Archive for July, 2019

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

MARY AND MARTHA—LUKE 10:38-42 “BEING WITH JESUS”.

It has been said that a good preacher begins well and ends well and keeps the two fairly close together.

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            The father came home late one night after a long day at work. He was tired and verging on becoming irritable. He hoped his family was asleep. he just wanted to go to bed and sleep.

But as he closed the front door a voice came from his youngest sons’ bedroom, “Is that you Dad”? The father answered wearily “Yes Jimmy I’m home”.

Would you come here for a minute Dad”?  The father was almost going to say, “leave it until morning. I’m too tired”?  But he didn’t. Instead he went wearily to his sons’ room. As he sat on the bed, young Jimmy took  his father’s hand and squeezed it and said, “I just wanted to touch you before I went to sleep”.

Why did Jimmy want to touch his father? He wanted to know that his father was there and loved him-that he cared for him. He wanted to have that safe feeling –sense of belonging. He wanted to have the assurance that he was important to his father. He wanted to know he was in a secure relationship.

      What kind of relationship do you want to have with Jesus?

      What kind of relationship do you think that Jesus would like to have with you? In this story Jesus deals with the relationships and spells out what kind  of relationship he wants to have with people.

Now Jesus’ behaviour was very radical for those times. WHY? Jesus is received into a woman’s house and teaches women. No self-respecting rabbi would spend time teaching a woman. Jesus’ action would have been seen as quite scandalous.

      Jesus’ primary concern is for people to have a deep/meaningful relationship with him. What Jesus means is not just things like “ Don’t stay at home on Sunday to cook the roast. Make sure you go to church first”. That may sound a bit of a crass  interpretation but I can remember hearing that kind of meaning given to this story.

 Nor is Jesus simply saying, “ Don’t get so wrapped up in the things of life that you have no time for God”.

Now both of these statements might be true, but what Jesus is getting at goes much deeper than that. It goes to the fundamental need/longing within us for closeness with God. That is the point Jesus wants to emphasize.

            When Jesus called the disciples to follow him, he was really calling them to “be with him”. They couldn’t follow him without being “with him” That was the disciples’ main task- simply to spend time in Jesus’ presence.

            And that is what Jesus wants us to see in the story of Mary and Martha. To live as Martha was to live in danger of being drawn away from and not making her spiritual growth a priority.  It is precisely Martha’s pre-occupation with busyness that eventually kills spiritual growth. You see Martha wanted to serve Jesus. What she didn’t understand was that at that particular time, Jesus came to serve her. What Martha failed to see ( despite her good intentions) was that it was more important for Jesus to teach her than for her to serve him.

            From Martha’s perspective her sister Mary was being lazy- avoiding her responsibilities. But that was not the case at all. Somehow Mary knew instinctively that it was more important to spend time in listening to Jesus. So may grew spiritually-her faith came alive-she had a growing sense of closeness to Jesus-simply because she spent time in his presence. Somehow she instinctively knew that the most important thing in her life was simply “being in the presence of Jesus”. That helped her sort out her priorities-evaluate what was really important in her life.

            You see if you don’t do what Mary did-spend time with Jesus- the danger is that you end up with the life of Martha-where you become resentful-and even the service she offers to Jesus is seen as drudgery.  There is no sense of joy- no spontaneity in Martha. Everything is seen as duty-and while the Martha’s of this world carry out their duties-responsibilities. They do so with a feeling of resentment. 

And when you operate on this basis- 1 or 2 things can happen.

  1. You feel that others don’t appreciate your efforts-your hard work. “resentment”
  2. You feel self-righteous –you feel you alone are doing the right thing. That you are responsible while all the others who aren’t helping are

The Apostle James says “ DRAW NEAR TO GOD AND HE WILL DRAW NEAR TO YOU”.  Tell me, Do you intentionally try to draw near to God? Do you spend time in reading the Word-listening to the Word-meditating on it.

      Perhaps we are something like the wife who said to her husband when they were out driving, “ You know Dear, we don’t seem to sit as close to each other like we did before we were married”. Her husband replied, “Well I haven’t shifted”.  In those times when we are not feeling close to him, Jesus says, “ I haven’t shifted. You just don’t spend the time with me in order to feel close to me”.

            And when we are not spending time with Jesus our relationship with him suffers. Just like any other human relationship suffers if people don’t spend time with each other-marriage-friendship.

            Mary chose to be with Jesus. She could have made other choices. She could have been like Martha and been too busy to spend time with Jesus. You see, being close to Jesus doesn’t just happen. We have to make it happen. Mary deliberately chose  to enjoy the closeness of the relationship that Jesus offered her.

            The same thing applies to us. We have to choose to make time to spend with Jesus. Whether it is 5-10-20-30 minutes. It is not so much the amount of time. Rather it is about taking your relationship with Jesus seriously enough so that you will spend whatever time you can make. And that will vary from person to person-situation. I remember a mother with young children in Melbourne who would pray with the children as she drove them to school-teaching-modeling to her children the importance of spending time with God.

            But it all begins with a decision –choice –to spend time with Jesus. And it’s not too late for anyone to begin. It only needs the decision-resolve to follow though. And if you think that it is going to be too hard to do alone, then find someone else to do it with- to pray-support-encourage you. How you do it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you do it- Nike ad.

Draw closer to Jesus and let your life be transformed by the touch of his hand.

Do you remember the gospel lesson last Sunday? It was the Good Samaritan. Jesus met a man who was very skilled in Scripture- but he had trouble acting on what he knew. He had a problem with putting what he knew into practice. So Jesus offered him the example of the Good Samaritan.

In today’s reading Jesus visits a woman who is so busy in serving, that she does not have time to hear the Word. Her example is her sister Mary who as Jesus said “one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better”. You see it isn’t that what Martha was doing was bad. In fact what she was doing was good. It’s just that what Mary chose was better.

            So to the religious expert Jesus said, “GO AND DO IT”.  To Martha he said, “ SIT DOWN AND LISTEN-LEARN FROM ME”.

            You see it’s not a matter of Martha vs Mary-Martha or Mary, but Martha and Mary. There are times when we need to be like Martha –when there are things that need to be done. But there are also times when we need to be like Mary-when we stop our busyness and spend time with Jesus. Key word is ‘ appropriate”.  We need to have the balance of being served by Jesus(Mary)-serving Jesus (Martha).

Rev. Hayden Blaess

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

“TO WHOM AM I NEIGHBOUR” LUKE 10:25-37

            A certain woman went down the road from Wauchope to Port Macquarie and ran over a piece of wood on the road. A nail was protruding from the wood. It punctured her tyre and left her stranded by the side of the road. After seeing that she had a flat tyre she got back in the car, locked the doors and prayed that the Lord would send some help. By chance there came a limousine along the road with a bumper sticker that read, “SMILE! God loves you”. When the occupants of the car saw the stranded woman, they moved over to the far lane and accelerated away without smiling.

Likewise, there came a sports car with a bumper sticker saying, “Honk if you love Jesus”. The man who was driving passed by, in fact put his foot down, moved over to the far lane and drove on. He didn’t honk or use his mobile phone to call the NRMA about the woman’s dilemma.

But a certain working man, as he travelled to his job, came to the place where the lady had stopped, and when he saw her flat tyre had compassion on her. He stopped his old battered ute, and offered to change the flat tyre. The man took out the spare tyre, jacked up the car, removed the flat tyre and replaced it with the spare.

When he had finished, the woman tried to pay him. He refused the money saying, “If my wife were stranded on the highway with a flat tyre, I’d want some Good Samaritan to stope and help her”. He returned to his bumper-sticker less ute, smiled honked his horn and went on his way. Which one of these was neighbour to the woman with the flat tyre?

Of course, you recognized in this story the parable that Jesus told about the Good Samaritan. The reason why Jesus told this story in the first place is important. 

A man well versed in the Old Testament law asked Jesus a question because he wanted to trick Jesus into saying something that would show him as a false teacher. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In reply to Jesus’ question the lawyers’ answer came straight from the Old Testament. ( vs 27). Jesus congratulates the lawyer for his answer, saying, “Do this and you will live”. But the lawyer isn’t going to let Jesus get away so easily. Do he asks, “Who is my neighbour?”Is it the unruly child sho lives in my street, or that annoying person who lives next door? Is it the homeless person who annoys passers-by by asking for money for a sandwich? Is it the orphan in Africa whose parents died of Aids or the victim of war in Iraq?” The lawyer continues, “I am confused by the immense range of possibilities which this commandment place before me, Jesus. Shouldn’t we set up priorities of need? Shouldn’t we stipulate certain types of “neighbours” who deserve to be helped over those who seem to abuse this “love your neighbour rule”, simply to get themselves out of trouble? All this must be cleared up before I can love my neighbour. Tell me now, “Who is my neighbour?”

The lawyer wanted a precise definition about the meaning of the word ”neighbour”. And so long as everybody kept discussing definitions, there was no need to get serious about doing anything.  Whatever the lawyers motives were, Jesus took the opportunity to make this a time for teaching.

Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan and ends with the disconcerting reversal of the question of who my neighbour is. The reversal runs as follows: Who among these-priest-Levite and Samaritan- had behaved as a neighbour? Who was a neighbour to the wounded victim? Was it the priest- a man dedicated to serving God in the temple? Was it the Levite-a teacher of the law-someone who surely knew right from wrong? Was it the Samaritan-an outsider-not regarded as part of God’s family? Who acted like a neighbour to the man attacked by robbers, Jesus asks?”

Imagine the listeners’ reaction. No! Not the Samaritan. He can’t be the hero-this half breed heathen. He is not even a Jew-one of God’s chosen people. It can’t be him. But of course it was. The teacher of the law must have found it very hard to respond to Jesus’ question when he asked, “Who was neighbour to the man who was robbed?”

As you know this story inspires Christians to help and show concern for those in need, the poor-starving-homeless-refugees and so on. Generally we are very good at supporting “the neighbour” through LWS, World Vision-40 hour famine and other relief organizations.

But I also want to point out that our neighbour is also the person right here in our community, whom we often see, who we often ignore, who we don’t want to associate with, who we try to avoid because we know that it will cost us time-energy. Perhaps the neighbour who needs you at this time is sitting in front of you, behind-next to you. Too often we look to far away places ti find people whom we can be a neighbour to and overlook those who are right under our nose.

We don’t have to look to far to find people longing for some kind of human warmth- people in our family, among our friends and relatives, those in our neighbourhood, and there always be strangers looking for kindness and compassion.

This story about the Good Samaritan is one I have preached-taught many times. But it is a story I have stumbled over because in it I see just how many times I have been like the priest and Levite-crossing to the other side of the road-walking on and pretending that I didn’t see the pain-need-hurt- because I knew that stopping would cost me something-energy-time-money.

This parable hits us hard as it defines what kind of neighbour we ought to be. Neighbours who ignore labels that separate people; neighbours who let nothing stand in the way of showing compassion-love; neighbours who are gracious –giving their love freely even though we might think the other person doesn’t deserve it.     

Neighbours who are willing to reach out to family members, friends, in fact anyone and give a hug of understanding, compassion-forgiveness-comfort. This kind of neighbourliness isn’t just a once in a while thing when it suits us. It is the fulltime work of the Christian. Jesus said to the lawyer ( and to us), “Go then and do likewise”

In other words, “Don’t just talk about it, do it”. And that can be hard, really hard. We all know how hard it is to be the kind of Good Samaritanthat Jesus is describing in this story.

The truth is that if our eternal life depended on the way we carry out Jesus’ command to “love God and to love others”, then without a doubt we would be doomed. This command of Jesus to “go and do” reminds us just how much we need Jesus to be our Good Samaritan.

He is the one who gave himself into the hands of his enemies and died on the cross. He is a true neighbour who forgives us our sins –failures-especially our failure to love others. He is our neighbour who paid the price for us to enter the joy of eternal life. Jesus is truly our Good Samaritan.

Having experienced this amazing love, the HSP stirs within us the will to be like Jesus to others. The HSP motivates-enables us to be a Good Samaritan to others.

People get caught up in all kinds of things that turn their lives upside down. Will that person have a “neighbour” to stop and soothe their wounds with an act of gracious love? Will the trouble in their lives be reversed by some caring person? Will that caring person be you or me? There are people all around us who are half dead and lying in a ditch. Some are half dead physically, some emotionally-spiritually. They are powerless to rescue themselves. God grant us the will-love to truly be their neighbours.  

Rev. Hayden Bleass

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Luke 10:1-11,16-20

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so we may bring your peace to those around us for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have you ever been away on a camping trip? Even if you are only going away for a few nights, you seem to have to take a heap of stuff with you: sleeping bags, something for shelter, folding camping chairs, cooking utensils, water, food, not to mention enough clothes to cater for every possible type of weather! Then there are the non-essentials to make the trip more enjoyable or comfortable: a camera, a good book, chocolates, a bottle of port and so on!

Don’t we all tend to bring so much stuff ‘just in case’? Then we get home wondering why we packed so much because we only ended up using half the stuff we brought with us!

Perhaps you have moved home a few times? Those who have will know it can be quite confronting. Even if you think you don’t have much stuff, when you have to shift it, you find you’ve got so many things you forgot you had, which includes many things you no longer use, but keep ‘just in case’. As your precious and not so precious belongings get packed away in the back of a truck, it’s like your life is passing before your eyes. Forgotten junk and valuable possessions are packed side by side. And no matter what lessons you learn with each move, most likely you’ll have more things to shift next time you move.

When Jesus sent out these seventy or so men, he made sure they packed none of those ‘just in case’ items. In fact, they even went on their journey without some of the items considered necessary. No money. No backpack. No shoes. Rather than going out well-resourced and well-prepared, they went out like beggars. Imagine going on holidays or a camping trip with nothing but the clothes on your back! Either you’d have to get used to going without, or you’d need to beg and borrow from everyone around you and be totally reliant on their generosity.

Yet this is how Jesus sent them out – totally relying on the grace and mercy of others. They were trusting God would send them people who would provide for their needs. They would leave behind all their home comforts and their security blankets and go where Jesus sent them. Would you do such a thing? Would you be brave enough to go where Jesus sends you, even if you feel vulnerable and unprepared?

Now, even though this was scary and needed a lot of trust and courage, it was also an excellent strategy. For example, what type of person might be receptive to a message of peace? While it’s theoretically possible a stingy and selfish person might accept a message of peace from God, it’s more likely a generous and welcoming person will welcome such a message. Those who had a heart to care for the needy also had hearts that were open to God’s words of peace and hope and mercy and life.

As the seventy went out, they may have wanted to go to the rich and impressive people, but they may not have been the ones who provided for them. It may have been some in the middle class or some among the poor people who provided for them. They may have had small homes and limited resources, but large and generous hearts. Those with stingy and cold hearts had no room for God’s message of peace. Those with large and generous hearts were open to God’s Word.

Just like you can’t force a crop to grow without good soil and without good rains, you can’t force the gospel message of peace on people who have cold and selfish hearts. Some fields aren’t ready to be planted. God may still need to do more work on them. After all, he’s the one who provides the seeds, fertilises the ground, and sends the rain and sunshine. We only reap what God’s already done. Don’t be upset if some don’t want to hear God’s message of peace. Yet, even though many may reject this message, there are plenty more who are ready.

When someone with a generous and helpful heart offered help to these messenger beggars, they were to go to their home and announce peace. If a person of peace was in that house, the peace rested on that person. Jesus doesn’t say whether the sent messenger was aware if the peace rested on someone in that house or not. He wasn’t to force peace or manufacture peace. His only job was to announce peace. Then God, knowing if a person of peace existed or not, would be the one to transfer the peace onto that person.

On the other hand, if no-one in that household was a person of peace, the peace remained with the messenger. Again, the messenger may not have been aware of a lack of peace transfer. The messenger only announces peace; God is the peace distributor.

Then, whether or not peace was received or not, they were to settle there for a while until the time came to go to a new town. They weren’t to go searching for a better home, a more comfortable home, a tidier home, a quieter home, a home with meals to their taste, or a better looking household. Once in a town and welcomed into a home, they were to stay put.

Do you ever find yourself in a conversation with someone, wishing you were somewhere else? You know, you act as if you’re listening and give all the right nods, smiles and comments, but your eyes are roving around the crowd to see if you can find someone better to be with. You want to be with your friends, and not always the person in front of you.

Just like God sent those seventy men to homes they may not have wanted to live in, God may send us to someone we don’t want to be with. It could be God wants us there for a reason. It takes courage and trust to remain where we are and let God use us in that place and with those people. The building of relationships is vital for the message of peace, and we don’t always get to choose the relationships. We don’t always choose who needs to hear the message of peace.

The building of relationships is vital and may challenge some current methods of outreach. While many people focus on getting people to worship and try to manufacture a wonderful experience in the hope they may win people for Christ, that’s not what Jesus asks for. If it was all about building experiences and dazzling people, God would have sent circus performers! God encourages relationships, not experiences. God doesn’t always work through the spectacular, but the ordinary.

In the same way, rather than going up to someone and saying ‘God loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you so that you may not perish but receive eternal life’ and then not care that they’re struggling with life, couldn’t care less they have health problems, or totally ignore the fact they’re hurting because of broken relationships, we’re instead encouraged to get to know the family, get to hear their stories, listen to their pains, cry with them, share their joys, and build a relationship of respect, love and trust.

Jesus didn’t tell them to do a quick evangelism door knock, but told them to live with them. Once they understood the people better, the gospel message of peace could be more specific to their particular pains and situation.

Being with them for a while brought another risk as well. Even though we may be able to fool people with a great show of love and faith and peace and joy for a while, we can’t fool them all the time. Over a period of time they could tell if the message we delivered was genuine or not by the way we lived. If we proclaimed peace, but put people down, gossiped behind people’s backs and acted selfishly, then they would learn the peace was fake and superficial.

The best messages of peace aren’t proclaimed from a pulpit, but lived in everyday life with all its troubles and temptations. As the messengers of God’s peace lived with a family for a while, they could see that God’s peace was real and genuine. They would know God’s peace as something trustworthy and life-changing.

Now, even though the sending of the seventy men to the surrounding towns to prepare for Jesus’ coming was a once off event, Jesus continues to send people out even today.

Jesus sends us into families and work places and clubs and schools and even among strangers. We don’t always get to choose these places and people. In fact sometimes we don’t even want to be there and long to be some other place. But Jesus may have sent us to proclaim peace and live in peace among them.

There may be times the peace we proclaim and live isn’t received by others. It may not be our fault. Remember we’re sent like lambs among wolves, so don’t be surprised those wolves actually exist and love to snap and snarl at our message of peace. Their hardened hearts may not be ready yet, but trust Jesus will continue to work on them in the hope they may one day receive that peace with joy and thanksgiving.

Yet there may be times we proclaim peace to someone and that peace is received. Over a period of time they’ve noticed we live in peace with God and with those around us. They notice the way we forgive. They notice we don’t seek revenge and payback like others. They notice we don’t gossip and put people down. They notice we encourage, lift up and care for those around us. They see us as peacemakers and peace-livers.

These men were sent out to proclaim the peace of God to others. This peace of God is the Kingdom of God at work, working away on stubborn hearts, in ordinary lives, and in everyday places. Therefore, may you too bring…

The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.