who each other is, we will enable more of a release of who God is.

 

Xxx

 

Prophecy//

 

So I mentioned the role of a prophet earlier on. In OT times, prophets were the ones who could hear from God, who God gave visions and dreams and words and instructions too, to share with the people. They were the mouthpiece of God on earth.

Nowadays we can all hear from God, because of Jesus, he came so each and every one of us could have a relationship with God. For every one of us. So we all have the capability to hear from God. But there are still modern day prophets who God still uses today. And one thing I have noticed about modern day prophets or those with the gift of prophecy, is that often their words for people are about enabling them to see themselves how God sees them.

 

Mention Shawn Bolz (book) – amazing accuracy – talks of love, so on it. Really sowing into people. And you know the result of a word like that is that it can truly release people

Into what God has for them. So someone might hear a prophetic words that speaks into their life, or a situation they are in and they recognise it, it encourages them, they act upon it and they are released into what God has for them, to see the robe he has given them!

Happened to me – being called, someone spoke into my life, when no one else knew the situation – stepped forward… now look! I was released to see the robe God had put on me.

And it took other people seeing that robe and calling it out in me for me to see it. Then all of a sudden it became clear exactly what robe I was really wearing. You see other people honoured what they could see of that robe in me. And they had a vital role in helping me to see it. 

Repeat? Do you understand this, so important??

If we want to build a culture that is honouring, we need to enable others to see their own robes too. We need to try and release the presence and power of God into the people around us.

I think God wants to release into us today as a church something more of his kingdom of who he is, but he is going to do that through each of us.

So here’s a question for us all – how do we actually deal with other people’s robes?

Sometimes we don’t act with honour towards each other in this respect do we?

For many reasons.

Do we get jealous, angry, try and rip them away, cut pieces off? All the while ignoring our own?

Or do we even pull away our own? Try to remove it, desiring another one?

How about, have we put on someone else’s armour? Like David facing Goliath – but he recognised it was not right for him. Sometimes we are inspired by someone, or have an attachment to someone for whatever reason and we try to imitate them, their way of doing things, we are not looking at the robe we have but trying to put theirs on!

 

And sometimes there might be things that stop us from recognising the one we wear. Perhaps we have negative words spoken over us, we think we can’t do things, or it’s not for us. We even speak over ourselves. I’m not good at that…

 

But when we do that we are ignoring, rejecting, the gift God has given just to us like saul…. And not only that but how hard does it become then for others to see it too?

 

Do you see, if we recognise the role, anointing, robe, mantle on someone else and we honour that, then we allow something to be released. It’s like the true nature of that person has to be called out of them, in naming it, seeing it, it can be.

I’ve been wrestling with this this week and trying to find a way to put into words what I think God is saying to us here.

We are a gathered church of individuals but we are all honoured/special

 

From Culture of Honour:

Life flows through honor. The clear fruit of establishing a culture of honor is that the resurrection life of God begins to flow into people’s lives, homes, and communities, bringing healing, restoration, blessing, joy, hope, and wholeness. If we are not seeing this fruit, then we must ask ourselves whether we are truly honouring those around us as we ought.’

 

 

Psalm 1 // All Age Service // resource

We ran an all-age service today based on Psalm 1, here is the plan below if anyone wants to use it.

“Rooted” based on Psalm 1 vs 1-3

Opening Song

 

Intro 

Clues to theme – What’s brown and sticky? A stick

What’s brown wet and sticky? A stick in the rain

When does a tree branch become a stick? When it’s disconnected from the tree/roots.

What are roots? Why are they important to trees?

  1. Anchor – stop trees falling over, keep it stable
  2. Source of life – take water and nutrients form the soil to help trees grows, devleope and repair.

So today we’re going to look at 4 roots that keep us focussed on Jesus.

Play video of Psalm 1 as above, available via Youtube to download

 

Root 1: Trust – Jeremiah 17:7-8

What does trust mean to you? Ask for responses – what does it mean to trust someone? interact with responses.

For me when I think about trusting in God it is remembering that God knows what is best for me. He loves me and has good plans for me so I know that what he asks of me is good. It means not being scared. Because sometime we have to do things that make us scared don’t we? what makes you scared?

For me as an adult. One way I know I have to trust God is in knowing that I have enough of what I need. Enough food, enough clothes, enough money.


Each of our roots we are going to have an action or response and for this one we are going to take up and offering, because when we give away from what we have, we have to trust that God will give us all that we need. So as we take our offering, think about how much you trust God and perhaps ask him to help you increase your trust in him…

 

OFFERING & 2 songs

roots2

Root 2: Prayer – 1 Timothy 1:17 

“Prayer is like a telephone where we can talk to God”

What is praying? Talking and listening to God.

What can we talk to God about? Anything and everything!

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know!

Key Verse – 1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer and Praise Alphabet- what reasons have we got to praise God for? (Go through each letter of the alphabet asking congregation to name things for each letter we can be grateful for)

roots1Response – Leaves Praise & Thanks leaves – have leaf shapes cut out and pens that people can write short prayers on then come and stick/hang onto tree. we used a tree branch but you could use a fake Christmas tree or collection of twigs in a large pot. Play a song while people write them and then come up and stick them on.

 

Root 3: God’s love – Ephesians 3:17-19

 

God’s love is incredible – it is different to peoples love because..

It can’t be measured – its too big (use a tape measure as a prop)

It can not be stopped/broken – it is too powerful (hammer as prop)

It will not run out – its everlasting 

It is not conditional – God will never love you anymore or any less than he does right now (spirit level)

We can not be separated from it – Romans 8 – Nothing in the whole of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We need to let our roots go down deep into God’s love – to have his love living and moving in us each and every day! To be aware of his love – to remember that we are his treasured possessions dearly loved by our Heavenly Father.

 

Stop for a moment and reflect on God’s love – possibly read a couple of verses about God’s love.

 

Root 4: God’s word – Hebrews 4:12 

(hidden scripture game)

Right for root number 4 we are looking at God’s word. In years gone by they used to tie Gods scripture onto their heads and hands (could do an example of this with a volunteer) but that doesn’t really work today does it?! So we’ve hidden some lines of scripture in the hall – send people off to find pre hidden scripture.

Get them to put into right order and read out. 

 

 

What does this mean for us? It means Gods word is for us, for now and it is powerful, full of truth!

For every situation we are in, every thing in our lives, Gods word is there for us

If we read the bible regularly that root will be so strong that we can face anything!

 

 

Response & Pray – Seeds & Pots or bulbs

2016-01-02 12.39.22So we’ve been looking at roots today, roots that feed us, keep us strong and healthy. quick recap on the 4.

And we wanted to find a way to help you remember this, so today we are giving you a little gift to take away, a bulb to plant. These bulbs, if you look after them will grow roots and then a plant with grown from them will grow. But you have to look after those roots, they need soil to be planted in, they need to be watered and looked after. Then that plant will grow and thrive, will grow flowers (or fruit) and will not wither.

So take these home, plant them and let them be a reminder of the roots you need in your life to help you to grow more and more like Jesus…

: Final Song

: Blessing & Goodbye

 

 

Equipment needed:

We had images for the screen for each root and scrolls to unroll (see below)

Leaf shapes/ pens and pencils

Tree 

Video or reading of Psalm 1

Props

Printed out scriptures (root 4)

 

Tree_roots_3rdJanROOTS Trre_roots_3rdJan_TRUST copy Trre_roots_3rdJanLOVE copy Trre_roots_3rdJanPRAYER copy Trre_roots_3rdJanWORD copy