No Excuse

Preached on: Sunday 15th August 2021
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 21-08-15-Message-PPT-slides-multi-pages.
Bible references: Luke 14:15-24
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:

Holy Spirit, come among us and soften our hearts to the word of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us and help us to follow after Jesus.
Holy Spirit, come among us with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen

Have you ever been at a meal with friends or family maybe and at some point someone slips in a wee comment that changes the whole atmosphere? Have you ever been there? Maybe it’s a comment about politics like independence or how good a bad our job our Nicola is doing. Maybe it’s in relation to a thorny family issue or a very delicate personal matter. Well, in Jesus day it doesn’t seem like they had the old adage that we have of never talking about politics, sex, or religion at the dinner table, and I guess if you’re meeting with a bunch of religious leaders you’re going to talk about religion it surely is going to be on the agenda, and so our story today finds Jesus at the table with a Pharisee, a prominent Pharisee and he’s surrounded by other guests probably other Pharisees maybe other appropriate people, no riff-raff at this special occasion, and already if you flick back in your Bible and look at the earlier part of chapter 14 Jesus has already done some quite startling and said some quite startling things and you could literally cut the tension in the air, it’s that palpable, and, I guess, that’s what prompts one person at the dinner table to say a wee comment that just jars a little bit. He says ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” We might paraphrase this guest is saying ‘Brothers, brothers, despite our differences wouldn’t it be nice for us all to experience that great feast when the kingdom of God finally comes.’ Oh, awkward comment, because it seems Jesus is ready to kind of pounce on that, He’s ready to point out a number of false assumptions there, and so, he tells another parable

and in this particular parable Jesus is speaking of a certain man who is holding a great feast and he invites guests to be there. Now, in the culture of that day, when you invited guests to dinner you told them the day but you did not tell them the exact time, and this was because the host needed to find out how many guests were going to be there and then he or she would make sure there was enough food prepared. There’s no just walking down to Tesco for your burgers or venison or whatever it happens to be that you’re ordering that day, and so, just before the feast is ready, the host sends his or her servant to each of the guests to say ’That’s the meal’s ready, we’ve had the proper time so now’s the time to come to the banquet room.’ So, in other words, the people who were first invited and go to and they’ve actually said ‘I’m coming.’ they’ve already said they’re going to be there, the host is expecting them to turn up, and yet we find each guest making an excuse and that in itself and that culture would have been highly rude, and it’s made worse by their very poor excuses.

Now, Jesus doesn’t go into every excuse that every guest gives, He simply provides a sample of the kind of excuses.

And so, the first one says ‘I have just bought a field. I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Now, in our culture buying a house takes ages doesn’t it, really annoying, it took a long time in those days as well, and so this man would have had many opportunities to go and examine the land it was about to buy, and what’s more feast happened in the evening and the call to come would have been in the evening as well, and so he doesn’t really have much time to go and visit this field before it gets dark. It’s a ridiculous excuse,

and the second excuse is very similar ‘I’ve just bought five yoke of oxen and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ now he’s very polite but you wouldn’t buy something before you tried it out especially oxen that you want to make sure have got the strength to pull through that field. Clearly this guest just does not want to be there.

Now, the third excuse sounds a little more sincere, a little more important, we might say. ‘U’ve just got married so I can’t come.’ but he’s not very polite isn’t he, and how often how many weddings do you know that happened just a little within days, none, they take weeks and months to organize and it was even worse back in those days because marriage feasts could take up to seven days, a seven-day party. This guest has known about the banquet invitation for a long time and yet they’ve chosen to disregard it, they’ve chosen to snub the host and take for granted this feast that they’ve been invited to. So, his excuse is pretty poor as well,

and friends, there’s much that we could take away from this parable today, but one of the first take home lessons and questions for us is whether we are making excuses towards God’s invitation. Again, and again Jesus issues us with an invitation to follow Him, to come to Him for forgiveness and new life, and by coming to Him and finding in Him what our souls desire, and need to lay down our lives for Him and, just in case you think I’m making this up, here’s some invitations from Jesus:

He says ‘The kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news, come follow me’ that’s issued to every one of us without excuse. He goes on to say ‘I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ there is a hunger and thirst in your soul that you will not find met by any other source. Have you come to Jesus? Have you allowed him to meet that deepest hunger and yearning of your soul and, key to all is, to know His forgiveness.? Jesus says ‘My blood is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’. Could you say that you know your sins are forgiven, that you stand right with God? Can you say that, can you say it confidently? And then finally, Jesus says that if you’ve come to Him, if you know life through Him then actually, it will cost you. He says ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for me will save it.’

Friends, Jesus issues us all with an invitation and it’s not just an invitation that you can tick the box and just leave it aside until the time is convenient. Each day, every morning that you wake up is a new day to choose to follow Jesus, to choose to respond to Jesus. So, have you responded, have you responded and this is for every age from the youngest to the oldest, have you responded? and maybe you think ‘Well Scott, I’m in church, I’m in church, I’m watching at home, maybe that’s enough, that surely shows I’ve responded.’ Well Jesus says this elsewhere ‘Not everyone who says to me lord, lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will come to me and on that day, the judgment day, and say lord, lord did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons in your name, perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly ‘I never knew you.’

Friends, it’s possible to be very busy in church, it’s possible to be very regular in church and religious things, and to be religious on the outside and yet never properly respond to Jesus, and, just like with that uncomfortable guest who makes that awkward comment, it’s not enough to just say something nice, religious sounding, to have some nice pious sentiments, Jesus is not after that. He is after a people who know Him, who follow Him, and so they are known to Him too. Does that describe you, friends? Does that describe you? Are we people who make excuses? Do we make excuses? Do we keep Jesus at arm’s length?

In the parable each of the three excuses is a prioritization of something else above Jesus and the first two it’s simple materialism and we’re like ‘Well, I’m not like that. I’m not that bad.’ The third one is a bit quirky because it’s a marriage, it’s really important, God is really for marriage and yet, as we heard last week, to prioritize anything above Jesus, to delay responding to Jesus in preference for something else, well, that is the sin of idolatry, it’s making God second, and it’s turning something good into something bad. Are we people, are we a congregation, are we individuals who make excuses towards Jesus or do we respond to Him? Do we know Jesus and does He know us?

Because, if we’re pushing Jesus aside, if we’re prioritizing other things above Jesus, and snubbing His invitation then the parable does carry a warning ‘I tell you not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ The invitation isn’t open-ended, it’s not open-ended, there is a time to respond.

Are you responding to Jesus and that might look like something different from your life, to my life, or to the person you’re sitting next to.

Maybe you’ve never responded to Jesus and said ‘Jesus I want you as my lord and savior’ and maybe today is the day for that. Or maybe Jesus is calling you to a deeper level of faith, maybe he’s calling you to make a particular choice, maybe he’s calling you to volunteer and serve in a particular way, something way outside your comfort zone or to make Him the priority of your life above everything else, and maybe today is a day to do that and so before we go on to one final point in our sermon today I want to take a moment to pause and to give us an opportunity to respond now, before we leave those doors and forget what God has said in this moment. So, let us take a moment to pray. Let us pray.

So, what is God putting upon your heart? Where are you needing to respond? What’s His invitation to you today, or in recent days and weeks?

And if you’re needing to come to Jesus for the first time or you want to recommit yourself to Jesus and ask him to be your lord and savior then in the quiet of your heart pray this prayer with me

Lord Jesus I’m sorry for the things I’ve done wrong

please forgive me as i name them in the stillness as i name my sins

I turn lord from everything that i know is wrong

I thank you, you died on the cross for me so that i could be forgiven and brought home that I could be a daughter or son of the living God

come into my life by your spirit fill me now that i might choose you each and every day

thank you, Lord Jesus

And if Jesus is already your Lord where do you need to follow Him? Where is he calling you to step out or prioritize Him? Do you need to share your faith with someone? Do you need to volunteer in a certain way? Do you need to turn from a particular area of sin?

Let me pray for you.

Lord, whether to acquire it ever it may be you’re saying to us individually and collectively we ask for your grace your grace that gives power to equip us to help us walk your way to following your footsteps to grow in holiness to give ourselves over to you in increasing measure pour out your grace fell as a fresh lord that we may have your power and love and conviction and all that we need that we might glorify you in our day and in our lives for we ask it in Jesus name amen

so one final point before we we finish up for this morning and Jesus he was speaking originally to the pharisees and through the pharisees not only challenging them but challenging the wider nation because despite all the demonstrations of power that we’ve seen time and time again over the summer as we’ve looked at different passages these leaders and these the wider nation are not responding to Jesus in the way they should they fail to see what God was doing in their day and it’s tragic really because this is the moment they have been waiting for 400 years since the last prophet and here comes Jesus and they don’t see him for who he is here is the man the pharisees are purifying themselves for they were doing so because they yearned for God’s kingdom to come they were sacrificing so much to usher in the arrival of the messiah all the quicker and yet they don’t see what is right in front of them they don’t see it in the parable those first guests that the host goes back to they are actually the Jewish nation, the original invitees in the parable and incar they caught they’re contrasted with who comes later in the parable we talk about the poor and the such like the blind the lame the crippled and so in contrast to the poor there is the rich the original invitees and Jesus is portraying him in monetary terms but he’s actually speaking in spiritual terms because as Paul later reminds us he says this about Israel my people the people of Israel theirs is the adoption to sonship theirs the divine glory the covenants the receiving of the law the temple worship and the promises theirs of the patriarchs and from them is traced the human ancestry of the messiah who is God over all this is the Israelites spiritual heritage they’re spiritually rich they’re spiritually blessed and yet they don’t respond to the invitation of Jesus they don’t see in Jesus their messiah

and what does God do in the parable he goes to others he goes around those original invitees he goes around his people and invites the nations invites those who were less spiritually rich they did not have this heritage though some thankfully in Israel did turn to Jesus and part of the issue that holds them back is they expect God to behave in a certain way they had certain expectations because God had made rules and they interpreted those rules in a certain way and that as such the messiah had to behave in a certain way and Jesus doesn’t conform with their expectations if you go back in earlier and look Jesus heals on the sabbath and that was sinful in their eyes the messiah wouldn’t heal on the sabbath the messiah obeys the laws of God but it was the laws of God as interpreted by them and so they missed out on who was in front of them and what God was doing in their day and it makes me wonder brothers and sisters do i do we make ourselves blind to the activity of God do we only see God’s hand at work and as long as it happens within our expectations as long as God conforms to our self-determined limits

do we only honor God if we follow our rules in the box we’ve put God in I’ve been talking about that box for two and a half years

so for example this touches on all areas of church life and how the minister should dress if i was to rock up in a pair of white trainers one day would that cause a stir does that is that honoring to God or not in your frame of reference might do that one day just to see if it pushes your buttons and or in worship what we do here on a Sunday morning what is and isn’t honoring to God in your view how much of that actually conforms to the scriptures and how elders should perform their duties

in what we prioritize and spend our money on in the duties the minister should perform and then the number of pastoral visits he should do in x, y, z either this could go on

what happens if someone was to come up to me during worship and say i feel God’s given me a prophetic word to share and my preference would be i would share that if they told me and what happens if i said if someone feels there may be God saying this and i was to share that word could we handle that or would or can we only worship God within the boundaries we have set because of our experience or dare i say our tradition and speaking of traditions is it possible that the Church of Scotland is really the worst at this in some ways now I’ve grown up through the Church of Scotland and I’m committed to the Church of Scotland in many ways so I’m not just targeting us but we are quite bad at this we’ve got our way our presbyterian way we’ve exported it across the world and maybe it blinds us to what God might want to do in our day because we’ve got this rich spiritual heritage and it is a rich spiritual heritage is it in many ways a good spiritual heritage but does it blind us to what God might do does it inhibit does it undermine us even because i was listening to a podcast just this past week and the individual being interviewed said this sometimes a tradition will not pass on the flame it will hand you the ashes sometimes a tradition will not pass on the flame it will hand you the ashes

and it it wasn’t in reference to the church of scotland so this could be anywhere anyway any organization but we’re thinking about ourselves just now because i’ve said it before and i’ll keep saying it we’re a declining denomination we’re a declining church congregation despite recent members joining us and yet because of our inherited size it’s great the brightest is so big and because of our successes we’ve got youth organizations and we’ve got sunday school and we’re looking to have a youth worker because of these successes it can blind us to the reality that unless things change unless we discern what Jesus is doing and where he is leading us in our day then in a very short period of time we might have to make some very difficult choices just look at the volunteer needs that we emailed out this week nearly every section of sunday school needs help more than half of our sections across girls brigade and boys brigade need help pre-fives needs help i’ve just named every area of ministry that we do with children and young people and if we don’t invest in that we don’t have a church

now we could do something about that we could step out our comfort zone we could volunteer no matter our age or stage

but there’s a question in my mind is does something on our tradition hold us back our way of doing church because as i say we are declining nationally and still locally and we see churches in the braze facing the prospect of having to close

is it possible that our tradition is not passing on the flame of faith of passionate workers worshipers of Jesus who live in their community and speak of their faith in such ways that it captivates their neighbors and they want to follow Jesus or are we simply just passing on some ashes to the next generation

and that’s hard to hear

but you know church i believe i really do believe God is on the move i believe he wants to be on the move i believe he’s doing things in the last two and a half years we’ve changes have begun but they’ve been uncomfortable changes at times we’ve moved from from um elders districts to pass-through groupings and you might think that that’s just a name change but actually there’s much more that it could lead to and we tried to experiment a bit with that over the summer but you know what for whatever reason only a fraction of our congregation said they were up for that and there might be very good reasons we might not want to give our contact details to people we don’t know i understand that

but these are our church family

and yet we weren’t up for it and how many things in the last two and a half years could you say you’ve implemented from a sermon because i don’t just come up with hopefully some nonsense i try to pass on some things i think will help you that will equip us so like after last week’s sermon did you go and buy a book did you do anything with that sermon because that’s a really simple thing i’m not asking you to go and evangelize your neighbor buy a book read a story get inspired or four weeks ago just before my summer break i gave you two ideas for prayer one who are the two people you’re praying for to come to faith locally have you got your two people have you done anything with that because see if we don’t pray for people we’ll never care enough for people to invite them to church or the other prayer idea was um are you praying before you come to church because you’re coming with expectation did you pray this morning even if you’re at home by the way did you pray

or do you just take it as oh there goes scott again young annoying minister who keeps challenges and i’m getting really tired of the challenge does it go in one near and out the other do we forget it by the time we get to the church door because i think God tries to inspire me to talk on a sunday i’m hopefully not just waffling some war hot air so are we doing anything about it are we just ticking the box of the invitation

God’s i believe God friends i believe God is inviting us into something more to have faith we could never imagine and he’s trying to get our attention he’s trying to get us to change to take us deeper in faith and to fuller walk with him not only for our benefit yes he wants to to quench the thirst of your soul as Jesus said but through you through us he has got much in store for our parish and for the braze area and he wants them to come into the kingdom and know his loving grace he’s inviting us to partner with him and if we will not listen if we will not respond to that invitation he might do what he did in the parable and what he did in the life of Jesus in the church he might go round us he might go around us because his invitation must go out the kingdom seats must be filled

and so the choice is ours will we respond will we respond to what God is doing in our day and in our midst

i pray it may be so amen

Called and Empowered

Preached on: Sunday 8th August 2021
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 here21-08-08 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Luke 8:22-25
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:

Holy Spirit come among us and soften our hearts to the word of God Holy Spirit come among us and help us to follow after Jesus Holy Spirit come among us with power and deep conviction for we ask it in Jesus name amen in the new testament we have four books on the life of Jesus Matthew mark Luke and John and they wrote it for a purpose I wonder what you would say their purpose was why did these authors write these books so if you feel able and you’re close enough to someone maybe turn to a neighbor and share with them just for 30 seconds the first thought comes to mind why did they write these books and if you’re at home and then do post something in the live chat so 30 seconds why did these authors write these books over to you

so

well I’m sure there are probably a many answers to that and we’ll see later on uh what comes up in the live chat about what people at home maybe thought if they feel able to share that but if I was to ask our wider community the parish I wonder what they might see I i wonder if they would describe these books as simply a means of passing on religious morals and stories I wonder if they would describe it as a kind of propaganda even I wonder even if I asked them do you think there’s any relevance in these books what they might say I suspect that many people would say no I suspect many people might say well there might be if you’re religious but there might even be some who say well this book is dangerous it’s oppressive even because over my summer break um I read this book it’s called a war of loves and it’s written by a celibate gay Christian and it partly describes his journey from hostile atheist to a passionate follower of Jesus and at one time he would have said the bible was dangerous and oppressive and he wanted nothing at all to do with Christianity but then he came face to face with Jesus and that changed everything friends we might summarize that the reasons for these books in the new testament as to invite encourage and enable people of all ages to follow Jesus and that is our purpose also as a church that the authors they wanted people to know about Jesus and by hearing about Jesus choose to follow Jesus and by choosing to follow Jesus recognizing then that needs some help to know how to follow Jesus and so they include material for that too they were willing to do this they were willing to prioritize this and to put their lives on the line because something changed their perspective just like that young author I read about the last two weeks they all met Jesus and by meeting him and learning to follow him their outlook on life changed forever our passage today is one of those moments one of those moments when the disciples themselves have their perspective on Jesus challenged and stretched if you look back in in the book of Luke chapter 5 that’s when Jesus called his disciples and since that point he’s mostly taught he’s done a couple of miracles and so probably in many people’s minds they’re beginning to think oh who is this guy who is this guy maybe he’s a prophet you know like prophets they challenge people and so Jesus is certainly causing a bit of a ruckus and challenging the religious leaders but prophets did miracles as well so maybe Jesus is just another prophet sure a great prophet but just another prophet but then one day Jesus tells his disciples they’re going to the other side of the lake and among these disciples are some experienced fishermen so the journey’s not unfamiliar and they know how to handle a boat and so off they go not giving it a second thought and at some stage in the sale things are so calm that Jesus he falls asleep in in the book and the disciples continue on with the task of getting them to the other side maybe they’re they’re talking maybe they’re thinking about all they’ve seen and heard and about this individual who now rests in their midst and then at some stage a squall a windstorm comes upon them and that wasn’t unusual in that particular area because the surrounding topography created those kind of events but it’s a particularly bad one these experienced fishermen are scared for their lives and so they cry out to Jesus master master we’re going to drown

upon waking and assessing the situation Jesus calls out to the wind and to the waves he speaks to them and the storm suddenly dies down and all becomes calm the disciples are left feeling both fear and amazement and they say to one another who is this he commands even the winds and the water and they obey him is he just a teacher is he a prophet is he maybe something more because they would have known from the old testament that God is described this way you rule over the surging sea when its waves mount up you steal them who is this who is this amongst the disciples what appears to be God God in human form because he has authority and power and if you look on in that same chapter the next three stories reinforce this Jesus has power and authority over nature over the spiritual forces of darkness over illness and even over death and in time the disciples would journey with Jesus and see him die upon the cross be buried but then raised to life again and though this would convince them that he is the son of God in human form and they would be willing to share this at risk to their life even imprisonment and death because they were fully persuaded that Jesus is God he is God in human form with all power and authority and the apostle Paul would one day write about this to the church in Colossae saying the son is the image of the invisible God in him all things were created he’s before all things and in him all things hold together he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him friends who is Jesus to you who is Jesus to you and might I ask what or who has supremacy in your life the disciples in our story were asked by Jesus where is your faith where is your faith basically in whom or in what is your faith we’ve all placed it somewhere our new members today they affirm that their faith is in Jesus that he alone is God he has supremacy in their life they take off the crown and give it to Jesus he’s their lord he’s their king he’s the one to whom they give control of their lives because he has all power and authority he’s more than a mere prophet or teacher so who is Jesus to you and what has supremacy in your life in our local community there were many answers to both of those questions some people might say that it’s work or success or popularity that has supremacy that’s the aim of life that’s what you have to aim for some people will prioritize family should have supremacy in your life for some individuals it will be circumstances or a particular experience which will define their identity a loss a an illness a really negative experience that’s what defines their life that’s what defines their values that defines their future and still others that I’ve met within our community they will turn and say supremacy is found in darker spiritual forces like tarot card reading or maybe a group that they belong to that group is the place that gives them identity and that group has the supremacy that group tells them what they can and can’t do so what are who is Jesus to you and what or who has supremacy in your life because the claim of the Christian faith is that Jesus is God he alone is God and as such he should have first place in our lives and to have anything else above Jesus is to commit the sin of idolatry and you know we can turn even good things into idols because as John Calvin reminds us the human heart is a perpetual idol factory we just turn out idol after idol even the good things and we put other things before Jesus so friends who is Jesus to you and will you allow him to have supremacy in your life now don’t think this is just for folks who are new to church or folks who don’t come to church because this was an important lesson for the disciples to learn to they needed to learn this to do what Jesus asked them to do next because if you go on in the book of Luke we read this when Jesus had called the twelve together he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill Jesus who is God in the flesh who has all authority and power he delegates some of that power and authority to his disciples now we might say well that was just a 12. well go on to the next chapter what do we see the lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go the 72 returned with joy and said lord even the demons submit to us in your name so he gives power and authority to the 12 and to the 72 and can you imagine being one of those disciples can you imagine it one of the fun things to do with scripture is to imagine yourself there can you imagine it Jesus comes along and says hey could you go and heal someone hey could you go and cast out that demon what would be your reaction would you be all cool calm and collected I think inside I’d be slightly freaking out I’d be like really me and when you left and you came across that first unwell or demon-possessed person how ready and willing would you be to do what Jesus has done to give it a show like imagine that standing in front of that person and knowing that Jesus has sent you to do what he’s been doing imagine that would you feel up for it if you do it right now

suspect many of us wouldn’t

and to for those disciples to be willing to follow through on that call from Jesus they needed to know that Jesus was more than a mere man and they needed to be committed to hem more than to their own comfort because they were going to have to get out their comfort zone and to more than what seemed possible because to the rational mind this is just crazy now why am I bringing this up well often I think our perception of what it means to follow Jesus is quite limited we limit it to verses or ideas that we are comfortable with and we push aside a greater vision of Jesus and a greater vision of what it means to follow Jesus one author put it this way it’s a wee bit jargony but it’s worth reading it is a tragedy that the Christian religion is in many minds identified merely with pious ethical behavior turning up to church saying prayers and vague theistic beliefs you know some weird ideas about God suffused with aesthetic emotionalism so it makes you feel better and a male glow of humanitarian benevolence so you end up doing some good stuff for your neighbor this is not the faith which first awakened the world like a thousand trumpets and made people feel it blessed to be alive in such a dawn at one time people knew what Christianity really was the entrance is the history of a force of immeasurable range

what does it mean to follow Jesus to you is it about morals is it about knowing some good stories and turning up to church is it about being a good neighbor is it about making you feel better what does it mean to follow Jesus because those things aren’t necessarily bad they’re just not the whole picture because Jesus later on by the same author says you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth the church apparently has power if you follow Jesus you have a power within you to be his witness now why is that important why am I laboring this well if we reduce Christianity to morals and old stories and religious duty and a warm fuzzy blanket then we rob Jesus of glory and we rob ourselves and our children of what we need to follow Jesus because today we heard one of our promises that many of us have made one of our membership promises and it says this do you promise depending on the grace of God to profess publicly your loyalty to Jesus christ to serve him in your daily work and to walk in his ways all the days of your life and in our last teaching series if you remember on grace we learned that grace is intrinsically tied to God’s power and here in this context of this promise is the power to equip us in the power to sustain us and without a greater vision of Jesus and without a greater vision of what it means to follow Jesus we will not publicly profess our loyalty to Jesus we will shy away from that oh I’m not a Christian I don’t go to church and we will never invite anyone else to know Jesus because we will shy away from it because we will not rely on God’s power and our children and our children’s children will not walk in his ways all the days of their lives if again we and they don’t learn to rely on the one whose power can steal the storms and his power now resides in you and me we need to recover a Christianity that is more than turning up to church being nice because if that’s all that is I’m walking out the door and not coming back because I cannot be bothered with that and you know too many of us are not like this with our faith we are timid and many of our young people are timid because we’re not passing on to them a faith that makes them anything otherwise we’re timid in our faith and it’s got nothing to do with being an introvert or an extrovert so please don’t give me that excuse it has more to do with our conviction of who Jesus is and who we are as his disciples do we really under believe he’s God with all power and authority do we really believe that we are called and empowered to be witnesses and make known the kingdom of God

will we keep our faith in Jesus and hold on to his promises and allow him to have supremacy in our lives even over our comfort or what seems possible or will we become fearful the disciples became fearful in this story because they did not hold on to the promises God made God in Jesus he said they were going to the other side it wasn’t a wish this was going to happen this was a promise but when surrounded by that storm they forgot what he said and they were gripped by fear rather than by faith are we a church who are gripped by fear or by faith are we laying hold of God’s word even the uncomfortable bits or do we minimize Jesus and what it means to follow him to what is familiar and comfortable and by doing that are we robbing Jesus of glory and are we robbing ourselves and our children of what we need to follow Jesus you know over the years i’ve learned different ways to help me have a broader vision of Jesus and nurture ways that help me understand more of Jesus and what it means to follow him and there are there are various things but you’ll not be surprised by now that I’m going to recommend you some books are my thing I like reading stories and usually once a year I try and read a book that is more about someone else’s story and so the recent book was a war of loves but I could recommend you book after book here or something chasing the dragon red moon rising God smuggling a war of loves as I’ve mentioned surprised by the power of the spirit or the hiding place these are real people’s stories across the decades across situations demographics countries but they all tell a real life story of how someone met with Jesus and by meeting with Jesus their vision of Jesus was enlarged and they were helped to hold on to the promises that are there in scripture friends maybe your one take away from today is to go get one of these books and have a read and then come back to me with your questions because I’m sure there’ll be some there’s more to Jesus there is more to following Jesus than what any of us know and if our perspective of Jesus is to grow if our self-understanding of what it means to follow Jesus is to mature if we are to have boldness to live for Jesus and our readiness to let him have the supremacy in our lives then we need to get to know Jesus better and we need to get to know his promises and his word better and hold on in faith to him and to those promises. I pray

Fruitfulness

Preached on: Sunday 18th July 2021
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 21-07-18 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Luke 8:1-15
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word.

Holy Spirit, come among us and soften our hearts to the word of God.
Come Holy Spirit, help us to follow after Jesus and hear His voice.
Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen

Two of the places where Gill and I like to holiday the most are Northern Ireland and up north, particularly west of inverness, but to get to either of those locations requires quite a long drive and for many years I’ve really wanted to have a car that had cruise control, because the idea of not having to worry about speed cameras, not having to worry about accelerator, just being able to sit back and enjoy the drive, oh, that just sounds really good to me, not being able to have to worry about those things, but, as yet, no cruise control in a car, maybe in a couple of years whenever the car eventually dies and that’ll be the time for that feature, and similarly I wonder if there are times in our faith journey where we wish we could have cruise control, where our following after Jesus would just be that little bit simpler if you could switch on the cruise control so it was a little bit smoother, easier, just enjoyable. How good would that be? No? Am I the only one that might like that from time to time?

And our passage today reminds us that we can’t just put on the cruise control, that our fruitful life does not happen that way.

At this point in Luke’s gospel, and we’re beginning to see that Jesus is becoming very popular, and big crowds are gathering around Him but Jesus discerns this is the time for a bit of a challenge, now, because He’s looking for more than superficial faith, He’s looking for followers who are open and receptive to His teaching about the kingdom of God because, let’s remember. at the time Jesus came the Jews were looking and hoping for a Messiah to come, a political and military Messiah who would come and be king and get rid of the Romans, but Jesus, if you go back and look at chapter four, makes it very clear that now is not the time of God’s vengeance, it is not the time. He is Messiah but He is not the Messiah they expect, and so this is part of the reason why He teaches in parables.

He said ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you but to others I speak in parables so that those seeing they may not see, though hearing they may not understand’ and when Jesus speaks here of the secrets of the kingdom He’s referring to what was there in the Old Testament but everybody was just overlooking it because they were expecting that political and military Messiah and yet, now, Jesus is revealing the truth of it, the truth that was there still in the Old Testament that the Messiah would come to serve and to die, and that the invitation to be part of His kingdom would be for everyone, not just the select few in the Jewish nation, but that didn’t fit with the expectations of the people of his day, and they refused, especially the religious leaders, but others besides refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah even though His miracles and His teachings should have made it really quite clear, and so He teaches in parables.

He teaches in parables for two reasons: to show their hardness of heart, but also to keep their idea of Him being this political and military Messiah just on down low, rather than it gaining traction, and we saw that in our last series on grace, but it’s only for a time, it was only for a time. Jesus doesn’t want to cloud His identity forever otherwise He wouldn’t give the disciples the explanation of the parable and we wouldn’t be teaching on upon it this morning, and so Jesus does want people to understand who He is, does want us to teach, and does want us to understand the parable, so that even today, just as in His day, there will be followers who are open and receptive to His teaching about the kingdom, rather than just being superficial followers, and so He gives us the parable of the soils, and it probably should be called the parable of the soils because the focus is not on the sower and it’s not on the seed, it’s on the soils and on how receptive the soils are to the seed sown by the sower and there are four types of soil.

There’s the footpath soil which is what my daughter called it this morning in the early morning service and she was all shy and bashful about it. I was like “Hope, have you been reading my notes?” she hadn’t, she’s only four so that couldn’t happen. Footpath soil and rocky soil and thorny soil and good soil, and Jesus gives an explanation for each of those soil types.

The first one, He says the seed is the word of God and those along the path are the ones who hear and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Now, because of our propensity nowadays for the supernatural and for superstars and for superheroes like in Marvel, we get kind of attracted to one word the ‘devil’. Don’t we? And because we’d rather blame others than looking at ourselves again we get attracted to this word and this is what we want to focus on in this verse maybe, but the focus is not actually on his part in this because he couldn’t do anything if the soil first wasn’t hard, and so the focus is on the soil, that the soil is hard and it cannot receive the seed and become embedded in the soil, and so grow, and in Jesus day, that was most often seen in the religious leaders but many others besides, those who would not receive Jesus, would not receive His teaching, would not receive Him and believe His message, and I wonder, friends, are any of us here or at home, does this describe us? Do we refuse to believe the teaching about Jesus and we keep Him at arm’s length with a hard heart?

Then there’s a second type, those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it but they have no root, they believe for a while but in the time of testing they fall away. Here Jesus describes a superficial heart a superficial response to the word and yes, they start with great enthusiasm and passion but there’s no depth and because there’s no depth, they’re not able to sustain their faith particularly when things get hard, and following Jesus gets hard, and I wonder if that describes any of us, friends? Did you maybe pray a prayer, could have been in your teens, could have been much later, maybe one of the prayers that I’ve led us in but it’s not really led to very much. Now, I am not going to stop giving people an opportunity to pray a prayer, I think that’s a really important first step, but the proof of faith is fruitfulness, it’s a life lived in faith and so it’s not enough just to say a prayer, it’s not enough just to become a member of a church. So, is this you? Is this your faith, your heart? Is it superficial?

Soil three describes those that fell among thorns which stands for those who hear but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries riches and pleasures and they do not mature, and what Jesus is describing here is a divided heart, a divided heart and again there’s initial positive response to the teaching of Jesus and maybe it lasts a bit longer than the superficial heart but eventually the worries of life, the pleasures and riches, they grew up like weeds and they stifle it and they overwhelm faith and eventually again faith withers. Is that you friends? Is that you? Is faith withering?

Or have we the potential of the fourth soil which was described this way “the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart who hear the words, retain it and by persevering, produce a crop” Do you have the potential of the fourth soil? Do you have the potential of the fourth soil? Because it’s only seen over time, fruitfulness is never achieved overnight and so the focus is on our response over a lifetime maybe most properly seen at the end of life when you look back over all your days of faith is that you friends are you continuing in faith with Jesus holding on even amidst the difficulties and as you look back over your life do you see signs of fruitfulness.

So, which type of heart or soil are you?

Are you a hard heart, a superficial heart, a crowded heart or a heart that has a potential for fruitfulness? Are you on your way to bearing a great harvest and you know maybe as we think about that we might begin to worry, we might think ‘I feel like my faith is drying up’ or ‘I feel like my faith is being crowded out’ maybe especially by worries or ‘I’m struggling to persevere to the end’ or you maybe look back and you’re thinking ‘Where is the fruitfulness in my life?’ Where is the fruitfulness? But, you know, Jesus doesn’t share this parable to condemn you and he doesn’t share it to say that what you are is always what you must be, because he shares it to issue an invitation. He wants you to recognize your heart but by recognizing that He wants to give you an invitation to have some heart surgery, because Jesus is in the business of healing and changing hearts.

Let’s remember what he said earlier in the gospel of Luke ‘It’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’

Friends, we’re all sick with sin, every one of us, we always have been and, until we go to glory, we always will be. Sin will always be an influence in our lives but Jesus is in the business of changing hearts bit by bit, year upon year, so that we can be fruitful, to bear fruit to the glory of His name.

So, what type of heart are you friends? What type of heart are you and are you on your way to being a fruitful heart? because Jesus invites you to have Him as part of your life and change your heart that we might be fruitful and I reckon many of us yearn for that. We might be withering in our faith, we might be struggling in our faith, we might feel like our faith is being overcrowded, or we might just want to be fruitful so that Jesus is glorified.

I think in part of us there’s that yearning and so in the rest of the time remaining to us I want to look at two things.

Firstly, what is fruitfulness? what are we talking about here? and the second is well How do you become more fruitful? What is fruitfulness and how to become fruitful?

Fruitfulness is described in the New Testament in these ways it’s described as good deeds, generosity, a Godly character, the fruit of the spirit. It’s knowledge and praise of God and sharing our faith. Now, I know there’s a danger in putting up a list like this because we’ll instantaneously start going ‘Okay, good deeds, tick; generosity, tick; I’m not very loving but I’m not bad on the kindness so, tick; and we start letting ourselves off on some of the things that are up here, and I’d want to challenge that because Jesus in the parable said the good soil are those that hear retain and persevere in what they’ve heard and that should prompt us to be people be Christians who want to display fruitfulness in all the areas not instantaneously because, as I said, it’s over a lifetime, but we should want to grow in all these areas even the things we’d prefer to avoid, because they make us uncomfortable. So, please don’t start just ticking off the list.

Okay, and in case it sounds too difficult and too costly, I think Luke gives us the first three verses to say kind of set the context and call us out on this because we read there ‘The twelve were with him and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases Mary, Joanna, Susannah and many others, these women were helping to support them out of their own means’ and there are various reasons for Jesus, for Luke including this.

First of all, clearly he wants us to see that the invitation to follow Jesus is there for everyone man and woman, that there’s no favorites, there’s no hierarchy, everyone is equal under God and invited to follow Jesus, and that would have been controversial in Jesus day because only men could follow Rabbis and Jesus is saying No, No, No, the kingdom is open for all because He values and loves all equally but secondly, and more to the fore of probably the reasons here are that these women have benefited from the teaching and ministry of Jesus, they’re all healed either spiritually or physically and so out of that they do the unthinkable, they sacrificially follow Jesus, they give up well-defined social circles and expectations and duties and the box that people have them in to follow Jesus, and they do so sacrificially, giving of themselves, their time, and their resources. These women are held up here as more of an example to emulate than the disciples are! So far the guys have not hit the standard but the women have and we’ve to emulate their example and so that list that was like ‘Oh this is way too daunting!’ these women are held up as to call us out, to say ‘here are people who gave up expectations, who gave up commitments and comforts so as to follow Jesus in a sacrificial way. They did it, you can do it if you are but willing.’ because fruitfulness will not come by putting on the cruise control, it will not come by doing what we’ve always done or what is comfortable. Fruitfulness does not just happen.
So how can we become more fruitful? What does it look like to hear and retain and persevere with God’s word? Well, there are literally books written on the subject and you’ll be glad to hear I’m not going to regurgitate a book this morning and so, what I’m going to share with you is just some broad principles and ideas and a few ideas that I’ve seen people in this congregation put into practice, and each idea is linked into the soil type.

So, soil one was the hard soil, the not receptive soil and it really speaks about openness. How can we be a people who are more open to the word of God? and you might think ‘Well, I’ve ticked this box. I’m in church or I’m tuning-in at home.’ Well sorry, if the very word of God made flesh was there amongst people’s lives and they were rejecting Him, and not open to Him, then don’t think just turning up to church means that you’re open to the word of God. Let’s not just tick the box rather.

Let me ask you ‘What is your rhythm at home of reading the bible? Do you have one?’ because that’s where it really hits the rubber to keep using the car analogy or when we come to church do we come expectant to hear from God and two people come to mind and I won’t name them but what they show me is great expectancy in how they come and even before they come and so one person I can think of they come with a notepad ready to take some notes down during the sermon because I waffle an awful lot and there’s a lot to take in and maybe you’ll just get lost in all the words and so coming ready to capture that thought to think ‘Oh, that speaks to me.’ take it down, take a note because by the time you leave that door you might have forgotten it. Are you coming open and expecting? and another person I can think of she sends me a written prayer every Sunday morning, every Sunday morning and has done it throughout lockdown every week carrying on a ministry she did even before lockdown and every week in that prayer in some way or another is God speak to us, minister to us, meet with us, whether we’re online or here in person.

Do we have that level of expectancy or do we just rock up to church because it’s the done-thing, or do we come expecting, expectant to hear from God? Do you pray on your way down? Do you pray as you’re getting ready ‘God I want to hear from You, I want to meet with You?’ I’d love to have a church and a family that and in my own life have that level of expectancy, that level of openness to the word of God. Could we nurture that church? Could we nurture a rhythm and an expectancy or soil two, the soil that struggled to provide for the wheat because it wasn’t deep enough and so there was lack of fruitfulness? How can we nurture depth?

Well, you could get involved in a Fellowship Group where you go and you study the scriptures together and you get deep down into them, and you share also your life in a fellowship group so you can pray for one another. That’s a way to nurture depth.

Or maybe later in the week don’t go on yet maybe later in the week you can look back over your sermon notes that you took when you came along, or go back and listen to the sermon again because it’s on our website, every sermon from the last two and a half years is on the website – go and have a look.

Or do you talk to God about what you take home from a Sunday or what you’re reading during the week, because when you talk to God you’re not just ticking the ‘read the bible box’, you’re taking it deeper, you’re reflecting and you’re praying and these ways get the word of God deep in our hearts by reflecting on it and by praying it over. It’ll help us retain the word of God.

Or the third soil type, clearly it was the crowded soil, so how do we create space? How we create space and it’s intentionality and priority and for some of us that will mean we need to reorder our lives. Most of us prioritize life either on habits we’ve learned over the years or the most pressing issues facing us just now and so quite often it will be family, work, friends, the house chores, maybe some volunteering but nowhere in the top five or ten things does time with God feature, but it should. Where do we bring it in? because if often ends up at the bottom of the list and ‘Well, oh God, there’s another day I was too busy, I couldn’t fit it in. There’s another week, there’s another month, there’s another year, and so no wonder we lack fruitfulness, no wonder we lack fruitfulness, and at every stage of life I’m sure that has different state pressures whether you’re in retirement, whether you’ve got a family, whether you’re busy with a career, whatever it may be, they’ll be the different pressures. So, what does it look like for you to prioritize Jesus in your life? Maybe we need to say no to more things, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not going to taxi you or the kids or the grandkids as much this week – easy for me to say with a four-year-old – do we push back against unrealistic work expectations. Do I in church, do we allow some things to stop in church because we’re too busy. How can we be a people who create space through intentionality and priority, space for God to speak?

But for some of us and for some areas of fruitfulness the issue is not stopping it is actually starting and earlier on I gave that list of fruitfulness and I just want to pick three from that list of good deeds, so generosity and sharing our faith.

So, good deeds, we looked in our last series that one of the meanings of grace is refers to spiritual gifts and so we all have spiritual gifts, we all have something given for the mission of the church. So are you serving? Now you may be at a stage of life where being, doing something physical is just not your thing, but are you supporting others, are you praying for others, otherwise others of us are able still to serve very actively, and so my question would be ‘Where is at least one area of church life where you give yourself? because all of us should have at least one area and sadly because not enough of us contribute.

Or we maybe need to stop more things. There are some people who have so many things that they’re doing, so on good deeds. Where are you serving the mission of this church, which is to make Jesus known and help us follow him?

Or generosity, are you giving to this church, to the work we do and if not, because it’s very easy to forget to maybe bring something or do it do it electronically, have you set up a standing order? Do you maybe need to increase your standing order? and as far as sharing our faith goes what are you doing about these words of Jesus where he says ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’

Are we retaining this like he says the good soil does, or are we turning away from it and just ignoring this, because it’s too hard and it’s uncomfortable? Now, I don’t expect you to go out and talk to the first person you meet on the street, I don’t expect that but, how about all of us committing to pray for two local people to come to faith, two local people so that then they become part of this church family. You can pray for more besides and I do as well but I have no expectation of them ever coming here because they’re too far away. Who are the two local people you’re praying for? because if you pray for them eventually, you’re more likely to invite them to come to church or you invite them to come to something or you’re likely to share your faith with them or you’re going to know them so well that when times are hard you can share something of your faith. So, who are the two people you’re going to pray for that are local, that you would love to see part of this church family? because we will not be fruitful if we just put on the cruise control. We will not be fruitful if we do what we’ve always done. It does not just happen friends. The Lord wants us to be fruitful that’s why he gave us this parable and I pray that, no matter the cost, no matter how counter cultural it might be, and how it might upset the apple cart, may we give ourselves in these ways so that we have the potential of the good soil and might bear fruit that is a hundred-fold what has been sown in our lives over the years. I pray it may be so, Amen.

Great reversal

Preached on: Sunday 4th July 2021
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 21-07-04 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Luke 18:9-17
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us come to God in prayer in advance of thinking about His word.

Come Holy Spirit, soften our hearts to the word of God.
Come Holy Spirit, help us to follow Jesus.
Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

It’s sometimes said that Christianity cannot be true because the four accounts of Jesus life just seems so varied and contradictory and it’s true that if you look at the different accounts Matthew,, Mark Luke and John they have very different material. Sometimes one has one story and one has another and you’re like “Why are these differences guys?” but to say that these differences undermine the truth of Christianity is to reveal simply that you don’t understand or appreciate the purposes and style of the authors because the authors are trying to help us capture something of the wonder and vastness of Jesus and His kingdom and what it means to follow Jesus. As such, in the book of Acts, one of the great themes he tries to convey is that of a great reversal and it comes across in stories.

We’re very familiar with Luke as the only author to speak of shepherds who are visited by angels and go and see the baby Jesus. Luke is the only author to write about parables of Lord, sheep, coins and two lost sons, and in all these examples and many more besides, in his account of the life of Jesus he tries to help us see that with the coming of Jesus a great reversal began and is on-going, that those who were welcome, those who were written-off, are welcomed, and those that which was wrongly honored is shown to be empty and replaced with something better.

The same is true of our passage today. We’ve just begun a series on stories of power and parable but don’t make the assumption that it’s only in the big displays of God’s power that people their attention was grabbed because, in fact, these parables of Jesus were equally awe-inspiring, these parables unsettled people, these parables made it clear that a great reversal was going on, and it began because Jesus and His kingdom broke into the world and in our parable today we have two individuals, we have the pharisee and the tax collector, and we probably know that the pharisee was known for their religious observances and their exact interpretation of Old Testament law we probably know that they are the epitome of faithfulness to God and that they had a moral and religious life that was beyond compare.

Indeed, the pharisee says today that he gives a tenth of all he gets and fasts twice a week. Now fasting in the Old Testament was only required once a year and yes, the Old Testament expected tithing on what you earned but we know from other stories of the pharisees that they probably even tithed the herbs they grew in their garden and they might tithe the produce they bought just in case the person they bought it from had not tithed. These individuals, the pharisees, were head and shoulders above everyone in obeying the laws of God. He is probably held in high regard by everyone. He is the person everybody wants to emulate.

On the other hand, we have the tax collector, the most hated of sinners, the worst of sinners, because they had sided with the Romans against God and His people. They were seen as leeches upon society, traitors, and no one honored them, no one aspired to be them, and Jesus picks these two characters to speak of His kingdom to speak of the reversal of His kingdom because Jesus recognizes He needs to speak into His day and to His time and to challenge those who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else. Jesus wants to help them see that a great reversal has begun and that what was wrongly honored is seen as empty and is being replaced with something else, because, at the heart of this parable as well as the story about the little children and if you go on to the story about the rich young ruler, the heart of the issue and all these stories is what are the conditions for entering the kingdom of God.

What are the conditions? What makes us right or justified before God?Is it really just observance? Is it success and self-sufficiency? Is it the group you belong to? What makes us righteous such that God accepts us? And to help unpack that Jesus, in His parable, shares the prayers of these individuals and in doing so helps us see their hearts.

The pharisee says “God, I thank you that I am not like other people, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

He’s basically saying “God, I thank you that I’m so great.” He lists the things he avoids and the things that he does and his heart is revealed as proud, as self-sufficient. There’s no sense of sin, there’s no sense of need, there’s no humble dependence upon God. His words revealed that he thinks he’s earned it, he’s worthy, the doors are open to the kingdom of God because he is due by God Himself, and in all likelihood, you can imagine people, although they’re so jealous of the pharisees, you can imagine them going “Yeah, you know he’s got it right.” He knows what he’s doing, his life, his heart, his religious observance, they’re ticking all the boxes and God would welcome him and I wish I was him I honor him.

And yet, Jesus goes on “but the tax collector stood at a distance, he would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said “God have mercy on me a sinner.”” We can see that he’s under conviction of sin, he won’t come any closer, he’s at the very edge of the temple and he dare not come closer because he is aware of his current state, he will not even look up to heaven which was the way they prayed but rather, bows his head and he beats his breast as a sign of sorrow and in what he says there’s no great list of all the things he’s done, there’s no self-congratulation, there is simply an awareness, one simple awareness “God have mercy on me a sinner.” Now mercy here has a particular meaning which is easy to not know or gloss over and the word for mercy here is used in the scriptures of appealing for God’s forgiveness to ‘cover over’ the sins of the individual and for that covering over to be through sacrifice rather than earning it yourself.

Now at this point in the story people will be thinking “Yeah right tax collector, you’ve not a chance, you’ve not a chance, you don’t deserve it, God has cast you out, you will never be welcome” but then what does Jesus say? “I tell you that this man rather than the other went home justified” made right before God, for all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Jesus is saying that assumed appearance means nothing, the group you belong to, the social status you have, mean nothing, self-reliance and religious performance mean nothing, what counts is humble, sober, recognition of who you are not in comparison to one another but to God in His holiness and to see in that light that we need God’s help, that we have to come humbly and in dependence to God because we can’t fix it and overcome it ourselves. No, this would have shocked people. it would have shocked people, this is a great reversal no one expected, and in fact, such was the shock at what Jesus was undoing and overthrowing here, that people actually did seek to kill him for it because what had been honored was shown to be empty and He was completely challenging those who were confident in their own righteousness. Nevertheless, Luke time and time again speaks of this great reversal. He begins his account with shepherds, dirty stinking shepherds, and they first meet Jesus rather than the high and mighty and Jesus in chapter 15 will go on to speak of a God who leaves the 99 and goes searching for the one, and a God who is like a father and welcomes back the son who wanted the father dead, such is a great reversal that is going on through Luke’s gospel as he portrays Jesus and it’s there too in the story about the children Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Jesus is saying that just as children bring nothing, they don’t try and say “Oh Jesus, look how great I am” they’re just coming and he’s trying to help us see that just like children come with nothing before Jesus, the sinner who’s accepted is the one who simply comes in child-like trust, in humility, and asks for mercy bringing nothing, it’s that person who goes home right with God.

And I wonder friends, on what basis do we approach God? on what basis do we seek welcome into God’s kingdom? Is it upon our achievements? Is it the years of service we’ve given to church? Is it the good deeds we’ve done for the community? Is it how well you live out God’s commands? Is it the group you belong to, the rights you’ve performed, the things that you know that maybe other people don’t? Is it because you’re better than that person down the street? On what or in whom is your faith?

Do you come with simple faith and humility like that of a child, because in our last series on grace we saw that God has made a way for us to be forgiven and in grace He gave Jesus as sacrificial atonement that same word and idea of mercy, that covering over of our sin so that we could be forgiven?

Friends, in what or whom do you trust? Is your faith in Jesus or in something else? because God says, God’s word says, that our righteous acts count for nothing before His judgment throne, it’s all marred because of sin and what or in whom are you trusting? And in case there’s someone here or at home who recognizes that they’ve been trusting in the wrong things I want to give us an opportunity before we go into one final point in the sermon, to respond, to pray, to ask God for mercy and grace, this day and if you’re in that place, if you know that you need to come to God and have His sacrifice cover over your sin so that you’re right with God, why don’t you pray this prayer with me just now. So, let us pray:

Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for the things I’ve done wrong, and I take a moment in the stillness to name anything that’s upon my conscience just now before You.

Lord Jesus, please forgive me. Thank-you that You died on the cross so that I could be forgiven.

I choose now to turn from everything I know is wrong and ask You to cover over my sin and set me free.

Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit. Thank-you that You promise the gift of Your Spirit to live in me that I might follow You all the days of my life.

Thank-you Lord Jesus. Amen.

As I always say, if you’ve prayed that prayer for the first time, if Jesus would become your Lord and Savior for the first time, come and speak to me, share it with someone else if you don’t want to share it with me, because by sharing it you help to strengthen your faith, you help to strengthen the step of faith you’ve taken today.

Okay now, many of us will be familiar with the story and everything that I’ve said. You’re like “Yeah, old news Scott. I’ve known this. I know that Jesus is the way of salvation. I know that it’s all of Grace.” But this parable still has something for you and I because in the example of the pharisee we see that pride leads to a heart that judges, pride leads to a heart that looks down and rejects and in the example and heart of the disciples we see something equally worrying because these individuals are not appreciating what they’ve found in Jesus, they’re showing that by their poor treatment of others they too are prideful because let’s remember that these disciples are a ragtag bunch, they are not the cream of the crop, they don’t have it all covered, some are fishermen, one’s a tax collector, come on, and so together they’re displaying such terrible pride they are not appreciating what they have received, the grace and mercy they’ve found in Jesus, and we’re not seeing in their lives the fruit of God’s kingdom yet and how they treat others. So, here’s the lesson and question for us that one in response to the grace we have received is compassion, welcome, forgiveness and the honoring of the other seen in our lives.

If we have received grace then the scriptures teach that disciples are to grow in humility and forsake pride and I want to give you three examples from the writing of Paul although many more could be added. Paul says “If you have an encouragement from being united with Christ in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests be each of you to the interests of the others.” in Colossians “Bear with each other and forgive one another. If any of you has a grievance against someone forgive as the Lord forgave you” and then in first Corinthians that chapter where Paul writes about the body but as a picture of the church and he says “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honour God has put the body together giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body but that its parts should have equal concern for each other”. Time and time again the scriptures reveal that in response to the grace we have received we are to show compassion and welcome and forgiveness and to honor one another.

So, is it, is it? Because in my experience of many churches nowadays and training and other places beyond, churches are terrible at showing humility. We so often have a lack of compassion and welcome and forgiveness and especially terrible at honoring one another. One commentator put it this way “The difference between pride and humility: pride preaches merit, humility pleads for compassion; pride separates by putting others down, humility identifies with others recognizing we all have the same need; pride destroys through its alienating self-service, humility opens doors with its power to sympathize with the struggle we share; pride turns up its nose, humility offers an open hand.”

And the question is, in our lives, is it pride or humility that is seen in our shared life? Is it pride or humility that is seen?

I wonder if you’ve heard or thought any of the statements I’m going to put up on screen:

Those children are not showing proper respect in the Sunday service.
This organ music is boring.
Why is our worship style so dated?
When will the younger generation step up? back in my day I was juggling.
I’ll never forgive them and I’m never going back.
There is no reverence for God here.
When will what I want be prioritized?

I wonder if you’ve heard or thought or said some version of these statements?

Because in my years as a Christian I have, I’ve probably thought them and I’ve certainly heard them, and often they start with an issue we perceive as important and yet that issue and are identifying with that issue so get the better of us that we move from the place of compassion, a place of humility wherein there is compassion and welcome and forgiveness and honoring of one another, and we let these issues take our eyes off Jesus, and we move to a place of pride and that’s why all our hymns today were focusing on Jesus, we’re coming before the sovereign, awesome God who has given His life for us and in light of Him and that there is no room for pride, there is no room for any of these statements to be said, none, none.

And so, is it pride or humility that we see, that we share? In our tensions that we have had in the two and a half years I’ve been here over worship is it pride or humility that prompts it, and the correspondence I get through the door, is it pride or humility? and how we talk about one another behind our backs, is it pride or humility? do we criticize or do we honor one another?

Tough questions, and my expectation as your minister is, if you hear someone saying this, in love I’d like you to challenge them because iron is meant to sharpen iron. We’re not meant to just allow this to slide. I’ve already said this to our elders but I say it to every one of us, we need to move from pride to humility, if we are saying these things about one another or even to one another because we will not see the great reversal of God’s kingdom in our day without moving to the place of humility, and God may very well say “You’ve had it Brightons, I will not bless and this church will not last” He did it with Israel, He may do it with us,

and the choice is ours, the choice is ours.

So my prayer is that not only will we humble ourselves before God and so with childlike trust find salvation in Jesus, may this humility also be seen and how we treat one another publicly and in the hidden secret place where you think no one sees you because God sees, such that the great reversal of God’s kingdom might be seen in our lives and in the Braes area.

I pray it may be so. Amen

Peter: workplace worship and witness (Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 6th April 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Luke 5:1-11 & Matthew 9:9-13
Location: Brightons Parish Church

TEXT YET TO BE FULLY EDITED

Well it’s lovely to be with you again this evening and um I wasn’t going to ask I’m going to ask anyway I wonder if you did your homework I’m not asking any questions about that we’re going to be looking at a very different um area of Peter’s life but not only Peter we’re going to do a wee bit of a tour into some old testament characters but first let me just pray

father we thank you for your love for us we thank you for open bibles that you’ve given to us and we just pray that as we walk through its pages and learn from your servants of old that you would lead and guide us in our thinking in our personal lives in our church life and just ask that you would open this your word to all our hearts in Jesus name amen I’ve got two bible readings there’s actually will be three shown up on them on the screen but I’m not reading from the third one at the moment I might later on it’s Matthew 14 but let’s look at Luke chapter five Luke chapter five verse one one day as Jesus was standing by the lake of Genezaret the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God he saw at the water’s edge two boats left there by the fishermen who were washing their necks he got into one of the boats the one belonging to Simon and asked him to put out a little from the shore then he sat down and taught the people from the boat when he had finished speaking he said to Simon put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch Simon answered master we have worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything but because you say so I will let down the nets when they had done so they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break so they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink when Simon Peter saw this he fell at Jesus knees and said go away from me lord I’m a sinful man for he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken and so were James and john the sons of Zebedee Simon’s partners then Jesus said to Simon don’t be afraid from now on you will fish for people so they pulled their boats up on shore left everything and followed him and then our other reading taken from Matthew chapter 9 just from verse 9 down to verse 30 verse 13. as Jesus went on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth follow me he told him and Matthew got up and followed him while Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples when the pharisees saw this they asked his disciples why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners on hearing this Jesus said it is not that healthy who need a doctor but those who are ill but go and learn what this means I desire mercy not sacrifice for I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners I was not brought up in a Christian home even a church going home we never went to church in fact that’s not strictly true the only time I went was when we went with the school and every Christmas eve when I went alone with my mother it was sort of more a tradition than anything else my parents lived in Edinburgh they lived in Johnson Terrace in a tenement it’s the street or the road that runs down the side of Edinburgh Castle and while they lived there my mum my mum was actually pregnant at the time with me next door to them they had two lady Salvation Army officers

perhaps just perhaps and I don’t know this if this is true or not they prayed for that unborn child I don’t know but it was through the Salvation Army that I became a Christian it was through the witness of three salvationists that I worked with and then I became a Christian actually in the Salvation Army hall in Leith in Edinburgh mind you luthers wouldn’t like to be called people from Edinburgh but anyway you’ll know what I mean but that was the first time in my office that I actually met people who followed Jesus

you ever think about it the most place or the place that most of us spend most of our time most of our days is in the workplace not the church

i don’t know about you but perhaps at the most we may spend one two perhaps three hours a week in church but then again for those working or have who have worked it could be 38 40 50 perhaps even more hours at work and we’re amongst unbelievers mostly not church people I know you’re looking at the whole area of church within not only your own church but the churches in the braze and that’s great to look at it but remind yourself even as you go through that that church is not the final place that you will be witnessing in worshiping in many of you will also have the place of work now I haven’t done this or planned this in the light of what you’ll be looking at yourselves but the workplace needs to be taken account of they say that 90 of believers never witness to Jesus Christ in the workplace

it’s a difficult place to wash to work in it’s a difficult place to witness in and we’ll look perhaps a wee bit later as to why last month we looked at Peter and the first impressions we had of him and now we’re going to briefly look at Peter in his workplace that wasn’t where he first met Jesus that’s in Luke chapter 5 but it’s where he saw the power of Jesus it’s where he was called to follow Jesus I can imagine that he and his brothers and his friends James and john were good at their jobs but church is often where we think that’s where people meet with Jesus but see beyond the church building it’s very important and has a very important place in our lives but we need to remember where we meet most people who are not Christians you might almost say that actually the workplace the boat Peter out fishing was his comfort zone this was his domain as a fisherman yet see how at this time again going back to Luke chapter five and later on in um Mark Matthew chapter 14 his whole world was turned upside down by a carpenter so let’s briefly look at Peter’s feelings because this place that was his comfort zone was taken charge of by this carpenter by someone else to the shock of Peter now remember let me remind you if you need reminding that Peter wasn’t a big religious figure he wasn’t a leader in his synagogue as far as I know but the shock he was about to experience was in his workplace

it’s a place I think many of us enjoy going to but the thought of witnessing there well that’s a non-starter for many of us but for Peter it’s where he really got out of his depth literally a number of times it happened when storms arose now I’m sure as a fisherman he was used to storms but whether this was a different storm it’s certainly terrified him and of course he had gone through the night fishing and that had been a big disappointment to him I’m not a fisherman the rod kitten or any kind but he had caught no fish that night that was uh pretty bad for him because that was his livelihood that’s where he made his income no fish and then this storm arose but I think it was I don’t know if he was annoyed but the fact that a carpenter then tells you look throw your net on the other side now one it was the wrong time of day two it was the wrong side of the boat so what does a carpenter know about fishing well this one certainly did but it was bringing Peter out of his depth out of his comfort zone and as you perhaps start to think about your comfort zone the church and for many of us it is a comfort zone think about that place of work where you meet many people who are not believers or not church goers and remind yourself as to who they are let’s just briefly then turn to Matthew for a moment as far as um the other disciples are concerned we’re not really sure what a lot of them did burden James and john but here was Matthew the tax collector now you’ll probably know this he had been hated and despised as all tax collectors were because they were often thieves and con men they were robbing the people and they were really lackies of the Roman conquerors now we don’t hear much about what Jesus said in fact we hear very little he just simply said follow me there was no big demonstration of his power to Matthew at this time but notice what happened not only did Matthew leave his workplace but he then went home with Jesus and had a house party with his friends

the same type of despised people as he was now I don’t think his idea was he had started to follow Jesus I don’t think his idea was how am I going to get these people to the synagogue or we would say to church that wasn’t his thinking his thinking was to invite or they invited themselves the other tax collectors because they would know one another it wasn’t to bring them under the preaching of the minister it was to bring them to the preaching of Jesus now let me remind you about your own workplace as it was my workplace where I met with people who knew Jesus but it’s that little phrase again in in Matthew chapter 9 when Jesus said it’s not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are ill but go and learn what this means I desire mercy not sacrifice for I’ve come to call the righteous not the righteous but sinners so when you go into your place of work it’s not like going into the church where you meet with like-minded people mostly it’s not a place where you need to think too much about I wonder who I’ll witness to today it may be I wonder who I don’t know and I’ll talk to today but there is a comfort there’s a there’s a safety in the church that you don’t have to worry about your evangelism too much but that’s very different when you then on a Monday or whichever days you go to work you’ve got to think that these people that you’re going to be working with are just like what I was still am but what I was in my workplace I was one of those sinners that knew nothing about Jesus I believed there was something or someone up there but that’s as far as it went but here is your community where you will spend most of your days most of your time with non-Christian folk we have a problem often within the church within our own Christian life is the division of the sacred and the secular in other words what we are as a Christian and what I do as um as a person at work so for Peter his secular life was he was a fisherman and as we as you read on we would find that Peter’s sacred life was he was an apostle now we mustn’t divide up the sacred and the secular we have responsibilities in the church our place of worship we have responsibilities to people out with the church whether it be in our workplace or our neighborhood who are not believers Matthew he was a different kettle of fish he we don’t really know very much about him baron the little there but he obviously had a big change in his life are following Jesus but he was also a hated man I don’t know how long we don’t know how long it took him to overcome the feelings of hatred that people must have felt towards him the workplace but I want to digress quite a bit not from the workplace but these stories of people in the workplace of Peter and of Matthew are really not unique they’re not unique to bible stories

we’re going to look at just different places not and with a great sense of degree but in the university

in the government civil service in the palace monster hierarchy or perhaps on the building site now you may work in some of these places and so it’s recorded in the scriptures about a number of people from the old testament who worked in such places who witnessed in such places now let me remind you if you need reminding that the recorded stories are not just for exciting stories or not just to teach children though they’re important to teach children but they’re about people’s lives and these people are in the workplace so the person at university was young Daniel you find this in Daniel the book of Daniel chapter one now he was there because he had been brought into exile taken away from his home taken away from his family and taken to Babylon and there he would go through a very thorough teaching it would be as good a teaching as any of our universities and of course in some ways it would also be as Godless a teaching as many of our universities it wouldn’t be a Christian university it wouldn’t be where he learned about God but in another sense while he was there he learned very much about God his story of course you’ll probably know if not take time to read chapter one that he was this young man and he was a young man probably just a teenager he was taken away from his home from his family and brought into this Godless empire and it was Godless and he was set to training but he took his stand immediately he took his stance with some of his friends that were there because he had to eat things now there’s a dilemma sometimes he was prepared to have his name changed from the Jewish name to um Babylonian name and he didn’t seem to have a problem with that he would obviously learn things that were true but he would also learn many things that were ungodly but the thing he had a problem with was the food he was offered was his dietary needs they offered him the best the richest and he totally refused it because it went against his beliefs and he took a strong stat he could have lost his life by doing this but he stood firm he stood fast in his workplace for that time and it’s obviously a reminder to each of us that our young people who go to university it can be a very difficult place very difficult place for them to stand up and believe and tell others that they’re a Christian but that’s their workplace for a certain amount of time and then we move to his older life to Daniel who moved from being in the university and you have to read the whole book to find out where he went to actually being in the government and very high up in the government probably next to the king he was in charge but it didn’t mean to say life got any easier for him even though he had got older he still had to take his stand and this time was against idolatry

now many of us live and realize we live in a world that’s full of idolatry we’re okayish in the company of other believers within the church but go outside and perhaps you don’t even realize how often we are faced with the Godlessness of our society and Daniel was definitely faced with that and he had to take his stand and that would have cost him his life if God hadn’t intervened we read about in Daniel 6 Daniel in the lion’s den so his new job I don’t know how long he’d been in it probably quite a while and the government was going to lead to his demise even though his boss the king didn’t want it to happen but he couldn’t even change the law so there you have one man in two different areas of his life in his workplace having to take his stand and what about you what about me I can’t say I was an expert at being um a witness in in the workplace when I worked and I was a civil servant for my sins um but I’ll tell you this in some ways it um it was very different than being a minister very different sorts of um problems different sorts of background but you still had to take your stand that’s where these Salvation Army people now one young girl particularly who was only going to be there for a few months because she was going on to train to be a Salvation Army I had never met anybody that was quite as vocal and she was vocal she was quite weak firebrand for Jesus the other two were well one was like the core sergeant major that had been like the chief elder I suppose um lovely man but he wasn’t as outward in his place of work but everybody knew he was a Christian and that was my first encounter with people so remind yourself that as you go into your place of work you have a witness to do now often it’s through our lives but at times it needs to be through our mouths as well and then we move on to someone you can see I’m going through these quite quickly then you move on to someone who was in the palace and that was the story of joseph he hadn’t always been in the palace at the time we’re looking at just now he had become the prime minister again someone that really moved up through the ranks from being a prisoner to being a prime minister quite a story but again you need to read that for yourself in the book of genesis that um but you see how people took their stand and witnessed to this person called our God called the lord and we know also as Jesus

and they’re amazing stories their amazing stories not of what on of what the people did but of how God moved in power as they yielded their lives to him and the last one is the butler who became a building site manager Nehemiah he had been the butler that was his job in in um Babylon I think it was Babylon SCOTT keep me right if it’s not he’d been a butler but he had head of the terrible plight of God’s people in Jerusalem and he yearned to do something about it and the lord led him to Jerusalem and his boss let him go the testimony must have been incredible these things just didn’t happen but here was someone whose job changed very dramatically and that happens within people’s work lives but in both places they had to be witnesses to who the lord God of heaven is and was to them now we haven’t got time to go into it all but if you read through them each of these men were in a place where actually they didn’t want to be they’d never asked to be Daniel had never asked to go to Babylon joseph had never asked to go to Egypt Nehemiah had never asked to go back and rebuild they were in a place that was not really of their choosing but the lord had led them so think about it your place of work may be the place you really don’t want to be and sadly a lot of people are in that that they’re in a place they don’t want to be but if that’s where the lord’s led you to you seriously have to think how does he want to demonstrate his power and lives through you now one of the other things that you read um through these stories and through Peter stories is that there were battles there was trials there were difficulties in the workplace and I’m sure that is perhaps why many of us find it very difficult to witness there’s a sense of fear what will people say well I overstepped the Mark after all I’m there to work I’m there to work for my employer I’m not there to be a preacher or a teacher but we don’t all I was going to say we don’t always do our work 24 hours a day or eight hours a day if we’re working there can be very hostile places and with some people and some believers that are extremely hostile and you would almost be terrified to even mention to even suggest that you went to church never mind even witness about Jesus the church is a very different place than our workplaces but let me remind you again the workplace is where we spend more of our time here was young Daniel a slave in a foreign country and as a young teenager stands up and was counted he wouldn’t go against his principles now he had favor with the other servants that were looking after him uh I think they were probably dreading and fearing that they would lose their heads if it was found out that they weren’t he wasn’t following the instructions the orders of them of the king and it was the same with the lions’ den people trapped him they conned him they betrayed him they were determined to get him and boy they certainly went out of their way to do it you might say they were whistleblowers in one sense your majesty you remember the law you made remember what you said if people do not bow down and worship this idol of you they will be thrown to the lines they were whistleblowers

but you know not even the king could rescue him it was a law that was unchangeable so as you read the story and we know the story of Daniel and the lion’s den so well it’s almost unbelievable it’s almost incredible but here was the power of God seen as he shut the lion’s mouth and perhaps you might be in a place where you might see the lord shutting people’s mouths that you want to witness to but it’s fear isn’t it it’s the same with Nehemiah the hostility now he was on the lord’s business and yet the hostility that he faced as people undermined him undermined his work but he stood firm and it it cost it cost probably him a reputation but you know he stuck faithfully to that word and Peter going back to him well he had a bit of a bumpy ride through his life he wasn’t always the big dynamic bold Peter he had tremendous disappointments but you remember the story I think it was another one later on where Jesus was walking on the water and Peter opened his mouth and Jesus had said to him Luke come because Jesus uh Peter wanted to follow him

what a fully get out of the boat and walk on water and he did until he saw the waves and he started to crumble now that in one sense was in his workplace amongst his um his other friends and disciples or apostles I often wonder what they used to think I think you know here he goes again you know putting his big foot in it but he did it he did it and even though he fell even though he had these bumpy rights and of course later on he’d have a very bumpy ride and denying that he ever knew Jesus so the workplace as life can be a very bumpy place to live in but we can’t stay in the security of our churches and amongst God’s people and forget that there are people out there need to be reached we haven’t looked in Moses but um just in the passing do you remember when um he thought he was doing the people of God a favor by going to the pharaoh and asking that his people could go out and worship and all that resulted was that they were given more work to do and harder task masters to follow slave drivers I wonder if you feel a bit like that in your work a bit of a slave driver and then the company starts to um dismiss people so you’ve got a smaller workforce but still the same amount of work the quotas still have to be met that’s your story that’s your story their quotas still had to be met they were stretched to the limits and they complained and they were discouraged but the lord helped them to build so many stories around the workplace not within the church but it’s there in these situations that God displayed his power to them and to a Godless world and let me remind you that when you become a Christian you’re a person who has been set free from sin to follow the lord and to allow him to show his power to you his people I don’t know if you’ve read the book I’m sure Scott’s probably read it by a man called John Ortberg if you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat of course there’s an illustration of Peter if you want to walk in water you have to get out of the boat we have to get out of the safe place and to get into the area where it can be bumpy where we can feel we’re going to think where we have all sorts of fear in our hearts and our lives but we need to do it

and you may come into church and be amongst the people who mostly are believers but remember what Jesus said in Matthew sorry yes in Matthew chapter 6 that he came to call

not the righteous but sinners

I’ve been a Christian for many years so it’s hard to look back on the days where I didn’t go to church where I didn’t learn about Jesus where I didn’t meet with God’s people but what it’s not hard to forget I’m a sinner but I found the savior but you’ll be working with many people who are sinners but have yet to find the savior and you will be reaching people day by day that Scott will never reach because he’s not in your workplace he has a different job in a different role in a different workplace but we need to be reminded that we are a people who have to go out and win sinners for our savior so as you start to look at the role of the church what the church is just let me remind you to have a look also at what your workplace is too let’s pray father as we come before you we do thank you for the many people that we rub shoulders with day by day either in our neighborhood or in our workplaces we thank you that that you’ve placed us there to be your witnesses through the way we live through the way we act and through the way we speak so help us lord because we can be and are often a fearful people we feel safe in the church we feel comfortable in the church but we pray that you might help us to launch out into the deep and see souls one for Jesus we pray in his precious name amen

our thanks to Gordon for opening up God’s word to us this evening and bringing both a message of encouragement and challenge reminding of us of our high calling to be ambassadors of God’s kingdom messengers and witnesses to those around us who are who don’t yet know Jesus and we’ve to somehow share that with them both through our actions and through our words now many folks in our congregation and the wider brace churches would count themselves as being retired you don’t have a job but all of us have a vocation even in retirement it may be through friendship circles it may be through areas of service it may be with family or local groups that we’re a part of it may be simply with neighbours and these are all contexts and contacts through whom God is calling us Gordon said in his message that sometimes we’re placed in a difficult position and what might God want to do with us there to show and reveal his power and the same is true if you would count yourself as retired you are in a context a place God has you there so how is he calling you to show his power and share his message with the people around you so don’t write off tonight’s sermon simply because there was a lot of talk about jobs and work everything Gordon said is just as applicable to anyone listening to and we hope we’ll all engage now Gordon has left some questions for us to think about and we’ll put these on screen and in the description below the video to get us thinking and taking the principles into the week ahead and even the month ahead who knows he may ask us next month have we done anything about it and hopefully we will thanks for joining us for Tuesday evening sermon we look forward to sharing and worship with you again soon

Family Watchnight Service

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

Persistence in prayer

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

Why pray?

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

Text: Luke 11:1-10
Sunday 6th September 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Introduction 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.
(PAUSE)

Message
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.

The Possibilities of Robots (Wonder Zone wk.5)

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

Text: Luke 15:11-24 (NIV)
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.
(PAUSE)

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
Page
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…