Archive for October, 2015

When worlds collide

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

When worlds collide

Mark 10: 35-45

StMarksC.S. Lewis was raised in a religious family that attended the Church of Ireland. He became an atheist at age 15. He eventually

returned to Christianity, having been influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien of the “Lord of the Rings “ fame and wrote this of his his last fight before his acceptance of Christ:

You must picture me alone in (my) room, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

Later he became a great endorser of the Christian faith, of which in one of his books he wrote a fictional account about several people from our fallen world, meet those from another who had not fallen to their temptation in the garden. Parallel universes the same, but unparalleled in outcomes that gave neither understanding of the other.

Worlds colliding that we know in our inner self like that as in a song titled “The Pilgrim” as written by Kris Kristofferson where he goes:

“He’s a poet and he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
(and) Takin’ every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.”

A song that talks to me, as do the lyrics from another penned by him:

 “(There was a man) from Atlanta, Georgia
By the name of martin Luther king
He shook the land like rolling thunder
and made the bells of freedom ring today.

With a dream of beauty that they could not burn away
Just another holy man who dared to be a friend
my god, they killed him!

The only son of God almighty
The holy one called Jesus Christ
Healed the lame and fed the hungry
And for his love they took his life away

On the road to glory where the story never ends
Just the holy son of man we’ll never understand
My god, they killed him!”

Two worlds colliding. The sin of man separated from the holiness of God that could only be restored by the good and not the bad. A separation restored not by the transgressor, but by the innocent.

Two worlds that collided in the man of Jesus Christ who did not reconcile with demands, imprisonment or powers of destruction or from afar, but came to the fight not with fists clenched but hands open. Came not to punish, but to be punished. Came not to persecute, but to be persecuted.

The Son of God who came to earth via the womb of a young girl, born in a stable, poor, in danger, a refugee from powerful and wicked rulers.  Such an upside down way for the almighty and everlasting God, who has armies of angels at hand and the power of the universe at his fingertips, to enter the world.
His life is simple – a wandering teacher, mixing with the lowliest and poorest, the diseased and the outcast, speaking a simple message of love for God and one another and living out that message in everything he did – so unlike the Son of God, the Messiah that had been expected by the people of God.  No, surely this back to front wandering rabbi can’t be the Messiah.
His death on a Roman cross – so cruel, so humiliating, so shameful, so painful and yet he was so innocent.  This was such a difficult thing to understand even for those who were the closest to him. The Messiah on a cross – that is so wrong.

And then there are all those strange sayings of Jesus.
“The greatest one among you must be your servant. Whoever makes himself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be made great” (Matt 23:11-12).
“Those who want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it” (Matt 8:35).
“If anyone of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if anyone wants to be first, you must be the slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).

Jesus is back to front and upside down and in so highlights that the ways of the Kingdom of God are not the same as that of the rest of the world.  Jesus defines greatness in such a different way – he uses words like love, humility, service, kindness, meekness, mercy, servants, slave, losing one’s life, and says that anyone who has these attributes is considered great in God’s Kingdom.

Because of the love of Christ for us and the love of Christ reflected in us: attitudes, behaviours and values are changed.  What is great in God’s kingdom are often different to what is considered great in the world.
It might be considered great in the world to put down those who want to achieve, or ridicule people who are different,
but greatness in God’s Kingdom is to show kindness and offer help and encourage them to get ahead.
It might be considered great in the world to unkindly criticise others and gossip about them but in God’s Kingdom greatness means to defend others, speak well of others and be supportive.
It might be considered great in the world to ignore the poor and look after our own needs first, avoid the pleas of others for help even though we could well afford to give assistance but in God’s Kingdom greatness means to give food to the poor, a cup of water to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, visit the sick and clothe the naked (see Matt 25:31-46).

When Jesus spoke of what makes a person great in the God’s eyes he spoke of being a servant, a slave even, and connected the task of the disciple to the service he offered to all humanity which came at a price.  He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people”.

Following the upside down ways of Jesus is not easy.  They are challenging. They will make us rethink our values and the ways our culture and society influence our thinking and behaviour.  Jesus’ upside down ways will make us feel guilty as we realise how we have fallen into going down the easy path, followed popular trends, done the “in thing” rather than taken the harder path of humility and service to others.

Yet it’s just when we are being hard on ourselves for getting it all wrong when God’s upside down love beams down on us.  We call it grace.  We fail.  We think greatness is all about us.  We ignore the people God gives us to serve.  We let God down and what does God do?  He loves us.  He doesn’t seek revenge, an eye for an eye, but loves us, forgives us and embraces us as his children for whom Jesus has died.

And we thank God for his grace that turns everything upside down!

His grace known by a man named Martin Luther King which allowed him to rise up and reconcile the races at the cost of his life. The grace that allows a devoted and outspoken atheist to say “I was wrong” and devote his time left announcing it so.

The grace that allows his people, that though walking contradictions say yes, but while this may be so, I know a man who is not.

The grace that allows his people that though often taking many wrong directions on their way home say yes, but while this be so, I know a man who did not.

The grace of God given to His people through Jesus Christ. His grace that allows the poor to rise up and serve the rich and his grace that allows the rich to drop on bended knee and serve the poor.

The grace you have received in Jesus Christ to know His forgiveness that sees not the reflection of a fallen sinner in the mirror, but that of that one that has been forgiven and restored.

Forgiven and restored not to hide in the shadows and lurk in the darkness of this world, but forgiven and restored to walk in the light of Christ. To walk in the light of Christ, though we be troubled, broken and sore. Though our burden may be great and seem to overwhelm, rise not in our own strength, but in that of our Saviour Jesus Christ and know our Lords words to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane for ourselves and trust in them for where He has placed us: That though we may ask “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me”, we now in the love and strength of a man that while we once we knew Him not, He has taken us to the mountain top, that now in view of the promised land we too can join Him and ask, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Amen.

“My Big Mouth”

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Job 23:1-9, 16.17, Mark 10:17-31, Hebrews 4:12-16

StMarksNoel Gallagher was the lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist and principal songwriter of the hugely successful British rock band Oasis and while I had little knowledge of their music, I knew he was well known for his exploits and controversial outspoken statements as reported in the newspapers.

A fact that he knew of himself as seen in his acknowledged of such indiscretions in his song titled “My Big Mouth”.

What a difference fifteen minutes can make as ironically after seeing him on T.V. in a chat show my preconceived perceptions were changed to that of seeing an intelligent, witty and humorous straight shooting likable person, and like him or loath him, it would seem that the unexpected popularity of Donald Trump in the U.S. Presidential race is in effect from his shoot from the hip, impolitically correct and what you see is what you get statements.

Today, you would have noticed that our scripture passages were read in a different manner with firstly the Old Testament, then the Gospel and finally the epistle. The reason being that these three messages from scripture in that order, give a very clear message for us as the method of the Bible was composed.  The history and background of God’s people the Jews that shows us why they believe what they do, why they worship and act as they do and ultimately why this confused and overshadowed their acceptance of the much awaited Messiah. A situation of preconceived ideas and confusion that feeds into the Gospel where a radical Jew by the name of Jesus appears on the scene performing unfathomable miracles and in many ways, unfashionable home truths to the Church elite. The simple yet cutting-edge state of the art words of the Gospel of Christ given further understanding of their impact on our lives through the ongoing teaching and preaching from the God inspired messengers of the New Testament epistles.

The Old Testament where Job, a legendary man of faith but here after suffering unthinkable situations, has been led by well-intentioned colleagues to a mixed state of mind to where God has seemingly become his enemy, acting randomly and unkindly, while yet in his heart of faith still recognizing that God makes and carries out his own plan for his servants even if they cannot comprehend how or why.

An unimaginable situation and time of testing that without faith and hope would most surely have crushed even the resoluteness of the much esteemed Job.

The faith and hope that Jesus shows to the God following rich man in the Gospel who wanting to, yet unable to carry out Jesus’ instructions of giving away all his wealth to follow Him, hears that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

No doubt unsettling for that man as it so should be for us because as with senselessly trying to class our levels of sin up and against others, so to with wealth. Because what is rich. Is it Warren Buffet or James Packer? Are you rich if you can provide a loan, or rich if given approved to receive a loan based of your ability to repay it? And what of the Australian living in what is conceived as of humble proportions and yet of extravagance to that of the villagers in parts of our world where daily survival is from searching through others rubbish, begging or the soul destroying reality that the making available of their only asset, their body is the only thing that stands between starvation and life.

It’s a scenario that, like my catalogue of ever growing sins and ever growing inability to fit into my once comfortable jeans sees our eyes shifted to the reality of Jesus words and cling to His promise that “With man it is impossible (to enter the kingdom of God), but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

It’s refreshing to know that all things are possible with God; it may be also refreshing for you to know that tomorrow it is possible that I will give up smoking.

It’s a bit of I hope it’s so, but with the clause of we’ll just have to wait and see.

John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address after being elected famously said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” and in matters of salvation the same could be said of those who acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and trust in His Words of salvation as from that eventful day some 2,000 years ago where the promised Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Savior willingly gave His life by hanging on a cross and defeated Satan and the once damning legacy of our sins and his accusations. Our Savior who three days later rose to announce the legacy of God’s love as seen in Him-Jesus who once and for all sees us never need search in vain or wonder of God again-but see the truth that is Jesus Christ.

The truth explained to us in today’s Hebrews scripture: “Since then we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

With confidence let us draw near to the throne of grace. The grace showered over His persecutors from a top His cross when Jesus asked His Father “to forgive them for they know what they do.” The grace that the gangs, the so called gang bangers of Los Angeles who knowing no other way to survive do what they do, yet still draw near the grace of God through Christ as evidenced by tattoos to where a cross below the eye is to that of “crying for Christ”, a tattoo on the wrist is too “bleed for Christ” and with one on the heart declaring to “die for Christ.”

The grace that two of the Bali nine rested their eternal lives upon who after being ministered to over the years by an Irish born priest and had heard through Him the call of Christ, were able to receive their human life death penalty, though tied with cable ties to crosses with their arms outstretched and legs strapped at the bottom, were said to be of joyous spirit and singing with some gusto the Hymn amazing grace.

Some would argue of the lack of spiritual fruit displayed by the ongoing actions of many I have listed, but as to what is the measure of wealth, so too what is the life changing fruit of the spirit to one born within an urban battle zone to one born to devout Christian parents within a stable political environment.

Yes, the Church is within its rights and implored to explain and direct sinners towards the law of God which is good. His law that keeps a lid on earths Chaos and his law that leads to turning back towards Christ as we see our inability to pass through the eye of a needle like that of the camel.

Sinners like us who do not cast the first stone at others for we know that if not for Christ, it is we that would feel the first stone strike.

On any given day of the week in worship, at home or on the battle field countless souls will kneel before the throne of Christ in prayer and trust in the only thing they can, that what is impossible for them is not in God as they rest in the reconciling truth and mediator that is Jesus Christ.

Today we come before the throne of God, and be it with heaviness of sin or with sin unknown to us, whether it be your first time or the continuation of your customary routine-today before the throne of God, be it that your rivers have run dry or your wells overflowing, today here, and when you return home you stand before the throne of God in the presence of His Son Jesus, who having walked your journey and seen it’s traps and snares stands with you before His father with his own crown of righteous placed upon your head to hear “yes my son”, to these I give eternal life. Amen.