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

Justice: light in the darkness?

Preached on: Sunday 25th October 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 20-10-25-Message-PPT-slides-multi-page.
Bible references: Isaiah 9:2-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Isaiah 9:2-7
Sunday 25th October 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.

In the last few weeks, we’ve watched or read much about local, national and international government. As our politicians seek to respond to Coronavirus, we saw tensions mount between representatives in Manchester and Westminster. And in less than 10 days, we will know whether the United States has a new President or not. Looking in upon both these scenarios, and even our own issues of government here in Scotland and Falkirk, we may well agree with Winston Churchill, who famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” In every era of history, humanity has tried various forms of government, but none are perfect, and none can be.

None can be, because they are made up, of human beings and we are not perfect. There is a darkness to all our souls, a selfishness, a brokenness, and so we find ourselves looking out upon a world and see this brokenness played out before us on an international scale, with such horror and brutality and evil that human trafficking and other injustices continue in our day.

We may ask: what is there to be done? Is there any hope? Does God care? But God has not been silent, for the Scriptures never dodge the darkness in our world, even in own lives, for through the Bible we’re helped to see that the darkness of our world in not the only, nor the fundamental, reality of things. The darkness is not all of the story, it is not the end of the story – there is more to come, there can be hope, there is hope.

In our passage today, we are at the end of a portion in which God has been trying to persuade Israel to put their trust in Him. Yet, they have not listened, they have rejected God’s ways, and so now find themselves surrounded, overtaken even, by the Assyrian army.
Darkness appears to be on all sides, and yet despite Israel’s rejection, despite their lack of trust, God, in His grace, draws near once more and brings a message of hope, a message that the story is not finished, the story will not end in darkness, for there is hope of a future king and His kingdom.

We read today: ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called…
Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.’
(Isa. 9:2, 6)

In the midst of darkness comes light, and Isaiah is so sure of it coming about that his words speak of it as if it had already happened: ‘…for to us a child IS born.’ Yet this child will be no ordinary king, for the first three names designate divinity ‘Wonderful counsellor’ speaks of one who can work wonders and whose wisdom is far above any human’s, and so this individual is described in Hebrew terms which convey a ‘supernatural’ quality.

No wonder then, that this future king is described as ‘Mighty God’, a mighty warrior who leads the hosts of heaven, and yet He is also ‘Everlasting Father’ for He loves with such perfect and parental love. This is no ordinary child, but it is a human child nonetheless, as confirmed for us by the title ‘Prince of Peace’, where ‘prince’ is always used in the Scriptures of human leaders.

Through Isaiah, God brings a message of hope, that the story is not ending here, the darkness will not prevail, for the odds will be overcome by this future King. Indeed, that is why we read here of the reference to Midian in verse 4, which points us back to the book of Judges. At that time, Israel was once more surrounded by a vast multitude of the enemy, swarming over the land, and yet the Lord defeats this foe with a mere 300 individuals led by the trembling Gideon. Israel felt powerless at that time, Israel thought the darkness would win out, but the
Lord brought a different ending, ‘for as in the day of Midian’s defeat…’ the Lord broke the rod and broke the bar. Isaiah is saying the same thing will happen through this child, that the odds will be overcome, there is good news, there is hope, the story does not end here and the Lord will turn our darkness into light, our conflict into peace, our loss into abundance and our despair into joy.

And He will do this in the coming of a child, a child who was no mere human being, a child who would then grow up and one day begin to fulfil these words of prophecy, such that we read in the book of Matthew:
‘[Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’
From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’’
(Matt. 4:12-17)

In the person of Jesus, this prophecy began to be fulfilled – the King had come and so His Kingdom was breaking into this world, it had come near. As we read through the four gospels of the New Testament, we see signs of God’s Kingdom breaking in, we see signs of the One who is
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He came with power to work wonders; He came with wisdom and teaching that has lasted the ages; He came revealing the love of God in His life and most powerfully in His death. Jesus was this promised King, the One who ensured that the story would not end in darkness but that light had dawned, and yet, this Jesus is not dead, He is not a myth or a child’s story or a relic of history, but He is the Living One, Everlasting, for He was raised to life and He will return to bring the fullness of His Kingdom into reality.

I wonder friends, do you know this Jesus? Do you know this living King? Because without faith in Him, without relationship with Him, all we are left with are the worst

forms of government that we as a species have tried from time to time. But Jesus came saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12) Darkness does not need to be our only or fundamental reality, for in Jesus there is hope, He is our living King and one day His Kingdom will be all that there is.

Now Isaiah’s prophecy also gives us some details of that kingdom, for we read today:
‘Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing
and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever.’ (Isa. 9:7)

There are some very key words in this verse, for ‘peace’ is the Hebrew word ‘shalom’, referring to a well-being or wholeness, which impacts all of an individual’s life, and all life between individuals. In that future kingdom, where shalom exists, all things are whole, healthy and complete. The experience of shalom will be spiritual, physical, psychological and social.

It should be no surprise then, that in the next sentence we read that this King will uphold His kingdom with justice, ‘mishpat’, and righteousness, ‘tzadeqah’. Tim Keller, in his book on Generous Justice, argues that when we see these two words close to one another, as in this verse, then the best English expression of our time, to convey its meaning, could be ‘social justice’. If that’s accurate, then the hope of this future King and the hope of His future Kingdom brings a message that darkness will not prevail, that the darkness of human trafficking will not prevail, there will be right relationship between God and humanity, and right relationship across humanity, from one to another, and rather than treat one another as commodities or as slaves, there will be social justice.

But is it all just future? Is all that we have to offer simply a message of hope? Well, Jesus said:
‘This, then, is how you should pray:
‘“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth
as it is in heaven…”’
(Matt. 6:9-10)

God’s Kingdom, this Kingdom which will have peace and social justice, we are to pray for this kingdom to come in greater measure in our day, that on earth we would see the kingdom of God. But is all we have to offer a prayer?

Well, I don’t think so, because as we said about prayer and the Lord’s Prayer, part of prayer is about changing us – that as we focus on God, as we understand more of His Kingdom and pray and yearn for this, then we change, and more often than not, we are then the answer to this prayer, for we realise we are to embody His character and ways, and so must live differently. Yes, let’s pray “Thy kingdom come”, but we better get ready to be the answer to that prayer as well, for through you God might do a work of bringing justice upon the earth.

Friends, this Halloween, let us replace darkness with light, let us scrap the costume and take up justice, let us forget the stories of witches and mummies or superheroes, and instead be a people who say that darkness is not the end of the story, that there is hope, there is Good News of a King, His Kingdom is breaking into this world, and so we will stand alongside the oppressed, for our God and His Kingdom is one of justice and of light. May it be so. Amen.

The Colours of the Rainbow (Wonder Zone wk.3)

Preached on: Sunday 12th 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 20-07-12-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: John 9
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: John 9 (NIV)
Sunday 12th 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, you probably can’t see me just now, but I am here. What do we need for you to see me? We need…LIGHT! (SWITCH ON LIGHTER) Give me a moment to light a candle here. (PAUSE)

We need light to see – and when we don’t have light, darkness can be very overpowering and scary; darkness can suck the life out of us. So, here’s a question to think about at home: what else does light do? It helps us see, but what else do light do? I’ll give you 30 seconds to think or talk about that at home just now. (PAUSE)
I wonder what ideas you came up with, why not share them in the Live Chat just now.

Light is a fascinating, amazing thing! Do you know that we need light to see rainbows? And the light from the sun, also provides us with warmth, in fact, that warmth hitting the earth, especially at the equator, gives us weather and if we didn’t have the light from the sun we wouldn’t have rain or clouds or wind or heat – did you know that?

So, light helps us to have life – and we see this with plants. For plants to grow, they need light. A plant without light is not going to grow big and strong, and our world, without light, would not be the amazing world that it is! We could say, light gives life.

Jesus said in verse 5 today: ‘…I am the light of the world.’ You talked about that earlier at home and hopefully you came up with some good ideas. Jesus doesn’t explain what He means by this, neither does the Apostle John. But maybe that’s because this isn’t the first time in the book of John Jesus has been described as light.

If you go all the way back to the beginning of John’s gospel, we reed there: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.’ (John 1:1-4)

Jesus, light and life are all wrapped up together. At the beginning of everything, there was Jesus, and He helped bring light and life to all mankind. Genesis 1 paints a picture of God taking the dust of the earth and from that dust bringing life to mankind, a life they get to enjoy in the light of that new creation at the beginning of history. We’re meant to imagine Adam opening his eyes up for the first time and seeing the light of the new world around him, and also the God who is there in front of him.
Does that sound familiar to you at all?

For in our passage today, Jesus uses mud, literally the dust on the ground, to bring light and life to a man. Because Jesus isn’t just restoring this man’s sight, Jesus is giving this man life, for he would be poor, homeless, without family, without purpose, without value or hope.
Living in darkness sucks the very life out of us, physically, but also spiritually.

As Jesus bends down to make some mud out of the dust, He is re-enacting those first moments of creation, when life and light were brought to mankind. Because that is who Jesus is: He is the light of the world, and that is part of what makes Jesus unique. He did it at the start of creation; He did it for the man in our story; and He will keep doing it because it is who He is: Jesus is the light of the world; He is about bringing light and life to mankind, and He’s still doing it even today.

To hear more stories of how Jesus is bringing life and light to people in our time and in our community, join us for
Testimony Tuesday this week, when 6 people from our congregation will share how Jesus has made a difference in their lives, bringing light and life to them.

Now, let’s go back to our story. There are many characters in it and we are meant to wonder, who I am most like? So, let’s think about two of them for a moment, starting with the religious leaders.

Here is Jesus upending their traditions, their preferences, their way of understanding the world, and especially of understanding God. Jesus, the light of the world, is trying to help them find true life in God, by taking apart what they hold dear. But the religious leaders won’t accept that, they don’t welcome it for it’s just too much for them, and so they push Jesus away; they’d rather stay in the dark, than come into the light given by Jesus and find true life.

I wonder, if we’re like that at all? In our own personal lives, have we welcomed Jesus or are we pushing Him away? There are many reasons we might push God away – maybe He seems to ask too much. Maybe a hurt or a difficult experience in our lives, raises within us a desire for some distance. Maybe we simply think we don’t need Jesus. Each of these, is pushing Jesus away, and we’re meant to see, that when we push Jesus away, we push away His light, and so we push away His offer of life.

Or what about on a corporate level, either as Brightons Parish Church, or as the Braes Churches? Where is Jesus bringing His light that we might see something new about Him and His purposes? I wonder, where is Jesus trying to lead us out of old patterns, old traditions, so as find the new life He wants us to experience?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be like those religious leaders; I don’t want to stay in the dark, I want to know Jesus, and experience the light and life that He offers. But to know this we must become like the man in the story, who comes to see Jesus as God in the flesh. For at the end of the passage, we reed: ‘Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.’ (v38)

That man’s journey is a model for us, and it began in verse
7: ‘…the man went and washed, and came home seeing.’ The man stepped out in faith because some guy he’d never known, clearly never seen, told him to go wash off some mud. Why do that? Yet he does, and that simple act of faith, of obedience, brought him light and then life.

Jesus said in chapter 8: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (v12) To follow Jesus, is more than liking the stories, the songs, the ideas of Jesus. To follow Jesus, is to heed His command, it is to respond in faith through obedience, it is to embrace Jesus as Lord.

Who of us needs to do that? Some of us might need to do that for the first time; some of us, who call ourselves Christian, might have a specific area where Jesus is saying to follow Him now, today, in one particular area of our lives. So, will you heed Jesus? Will you follow Him? Will you embrace Him by submitting to Him as Lord?

Because, it’s only when you walk out of the darkness, it’s only when you make that choice, and step into the light, His light, that you can then know His life, true life.

I pray that we will all make that choice, today and all the days before us. May it be so. Amen.

We close our time together with our final hymn…