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
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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…

No fake story! (Passion Wk.5)

Preached on: Sunday 12th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-12-Morning-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Luke 24:1-12
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Luke 24:1-12
Sunday 12th April 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls, what school or nursery do you go to? Shout it out just now! (PAUSE) I can’t hear you! Shout louder!!…Oh, that one!

Well, I’m sure some of you go to Wallacestone Primary School and I’m usually in there every Friday morning and lunchtime to visit two or three classes, and then run the Friday lunchtime Scripture Union Group. Going into Wallacestone was one of the highlights of my week and I’m really missing it!

Now, just before we all had an early school holiday, I was in chatting with the Primary 7s about Easter – and most of them know the Easter story, so I thought I would share with them some of the reasons why I think the Easter story really happened.

One of those reasons is in our story today, but our passage also gave me two more reasons – which is fantastic! So, I’ve got 3 questions for you, to see if you can remember the story, OK? Each one gives me confidence that Jesus is alive. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

First off – what weight do you think the stone over the tomb was? I’ll give you some ideas. Would it have weighed as much as: two bags of cement; two of me; two sofas; or two cars? Make a choice…quick, quick!…the answer is…two cars! Well done if you picked the right answer.

The stone would have weighed about two tonnes, or the weight of two 1979 VW Beetles. That’s a lot of stone, so if Jesus wasn’t dead and maybe He had simply fainted, then there is no way He could have got out Himself, and no way His friends could have rolled the stone away without the Roman guards hearing something and stopping them. So, the stone being rolled away is a major clue that Jesus really did come back to life!

OK, question number 2: who first found out that Jesus was alive? Can you remember? Point this way if you think it was women…point the other way if you think it was the disciples! It was…the women! Good remembering!
And here’s question number 3, because question 2 and 3 are closely related: did the disciples believe the women about Jesus being alive? Did they believe them? Thumbs up for “yes”, thumbs down for “no”…the answer is… “no”, the disciples did not believe the women!

Now, why are these two clues important? Well, back in the days of Jesus, sadly women were not believed, they were not regarded as good enough witnesses, for anything. Which is part of the reason why in v11 we read, that ‘[the disciples] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.’

It seemed nonsense to the disciples, the men, because no one was expecting this, and they weren’t simply going to believe the women, because they were…women. Exactly!
It came across to the men as a silly dream, the sort of thing that people back then would expect from a few women who are upset with grief and lack of sleep.

Now, sometimes people today think that the first disciples must have made up the story about Jesus, because, after all, no one comes back from the dead, right?

Well, if the first disciples were trying to convince people back then to believe a fake story, then they would not have picked women as the first people to find out Jesus was alive! That would have been a bad plan, and so this another clue for us today: Jesus really did come back to life because the story matches with what really happened rather than what people would have made up!
The third clue is very like that too: if it was a made up story, then the smart idea would be to show the disciples having faith straight away, because then the disciples would be examples of faith and the perfect people to lead the early church.

But that’s not what we read: the disciples did not believe, they were not expecting Jesus to come back to life, it was a complete surprise to them! In a fake story, the disciples should believe straight away, rather than doubt.

Now, there are many more reasons for believing that Jesus came back to life, but those are three reasons from the story today: the big stone; the women witnesses; and the disciples being surprised.

I wonder, do you like surprises? And if you were trying to give someone a surprise, what would say? Might it be: boo? Or maybe: ta-da?

I read a story this week, about another minister, and in this story the minister is talking with the children at an Easter service in church, and he asks the children: what do you think Jesus’ first words were to his friends after He came back to life? And one little boy sprang to his feet, spread his arms out wide and said, “Ta-Da!”

The story of Easter, the story of Jesus coming back to life, was a surprise for the disciples. It wasn’t announced with a “ta-da” or a “boo”, but it was still a surprise, and it was a surprise to people who were sad, who were afraid, and who were doubting.
The story of Jesus coming back to life is a story which began in the real world of sorrow and uncertainty but with a message for that very same world. Don’t we also live with sadness, or fear, or doubt just now?

And what is more, when Jesus came back to life, many things remained unchanged: the Romans were still in charge; the religious leaders were still bullies and bad people; people were still sick and scared.

But here’s the thing – on one level the wider world was still the same after Jesus came back to life; but on another level, everything had also changed – everything! Because in the wonderful events of Easter, there is a dead man who has come back to life, Jesus has conquered death and the grave, and that’s the kind of surprising good news which rewrites history, and not just for a year, a decade, or even a century…no, this is the kind of surprising good news that rewrites history for everyone, everywhere, and for evermore.

Friends, my prayer this Easter, is for us to know the risen Jesus journeying with us in these difficult days. Because as the Apostle Peter later reminds us: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…’ (1 Peter 1:3)

Brothers and sisters, we not only have hope, we have a living hope, living because Jesus lives. And it’s hope, not wishful thinking. It’s hope, because it’s certain, we have strong and confidence assurance….

But we only have this because of Easter Sunday, which is summed up so well in our final hymn today:

“Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus, Yours is the victory.”
(Living Hope, Phil Wickham & Brian Johnson)

Friends, our passage today, reminds us of the surprising story of Easter, a story that was not faked, a story which rewrote all history, and a story which suggests that even in our present darkness, uncertainty and fear, when all around seems to remain unchanged because of Easter, well, this story suggests we can still…
encounter Jesus today, because Christ is risen, He is risen…indeed! Praise be to God. Amen.

King of kings (Passion Wk.4 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 7th April 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-04-07-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-Tuesday-evening-sermon.
Bible references: Luke 19:28-48
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Luke 19:28-48
Tuesday 7th April 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Three weeks’ ago, we began our journey towards Easter, with Jesus resolutely setting out for Jerusalem. Along the way, we specifically looked at those parts of Luke’s gospel where Jesus met with, or spoke about, Samaritans – those people who were outcasts, despised, usually forgotten or ignored by their Jewish neighbours.

But tonight, Jesus reaches Jerusalem, the journey is at an end, yet it has not been easy. He has walked mile after mile, up from Jericho, which is the lowest town on the face of the earth, up through the winding, sandy hills and now He reaches the heights of Jerusalem…
Jesus has crossed through Judean desert, climbing steadily uphill, up what feels like a mountain. It’s been dusty, because it’s hot and it seldom rains.

But we know that Jesus has chosen this journey because Luke reminds us that ‘After Jesus had [finished teaching], he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.’ (v28) Jesus leads the way. This is to be the climax of His story, of His public ministry, and He knows well what lies ahead, yet He sets His face to go and meet it head on.

About two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus comes to Bethany and Bethphage, a place He has been before, and He sends two disciples ahead to acquire a donkey for the final portion of the journey. Likely this has been arranged ahead of time…
And with it all going according to how Jesus says it would, He can now enter Jerusalem.

As He does so, the people start to lay down their cloaks on the ground for Jesus to walk on, for His donkey to walk on. It seems a bit strange to us, but there’s a story in the Old Testament, 2nd Kings chapter 9, where the new king, Jehu, is welcomed into Jerusalem by people doing the very same thing.

And as the crowds lay their cloaks before Jesus, we start to hear a chant, a song, rise up upon their lips – we start to hear the crowd say things like, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ (v38)
They clearly think Jesus is the King that God had promised to send, the King who would make the world a better place. So, they sing an old song, Psalm 118, it’s a song of victory, a hymn of praise to the God who establishes His kingdom upon the earth.

As I said on Sunday, in all of this, Luke is trying to help us see something about Jesus; we’re meant to see that Jesus is the King, the Messiah, that God promised, and that this King has certain characteristics.

He is a King who has power and authority; that comes across in a number of ways. In v31, the reason to give for the request of the donkey, is that ‘The Lord needs it.’ God needs it, and that Lord, that God, is Jesus.
What is more, we know from v30, that this animal has never been ridden before, you would think it would just throw off a backwater carpenter and rabbi. But low and behold, no such thing is recorded, we’re meant to see that Jesus is King of all creation, including what might be otherwise wild and untameable.

On top of this, the particular reason given for the crowds believing Jesus to be the promised King is spelled out for us in v37: ‘the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.’ Countless miracles, things beyond explanation, things only the promised Messiah, the promised King, could do, because He came in the name and power of God.
It’s because Jesus is such a King, that even though some of the Pharisees object in v39, even then, Jesus says the praise of the disciples is fitting because otherwise the stones would cry out in praise themselves! Jesus is due praise even from the inanimate parts of creation, such is His right and claim. I think we’re meant to see in Jesus a King who has power and authority.

But, as I said on Sunday, that’s not all we see of Jesus, for we see Him entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Not the grand animal chosen by other kings. Yet as the words from Zechariah remind us:
‘Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Zech. 9:9)

Here Jesus comes, riding on a donkey, for He is humble and lowly – He is the King who comes in humility to serve.

Jesus does so, because He cares. We’ve seen that along the way in the particular stories we’ve focused on: scandalous grace shown to the undeserving; mercy shown to the neighbour whom we might otherwise overlook; abundant generosity for the least, the last and the lost. This is King Jesus, this is the King of kings that Luke has been trying to help us see.

Brothers and sisters, in our time, with what we face, doesn’t this sound like a King whom we all need to know?
And even a King we all need to emulate? In Jesus we see a King who cares for people, for people who think they are outcasts and to them He shows scandalous grace. Where do we need to show grace in these days? Who has fallen? Who has not met expectations or seen things as we have? There is grace awaiting from Jesus for them, but is there grace from us?

We’ve also seen that Jesus cares for people who think they are forgotten or insignificant. I wonder if that’s you friends? I wonder, as you sit at home, slowly bouncing off the walls, wondering if someone will call today, because they didn’t call yesterday, maybe not even called for the last week, and the thought begins to go around your head – am I forgotten? Am I insignificant? Well, not to Jesus, not Him, because He came to earth for you, for love of you; to Him you are worth dying for.

And in a world, shaken to its knees by coronavirus, does that world not need to know that Jesus cares for all the nations? That not one is favoured more than another, that there is love and care and concern in His heart for every one, and so none is rejected, all are welcome.

Friends, do you need to know the King of grace, mercy and generosity, whom despite His power and authority, comes close in humility to serve, because He cares for you, for me and for this world? I know I need that King.

Nevertheless, in every age, in every decade, indeed in every life, events arise that question this. In fact, at the time, people questioned this.

We read tonight of some Pharisees in the crowd, who just could not see this of Jesus and so they call out to Jesus to rebuke His disciples for what they say of Him. To these Pharisees it sounds irrational, it sounds dangerous in fact, because it sounds like the kind of thing which will disturb the peace, for it might catch the attention of the Romans and get the Jewish nation in trouble. These Pharisees would rather hush up Jesus and keep the peace, than see Him for who He truly is. They question the claims of Jesus.

But other people also questioned, even rejected Jesus, at the time. At the end of our reading tonight, the chief priests, teachers of the law and leaders want to kill Jesus. The time has come; He’s gone too far, they’re thinking to themselves: “who does this upstart, backwater rabbi think He is? The stories about Him cannot be true; it’s just a placebo for the masses; folk tales and wild fantasy. We know the truth,” they say, “we know how the world works, and Jesus does not feature in it.” These folks also questioned the claims of Jesus.

In our day, understandably I might add, people question the claims of Jesus. Amid coronavirus, we might all question the claims of Jesus. Is He really King? Really?

The claim of Christianity that Jesus is King is as confounding as a King who rides on a donkey. But Jesus did it then, He does it now; He does things that just don’t make sense to us, and in the midst of it, He asks us: who do you say I am? And will you follow me?

You see, in the account we read tonight, it’s all about Jesus and what our response to Him is. Some question and reject, as we’ve seen. Others appear to welcome Jesus, there’s the great crowd who gather round and join the celebrations. But in reality, these folks have simply got caught up in the moment; they’re going along for the trip, hoping Jesus will fulfil some of their hopes and desires. They’re happy to sing the songs of praise, but only as long as Jesus retains the potential of doing what they want of Him. Because, these same folks, will in a few days’ time be shouting: “Crucify! Crucify!”

Nevertheless, there are some who genuinely follow Jesus, they trust Him to be King, to be Messiah, and though the coming week will put them to flight momentarily,…
They still have faith in Him, it’s just that their faith needs to mature in substance.

So, I wonder friends, where do we sit? Who are you most like? Is it the Pharisees? Those who can’t quite make sense of Jesus. Does the claim that Jesus is King make you feel a bit unsettled and you’d rather keep Him at arms length and not disturb the peace?

Or is it, the religious and political leaders you most feel akin to? Do you know how the world works and Jesus isn’t part of the picture, so He is not welcome?

Could you be a member of the crowd? Ready to follow Jesus, but only if He meets your expectations?

Or, are you a disciple? Have you come to that point, where you know, deep down, that Jesus is this King? You can’t explain Him fully; you don’t have all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted; because He’s the King who rides a donkey. But there’s enough faith, because it’s not size that matters after all, there’s enough substance to your faith, that you know Jesus is King. You’re a disciple, you’re a follower of Jesus, through and through, come what may. Friends, which are you?

I suspect that many of us might have had experiences with a number of these groups. I don’t think I’ve ever been amongst the religious and political leaders, certainly not as far as God is concerned, though maybe a little with Jesus Himself. Because, after all, I didn’t really understand anything about Jesus for a long time…
I knew His name, but not anything of Him, I had no real understanding of the significance of Easter, for example, and so I didn’t doubt God, but this Jesus guy didn’t figure in my understanding of the world.

And then, one day, He did. Because one day, I came to see my need of Jesus. I’d messed up. I came face to face with my own brokenness, my own humanity, and I found in Jesus scandalous grace, a mercy wide and free, which I knew I now needed, and it changed my life forever.

But along the way, I’ve had my wobbles. There have been those moments when Jesus has just not matched up to my earlier expectations. And there have been those times when I’ve come to the point of asking: what do I really believe of Jesus? What do I really even know, of Jesus?
Back in mid-March, I was speaking at the Breathing In event at Brightons Church, and we were speaking a little about Christian apologetics, about the defence of the faith. I recalled for the folks there a time when I really questioned what I knew of Jesus, and all I was sure of was this: I knew I could trust the Bible, so I knew Jesus lived, that He died, that He rose again, so He was who He claimed to be, and I knew by putting faith in Him, I was a child of God. I think that’s about all I was sure of, but it got me through, and in time, faith was restored, relationship rebuilt, pain healed but with scars that were there below the surface.

So now, today, I would say I’m quite firmly in the disciple group. I’m not saying I don’t question or doubt. But I’ve come to a place where I can live with mystery, with the unknown and unanswered. I know Jesus to be King. I know Him to love me and love this world. After all, this week of all weeks, is the one which proves these things.

Friends, what’s your response to Jesus? Does He feature in your picture of the world? Is He more, than simply, your “genie in a bottle”? Have you come to know Jesus as King of all creation, but the King who comes riding on a donkey? Is He to you the King of kings, even though He does stuff, or things happen, which just don’t make sense?

Friends, I hope we can all reach that place, but even if we can, faith is not easy. There are still questions, there are still unknowns, there is still mystery. And there will be those times, still, where the best, maybe the only, response is to weep, to wail, to lament. But as we saw on Sunday, we’re in good company, for in v41, we read, ‘As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it…’

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and He weeps because it was the place of deepest rebellion against God, its people are blind to the One in whom true peace lies and in whom fullness of life could be found. For they have and will set their own interests and agenda before those of God, they will resort to murder to do so. Jesus can see where Israel is heading, and He knows that their infidelity to God and obstinacy towards His reign will only lead to ruin.

But, as you hear those words of judgment and see His actions of rebuke in the temple, as you see both prophet and priest in Jesus, speaking truth to power one moment then cleansing what is defiled the next, remember His tears, remember His tears of lament. What He says, what He does, issues forth not from a stern and cold justice, but from a heart of love, a heart that wants the best for, and from, His people, and so now must oppose their rebellion, even though it breaks His heart.

It’s the mystery of the gospel friends: that God is love, but His love will not overlook, cannot overlook, evil, and so there will be judgment of sin. But it breaks the heart of God. God was grieved to His heart, Genesis declares, over the violent wickedness of His human creatures. He was devastated when His own people, described as His bride, turned away from His love to give their love to another.

Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in His world. But that’s not the picture we get in the Bible, and lament is not just an outlet for frail, little humanity. Here is King Jesus, full of power and authority, yet vulnerable, honest and caring enough that He cries, He laments.

Lament is the cry of a heart that is shattered, raw, gazing into suffering, bruised by its ragged edges and crying out for justice. Lament resists shallow, packaged, simplistic answers. It demands fierce authenticity and is unafraid of unanswerable questions. Lament is not the antithesis of faith; it is what faith looks like when it draws near to grief. The more passionately we believe in the goodness of God, the more passionately we protest when His goodness is obscured, and so we lament.

Friends, we don’t have to have all the answers, ever, and not even in or for our present time. Yet not having the answers, doesn’t mean we must give up on Jesus being King of kings or truly caring for the nations. For He welcomes us to cry with those who cry, and mourn with those who mourn, and in the midst of pain and brokenness, find the God who laments with us and for us.

May this be the Jesus we know and whom we follow, not only this week, but until we see Him face to face.

May it be so. Amen.

God gives himself through Jesus (Passion Wk.3 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 31st March 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-03-31-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-Tuesday-sermon.
Bible references: Luke 17:5-19
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Luke 17:5-19
Tuesday 31st March 2020 Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Two weeks’ ago, we began our journey towards Easter, and we tuned in to that part of Luke’s gospel where Jesus resolutely sets out for Jerusalem. On Sunday we had our final service before we reach Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. We’re hoping to have some online prayers and reflections then for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, led for us by ministers in the Braes area, and more details will be available on Sunday.

In our passage for this evening, we have the third and final story where Samaritans are talked about and it follows on after a lengthy teaching portion, which began back in Luke chapter 15. In the particular section we heard tonight, it began and ended on the topic of faith, and that’s where we’ll start this evening.

As I said on Sunday, having faith just now is hard, we have questions, some people may even scoff at the idea of faith, scoff at it having value and relevance. But I think that hard times do not mean faith cannot exist, or that faith is simply wishful thinking. It is possible to be people of faith even amidst uncertain times.

But as the example of the disciples teaches us, it’s OK to be honest with Jesus about our doubts. In verse 5, we see that the apostles, those close friends of Jesus, said to
Him: ‘Increase our faith!’
Here are the people that Jesus is training up, training up to be involved in His continuing ministry, and despite having seen so many miracles already, they are now struggling, they perceive their faith is maybe not quite big enough for what Jesus asks of them.

And what does Jesus ask of them? We didn’t read those particular verses tonight but if you open your Bible, you can see in verse 1 that Jesus speaks of keeping faith even when things come along that might cause some to stumble, then in verses 2 to 3, Jesus speaks of living in such a manner as not to undermine another’s faith, then finally in verses 3 to 4, Jesus teaches that we are to forgive as often as repentance occurs.

What’s quite striking here, is that the things which provoke the disciples to say, ‘increase our faith’, are not great wonders or undertakings which we might normally associate with needing faith. We may more naturally think of deeds such as praying for healing, or being asked to preach, or give up something that is dear to us.

Yet, what Jesus shares here, are every day, normal activities. Keeping the faith, building others up, and forgiving as often as needed. Doesn’t sound very grand, but aren’t they just as hard? Even now, amidst this pandemic, don’t we face all three to some degree? Keeping the faith when events around us might seem to belittle our beliefs. Building others up when it’s so much easier to jump on the bandwagon of criticism, doubt and moaning. And as we face lockdown, maybe for weeks upon weeks, and we get grumpy with one another because we’re living in such close proximity all the time, or we get bitter because we are alone and we feel forgotten, is not forgiveness needed in such times?

I wonder, as time passes and the lockdown extends, might not we also be inclined, with the disciples, to cry out, ‘Lord increase our faith’ because these otherwise mundane tasks are actually quite demanding.

So, what is Jesus reply? He says, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.’ (Luke 17:6) Clearly, Jesus is using hyperbole because He and the disciples never did such a thing themselves.
Instead, Jesus is trying to highlight that it’s not the amount of faith that is important, but rather simply its presence and what underpins or defines our faith. Sinclair Ferguson, a professor of Systematic Theology, reminds us of this: ‘…our spiritual forefathers used to say that little faith gets the same Saviour as great faith, but it may not get his greatness.’ (Sinclair Ferguson, To Seek and To Save, page 66)

What he’s saying, as with Jesus, is that what is important is not the size of our faith, but rather the substance of our faith. Often, we are tempted to say, “I don’t have enough faith”, or “He or she has more faith than I”. But such statements reveal that we think faith is dependant on us, that what we feel, what we can muster up, is what defines the character and strength of our faith.
But Jesus, as with our spiritual forefathers, is saying something else. They are revealing that faith should have its character and strength defined by God, rather than ourselves. This means, argues Ferguson, that ‘faith should be described as the extent to which our trust in the Lord is in keeping with the greatness of God’s person and the certainty of His promises.’ For example: if I trust, that Jesus is always with me unto the end of the age, as He has promised to be, and I trust this because I know Him to be alive, then this shapes my faith and so defines my living, my choices, and my perspective.

But, if I believe Jesus to be God but quite distant, detached from our experience, then I do have faith, I do have access to Jesus, but I do not appreciate His greatness as fully as I should, and so my faith is diminished and its impact upon my life is equally limited.

Faith, which can tell a mulberry tree to jump into the sea, is a faith which appreciates the greatness of God and lives accordingly. It’s not about the size of our faith, but rather the substance of our faith, and the substance of our faith is matured and maintained by the extent to which we grow in our relationship with God, and we do that by appreciating more of His person and His promises.

So, that’s why we’re encouraging everyone to invest time in their relationship with God during this time of isolation, and we principally grow in our relationship with God as we dig into His Word, because it’s in His Word that we learn of His person and promises. We’ve offered a couple of ideas for this in our Sunday services, with an online reading plan begun yesterday, exploring faith and doubts. It’s not too late to get involved and details are still available on our website and Facebook page.

But, whether you join the reading plans or not, please invest some time in your relationship with God by getting into His Word. Then, the substance of your faith can be matured and maintained in line with the true revelation of God, as you learn of His person and promises.

On Sunday, I also mentioned that this issue of faith among the apostles is followed on after with the story of the ten lepers, where faith in Jesus arises in the most unlikely of places – a Samaritan leper. It was that man who evidenced a faith which had substance – He

recognised in Jesus the God of all creation and that Jesus the God-man was overflowing with loving kindness.

I said on Sunday, that loving kindness was one way of unpacking the words ‘pity’ or ‘mercy’, which is what the ten lepers asked of Jesus in the first place. Jesus did heal them, He granted what they asked for, they experienced His loving kindness. But they do so, after following His command to: ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ (Luke 17:14)

I deliberately skipped over that part of the passage because our service was seeking to be all age. But now, I’d like to give you a little more context for those words. In the Old Testament, the people of God were given instructions regarding various skin conditions, and as I outlined, it was pretty hard back then to tell what people had. So, anyone with one of these particular skin conditions had to leave home, they had to leave the village, because those skin conditions could be spread to other people and the only way to protect the community was for those people to be isolated and removed.

But it was also possible for someone to be welcomed back into the community if their condition changed or went away. At that point, they were to go to their local priest, for only they could legally declare a leper “clean” and healthy, and so able then to return to a normal life.

What’s striking in the story of the ten lepers, is that one returns to Jesus, rather than going on to find the priest. Clearly, we’re right to talk about gratitude and thankfulness because it’s there in the passage, and we’ll come back to that soon. But this idea of Jesus being asked for mercy, and of the one leper coming to Jesus, when all the rest go seeking their priest, does call to mind what the writer to the Hebrews wrote: ‘…[Jesus] shared in [our] humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death…For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.’ (Hebrews 2:14-17)

There’s a lot packed into those few verses, but did you notice that the writer speaks of Jesus as a merciful high priest? In the Old Testament, the high priest had the role of once a year going into the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle, or temple, so as to make atonement for the people. This was part of the wider system which secured their forgiveness of sin such that they were in right standing with God.

The writer of Hebrews makes a lengthy argument that Jesus is the eternal, perfect high priest, bringing in a new and eternal covenant between God and humanity, such that any who will put their faith in Jesus can have their sins forgiven, once for all, remembered no more, and then given unrestricted access to God’s presence because they are made children of God through the Son of God who died in their place, even though He Himself was perfectly sinless.
But to establish that new, eternal covenant, Jesus had to be both fully man and fully God, which is what the writer said in the passage we read. As such, Jesus is then our merciful high priest, He is able to represent both God and mankind, and stand in the gap between us, offering us mercy, loving kindness, through His own sacrifice, and welcoming us into the family of God with right standing before God.

It’s in that place, as the writer outlines, that we are then freed from the fear of death, because eternal life is secured for us by Jesus, our merciful high priest.

Now, coming back to the story of the ten lepers, it’s interesting that the one leper who cannot go to the
Jewish priests, because he’s a Samaritan, comes instead to Jesus. Does that individual realise that he needs no other priest, for Jesus, the God-man, is priest enough?

Friends, we’ve spoken tonight of developing a faith which has substance by learning of the person and promises of God, such that it matures and is maintained. I wonder, if the example of the Samaritan, is not only one of thankfulness, but of recognising something of the person and promises of Jesus: that He is merciful, overflowing with loving kindness, ready to forgive and welcome us into the family of God, if only we will bow the knee and respond in faith to Him. That kind of faith has a measure of substance, and by such faith we can be freed of fear and as we sung on Sunday, having a hope which is steadfast and sure.

I think, as we recognise more of the person and promises of Jesus, that a real depth of thankfulness will overflow within us, and so let’s close with some reflections on that idea from the passage.

It’s clear from what Jesus says that thankfulness is important, especially thankfulness to Jesus Himself, and that’s something we are taught again and again. The Apostle Paul encouraged us, as we saw, to, ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Eph. 5:19-20)

So, are you someone who’s thankful? I really valued those words from Tom Wright, who said: ‘…our God is the giver of all things: every mouthful of food we take, every breath of air we inhale, every note of music we hear, every smile on the face of a friend, a child, a spouse – all that, and a million things more, are good gifts of his generosity. The world didn’t need to be like this. It could have been far more drab.’ (Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone, page 206)

I wonder, have you begun to do anything about that yet? Because being a people of thankfulness, not only makes us less prone to anger or bitterness, it also guards against that common human tendency to think God “owes” us or that God is some kind of “genie in a bottle”.

I think that’s part of the reason behind Jesus’ words in verses 7 to 10: that nothing we do, or experience, can put God in our debt, because He has been generous already, and immeasurably added to His generosity through the death of His perfect Son, our merciful high priest.

Again, as our faith develops substance, rather than size, by appreciating the person and promises of God, then we are freed from unhealthy perceptions of God, we are enabled to see His goodness, His grace, His loving kindness, such that He owes us nothing and we owe Him everything.

So, how are you going to develop a rhythm of thanking God for the gifts of His generosity? When I was in training, I came across a spiritual discipline called Examen, and it’s a form of prayer that helps us realise the many good gifts of God throughout our day. We don’t have time to go into it just now, but I’ll put up some links on our website and Facebook page if you want to dig into that, because it’s a practice that I’ve found helpful, even though I’m only beginning now to cultivate in my own life.

Friends, as we journey with Jesus towards Easter, may we be a people whose faith grows in substance as we see more clearly the person of God, that He is full of loving kindness, that He comes close, and out of His abundant generosity give us good things, including Himself. May we also, appreciate afresh the promises we have from God, particularly the promises secured for us through Jesus, who gave Himself for us upon the Cross, that we might be welcomed into His family and have a hope that is sure and steadfast, even in the most difficult of times. To Him, be all glory and thanks, now and forevermore. Amen.