The Lord calling

Preached on: Sunday 27th June 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above ABVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-06-27 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Matthew 14:22-33
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us come to God in prayer before we delve into His word, let us pray:

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

One of the many privileges of ministry is to be asked to conduct someone’s funeral and particularly to write a eulogy, because, someone in my position may not even know the individual all that well and yet, we are given the opportunity and the responsibility to recall and honor another’s life. Often, in a person’s life, there’ll be many seasons, highs and lows, and in the writing this eulogy we’re not simply seeking to recount a chronological series of events, rather,we’re trying to tell a story, we’re trying to tell something of their journey, a very personal journey which has touched upon the lives of other people. The life of faith is also often described as a journey, as a journey of following after Jesus with its own highs and lows, its twists and turns as we go to and fro, and one of my privileges in the past year has been to facilitate the telling of people’s journeys of faith through our Testimony Tuesday evenings. If you’ve not listened to these I heartily encourage you to do so. Look them up on our Youtube Channel or, if you don’t have access to the internet, then please ask for a CD or DVD copy. We’d love to facilitate that for you, because these stories of faith, these testimonies and following after Jesus, were so moving and powerful. Many a time these stories were quite normal, not everyone had a great crisis that brought about a renewed faith or something changed in their life, but each person did have a story to tell because being a Christian is to follow Jesus and if we are following the living Jesus then we should have a story to tell as well.

A story about how your faith in Jesus makes a difference to your everyday life and, hopefully, through you, how it has impacted others as well. When the day comes that someone has the great opportunity, I’m sure to tell some of my story I hope it’s a story where Jesus and following Jesus is clearly seen and told. So, if I was to pause right now and ask you to think over your life, to think over the many years maybe that you’ve been a Christian and I was to be asked to write your story, I wonder how much would your story of faith feature?

Would your family, would your friends have stories to tell about how Jesus made a difference to your character? How you following Jesus how the call or teaching of Jesus got you involved in something, got you to start something, maybe got you to stop something maybe, would they be able to say that you had such a close and personal relationship with Jesus that we remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus.

What does your story of faith say of you? How is following Jesus seen in your life?

Our gospel story today is a story of faith, it’s a story of following after Jesus and it’s also a story of Jesus, and it’s not so much about faith and following Jesus and the general storms of life that many of us will be able to resonate with, rather it’s much more a story of risky faith that gets you into a bit of a tricky situation.

We know from our reading that the disciples are instructed by Jesus to get into that boat and to grow across that lake and as they’re going they experience one of those great storms that was quite common in that area, as they crossed the water and they struggle against the wind and the waves for several hours until something happens, until something they’d never expected to see happens, until something that was outside of anything they’d experienced before – here came Jesus walking on the water and it’s understandable that at first they think it’s a ghost, like, if you saw that when you’re on your holiday over the summer, I’m pretty sure you’d be thinking it was a ghost or something strange, but with only a few words Jesus reassures them that it is Him. Though, for some reason, he doesn’t seem very eager to get in the boat initially and then for some other inexplicable reason Peter gets this idea to say to Jesus “Lord if it’s you, call me out.” and for an unknown period of time he gets to walk on the water with Jesus.

I wonder when Peter asked that question when he said Lord if it’s you tell me to come to you on the water what do you think the other disciples were saying to Peter at that point

might they have said Peter you’re crazy man don’t be silly don’t risk it or maybe they said Peter that’s not possible you’re only you don’t bother don’t risk it bother I wonder if those are words or thoughts that you have had in your own journey of faith maybe someone said them to you maybe you’ve thought them yourself don’t risk it don’t bother I wonder friends has there been times when Jesus has called you to take a step of faith and we’ve allowed these words to dissuade us from following him don’t risk it don’t bother maybe even just now the Lord is calling you to do something that you thought is just crazy maybe he’s telling you to take a step of faith and get involved in some way in our church family doing an area of ministry you think there’s no way I can do that or to become a member and take that step of faith to publicly say I believe in Jesus and this is my church family and I’m proud to admit that maybe it’s to give up a sinful habit that you think there’s no way I can do that maybe it’s to share something of your faith and invite people to come to church a friend a family member part of elaine’s story is stepping out in faith I’m sure you probably never thought the praise group would end up in the places that it went but you stepped out in faith you followed the call of Jesus maybe Jesus has something planned that would be incredible in your faith journey would be incredible testimony of what can happen when we step out in faith and you now face a choice

do you listen to Jesus or do they listen to the voices that say don’t risk it don’t bother now I hope and pray that we will take those risks that we will take that step of faith and maybe also I pray that through that something incredible will happen in your life something incredible might happen through you even for the benefit of someone else but do you know what often when we take those steps of faith it goes well for a while like with Peter but something happens something happens in Peter’s experience he takes his eyes off of Jesus and then he sees the wind and the waves and they start to just overwhelm him he starts to get fearful he starts to sink more often than we like more often than we like following Jesus can get us into situations where we feel overwhelmed where we feel vulnerable where we feel scared maybe even threatened and I wonder if you have taken a step of faith sometime and it hasn’t worked out like you planned or I wonder if you’re thinking of taking a step of faith just now and you worry something will go wrong you worry that the voices are right don’t risk it don’t bother

most often when we read the story of Peter we focus very much on the stuff he does wrong and we’ll get to that but there’s also something he did right at that point in the story something we can learn from he called out to Jesus before he was in over his head I was listening to a sermon last weekend because well what did I listen to so I listened to someone else since uh I’m preaching each week and I was listening to a friend uh one of my friends uh trained with in ministry Lindsay who’s the minister down in Dundonald on the west coast uh south of here and she was saying that in hard times we might say when the wind and the waves are buffeting us it can be easy to allow these situations to undermine our faith these situations can make us try to go alone we maybe withdraw from our church family we maybe try to do it in our own strength we maybe try we even try and withdraw from God we just turn away from God we stop praying we stalk reaching out to him and as we do that we sink further and further down but not Peter not Peter sure he takes his eyes off Jesus and as I say we’ll come to that but he calls out to Jesus he has faith and a faith that is more than a faith for the good times and more than a faith that is just following Jesus when life is exciting and often in our day and in western culture if life isn’t going well and Jesus isn’t ticking all your boxes then apparently he can’t be very loving really is that faith is that was just turning Jesus into a genie Peter has faith and so he calls out to Jesus and in doing that he finds that Jesus is right there in the storm with him he finds that Jesus is able to save to pick him up amidst the storms because let’s remember they’re in that storm because of Jesus let’s remember Peter’s experiencing those waves because Jesus said come you might say it’s Jesus fault in some ways they are where they are meant to be and Jesus is right there with them and he’s ready to save

friends I wonder if storms have come in your life they’ve come upon your journey of faith and in the midst of those storms and waves did you call out to Jesus did you call out before the water was over your head or did we try to go alone did we allow faith to wither did we allow hurt and bitterness genuine heart maybe to have their way and drive a wedge between us and God

you know even if we did even if that was the case it’s not too late it is not too late the water can be right over your head but Jesus can pick you up and he can bring you into his embrace that you might have life that you might have peace that you might have renewed faith let us not allow faith to wither nor simply rely on our own internal strength let us learn from Peter’s experience from his story and call upon the name of Jesus both in the storms and in the everyday moments of life I said near the start that this is a story about following Jesus but it is also a story about Jesus himself and you know every one of our stories includes that too when you tell your face story you’re not just telling about your life you’re telling about the Jesus you follow

and the same is true here sure we get lessons about what it means to follow Jesus about having a risky faith or how to respond when we start to sink but we also get revelation about Jesus

in part we have this story because of of an event that happens beforehand and it’s made clearer for us in the gospel of john there we read after the people saw the sign Jesus performed they began to say surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world Jesus knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force withdrew again to a mountain by himself the sign referred to here is the feeding of the five thousand and in both Matthew’s gospel and john’s gospel the feeling of the 5000 comes before this experience in the storm and before Jesus goes up the mountain Jesus goes up the mountain Jesus sends his disciples away because the people want to make him king they want to have him rule them rather than the puppet king that roman stopped but Jesus doesn’t want that and so he goes up the mountain he sends the disciples away they might see him as a man they might see him as a prophet but they don’t realize there’s so much more to Jesus Christian writer Max Lucado imagined what a journal entry might be like might have been like if one of the disciples straight after they got to shore had written down their experience and he describes it like this

i had never seen Jesus as I saw him then had seen him as powerful I had seen him as wise I had witnessed his authority and marveled at his abilities but what I witnessed last night I know I’ll never forget I saw God the God who can’t sit still when the storm is too strong the God who lets me get frightened enough to need him and then comes close enough for me to see him the God who uses my storms as his path to come to me I saw God it took a storm for me to see him but I saw him and I’ll never be the same

maybe before the experience on the lake the disciples were just picturing Jesus as a man a prophet a wise teacher able to do a few miracles but after their experience on the lake they think very differently of Jesus the fir this is the first time they worship him this is the first time they say truly you are the son of God and surely don’t understand that phrase fully they have a lot to learn they’ve got assumptions on to undo but they start to see that Jesus is more than a man he’s more than merely a human king and ultimately it is this revelation that should prompt us towards a risky faith this revelation should prompt us to call upon Jesus amidst the storms and the waves he is God he alone is God and you know Jesus rebuke of Peter is not so much about the quantity of Peter’s faith though that’s what comes across an English translation rather faith is a consistency of trust in whom Jesus is faith is a consistency of trust in whom Jesus is and we know that because of what we read in James where doubt is to be divided into and so you you move from doubt to faith not by adding more to faith so that faith is somehow heavier than your doubt rather doubt diminishes as you become less divided in your thinking about who Jesus is who Jesus is and so we develop from that a more consistent trust a more consistent faith in Jesus so I wonder friends what is your perception of Jesus what is your perception of Jesus

to nurture a confidence that he is God you need to be in his word you need to be praying you need to be worshiping seven days a week not just today can I ask are you doing that are you facilitating that

you might do it as you jog or walk the dog you might do it in a quiet room you might do it at the end of the day the start of the day it doesn’t actually matter but are you doing it because even if Jesus who had the most important job and the greatest demands and the busiest schedule and a family to look after because remember he doesn’t have a dad he’s the head of the family if even Jesus with all of this if even he had to go up a mountain and be with the father so that he would be more clear about who he was and the mission he was called to and that he might persevere under the greatest of challenges and temptations if even Jesus had to go with to be with the father and reconnect how much more how much more church do we need that to connect with God to connect with Jesus you won’t get through the storms without being with Jesus so can I encourage you to do that and it’s only by connecting with Jesus and being sure of Jesus that you will have a story to tell a story to tell to the generations you know Wednesday I went and visited Elwyn and that first verse I shared from first Thessalonians I read with Elwyn because our brother has a story to tell he will be remembered not just because he’s a great guy he will be remembered because he has a faith in Jesus which has changed the world it has changed lives

can we say that can we say that you will only be able people will only be able to say that if you know Jesus if you spend time with Jesus and allow Jesus to lead you into the risky places of faith

as I said this summer, we are starting a series on stories of power and parable and in the midst of it I hope we learn much more of Jesus and if we hear his call he’s called to risky consistent faith even amidst the storms of life

let us pray

so brothers and sisters where’s Jesus calling you to take a step of faith

or what are the storms you’re facing and you need them to pick you up and hold you fast

or what’s causing you to be double minded to be split into to doubt that he’s God

in the stillness why don’t you just take a moment to share that with them in any of these three areas

Lord Jesus

I pray for those you’re calling to step out in faith just now

give us a boldness a holy boldness fill us with your spirit afresh that we’d risk it that we’d risk it all for you

Lord I pray for those in the storm those with the waves crashing upon them be their strength and stay be their peace and their rock see them through the storm file see them through the storm and Lord where we feel just out of kilter with you

where we struggle to reconcile that that you are God help us give wisdom and revelation I pray

nurture our faith and lead us to that point where we know with confidence we know with clarity we know with clear consistency of faith that you are God you’re here and nothing, nothing in all creation can separate us from your love

We ask this in your name, Amen.

Justice: called to change

Preached on: Sunday 22nd November 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 20-11-22 Message PPT slides multi-page.
Bible references: Isaiah 61:1-9
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Isaiah 61:1-9
Sunday 22nd November 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchMessage
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 true and pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Today is our last week in our series focusing on justice through the book of Isaiah. Over the previous weeks, we’ve seen time and again that justice is a priority for the Lord because it is central to worship and core to His plan for bringing hope and light to the world, so that the norm changes and there might life for all. Each week, we’ve also had input from members of our church family, sharing with us ideas for seeking justice.

Of the passages we explored, several may be less well known to us, but today’s passage could be familiar, or the beginning at least, because these words were quoted by Jesus. In Luke chapter 4, Jesus is in the synagogue at Nazareth and He reads this very passage, then says: ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4:21) This passage of Scripture foretold of someone who would come, anointed in the Spirit of the Lord, to set the world right, to bring life and healing of soul and of society. In that synagogue, Jesus was claiming to be the person referred to in Isaiah, the promised Messiah who would come to suffer and to serve, that God’s promises and plan would be fulfilled. Many of the promises in this passage should be familiar to us by now because they echo many earlier passages that we read and more besides.
Yet, there is something else in this passage, which I think helpfully rounds off our series on justice. Isaiah said:
‘They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendour.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations…
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.’
(Isaiah 61:3-4, 6)

In these verses, we see that, whilst the principle agent of change and restoration is the promised Messiah, the people who benefit from Him, the people who receive…
His deliverance and salvation and help and grace, these same people are then called to be His ongoing agents, His ambassadors, His priests and ministers, such that they stand in the gap on His behalf and share what they have received from Him with the wider world. These people are called to change, they are called to change the world – to rebuild a world that has been devastated by sin, a world marked by a lack of love and too much cruelty and a way of life that says to take care of yourself first and at all costs. To all who have met with the Messiah, who have met with Jesus, there is a calling – we have a calling – to play a part in rebuilding lives and even rebuilding societies. It addresses the spiritual dynamics of life but also the material, for the earlier verses in the chapter speak of the Messiah transforming the full range of human reality and experience.
So, I wonder friends, as we heed last week’s message, that simply returning to normal is not viable and so we must look forward and look out, where are our resources being invested? What are we rebuilding or restoring? Are we simply maintaining the old structures and institution? Or can we learn the way of Jesus, to look outward and see the brokenness all around, and in love and compassion – where ‘compassion’ literally means ‘with suffering’ – can we love and suffer with this broken world for their benefit, and so play our part in what Jesus, the Messiah, is doing in our world? Friends, we are called to change, to change the world, so how is that seen in your life? How is that seen in our congregation’s life?

But this calling to change is not only external, it’s also internal. Isaiah did say:
‘They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendour…
For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.’
(Isaiah 61:3, 8)

We are called to change, but not only to change the world, we are called to change within ourselves. The Lord through Isaiah says that those who experience the ministry of the Messiah will be called ‘oaks of righteousness’, they will change in character, in their nature, such that they ‘display…his splendour’, His glory, His likeness – they will pursue justice, because He…
is the Lord who loves justice. So firm is His commitment to our change, that it is in fact part of the everlasting covenant He makes with us, His people. And this is key friends, because we shouldn’t fall into a false understanding about these matters – we don’t grow in righteousness by trying harder, that would be man-made religion. Instead, we are ‘a planting of the Lord’ – it is He who will nurture and grow this righteousness in us.

It’s a theme picked up in many places across the New Testament. Paul will say to Titus: ‘…our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,…gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.’ (Titus 2:14) God through Isaiah, God through Paul, God across the Scriptures invites us into relationship and through that relationship into a calling to change, to change on the inside. It’s something we see in the life and ministry of Jesus: He transformed a tax collector into a disciple, a prostitute into a missionary, a sceptic into an apostle, a madman into a family man, and a thief into a friend.

Of course, it takes time – the Scriptures don’t speak of us becoming perfect instantaneously – because an oak matures slowly, it doesn’t become great overnight. But nevertheless, this is part of God’s plan, part of His calling upon our lives – and He will help make it possible. He promises to give us His Spirit to dwell in us and enable us to change. Paul says: ‘…by the Spirit…put to death the misdeeds of the body…’ (Romans 8:13) and the fruit of the Spirit – not the fruit of our hard labour – is ‘…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Gal. 5:22-23) God will do what we cannot do for ourselves – change our nature, change us on the inside.

Does this mean we have no part to play? Do we simply lie back and allow God to work some magic on us? Well no, in that same quote from Romans, Paul says: ‘…by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body…’ (Romans 8:13) You, with the Spirit, but without the Spirit you haven’t got a chance; for our brokenness, our darkness, the captivity within us because of sin is too powerful for us to overcome alone. But by the death and resurrection of Jesus, and because He has ascended into heaven and sent the Spirit, we can now know the healing and transformation promised in Isaiah and so increasingly grow as oaks of righteousness.
In our culture today, there’s that practice of taking a picture or selfie and adding a filter to make you look better or jazz things up a bit. Sometimes it’s just for fun, but other times I wonder if it points to a wishful desire in us, or a discontentment with who we are – so we end up putting on the filter, we fake it, and whilst the outside changes, it does nothing about the inside. We’re still broken, we’re still insecure or easily angered, because we need outside help to change on the inside.

Friends, we’ve been exploring God’s call to seek justice. That call requires us to change, it requires us to put others first, and like every call and command of God, if we see it as optional, we will never change. When I first became a Christian, I knew I had to stop getting drunk, I knew I had to stop swearing, I knew I had to treat girls better,… because the Scriptures teach us these things and I knew it wasn’t an option. And so I wholeheartedly said “yes” to God’s way, and change came, much quicker than I ever expected – but I had to choose, I had to choose to submit to God and not see it as optional. By taking that step, that step of faith to trust God’s way over mine, He then gave power by His Spirit and I did change on the inside.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to change, to change this world and see it rebuilt and restored. But for that to be – for our future to be different from the past – we must also heeds God’s call to change on the inside and allow His Spirit to grow and mature us in His character and in His ways, which includes the seeking of justice.

I pray it may be so. Amen.

Called to Wholeness and called to Family

Preached on: Sunday 9th August 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 20-08-09-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: Matthew 9:1-13
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Matthew 9:1-13 (NIV)
Sunday 9th August 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.

Last week we were introduced to that statement from the Church Without Walls Report, which said that the core purpose of the church is ‘to invite, encourage and enable people to be disciples of Jesus Christ.’ We focused especially on the words ‘invite’ and ‘disciples’, so today I want to focus more on ‘encourage’, because in this life of faith, in this calling to be disciples who invite others to be disciples, we need encouragement.

Boys and girls, have you ever done something that’s hard? Maybe you had to try something new? Well, whatever that hard thing was, what helped you keep going? To keep trying? I’ll give you 60 seconds to think or talk about that at home. (PAUSE)

If you like, put up in the Live Chat the ideas you came up with. Maybe you said, people who were around you, like friends or family; it might have been the words that they used; or maybe it was a sense of accomplishment that helped you to keep going.

One of my hobbies is rock climbing, and when I was starting out in rock climbing, it was really hard. My arms would get sore, I’d fall off the wall, I’d get frustrated that
I couldn’t get to the top of a climb…
But what kept me going were my friends, because their encouragement, their words, their own perseverance, helped me find strength, of body and of heart, of will.

The word “encouragement” literally means “to give heart” – to give strength to your heart to keep going, to persevere – and we all need that, most days, most weeks; we need someone to help us keep going, maybe through their example, their words or even just their company, because these things strengthen our heart, our will.

In our story today, once more we see Jesus calling someone to follow Him, to be His disciple. Can you remember his name? It was…Matthew. Now, can you also remember what Matthew’s job was? Matthew was
a tax collector and tax collectors were not liked…
very much. They were employed by the Romans, who everybody hated, and Matthew’s job was to make sure people paid a certain amount of money to the Romans. But tax collectors were also a bit of a bad bunch, because they’d usually charge too much and so they would get rich on the extra money. This meant that everyone hated them as well, because they were traitors for helping the Romans, and they were bad because they got rich at the expense of others.

So, here comes Jesus and He calls Matthew, a tax collector, to be His disciple. Matthew was being invited into relationship, invited into God’s purpose, just like the other disciples were last week. But Matthew’s story teaches us something else as well.

Matthew would have been despised, he would have been an outcast, with a group of friends you could only trust as far as you could throw them. But Jesus calls Matthew and then goes home with him to have a meal. That was a big deal back then because there was an old saying that said: ‘to share a meal is to share a life.’ The people you ate with were the people you accepted and welcomed into your life.

So, Jesus is doing something special here, in particular with Matthew. Jesus is inviting Matthew into a new family, a new place where he belongs. Matthew is no longer going to be known simply as “the tax collector”; he’s now a disciple of Jesus, he’s in relationship with Jesus, and as Jesus will say later, ‘…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister.’
That goes for all the disciples – to every one of them, to every one of us: Jesus gives us an invitation to relationship and to purpose, but we don’t do it alone, to help us keep going, to give us heart and strength, Jesus invites us into His family, the family of God. This is more than just a loose collection of acquaintances or superficial friendships; we are called to be family together, in all the seasons of life.

In our current season this is especially important. You may have heard that the elders at Brightons have decided not to open up the church sanctuary for worship just now. It is their decision to make and they weighed up all the issues and feedback. Currently, things are very limited in what we can do in worship and who could attend, and it was felt by the elders that such a worship environment… would not offer as meaningful an experience for the majority of people than what is currently available online, on via CD or in printed format.

Nevertheless, the elders are aware that maybe what we most yearn for right now is community, to see one another and to be family together. There are probably many ways we could do this, from watching the Sunday service together with a neighbour (though without singing); or inviting some someone round for a cuppa, whether outdoors or indoors. But there may be other ideas as well, so if you have an idea about how we could be family together, then please get in contact and help us be family in this time. Equally, if you are feeling isolated and want support, then get in contact as well or try something new.
For example, your picture in for Community Corner, or joining the pre-service Zoom Cuppa. This runs from 10 to 10.40 every Sunday morning, and you don’t need to use a computer or tablet, you can just phone in and talk to a group of other people from the church. And because we are family, there are people around who are willing to help you get connected, so please just ask if you want to give it a try.

Matthew was being invited into a new family, the family of God, but in this story of Matthew’s call to follow Jesus, we see something else. Matthew is also invited into forgiveness, to have peace with God. Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ Jesus comes with the invitation to know the forgiveness of God,…
which is central to what God wishes to give us, because sin has broken our relationship with God, it has broken our relationship with others, it has broken this world, even ourselves. Jesus, the Great Physician, comes to forgive sin as part of the means of healing this world.

We see in the Old Testament, that the heart of God is for us to know peace, shalom, which we might describe as ‘wholeness’ today. It includes peace with God, peace with others, peace within yourself, peace of soul and mind. Jesus comes with the invitation to begin a journey towards wholeness. Matthew had lost his way, he’d gone down a wrong track; he was broken on the inside, he was broken in his relationship with others, he was broken in his relationship with God – yet in every dimension of
Matthew’s life, Jesus offers healing, He offers wholeness.

And as Matthew begins to experience this, he naturally invites others into that experience for themselves, to meet with Jesus, this God-man, who has authority to forgive, to heal the soul, and change our lives forever.

Friends, will we respond like Matthew to Jesus? Will we take up His calling to follow, to be family, to show a scandalous generosity towards others? You can’t do that by staying removed, or just looking out for yourself – you have to start looking out to others, and rather than seeing them as people who don’t meet your mark, you have to show mercy, loving-kindness, the ‘hesed’ covenant love of God.

Yet, all of us have failed in this at some point, and so all of us are broken on the inside, we need the healing…
Page
of Jesus, we need His forgiveness. I wonder, will you respond to the invitation of Jesus? To family and to wholeness? I pray it be so. Amen.

We close our time together with our final hymn…

Called to Follow & Fish

Preached on: Sunday 2nd August 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 20-08-02-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: Matthew 4:18 to 5:1
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Matthew 4:18-5:1 (NIV)
Sunday 2nd August 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, if you could receive an invitation from anyone in the world, from any time in history, and go to their birthday party, who would you choose? Would you want to go to the birthday party of someone famous, or someone who changed history, or maybe a family member you didn’t get to know? Who would you choose? Who would you want an invitation from? I’ll give you 30 seconds to think or talk about that at home. (PAUSE)

If you like, put up in the Live Chat who you picked, because I’m sure there’s some interesting ideas.

I wonder, if you got that invitation, would you be excited? A little nervous? How would you feel? Because when that invitation is put in your hand, you would feel something, and the same is true of the disciples today.

It’s likely the disciples knew Jesus before this particular encounter, because John’s gospel has an earlier story, but Jesus wasn’t quite ready to start his mission at that stage and Matthew doesn’t have room to include everything.

So, here comes Jesus, drawing alongside these fishermen at work and He says to them, ‘Come, follow me…and I will send you out to fish for people.’ These words would change their lives forever and with one sentence, Jesus gives to them an invitation, a calling, into a relationship and into a purpose.

When Jesus says, ‘Come, follow me…’ he literally meant, ‘Come, behind me…’ and these fishermen would have known this to be an invitation to become His disciples, to learn His teaching and His way of life. A good teacher, a good rabbi, would expect to have a group of such followers but normally the rabbi would be asked by the would-be disciple. So, Jesus is doing something different here, because it’s Jesus who comes calling, and in the giving of that call, ‘Come, follow me…come, behind me…’ there is an invitation to relationship.

Now, they’ve already met Jesus, in John’s gospel, John the Baptist told these disciples that Jesus is ‘the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29) and ‘is God’s Chosen One’ (John 1:34). So, what must the disciples have felt when Jesus said to them, ‘Come, follow me…’? Excitement? A bit nervous? Every emotion you could possibly imagine? Here is God’s Messiah calling them into relationship with Him – they are no longer just people in the crowd, they are called to follow, to know Jesus more intimately than others, and in that relationship with Him, in being present to the lamb of God, the Messiah, their lives will change because they will experience the presence of God daily and personally.

This an invitation Jesus keeps extending again and again and again. He extends it even today,…
Jesus extends you this invitation to know Him, to be present with Him every day, and in such a way that it changes your life. This is the core of Christianity – that God became a man, He died and rose again, and so now you can know Him, experience Him, for yourself, for He offers this invitation to you and all of humanity. Jesus invites us into relationship, He calls us all to follow Him.

I hope, I pray, you’ve responded to that invitation, that whatever your age you can say, “I’ve chosen to follow Jesus, I am His disciple.” If you’d like to know more, then check out last week’s message or get in contact with me, and if you’d like ideas on how to nurture that with children and young people, then check out last month’s and this Tuesday’s video on YouTube with Parenting For Faith, because some great ideas were shared there.
Jesus called these disciples, as He calls us all, into relationship, but He also called them into a purpose, for He said: ‘…I will send you out to fish for people.’ (v19) It’s a purpose He would repeat at the end of Matthew’s gospel: ‘…go and make disciples of all nations…’ (Matt. 28:19) On both occasions, Jesus invites them, He calls them, into a purpose and that purpose has been core to the Church for two thousand years. I’m encouraged that in the Church of Scotland we stood by that call in a report which was published nearly twenty years ago. It was called, ‘The Church Without Walls Report’, and in it they said the core calling, the core purpose, of the church was: ‘to invite, encourage and enable people to be disciples of Jesus Christ.’ This is a phrase I’ll probably keep coming back to, even in this series, because today we’ve looked at the invitation of Jesus, the invitation to be His disciple.
But part of being a disciple of Jesus is that we are called to go and make disciples of Jesus, and again this was different to how rabbi’s operated. Normally, someone would come and ask the rabbi to be their disciple, and if accepted would follow the rabbi and learn from the rabbi. But eventually that disciple would learn everything they needed, their apprenticeship would finish, and then they would become a rabbi and maybe attract their own followers.

Not so with Jesus, for He says, ‘go and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matt. 28:19-20) Jesus doesn’t graduate His disciples because a disciple of Jesus remains a disciple, yet they to commissioned to invite others into that relationship with Jesus as well.
So, why this difference between Jesus and the other rabbis? Why is it He who calls? Why is do His disciples stay as His followers? Well, it’s because of who Jesus is. Just before He reiterated that purpose, Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ (Matt. 28:18) Because of His death on the cross, which conquered sin and the grave, and was vindicated by His resurrection, Jesus is shown to be God’s Chosen One, the Messiah, God in the flesh. Jesus then is the Lord and so disciples are called into allegiance to Him, they are to be committed to Him, not simply His teaching, not even His church, and certainly not our own preferences, for we are to follow Jesus, we are to heed His call, and see it not as a suggestion but as His command: ‘go, make disciples…go, fish.’ We are called ‘to invite…people to be disciples of Jesus Christ’.
Yet, here’s the thing – do we heed that? Will we heed this call of God? You see, it wasn’t only the disciples who followed Jesus. We read today that, ‘Large crowds….followed him.’ (v25) But the crowd followed Jesus in a different way. The crowd was amazed by Jesus, they even liked what they heard from Jesus on the whole, many may even have agreed with Jesus. But the nature of their following was different to that of the disciples. The disciples were committed to Jesus; but it was the crowd who would commit Jesus to the cross, it was the crowd who turned on Jesus and shouted, ‘Crucify him!…Crucify him!’ (Matt. 27:22-23)

A disciple has committed themselves to follow Jesus, to heed His call to relationship and to a purpose. I wonder friends, is that us? Is that Brightons?…

Is that the Braes Churches? Do we follow Jesus as disciples, or are we following Jesus like the crowd? Jesus extends you His invitation to relationship and to purpose – I pray that each of us accepts that call.

May it be so. Amen.

We close our time together with our final hymn…