Family: Belonging and Purpose

Preached on: Sunday 12th September 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here21-09-12 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Exodus 3:1-12
Location: Brightons Parish Church

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

Holy Spirit, come among us and soften our hearts to the word of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us and reveal to us the heart of God and be a balm to our heart if we need that today.
Holy Spirit, come among us with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

If a friend or colleague or neighbor was to ask you why they should bother about church what would your answer be? Could you give an answer? What would your answer convey to them and do you think it might resonate with them in any way at all?

Most likely your answer will be dependent upon your experience of church so if you think church is boring your answer’s probably going to be a pretty dull or you might struggle and start her to try and say something because there’s something in there that says you have to have a good answer and you’re just waffle something of course on the other hand if church has been beneficial to you may have something positive to say but again I wonder would it resonate with today’s culture one analysis of today’s culture suggests that people across the age ranges yearn for belonging and they yearn for purpose the yearn for belonging and for purpose so I wonder have you experienced either of those when you’ve shared in church

I know I have I have I’ve experienced a depth of belonging that is so very rare in our culture today at one time I was part of a small group of young adults when I was in my 20s at a church in Edinburgh and some of them Gill and I are still in contact with now they know the depths of who we are they have journeyed with us through some of the darkest times in life they have encouraged us they have spurred us on and picked us up we’ve hung out we’ve had meals together in each other’s homes we’ve had a cuppa at the latest time of night you can imagine we were family and it really was and as a gift so that even though we are in different countries now we still make the effort to book a holiday once a year and go see them and be with them and keep in contact across the year that’s the experience of church that I’ve had so that when church is at its best there is true belonging and it really functions like the best of families but the same writer goes on to say that today’s generation not only wants to belong they want purpose indeed they yearn to be part of a community that lives and works for a purpose higher than mere survival its own survival a purpose higher than its own survival yet sadly too often how often does that feature in the church sure we’re a place you can belong but we are very focused on our own survival particularly when things seem threatening and many a church lacks a sense of belonging to something greater and maybe that’s because we end up making church about us about me about I sadly too few of us have a sense of belonging to something greater something that is worth living for even something that is worth dying for either literally or metaphorically so by now you know that we’re working through this new teaching series on our purpose and values and today’s value is the value of family we’re a family of all sorts of people journeying in community towards wholeness our passage has much to say about this value but before we dig into it it’s helpful i think to recall some of the story of Moses he was an Israelite part of the Israelite nation that grew up in Egypt and became slaves to the Egyptians and his life was a threat because of the command given by pharaoh to suppress the growth of the Israelite nation but his mother saved him and he actually ended up living in pharaoh’s household we might say as a prince of Egypt but then as a young man he intervened in an altercation when he helped uh try to help a Jewish slave that was being mistreated and that led to him fleeing Egypt fleeing into the wilderness into Midian and living there as a shepherd for 40 years and that’s where we find him in today’s passage Moses is out tending his flock on the far side of the wilderness and that’s where God meets him God catches his eye with a burning bush a bush that is con not being consumed by the fire and so Moses thinks to himself well that’s pretty strange I’m going to go see this yet before he can even take a step God intervenes and says Moses, Moses do not come any closer take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground Moses meets with God this holy God that we were thinking about last week and again we see God keeping that distance because of his holiness so Moses has this personal and life-changing meeting with God which was our value last week if you recall but there’s something we need to see in this passage something else as Moses encounters God he receives a calling a calling into something greater something greater than merely personal faith or personal benefit and let’s pause and think about that for a moment because as i said already we often make church we often make faith or following Jesus about ourselves how does it benefit me does it meet my needs does it take enough of my boxes what am I getting out of this do I really have the time for this

yet Moses story shows us that when we meet with God he calls us into something bigger something that has both belonging and purpose God goes on to say I’m the God of your father the God of Abraham the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt God in meeting with Moses is calling Moses into this people again into this family the family of God and so we should be quite familiar with us by now because I’ve said it so often in the last couple of weeks God has a heart to have a people of his own and he’s going to relate to them now we see as a family with him being the perfect father to them and but in the very next people he reaffirms this he says in the next chapter even he says when you return to Egypt say to pharaoh this is what the lord says Israel is my firstborn son and i told you let my son go so that he may worship me the firstborn son his pride and joy his heir and so God has his heart for our people but he has his heart for our family he will treat them as his children and he calls Moses out of the wilderness out of estrangement out of distance and back into this place of belonging when we meet with God when we meet with God it is meant to lead us to something more than just a personal faith yes God wants you to know forgiveness and he wants you to know peace and he wants you to know hope and he wants you to know life but as we’ve seen biblical faith is meant to be more than merely me mine and I we’re called into something greater we’re called into belonging to something greater and that carries over into the new testament we read there see what great love the father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God and that is what we are it’s what we are does it is it core to your identity I hope I remember talking to hope about this the idea that we talked about this morning it’s a hard concept for a five-year-old to get our head around this idea that as deep as your family roots go you still have a family that goes deeper and for all eternity and Paul carries that on he says you’re no longer foreigners and strangers but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household members of his family with God as your father we’re called into something greater we’re called to belong to something greater to something that can never be lost never be taken away from us even after death

have we allowed this to grip us have we allowed it to shape our mind and our heart to shape our living the sense of belonging to the family of God to something greater because when we do church is no longer an event that we turn up to once a week and it’s no longer just a club or a loose group of people it’s your brother and sister someone you love and it really does become family in church we becomes the best it can be God was calling Moses back into this family he’s called us into this family and do we allow God’s word to shape our thinking in this way because it sounds a simple lesson something you tell kids till they grow sold enough that they’ve heard it so many times but do we live it out do we live it out do we see one another as our sisters and brothers in Christ so our family value says we’re a family of all sorts of people but it doesn’t stop there and it didn’t stop there for Moses either God goes on to say i have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt I’ve heard them crying out because of their slave drivers and I am concerned about their suffering so i have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land a land flowing with milk and honey God has his people his family and he now tells Moses he’s going to take his children on a journey a journey out of darkness oppression and strife and to a place that is full of joy and life and goodness so when God speaks here of a good and spacious land a land flowing with milk and honey he’s simply using the language of the time he’s using the language of a shepherd and he does so that he might paint a picture and help his people understand a concept that we’re familiar with I’m sure but it’s still hard to get our heads around it’s spoken of in many ways throughout scripture often referred to as peace or in the Hebrew shalom maybe our best contemporary word would be wholeness, wholeness and shalom has this idea of a wholeness that’s both individual but collective it’s meant to ripple out across society in the wider world it includes wholeness both physically so that there’s no more suffering or death it’s meant to affect us emotionally and intellectually no more brokenness in those areas of life it’s meant to be part of our spiritual wholeness as well and speaking of shalom across the scriptures this is what God speaks of wholeness and its greatest extent that you can imagine that’s the peace that’s the wholeness that God wishes to give to his people is this is the wholeness he calls them into that would affect every area of life every area of brokenness and so when Jesus says i’ve come that they may have life and have it to the full he’s not limiting this to forgiveness

his death on the cross was not just so that you can get forgiven that’s the tip of the iceberg God’s intent through Jesus is yes for you to be forgiven because you need that we’re all a bunch of sinners as we thought about last week but that forgiveness is simply an entrance point into something greater a greater destiny a greater future God intends for his people to know this shalom his peace his perfection his wholeness and so that’s why our family value says we’re a family of all sorts of people journeying in community towards wholeness as a family we’re on a journey and we do it in community because we need one another but we’re journeying towards somewhere we’re not journeying aimlessly we’re journeying towards life in all its fullness as part of the kingdom of God into that new heaven and new earth that will one day come

now at this point I can imagine that there’s either two objections or struggles with this first of all you might think this sounds kind of selfish again Scott this me mine and I thing maybe it’s too earthly minded maybe it’s sinful maybe I feel I’m a bad person that I want this but then also remember please all I’ve done is quote scripture so God wants this for you more than you want it God wants this for you more than you want it he is a good God he came to save that you might have life, life in all its fullness life and all its wholeness but I suspect the other struggle that will come to mind as I say this is a struggle that every one of us faces from time to time and we are facing it even again today with the news that I’ve had to share because you hear this chat about a God a God who yearns for a people of his own a family of his own that he came to die that they might have life in all his fullness and yet this world is still so broken and it’s just getting worse isn’t it you know Gill and I were in for our 20-week scan the other week and when the doctor found out I was a minister lead came off is about all I can say because suddenly we faced with all these questions about these very issues it’s where he went to second time we saw him so maybe as i share God’s heart his heart to bring us on a journey to wholeness you struggle with that because maybe in your life or in the life of someone you love all you see is brokenness and the more you see of it the more brokenness comes about because then it ends up breaking your heart and maybe even ends up breaking your faith

and friends there’s no silver bullet to that there’s no answer that fully resolves the pain

in some ways i believe there shouldn’t be because when we try to have an answer the answer it probably just minimizes the dark and difficult realities we face

yet know this God is not unaware nor is he unaffected in the verses i quoted earlier God said i am concerned about their suffering now to you and me concerned probably sounds pretty cold distant about as caring as a politician pick the one you’d most want to fill in the gap there but that’s a fault of our English because the Hebrew word that’s translated here concerned it involves the idea of knowing of knowing with certainty of knowing with intimate knowledge even knowing with experience so we could even paraphrase God as saying I have experienced their suffering i have experienced their suffering just as a parent may experience a genuine degree of suffering as they see their child struggling so too does God yet God sees all suffering so the hardship that you and I know in our lives and what we feel as we watch a loved one struggle these are multiplied a billion-fold time a billion-fold for God who has experienced the suffering of every life of every moment of brokenness in this world at least from the beginning of time but as an eternal God maybe he’s always experienced it

and a day and a year can seem a long time in our lives what’s eternity like carrying all that suffering

God is not unaffected friends and now of the overflow of his love for you and me in this broken world he desires for all of us to belong to his family and then journey towards his peace his new kingdom the new heaven and earth that we might know life in all its fullness

there’s much more that can be said on this the tensions of the now and the not yet the tensions of waiting but this is God’s heart for us he calls us into family and he calls us on a journey to wholeness but he also does something quite strange with Moses he says to Moses so now go I’m sending you to pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt God has this people his family and his plans and purposes for them and yet for some unfathomable reason God wants to involve Moses this guy who messed up he messed up so bad he had to flee when he was younger and yet God still wants him to be involved i think he does it so as to rewrite Moses story so that the the future that Moses has is different from what he has had because God is calling him into something bigger into family towards wholeness into a new story by being involved and Moses responds not only this one time in verses 11 and 12 if you go on and read he responds four more times to God saying God who am I mean come on God you might be God you may have all wisdom but this just seems crazy why be no way but God says i will be with you and he later provides Aaron and others to journey with him towards these purposes so brothers and sisters God has called you into his family he has called you towards wholeness and he is calling you to be involved that the future story of this place the future story of an individual’s life the future story of our community might be different you’re part of a bigger story you know I’m I’m journeying with someone who came to faith about a year or so ago and it’s a real privilege to journey with this individual and I’m getting to know this individual story and there are hard parts to the story but I believe that God has got better in front of her than what she’s known that there will be joy again there will be peace and purpose because God is calling us all into that and he’s calling us to be involved but maybe as you hear that you’re thinking uh that sounds a bit scary I couldn’t do that I can’t do what you do Scott I can’t do what Jean or Ann did today well maybe you’ve got a different role to play you will have I’m sure and you need to know that God will be with you as well his grace and power will be with you to further what you might do in your life to help us be a place of family to help us be involved in the purposes of God there will be others of us however who need to drop the excuses just like Moses had to because God calls us all to be involved for the sake of others for the sake of his purposes for the sake of his family because if this family value is to be realized more fully we need everyone brothers and sisters we need everyone to play their part and if we do then maybe maybe when someone says to you why should i bother about church your answer certainly won’t be dull and you might still stumble and stutter a little but what you say won’t be from a place of trying to come up with the best answer possible you’ll just speak from experience and that might be captivating to them because you’ll be speaking of something greater I’ve been called into something greater I’ve been called into the family of God where you belong and into a purpose that is about more than mere survival it’s about inviting encouraging and enable people of all ages to encounter and follow Jesus Christ such that their lives change for the better and they too journey with us as a family as a community towards that wholeness and peace which he promises and which we will experience one day when His kingdom comes in all its fullness and we share in that new heaven and new earth

I pray it may be so, Amen

Advent: welcome and secure

Preached on: Sunday 20th December 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 20-12-20 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Matthew 1:18-25
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Matthew 1v18-25 (NIV)
Sunday 19th December 2020
Brightons Parish Church

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 true and pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls – adults even: what makes you feel secure? I’ll give you 30 seconds to think about that, talk about it at home, or even put it up in the Live Chat.
(PAUSE)

I wonder what came to mind for you. Maybe it was family – the security of loved ones being close and able to listen or help. Maybe it is our homes – we might have a chair, or a room, where we feel especially safe. It could be…
holding our favourite teddy or being wrapped up in a blanket you’ve had for years. Maybe we feel secure because of the things in our homes or the plans that we have. We all find safety and security in a range of places and ways, and some will be common to us, whilst others are unique because they hold a special place in our lives.

Do you remember boys and girls who we read about in our story today? We didn’t read about the story of the stable, like in this nativity scene, but we did read about some of the people we see here. We heard the names…Mary, Joseph and Jesus. And who else was in the story? Who else came and visited Joseph? Can you remember? Joseph was visited by…an angel. I don’t have wooden one of those yet for my nativity scene, but here’s one from my Christmas tree.
Our Bible story today reminded us of the beginning, the genesis, of the story about Jesus the Messiah. Mary was engaged to Joseph – they were going to get married. In that culture, as soon as you were engaged you were seen as married, even though for a whole year Mary and Joseph still lived with their parents, rather than together.

But during that time, Mary became pregnant, she was expecting a little baby. We know from other stories in the Bible that Mary had went to visit her cousin Elizabeth for about 3 months, so it’s possible that the story we read today is when Mary is about 4 months pregnant, and she’s maybe starting to show a little – not enough for everyone to notice, but enough that Joseph, and maybe some close family or friends are aware as well.

So, Joseph thinks that Mary is expecting someone else’s baby, not his baby, and wonders if he should call off the marriage, rather than going ahead. But then, the angel appears, and that angel says: ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ (v20-21)

What Joseph experiences and hears is enough to convince him, and so he does what the angel says to do, even though Jesus is actually the son of Mary and the son of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit. Even though this is the case, Joseph chooses to take Mary home as his wife and Joseph chooses to name Jesus. These were two very public actions and they made Jesus the son of Joseph…
These actions meant that Jesus was adopted by Joseph.

And that’s important because when Joseph adopted Jesus as his son, that made Jesus heir to the promises God made to King David – Jesus became part of the legal family line, that traced his way from David, to Solomon, all the way down to Joseph and then to Jesus. To adopt Jesus, was a big step for Joseph – he was making a choice that would be for the rest of his life, because when we adopt someone, we are saying that they are welcome into our family forever, and there’s no going back, there’s no changing our minds – it’s irreversible, it’s forever, they are secure in our family.

Boys and girls, we often talk about church being like a family, and that’s been very important this past year…
because we’ve needed extra help, and at times we’ve felt alone, and other times we’ve maybe even felt a little bit scared.

But, why is the church like a family? Who’s family are we? I’m going to put up three pictures on screen and I wonder if you can guess which family, we’re a part of, OK? So, are we a part of the royal family? Or, are we part of the Peter Rabbit family? Or, are we part of God’s family? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about this. The correct answer is…we’re part of God’s family, that’s right, well done! We are part of God’s family and it was made possible because Jesus came as a baby at Christmas.

The story of Jesus, and what He sought to achieve, is a story of family, of adoption – Joseph chooses to…
adopt Jesus; Jesus chooses to adopt human form, God took on human flesh; and this was all done so that Jesus could extend the family of God. From all eternity there was the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and in love for this world they wanted to include others, they wanted you and me to be part of their family.

But because of sin, that doesn’t happen straight away. We each need to make a choice, the choice to allow Father God to adopt us into His family. Joseph made a choice to adopt Jesus; Jesus made a choice to adopt human form; and we need to make a choice as well, the choice to allow Father God to adopt us into His family.

I wonder friends, have we each made that choice? Have we come to God and said “yes, I want to be part…
of Your family!” – have we said that, or something like it? Because if we haven’t, and if we do not have an identity as adopted children of God, then we may feel even more adrift, overwhelmed or alone; we may feel that it all rests on us – on our plans, on the stuff we can get, the money we can make. But if we know ourselves as adopted children of God, if being part of God’s family is more than turning up to church or being “religious”, then with that identity can come a security because then we can become confident of God’s welcome, His rescue and presence, and the value we have to Him.

Friends, this Advent season, may we each make the choice to allow Father God to welcome us into His family, because when He adopts us, there’s no going back, He won’t change His mind – it’s irreversible, it’s forever…
and so as the Apostle Paul once said:

‘…I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
(Romans 9:38-39)

I pray that we may remember the babe who came that we might be adopted into His family line and so be secure in Him forever. May it be so. Amen.

Advent: welcome and re-storied

Preached on: Sunday 6th December 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 20-12-06 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Matthew 1:6b-11
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Matthew 1:6b-11
Sunday 6th December 2020
Brightons Parish Church

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 true and pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

I wonder what Christmas films you’re looking forward to watching in the coming weeks? Do you have a family tradition of watching a particular film each year? Maybe it’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, or ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Elf’, ‘Meet me in St Louis’ or even ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’ – there’s so many to choose from! Why don’t you put up your favourite in the Live Chat.

In each of these there is a story of fortunes overcome, struggles faced, and battles won. Often the stories we go back to, are those that are stories of change, of freedom, of redemption and a new life, a new future secured.

Last week, we began a new sermon series that will see us through to the end of December, focusing on the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel, which began with these words: ‘This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham…’ (v1) We dug in to some of the names and titles here: Messiah, David and Abraham. We saw that Jesus was the fulfilment of promises made long ago by God and that the initial people listed by Matthew show the welcome of God to one and all, that no one is written off. In those opening verses, we saw more of the identity of Jesus…
as the promised Messiah but also the identity we are to have: followers of Jesus, who are welcomed into the family of God and sent out to invite others to share in this good news as well.

Today we move on to the next portion of the genealogy and as you look over that list – as you take a wide-angle view of who you find there – what do you see? I see story after story filled with dysfunction. In the family line of Jesus there are a lot of skeletons in the cupboard!

Many of the individuals listed here were wicked kings of Israel and Judah, and even going back to last week’s portion of the genealogy, we find broken people there as well: Jacob who was a deceiver and thief; Judah who sold his brother into slavery; David who was an adulterer… and murderer; Tamar who engaged in incest; Rahab who was a prostitute. Time and time again, the individuals listed here are not the folks you would expect to have in the family line of the Messiah; the people here – both this week and last – are flawed, weak-willed, selfish individuals with some seriously shady stories. A real bunch of misfits.

So, what are we to make of this list? What are we meant to see about the family line of Jesus? Well, first off, I think it shows, once again, the welcome of God, but this time amidst all of our brokenness. Because not only does the family line of Jesus have a back story, we each have a story as well. In each of our lives, there is brokenness, there is imperfection, and still God calls us home to Himself and He is ready to welcome us.
One author, Brennan Manning, wrote: ‘The heart of Jesus [which is the heart of God] loves us as we are and not as we should be, beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity. He loves us…without caution, regret, boundary, limit or breaking point.’

This is the love of God for you and for me. This is the welcome of God extended to you and to me. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, God loves you and is ready to welcome you home into His family. Just look at the list of individuals in the family line of Jesus – and yet
God chooses, Jesus chooses, to be born into that particular family line. God knew what was coming, none of their stories took Him by surprise, and yet He still chose to identify with them, to become part of that family line.
Friends, as another author put it: ‘the grace of God is…lavish, excessive, outrageous and scandalous. God’s grace is ridiculously inclusive. Apparently God doesn’t care who He loves. He is not very careful about the people He calls His friends or the people He calls [family]…the grace of God is indiscriminate, foolish, impractical, unrealistic, crazy and naïve.’

I also wonder, friends, I wonder what’s in your story– I wonder what you are facing just now, or what you have faced in the past – and whether it has sown a seed of doubt about whether God would ever welcome you home, whether God would ever delight in you and value you? I wonder if there are skeletons in your cupboard, which maybe you keep hidden from others, and maybe even try to keep hidden from God?…
Well you don’t need to, and you don’t need to doubt – because we see in Jesus the welcome of God and His love of broken people, like you and me.

Friends, this advent season, do you know the welcome of God? Do you know His grace? All of us are broken, all of us are flawed, just like the individuals in the family line of Jesus – all of us are undeserving, we’re all on the same level – and yet we are all welcomed home as well. (P)

Nevertheless, the grace of God is not only there to welcome us, but to save us, to redeem us, to restore, even re-story our lives. You see, the people in the family line of Jesus were broken people – like you and me – but they were broken people because of sin, because of a deep darkness and sickness that is in each of us…
Jesus came, not only to reveal the welcome and grace of God, but to do something about our underlying condition. In fact, it’s so key to the identity of Jesus that it’s part of His name. Matthew began by saying:
‘This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah …’ (v1)

To us, a name is little more than just a word, but in the culture of the time a name carried meaning, and ‘Jesus’ meant ‘the Lord saves’ and as we’ll see in a few weeks’ time the angel also said to Joseph: ‘[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Mt. 1:21)

God not only wants to welcome us, He wants to save us, He wants to restore and re-story our lives, in fact He wishes to do this for the whole of creation…
When Matthew says, ‘This is the genealogy of Jesus…’ the original Greek literally reads: ‘This is the book of the genesis of Jesus…’ and that would have made the Jewish readers of Matthew’s time think about the start of the Old Testament, where God began another ‘genesis’, the genesis of creation itself. Matthew is trying to tell us that the coming of Jesus is a new beginning, a new creation, a new genesis and that this is for all the nations, for all broken, sinful people. This coming Messiah came to save, to restore, to re-story our lives and the whole of creation. The Apostle Paul would one day say, ‘…if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Cor. 5:17)

Friends, Father God accepts you as you are – back story and all – but now as part of His family, part of the family…

line of Jesus, He wants to re-story your life, weaving a future – your future story – into the great and cosmic story of what He was up to at Christmas: that Jesus, the Messiah, had come to bring about a new creation, starting with the broken people of this world.

Friends, your past, your back story, doesn’t need to define who you are or your identity or your value or your future – because Jesus came to save, to restore, to restory your life and mine. I will never tire of retelling my story, of how God broke into my life at the time when the darkness of my soul had gone too far. And in that moment, I met with the grace and welcome of God – He welcomed me as I was, but since then, He has re-storied my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in all the world.
Maybe you’re wondering: how can I know the welcome and grace of God? How can I let God re-story my life and save me? Well, later in Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus began teaching about the kingdom of God, He said this:
‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
(Matthew 4:17)

Repent. That’s how we let Jesus re-story our lives. It’s more than simply saying sorry. To repent, is to have your thinking changed about Jesus that it affects the core of who you are and how you live your life. When you repent truly, you make the choice to follow Jesus – His teaching, His ways, His example – you seek to follow Him first and before all. Now, you won’t get it perfect, because none of us are, we’re still broken. But if there is genuine repentance, then there should also be a desire in us…
to allow Jesus to shape and lead our lives.

Friends, if we want saved, if we want our lives restored and re-storied, such that we know the welcome and grace of God, then it always begins with humbling ourselves – repenting – and calling out to Him for help. If we do that, then God always responds, He always welcomes home anyone – no matter their story – God welcomes home such a person to be part of His family.

Brothers and sisters, every season of Advent is a time to remember the greatest of stories – not captured often by Hollywood – and yet, in this story, the story of the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, we find a story of struggles faced, and battles won, a story of change, of freedom, of redemption and new life. Because…
in the story of Jesus, in His family line, we see the grace of God extended to broken humanity and the invitation for us all to find ourselves in His family, becoming a new creation and so having our futures re-storied.

I pray that each of us, whether for the first time, or the hundredth time, may we all repent and come into the life that can only be found in Jesus. May it 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…

The Father who rejoices

Preached on: Sunday 23rd June 2019
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 19-06-23-Brightons-Message-Powerpoint-–-Sunday-School-Closing-Service (1).
Bible references:
Location: Brightons Parish Church

• GOOD MORNING AGAIN TO OUR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE!
• I HAVE BEEN SO IMPRESSED WITH ALL THE HARD WORK YOU HAVE PUT IN TO PREPARE FOR TODAY’S SERVICE.

• NOW I ASKED YOU TO DRAW A PICTURE FOR ME TO SHOW ME WHAT YOU IMAGINE GOD TO BE LIKE, OR WHAT YOU IMAGINE GOD TO BE DOING RIGHT NOW.
• SO, WHAT DID YOU DRAW?
• THESE ARE ALL WONDERFUL PICTURES OF GOD, BUT TODAY I WANT TO SHARE WITH US ALL SOMETHING ABOUT GOD, SOMETHING THAT I DON’T SEE VERY MUCH OF IN YOUR PICTURES.
• ONE TIME, JESUS TOLD A STORY ABOUT A WOMAN…

• THIS WOMAN HAD 10 COINS, 10 VERY SPECIAL COINS, AND THESE COINS MEANT
A LOT TO HER, THEY WERE PRECIOUS TO HER. BUT THIS WOMAN LOST ONE OF
HER COINS. HOW DO YOU THINK SHE FELT? (SAD, WORRIED)
• WHAT DO YOU THINK THE WOMAN DID WHEN SHE REALISED SHE HAD LOST ONE OF HER COINS? (SHE SEARCHED FOR IT)
• AROUND THE CHURCH I’VE LOST 10 COINS THAT LOOK LIKE THIS…

• I WONDER IF YOU CAN HELP ME SEARCH FOR THE 10 LOST COINS AND BRING
THEM BACK HERE WHEN YOU’VE FOUND THEM? NOW, DON’T START YET – WE’LL
START WHEN THE BAND STARTS PLAYING THEIR MUSIC. I’VE GOT A FEW RULES
FOR YOU: YOU HAVE TO WALK. YOU MUST BRING A COIN BACK AS SOON AS YOU FIND IT. YOU MUST BRING IT BACK WITH A YOUNGER CHILD. (SEARCH BEGINS)
• SO, THE LADY SEARCHED FOR HER ONE LOST COIN….

• SHE PROBABLY LIT A CANDLE TO HELP HER HUNT HIGH AND LOW FOR THE LOST COIN.
• EVENTUALLY SHE DID FIND IT. WHAT DO YOU THINK SHE FELT? (HAPPY, EXCITED, RELIEVED)
• NOW JESUS WAS TELLING THIS STORY ABOUT THE WOMAN WITH THE LOST COIN BECAUSE HE WAS TEACHING ALL THE PEOPLE ABOUT FATHER GOD…

• IN HIS TEACHING ABOUT FATHER GOD, JESUS TOLD ANOTHER STORY, THE STORY WE HEARD READ TO US THIS MORNING. IT IS A STORY ABOUT A SON WHO LEFT HOME AND A FATHER WHO WAS SAD BECAUSE HIS SON LEFT HOME.
• IN THE STORY, THE SON RETURNS HOME EVENTUALLY, DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT
THE FATHER FELT AND DID WHEN THE SON RETURNED HOME? (HAPPY, FORGIVES, THREW A PARTY)
• BECAUSE HE FELT THAT WAY HE THREW A BIG PARTY…

• NOW, JESUS TOLD THE STORIES ABOUT THE LOST COIN AND THE LOST SON BECAUSE JESUS WAS TRYING TO TEACH US ABOUT FATHER GOD.
• AND ONE OF THE THINGS JESUS WANTED US TO KNOW ABOUT FATHER GOD, IS THAT FATHER GOD IS A GOD WHO SMILES AND LAUGHS. IN FACT, GOD LOVES A PARTY, AND FATHER GOD KNOWS HOW TO REJOICE AND CELEBRATE.
• NOW, LET’S LOOK AT YOUR PICTURES AGAIN…

• I DON’T SEE MANY PICTURES OF HOLD THROWING A PARTY OR EVEN OF GOD BEING HAPPY.
• MOST OF US, INCLUDING THE ADULTS, HAVE A PICTURE OF GOD IN OUR HEADS. WE CAN IMAGINE WHAT GOD IS LIKE, OR IF WE WERE ASKED, WE COULD USE WORDS TO DESCRIBE GOD.
• NOW, WHAT I FIND INTERESTING, IS WHAT YOUR PICTURES OF GOD, REVEAL ABOUT THE ADULTS’ PICTURE OF GOD. I THINK
THAT THERE ARE PROBABLY VERY FEW PICTURES OF GOD BEING HAPPY OR CELEBRATING IN WHAT YOU DREW, BECAUSE FEW OF THE ADULTS THINK ABOUT GOD THAT WAY EITHER. IF WE DID, THEN WE WOULD TEACH YOU THAT AND THEN YOU WOULD HAVE DRAWN THAT.
• BUT EVEN THOUGH THE ADULTS MIGHT BE UNCERTAIN OF THIS, THE BIBLE TEACHES US THAT FATHER GOD DOES REJOICE…

• GOD ALWAYS LOVES US – HE LOVED US SO MUCH THAT JESUS DIED TO HELP US. HE DIED THAT WE MIGHT KNOW GOD AND HAVE PEACE WITH GOD. HE DIED TO SHOW US HOW MUCH GOD LOVES US.
• BUT WHEN WE CHOOSE TO BE GOD’S FRIEND, WHEN WE CHOOSE TO FOLLOW GOD’S WAYS, WHEN WE CHOOSE JESUS AS LORD AND SAVIOUR, THEN FATHER
GOD NOT ONLY LOVES US – HE ALSO REJOICES OVER US WITH SINGING! THAT’S
HOW MUCH HE LOVES US – YOU AND I MAKE GOD SO HAPPY THAT HE SINGS OVER US! NORMALLY WE THINK THAT WE DO THE SINGING ABOUT GOD, BUT GOD SINGS IN HEAVEN WITH SONGS ABOUT US AS WELL.
• SO, TODAY WE HAVE CELEBRATED EACH OF YOU…

• WE HAVE CELEBRATED THAT EACH OF YOU IS PART OF THIS CHURCH, YOU ARE
PART OF GOD’S FAMILY. WE ARE SO ENCOURAGED BECAUSE YOU COME ALONG TO SUNDAY SCHOOL AND LEARN MORE ABOUT JESUS EACH WEEK. AND WE ARE THANKFUL FOR THE ADULTS WHO GIVE THEIR TIME TO HELP YOU.
• BUT YOU HAVE ALSO HELPED US TO CELEBRATE GOD…

• TO CELEBRATE A GOD WHO LOVES US, LIKE A PERFECT FATHER, AND CARES FOR
US LIKE A GOOD SHEPHERD. SO, WE SHOULD COME ALONG EVERY WEEK AND CELEBRATE IN OUR GOD…

• BUT TODAY, LET US ALL ALSO REMEMBER THE TEACHING OF JESUS AND THE SCRIPTURES – THAT GOD CELEBRATES, GOD REJOICES AND HE REJOICES OVER US.
• BECAUSE WE ARE PART OF HIS FAMILY, BECAUSE WE HAVE CHOSEN TO FOLLOW HIM, GOD NOT ONLY LOVES US, HE DANCES AND SINGS AND THROWS A PARTY IN HEAVEN FOR YOU AND ME AND FOR ALL OF US.
• SO, WHEN WE ARE TELLING OUR FRIENDS ABOUT CHURCH AND THEY ASK US WHY
WE GO TO CHURCH, MAYBE, WE CAN TELL THEM, THAT PART OF THE ANSWER IS THAT WE HAVE A GOD WHO LOVES US BUT A GOD WHO ALSO REJOICES OVER US AND THROWS A PARTY IN HEAVEN FOR EACH OF US.