Malachi: treasured possession

Preached on: Sunday 21st November 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-11-21 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Malachi 3:13-4:6
Location: Brightons Parish Church
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Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word

 

Holy Spirit, come among us and reveal the call of Father God.

Holy Spirit, be present and reveal the hope we have through Jesus.

Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

 

The day I became a Christian I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I know it wasn’t because the idea of becoming a Christian made me feel uneasy and it wasn’t because of the hangover I had that morning. I had been out the night before and I don’t remember much of the evening but the bits I do remember, as I’ve shared on a number of occasions, they made me sick to the pit of my stomach because I made some really bad choices that night and I woke up realizing I had a problem and at that time I would have called my problem selfishness. Now. further along the journey of faith. I can be quite honest and say it’s just sin. And what’s more shocking is that I thought I was a Christian. You know, I worked on a Sunday at W.H Smith and so I couldn’t go to the morning service but there was holy-me going to the evening service. Surely that made me a Christian? And I volunteered with my Scout group and gave up my time to benefit young people, and I had a good reputation and people, hopefully, thought quite well of me but, but here was me that morning, the day I became a Christian, faced with the reality of my life, that, actually, in my heart was a growing selfishness, and my heart was very far from God, because God was just an idea, He wasn’t a person I related to in any real way and there’s been so much that I’ve taken from my experience but what I’d want to relate to you this morning is that it’s easy to assume things are okay, it’s easy to ignore the deeper issues in our lives, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the moment that we forget to take stock of our lives, and so, the day I became a Christian, I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, but that day, the day I became a Christian, changed my life for the better and I’ve never regretted a moment since then, I just wish it hadn’t taken me messing up my life quite so much to come to that realization that I had a problem and I needed God’s help. And you know, this morning, you might have a bit of a queasy feeling in your stomach, and it’s probably got nothing to do with anything else other than the bible passage we heard this morning because, if truth be told, it was a wee bit uncomfortable was it not. I’ve been stewing on it all week how am I going to preach from this? What does it mean? And if you feel uncomfortable, the person that invited you to be here for them becoming a member or them getting their child baptized they probably feel even more uncomfortable. So, when you go out the door and you’re chatting about the service afterwards just bless them and be really kind and merciful to them because they had no idea what was coming today, because we’ve simply been working through the book of Malachi and I didn’t aim for this passage to be today, it just happened to be the last bit before we go into Advent.

 

But you know, maybe it’s timely, maybe in some ways it’s timely for you and for us because, sometimes, we need something to help us sit up and take notice, something to make us take stock of life rather than getting into a real mess like I did all those years ago. And so, maybe today is helpful and the message of Malachi might be helpful for us because Malachi was also sent to our people who were completely oblivious. There was something deeply wrong but they didn’t actually have a clue and so God sent Malachi one more time and He says to the people ‘You have spoken arrogantly against me. You have said it is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements?’ and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty. There’s something deeply wrong with the people, something deep in the souls of their being. There’s arrogance and there’s distance from God and, sure their meeting His requirements, they say, and that might be like they’re going to the temple and they’re praying and they’re giving their sacrifices, they’re maybe bringing their offering. They’re going around like mourners. They’ve already got dust and ash and sackcloth on them to show signs of repentance but actually, it’s all just external, going through the motions, it’s not from the heart and they’re bothered by this. They say it’s futile! What’s the point? What good is this to me? There’s no return for this, there’s no profit in this for me God! What’s the point? What good is it doing me? You know, they’ve turned faith into something very selfish. They appear to be serving God but actually they’re just serving themselves and there again is echoes of my story, echoes of my selfishness, echoes of my brokenness, my sin, but it’s an issue we all deal with don’t we. Because if truth be told, as human beings, we can turn just about anything into being about us and asking ‘Well, what’s the benefit in this for me?’ or ‘How can I benefit from this in some way?’ We twist it.

 

So, for example, I was in the playground this week and I was talking to one of the other dads who’s also called Scott, and we got talking and he was telling me about the parents’ night and how it went for his son, and that his son was reading already, primary one, age five, same year as my daughter, and there’s a part of me that’s like ‘Well, Hope’s not reading!’ And there’s almost a part of you that could twist that into ‘I need to get Hope reading’ so that I don’t feel so terrible as a parent. I, you, as a human being, you could twist just about anything family, kids, money, your job, church – How often in church is it ‘Has the service suiting me?’ – as the minister, the elders, the pastoral grouping leaders, the Sunday School. Is it suiting me and meeting my needs? Just about anything in life we can twist because and I think that part of the reason is as our last song suggested, the longing of our soul is something else than where we often look, we often look to these other things and we try and have the longing of our soul met by these other things and it just can’t, and so we end up twisting things. And last week we were thinking about God sorting out the world, sorting out the problems and making this world a better place, that one day He would restore all things and so we that was a really positive message hopefully and hopefully you left encouraged and hopefully you’re like ‘God, come on sort out the world. Come back sort out, sort out the problems out there.’

 

But maybe, when it comes to today’s message of sorting the problems in here, maybe that just feels too uncomfortable, maybe we’d rather say to God ‘You know God, just back off back off! It’s my life.’ or ‘Treat me a bit differently God, you know, I’m not as bad as the person down the road, I’m not as bad as the person in that country, or doing that thing or that politician, just treat me a bit differently. God, come on geeza break!’ But you know, to God, sin is sin and whether it’s the smallest acts or the tiniest indiscretion, He knows it. And this is a truth He had to reestablish with His people through Malachi because they think serving God is futile, they think God just overlooks sin. Here’s these evildoers, they’re getting away with stuff. God doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care. What’s the point? And so, He sends Malachi to remind them of the truth. He sends them to take heed because as He says – there will be a day when He will act. There will be a day when the Lord will act. There’ll be a day when He will restore the world and He’s going to make it all new and there’ll be no more sin or death or mourning. There’ll be no more brokenness or selfishness.

 

But that creates a problem, doesn’t it? Because what does God do with you and me, the darkness in us. If not a jot of sin can be in that new creation, what does He do with us?

 

Another prophet put the problem this way ‘We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way.’ And the new hymn actually picked up on that too, I hadn’t noticed until we sung it there, we all got our own way. We’ll tell God to take a hike, and our culture just reinforces that message, doesn’t it? It just says, be free, throw off restraints, just go for it alone, ignore God, don’t let Him tell you, don’t let the church tell you how to live your life, be free, because that’s the way to a good life, a best life. But you know, it’s a lie it’s a lie because at 19 I pursued that, at 19 I pursued life my way, and where did it lead me? It just led me into more brokenness and for more for the heart for other people and so on the day I became a Christian, as I sat there with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I had to own up to my brokenness, my sin, because nothing was going to change if I didn’t do that first.

 

And part of being a Christian involves that lonely moment when you acknowledge that, when you acknowledge that reality in your life, and all our members, new members who stood there today at one point or another they’ve all had to own up to that reality, that they have a problem, like I have a problem, like you have a problem. That problem is sin and, as we affirmed in the Apostles’ Creed, that has been the belief for 2000 years and beyond, that God was going to come back one day to deal with sin and none of us will be exempt from that. And so, God has to get these truths back into the lives of His people, people who are oblivious to this reality and they don’t know something’s wrong and so He brings a wake-up call He did in my life the day I became a Christian. That was a wake-up call for me and maybe you’re sitting there feeling really uncomfortable and really wishing you weren’t in church today and you’re really going to give the person a hard time that invited you along, despite what I said earlier, but you know maybe that uncomfortableness, maybe even that anger, because this can raise anger in us, maybe those feelings are actually God shining a wee torchlight in your life and just saying ‘Look there is a problem here. There is something we need to talk about. There’s a deeper issue we need to address.’ but you know, God doesn’t do it to be mean, He doesn’t include passages like this in the Bible to be mean, and He doesn’t do it to leave us feeling condemned or judged or guilty, because, most of the time, I don’t live my life that way because not only did God on the day I became a Christian I’d highlight my problem, He provided a solution because He loves us, He loves you in the depth of His being He loves you.

 

And so, also in Malachi we read these words ‘Surely the day is coming the Son of Righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.’ The day of the Lord is coming and on that day, though it will be like the rising of the sun, and the rays of that event will bring healing to the world, to all creation and do away with sin forever and that idea, that hope, that reality is spoken in so many places across the scriptures. We read earlier from Isaiah, and in just before the verses immediately before what we read, we read this also from Isaiah ‘Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. Yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted but he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray. each of us has turned to our own way and the lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ Time and time again God tells of an event and then of a person who will come to bring this restored world about who will bring this freedom from sin who will bring healing for all.

 

And that event came 400 years after Malachi. That event happened in the Advent season we’re about to celebrate. It happened with the coming of Jesus, when God stepped into our broken world, when God went to the cross to die the death we should for our sin. So, you might get angry at God for what He’s saying this morning, I’m really uncomfortable with it, but let’s remember He also provides that solution he hung on a cross and bled for you and for me that’s how much he loves you, He died so that sin wouldn’t have the final say, He died so that if you put your faith in Him you can share in that great and glorious day when He’ll make all things new and the Son of Righteousness will bring healing from all sin and you know since that day, since the day Jesus died and then rose again, and across the centuries since then, people across this world have been putting their faith in Jesus, just like our new members did, they’ve been finding that the words of scripture are true that there is forgiveness through Jesus, that you can be reconciled to God through Jesus, and we’ve come to see that it’s all of grace, it’s all a gift, we don’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, we simply receive it through faith in Jesus and every day, even today, there are people coming to faith in this truth, they’re coming to find life and hope through Jesus, this one who will bring healing when the Son of Righteousness rises.

 

And so, what do we do with today’s message? What do we do with these two sides of the one coin? On the one side we have the really bad news that we all have a sin problem, and on the other side of the coin there’s good news, that there’s hope and forgiveness through Jesus. What do we do with that?

 

Well our passage gives us two ideas and the first, on the first thing to do is to repent, which means change your thinking, such that your heart and your life changes as well, and there were people who heard what the Lord said they heeded Him and they turned to Him, and in turning to Him, the Lord said over them they were his treasured possession and He would spare them.

 

Maybe you need to repent today. Maybe you’re not a Christian. Maybe you’ve been coming to church for a long time and you know you’ve not made that choice yourself. Maybe today is the day you need to repent and turn to the Lord and admit ‘I’ve got a problem God, and I need Your forgiveness.’

 

The second idea of how to respond this morning is to stand and be counted. Those that responded, their names were written down they were counted, and our new members today, their names will be added to our Church Roll, they’re being counted and so maybe one of the things you need to consider doing is becoming a member here in church, to publicly say ‘You know, I believe in Jesus. I’m following Jesus, and this is my spiritual home.’ Maybe that’s the step you need to take to stand and be counted but that membership as the promises were asked today not only includes having your name on a bit of paper it involves being part of this church family through the giving of your time, talents and your money, and so maybe there’s something in that for you. Maybe you’re standing and being counted needs to look like getting involved or caring for the people who call this their spiritual home. It’s if you’re not infirm and housebound or limited in some capacity like that then really do we have an excuse? We need to stand and be counted because if we’ve counted this as our spiritual home and made these promises we made promises to get involved. Maybe you need to get involved.

 

But maybe standing be counted as also like in verse chapter 4 verse 4 here where it says ‘Remember the law of my servant Moses’ we think of remembering as just having a bit of information in our head but in Hebrew and in the Old Testament the idea of remembering was that you not only remembered it but you lived in light of it, you walked in accordance with God’s ways, you lived your life God’s way, that’s what it means to truly remember and you know maybe there’s an area of your life that you need to stand up and be counted. The other six days of the week you’re out and about because our final promise that our members made today was to do that to witness to Jesus in all the rest of their life and you know maybe there’s something in your life, an area of your life you need to stand and be counted. It might be sharing your faith, but it could be that you need to choose God’s way rather than your culture’s way or the way of your colleagues. Maybe you need to walk in truth and in uprightness. Maybe there’s a sin in your life that you know God would want you to turn from. Maybe anger. Maybe sexual immorality of some form. Who knows what it might be.

 

And the question is Will you stand and be counted by walking in God’s ways rather than yours or the culture? Will you live in response to the grace you’ve received? is basically what the passage is calling us to do. So, before we finish up, I want to give us a moment to pray. I want to give a moment first of all to turn to God in repentance. That if you’ve never done that, maybe today is the day to do that because I wouldn’t be doing my job if I simply told you an idea but maybe just didn’t help you along that next bit of the journey. So, if you want to make that step today, let me help you make that step and I’ll lead you in a prayer and then we’ll go on to pray as well about how we respond to the grace we’ve received by being stuck by standing and being counted. So, let’s come to God in prayer. Let us pray:

 

So, if you want to welcome Jesus into your life and receive forgiveness, why don’t you pray along with me just in the quiet of your heart, pray these words with me.

 

Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for the things I’ve done wrong in my life for the selfishness that’s there, and I take a moment to name anything that’s on my conscience this morning.

Lord, please forgive me.

I turn from everything that I know is wrong and I choose to walk in step with You. Thank-you, You died on the cross so that I could be forgiven. Thank-you for Your love. Thank-you for Your grace.

I ask for you to fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might walk with You all the days of my life.

Thank-you Lord Jesus.

 

Lord God, we hear a tough message from Your word today but You speak it in love, to call us deeper, to call us into Your ways, to respond to Your grace and so I pray for those that have made that choice today, to respond for the first time, protect them, I pray, protect this choice they’ve made today.

 

And for all of us Lord, as we as we ponder the magnitude of Your love and grace, that took You to the cross, and the reality that one day You will return. Help us live between now and then to Your glory, to live lives worthy of your calling and so stand and be counted in all the areas of life.

Lord where there’s a sin we may be trapped in, give us grace and break us free Lord where we need to stand and be counted by getting involved or coming into membership or making You known at work.

Lord, give us grace that we might have strength and power to witness to You and to give our lives for Your glory.

Oh God, You’re a good God, a great God, and we delight in You this morning. Thank-you that You delight in us, that we are your treasured possession. May we go here from here knowing that, rejoicing in that, and inviting all to know that as well by coming to faith in Jesus, for in His name we ask this. Amen

 

If you have made that choice for the first time today, please come and talk to me, tell me, tell a trusted Christian you know, because it’s easy to make it, just keep it very personal but you need to take that next step of faith to say ‘I’ve made that choice and that will just help to solidify and strengthen that choice of faith you’ve made today. So, come and chat to me. I won’t ask you a lot of questions, I’ll just rejoice with you, or tell a Christian, a trusted Christian, that you’re here with today.

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No fake story! (Passion Wk.5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living Hope (Passion Wk.2 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 24th March 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-03-24-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-Tuesday-Evening-Sermon.
Bible references: Luke 10:25-37
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Luke 10:25-37
Tuesday 24th March 2020
Brightons Parish Church

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

As I introduced a few Sunday’s ago, in the weeks leading up to Easter, we’re journeying with Jesus towards Jerusalem. We started at that point in the story where Luke says Jesus ‘…resolutely set out…’ (Luke 9:51), He set His face towards the purpose He had come to fulfil. There is a great deal of material contained within the journeying phase of Luke’s gospel; Jesus does not enter Jerusalem until halfway through of chapter 19. So, we’re going to focus on three encounters Jesus had with Samaritan people, because that was really unexpected of Jesus.

As we heard two Sunday’s ago, the Samaritans were Jews who intermarried with their Assyrian conquerors, people of non-Jewish nationality, and that brought about a mixed race who became known as the Samaritans. They were viewed as “half breeds” and “renegades” by the more “purebred” and loyal Jewish people, and in turn the Samaritans developed a hatred for the Jews.

In our passage tonight, we read of the Good Samaritan – it’s a story many of us have heard before, it’s a story children will still hear in school for Religious and Moral Education, because it’s a timeless story, teaching truths that now-a-days we hold as self-evident, a simple outworking of “the golden rule” – to treat others as you wish to be treated.

So, as I said on Sunday, we probably feel like we know what the parable means: we’ve to be a good neighbour; we’ve to look out for people who need our help; we’ve to love other people. And that’s certainly one important thing to take away because part of what Jesus showed us in His life and teaching was the importance of loving others as we love ourselves.

So, once again hear the call to sign up and offer your time in the coming months. Sadly, we won’t get out all our Easter cards now due to the lockdown – but it was fantastic that over 50% were given since Sunday afternoon. And I wonder, have you called anyone yet? Anyone outside your family? I’m sure we were all busy calling our mums and our grans on Sunday, and then we were back in to work on Monday, even if it was from home –
so, we might have forgotten that part of the message. But in our changing times, a telephone call is really going to make a big difference to people. So, let’s be the best neighbours we can during this time, and the more of us who join in, the more care and support there will be in our local community.

As I explained on Sunday morning, when I was thinking about the story of the Good Samaritan this week I was drawn to the other characters in the parable, particularly the priest and the Levite, those two who simply walked on past the man needing help. Now, we must remember that they walked past an individual who was part of their tribe; a people who were a persecuted people, so you’d normally stand up for one another, you’d normally be there for one another.
Instead they simply walk past and Jesus doesn’t really give us a reason, yet as you know, I’ve been wondering if they did it because of fear. Maybe fear of doing the wrong thing, maybe it was fear of the robbers coming back.

You see, they may have feared doing the wrong thing because God’s Word said that touching a dead body would make an individual unclean, it would create a disconnect between God and the person who became unclean. But even then, that’s just an excuse, because God’s Word, as we heard again tonight, says we are to “love your neighbour as yourself”. By failing to do that, the priest and the Levite are already unclean; by failing to do that, they are going to have to go through the steps to become pure again, to be right with God once more. They placed a higher value on something other than loving neighbour, and all for naught.
Jesus listeners’ would have expected the priest and the Levite to be the good guys in the story, but we see that they embody two things. Firstly, fear and maybe secondly, weariness.

On Sunday, we explored part of the issue around fear, and now tonight, we’ve seen another: that fear of becoming impure by touching a dead body. Were they letting fear motivate them to do the wrong thing? Because it’s easy to give in to fear, especially when it’s not to our benefit to do otherwise. So, the priest and Levite embody fear.

But secondly, do they embody weariness? Remember, these are people who are seeking to maintain spiritual purity at all costs, and if they were relying on their own strength to do this, then that’s a weary job –
the Pharisees had come up with hundreds of rules on how to know if you were breaking God’s Law or not, and you’d have to be constantly checking yourself to maintain that level of purity. They must have been so weary.

Maybe, these two individuals not only feared the robbers returning or of doing the wrong thing, maybe they were simply weary – weary of trying to keep hitting the mark, and so seeing this individual, was just too much for them, it was a step too far, a cry for help they couldn’t answer.

Are we feeling fear just now? Are we feeling weary just now? Because fear and weariness can cause us to be poor neighbours. We’ve seen how fear has motivated stock piling
– and we might not yet be feeling it, but to love our neighbours well is going to be draining, it might weary us, if all we’re doing is relying on our own strength.
So, what’s the antidote? Well, let’s go back to the start of the story, as I said on Sunday. Jesus tells the parable because He is asked a question, and in that conversation, we hear that we’ve to love God with all that we are – with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – and we are to love our neighbour. Jesus is saying that these are the two most important things, but He is also saying they’re connected.

Because as we love God – as we pursue a relationship with God, then we learn of His love for us, and then His love begins to change us. For God has promised to help us, to give us strength and wisdom and grace – if we will seek Him. That verse from 1st John chapter 4 has stuck with me so powerfully over the years, that “…perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18) The antidote to fear is to know God’s perfect love and we get to know God’s love by spending time with Him.
So, what about weariness? Because, you know, to love is really hard work. Take those words from 1st Corinthians that we delight in hearing at weddings: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ (1 Cor. 13:4-7) Love is hard work; even in the normal rhythm of life, never mind amidst a pandemic.

The man who wrote those words about love, was no stranger to it. He was called the Apostle Paul and he went around starting new churches, helping people understand about Jesus and come to worship Jesus. It was hard work, Paul speaks about how hard it was…

in one of his other letters, he says: ‘Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move…I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.’ (2 Cor. 11:23-27)

Paul went through all of that because of love – love for God and for his fellow human being, as he’ll say time and time again in his own writings. So, how did Paul keep on loving? Well, he also said that ‘…God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…’ (Romans 5:5)…
It was God’s Spirit that gave Paul a heart of love and helped him to keep on loving.

Maybe it’s for this reason that Paul writes to the Ephesians: ‘For this reason I kneel before the Father…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Paul prays for the Ephesians to have the help of God’s
Spirit to give them power to grasp the love of God…
I wonder, do we ever pray that? Do we even realise what Paul is saying here? His claim is that we cannot know God’s love by ourselves, or at least we cannot know the fullest measure of it without the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. So, if we want to have hearts full of God’s love, then we also need God’s Spirit, and we receive the help of God’s Spirit through prayer.

That might be new idea for us, we might have assumed up till now that we can simply know God’s love by our own efforts. But even Jesus needed the help of the Spirit, because the affirmation of the Father was as much communicated by the Spirit, in the form of the dove alighting on Jesus, as it was by the words of the Father from heaven. If Jesus needed the Spirit, so do we.

Once again, then, let me ask you: will you invest some time in your relationship with God during these coming months of isolation? And specifically, will you pray and ask for God’s Spirit to be given to you and to us all? For it is by Him, the Spirit of God, that we gain power to grasp something more of the fullness of God’s love for us and for this world, and through that same Spirit we can then have hearts full of the love of God, full enough to fend off weariness in loving neighbour, and fend off the fear we may feel in these difficult times.

Jesus knows all about fear and all about weariness – in the Garden of Gethsemane He feared what was coming, He feared dying on the Cross. But He did not let fear stop Him, He did not let fear make Him a poor neighbour – instead, for love of you and me, for love of His Father, Jesus carried on towards Jerusalem to secure for us a living hope.

And often Jesus would become tired, weary enough that He took Himself off to a solitary place where He could spend some time with His heavenly Father and become refreshed in His love to continue that journey He and the Father had agreed upon from eternity past.

For me, that’s part of what makes the story of Martha and Mary so interesting. It comes right after a story which is about doing stuff and helping people, about sacrificing ourselves and going the extra mile. The Samaritan paid enough money for two weeks of care at that inn, and those of us in self-isolation, can begin to appreciate something of how long two weeks can be.
But right next to that story, is another story where Jesus seems to say the opposite thing. Martha is busy serving, she’s busy being the good neighbour, and in fact she is so busy, and feeling so isolated, that she is at her wits end; she is weary, weary enough to lash out at Jesus. I mean, come on, if there’s anyone you don’t lash out at, surely it’s Jesus.

But Martha is run dry, she’s run ragged, she’s weary. Jesus, I think, sees that weariness, it’s maybe part of the reason why His response is so gentle: “Martha, Martha.” There’s genuine emotional concern in His voice. He doesn’t give her a lecture about losing her temper, or even the importance of better organisation and delegation to others. For love is patient, love is kind, and Jesus is love incarnate.
Yet, Jesus doesn’t leave Martha there, He doesn’t gloss over it completely, as we might be tempted to do, because true love nurtures, it brings life. Jesus knows that Martha has become distracted by many things, by doing things for others, doing things for Jesus, and all of this has taken the place of simply being with Jesus, of sitting at His feet, as Mary does.

Mary adopts the position of a learner, a student, what the Jews called in their time, a disciple, and a disciple learnt by spending time with their teacher, their rabbi.

Luke reminds us in these two stories, that we are called to a radical love, a love which crosses divisions and boundaries, and sacrifices for others. But love for
neighbour is only half of the life we are called to, there is also love for God, and in loving Him knowing His love for us.
The man who asked Jesus the question at the start of the story had forgotten this; he imagined that eternal life was wrapped up and secured in what we do. But as Jesus reminds us in His own words: ‘this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ (John 17:3)

The expert in the law had forgotten this, Martha had maybe become distracted from this by the many things, but Mary knew, she remembered, so she spent time at the feet of Jesus and in that place, she found life, she found love, a perfect love, which filled her heart.

Friends, in these difficult times, God is with us. He knows our fears, He knows our frailty, that we are but dust. Yet
He calls us to keep loving our neighbours well…
and through loving Him to know His perfect love, a perfect love which can drive out all fear and restore the weariness of our hearts.

I pray that God will give us power by His Spirit, to know His love, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and for us to know this personally in our lives and so be able to show it others.

May it be so. Amen.

Living Hope (Passion Wk.2)

Preached on: Sunday 22nd March 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-03-22-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-sermon-morning.
Bible references: Luke 9v51-62 and Philippians 2:1-8
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Luke 9v51-62 and Philippians 2:1-8
Sunday 22nd March 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Normally, by this point on a Sunday morning, the children would be out in their groups and I would be in the pulpit, ready to share something on God’s Word, the Bible. I’d be looking out on the congregation – and this area I would maybe see: Rena, May, Molly; Margaret and Cathy; at the back Charles and Myra, Bill and Lena; or near the front George, John, Tom, and Bill, as well as Fiona, with Jean and Robert sitting over there.

But here I am, sitting in these pews by myself. It’s a strange experience and yet it prompts me to think of you all, to think of the neighbours I would normally see.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, we’re journeying with Jesus towards Jerusalem, and we’re focusing on three encounters Jesus had with Samaritan people, because that was really unexpected of Jesus, and you can hear more about that in the Tuesday Evening Sermon.

Today’s story is about the Good Samaritan – it’s a story many of us have heard before, it’s a story children will still hear in school for Religious and Moral Education. Have any of you children and young people heard it before? If you have, comment in the live video just now!

So most likely, we all feel like we know what the parable means: we’ve to be a good neighbour; we’ve to look out for people who need our help; we’ve to love other people.
And that’s certainly one important thing to take away because part of what Jesus showed us was the importance of loving others as we love ourselves.

So, sign up to help others by completing the online volunteer form, or come help us deliver the Easter card, or call up the people you would normally sit with in church or even your next door neighbour. Let’s be the best neighbours we can during this time, and we can all do that: from the little tots, to the young people and right up to our adult members. Just because we are to limit our face to face contact, does not mean we cannot be good neighbours and the more of us who join in, the more care and support there will be in our local community.

But as I was thinking about the story this week…
I was thinking about the other characters in the story. Can you remember who they are boys and girls? There were two other characters – the priest and the Levite. Now, did they go and help the man who was injured? No – they decided to walk past and leave him all alone.

I’ve been wondering why they did that? Why did they just walk past? Jesus didn’t give us a reason, but I’ve been wondering if they did it because of fear. Maybe fear of doing the wrong thing, which I’ll explain in Tuesday’s sermon. Or maybe it was fear of the robbers coming back?

Did they look around the road, up into the hills or the trees and wonder: “Am I next? Will they come for me too? Maybe I should get going – avoid this person – keep my distance.”
I wonder if they let fear motivate them to do the wrong thing? Because it’s easy to give in to fear, especially when it’s not our family, not our kith and kin.

Are we feeling fear just now? Is that fear causing us to be poor neighbours? I am not saying we should ignore the government guidance – because we do have to reduce our social contact, especially to keep our more vulnerable members healthy and safe. So, please follow the guidance.

But, have you seen the pictures online of empty shops? Have you struggled to get food and essentials yourselves? I wonder if part of the stockpiling is motivated by fear – and if it is, we are then allowing fear to impact how we treat others, we are being poor neighbours because of fear, rather than showing the care for others the Good Samaritan did.
So, what’s the antidote to fear? Well, I want to take you back to the start of the story. Jesus tells the parable because He is asked a question, and in that conversation, we hear that we’re to love God with all that we are – with our heart, soul, mind and strength – and we are to love our neighbour. Jesus agrees that these are two very important things to do, but He is also saying something else in these verses.

I think Jesus is saying that loving God and loving neighbour God hand in hand; they’re connected. We can, of course, be very loving to other people without God, but all of us have moments when fear or selfishness make us behave as poor neighbours.

But if we love God – if we pursue a relationship with God then God promises to help us, to change us, and to give us strength and wisdom and grace. As we love God, we learn of His love for us, and in another part of the Bible we’re reminded that “…perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). The antidote to fear is to know God’s love and we get to know God’s love by loving Him through prayer, reading the Bible, and spending time with Him.

So, why not invest some time in these ideas during the coming months of isolation? Get into reading the Bible, maybe start with the book of Luke or use the Lectio365 app, or keep joining us for Sunday worship, but engage with the Tuesday Evening Sermon, or come to the open prayer space on Thursday mornings, or engage with our “Prayer for the Braes” group on our Facebook page.
Because, there really is a God out there; He really is with us in all of the fear and uncertainty. We might, in these times, wonder whether God cares for us. We might, in these times, scoff at the idea of there being a God.

But two thousand years ago, God showed up – He was born in a manger and grew into a man, and that man set His face toward Jerusalem, He willing journeyed towards His death, for love of me and love of you.

That man was Jesus and Jesus knows all about fear – in the Garden of Gethsemane He feared what was coming, He feared dying on the Cross. But He did not let fear stop Him, He did not let fear make Him a poor neighbour – instead, for love of you and me, for love of His Father, Jesus carried on towards Jerusalem to secure for us a living hope.
Friends, in these difficult times, God is with us, He knows our fears, but He calls us to keep loving our neighbours well and through loving Him to know His love for each of us, because His perfect love drives out all fear.

May it be so. Amen.