Preached on: Thursday 24th December 2020
There are no text of Powerpoint pdfs accompanying this sermon
Bible references: Luke 2:8-20
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Preached on: Thursday 24th December 2020
Preached on: Tuesday 1st December 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF associated with this sermon.
Bible references: Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Luke 10:1-3, 8-9; Acts 11:19-21; John 3:5-6; Luke 15:20-24
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Good evening everybody welcome to Tuesday Evening Sermon where we dig a bit more into God’s word. Thank-you for putting in the time to be here and to grow in your relationship with God. Sometimes Tuesday Sermon is about recapping a previous series but tonight is a bit of a touching point on some extra reflections on Sunday’s sermon and a bit of a transition I guess to aid that transition from our last series into our Advent series and into the new year potentially.Today we’re also going to look at a number of different passages in the scriptures and we’re going to look at shorter portions than we did with our sermon last month but still a number of portions we were going to jump about and draw out different things from different parts of the scriptures. So get ready with your Bible and whether it be a Bible App or a hard copy, get ready with your Bible so you can follow me through with us because there won’t be any slides on screen.
But before we do that let us take a moment to pray so let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord our strength and our Redeemer, Amen
So in our last series we had seven weeks on the theme of justice and we saw how core justice is to the heart of God, that he is a God who loves justice and so His people need to be your people who seek justice and hopefully that series began to sow some thoughts and ideas or maybe brought affirmation. If you’re someone who seeks justice maybe in your everyday work or in your volunteering and maybe up till now you’ve not really heard the Church speak much about justice and so hopefully that series was of some help and I’m grateful for the folks that introduced elements within Community Corner just to get trying to help make it practical as well. I’m sure that we’ll need to return to the theme of justice again in future years and to help us grow in this because I’m not sure it’s something that we often think about and we need to grow and mature in that way but as we saw on Sunday we’re not only called to justice we’re called to another important role. So let me recap a few verses for us this is from Matthew chapter 28 at verse 18 – Matthew 28
Then Jesus came to them and said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Soly spirit and teaching them to be everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Likewise we could jump into the book of Acts chapter 1 at verse 8; Jesus has risen from the dead and he has been meeting with the disciples teaching them further about the kingdom of God and he says to them: Acts 1 verse 8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
So “Yes” we are called to justice, to seek it, to make it a priority, but we are also called to go and share our faith and to help others grow and become Christians themselves. And so, part of our purpose here at Brightons is to invite people to follow Jesus and I’m so encouraged that the Kirk Session agreed with the Strategy Group that this should be part of our purpose, to invite people to follow Jesus and so it’s got to be a core part of our Church life and more than just words on a nice document or a website because Jesus calls us to go and make disciples; He calls us to be His witnesses, His ambassadors to the nations and to our neighbors, and often, sadly, in the Church, it seems to have been one or the other between justice and what we call evangelism, that we are either a Church that pursues justice and ignores evangelism or a Church that does evangelism but we ignore justice. And from since the beginning of the Church, since the beginning of God’s people thousands of years ago, beginning with Israel, there has been that duel call of justice but also to be a light to the nations and so seek to share the faith with others. Because if you don’t have evangelism you miss out on a lot of important things being realized and we’ll touch on a few of those just now. But if you don’t have justice your message just doesn’t help particularly in today’s society and world that if you don’t show that compassion, if you don’t show that concern, then it just feels like empty religion and it’s not just today that that’s been a case. One of the huge times of growth within the Church was about 300 day or so when there was a huge plague in the Roman Empire and it was the Christians who put their lives at risk and showed compassion to neighbors when the rich Romans fled to keep themselves safe, but because the Christians showed that care and concern then the people began to become much more receptive to the Christian message and people came to faith and the Church grew
And I see that in other organizations as well. CAP (Christians Against Poverty) pursues justice, seeks to help people in the midst of brokenness but it’s very clear also about giving the opportunity to hear more about the Christian faith about what fuels us. Now they don’t force it down anyone’s throat. I believe it is very gently done having known workers in that field of work, but they hold them both together, they seek to hold them in tension and one they help people get out of debt but two they often help people to meet with Jesus and both elements transform their lives in the more complete way that God hopes for us when we experience his shalom. It’s the physical and the spiritual. Or one of my other favorite organizations is One Life and One Life it seeks to earn the right to speak into the lives of young people and I think that is key in our generation we have to earn the right now we’re not in Christendom any longer we don’t have an automatic right to go into schools or to share with people we have to earn the right and so it’s keeping that tension between justice and evangelism. But both are part of the mission of God.
But if we don’t heed the great commission, if we don’t seek to share our faith, then we face some serious issues and problems and we miss out on a lot as well and I want to briefly talk about three things that we miss out on and that are so crucial for us to bear in mind.
Firstly, as I was speaking about on Sunday, part of sharing our faith is partly as part of growing in our maturity as children of God, as followers of Jesus, and we sought to give that idea about sharing the Christmas card this advent season with a neighbor or a friend and inviting them to watch a service. And so sharing our faith is so key in helping us grow. Let me take you to Luke chapter 10; Luke chapter 10 and we’ll read a couple of verses here 1 to 3 and then 8 to 10; Luke 10 at verse 1 – “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into his harvest field. Go, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. When you enter a town (this is verse 8) and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you, heal those who are ill and tell them the kingdom of God has come near to you.”
Here we’re seeing part of the training model of Jesus, how he discipled his disciples verse 1 says “the Lord appointed seventy-two others” others to the 12 disciples and sent them out two by two. So we can see here that the going out to share the gospel, to share the good news, to evangelize wasn’t just for the apostles, it wasn’t just for the big-yins, those that are super confident and got a really important role. Every disciple of Jesus was called to this. He began with the 12 and then moved on to the 72. And we see it just replicated time and time again in the life of the Church and we’ll speak more about that in a moment. Jesus says the harvest is pointing about the workers are few and so he calls more he grows this movement which will one day be the Church to go and share the good news of the kingdom of God. That the kingdom has come near through Jesus breaking into our world, coming into the world as a babe. Growing up and entering into this ministry, anointed by the spirit. The kingdom has come near and he sends out the 72 others. Likely this 72 had been journeying with Jesus for a while as his ministry grows, as he shows compassion and seeks justice. It begins to open doors and people become receptive. He begins to gather people around him a huge crowd of people and he initially picks the 12 but then he’s gotten 72 others that he has picked and he sends them out. He’s taking them under his wing to grow them and his disciples and in maturity. But the time comes when they have to go out. Can you imagine being the 72 others? Like you’ve seen the other 12 get picked and they are like the superstars; they are like your models and heroes, and now it’s your turn! He’s probably sent them out two by two again because that was the model of Jesus. Can you imagine being one of the pairs in that 72? “Jesus you want me to go out? You want me to go out and heal and preach? Like Jesus, Okay, you can do it because, well, you’re the son of God – and the 12 can do it because they’re the special guys, they’re the ones that you’re going to build your Church upon.” But, but us? Me? That would have been really scary. But in the model of Jesus of how you grow in faith and disciple others, there comes a time when you have to go and share your faith. And if you don’t take that step, and if you don’t follow the model of Jesus, eventually your growth, my growth, our growth as a Christian becomes stifled, stunted. We get capped. And I wonder if that’s part of the reason that the Church in Scotland, the Church of Scotland is in such dire straights, because we are not particularly mature in our faith. Sure we can probably do the justice thing reasonably okay. We are very active and we help other people and we try our best to be good people, but that has capped us because we have bought into that thing that “well I’m an introvert our faith is very personal” or “I don’t feel comfortable with this” and so we hit a ceiling. But we need to get through that ceiling if we are to grow and if we are to see the Church grow as well.
I think I was very blessed that when I came to faith at nineteen. Within a month I started university and I came into an environment within the Christian Union there where it was just natural that you shared your faith, you sought to do it. Now we did it in some terrible ways – surveys and street preaching and different things and I’m not advocating any of that! But I grew phenomenally in my faith, in confidence in my faith, and until actually you have to try and articulate what you believe and why you believe it and help others to engage with that,
your growth is stunted. Or trying to share your testimony – if you can’t share your testimony, and I’m not saying you have to do it on Testimony Tuesday, but if you can’t share that testimony, if you can’t share how you journeyed in faith and came to faith and have grown in faith and how your faith has made a difference to you, again, your growth will be capped, And the number of people who have said either during Testimony Tuesday or after Testimony Tuesday “Actually, that was really scary at first but it really helped me” – there’s quite a few who have said that – and so if we are to grow as ambassadors, if we are to grow as disciples we need to follow the model of Jesus and we need to learn ways to share our faith. Now it might not be in public ways, it might not be in Testimony Tuesday, it might not be as I do it, but somehow, some way we need to learn to grow and share our faith.
Because point two of the really important reasons for sharing our faith is about the future of the Church in this area and in Scotland, anywhere. Let’s turn to Acts chapter 11 at verse 19. Acts 11 verse 19 – “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed, travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”
Another key reason for heeding the call of Jesus to be as ambassadors, to go make disciples, to share the good news of the Lord Jesus and of His kingdom, is that’s how the Church grows. If the disciples had just stuck to the Jews or if the disciples, because they faced persecution in difficult times, had decided just to become very personal about their faith or retreat, then things would just have died out, in that area, maybe even more broadly. But they didn’t. They were bold. They would not allow what they had experienced to stay for them and so they spoke about the good news and the Church grew. A great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
You know I think most of us are aware that the Church is declining in Scotland and particularly in the Church of Scotland i think the statistics are something like in the last 20 years the membership of the Church of Scotland has halved, halved, has halved. It is really quite small now in comparison to what it used to be. The population that would identify as Christian and as having an active faith is much smaller than it used to be. And this is true also of Brightons. I don’t think we always are aware of it because when we’ve been able to gather in person and we we’ve also had quite a busy Sunday service and we so we think we’re doing pretty well and we feel quite secure and it kind of insulates us a little bit. But, for example, in the last two years in my time we’ve had 23 deaths and by the end of January, hopefully, we’ll have about 17 new members because there’s hopefully some new members joining us just before Christmas. So that’s pretty good but that is not average and still we are declining there and let’s not overlook that.
Or, for example, I dug into some of the statistics as well: currently only 35% of our membership is under 65 versus 81% nationally within Scotland. 35% under 65, 81% nationally. And that’s important because, well the Church doesn’t just happen. If we are to sustain what we do, if we’re to expand what we’re going to do, then we do need to see people coming in. We do need to go out and be able to share our faith because in 10 years time, if things don’t significantly change, we’ll have 20% under 65 versus what is projected to be 76% nationally. 20%, 20%! And, to be honest, that 35 to 20% just now, it’s already stretched in a lot of ways. If I look around and I’m looking around for someone to do a job or do something else I’m often having to ask people who are already doing a lot.
We need to understand that Brightons faces this issue as much as any other Church. Yes, we’re unable to do a lot just now but if things don’t change there is going to come a point in the next five, ten years when we’re gonna have to stop doing what we do if things don’t change. We’re gonna have to not shut up shop, but we might not be able to keep running Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade, Sunday School, Pre-Fives as we’ve been doing. All these things that we take great joy in and we’ve got history and we’ve been running it for decades. Some of this is going to stop if we’re not more active about sharing our faith, and that’s a reality we just have to become aware of.
And we all have to be part of it. It can’t just rest on me or select group, the extroverts, those that are comfortable and confident in their faith. We all need to be involved in this because a large part of my time, for example, is getting taken up with other things. And that’s okay because I think we’re in a season where ministers across the Church of Scotland are going to have a much broader kind of remit. It’ll be a bit more strategic. It’ll be a bit more strategic and where time is invested to grow and train up others because the model that we’ve inherited of ministers being heavily pastoral and kind of neglecting the development aspect and the strategic aspect, is just not working anymore. That has to change. We probably have to go back to a little bit more of what Jesus did where he had the 12 and he invested heavily and then he had the 72 and we see that kind of transition in ministers. Aand so that does require us to transition in how we do Church as well.
So, for our own maturity and growth, we need to get involved in sharing our faith. For the future of our Church, for the spread of the gospel we need to get involved in sharing our faith.
But also, for those that we are seeking to reach out to, we need to share our faith as well.
Let’s jump to John chapter 3. John chapter 3 at verse 5 – “Jesus said to Nicodemus “Very truly I tell you, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit.”
Again and again across the scriptures, in every gospel, nearly every letter there is mentioned somewhere to the necessity of sharing the faith and helping others to choose to follow Jesus for their own benefit. Not just in the present time, because there is great benefit in the present time to following Jesus, that hope, that light, that joy, that peace that can only come through a relationship with Him is there, is for now, but they is also that eternal dynamic and we don’t speak often of it and I doubt you’re going to hear very many sermons of fire and brimstone from me you’ll be glad to hear, but there is an eternal dynamic to all this and we need to remember that. No-one can enter the kingdom of God unless they’re born of water and the spirit.
Doesn’t give very much leeway – and I know we get pretty uncomfortable with that. I get pretty uncomfortable with that. It’s not often part of my chat with people but it seems to be a reality within the scriptures.
And then, particularly in today’s society, we are uncomfortable with that dynamic and we seek maybe to try and get ways around it or we allow ourselves to be shaped by the culture rather than by the scriptures. So, for example, there was there is a Christian author called Rob Bell – he was a pastor in the States and for a long time. I really revered Rob Bell his messages were relevant understandable, very helpful, and we did some DVD series called Nooma and they were great, very powerful. And I think I’ve maybe read a couple of these books but I had friends that read his material and I think I’d listen to sermons and such like, but then Rob Bell produced a book called Love Wins and on this cover that sounds very appealing. Doesn’t it? Love Wins! Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want to share that message? But really his message wasn’t watertight. It lacked substance and you read the book and got to the end of it and basically all that he had was a hope and a prayer. Even if that, to be honest. A hope that there might be another chance that once we die maybe we’ll have the opportunity to appreciate something of God in Jesus and there’ll be another chance, that was where he ended up kind of landing –
but he his argument was pretty flimsy.
I think most of us would like that to be the case. I think most of us really want love to win,
and we see that in – I think we still see that in the scriptures that the love of God wins. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son. Love still wins, but love is still just love does not delight in evil, and so God can’t overlook sin. There is an eternal dynamic to things.
And I think we have a hope that stands up and is greater than Rob Bell’s flimsy argument that let’s hope that there’s another chance on the other side. We don’t need that flimsy hoping argument, We have a hope in Jesus and all you need to do is put your faith in Him and bow the knee to Him. And yeah that’s huge, and it’s costly in different ways but Wow! I would never turn my back on Him now, because following Jesus, having bent the knee to Jesus, has changed my life for the better, And His wisdom, His ways are so much better than mine or any others I’ve ever come across.
So, there’s an eternal dynamic, but as we know, and see within Luke chapter 15, we have a heavenly Father who welcomes us home, who is waiting to welcome us home, and not only waiting to welcome us home, he sacrifices something of Himself to welcome us all.
Luke 15 at verse 20 – “So the younger son got up and went to his father, but while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants “Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened in calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate for this son of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and this found. So they began to celebrate.”
In Advent we remember the love of God that sent his Son into the world. The person, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, God himself came into our broken world, into our darkness, to seek and save the lost. You and me, This world. And He’s not just waiting, He’s pursuing. There is that welcome home to everyone, and we are called to share that message. To make it known. We are called to be ambassadors of this incredible good news, this incredible invitation, this incredible welcome home from God.
And if we want to grow in our faith, if we want our Church to grow and if we want individuals to know, the joy, the blessing, the hope that only comes through Jesus, both for this life and for the next, we need to share our faith. We need to learn how to share our faith. We need to have boldness and not allow the excuses that we’ve used and utilized for so long to hinder us and cap us and restrict us and stunt us. We need to cast them aside Church.
And we need to go out into our neighborhoods, into our families and friends and one way or another share the faith.
I’m not saying I have all the answers. I’m not even sure necessarily how to do this, but if we don’t have a deep conviction, our future actions won’t change.
So, may we heed the invitation of Jesus. May we have that deep conviction and begin to explore ways, even this advent season, of sharing the welcome of God.
Let us take a moment to pray.
Our God and Heavenly Father, through Your Son You have called us to a high calling, an important calling, to share the good news of Jesus and of Your kingdom breaking into the world, of that welcome home to one and all. I pray that You would come and fill us afresh with Your Spirit and give to us a holy boldness to invite someone this Advent, to consider the welcome of God and then into the New Year Lord teach us your ways, give to us opportunities, help us to become more proactive in sharing our faith. Maybe it’s as simple as saying “I will pray for you” maybe even there in person on the phone “Can I pray with you just now?” Lord, who knows there are many ways that You might lead us in this and equip us but Lord it begins with a deep conviction and I would ask that we would have a deep conviction and that from us empowered by Your Spirit, Your gospel, Your message would ring out loud and clear across this area and through your people, to see Your Church grow. to see Your Kingdom grow, to see You receive more glory and honour in Your rightful place and to see people come to know You, come to know Your joy and Your hope and Your peace and Your love and Your purposes both for now
and for all eternity
I ask this Father in Jesus name. Amen
Preached on: Sunday 4th October 2020
There is no sermon text or Powerpoint pdfs available for this sermon.
Bible references: Luke 18:1-8
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Preached on: Sunday 6th September 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-09-06-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: Luke 11:1-10
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Sunday 6th September 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchIntroduction to Reading
In our last teaching series, we explored in the book of Matthew the calling of Jesus to His disciples, both then and for us now. We saw that we are all called into a relationship with Jesus, and with that comes an invitation, a command even, to give our lives away for His purposes, as part of the family of God, such that we share the love of God and we mature in the character of God.
Back on the 15th of July I was praying and asking the Lord for guidance, and I believe He shared a number of things to help us enter into His purposes, His freedom, and the life He has for us. I noted these down in my journal and one prompting was a call to prayer, to grow in prayer, to become a more prayerful people, and this is as much for me because I know that I need to grow in prayer.
So, beginning today and through to the October break, we are going to look at some teaching on prayer and each week have a particular prayer or activity to use in helping us to pray. Because it’s all well and good having a clear purpose and a sense of what Jesus has called us to, but without being a people of prayer, we won’t change, and this world will not change either.
During my recent holiday I read a little on the issue of justice, and the concluding words focused on prayer. In particular, this portion caught my attention: ‘we must [empower the pursuit of justice] with prayer. If we [rely on] willpower, hard work, protest and activism alone, we will become exhausted. Prayer gives the battle over to Jesus. Prayer fuels our action. Through prayer, Jesus will give us strength, truth, wisdom, peace, insight, love, forgiveness and power. Through prayer, God wins the main battleground – the human heart.’
(Ben Lindsay, We Need To Talk About Race)
Whether it be the issue of justice, or the calling to ‘invite, encourage and enable people to follow Jesus’, we need to be a people of prayer, because our own finite resources are just not enough. So today, we begin a new series on prayer, and hear now our first reading from the Scriptures.
Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Prayer is one of those parts of life, parts of faith, which we know we should do, but often don’t. That can be for any number of reasons: we don’t know what words to use; we fear getting it wrong; we maybe don’t think it does anything. There can also be other reasons, such as simple laziness or apathy.
This past week, Gill and I celebrated 15 years of marriage, and if I told you that we rarely talk, don’t listen to each other, and generally get on with our separate lives, it wouldn’t matter than we lived in the same house, or had our marriage certificate, or shared our financial resources, you would still be thinking that the quality of our marriage was quite poor, even worrying. Thankfully, none of those things actually apply!
Yet, the same is true with our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You might come to church, you might have a baptism certificate or something that marks when you became a member or an elder, and you might give generously in finances or in time to the work of God’s church. But if you are not praying, not relating personally and directly to God on a regular basis, then I would wonder about the quality of your relationship with Him.
In our day there is a prayer movement called ‘24-7 Prayer’, and a number of years ago they produced a video which summaries ‘why’ we might pray, and I would like to play that for you, just now.
(PAUSE – play video)
I wonder what jumped out for you – do feel free to share it in the live chat just now. I was struck by the idea that prayer may be the most powerful thing we do to change our world, to change ourselves, because when we pray we are connecting with the living God, engaging in a twoway relationship, and as we do so, what we pray echoes into eternity. So, prayer is key, it is powerful, and sometimes the best way to learn to pray is simply to pray.
Nonetheless, one day the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’ (v1) Clearly, they saw something – something in the way He prayed, or in what He prayed, something different. Or maybe they saw how Jesus had prayer underpinning all of life because again and again He would go off to pray. And so, the one and only thing they ever ask to be taught, is to pray.
In response, Jesus shares with them what we now call the Lord’s Prayer, which is probably the most famous prayer in history. Martin Luther said: “To this day I am still nursing myself on the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and I am still eating and drinking of it like an old man without getting bored of it.” Christian writer, Timothy Jones, also argued: “To cultivate a deeper prayer life all you have to do is say the Lord’s Prayer, but take an hour to do it.”
We know from history, that it was traditional for rabbis of the time to have their own unique prayer which brought together their foundational teaching. John the Baptist’s followers likely had such a prayer because in our passage today the disciples said, ‘“Lord teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”’ (Luke 11:1)
It’s unlikely they were just asking Jesus for a few good prayer tips. They were saying: ‘We need know what You are about, we need a statement of faith!’ As such, the Lord’s Prayer is maybe our primary foundation for understanding life and faith, giving shape to everything else. In this way, the Lord’s Prayer is like a model prayer: knowing what to pray and so we might simply repeat the words as given, because repeating it regularly can help its central truths to slowly shape our hearts and our minds.
But the Lord’s Prayer can also be like a map: teaching us the way of prayer, the route to take. Many of us find prayer difficult, don’t we? We get distracted or struggle to know what to say. But praying each phrase, even a few words of the prayer, can spark ideas of what to pray. In this way, the Lord’s Prayer helps us become real with God: real with Him about what we think of Him, of the needs we have for ourselves and the needs of others, as well as seeking His forgiveness for our sin and asking for His help in the difficult realities of life.
Here is a prayer that we often just recite without much thought, yet it can be a framework into which we pour all of the thoughts and concerns of our lives. It is possible to take the thing that is most burning in your heart at this time and pray about it using the Lord’s Prayer.
Earlier in the service, I said that in each week of this season of prayer, we would have a prayer to pray, or an activity to use, and the Lord’s Prayer is the one for this week. You can simply take the version you are most comfortable with and pray it in one of the ways I’ve described this morning. Or, if you wish, you can find an alternative version on our website, in the “Sermons” page, as well as from our Facebook page this afternoon. In that document there are various examples of the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes using different language to express its meaning, or capturing the prayer from a particular angle. If you’ve been praying this prayer for many years, it may be helpful to try a different version because then may you to see and engage with it afresh.
But whether you pray in “Thee’s” and “Thou’s”, or take it a word or line at a time, may we choose to grow as a people of prayer, responding to this call to pray, and investing time in our relationship with God by using the Lord’s Prayer each day this coming week. For Jesus has promised: ‘ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ (v9) As we prayer, as we ask, seek and knock, may we know the reciprocal welcome and provision of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Preached on: Sunday 26th July 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-07-26-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: Luke 15:11-24
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Sunday 26th July 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Boys and girls, do any of you have robotic toys? That’s a toy which is electronic and programmed to do something. My daughter Hope has this robotic horse. It’s programmed to make noises or move on these wheels or shake and turn its head if you brush it with this comb or try and feed it some of its toy food.
Or, do any of you have a voice assistant? Maybe you have
Alexa at home, or maybe an adult you know has Google Assistant or Siri on their phone? It’s incredible how many things you can ask a voice assistant, and the ways they can help with everyday life – Alexa, add chocolate to the shopping list!
Robots, computers and artificial intelligences are amazing – they can do many things we can’t do, in places we can’t go yet. For example, just last week a robot was launched to the planet Mars to go explore it, because we’re not ready to send human beings yet. Other times, robots can seem very similar to us and do the same things as we do, like Alexa talking and answering questions.
But today’s robots, computers and artificial intelligences are not able to make emotional choices. They might be good at playing your favourite music for you, but they can’t choose to be someone’s friend, and they don’t make decisions that aren’t good for them. But we can choose to be friends with people and we can make bad choices.
I wonder, if you could design a robot or voice assistant to help with something, what would that be? Would it be to do your homework? Would it be to cut the grass, iron the clothes, make the dinner? I’ll give you 30 seconds to think or talk about that at home.
If you like, put up in the Live Chat what your design would help with. Sometimes, the choices we make can have unexpected consequences. Like, if you had a voice assistant do all your homework, then you would miss out on learning important things and that could make life boring or hard when you are older. Or, if you wanted a robot to do all your cooking, then you wouldn’t know how make a delicious meal for your family and you might feel a bit useless. So, the choices we make can have unexpected consequences.
The younger son in our story today made some choices. Can you remember what they were? First, he made the choice to ask his dad for money, but not just a little money, this younger son was asking for the money that he would only get when his dad had died. Basically, he was saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead now, so I can go away and have a good time.” That doesn’t seem like a good choice, to hurt the people around us.
Or, what about his choice to use that money in a bad way – he was selfish with it and wasted the money, in fact he made so many bad choices with his money that he ended up poor, homeless and left with a job that no one would want. More bad choices.
So, the choices we make can have unexpected consequences. Sure, it seemed like a great idea to ask for the money and to go spend in the way he did, but the end result showed that his choices were poor choices.
But why was Jesus telling this story? What choices was He thinking about? Well, before Jesus started telling this story, we read these words: ‘Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”’ (v1-2)
Here was Jesus sitting with a bunch of people who had made some bad choices. Tax collectors had chosen to betray their country and their neighbours, often to get rich. Sinners has chosen to reject God ways and live life the way they wanted. And both groups would have known the bad choices they made; both groups could resonate with the younger son, and might be thinking,
“that’s just like my life, and the bad choices I’ve made.”
Now, everyone knew that tax collectors and sinners were not the best people, everyone knew you shouldn’t hang around them with, yet here was Jesus doing that – and this really bothered the religious leaders of the day, because if Jesus was really the promised messiah then why was he hanging out with them, rather than doing what was expected. And so, Jesus tells a story, He tells a story about choices – about the choices we make, and the choices God makes, and both our choices and God’s choices have consequences.
All of us, at one time or another, have made a choice like the younger son. The Father in the story is a picture of God, and we make choices all the time that tell God to take a hike, we make choices all the time that tell God we don’t care for Him, we make choices all the time that say “I want my life but I don’t want you” – even though God gave us this life.
How do you think that makes God feel? How do you think it feels, when the person you love tells you something like that? I’ll give you another 30 seconds to talk or think about that at home. (PAUSE)
In Jesus’ day, everyone knew that tax collectors and sinners had told God to take a hike, that God and His priorities could die for all they cared. For those choices, the religious leaders expected consequences, dire consequences, a complete rejection by God.
But Jesus’ story took an expected turn – do you remember what happened? The younger son realised his mistakes and so he decided to head home. He made another choice, but this time, a good choice. He chose to turn back and prepared himself to say sorry.
And then what happened? What was the reaction of the Father? Did the Father reject the son? Did he? No! I’m sure that’s what people expected to hear, but Jesus told a different story, He revealed an unexpected choice of God – the Father welcomed home the younger son, he ran to His son, He threw His arms around the son, kissed him, and celebrated the son’s return!
That final choice of the son had an unexpected consequence because he didn’t expect to be welcomed home, but that is what happened, for the Father chose to forgive him and lavish His love upon His son.
I wonder, have you made that choice of the younger son? Have you chosen to return to Father God? Have you asked to be forgiven for your wrong choices and your daily
rejection of God? Maybe today is the day when you’ll finally make that good choice?
But, what if you’ve already made that choice? What if you would already say you are a Christian? Well, I was really struck by the interview with the scientist this morning, because at the end she said, “opportunities to make choices to trust in God or not, are always coming up in life, and so it’s important to keep choosing Him – it’s not just once.” It’s not just once.
So, where are you needing to choose God in your life just now? Is there an area of your life where you need to go God’s way, rather than your own? Is there a decision you need to make, but will you let God in on that decision? Is there a hard situation in your life, and you have a choice
about whether to trust God in that or not? Where are you needing to choose God today?
It was Jesus, who earlier in the book of Luke said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23) Where do you need to take up your cross? Where do you need to choose to trust God?
I pray that today, each of us, from the youngest upwards, might choose to follow Jesus in very concrete ways by choosing to put our trust, and keep our trust, in Him.
May it be so. Amen.
We close our time together with our final hymn…
Preached on: Sunday 12th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-12-Morning-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Luke 24:1-12
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Sunday 12th April 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Boys and girls, what school or nursery do you go to? Shout it out just now! (PAUSE) I can’t hear you! Shout louder!!…Oh, that one!
Well, I’m sure some of you go to Wallacestone Primary School and I’m usually in there every Friday morning and lunchtime to visit two or three classes, and then run the Friday lunchtime Scripture Union Group. Going into Wallacestone was one of the highlights of my week and I’m really missing it!
Now, just before we all had an early school holiday, I was in chatting with the Primary 7s about Easter – and most of them know the Easter story, so I thought I would share with them some of the reasons why I think the Easter story really happened.
One of those reasons is in our story today, but our passage also gave me two more reasons – which is fantastic! So, I’ve got 3 questions for you, to see if you can remember the story, OK? Each one gives me confidence that Jesus is alive. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
First off – what weight do you think the stone over the tomb was? I’ll give you some ideas. Would it have weighed as much as: two bags of cement; two of me; two sofas; or two cars? Make a choice…quick, quick!…the answer is…two cars! Well done if you picked the right answer.
The stone would have weighed about two tonnes, or the weight of two 1979 VW Beetles. That’s a lot of stone, so if Jesus wasn’t dead and maybe He had simply fainted, then there is no way He could have got out Himself, and no way His friends could have rolled the stone away without the Roman guards hearing something and stopping them. So, the stone being rolled away is a major clue that Jesus really did come back to life!
OK, question number 2: who first found out that Jesus was alive? Can you remember? Point this way if you think it was women…point the other way if you think it was the disciples! It was…the women! Good remembering!
And here’s question number 3, because question 2 and 3 are closely related: did the disciples believe the women about Jesus being alive? Did they believe them? Thumbs up for “yes”, thumbs down for “no”…the answer is… “no”, the disciples did not believe the women!
Now, why are these two clues important? Well, back in the days of Jesus, sadly women were not believed, they were not regarded as good enough witnesses, for anything. Which is part of the reason why in v11 we read, that ‘[the disciples] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.’
It seemed nonsense to the disciples, the men, because no one was expecting this, and they weren’t simply going to believe the women, because they were…women. Exactly!
It came across to the men as a silly dream, the sort of thing that people back then would expect from a few women who are upset with grief and lack of sleep.
Now, sometimes people today think that the first disciples must have made up the story about Jesus, because, after all, no one comes back from the dead, right?
Well, if the first disciples were trying to convince people back then to believe a fake story, then they would not have picked women as the first people to find out Jesus was alive! That would have been a bad plan, and so this another clue for us today: Jesus really did come back to life because the story matches with what really happened rather than what people would have made up!
The third clue is very like that too: if it was a made up story, then the smart idea would be to show the disciples having faith straight away, because then the disciples would be examples of faith and the perfect people to lead the early church.
But that’s not what we read: the disciples did not believe, they were not expecting Jesus to come back to life, it was a complete surprise to them! In a fake story, the disciples should believe straight away, rather than doubt.
Now, there are many more reasons for believing that Jesus came back to life, but those are three reasons from the story today: the big stone; the women witnesses; and the disciples being surprised.
I wonder, do you like surprises? And if you were trying to give someone a surprise, what would say? Might it be: boo? Or maybe: ta-da?
I read a story this week, about another minister, and in this story the minister is talking with the children at an Easter service in church, and he asks the children: what do you think Jesus’ first words were to his friends after He came back to life? And one little boy sprang to his feet, spread his arms out wide and said, “Ta-Da!”
The story of Easter, the story of Jesus coming back to life, was a surprise for the disciples. It wasn’t announced with a “ta-da” or a “boo”, but it was still a surprise, and it was a surprise to people who were sad, who were afraid, and who were doubting.
The story of Jesus coming back to life is a story which began in the real world of sorrow and uncertainty but with a message for that very same world. Don’t we also live with sadness, or fear, or doubt just now?
And what is more, when Jesus came back to life, many things remained unchanged: the Romans were still in charge; the religious leaders were still bullies and bad people; people were still sick and scared.
But here’s the thing – on one level the wider world was still the same after Jesus came back to life; but on another level, everything had also changed – everything! Because in the wonderful events of Easter, there is a dead man who has come back to life, Jesus has conquered death and the grave, and that’s the kind of surprising good news which rewrites history, and not just for a year, a decade, or even a century…no, this is the kind of surprising good news that rewrites history for everyone, everywhere, and for evermore.
Friends, my prayer this Easter, is for us to know the risen Jesus journeying with us in these difficult days. Because as the Apostle Peter later reminds us: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…’ (1 Peter 1:3)
Brothers and sisters, we not only have hope, we have a living hope, living because Jesus lives. And it’s hope, not wishful thinking. It’s hope, because it’s certain, we have strong and confidence assurance….
But we only have this because of Easter Sunday, which is summed up so well in our final hymn today:
“Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus, Yours is the victory.”
(Living Hope, Phil Wickham & Brian Johnson)
Friends, our passage today, reminds us of the surprising story of Easter, a story that was not faked, a story which rewrote all history, and a story which suggests that even in our present darkness, uncertainty and fear, when all around seems to remain unchanged because of Easter, well, this story suggests we can still…
encounter Jesus today, because Christ is risen, He is risen…indeed! Praise be to God. Amen.
Preached on: Tuesday 7th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-07-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-Tuesday-evening-sermon.
Bible references: Luke 19:28-48
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Tuesday 7th April 2020
Brightons Parish Church
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Three weeks’ ago, we began our journey towards Easter, with Jesus resolutely setting out for Jerusalem. Along the way, we specifically looked at those parts of Luke’s gospel where Jesus met with, or spoke about, Samaritans – those people who were outcasts, despised, usually forgotten or ignored by their Jewish neighbours.
But tonight, Jesus reaches Jerusalem, the journey is at an end, yet it has not been easy. He has walked mile after mile, up from Jericho, which is the lowest town on the face of the earth, up through the winding, sandy hills and now He reaches the heights of Jerusalem…
Jesus has crossed through Judean desert, climbing steadily uphill, up what feels like a mountain. It’s been dusty, because it’s hot and it seldom rains.
But we know that Jesus has chosen this journey because Luke reminds us that ‘After Jesus had [finished teaching], he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.’ (v28) Jesus leads the way. This is to be the climax of His story, of His public ministry, and He knows well what lies ahead, yet He sets His face to go and meet it head on.
About two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus comes to Bethany and Bethphage, a place He has been before, and He sends two disciples ahead to acquire a donkey for the final portion of the journey. Likely this has been arranged ahead of time…
And with it all going according to how Jesus says it would, He can now enter Jerusalem.
As He does so, the people start to lay down their cloaks on the ground for Jesus to walk on, for His donkey to walk on. It seems a bit strange to us, but there’s a story in the Old Testament, 2nd Kings chapter 9, where the new king, Jehu, is welcomed into Jerusalem by people doing the very same thing.
And as the crowds lay their cloaks before Jesus, we start to hear a chant, a song, rise up upon their lips – we start to hear the crowd say things like, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ (v38)
They clearly think Jesus is the King that God had promised to send, the King who would make the world a better place. So, they sing an old song, Psalm 118, it’s a song of victory, a hymn of praise to the God who establishes His kingdom upon the earth.
As I said on Sunday, in all of this, Luke is trying to help us see something about Jesus; we’re meant to see that Jesus is the King, the Messiah, that God promised, and that this King has certain characteristics.
He is a King who has power and authority; that comes across in a number of ways. In v31, the reason to give for the request of the donkey, is that ‘The Lord needs it.’ God needs it, and that Lord, that God, is Jesus.
What is more, we know from v30, that this animal has never been ridden before, you would think it would just throw off a backwater carpenter and rabbi. But low and behold, no such thing is recorded, we’re meant to see that Jesus is King of all creation, including what might be otherwise wild and untameable.
On top of this, the particular reason given for the crowds believing Jesus to be the promised King is spelled out for us in v37: ‘the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.’ Countless miracles, things beyond explanation, things only the promised Messiah, the promised King, could do, because He came in the name and power of God.
It’s because Jesus is such a King, that even though some of the Pharisees object in v39, even then, Jesus says the praise of the disciples is fitting because otherwise the stones would cry out in praise themselves! Jesus is due praise even from the inanimate parts of creation, such is His right and claim. I think we’re meant to see in Jesus a King who has power and authority.
But, as I said on Sunday, that’s not all we see of Jesus, for we see Him entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Not the grand animal chosen by other kings. Yet as the words from Zechariah remind us:
‘Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Zech. 9:9)
Here Jesus comes, riding on a donkey, for He is humble and lowly – He is the King who comes in humility to serve.
Jesus does so, because He cares. We’ve seen that along the way in the particular stories we’ve focused on: scandalous grace shown to the undeserving; mercy shown to the neighbour whom we might otherwise overlook; abundant generosity for the least, the last and the lost. This is King Jesus, this is the King of kings that Luke has been trying to help us see.
Brothers and sisters, in our time, with what we face, doesn’t this sound like a King whom we all need to know?
And even a King we all need to emulate? In Jesus we see a King who cares for people, for people who think they are outcasts and to them He shows scandalous grace. Where do we need to show grace in these days? Who has fallen? Who has not met expectations or seen things as we have? There is grace awaiting from Jesus for them, but is there grace from us?
We’ve also seen that Jesus cares for people who think they are forgotten or insignificant. I wonder if that’s you friends? I wonder, as you sit at home, slowly bouncing off the walls, wondering if someone will call today, because they didn’t call yesterday, maybe not even called for the last week, and the thought begins to go around your head – am I forgotten? Am I insignificant? Well, not to Jesus, not Him, because He came to earth for you, for love of you; to Him you are worth dying for.
And in a world, shaken to its knees by coronavirus, does that world not need to know that Jesus cares for all the nations? That not one is favoured more than another, that there is love and care and concern in His heart for every one, and so none is rejected, all are welcome.
Friends, do you need to know the King of grace, mercy and generosity, whom despite His power and authority, comes close in humility to serve, because He cares for you, for me and for this world? I know I need that King.
Nevertheless, in every age, in every decade, indeed in every life, events arise that question this. In fact, at the time, people questioned this.
We read tonight of some Pharisees in the crowd, who just could not see this of Jesus and so they call out to Jesus to rebuke His disciples for what they say of Him. To these Pharisees it sounds irrational, it sounds dangerous in fact, because it sounds like the kind of thing which will disturb the peace, for it might catch the attention of the Romans and get the Jewish nation in trouble. These Pharisees would rather hush up Jesus and keep the peace, than see Him for who He truly is. They question the claims of Jesus.
But other people also questioned, even rejected Jesus, at the time. At the end of our reading tonight, the chief priests, teachers of the law and leaders want to kill Jesus. The time has come; He’s gone too far, they’re thinking to themselves: “who does this upstart, backwater rabbi think He is? The stories about Him cannot be true; it’s just a placebo for the masses; folk tales and wild fantasy. We know the truth,” they say, “we know how the world works, and Jesus does not feature in it.” These folks also questioned the claims of Jesus.
In our day, understandably I might add, people question the claims of Jesus. Amid coronavirus, we might all question the claims of Jesus. Is He really King? Really?
The claim of Christianity that Jesus is King is as confounding as a King who rides on a donkey. But Jesus did it then, He does it now; He does things that just don’t make sense to us, and in the midst of it, He asks us: who do you say I am? And will you follow me?
You see, in the account we read tonight, it’s all about Jesus and what our response to Him is. Some question and reject, as we’ve seen. Others appear to welcome Jesus, there’s the great crowd who gather round and join the celebrations. But in reality, these folks have simply got caught up in the moment; they’re going along for the trip, hoping Jesus will fulfil some of their hopes and desires. They’re happy to sing the songs of praise, but only as long as Jesus retains the potential of doing what they want of Him. Because, these same folks, will in a few days’ time be shouting: “Crucify! Crucify!”
Nevertheless, there are some who genuinely follow Jesus, they trust Him to be King, to be Messiah, and though the coming week will put them to flight momentarily,…
They still have faith in Him, it’s just that their faith needs to mature in substance.
So, I wonder friends, where do we sit? Who are you most like? Is it the Pharisees? Those who can’t quite make sense of Jesus. Does the claim that Jesus is King make you feel a bit unsettled and you’d rather keep Him at arms length and not disturb the peace?
Or is it, the religious and political leaders you most feel akin to? Do you know how the world works and Jesus isn’t part of the picture, so He is not welcome?
Could you be a member of the crowd? Ready to follow Jesus, but only if He meets your expectations?
Or, are you a disciple? Have you come to that point, where you know, deep down, that Jesus is this King? You can’t explain Him fully; you don’t have all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted; because He’s the King who rides a donkey. But there’s enough faith, because it’s not size that matters after all, there’s enough substance to your faith, that you know Jesus is King. You’re a disciple, you’re a follower of Jesus, through and through, come what may. Friends, which are you?
I suspect that many of us might have had experiences with a number of these groups. I don’t think I’ve ever been amongst the religious and political leaders, certainly not as far as God is concerned, though maybe a little with Jesus Himself. Because, after all, I didn’t really understand anything about Jesus for a long time…
I knew His name, but not anything of Him, I had no real understanding of the significance of Easter, for example, and so I didn’t doubt God, but this Jesus guy didn’t figure in my understanding of the world.
And then, one day, He did. Because one day, I came to see my need of Jesus. I’d messed up. I came face to face with my own brokenness, my own humanity, and I found in Jesus scandalous grace, a mercy wide and free, which I knew I now needed, and it changed my life forever.
But along the way, I’ve had my wobbles. There have been those moments when Jesus has just not matched up to my earlier expectations. And there have been those times when I’ve come to the point of asking: what do I really believe of Jesus? What do I really even know, of Jesus?
Back in mid-March, I was speaking at the Breathing In event at Brightons Church, and we were speaking a little about Christian apologetics, about the defence of the faith. I recalled for the folks there a time when I really questioned what I knew of Jesus, and all I was sure of was this: I knew I could trust the Bible, so I knew Jesus lived, that He died, that He rose again, so He was who He claimed to be, and I knew by putting faith in Him, I was a child of God. I think that’s about all I was sure of, but it got me through, and in time, faith was restored, relationship rebuilt, pain healed but with scars that were there below the surface.
So now, today, I would say I’m quite firmly in the disciple group. I’m not saying I don’t question or doubt. But I’ve come to a place where I can live with mystery, with the unknown and unanswered. I know Jesus to be King. I know Him to love me and love this world. After all, this week of all weeks, is the one which proves these things.
Friends, what’s your response to Jesus? Does He feature in your picture of the world? Is He more, than simply, your “genie in a bottle”? Have you come to know Jesus as King of all creation, but the King who comes riding on a donkey? Is He to you the King of kings, even though He does stuff, or things happen, which just don’t make sense?
Friends, I hope we can all reach that place, but even if we can, faith is not easy. There are still questions, there are still unknowns, there is still mystery. And there will be those times, still, where the best, maybe the only, response is to weep, to wail, to lament. But as we saw on Sunday, we’re in good company, for in v41, we read, ‘As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it…’
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and He weeps because it was the place of deepest rebellion against God, its people are blind to the One in whom true peace lies and in whom fullness of life could be found. For they have and will set their own interests and agenda before those of God, they will resort to murder to do so. Jesus can see where Israel is heading, and He knows that their infidelity to God and obstinacy towards His reign will only lead to ruin.
But, as you hear those words of judgment and see His actions of rebuke in the temple, as you see both prophet and priest in Jesus, speaking truth to power one moment then cleansing what is defiled the next, remember His tears, remember His tears of lament. What He says, what He does, issues forth not from a stern and cold justice, but from a heart of love, a heart that wants the best for, and from, His people, and so now must oppose their rebellion, even though it breaks His heart.
It’s the mystery of the gospel friends: that God is love, but His love will not overlook, cannot overlook, evil, and so there will be judgment of sin. But it breaks the heart of God. God was grieved to His heart, Genesis declares, over the violent wickedness of His human creatures. He was devastated when His own people, described as His bride, turned away from His love to give their love to another.
Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in His world. But that’s not the picture we get in the Bible, and lament is not just an outlet for frail, little humanity. Here is King Jesus, full of power and authority, yet vulnerable, honest and caring enough that He cries, He laments.
Lament is the cry of a heart that is shattered, raw, gazing into suffering, bruised by its ragged edges and crying out for justice. Lament resists shallow, packaged, simplistic answers. It demands fierce authenticity and is unafraid of unanswerable questions. Lament is not the antithesis of faith; it is what faith looks like when it draws near to grief. The more passionately we believe in the goodness of God, the more passionately we protest when His goodness is obscured, and so we lament.
Friends, we don’t have to have all the answers, ever, and not even in or for our present time. Yet not having the answers, doesn’t mean we must give up on Jesus being King of kings or truly caring for the nations. For He welcomes us to cry with those who cry, and mourn with those who mourn, and in the midst of pain and brokenness, find the God who laments with us and for us.
May this be the Jesus we know and whom we follow, not only this week, but until we see Him face to face.
May it be so. Amen.
Preached on: Sunday 5th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-05-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-morning-message.
Bible references: Luke 17:11-19
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Text: Luke 17:11-19
Sunday 5th April 2020
Brightons Parish Church
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Three weeks’ ago, we began our journey towards Easter, with Jesus resolutely setting out for Jerusalem. Along the way, we looked at those parts of Luke’s gospel where Jesus met with, or spoke about, Samaritans – those people who were outcasts, despised, usually forgotten or ignored by their neighbours.
But today, Jesus reaches Jerusalem, the journey is at an end. Boys and girls, have you ever been on a really long journey? Was it in a car? Or did you walk? Why not tell someone that you’re with just now? I’ll give you ten seconds. (PAUSE)
We’ve all been on a journey that has seemed long, we might have done it in a car which was nice and comfortable. But for Jesus, the journey has not been so easy. He has walked mile after mile, up through the winding, sandy hills from Jericho, which is the lowest town on the face of the earth, but now He reaches the heights of Jerusalem. Jesus has crossed through Judean desert, climbing steadily uphill, up what feels like a mountain. It has been dusty, because it’s almost always hot, and it seldom rains.
This was the way of pilgrims, those journeying to Jerusalem for the annual festival. We know that Jesus chooses this journey because Luke reminds us that ‘After Jesus had [finished teaching], he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.’ (v28) Jesus leads the way. This is to be the climax of His story, of His public ministry, and He knew well what lay ahead, yet He set His face to go and meet it head on.
About two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus comes to Bethany and Bethphage, and He sends two disciples ahead to get something. Boys and girls, can you remember what Jesus asked them to get? Can you remember?…It was a donkey! And…had anyone ridden it before? Can you give me a thumbs up for “YES” and a thumbs down for “NO”?…The answer is… “NO”. No one had ridden this young donkey and yet Jesus gets onto it without any problem, and carries on towards Jerusalem.
What happens next, boys and girls? Does Jesus manage to sneak into the city? No – that’s not what happens! So, what does happen?…As Jesus journeys into Jerusalem, the people start to lay down…their cloaks on the ground – this was like [PHYSCIALLY TAKE OFF JACKET] taking off their jacket and putting on the ground in front of them for Jesus to walk on, for His donkey to walk on. That seems a bit strange to us, but there’s a story in the Old
Testament where the new king is welcomed into Jerusalem by people doing the very same thing.
And then, in the story of Jesus, we start to hear something – we start to hear the crowd say things. They said things like, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ (v38) Do you think the people were happy, or sad? Put your hands up for happy, or down for sad…I think they were happy!
They thought Jesus was the King that God had promised to send, and that King would make the world a better place. So, they sing part of an old song, written in the Psalms, it’s a song of victory, a hymn of praise to the God who establishes His kingdom upon the earth.
In all of this, Luke is trying to help us see something about Jesus; we’re meant to see that Jesus is the King, the Messiah, God promised. But what kind of King do you think Jesus is? The story gives us a number of clues. Why don’t we all, adults and children alike, think about that for a moment, either on our own or with the folks beside us, and don’t forget to write it up in the live chat if you want to do so, I’ll give you thirty seconds. (PAUSE) So, what did you come up with? Let me share what I see.
I see a King who has power and authority; that comes across in a number of ways. In v31, the reason to give for the request of the donkey, is that ‘The Lord needs it.’ God needs it, and that Lord, that God, is Jesus.
What is more, we know from v30, that this animal has never been ridden before, you would think it would throw Jesus off, because He’s just a carpenter and rabbi after all. But low and behold, no such thing is recorded, we’re meant to see that Jesus is King of all creation, including what might otherwise be wild and untameable.
Now, we remembered that when Jesus came in, the crowds put down their…cloaks and sang songs of…joy, they did this because they believed Jesus to be King. But Luke especially reminds us in v37 that ‘the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.’ Countless miracles, things beyond explanation, things only the promised Messiah, the promised King, could do, because He came in the name and power of God.
It’s because Jesus is such a King, that even though some of the Pharisees in v39 object, even then, Jesus says the praise of the disciples is fitting because otherwise the stones would cry out in praise themselves! Such a King is Jesus, that He is due praise even from the inanimate parts of creation.
I think we’re meant to see in Jesus a King who has power and authority. But that’s not all we see of Jesus, what else does the passage show?
Well, remember, what is He riding?…A donkey! Not the kind of grand animal you might expect of a king. But as our opening Scripture from Zechariah reminded us, a King who comes riding on a donkey is a King who is humble, lowly – He comes in humility and to serve.
And Jesus does so, because He cares. We’ve seen that along the way in His journey – boys and girls, who did Jesus care for in the journey? What were those people called?… Samaritans, that’s right! Jesus cares for people who think they are outcasts. Jesus cares for people who think they are forgotten or insignificant. Jesus cares for all the nations of the world.
But we also Jesus cares because of the final verse we read today, for in v41, it said, ‘As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it…’
Now, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem for a particular reason and we’ll get into that more with our Tuesday Evening Sermon. Yet, notice this: Jesus, the Lord, the One who is God in the flesh, weeps. Surrounded by people who are joyful and euphoric, this King, weeps. Imagine what the disciples must have been thinking and feeling, to see their Messiah so upset when this is His greatest moment.
I wonder if this jumps out for me because of an article I read this week about Christianity and coronavirus. What the writer sought to highlight is that rather than coming up with a reason to explain suffering, maybe it is better
to realise that God, that Jesus, laments. He cries; the word in v41 actually means, He wails. Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in His world. But that’s not the picture we get in the Bible. Here is King Jesus, full of power and authority, yet vulnerable, honest and caring enough, that He cries, He laments, for us and with us.
Friends, what do you see of Jesus this Palm Sunday? What do see of the One who journeyed to Jerusalem for love of you and love of me? In these difficult days, as we maybe hang a branch and cross upon our front door, what is the Jesus we share with the wider world? I pray that we and our neighbours will know Jesus as the King of Kings, but also as the King who weeps with us and for us. May it be so. Amen.
Preached on: Tuesday 31st March 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-03-31-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-Tuesday-sermon.
Bible references: Luke 17:5-19
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Tuesday 31st March 2020 Brightons Parish Church
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Two weeks’ ago, we began our journey towards Easter, and we tuned in to that part of Luke’s gospel where Jesus resolutely sets out for Jerusalem. On Sunday we had our final service before we reach Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. We’re hoping to have some online prayers and reflections then for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, led for us by ministers in the Braes area, and more details will be available on Sunday.
In our passage for this evening, we have the third and final story where Samaritans are talked about and it follows on after a lengthy teaching portion, which began back in Luke chapter 15. In the particular section we heard tonight, it began and ended on the topic of faith, and that’s where we’ll start this evening.
As I said on Sunday, having faith just now is hard, we have questions, some people may even scoff at the idea of faith, scoff at it having value and relevance. But I think that hard times do not mean faith cannot exist, or that faith is simply wishful thinking. It is possible to be people of faith even amidst uncertain times.
But as the example of the disciples teaches us, it’s OK to be honest with Jesus about our doubts. In verse 5, we see that the apostles, those close friends of Jesus, said to
Him: ‘Increase our faith!’
Here are the people that Jesus is training up, training up to be involved in His continuing ministry, and despite having seen so many miracles already, they are now struggling, they perceive their faith is maybe not quite big enough for what Jesus asks of them.
And what does Jesus ask of them? We didn’t read those particular verses tonight but if you open your Bible, you can see in verse 1 that Jesus speaks of keeping faith even when things come along that might cause some to stumble, then in verses 2 to 3, Jesus speaks of living in such a manner as not to undermine another’s faith, then finally in verses 3 to 4, Jesus teaches that we are to forgive as often as repentance occurs.
What’s quite striking here, is that the things which provoke the disciples to say, ‘increase our faith’, are not great wonders or undertakings which we might normally associate with needing faith. We may more naturally think of deeds such as praying for healing, or being asked to preach, or give up something that is dear to us.
Yet, what Jesus shares here, are every day, normal activities. Keeping the faith, building others up, and forgiving as often as needed. Doesn’t sound very grand, but aren’t they just as hard? Even now, amidst this pandemic, don’t we face all three to some degree? Keeping the faith when events around us might seem to belittle our beliefs. Building others up when it’s so much easier to jump on the bandwagon of criticism, doubt and moaning. And as we face lockdown, maybe for weeks upon weeks, and we get grumpy with one another because we’re living in such close proximity all the time, or we get bitter because we are alone and we feel forgotten, is not forgiveness needed in such times?
I wonder, as time passes and the lockdown extends, might not we also be inclined, with the disciples, to cry out, ‘Lord increase our faith’ because these otherwise mundane tasks are actually quite demanding.
So, what is Jesus reply? He says, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.’ (Luke 17:6) Clearly, Jesus is using hyperbole because He and the disciples never did such a thing themselves.
Instead, Jesus is trying to highlight that it’s not the amount of faith that is important, but rather simply its presence and what underpins or defines our faith. Sinclair Ferguson, a professor of Systematic Theology, reminds us of this: ‘…our spiritual forefathers used to say that little faith gets the same Saviour as great faith, but it may not get his greatness.’ (Sinclair Ferguson, To Seek and To Save, page 66)
What he’s saying, as with Jesus, is that what is important is not the size of our faith, but rather the substance of our faith. Often, we are tempted to say, “I don’t have enough faith”, or “He or she has more faith than I”. But such statements reveal that we think faith is dependant on us, that what we feel, what we can muster up, is what defines the character and strength of our faith.
But Jesus, as with our spiritual forefathers, is saying something else. They are revealing that faith should have its character and strength defined by God, rather than ourselves. This means, argues Ferguson, that ‘faith should be described as the extent to which our trust in the Lord is in keeping with the greatness of God’s person and the certainty of His promises.’ For example: if I trust, that Jesus is always with me unto the end of the age, as He has promised to be, and I trust this because I know Him to be alive, then this shapes my faith and so defines my living, my choices, and my perspective.
But, if I believe Jesus to be God but quite distant, detached from our experience, then I do have faith, I do have access to Jesus, but I do not appreciate His greatness as fully as I should, and so my faith is diminished and its impact upon my life is equally limited.
Faith, which can tell a mulberry tree to jump into the sea, is a faith which appreciates the greatness of God and lives accordingly. It’s not about the size of our faith, but rather the substance of our faith, and the substance of our faith is matured and maintained by the extent to which we grow in our relationship with God, and we do that by appreciating more of His person and His promises.
So, that’s why we’re encouraging everyone to invest time in their relationship with God during this time of isolation, and we principally grow in our relationship with God as we dig into His Word, because it’s in His Word that we learn of His person and promises. We’ve offered a couple of ideas for this in our Sunday services, with an online reading plan begun yesterday, exploring faith and doubts. It’s not too late to get involved and details are still available on our website and Facebook page.
But, whether you join the reading plans or not, please invest some time in your relationship with God by getting into His Word. Then, the substance of your faith can be matured and maintained in line with the true revelation of God, as you learn of His person and promises.
On Sunday, I also mentioned that this issue of faith among the apostles is followed on after with the story of the ten lepers, where faith in Jesus arises in the most unlikely of places – a Samaritan leper. It was that man who evidenced a faith which had substance – He
recognised in Jesus the God of all creation and that Jesus the God-man was overflowing with loving kindness.
I said on Sunday, that loving kindness was one way of unpacking the words ‘pity’ or ‘mercy’, which is what the ten lepers asked of Jesus in the first place. Jesus did heal them, He granted what they asked for, they experienced His loving kindness. But they do so, after following His command to: ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ (Luke 17:14)
I deliberately skipped over that part of the passage because our service was seeking to be all age. But now, I’d like to give you a little more context for those words. In the Old Testament, the people of God were given instructions regarding various skin conditions, and as I outlined, it was pretty hard back then to tell what people had. So, anyone with one of these particular skin conditions had to leave home, they had to leave the village, because those skin conditions could be spread to other people and the only way to protect the community was for those people to be isolated and removed.
But it was also possible for someone to be welcomed back into the community if their condition changed or went away. At that point, they were to go to their local priest, for only they could legally declare a leper “clean” and healthy, and so able then to return to a normal life.
What’s striking in the story of the ten lepers, is that one returns to Jesus, rather than going on to find the priest. Clearly, we’re right to talk about gratitude and thankfulness because it’s there in the passage, and we’ll come back to that soon. But this idea of Jesus being asked for mercy, and of the one leper coming to Jesus, when all the rest go seeking their priest, does call to mind what the writer to the Hebrews wrote: ‘…[Jesus] shared in [our] humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death…For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.’ (Hebrews 2:14-17)
There’s a lot packed into those few verses, but did you notice that the writer speaks of Jesus as a merciful high priest? In the Old Testament, the high priest had the role of once a year going into the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle, or temple, so as to make atonement for the people. This was part of the wider system which secured their forgiveness of sin such that they were in right standing with God.
The writer of Hebrews makes a lengthy argument that Jesus is the eternal, perfect high priest, bringing in a new and eternal covenant between God and humanity, such that any who will put their faith in Jesus can have their sins forgiven, once for all, remembered no more, and then given unrestricted access to God’s presence because they are made children of God through the Son of God who died in their place, even though He Himself was perfectly sinless.
But to establish that new, eternal covenant, Jesus had to be both fully man and fully God, which is what the writer said in the passage we read. As such, Jesus is then our merciful high priest, He is able to represent both God and mankind, and stand in the gap between us, offering us mercy, loving kindness, through His own sacrifice, and welcoming us into the family of God with right standing before God.
It’s in that place, as the writer outlines, that we are then freed from the fear of death, because eternal life is secured for us by Jesus, our merciful high priest.
Now, coming back to the story of the ten lepers, it’s interesting that the one leper who cannot go to the
Jewish priests, because he’s a Samaritan, comes instead to Jesus. Does that individual realise that he needs no other priest, for Jesus, the God-man, is priest enough?
Friends, we’ve spoken tonight of developing a faith which has substance by learning of the person and promises of God, such that it matures and is maintained. I wonder, if the example of the Samaritan, is not only one of thankfulness, but of recognising something of the person and promises of Jesus: that He is merciful, overflowing with loving kindness, ready to forgive and welcome us into the family of God, if only we will bow the knee and respond in faith to Him. That kind of faith has a measure of substance, and by such faith we can be freed of fear and as we sung on Sunday, having a hope which is steadfast and sure.
I think, as we recognise more of the person and promises of Jesus, that a real depth of thankfulness will overflow within us, and so let’s close with some reflections on that idea from the passage.
It’s clear from what Jesus says that thankfulness is important, especially thankfulness to Jesus Himself, and that’s something we are taught again and again. The Apostle Paul encouraged us, as we saw, to, ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Eph. 5:19-20)
So, are you someone who’s thankful? I really valued those words from Tom Wright, who said: ‘…our God is the giver of all things: every mouthful of food we take, every breath of air we inhale, every note of music we hear, every smile on the face of a friend, a child, a spouse – all that, and a million things more, are good gifts of his generosity. The world didn’t need to be like this. It could have been far more drab.’ (Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone, page 206)
I wonder, have you begun to do anything about that yet? Because being a people of thankfulness, not only makes us less prone to anger or bitterness, it also guards against that common human tendency to think God “owes” us or that God is some kind of “genie in a bottle”.
I think that’s part of the reason behind Jesus’ words in verses 7 to 10: that nothing we do, or experience, can put God in our debt, because He has been generous already, and immeasurably added to His generosity through the death of His perfect Son, our merciful high priest.
Again, as our faith develops substance, rather than size, by appreciating the person and promises of God, then we are freed from unhealthy perceptions of God, we are enabled to see His goodness, His grace, His loving kindness, such that He owes us nothing and we owe Him everything.
So, how are you going to develop a rhythm of thanking God for the gifts of His generosity? When I was in training, I came across a spiritual discipline called Examen, and it’s a form of prayer that helps us realise the many good gifts of God throughout our day. We don’t have time to go into it just now, but I’ll put up some links on our website and Facebook page if you want to dig into that, because it’s a practice that I’ve found helpful, even though I’m only beginning now to cultivate in my own life.
Friends, as we journey with Jesus towards Easter, may we be a people whose faith grows in substance as we see more clearly the person of God, that He is full of loving kindness, that He comes close, and out of His abundant generosity give us good things, including Himself. May we also, appreciate afresh the promises we have from God, particularly the promises secured for us through Jesus, who gave Himself for us upon the Cross, that we might be welcomed into His family and have a hope that is sure and steadfast, even in the most difficult of times. To Him, be all glory and thanks, now and forevermore. Amen.
Preached on: Sunday 29th March 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-03-29-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-morning-message.
Bible references: Luke 17:11-19
Location: Brightons Parish Church
Sunday 29th March 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Two weeks’ ago, we began our journey towards Easter, and we tuned in to that part of Luke’s gospel where Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Today is our final service before Palm Sunday, and our passage this morning, is the third and final story where Samaritans are talked about. Boys and girls, can you remember: did the people in Jesus’ day like Samaritans? Did they? Give me a thumbs up or thumbs down! The right answer is: “no” – they did not like Samaritans! No one in Israel had time for Samaritans; no one would give them attention or help.
So, in our story today Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem when He comes to a village and He is met by a group of men. How many people were in that group – can you remember? Was it 5? Was it 8? Was it 10? It was 10!
Ten men were needing help, so they came looking for Jesus. But they kept a little distance from Jesus because they had leprosy. That word was used for a whole lot of different conditions, because back then it was pretty hard to tell what people had. So, a rule was given that anyone with a particular skin condition had to leave home, they had to leave the village because those skin conditions could be spread to other people and the only way to protect the community was for those people to be isolated, they had to be removed.
I wonder, does that feel familiar at all? Can we relate a little to the idea of being cut off, isolated, alone?
So, here are these lepers, social outcasts; they draw near to Jesus seeking His help, but they have to maintain social distancing, probably more than two metres. They cry out to Jesus, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ ‘Pity’ here is what we might call ‘mercy’, or ‘loving kindness’.
Somehow, these lepers knew that Jesus was someone of loving kindness, and so they seek Him out. Jesus then says a bit of a strange thing and we’ll get into that more with our Tuesday Evening Sermon.
But notice what happens next – they’re healed, they’re cleansed. Now, boys and girls, at this point in the story, how many return to Jesus after being healed by Him? Why don’t you hold up your fingers to tell me how many returned? Just one! Only one returned to Jesus and said thank you, and he was a Samaritan! Those people who everyone else shunned and thought was worthless – that’s who returned and thanked Jesus.
What do you think Jesus felt at that point? When He says:
‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?’ (Luke 17:17) – what was Jesus feeling? Why don’t you tell whoever you’re with what you think Jesus was feeling?
I think maybe Jesus was feeling a bit sad – sad that more people had not figured out who He was, that here was God, right with them, and He cared and listened to isolated and broken people.
So, what are you going to take away from our story today? I’ve got two quick ideas for you!
First of all, it’s really clear that thankfulness is important, thankfulness to Jesus, and that’s something the Bible teaches again and again. The Apostle Paul encouraged us to, ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Eph. 5:19-20)
I wonder, are you someone who’s thankful? We shouldn’t fake thankfulness, so if some of us are grieving, then our thankfulness will be different. We’re also living in difficult times, uncertain times, is it possible to be thankful just now?
Well, we’ve got to remember, that the folks who wrote the Bible were writing in hard times themselves, yet, they were still thankful.
A man called Tom Wright, who is a Christian and writer, said this: ‘…our God is the giver of all things: every mouthful of food we take, every breath of air we inhale, every note of music we hear, every smile on the face of a friend, a child, a spouse – all that, and a million things more, are good gifts of his generosity. The world didn’t need to be like this. It could have been far more drab.’ (Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone, page 206)
In this time of isolation, in this time of food being harder to get, and the normal things being disrupted, maybe it will help us become more thankful for the things we often taken for granted.
So, why not, get into a rhythm of thanking God for the gifts of His generosity, maybe at the start or end of your day. Because the more we are people of thankfulness, the less likely we are to be people of anger or bitterness.
And if you’d like a new song to sing along to, one which is full of thankfulness, then try out Matt Mayer’s song, ‘Alive and Breathing’ – it’s a great song and really lifts my soul!
So, let’s be a people who are thankful. Idea number two – let’s be people of faith yet honest about our doubts. I’ll get into this a bit more in our Tuesday Evening Sermon, but in verse 5, we see that the apostles, the close friends of Jesus, say to Him: ‘Increase our faith!’
Here are the people that Jesus is training up, and they’ve seen lots of miracles already, yet they are struggling, their faith is not quite big enough. Then we read of the ten lepers, where faith in Jesus arises in the most unlikely of places – a Samaritan leper. It is that man who has the greatest faith – He recognises in Jesus that the God of all creation is here, He is near, and is full of loving kindness.
Having faith just now is hard, we have questions, but hard times do not mean faith cannot exist, or that faith is simply wishful thinking. I think it’s possible to be honest with our doubts, and yet still be people of faith.
This week, I read a story out of Italy, of doctors in a hospital facing the most difficult situations, and into their midst came an elderly priest, vulnerable himself…
What that priest did, and how he did it, powerfully touched some of the staff in this hospital. When he arrived, they did not believe in God, but within two weeks faith arose within them because of that priest.
We all have doubts, we all like the disciples, have moments when we cry, ‘Lord, increase our faith!’ So, in this time of isolation, why not invest a little time in your relationship with God? One idea is to join our online Bible reading plan – you can do it on a website or in the Bible app, and details will be on our website and Facebook page. There’s going to be one for adults, and another for older children and younger teens, so consider getting involved, encourage your children to get involved, and let’s be honest about our doubts, yet seek to grow in our relationship with God and so be a people of faith.
Friends, as we journey with Jesus towards Easter, we see that He is the God of loving kindness, who comes close, ready to hear our doubts, increase our faith, and out of His abundant generosity give us good things, including Himself. Jesus is the God who gives Himself to us, He gave us Himself upon the Cross that we might not remain isolated from Him but be welcomed into His family and have a hope that is sure and steadfast, even in the most difficult of times.
To Him, be all glory and thanks, now and forevermore.