Finding True Satisfaction in Life

IMG_1876Here is the sermon from the launch night up at the castle. If you missed it, have a listen and feel free to post comments below.

In the sermon, Tim preaches on John 6 and Jesus being the Bread of Life. It is the time of passover where the people of God are remembering how God had saved them from slavery by taking them through the waters, and how God had provided for them through sending bread from heaven. Now Jesus has multiplied the loaves to feed the masses and walked on water. They recognise him as the prophet that Moses had foretold about, but is he more than that?

The Good Samaritan

Jan_Wijnants_-_Parable_of_the_Good_SamaritanWhat does it mean to love well?

The two greatest stories about love were both told by Jesus. One is about a Father who forgives a runaway son. The other is about a foreigner who loves a man lying beaten on the side of the road. Both of these stories tell us what love looks like. Both of these stories challenge us to love well.

Christianity is a divine revolution. It is God coming to change his world. That is the big story within which we read everything else. Whether it be Jesus offering forgiveness, healing the sick or doing great acts of mercy… this is God renewing his creation!

So what does Jesus revolution look like? The kingdom is pre-eminently good news for the poor, the lost and the outcast. And we shouldn’t rationalise that away because so many of us are wealthy. It should be a constant challenge to our own prosperity. But this is not just how Jesus chose to live, this is about the calling of others who would join his revolution. They are to show mercy to the undeserving, unfortunate and the lost.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is given in response to a Jewish theologian asking about the meaning of neighbour. He has answered correctly about inheriting the life of the age to come. It means to love God and love your neighbour… but who, he asks, is my neighbour? It’s a good question. To Jews then and to us now a neighbour is usually thought of as those to whom we live next to, or have a friendly relationship. But does it include everyone? To Jews in Jesus day it certainly didn’t include Gentiles. That is, those who were not of the same ethnic group. People like the Samaritans. So Jesus gives us a confronting story…

A man goes does a road down from the hills of Jerusalem to Jericho where he set upon by bandits who leave him within an inch of his life. Those hearing would have known this stretch of road and known the risks involved. Seeing a man robbed, beaten and dying on the side of road was not outside their experience. So two religious guys walk by, a priest and a Levite… part of a privileged group! Part of the shock of this story, is that it could be expected that as servants of God, they would understand God’s heart for the lost and hurting and respond with compassion. They don’t. They walk on by.

What is going on when we don’t help someone? Maybe it is self preservation… if this guy has been robbed and beaten, maybe the bandits are still around? What about you? Why do you not help? Too busy to stop? Maybe a conviction that it’s the addict’s fault, that they will only use your help to buy more booze? Whatever the reason too often the human story is one of not stopping, but passing by.

Then a Samaritan comes on by. These were perhaps Jews least favourite people. The animosity went back centuries, it had to do with their ethnicity, over ownership of land, over ways of worship…There were often violent clashes between Jews and Samaritans. In one incident some Samaritans got into the temple in Jerusalem during Passover and scattered human bones, making the temple unclean.So you get why the introduction of a Samaritan into a story about compassion and mercy gives it a controversial nature… everyone would be feeling uncomfortable…

But what incredible, undeniable kindness. He stops for the one. He does not veer away from the bandit’s victim.It says in verse 33 of Luke 10 that ‘his heart went out to him’. His heart went out to him. It is the same description used here of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son. If that parable is an insight into God’s heart for us, it suggests that the Samaritans heart is a reflection of God’s for the lost. Now that is important. Remember we never reflect God’s character more, than when we love the lost, the broken and the poor.

And his compassion is not an ideal; it is expressed in practical action… The revolution is not about an idea about love, it is an outworking of the love, poured into our own hearts. He binds the wounds, applies medicines, he puts him on his donkey which he would have been riding and he takes him to an inn to personally take care of him. And then with extreme generosity he pays for a long stay and promises to pay anything more that might be needed. All this done by a hated Samaritan for a Jew.

Now, all of this has come in response to a theologian asking what it means to love your neighbour. Being a lawyer he was probably looking to cover the scope of what a neighbour is, to justify his own actions, to make himself look good in the eyes of others. So who has been a neighbour to the man robbed and beaten by bandits? And what does loving a neighbour look like? The theologian replies “the one who showed mercy on him.” Jesus says, “Go… go and do likewise.”

This is the revolution of God that Jesus came to initiate. As Jesus says in Matthew 9, “I require mercy not sacrifice.” In other words not religious ceremonies or outward appearances of righteousness… the revolution requires generous mercy that reaches out. Go and do likewise. Eternal life, the life of the age to come involves living like the good Samaritan. Go and do likewise.

Well, there it is… there is your application if you are looking for one… kind of hits you over the head like a two by four… Go and do likewise. This is how the revolution works! Jesus announces the kingdom, he demonstrates the kingdom and then he calls others into the life and work of the kingdom.

The kingdom of God, the revolution that Jesus came to initiate involves the renewal of all things. And in this revolution, Jesus wants to change your heart so you can change your world. Let me say that again… he wants to change your heart so you can change your world. As you are loved by an unquenchable love, your capacity to love others grows.

So, as I said, the application is pretty simple – go and do likewise… because really this is about continuing on the life and works of Jesus as a community. This is how God renews his creation… he calls and commissions a people to go and do likewise.

I reckon if you are a Christian you need to be involved somehow in helping the poor, the battered and the broken. Hopefully you do that by supporting your local church that in turn supports organisations like the local Salvation Army. All of us are called to radical love of our neighbour… and as Jesus has shown in this parable, that means those in need. A lot of you are sponsoring children. Keep going! Victoria and I give a percentage of our income not just to the church but also to an orphanage in Mozambique. Greg who comes to Manly Life sets up orphanages in the poorest parts of the world… check out the website, speak to him, get involved.

But one of the most important things we learn in this passage is that love stops for the one in front of us. And love looks like something. It is not an ideal; it is an action. It cost the good Samaritan his own personal safety, it cost him his ride, it cost him money for the inn. And it also cost him his comfortable personal prejudices. He crossed social boundaries, ethnic boundaries, historic boundaries…Because love knows no boundaries.

Could you impact a hundred lives, could you change the world? Well it starts with the one. And usually it is the one in front of us whose path we have cross. Love stops for the one. Love looks like something. It is how Jesus treats us.

Proclaiming and Demonstrating the Love and Power of Jesus

grace treeOK, long title… but that is what this sermon is all about.

Post the resurrection of Jesus, his followers are to take the good news of new life to the world. The shape of this mission is to tell people about the love of Jesus, shown on the cross, and to demonstrate the power of Jesus through healing and dispelling evil. This is how his kingdom advances into the world and changes everything.

Proclaim and demonstrate… proclaim and demonstrate!

 

Mandela, Jesus and the Power of Grace

MandelaMatthew, Mark and Luke tell the actual story of how Jesus was born. You may be familiar with it… angels, shepherds, a donkey, a baby born in a manger. But what John does in his account of Jesus’ life is start his story with the meaning and significance of what is happening. The Word, that is God it says, has become human and has dwelt amongst us. It says we have seen his glory, and it is full of grace and truth!

The world is currently mourning the loss of another truly great person, former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. A couple of year ago a great movie came out called Invictus. Have you seen it? It had all the elements of a great film; intriguing politics, a sporting victory, and no soppy love story! The film tells the story around the 1995 Rugby World Cup and particularly how Nelson Mandela and Francois Pinaar – the white Springbok Rugby Captain united the nation.

You may remember the event – at the Rugby World Cup in 1995 Nelson Mandela comes out to give the Springboks the trophy and he is wearing the no.6 Springbok jersey – that of Francois Pinaar. The film, like John’s Gospel tells the story of the significance of that moment. The significance was that at the time the country was deeply broken and divided, half a century of apartheid rule had deeply scarred the nation.

And now, Nelson Mandela who had been in prison had emerged to become the first black South African President. The country however was still on a knife’s edge. The threat of violence and revenge hung over the nation. In the middle of this, rugby which was the sport associated with white dominance was hosting its World Cup in South Africa. Aware that the country needed healing and reconciliation, Mandela reached out to a divided country and in that incredible moment of forgiveness and reconciliation, he entered the stadium in a green Springbok jersey.

He wears the jersey that symbolises division and brokenness and turns it into an image of peace.

That is what grace does… Mandela who could have sought revenge instead enters the stadium and offers reconciliation! Grace is an amazing thing! It can change the world…

The story of Christmas is somewhat similar. Like Mandela whose act of grace changed South Africa, at Christmas we celebrate the living God, who for the sake of reconciliation, took on flesh and dwelt amongst us. Like Mandela who instead of revenge brought peace, God comes not to punish you but to love you and offer grace!

When God entered the stadium, that is, his world, the affect is even more remarkable. Like Mandela entering the stadium, God enters the world. As it says in John 1, the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. It says Jesus’ coming is like light shining in the darkness.

You know there is darkness in this world, with trouble and strife everywhere… even in our own lives! But as you get to know Jesus, which I hope you will, you will behold light, behold glory. It is the story of the living God, humbly dwelling amongst us, showing us grace and truth. My guess is you need a bit more of this in your life!

At Christmas and beyond we encounter this Jesus hanging out with the broken and forgotten in our world and showing compassion and mercy to the least amongst us. You encounter the power of God as he heals the sick, releases the captives and walks the stormy seas. This Jesus will teach you to love your neighbors and forgive those who sin against you. And in the greatest act of love, the one who enters this stadium called earth will die for us, winning us reconciliation with God by offering his life in our place!

It is quite a story… and it has incredible significance for you and the entire world. As we begin to follow Jesus, our lives are changed by grace.

At the end of the game when the Springboks had won, the entire team, led by their white captain fall to their knees to pray and give thanks to God. In one sense it is a sacred moment. Not to take the analogy too far, but they have beaten the All Blacks… dispelling darkness? OK too far… And there is Mandela, in affect reconciling the nation! Offering peace.

God having shown us what he is like in Jesus Christ has the same affect. All around the world as people get to know the grace, love and reconciliation won by Christ the King, they fall down on their knees… In that moment of thanksgiving, something remarkable can begin to happen. We get called children of God and begin to walk in his light.

What a great time of year! Friends, family, free time…  but in the midst of this let me ask you this. Have you responded to the grace and reconciliation offered by Jesus? This is the living God, the light of the world who stepped down into darkness who calls us to follow him…

Hope matters!

I got a chance to go sit on the beach at lunch and when I looked up I saw this… got me thinking of where hope comes from.

The last year has been quite trying with lots of changes (marriage – good, other – hard). Hope comes from believing that what lies ahead is better. Without hope it is easy for life to diminish, to begin to look inward, to get depressed. Hope matters.

Christian hope comes from resurrection. It means that not only is death not the last word, but that there is a power at work in this world moving things towards a more glorious future. More than just pie in the sky when we die, it means that we get swept up into God’s redemptive plans now. When the early disciples encountered the risen Jesus they went from living in fear to having purpose and hope! The revolution Jesus ushered in was not over, indeed it was just beginning.

There is a great passage in Romans 5 that says we rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

When life feels hard, or disappointing, that is a great opportunity for hope to come through. It says that this is not the end, that there is better ahead and resurrection assures us of this. Hope is not blind optimism, it rests in this experience of God’s love being poured into our hearts. That love is more powerful than fear, more powerful than our current circumstances and more powerful than death. Hope in the midst of the hard times is the catalyst that gets us through! Thanks Mr Skywriter for the reminder.

Life’s Storms

Last night it felt like Manly could actually get blown over and washed away. Victoria was getting nervous that one of the big pine trees outside our apartment was going to come down. On the beach side, the waves came up to the retainer wall and on the harbour side boats were being run up on the beach. It is times like this you hope the foundations of your building are strong.

No life is left untested by storms. Everyone will face sickness, both in those you love and personally. Most go through challenging work situations, staff cuts, strangling office politics. The strongest friendships get tested, the ones closest to us can hurt us the most, relationships can fall apart. Things we once enjoyed can get a hold on our lives. There will be storms.

Jesus says as much at the end of his brilliant sermon on the mount (Matt 7:24-27). Rain comes, streams rise, winds blow and beat… the questions is upon what foundation has your life been built. The wise man has put Jesus’ teaching into practice and like a house built on rock it does not fall. Another whom Jesus calls a fool takes no notice and like a house built on sand does not survive the storm.

Before yesterdays storm I heard a warning to prepare for what was coming. It is the storm that will test the foundations, not the sunshine. When the storm rages I hope that my life is built on THE rock. That I will have peace because I know that I am loved and saved. That I will  have power to transform a situation with grace rather than be overcome. That I will have an imparted strength that comes from the one who defeated the grave!

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