A tough morning…

This morning I preached on trials and temptations from James 1. Three times. By the third I just felt like it was so completely insignificant. When I looked out and could pinpoint the people who I know are REALLY going through it and it felt like all I was saying was ‘it’s ok, because Jesus loves you and he’s with you’.

Of course I know there is so much more to it, and I know “all” I was saying is an amazing truth, but I think by the 3rd time my words just felt so utterly useless, and I just sobbed. I was sharing about a friend who died from cancer and the awful reality of that hideous waste of a life just hit me. 

Sometimes things are just totally shitty aren’t they? and really there isn’t anything you can say other than that. There’s no way to explain – why did she die? Or why are people I know facing awful trials? Or why good people who love the Lord get sick and live with constant pain. Why God? why?

And I’m aware this week particularly, of several people who I need to visit who are going through it; of friends who are facing really difficult stuff; of people asking me to pray for those facing suffering. And it makes me wonder what on earth can I do.

I reflected on Pslam 13 earlier this week, where the Psalmist asks those same questions…

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Even when we know the amazing and wonderful truth of who God is, and even when we can feel his presence with us in difficult times, it can still be totally awful. Even tough I know my friend’s life was not really wasted and she inspired so many people with the word of God, it’s still so raw sometimes.

And what is it like then when you are going through something and you are seeking God and you just can’t see him within it?

The Psalmist says ‘but I trust in your unfailing love…’ despite the fact that he can’t find God in his situation. That is amazing faith, amazing hope. And how hard is it to hang on to that…

And that’s the thing, that’s what I can do, what I have to do, what I need to do, in all these things, with the people I need to visit or those I know going through it. All that I can do is bring them before God, trusting in his unfailing love.

Look, I know none of this is about me, what I’m feeling right now is pretty insignificant and really it’s about what God will do with the words I said this morning and now all I can do is hope and pray it spoke to people today. You can read it here if you want. And I stand by everything I said, God is good in all things, he is ALWAYS with us and we have to have hope in him, because what else is there? But flip it’s hard isn’t it?  

just needed to say that I think…

 

 

SaveSave

3 min sermon of the Feeding of the 5000

This week at Vicar School we had to present a 3 minute sermon – harder than you think and has inspired some thinking on preaching which will undoubtedly follow on the blog…!
Anyway this was mine…

John 6.1-15 // Feeding of 5000 // 3 min sermon

One thing I have been guilty of (amongst many things I am sure) is feeling too busy, of not having enough time. And God has been speaking to me about that recently and in fact has shown me in quite amazing ways that if I just focus on him, there will be more than enough time. So I’m going to start with a little story about that…
A few weeks ago I had a last minute deadline to meet for work, a grant bid that had to be completed and submitted by the next morning. And for various reasons I had neglected some rather key parts of this.  I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t give this much thought, or prayer, I just assumed this would be an all-nighter (and I’m sure as students with essay deadlines we’ve had a few of those right?), it was the school hols, the kids were at home, there was no way I was going to get this done. But by complete chance (HA!) I had an hour without the kids, just enough to get started on it all. But as God had been speaking to me about time, I just prayed, Lord this is your time, I just give it all to you, I can only do what I can do.
Well, all I can tell you is that just over an hour later, the entire thing was finished, grant bid, all the key parts, financial projection, all of it. Finished just as the kids, came to find me. It was nothing short of a miracle. Because God simply multiplied that time. He took what I gave him and increased it, and not just a little bit but in abundance.
And that’s what we see in the story of the feeding of the 5000. God – Jesus –  multiplying the little that was given to him, in abundance.
But I think what this passage shows us, is that we have a choice. We can focus on the problem or we can focus on God and his answer to the problem.
We see, don’t we, the disciples focussing on the problem and not the answer, asking of the little they have: ‘but how far will they go among so many?’
and we see just how far: Jesus multiplies what little they bring and provides food for everyone.
Not only that, he didn’t just feed them, he didn’t just give them enough, he fed them ‘as much as they wanted’ it says, and even then there was masses left over.
Because he is a God of ‘more than enough’, a God of absolute plenty and abundance. There is always more.
So what does that mean for us now? 2 things I want you to take away:
1) the bible tells us we carry the spirit of God within us – God multiplied, spiritually, though us. There is enough of him for everyone. And not just enough but an abundance, including the leftovers if you like.
2) whatever we bring, he can multiply.
If we bring a mustard seed of faith, he grows it; if we bring weakness he makes us strong; if we bring a talent, he increases it; if we bring time as I have seen for myself, he makes us more efficient (WAY more efficient!)
So today, I encourage you to just give to God what you have, however little or large, and ask him to multiply it.
Let’s believe in a God of abundance!

Amen.

The Storm Meets Jesus / Luke 8:22-25 // Talk 16/11/14 The Point Church

Talk from The Point Church, 16th Nov 2014. As always, these are from my notes so might not be exactly what I said but gives you the main message. Available to listen here.
INTRO
I
wonder how many of you feel like there is a storm in your life right now?
The
thing about storms is they can vary so much can’t they, and our descriptions of
them vary too. I mean this week we’ve had torrential rain! But a storm might
include any number of things: Thunder, Lightening, Hail, Rain, wind. Could be a
terrific thunder storm or it could be a howling wind or just a lot of rain. Storms
can vary hugely.
And
it’s the same when we describe our own personal struggles, our own personal
storms isn’t it. We might describe them in many ways, what it means to one
person might mean something else to another. We might say we are struggling, we
are stuck, we are suffering, we’re having a tough time or we are really going
through it… So I wonder what you might say are the storms in your life right
now?
xxxxx
So
as I was prepping for this talk this week, and praying, I was really struck by
the title. ‘The Storm Meets Jesus’ not ‘Jesus calms the storm’ as it appears in
most bibles but The Storm Meets Jesus… You might think it’s not really any but
you know when I was preparing I really felt it was significant. You see Will
sets these titles months in advance usually, and when I was praying this week, I
felt like God was saying it was prophetic – ie: from God – because that’s what
he wants to do here today – that Jesus is going to meet us here and the storms
that we face are going to meet Jesus. He wants to work through those storms
today.
The
difference really is that notion of meeting
Jesus
. It’s not just a process of calming or commanding or praying or
declaring, the change happens when we, when our situations and, when people meet Jesus.
So
I just had a real sense that that’s what
God wants to do today
, that he wants to not only meet with us, but meet
with the things we are going through, the challenges we are facing, the storms
we are stuck in. And by that I just mean, whatever
you are facing right now
. Whether you think it’s a gigantic squall or a
little gentle wind, those storms are going to meet Jesus today.  Because look I can stand up here and tell you
what I have learned about this passage, what I have prepared and prayed about
yes, and that’s part of my role, but what is the point in me teaching on Jesus
calming a storm if we don’t actually give
him the opportunity to do it right
here and right now. Right?!
So
I am going to do a bit of teaching but then we are going to take some time and invite
Jesus in to meet our storms. So is that ok?
xxxxx
So
there’s really just two things I want to focus on here. One is Jesus (obviously! Kind of goes without
saying) and the other is Faith. This
passage highlights who Jesus is, but
he also highlights the faith of the
disciples
, his followers.
So
let’s start with Jesus. And I might get a bit theological but I hope it’s going
to all make sense, just shout if it doesn’t ok!? Bit of audience participation
is always good!
xxxxx
So
when I read the bible, I love to really imagine
myself in the story,
in fact I really recommend it. Sometimes you can skim
over passages without really understanding what they are all about and this I
think is a classic example of that. It’s actually quite a simple story,
basically Jesus performs a miracle. But there is so much more than that.
I
did think about doing that this morning, dramatizing it but we haven’t got time
ad I want to keep time to pray at the end, so why not go home and try it
yourself! Prayerfully!
But
in doing that myself one line really struck me: that ‘Jesus fell asleep’.  I mean
he’s God, right, but he’s just there asleep in the boat? Doesn’t that seem a
bit odd? Well one thing I have learned over time is that if something in the bible seems a bit odd then its probably saying
something important.
Well its all important obvs…
So
here we go with the theology… so just keep that thought in your mind for a mo.
So
this term at college we’ve spent some time looking at the Trinity and the Incarnation. So the Trinity – God is 3 parts –
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And Incarnation – Jesus was incarnated, became
Human, on earth,
So
we believe, and we sometimes say or here we often sing The Creed – in the song:  ‘I
believe in God the Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit,
Our God is three in one, in much of the Anglican church they declare it each
week in the Nicene Creed.
One
of the hardest things to get your head around is that Jesus is both fully God and fully human. We can’t separate out the
bits that were human and the bits that were divine, so we cannot say that here
the human bit is sleeping, then the Godly bit wakes up and calms the storm. He
is both at all times. It’s a ‘paradox’  Which is part of the mystery of faith,
part of the tension we have to hold on to in our faith. And it is something
that has kept theologians and academics in work for years so don’t dwell on it
too much!  But in relation to our passage
here I think the very fact that we see Jesus asleep helps us to understand that
he knows, I mean he truly knows,
what it is like to be human, the bodily needs but also the emotional ones. He
knows what it is to suffer or to be in pain, he knows what it is to be filled
with joy and laughter and as we highlighted last week, with our Remembrance
video – John 11:35. He knows what it is to mourn.  Jesus Wept.
He
knows what it is like to be us, to be me, to be you. He knows.
xxxxx
But
this passage gives us such a sharp contrast doesn’t it?! he’s asleep one minute
and performing an amazing miracle the next!
But
if we understand this, in his divinity…
as God….
he doesn’t sleep.
He
doesn’t leave us, he doesn’t sleep when we are in trouble, he’s right there in it with us. Just as he was on the boat. He
hadn’t left, or abandoned them in their hour of need, he was right there with
them. Just as he is always with each of us.
So.
He’s human but he’s also God.
It is not an easy concept to get
your head around… but I think its helpful for us to know that Jesus understands
whatever it is we are going through.
xxxxxx
Atmosphere
Do you know that when Jesus is
present the atmosphere changes?
So
here’s the thing, do you know what happens when a storm forms? In a very basic
form (and if there are any amateur meteorologists out there you can correct me
– but not until I’ve finished ok!) a storm happens  when there are differences in atmospheric pressure coming together.
So
when Jesus calms the storm, he is literally
changing the atmosphere
. And that’s what he does, when he comes, the atmosphere
changes. Spiritually and physically, the atmosphere changes.
What
the disciples realised that day that, we know already. Jesus is Lord over all.
I
just love their reaction, I mean can you even begin to imagine what it must
have been like? They are on the verge of drowning then Jesus just commands it
all to stop – I mean we see in the passage, the disciples are like: who even is this? The wind and the water obey
him – what is that all about?!
Well
we now have the benefit of the bible and the bible tells us that Jesus is the Lord of creation, it is
under his command. Colossians 1 says this of Jesus:
15 The Son is the image of the invisible
God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him
and for him
. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the
church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in
him
, 20 
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood,
shed on the cross.
So
that’s:
: The fullness of God dwells in
Jesus.
: In Jesus all things hold
together.
: All of creation is under his
command.
If
he can command the wind and the waves, what is there that he cannot do?
So we’ve got:
Jesus is human and knows what it
is to be human, what we are going through, living with, but Jesus is also God,
and Lord of all creation. Everything is under his command.
Xxxxx
So, we know who Jesus is, yes?
So
then what about us? What’s our role?
Faith.
I
love how when the disciples wake Jesus up, the passage just says ‘He got up and
rebuked the wind and the raging waters… it’s just sounds so chilled out doesn’t
it.  I’m not sure it was as simple as
that, I mean when I wake up it takes about half an hour to get moving, and then
I’m not even properly awake.
Not
only that they were going to drown, the boat would have been lurching from side
to side, rocking, filling up with water. And he just ‘gets up and calms the
storm’. Now I don’t know about you but if I get woken up, I’m pretty grumpy
about it. I don’t do waking up well. And I don’t know, but Jesus seems pretty
grumpy here doesn’t he, I mean it is a bit harsh, the disciples obviously
thought they were going to drown and he’s like ‘where is your faith?’. Well,
derr, I mean I’m not sure how many of us could be in a situation like that and
just be calm about it. What did he want them to do? They did actually call on
him, they woke him, so what else did he expect them to do?
Well
do you want to know what I think? Well I’m gonna tell you anyway….
I
think the point here is that they even
took their gaze off him at all.
Hebrews
12 tells us – ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.’
Faith is not just about believing
in Jesus, it’s about being truly and utterly focussed on him, in all things, at
all times in all places
. In
fact Hebrews 11:1 tells us that: faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance
about what we do not see.
Sometimes it isn’t even about believing, it’s about
trusting. And there is a difference.
Listen
we can spend all our time focussing on the things that distract us, whether
they are little niggly things or great big boulders that block our view, they
take our gaze off Jesus. I heard someone once say that even something as small
as 1pcoin can blot out almost your whole view, if its right in front of your
eye.
But if we get fixed on the stuff,
on the rubbish, we shift our eyes from the one who is right there with us in it
all.
Fix your eyes on Jesus. Focus on
the truth.
If
we focus on the storm, we will drift, we will be swept along by the tide, we
will be tossed and turned by the waves.
I
don’t know if any of you have ever
danced
but you know when you see dancers ballet dancers particularly, not
sure if you will see it on Strictly! – perhaps ask Karen, she can tell you! –
anyway when they do lots of spins on the spot, to stop themselves getting
dizzy, or falling over or drifting, they keep they eyes fixed on a spot on the
horizon, so if you watch they move their body but the head stays still and
flicks at the last minute, keeping their eyes fixed on one spot…
So I think that’s why Jesus was
asking them ‘where is your faith?’ because they were so focussed on the storm,
I think they probably even forgot he was there.
I mean how easy would that be, you can
imagine it, they were probably all running around grabbing ropes, trying to
slop the water out of the boat, or hanging on to something to avoid getting
washed out of the boat. Would one man asleep in the corner be grabbing their
attention.
But
then we forget – they had travelled with Jesus, for weeks if not months, they
have seen him do extraordinary things, healings, raise someone from the dead!! they
have given up everything to follow him. And yet, here he almost withdraws
slightly and at the first hurdle they
panic!
Is that we do? Are we so fixed on
Jesus, UNTIL something comes along to distract us?
You
know that’s why things like discipleship, small groups, reading your bible and
praying regularly are so important. We need to have Jesus and our faith so
ingrained in us that when the proverbial hits the fan, we are still set firm on
the rock of Jesus, So that in the midst of the storm, we can still fix our eyes
on Jesus. That he can be our focus in all that we face
xxxx
So, here’s what you need to
remember:
Jesus is fully human – he really knows what we are going through,
from the every day stuff to the real challenges.
Jesus is fully God – He is Lord over all, nothing is too great
for him, he even commands the wind and the waves. He can perform miracles.
And us – well we have to play our part. Where is
our faith? We need to focus on him, fix our eyes on him, even in the midst of
the storm.
Prayer:
 So I said at the beginning I really felt God
wanted to meet us this morning, the storms are going to meet with Jesus. We
should have plenty of time to pray.  Couple of things I want to say first:
Sometimes,
especially in really challenging situations we can feel let down by God, we
don’t understand why things happen, or why he doesn’t heal, or why he hasn’t
answered our prayer. That’s ok. But this morning let’s focus on who he is. If
you have a storm, or a challenge or a situation that you need help with, or you
need healing, I encourage you to bring it before him. We can’t always
understand, that is so hard, I know, but we can make a choice to fix our eyes
on Jesus. So let’s try and do that this morning.
And
secondly it’s ok to get angry with God. He wants to know you – all of you – the
Psalms are full of David getting cross with God and then praising him all the
same! You can be cross with God or not understand where he is or what he is
doing, and still have your eyes fixed on him! So that’s ok… and hey if you need
to shout at God this morning, this is a safe place! Go ahead!
  Followed by Prayer and ministry time…

Luke 1:1-26 // Preach from Sun 8th June 2014

The notes from last Sunday’s talk, starting Luke’s Gospel and focussing on Jesus as the answer… Also available to listen to here


As always these are my notes and not a transcript so apologies for errors, typos etc

I
start by asking you today – what’s the answer? And I’m starting with a little story, which you may have heard of before or at
least similar. There
is a sweet story I read about a Sunday school teacher who asked her Sunday
school class about an animal, wanting to illustrate serving…
She
started the lesson by saying, “I’m going to describe something, and I want
you to raise your hand when you know what it is.”  
“I’m
thinking of something that lives in trees (pause). “It can be grey or brown…  it has a long bushy tail” 
Finally
one little boy put up his hand. Yes, said the teacher, what do you think it is?
 “is it
Jesus?’ says the boy…!
It’s
an old ‘in church’ joke that any question asked in Sunday school or in church,
if you are not sure, the answer is always Jesus, which allows for some great comedy
moments as we have seen. But the thing is, there is only ever really one answer
So
what’s the answer? Yes, JESUS
and
there’s only ever really one sermon –
that Jesus is the answer!
—————-
Today we
are starting our new series from Luke’s gospel and it’s all about people
meeting with Jesus. In fact we’ve called the series ‘Encounters with Jesus’. So
we will see throughout Luke’s gospel, people encountering Jesus in diff ways.
We’ll be looking at Jesus, his miracles, and parables. And we are going to see
people having their lives transformed by him.
 —————-
You
know the entire bible points us to Jesus. From the OT paving the way for the coming
of a messiah, to the NT where we see his birth, life, ministry and death and
resurrection. And subsequently his word being spread through his followers. But
the only parts of the bible that talk directly of Jesus life and ministry are
the four gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, and we are focussing on Luke.
So
let’s do a quick overview of Luke so we know what we are getting in to. Here’s a few things to get us started:
: Luke
is the longest book in the NT (in length not chapters).
: Thought
to be written around 70AD. Why is this important? Only actually 30-40 years
after Jesus death, so we know that whilst Luke himself was not an eye witness,
there would have been people around who were, or who had direct memories of the
events he is writing about.
: Whilst
the gospels share some stories, Luke contains some of the most well known stories
of Jesus life and teaching that don’t appear elsewhere, for example, as we see
here, Zechariah and Elizabeth story, also, the Angel’s announcement to Mary, Conversion
of Zaccheus, Walk to Emmaus, the story of Prodigal Son and more.
 —————-
What
about Luke himself – who was he?
Well
he think he was actually called Luke for a start – which might sound like a
silly thing to say but that isn’t always the case with biblical books. And who
was he? Well there is some discussion over this but generally academics agree
that Luke was a doctor, and was the same Luke who is mentioned in some of
Paul’s letters as someone who travelled with him. He is referred to in
Colossians 4:11-14 as ‘our dear friend Luke, the Doctor’. On the same basis of
mentions in Paul’s letters it is believed he was a gentile (so someone who
wasn’t a Jew).
It
is believed that Luke also wrote the Book of Acts and that these were possibly
2 halves of the same book, or 2 volumes.
Whoever
he was it is clear from the writing that he had a deep knowledge of the Jewish
scriptures and was a well educated man. People also think he had an interest in
history and he is sometimes referred to as a historian because of his style of
writing as we see in the first few para’s how we has done his research. Whilst
nowadays we wouldn’t think of the bible as a historical document necessarily,
we should remember that those writing were to some extent recording the facts
and event of the day, accurate accounts of Jesus life.
In
these 2 lines at the beginning he lays out his integrity, his devotion to the truth
and how he has come about this information.
 —————-
Who
is he writing to?
Well,
he says he is writing to Theophilus, who was probably a Roman official, a new
Christian who Luke is discipling. However Theophilus also means ‘beloved of God’ and there is some thought that he could be using this term to refer to
followers of Jesus, those who want to know more about him. And it’s important to
note that writings of this time would have been copied and distributed so he
may be saying he is writing to one person but he would know and probably
intended for this to be read and used to teach new Christians.
Luke
is clever in that he writes in a way that encompasses Jewish belief but also
the customs of the day that all would be familiar with. So that all can
understand and be taught, he was writing
for a culturally diverse audience, so poss tries to present Jesus in ways that
might appeal to people with a wide variety of backgrounds
 —————-
So, to our passage, as I said, Jesus is the
answer
. This book is all about Jesus, so then if that’s the case, why doesn’t
he start with Jesus right? it’s interesting that right at the beginning we actually
get this wonderful story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, which doesn’t appear
anywhere else in the bible and in fact Jesus isn’t mentioned until v 31!
Well, what he is doing is putting Jesus into
the context of the day. Before he gets into the real stuff, he is cleverly
laying the ground, preparing the heart of the reader for what is to come.  He doesn’t launch right into to, but he points
us towards Jesus through this story.
  —————-
So
Zechariah was a priest. Not in the sense that we would know now, anyone
descended form the line of Aaron was a priest and they served their temple in
groups or divisions.  Most of them would
live outside the city then come into the city when it was their turn to serve
their duties in the temple. The rest of the time would be spent teaching or
serving in their own communities.
As
there were so many priests on each occasion lots would be drawn to go into the
sanctuary and perform the duties including burning of incense. Now this might
not seem that big a deal but it was huge. Many priests never got the chance to
do this and if they did it would be once, so a real once in a life time
opportunity to enter the sacred place in the temple, the holiest part of the
temple. So Zechariah would never have done this before, as a Priest it would
have been a truly special moment and then of course this fantastic encounter
happens, where he meets with an angel, who gives him amazing news that he will
have a son, who will be holy and set apart.
Reading
this I couldn’t help but be reminded of a few weeks ago when some of us went up
to celebrate Richard Jackson’s consecration as the Bishop of Lewes. Particularly
special for me, as I got to serve communion in Westminster abbey. Probably a
once in a life time experience. Just amazing, the ceremony, the sense of the
Holy Spirit, the feeling of being part of one big family. And to prepare for communion
we went forward to the main altar, a holy place. And afterwards we went back
behind the altar. I’d love to say an angel appeared, but it didn’t. the ABC was
there though..! But the point is there is something truly special and holy about
these moments.
So
what’s all this got to do with Jesus being the answer, well the thing about
that service was that it wasn’t just about Richard, at it’s centre was
Jesus. Everything in that service pointed to him.
And
we see in our passage, it points people to Jesus.  that this son to be born to Z&E will
‘bring people back to the Lord’ and ‘will go on before the Lord, in the spirit
and power of Elijah (who was a great prophet) … to make ready a people prepared
for the Lord’. We know and will read in later verses, that this son was to be
John the Baptist, a man who devoted his life to being holy, to share the news
of the coming of the Messiah and later in v76-79 we see Z saying of him: ‘you
my child will be called a prophet of the most high; for you will go on before
the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of
salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of
our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those
living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path
of peace’
This
man is born to tell people that Jesus is the answer. To point the way to him.
And actually what Zechariah says of John, we could say of ourselves to some
extent. We should go before the Lord – we should prepare the way for people to
come to him, we should be giving people the knowledge of salvation through
forgiveness of sins, shine on those living in darkness, guide people to the
path of peace. Isn’t it? Isn’t that what our call is? To point people to Jesus
in our words and actions?
Are
we signposting the way to Jesus – to the answer?
  —————-
And
of course within our own context?
Luke
is actually being clever including this story at the beginning, because he is
pointing to Jesus but within the context of the day.
Right
at the centre of community, of Jewish culture particularly was the importance
of longevity, of generational lines, of family, so that’s where he starts. He
notes the time – in the time of Herod, he names the line from which Zechariah
and Elizabeth are descended, he is placing them and this story, and this gospel
within the context of what his readers would have known. And after all JTB, was
sent to point the way to Jesus, to go before, and Luke is echoing that theme
here.
So
when we think of pointing the way to Jesus, can we also do so within our own
context? Our own surroundings? In the context of the service at the Abbey it
was liturgical, it was in the hymns in the words spoken, in the act of the
eucharist. Luke does it by putting Jesus into the pattern of the day. How do we
share Jesus in our day? In our context?
So,
here’s a question for all of us: where is Jesus in your context today? How are
you pointing to him? How is he your answer?
So
here we have Zechariah and Elizabeth, upright people, Godly people, but actually
just normal people who are used by God. You see we are the bringers of Gods
kingdom. Normal people.
But that they had a deep pain in their lives that Elizabeth was
barren, she couldn’t have children.  Now
I know that in our society for those who cannot conceive it is utterly heart
breaking, some of us here know that pain personally. I have stood alongside people dealing with this. It is
deeply deeply painful, a pain that can last a lifetime. And I have no doubt
that it was the same for Z & E and yet in addition in their culture those
who could not concieve were mocked and scorned. Almost seen as a disability.
And often it was seen as having a link to divine intervention, as we see when
others such as Leah in genesis where it says that God opened her womb as he saw
she was unloved. For Z & E they would have lived with this scorn their
whole lives. And yet God had a plan for them they could never have forseen.
 —————-
You
know we are all responsible for the bringing in of Gods kingdom
. God uses
ordinary people like us to bring about his kingdom and we are going to see that
through this book of Luke. Our God – the God of lavish, self giving love –
doesn’t forget our human pains… I love how so often God takes something so
tragic and painful and turns it into something so wonderful. As with Z&E
here. Something so deeply deeply painful…
That
is often the message in Luke that God, in taking care of the grand scheme of
things – his truly grand scheme, he also takes care of the smaller human
concerns too. God
has a plan for each of us, just as he did for Z&E. God, through Jesus,
through the HS is bringing in his kingdom through ordinary people. People with
pains, people who are suffering, people with doubts, people who are not
perfect. Isn’t it just awesome that God has this amazing plan and he doesn’t
just roll it out, perfection all over the world, boom! No he uses us, his
precious children broken as we are, imperfect as we are. His grand plan is
played out through us.
How
are you part of his grand plan? So what is he asking of you today?
 
Because we
have to be open to hearing what his plan is for us – we have to be available to
listen, we have to take the opportunity to hear him, to meet.
So, I want to speculate a bit, this is not in the bible, so just go
with it… … but as I read this passage I just began wondering about Z&E.
They are upright and righteous, they would have been praying people. I think we
can safely assume that they must have prayed and prayed for a child. Did they
give up? Did they get to old age and stop praying? ‘the Angel says – I heard
your prayer’  But I just wonder if when
Zechariah went into the temple that day he took that opportunity to be a little
bit selfish, to as well as his duties, to offer a prayer for himself and his
wife. He could have been waiting for that opportunity for years. Ery time
waiting to see what the lots were…. I wonder if he and elizabeth discussued it
in their younger years – ‘if you get picked to go into the temple this time,
make sure you ask him, make sure you pray – in that holy place. Like some
people going pilgrimages to holy places, or places where healings have taken
place. God can work anywhere we know that, but there is something within us
that recognises the holiness of on action, a miracle or a place. So my
speculations I, did Zechariah, old as he was, remember his past prayers,
remember all the scorn that had been poured on him and his wife, did he
remember a promise to her, to himself to pray for a child in that holy place?
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility. And the reason I say this is that so
often God gives us opportunities. Opportunities to come closer to him, to know
him more, to hear him and we don’t always take them do we? Whether it is fear,
or doubt or something else stopping us, but I really believe that God gives us
daily opportunities to know him more, to be part of bringing in his kingdom and
it is up to us to recognise them and take them.
Did Zechariah think. This is an opportunity? Did he pray Please Lord give me a child? Did he take
that opportunity when it was presented to him?
Are we taking all the opportunities
God offers to us?
Opportunity – be used for the
kingdom – point people to Jesus – enable the coming in of the kingdom.
It’s all part of the same thing
really. If we are open to the Godly opportunities before us, those chances to
be used for the kingdom, then we will be
pointing people to the answer, to Jesus. and in turn we will enable the coming
in of more of God’s kingdom.
Opportunities breed encounters,
reveals the kingdom
.
So,
today is Pentecost Sunday when we remember how the disciples were filled with
the Holy Spirit and tongues of fire came down from heaven and rested upon them
as we can read in Acts 2.
The
Holy Spirit is the power of God that moves through us. It’s the same Holy Spirit
that came upon Elizabeth and enabled her to conceive in her old age. The same
HS that worked through Jesus to perform amazing miracles. It’s the same HS we
see when after the birth of JTB. Later in this passage, it says, vs. 67: that
fills Z and he worships the lord in joy. It’s says: Zechariah was filled with
the HS and prophesied and he then sings what is called Zechariah’s song, of
praise and prophecy concerning his son.
——-
So
today, thinking about some of the questions I’ve been asking, we’d love to pray
for the HS to work through each of us just as it did through Z & E.
Do
you need to be refilled and refreshed, or even filled for the first time with
the HS –  just as it was at the original
Pentecost when the disciples were filled and 300 came to faith.
Or do you need to
know Jesus as your answer today?
 
Or perhaps you want to be able to see the opportunities of God more clearly?
Ask
yourself, if this is an opportunity to come before God, as Z did, what would be
your prayer? If you could step into a holy place right before God, what would
you ask? Is it simply to be refilled? Refreshed, filled with the HS? Is our
desire for more of God? Or perhaps you have a prayer on your heart, maybe it is
a prayer you have prayed hundreds of times like Z&E, a prayer of pain and
brokenness? Or maybe God is going to put a new prayer in your heart today.
We
can think this is just another Sunday morning, its just another service, what
is special about today. Or we can say: This IS an opportunity. We might be
fearful – Zechariah was, but the angel said do not be afraid. And I want to say
now to you do not be afraid. We are family here, we stand with each other, we
support each other. I don’t know what God wants to do this morning but I do
know he longs for us to be closer to him, to step towards him, to be open to
what he has in store for us. So lets do that now. Lets be open to what he wants
to do and say to us today. Lets be open to Jesus being our answer…
Lead into Prayer time…

Your Kingdom Come…

Preach from Sun 3rd Feb. Passage, Luke 11:1-13

As always, sorry if this is not entirely intelligible, this comes from my first draft which I then make into notes and usually ignore half of them anyway when I talk…! Questions welcomed…
You can’t stress the important of the Lords Prayer enough, the very fact alone that it is called The Lords Prayer should be enough! it’s Jesus’ prayer. It’s the one he told us to say.  The disciples asked him how shall we pray and this was his answer.
as Will said last week it is thought to be one of the most well known set of words in the entire world. 
But with that comes familiarity too. and sometimes that’s good, I’m sure most of us could recite the Lords prayer without thinking too hard about it. Probably our kids can do too. I imagine those who are not regular church goers might find that too. It is something we learn at school, we say at official functions, maybe even in the workplace. but I wonder if in a way it’s become too familiar, that we say it, recite it without even thinking.
If you pray the Lords prayer, do you actually think about the words? do you actually consider what they say? what they mean? 
These are words that the disciples asked Jesus, ‘teach us to pray’. Jesus taught them this directly and in this way we are repeating his own words, how much we can learn from him in just this prayer.
In fact there is so much you could say about the Lords prayer but I want to focus mainly on the line ‘Your Kingdom Come’ and what that might mean for us. When we pray that, what does it mean to us?
Your kingdom come – God, let your kingdom come on earth, let things here be as they are where you are. How powerful is that?
In the traditional version on the prayer we  say: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.
as it is in heaven – we are asking for life here to be like it is in heaven. Isn’t that the very core of our faith, to be seeking to be Godlike, Christ-like, heaven-like right here, and right now?
phew! awesome!
and that is in the prayer that is the most well known set of words in the world….. Imagine if whenever anyone prayed it they prayed it with a real heart and desire for it to be true – wow, who knows what might happen, imagine how powerful that would be!
But do we? I mean what does that line mean to you? I’ll tell you what it means to me…
My heart is to see the power and love of Gods kingdom, right here, in my life, right now. seeing people around me transformed, seeing people meeting with Jesus in his kingdom, seeing Gods kingdom come on this earth. 
Thats I what that line means to me… it’s repeating the very essence of what I believe, your kingdom come. your will be done. God is in control, he is sovereign, we are seeking him and his will for our lives and our world.
But it doesn’t always happen quite like that does it?  I mean I’m aiming for the skies. Yes of course God is always with us, his kingdom is all around us, but we don’t often see it in all its fullness, we don’t see regular real manifestations of Gods kingdom right here and now. In the bible, when Jesus heals people, he says Gods kingdom has drawn near to you or the kingdom of heaven is within you… that says to me that miracles like Jesus performed show us a slice of Gods kingdom, a place where people are not sick or unhappy or demonised…
When Jesus says to pray ‘your kingdom come’  (or may your will be done as it is in heaven) he is telling us to ask for the kingdom and all that entails.
What does the kingdom look like?
the bible says” it is a kingdom that will never be destroyed.. it will endure forever (daniel 2:44)
it is a kingdom that cannot be shaken – hebrews 12:28
God calls us to his kingdom 1 Thess 2:12
we share in the inheritance of his kingdom colossians 1:12
it is….. righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,  Rom 14:17
and one of my faves:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 1 Cor 4:20
It’s interesting that Jesus shares this prayer and then follows it right away with 2 examples of persistance or ‘boldness’ as some translations say.
The guy knocking at his neighours door – and his friend inside – ‘man I’m in bed, we’re all tucked up, I don’t want to have to come down to the door’. I’m sure we all know that feeling, nice warm bed, about to drop off, perhaps the phone rings. Of course the last thing you want to do is answer it but chances are it might be important.  What if that phone call was your neighbour asking for some bread – you might be a bit annoyed but chances are we would go and give them some. I don’t know about you but if my neighbour knocked on my door late at night I would think, thats odd, must be important right? that’s what Jesus is saying – the boldness of the guy knocking is the key. If he’d sat at home, thinking well I can’t go next door its too late they wont answer the door he would have got nothing… You have to try! You have to persist. 
The dictionary says that to persist is:
  1. To be obstinately repetitious, insistent, or tenacious. 
well I want to be obstinately repetitious for my God and King.
also says:
  1. To hold firmly and steadfastly to a purpose, state, or undertaking despite obstacles, warnings, or setbacks.
despite those: the setbacks... I mean that’s the key isn’t it. we pray for these amazing things to happen and then what if they don’t? well we question don’t we? “oh well what does Gods kingdom really mean?can he really heal? can he really speak to us today? does he really love us…? is he really there…?”
YES!!! he is, he can and he does. But we have to holdfast to that belief when it is not outwardly apparent.
How many of us have had amazing experiences or an encounters with God in prayer? perhaps someone has prayed for you, you’ve been to an event, or you have had something happen to you in your own prayer time by yourself. you know what I mean, sometimes we have those amazing encounters that seem to change the whole essence of your world. God reveals to you something in such a powerful way that you can’t help but be fired up. You want more, you can’t get enough. 
but what happens? the enemy comes to steal, kill, destroy.... something happens, your prayer isn’t answered, theres a tragic occurence. what does Jesus say? don’t give up!! press in more. don’t let the NME take away the glory.
It’s so easy to fall back. sometimes the last thing you want to do or feel able to do is pray and yet in those times its probably when you need to most…. 
Shortly after I had a big experience/renewal of faith etc I got ill, ended up with exhaustion. I never stopped loving God, but sometimes I was pretty cross with him, couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting healed. for 18  mths there was no improvement.  repented/had prayer/ words spoken over me….  but nothing shifted. and Some days I just found it so hard to pray. I was tired, had no energy, would wake up feeling just as tired as when I went to bed. I usually pray first thing, and yet back then I would wake up just not being able to pray. It wasn’t even that I didn’t want to, I just found it hard.
But you know what, I tried to battle through. Because the victory is already ours. The devil cannot win a battle against us, because they are all already won, Jesus did that for us.
 And those days where I did pray first thing, before doing anything else, were so much better than the ones where I didn’t. Took me a while to realise that unfortunately. there is something about giving your all that is so powerful. Giving to God out of pain, or weakness. i mean what does the bible say – when i am weak, He is strong…
and starting the day in prayer just is such an amazing thing to do, even now I find that each day is so much more peaceful if I pray first. 
But for some of us, or in some situations disappointment in prayer or unanswered prayer can be the thing that just stops us from persisting. Last year, as many of you will know, we prayed for our friend Nix, who was suffering from cancer. We prayed for healing. When it became terminal we still prayed for healing. We believed wholeheartedly that God would heal her. Towards the end we prayed 24/7 in the summerhouse in her garden. We prayed right up to the last. And when she died we prayed for God to raise her.
because we believe that God can do that. we believed that God can heal, that God, the all powerful, sovereign king can overcome a terminal diagnosis, can overcome death. because he’s done it already. 
There were people praying all over the world for Nix. There were masses of prophetic words telling of her future, of plans that God had for her. She went to Bethel church is the States and had an amazing encounter with someone there who didn’t know her or her situation but spoke life over her in great detail. 
We believed God was going to act.
But he didn’t heal her and he didn’t raise her. Lovely Nix passed away, leaving her husband and 3 wonderful children behind. 
I can’t tell you why that happened. I can’t tell you that we didn’t pray hard enough or in the right way or that we heard God wrong. because I don’t think any of that is true. We did everything we could, everything we thought God was saying.  And despite what happened, I still believe that God heals today, I even believe that God wanted to heal her. I don’t believe that it was Gods intention for her to suffer and die as she did. But something happened, after all we live in a world where (1 Peter)
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour..
I cannot tell you why Nix died. I cannot say why God did not step in and heal her. But I still believe he can. I still believe Gods word, in Matthew, the Great commission, Jesus says to his disciples, 
therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you to do.
everything I have commanded you to do…. well he told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast our demons etc  (Matthew 12) freely you have received, freely give.
So we have to do what he told us to.
In the aftermath of Nixs death I know I wasn’t the only one struggling. and we were friends but it wasn’t like I had lost my best mate. but the pain was more in the fact that we believed in God for his kingdom to come, on earth as in heaven, and as we saw it, it hadn’t. (I’m not saying it hadn’t, but certainly not as we expected)
But in all of that, that is probably one of the times I have felt most close to God, because we were with him, seeking him, hours each day. Man if you want to know God more, just get in his presence more. Without wishing to sound crass, that was amazing. I received some amazing words of revelation from God during that time, like never before and possibly like it never will be.
in the hurt, I would do it all again. I will persist.
I have seen small amounts of healing, I have seen friends who don’t know God be touched by the holy spirit,  but I want more, this is small fry!
I don’t want to at all sound insensitive here, eg Nix family – unanswered prayer can be soul wrenchingly painful, when life or death is at stake, it takes a great deal to believe and it takes a great deal more to believe when you’ve given everything and it doesn’t happen.
is painful, it feels isolating, lonely, like God is ignoring you,
unanswered prayer can be crippling to ones faith. 
But, it’s how we deal with that that can be so vital. If we give up, if we stop petitioning God or speaking to him, how do you think he feels. Perhaps we are in the most devastating and painful place we have ever been, and we shut him out, we are angry with him, we don’t want to listen. 
But he wants to love us, comfort us, help us in our pain. The bible says that 
You keep track of all my sorrows.[b]
   
 You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8
Isaiah: For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
he is the `God of all comfort’
if we shut him out we are shutting the door to his kingdom.
Persisting in prayer isn’t always about dealing with pain, sometimes its just having the faith to continue praying for something for years if need be, even when you see no response.
St Peters, example: when opened, woman who had prayed for her husband al her life. When the church reopened he came, heard the word and got saved…
woo!
Phi’ls family – met some of his cousins at a family party and they told us that their parents had been been praying for him and his brother for the moment they were born….
If it takes years for a prayer to be answered, does it make it any less answered?!
So, when we pray your kingdom come, what are we asking for?
I’m asking for people to be healed, for lives to be transformed, for miracles to happen. 
I guess I want to say to you today, what are you praying for? I saw Angus Buchan talk once and he said if your vision doesn’t scare you it isn’t big enough! Are we praying scary prayers? are we praying for the biggies? or are we playing it safe.
I feel like I have had little glimpses of what that means. A powerful time of prayer, or seeing someone healed of a dodgy foot. but just that, a glimpse. Well I tell you, I want more, I’m not settling for that. I want to see your kingdom come…
well I for one don’t want a safe, easy life.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. luke 12:32
Our father has been pleased to give us the kingdom – his kingdom. What? I mean God has given us access to his kingdom? do we even begin to know what that means? Have we even begun to see what that means, to experience it?

Prayer

So this weekend I’m preaching on prayer, really excited about it actually, I think God has given me a great message. But when I was prepping for the talk, the first thing I always do is pray, and out of that I felt God giving me some words… this, below, is what came out.  Man, I Love God.



Prayer


Prayer is a conversation.
not one way, but feels a lot like that sometimes.


Prayer is having Gods undivided attention. Not engaged, not on hold, not the 27th person in the queue, prayer is getting straight through when the line doesn’t even ring.


Prayer is solid, dependable, words on a page, liturgical, lyrical, it’s rhythmic, routine.


It’s out of kilter, out of line, stand up on the restaurant table and shout at the top of your voice.


Prayer is a weapon, a fighting tool… 
a comfort blanket, a hot water bottle, 


It’s rough and ready, its harsh, it’s loud angry shouting, 
it’s quiet and soft, whispering in the ear of a loved one, it’s gentle singing, it’s worshipping the most amazing wonderful person that one could ever even begin to imagine.


Prayer is being tucked up under the duvet, needing a fix to even move one toe out into the cold harsh world.


Prayer is a longing, a desire, an unquenchable fire burning within and unable to get out.



Prayer is in the mud, in the dirt, getting covered from head to toe, in the grime, in the gutter, a desperate plea, just a few words uttered,


help me.


Prayer is stepping out of those grubby clothes, in a warm bath, bubbles, rose petals, it’s soothing, it’s gentle, soaking. 


Prayer is the beautiful tune of a lover singing to their beloved.  
It’s the most intimate thoughts that we share with no one. It’s the things that shame us, the things that define us, the things that no other living soul knows.


Prayer is the most dramatic, fantastic, all consuming, loving welcome: come on in, this house is your house, kick back, enjoy…



Prayer is a child curled up on their dads lap, arms encircling, loving, blessing, soothing, warming.


Prayer is crying out together in defiance. in pain, in love, in desperation. It’s standing alongside each other, battling, warriors, in unison in our pain.


Prayer is angry, ‘what do you want from me’, where are you?, why have you forsaken me? 


Prayer is sobbing, streaming, making a scene, it’s unattractive.


Prayer is laughter, hysterical, screaming, uncontrollable, giggling.


It’s wailing, longing, seeking, needing, begging…


Prayer is indulgent, it’s selfish, self seeking, self-serving, 
It’s soaking, enjoying, drowning in love, like a depth of love you have never known


Prayer is burning desire, unquenchable, out of control.


It’s like breathing, like water, it’s daily bread.


Prayer is being at one. being at peace.  


Prayer is: encountering God.




Ministry of movies

Most Important Moviephoto © 2010 Mike Licht | more info (via: Wylio)
Seeing as I am rather tired at the mo, my evenings have got to the point where I have an inability to focus on anything much. Which means I am often resorting to the TV, to veg out for an hour before bed. Despite having several hundreds of channels on our telly I have discovered that in the years since I was a regular evening TV viewer they seem to have done away with anything approaching half decent programming. I mean what is going on? Surely there must be some talented producers and writers out there (actually there are – my cousin is one..).

Anyway.. the point is that we have begun to watch movies instead. Having sky plus (say what you ilke about Murdoch this isa  brilliant invention) I can record decent ones when they come along, but we have also invested in a LoveFilm package. I am slightly scatty with my choices, I just click on anything that looks vaguely interesting and wait and see what arrives! So in the last few weeks we have watched Good Will Hunting, Eclipse (from the Twiglet series as my husband says), Slumdog Millionaire and Up.

Obviously the idea of this is to not be concentrating too much, so as you can see they are not too high brow ;) but the funny thing is that actually I think God has been speaking to me through them all. That or it’s a sign that actually I can’t switch off… I am sure it has occured to all you ministers out there, but movies are a great way of teaching the Gospel!  An example from a well known movie, makes it all the more contemporary and instantly puts the message on the level of the average person on the street.

If this continues by the time I get ordained all my sermons will have a cinematic theme…:)