May 2nd, 9th, 16th

May 23rd, 

Sunday 30th May 2021​

Link to video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/mutaR9KUjRU

 

Short Reflection: Can you analyse love?

Psalm 139

 

Psalm 139 is full of awe -

..awe At god's creative works,

….Awe at the way that God is so close,

 

And awe at his intimate knowledge of us,

... and concern for us

 

As I read the first 12 chapters,

I always sense the Psalmist speaking in a slightly awed and referent tone…

 

Such as in verse six:

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me”

 

One of the things that Psalm 139 tries to express,

… Is the share intimate depth of gods love and concern for us

 

But while the Psalmist tries hard,

… He conveys the impression That words are insufficient,

 

= to fully describe something so very profound

 

A boy was asked by his religious education teacher to write a short essay describing Bible,

 

Being a bit of a cheeky so-and-so,

… And perhaps far too clever for his own good,

 

= he deliberately misunderstood the question and wrote:

 

That his bible weighs 604 g

It is 21 x 15 cmAnd, not including appendices, has 1106 pages.

 

He went on to describe the paper as white and made from a precise recipe of wood, Celulose, china clay and other ingredients (which he had evidently googled)

 

He described the ink is black (and again a googled list of ingredients)

 

He went on to say that the black ink formed patterns of repeated shapes,

On the pages that we call an alphabet

 

Plus dots and dashes to order the shapes.

 

He went on to describe further (googled) information about the binding processes.

 

He’d written a rather detailed technical description of his Bible –

… And yet affectively said nothing of value.

 

Nothing of the books meaning.

 

Nothing of the aims, hopes and inspiration of its many writers.

 

Nothing of its many stories, claims, or overarching themes.

 

Nothing about love - its central proposition. 

 

Some people look at the world like that –

 

They study the processes of

... geology and geography

… chemistry and physics

… Biology and natural laws.

 

They carefully weigh, measure and describe

(like that kid with the Bible essay)

 

And yet if left at that,

… They say little or nothing about its meaning, purpose, or value

 

They’ve successfully described the how 

… But not the why  or the worth of it 

 

The Psalmist lived in a time with fewer scientific facts,

… but – I’d argue,

= a greater handle on the essentials –

= and a greater humility:

 

“ such knowledge is beyond my understanding – so high I cannot reach it”

 

The how is important –

Science is important –

= but it’s the why that makes the equation complete

 

Some prominent scientists study the how –

… Then they turn to the why and, IN AN ATTITUDE Of AWE,

= echo the Psalmist:

 

“I Will praise you – for you fill me with awe”

 

Others Study the How –

… Then, arrogant in their partial learning,

= claim that what can’t be measured, explained or examined under a microscope can’t exist.

 

Somebody once wrote:

  • God is profoundly simple – and we make him complicated

  • God is close to us – and we make him far away

 

We can only get close to God,

…. when we balance our cleverness with humility

…. when we accept that our vanity is keeping God at arm’s-length

 

There is a time to study and scientifically analyse

 

But there is also a time to put our analysis away,

  • cease dissecting

  • And start worshipping

 

FINALLY -

If love could be analysed and precisely measured,

= there’d be a limit to it

 

= thank God for loves infinity

 

Amen


 

Sunday 23rd May 2021​

Link to video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/b6kmVRkJqOY

A (Holy Spirit) HELPING HAND: part 2 of 2 in the ‘God’s Hands’ series

 Pentecost Sunday

 

INTRO

LAST week - in the text where Jesus returns to God ,

...we focused on Jesus’ hands

 

We spoke about how incredibly ELOQUENT his hands were/are -

 

This week - Pentecost Sunday -

…. the anniversary of the HOLY SPIRIT being given to the church,

 

we return to his hands -

 

The hands that SPOKE,

... are now EXTENDED towards us

 

They are literally offering us a hand -

….A HOLY HELPING HAND

 

John 15:26-27 and 16:4(b)-15

 

Part 1 - A HELPING HAND

 

Imagine you were born in the 1st century - 

..1st wave of believers post-Jesus Resurrection

= fellow members had been persecuted, whipped and even martyred

 

= you are increasingly facing a stark choice:

  • DENY JESUS

  • Or POT’ FLOGGING/PRISON/GAME OF CHASE WITH NERO’S LIONS

 

Q WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE??

 

Honestly (by myself) = 

...I’d guiltily put my light under a bushel -  and lay low 

 

BUT - incredibly.

...history tells us that many ordinary christians stood up and were counted

 

WERE THEY TOUGHER BACK THEN?

….no - just as feeble as us (scripture doesn’t hide their warts) >>> they simply had a hand

                                                                                                                      A holy spirit hand

 

And it’s the SAME HAND,

….that’s extended to us today (are we less inclined to grab it than them???)

 

They took it >>> because they were desperate and faced terrible circs

 

Perhaps we fail to sometimes >>> because we are more comfortable and self-reliant?

 

MATERIALLY RICHER

...TOLERATED BY OUR SOCIETY

…...DISTRACTED BY OUR MANY COMFORTS

 

I put my hand up- 

ONE OF MY SPIRITUAL FAILINGS = COMFORTABLE COMPLACENCY

 

SINCE entering ministry-

….I have preached 

= probably well over a thousand times

 

On 2 occasions I felt ‘OUT OF CONTROL’ - in a good way (OR - God way!),

…..a fluency and spontaneity beyond the norm

……….MORE GOD - LESS ME

 

Both had one thing in common >>> ‘I felt a bit desperate!’

  • 1) forgot notes (and it was 2nd sermon - hurried due to unexpected commitments so not as imbedded in my memory)

  • 2) ‘block’ (disjointed fistful of notes - dry, uninspired and a couple of vague anecdotes that i wasn’t even sure that I was going to use as they both felt a bit weak and crowbarred into place

 

= BOTH TIMES > had to rely 100% on GOD in the moment

…………………….no COMFORT ZONE / nothing COHERENT or RELEVANT to fall back on

 

Holy hand metaphor - in my desperate fear of public humiliation

 ‘reached out for his hand with all my might’

 

***not advocating laziness -

If I don’t regularly prepare or engage my GOD GIVEN BRAIN each week

…. = i’d crash and burn

 

He gives me/us GIFTS and TALENTS  

…”use them!”

…..with the CAVEAT - ‘that we use them in partnership with him’

(HOLDING HIS HAND IN OTHER WORDS)

 

Quoting JESUS in vs 13

“When the Spirit of all truth comes he will guide you”     

 

When I felt God calling me into ministry,

...I didn’t sense him saying -

I’ve got a job for you David - heres a few modest giftings to help you along,

….now good luck, and see you in heaven! (you can tell us how it went!!)

 

NO - 

I’ve got a job for you David - here’s a few modest giftings to help you along,

...now TAKE HOLD OF MY HAND,

…...we’ll do this together

 

That wasn’t just in my ordained ministry -

But my ministry as a dad,

And a husband,

And a nurse,

And I could go on...

 

This HOLY HELPING HAND,

….isn’t especially reserved for CLERGY 

 

It’s the HELPING HAND,

…..God extended to the WHOLE CHURCH at Pentecost!

 

= because none of us are strong enough to WALK THIS PATH without a HELPING HAND

 

How often have you heard somebody say -

“I don’t know where I got the strength from” OR -

“I don’t know where that sense of peace came from”

 

This - I would venture,

….is GOD’S HOLY HELPING HAND

 

I felt THE STRENGTH OF it’s touch on those 2 sundays I mentioned earlier -

...I felt it in PICU with SAM at death's door in 1996

…...I felt it in NEWCASTLE with MICHAEL in the BMT BUBBLE in 2015

 

2 points I want to clarify further about GOD'S HOLY HELPING HAND this am -

(directly from our text)

  1. It testifies TO US about JESUS

  2. It testifies THROUGH US about Jesus

 

PART 2 - HE TESTIFIES TO US

 

Let’s start with the ‘testifies to us’ point:

(and give our text a bit of CONTEXT as well)

 

The DAY OF PENTECOST is described in ACTS -

...but our text today occurs 53 days earlier:

 

It’s Maundy Thursday -

….DAY B4 JESUS DIED   (for us)

 

Night has fallen - 

….Jesus has already WASHED HIS FRIENDS FEET

….INSTITUTED THE LORD'S SUPPER

….predicts JUDAS’ BETRAYAL

…. and PETER'S DENIAL

 

And now he’s PREPARING THEM,

….with words of advice and encouragement

 

OUR TEXT -

...is the middle bit in this conversation

 

IT COMES JUST AFTER the -

…..’the world will hate you just as it hated me’ bit

 

In a few hours,

….they’ll see this hate expressed 1ST HAND

 

They’ll scatter in terror - BECAUSE OF IT,

….leaving JESUS to face it alone

 

What JESUS says in our text (the bit b4 the ‘world will hate you’)

 = is PREPARING them for when they WILL HAVE TO FACE it themselves in future

 

JESUS ISN’T giving them a CHURCHILLIAN ‘ fight them on the beaches’ speech

….he’s comforting them

 

(vs 26) “when the counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the father, the spirit of truth, who goes out from the father, he will testify about me.”

 

Counsellor (just one of the titles for the HOLY SPIRIT)

...the ORIGINAL WORD is PARACLETE

 

NOW -

If you’re just nodding off - LOST THE THREAD A BIT

….and wondered what  colourful birds have to do with anything,

 

= the word is PARACLETE - not PARAKEET!  (and it’s a lovely word……)

 

Def:

“One who stands at your side, to defend, guide and help you”

 

A HOLY HELPING HAND

 

Some people get a bit put off by mention of the word HOLY SPIRIT -

...people getting overexcited in churches,

…..falling over willy nilly

……..hyper religious luny tunes

……..etc, etc…

 

HEAR THIS DEFINITION AGAIN

(repeat def)

 

You can’t limit the potential of the holy spirit 

(COUNTLESS EXPRESSIONS -

…..including the OVERTLY MIRACULOUS)

 

But a MAJOR PART (both from my own and peoples I have spoken to experiences)

 

= ASSURANCE -

..’JESUS IS -           YOU ARE HIS - 

 

Powerful intellectual arguments 4 existence of God  >>  powerful counter arguments

= 2 equally skilled debaters would always come to a score draw

 

= HS testifies directly to the heart

 

Margaret - 100% faith > only time 100% faith 

...I had all but given up faith that Jacob would be born disability free,

…..only thing that kept me CLINGING ON,

 

= was margarets extraordinary faith> THAT HE WAS GOING TO BE FINE AS GOD PROMISED

 

This SUPERNATURAL FAITH -

….helped Margaret see the HOLY SPIRIT as an actual being,

……..as opposed to a vague Christian concept

 

= BECAUSE SHE’D FELT HIS TOUCH

 

The exact same thing happened at PENTECOST -

A bunch of Christians hid behind locked doors,

…..in the wake of Christs death

 

Afraid of the HATE they had seen poured out on JESUS

 

The HS (whom Jesus had spoken of 53 days ago (our text)

….was a CONCEPT

 

But everything changed when he arrived - THEY FELT HIM

 

Child - timid = too afraid to go to nursery school

(if you just opened car door and said ‘bye bye son’ = shrink back and refuse!)

 

But take his hand….

...gently coax and encourage with parental kindness

…….and WALK IN WITH HIM

 

= the impossible becomes possible

 

The folks pre-pentecost were like that frightened child -

….too afraid to step out

 

BUT THE HS SPIRIT ARRIVED -

...A HAND TO HOLD, A STRENGTH TO RECEIVE, AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO HEAR

 

THAT SAME -    HAND/STRENGTH/ENCOURAGEMENT

=….Is our’s too

 

Their PARACLETE is our PARACLETE

 

The same VOICE that whispers:

... ‘you are Christs’

…....’you are valued’

……..’you are not alone’

 

The is the VOICE>  that whispers into the turmoil of your anxiety

 

NO WONDER THE SPIRIT IS DESCRIBED AS THE COMFORTER

 

  • But he doesn’t just comfort and help US

  • He enables US to comfort and help  others

 

PART3: HE TESTIFIES THROUGH US

 

Many of us (including myself)

...are scaredy cats when it comes to other people

  • What will they think of me?

  • Will they think that I’m a bit of a religious freak?

  • Naive and deluded?

 

Surely they won’t even listen….?

 

I can’t convince anyone of anything in my own strength -

...and I can come across as all kinds of weird left to my own devices

 

But I really believe that the HOLY SPIRIT,

...can give us the RIGHT WORDS -

  • Sensitive and insightful

 

And I believe he can give us the CONFIDENCE to be open about our faith too

  • Sometimes in WORD

  •  - but in LIFESTYLE especially!

 

OUR PARACLETE - 

Our helper/guider/defender   = speaking and expressing through us

 

WILLIAMS WARD I mentioned that I was a Christian in passing,

...soon after arriving there.

 

After that,

...I never initiated a conversation about JESUS.

 

But on countless occasions people engaged ME in conversations,

….that usually began with some variation of:

So - as a Christian, 

‘where do you stand on…’

……’or what do you think about.’

 

One nursing assistant - Dicky Penton,

...once told me on a night shift that he wanted some of what I had

 

HE WAS AN INFAMOUS JOKER AND WINDER UPPER,

….so I didn’t realise he was being sincere at first

 

‘What I have? - what do I have that you might want - ‘

 

You know - he said,, 

 you seem more peaceful than anyone else I know,

…...and it doesn’t come from working on WILLIAMS WARD

 

….and one of these days I think I might even ask for it myself

 

The only thing I regret is that I never said -

Why wait for one of these days?

 

It was on the tip of my tongue,

…..BUT I KEPT MY MOUTH SHUT

 

Looking back,

I believe that it was the HS that Dicky sensed,

….not some personality trait of my own

 

PERHAPS IT WAS AN EXPRESSION THAT WAS MEANT FOR DICKY ALONE?

 

I’m the least evangelistic person I know -

….but the LITTLE I HAVE DONE (my sprinkling of salt n light)

……..is the Holy Spirit's work alone

 

The SPIRIT WHO TESTIFIES THROUGH US

 

Someone wrote once@

I believe the H S is the least utilised GIFT in the Church today

 

What do you think?

 

His hand is outstretched - EVEN NOW

 

  • Offering us peace, strength

  • Reassurance - of Jesus’ love

  • And help to reassure others of that same love

 

Will we take his hand?

 

amen