Prayer changes things

Preached on: Sunday 30th October 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Luke 17:20-21 & 18:1-8
Location: Blackbraes Shieldhill and Muiravonside

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

Come Holy Spirit and soften our hearts to the Word of God. Let there be light.
Come Holy Spirit and teach us the things of the Kingdom.
Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask that ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Recently, down the roads at Brightons we had a few volunteers come and share an incredible story with us, during the service there. We have an All Together Time which is normally some time to engage with the children but we also use it to maybe share testimony or are there bits of news. And so, I’d asked Nadia and Allison to share a recent experience of theirs because, on the Monday night just before, Nadia had been at the Fellowship Group that she attends and during that time someone had shared a prayer request for their son, who’s a student, to find some accommodation. I’m sure we’ve read in the news about the lack of accommodation for students and so, they committed it to prayer. On the way home that night, Nadia remembered that she knew a friend in Glasgow who had a flat and sometimes it was available and so she contacted her friend who came back that night and said actually, it was available and she was just waiting to see how God might want to use it. So, by the following morning, this student had a flat. But the story doesn’t end there, because then Nadia went to Pre-Fives, the toddler group down at Brightons that morning, the Tuesday morning, and during the prayer time before the start of it one of the other volunteers, Allison, shared a Bible verse that had spoken to her that week or maybe even that morning, about sharing your faith and being bold to share your faith and so, in that time of prayer, Nadia really took that to heart and when she went into Pre-fives that morning and got talking with some of the adults there, she met a couple and, rather than just exchange the usual pleasantries, because she took that word of prayer and encouragement from Scripture to heart, she decided to share, with them, this answer to prayer from the night before, and it opened up a whole range of conversation about faith, about coming to church, and then, maybe, God was on the case of this couple who’d just come along to toddlers that day, that He was wanting to be part of their life. And it all began with prayer. With a few words of prayer on a Monday night, with a few words of prayer on a Tuesday morning leading to a cascade of events the next day. And who knows where it will continue in that couple’s life. Who know. All this, prayer changes things. It brings about the unseen Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about in our passage. It brings about that unseen Kingdom into both our lives and into the lives of people around us. And our passage today, we are called to prayer, we are encouraged to pray and, also, that we can keep on praying.

In verse 1 of chapter 18 we read ‘Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.’ To show them that they should always pray. Jesus calls us to pray, to be a people of prayer and part of this parable with this widow women, part of its purpose is to hold up to us her example that, without her persistence, nothing would have changed, and what we, in part, are to take away from it is that, without prayer, nothing which truly matters will change either. And that’s a point Illustrated across the scriptures.

So, we can go into First Timothy Chapter 2, a verse often used in reference to prayer where Paul says to Timothy ‘I urge first of all that petitions prayers intercession be made for all people for kings and all those in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.’ Now, let’s remember, Paul is writing at a time when the church is being persecuted and so, he’s encouraging prayer for a leader, an emperor who was evil, that people wouldn’t like and I’m sure we know some leaders of government or others that we don’t like but yet, we are to pray for them because our prayers affect society, they affect leadership. But, maybe, the opposite is also true that when we don’t pray, things don’t change. And so, we all know of the economic crisis that we’ve been facing, particularly at the instigation of the mini budget some weeks ago, and we might want to just simply blame Liz Truss or others for that kerfuffle and the impact upon our lives. But, what if we, God’s people across this nation and here, are in part to blame because we just moaned and we criticized and we judged, but did we pray? Did we pray consistently for those in government?

Or let’s go to Acts chapter four. We’re at the end of chapter four. We read that the church is facing persecution and has gathered for prayer and, in one of the verses, we read that they pray. ‘Stretch out your hand O Lord.’ and maybe we wonder ‘Well, they’re just asking for God to take away the hardship, to click His fingers and magic it away.’ But that’s not actually what they pray. They pray for themselves to be changed, for them to have boldness in the face of their circumstances and maybe that’s the most pressing area for prayer for us, to be changed, to be changed from the inside out rather than just wishing things away. In these examples we can see how prayer is essential and so why it should be a priority for us. We are called to prayer because prayer changes things and especially changes ourselves. But, brothers and sisters, do we see it that way?

It’s often said that we’ve got time for everything else but prayer. Everything else seems much more urgent. Everything else seems to take greater priority but not prayer. We don’t make the space to slow down. We don’t meet the space to give time to prayer, to learn to pray. We put it off. Yet, the parable of this widow shows us why we are called to prayer. Just as her circumstances would not have changed without her persistent action neither will ours without prayer. So, let us respond to the call of Jesus to be a people who pray.

Now, one of the common pitfalls with this passage is to think that Jesus is saying we must persist in prayer because God is as unwilling as the judge. We read about his unwillingness in verses four and five. We read there ‘For some time he refused but finally he said to himself ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think yet, because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice so that she won’t eventually come and attack me.’ He’s unwilling, he’s selfish, he’s only looking out for himself really and it’s common to think that maybe Jesus is comparing like with like, that God is like the judge. Yet, what Jesus actually says of God in verses 7 and 8 ‘Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones? He will see that they get justice and quickly.’ God is different to the judge. Jesus is not arguing like with like. He’s arguing from a lesser example to a greater example and He does that to encourage us. The Scriptures teach us that there’s at least five ways in which we have something greater in God than what this woman experiences.

So, for example, she is but a woman, a poor widow woman. She had no status in society, easy to be overlooked and ignored but that’s not our situation. We are the children of God and so we come before our Heavenly Father who will not ignore us.

She had no access, no rights really, to come before this judge but we have access. The way is open for us in prayer, to come before our God any time that we please.

She had no-one to come alongside her as she went to the judge. She went alone but that’s not the case with us because we have Jesus as an advocate before the Father for ours, we have the Holy Spirit living in us to take the groans and yearnings of our hearts before God on our behalf.

She had no leverage to influence this judge but we don’t need the leverage because we have the promises of God to stand upon, to claim, to cling to. He will be faithful to those.

She came to a cold court of law but, brothers and sisters, when we come in prayer, we come before the throne of Grace, the throne of Almighty God.

Jesus is arguing from the lesser to the greater. He’s saying, in effect, if this poor woman got what she deserved from such a selfish judge how much more should we be encouraged to pray because God is our Heavenly Father and we are reconciled to Him through Christ.

So, brothers and sisters, are we encouraged to be a prayerful people? Are we praying through the week, not just on a Sunday, and do we do so together at any point? Possibly not, but then, the thing to do is not to shrink from prayer, not to think it’s beyond you or too hard, but to give it a try, to find ways of growing in prayer.

When I came to faith at the age of 19, I probably had only three experiences of prayer, three common experiences.

The first was growing up saying bedtime prayers. Maybe you did the same and you maybe had a rote prayer. I had a rote prayer but that fell away probably around primary school somewhere and prayers at bedtime stopped. I heard prayers on a Sunday morning being said at church there by the minister and I had prayers from the minister at maybe a school assembly. Literally, those were the three areas of prayer I’d only ever come across in my life. But when I came to faith at the age of 19, a month later I started studying at Herriot Watt University because I’d taken a gap year after school, and when I went along to the Freshers Fayre, I found out about the Christian Union and got involved with the Christian Union and, within a very short space of time, some folks from the Christian Union invited me along to the prayer meeting that they held on a Wednesday morning at half past eight – Yes, even students can get up early! – when we gathered at half past eight for classes before starting at quarter past nine and we prayed. And, at first, I probably just did a bit of listening because I’ve never been exposed to something like that, but being in that environment around those people, it taught me to pray and to grow in confidence to pray out loud and that was a gift, a real gift. I probably wouldn’t be standing in front of you without that influence in my life.

Now, I will always encourage you to learn to pray out loud. I think it’s something we should learn to do but I recognize not everyone is quite ready to take that step yet. We can all find ways of growing in prayer, of weaving it into our day, our week, our rhythms so that it’s not just from Sunday to Sunday when we pray, but that we pray in many other ways, that it comes as easy as breathing to us, and, maybe, as regularly. And if we will grow in prayer, if we will find ways and rhythms to do so, there will soon come to be encouraged to pray all the more, just as Jesus sought to do in this parable.

Yet, we all know, there are times when prayer seems to go unanswered and that is the context of our passage today. In verse chapter 17 at verse 20 we read that Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come and they asked this because they prayed for this, they’d been praying for 400 years, if not more, for the Kingdom of God to come. They wanted to be free of Roman rule. They wanted to see God’s Kingdom established with His justice and peace for their people and their land. And so, they asked this new Rabbi ‘Well, when will the Kingdom of God come?’ and then His answer, both of what we read and the portion we skipped over, He says that the Kingdom is hidden in part. He says, in verse 20, ‘The Kingdom of God is in your midst.’ it’s hidden, part through Him, through Him coming into the world. The Kingdom is breaking into the world. But He goes on to say more is to come. The Kingdom is here but not yet. It’s here in part but not fully. And so, He goes on, in the parable we read, to teach us to pray, to be persistent in prayer even. And so, in verse 1, He speaks of not giving up. In verse 3 the widow is described as coming, who keeps coming to the judge. The judge says in verse 5 that she keeps bothering him. She’s that persistent. In verse 7 Jesus speaks of the children of God who pray day and night and in verse 8 that He wonders when He returns, will He find faith, ongoing, persistent faith that displays itself in prayer. I wonder, does that describe us? Are we a prayerful people? Or, have we given up?

The Greek word for ‘give up’ in verse 1 can also be translated ‘to faint.’ It speaks of someone who has grown weary, who’s lost heart, who’s become discouraged and feels helpless. Maybe you come to church feeling that way today, or you’ve known seasons like that and, maybe, you’re in that place because you’re waiting, you’re waiting for God to answer our prayer and, when He seems to delay, you maybe wonder ‘Well, why does He delay?’

I’m not sure I can give you an answer to the why, but I read something that gave me encouragement nonetheless, as we wait upon God. Warren Wiersbe, one commentator, said ‘God’s delays are not the delays of inactivity but of preparation.’ God’s delays are not the delays of inactivity but of preparation. And he bases that upon Romans 8 verse 20 where Paul says to the church at Rome ‘We know that, in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose, God’s chosen ones.’ called ones as Jesus said in the parable are ‘the children of God’ and that includes us. And so, this verse is as true for us as for the Christians in Rome, that we know that, in all things, God works, God works for the good of those who love Him. God is at work. His delays are not of inactivity but of preparation.

We might gather today feeling discouraged about many things. The last time I was with you I brought news about the future of our churches in the Upper Braes and you may feel like God is inactive. Why are things not changing? Why is the church in decline? You might also wonder in this message ‘Well, if we start to gather for prayer, if we started a prayer meeting, if we learned to pray out loud, would God then change things, might we have a future?’ I can’t promise that. Even if you started to pray and gather for prayer, the building still might close yet, that does not mean God is inactive. Maybe in that season, maybe through those prayers, God begins our work of preparation, our work to change your heart, to make you more like Jesus, to grow you in faith, to grow you in passion, to grow you in boldness, to help you see you’re part of something new. Who knows what He might do and teach as you pray in that season but His delays are not of inactivity but of preparation. For our part, we are to keep on praying in and through the delays, refusing to give up, just like the persistent widow because we know we come to God our Heavenly Father and that He works for the good of His children.

So, brothers and sisters, let us take heed of God’s Word to us today and respond, both to the call and the encouragement of our Lord, to pray and, in so doing, be a people who keep on praying. May it be so. Amen.

Following the path (Passion Wk.1)

Preached on: Sunday 15th 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 20-03-15-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 15th 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.

The metaphor of ‘journeying with God’ is used time and time again in the Scriptures, and often we talk of faith as being a journey. So, it’s this very idea which Luke draws upon as he writes these words in chapter 9: ‘As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.’ (Luke 9:51) Other versions talk of Jesus ‘setting His face to go to Jerusalem.’ With steely resolve, with a clear and fixed understanding of His purpose, Jesus journeys towards Jerusalem.

Earlier in the same chapter, Luke has outlined that Jesus knows His purpose and He knows what is coming:…
Jesus said to His disciples, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ (Luke 9:22)

Jesus knows what lies ahead of Him; He knows with certainty the suffering He will face so as to accomplish the purpose and will of His Father, and to that end Jesus resolutely sets out for Jerusalem, He sets His face.

So, over the coming weeks between now and Easter, we will journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem, and along the way we will see some of the people He met and explore as well, the teaching Jesus shared along the way. This will give us the opportunity to reflect upon the reaction of people towards Jesus and see if we react similarly…
We’ll also have the opportunity to hear what Jesus taught about being His disciple and weigh up if we are walking in His way today. But primarily, I hope that in this season, as we journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem, we will also see the heart of Jesus, the character of Jesus, and so grow in our own love of Jesus.

Now, this isn’t some nice mental exercise, this isn’t divorced from reality, because what we see of Jesus, what we see of His way and of His calling upon us as His disciples, is relevant for today and for the issues we wrestle with as a church family.

It’s been some time since I’ve mentioned the issue, but we must remember that from this year we will start to see an impact upon our church life as things change within the
Braes area…
Likely I will become Interim Moderator for another Kirk Session on the 1st of July this year, so my available time here in Brightons will reduce. Also, we were meant to have a meeting tomorrow as the Braes Churches to explore some of the issues, but that has been replaced with an alternative process, not because of coronavirus but simply a more participative approach, and in all likelihood, God-willing, there will be a meeting in August when we might need to decide as a group of Kirk Sessions what the future shape of ministry will be in the Braes area. This will ask us to sacrifice things, we will have to give things up, and change from what we’ve known to a model that’s only now beginning to be piloted. What guidance might the way of Jesus and His example have upon our thinking and our planning as we follow His journey towards Jerusalem?
But even within our own congregation we are wrestling with significant issues. The elders are seeking clarity on what our purpose is as a congregation, as well as the values that underpin how that purpose should be worked out amongst us. We need to do this because we don’t have clarity on this, we don’t know what we are about or the manner we seek to accomplish it. And in case that sounds a bit vague, then let me try and make it a bit more concrete.

At present, the Kirk Session have made a plan, Godwilling, to meet on the 31st March for an extra meeting, and we’ll be discussing then the place of children, the place of adults, the idea of us being all generations together and we will seek to come to resolution of this, because we know there are differing perspectives about this matter…
For example, we need to make a plan about the summer services: will they be all age, or will they not? Other than personal preference or who shouts the loudest, we do not have a way to answer that questions, because we are not clear on our purpose and we are not clear on our values, and we’re not even necessarily on the same page about how we do life together as all the generations who make up Brightons Parish Church.

Once again, what guidance might the way of Jesus and His example have upon our thinking and our planning as we follow His journey towards Jerusalem? I don’t really know yet, I don’t have it all planned out, but I know today speaks a powerful word to these very issues and questions.
So, let’s dig into our passage for today. Jesus is resolutely setting out for Jerusalem and He first comes to a Samaritan village. It’s helpful if we know some of the background here. Around the year 700BC, the Assyrian Empire invaded and conquered the northern land of Israel, and Assyria resettled that land with its own people, such that the Jews who were left there intermarried with those of non-Jewish nationality, which brought about a mixed race who became known as Samaritans. They were viewed as “half breeds” by the more “purebred” Jewish people, and in turn the Samaritans developed a hatred for the Jews. Indeed, such was the tension between the two peoples that Jewish travellers would walk around Samaritan territory rather than go through it, even though this would lengthen their trip considerably. To these people, Jesus goes.
But ahead of Him, He sends an advance group, to get ready things for His arrival because at this point it’s not just Jesus and the 12 disciples any more, as Luke chapter 8 reveals, there is now Jesus, the 12 apostles and ‘many others’. Such a large group will need special preparations for accommodation and meals, and so Jesus sends some of the people head.

However, they seem to let slip that Jesus is heading for Jerusalem and the reply they get is that Jesus and His followers are not welcome in the village. We don’t really know why and Luke’s focus is not so much on the response of the Samaritans, but on the disciples’ reaction. James and John, who are brothers, call out to Jesus and ask: ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from
heaven to destroy them?’ (Luke 9:54)
There is a degree to which their reaction makes some sense. For example, earlier in chapter 9, we reed that some people thought Jesus was a prophet akin to the prophet Elijah, and everyone knew the stories of Elijah – he was the one who called down fire on Mount Carmel, he was the one who called down fire on enemy soldiers sent to capture him. So, to some degree, we might argue that the reaction from James and John is one of great faith – faith that Jesus is a prophet like Elijah, even greater than Elijah, because enough fire might be sent to burn a whole village!

What is more, Jesus had earlier said in the same chapter, that if people did not welcome the disciples they were to ‘shake the dust off your feet’ and walk away. Maybe, James and John thought they were honouring Jesus even more,…

because not only are they willing to shake the dust of this village off their feet, they are also willing to reduce this village to dust, and surely such a response is fitting when people reject the coming of God in their very midst? In a culture of honour and shame, surely such irreverence towards Jesus demands the strongest of responses? Maybe it was this reaction from the brothers which coined their nickname, ‘the sons of thunder’ (Mark 3:17).

Do you ever feel like James and John? Do you ever get annoyed with the disrespect shown to Jesus? Do you stand up to defend Jesus? Defending His honour, defending His praise, defending His rightful place? Well, James and John were just about to realise how different
Jesus was from Elijah – He might come in the Spirit and… power of Elijah, but these disciples still have much to learn about the way of Jesus, for Jesus ‘turned and rebuked them.’ (Luke 9:55)

He turned – maybe Jesus was already out in front of His disciples, heading for the next village, but here they are, calling Him back, pestering Him with their agenda, with their grand ideas, dictating to Jesus what they thought HE should be doing and how matters of religion should be done. Instead, Jesus rebukes them and they go to another village.

It’s a funny thought, because John is the apostle we so often associate with love, for he wrote, ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ (1 John 4:7-8)

And yet, here in Luke, John is advocating anything but love. He still has much to learn about the love of Jesus; he still needs to learn that Jesus, that God, is love and that divine love is full of grace.

Our second reading today, from the letter to the Philippians, spells out for us the depth and nature of the love of Jesus. It’s a love which does nothing out of selfish ambition; it’s a love that looks not to its own interests but to the interests of others; His is a love which made Himself nothing, becoming a servant, and with such humility became obedient to death, even death on a cross. The disciples of Luke chapter 9,…
perceive Jesus to be the promised Messiah, but they expect Him to be the triumphant, all conquering, resistance crushing King of popular opinion, even though Jesus had earlier taught them about love of enemy and that He came to die for the purposes of God. For as Jesus will later say, He came to seek and to save the lost, and to do that by the giving of His life. The way of Jesus is the way of grace, which is so strong, so wide-ranging, so patient, so self-sacrificing that it is surprising, shocking, even scandalous, to the disciples and especially to the religious people of His time.

I wonder: what’s your picture of Jesus? How wideranging, how scandalous, is His grace in your thinking?
And do you show that grace to others?

I remember reading a story one time that is told by a sociologist and pastor called Tony Campolo. In his story, Campolo was traveling to speak in Honolulu, Hawaii. He says that because of jet lag on the first night he got up at 3 o’clock in the morning and went to a nearby restaurant. It wasn’t the most desirable or upscale place you could encounter and when he went in an unshaven cook with a cigar in his mouth asked him what he would like and Campolo asked for a cup of coffee and donut, because that’s all he dared to try.

As he sat eating his doughnut and drinking his coffee, about a dozen prostitutes walked in and sat down. Campolo said he tried to disappear, but they were on either side of him and he couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. One of the prostitutes said,…
“tomorrow is my birthday.” Another of the women with her said sarcastically, “so what you want, a cake? You want us to throw you a party?” The woman responded, “I’m just saying it’s my birthday. You don’t have to hurt my feelings.” And then she said, “I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life.”

Eventually, they all got up and left. So, Campolo called over to the cook and asked, “Shall we have a party for that woman?” And the Cook responded, “That’s Agnes. That’s a great idea. That’s beautiful. We’ll have a party. I’ll make the cake.”

So, that’s what they did. Campolo came back the next morning at about 2:15 AM, with crêpe paper and a big sign that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY AGNES…
They put the word out on the street, and by 3:15, Campolo says, every prostitute in town was packed inside that restaurant. At 3:30 AM, right on time, in walked Agnes with her friends and everybody in the restaurant shouted out, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY AGNES.”

Agnes was stunned. She sat down on a stool, as the group sang to her ‘happy birthday’. When they had finished, the cook brought out the cake, but Agnes was in tears and could not blow out the candles, so the cook did. He handed her a knife and said, “cut the cake Agnes.” But she asked, “is it okay if I don’t cut the cake? I want to show it to my mum. She lives just around the corner.” Campolo said to her, “It’s your cake. Do as you like.” And she told the group that she would be right back and she left.
Campolo said that as she left the room, it was dead silent. Awkward. So Campolo asked, “why don’t we pray?” And hearing no objection, he did. He prayed for Agnes. He prayed that she might be sealed and delivered from all the pain in her life. He prayed that God would make her new.

When he was done, the cook said, “You said you were a sociologist but you’re a preacher. What kind of church do you preach in?”

And Campolo said it was one of those times where he got the right words at the right moment. He replied, “I preach in a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3.30 in the morning.”

And the cook said, “No you don’t. No, you don’t. Because I’d go to a church like that.”

Brothers and sisters, are we a church like that? Are we a congregation of radical grace, of scandalous grace? You will only show that grace if you see Jesus as the God of such grace and know that grace for yourself. Are we a church of scandalous grace? A church of such grace that the love we show is a love which does nothing out of selfish ambition; a love that doesn’t look to its own interests but to the interests of others; a love which calls us to be servants of all, and embody such humility that we are willing to became obedient to death and take up our cross daily. Are we that church? Are we the church of scandalous grace? And in this time with coronavirus, will we show that grace to our neighbour and community?
Now, it’s such grace and love, which underpins and fuels the second part of our reading in Luke’s gospel today. Jesus encounters three would be disciples and with each their commitment is shown to be lacking.

The first is full of enthusiasm, confidently asserting that he will follow Jesus wherever Jesus may lay his head. Maybe the individual thinks of Jesus as an itinerant teacher who will open for doors for him, teach him the ways of God that life might then be good. Along the way, there will be comfortable places to stay, respect will be experienced because this man will be following in the shadow of this famous Jesus.

But Jesus points out, that to follow Him, is to follow a prophet who calls people to faithfulness to God…
For Jesus knows no comfort, He will depend on the generosity of others; the Lord of the whole universe is made poor, is humbled to the position of a servant, all for the love of mankind, because for them He comes to give His life to seek and save the lost.

The second individual first asks to go and bury his father, which was the sign of highest respect in Jewish culture and even commanded by Scripture. One commentator suggests that if the father had actually died already, it would be more likely that the man would be at home, rather than with Jesus, the man would be busy with funeral preparation, too busy to be with Jesus. So, in all likelihood, the man was asking to stay at home until his father had died. This might have meant a significant delay and the call of Jesus being put off until a more opportune time. The man is saying, “yes, I’ll follow You Jesus…but later.” Once again, commitment is lacking and failure to understand Jesus and the importance of His mission is apparent.

Finally, the third individual, who seems to ask a fair request, a request also raised by Elijah when Elijah was called by God, and Elijah was allowed to go home and say his farewells. But Jesus, once again, says that such a request is not fitting for the times we now find ourselves in. We’re not to look back, we’re not to plough with one eye behind and one eye out front; instead full commitment, full focus upon the priorities of the kingdom, is crucial for disciples of Jesus.

In summary of these three individuals, we see that Jesus is looking for disciples who are willing to follow His example,…
giving up comfort, giving up tradition and family expectation, even what might appear religiously correct, and giving up life as we knew it, so that we, one and all, may follow Jesus wherever He leads and share in His purposes to make the Kingdom known.

Do we share the urgency of Jesus? Are we willing to give up comfort, tradition, expectation, life as we know it, to fulfil the mandate given to us by Jesus? Because, imagine if Jesus had done that? Imagine if Jesus had said, “You know Father, I’d rather not; the comfort of heaven, it’s rather good; and I’d be breaking tradition for angels not to worship me; and the idea of pain, crucifixion, becoming a man…seems a bit undignified, I think I’ll pass.”

I mean – come on!?! Imagine if Jesus had been like that, and thank the Lord He wasn’t!
Instead, He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, humbling himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!

He gave up comfort; He gave up all that was rightfully His; He gave up life as He knew it and entered into our pain and suffering and world – for love you and love of me, to seek and to save the lost. He calls His disciples, He calls us, to walk in His way, and show such commitment as He did to the Kingdom of God.

I wonder, is being a Christian, is being a disciple of Jesus, merely another commitment, another title, which we add to the long list of our other commitments?
Because Jesus is calling for Him and His kingdom to become our number one commitment, and our lives to be ordered around that.

Or when it comes to clarifying our purpose as church, or what our values are, or how we might relate with our sister churches in the Braes area, will Jesus and His Kingdom be the deciding factor? Or, is it going to be what makes us comfortable, or our traditions, expectations and even life as we knew it? Are we going our way, or are we following in the way of Jesus?

As we begin this journey with Jesus towards Easter, with Jesus setting His face and resolutely following the path to Jerusalem, that place where He would give His life in sacrifice for us,…
I pray we might learn His way the way of scandalous grace that calls us to give our all for the sake of the Kingdom of God, that God who gave His life for you and for me.

May it be so. Amen.

Spiritual Training (James 1:19-27)

Preached on: Sunday 19th January 2020
The sermon text is not available.
Bible references: James 1:19-27
Location: Brightons Parish Church