Good Friday

Easter Sunday

11th April 

18th April

Sunday 25th April 2021

Link to video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/8cfHUSNOQY4

Sunday Reflection - ‘The Good Shepherd’ -

4th Sunday in Easter, 2021

Welcome/Read - John 10:1-16

 

Intro

 

When I first moved to Pembrokeshire I was told that I was moving to a county with the best beaches, freshest air and some of the dodgiest tradesmen!

 

To be fair that hasn’t been my experience -

Getting one to turn up HAS been an issue,

...but the ones who have, have been great. 

 

But I was speaking to a lady last week who seems to have an unhappy knack of choosing the ‘bad uns’!

 

She had recently brought a property that needed a fair bit of work. 

 

The windows and doors were being replaced by a well known welsh double glazing company that has probably knocked on your door,

…. numerous times,

 

 announcing they are doing some work in your area at the moment,

…..and can offer some fabulous savings as a result…

 

She signed up -

…during the fitting of the patio doors part of the masonry to the side of the door started to come away -

 

The fitter - out of his depth,

…. rang his boss for advice -

 

“Shove it back in - use gaffer tape if you have too,

…. then put frame on to hide it -

THE CUSTOMER WILL NEVER KNOW!

 

Except the phone call was on loud speaker -

….and the customer was next to the embarrassed fitter who apologised profusely for his boss!

 

This was followed up by a landscape gardener who made suspiciously little progress while his customer was at work -

….always citing some unexpected problem such as a large underground stone or root that took hours of shifting

 

..she deliberately came home early one day to find him fast asleep and sunbathing at 3.00pm  -

….she told me she packed his tools away in his van,

...and wrote a note which she left on his bare chest saying 

“You’re sacked!”

 

She had other stories too -

The plumber who didn’t own a radiator key,

...the carpenter who didn’t use a spirit level….

Etc, etc….

 

These workers (or, in the case of the window fitter, the company boss) -

ARGUABLY ALL LACKED ONE THING -

- integrity

It was EVERYDAY experiences like dealing with tradesmen,

… that Jesus regularly used,

...TO COMMUNICATE TO HIS LISTENERS. 

 

JESUS taught people in language they understood

Profound truths that weren’t wrapped up in obscure jargon that required a PHD to understand

 

His STORIES used examples people could relate to,

...in order to impart IMPORTANT TRUTHS.

 

Perhaps if JESUS had come in our time,

...he’d have told the parable of the GOOD LANDSCAPER/GOOD PLUMBER

 

But in an ancient AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY,

...SHEPHERDS were one of the most numerous workers around.

 

Apparently REALLY GOOD and RELIABLE ones,

...could be as rare as HENS TEETH.

 

Poor shepherd’s who lacked integrity,

...were more interested in their wages than the sheep’s welfare.

 

And shepherding could be a dangerous business -

...wild animals and equally wild rustlers,

…...all competing to steal part or all of someone’s valuable flock

 

So GOOD SHEPHERDS were highly prized.

In our address today we’re looking at 3 aspects that the GOOD ‘GOD’ SHEPHERD,

...brings into our lives:

 

So we can recognise him and those who genuinely represent him for ourselves-

 

THE GOOD SHEPHERD OFFERS:

1-GOODNESS/INTERGRITY

2-LIFE

3-RELATIONSHIP 

 

PART ONE - GOODNESS 

 

2 words for good -

GOOD - in the usual sense, was -     a - ga - thos

 def: decent and capable, moral in nature

 

But JESUS used the other word for GOOD in his story - ka - los

 Def: all the other word entails AND

…… perfectly genuine, beautiful, magnificent - praiseworthy

        (words that describe godliness)

 

The GOOD SHEPHERD isn’t simply a decent bloke you’d recommend to a friend in a pub looking for a new shepherd,

…...he is literally the ULTIMATE EXAMPLE -

 

A shepherd so infused with LOVE for his SHEEP,

...that he’s choosing to DIE in order to protect them from the wolves

 

JESUS is this telling this STORY,

….in order to show his listeners that they have a choice

 

They are obviously the SHEEP in his story  -

But who are the other shepherds competing to look after the flock?

 

The passage B4 this one  - MOST SCHOLARS BELIEVE,

….is connected to this ‘GOOD SHEPHERD’ story.

 

= probably told straight after the events.

 

John 9

 

Quick summary -

...Jesus heals a blind man

...all the folks who knew him were shocked and took him to the priests (spiritual shepherds)

...they were angry, afraid and jealous -

  1. It was the sabbath 

  2. The healing was an object illustration that Jesus had power

 

...they felt that JESUS threatened their carefully built little kingdoms

...because this healed man represented this threat

 

 =they EXCLUDED him 

 

        = he was more of an outcast than when he was blind

 

= their treatment of the man showed that they were driven by personal gain,

...not by the well-being of the people they were supposed to (shepherd) care for.

 

After his expulsion,

...Jesus found the man again,

 

Like the GOOD SHEPHERD he was,

...he showed the man that DESPITE HIS EXPULSION,

…...his days of ISOLATION were over

 

He is a loved and precious member of GOD’S flock -

...cared for by the GOOD SHEPHERD

 

AND HIS SUBSEQUENT ‘Good Shepherd’ story,

...shows his listeners (AND US)

 

….the difference between DODGY HUMAN-CENTRED ABUSIVE RELIGIOUS STRUCTURES 

……..and GENUINE FAITH IN GOD

 

One uses (puts itself 1st)

The other loves (puts others 1st)

 

But FALSE SHEPHERDS aren’t just religious 

 

They can be ideas/philosophies/celebrities/attitudes - (inc’ secular ones)

 

The clues are often inherent:

PREOCCUPATION =

power - status and hierachy - influence - self-proclamation - financial gain

 

Like the snake oil salesman in the wild west movies -

...BIG CLAIMS - EASY ANSWERS,

 

Like: ‘buy to be happy’

…,,,,,,,,,’follow these simple steps’ 

…………...’look like this if you want to have worth’

………………’vote for this’

 

One of most common church e.g’s:

Some CHRISTIAN TEACHERS have made fortunes,

….by promising HEALTH, WEALTH and PROSPERITY to potential disciples

 

Conveniently ignoring JESUS’ teachings that following him on this side of eternity,

….can be really hard.

 

Caring about the things he cares for can be DIFFICULT,

….and make us INPOPULAR

 

(as those imprisoned GERMAN pastors found when they stood up to Hitler)

 

I KNOW a CHURCH from my former days,

...who closed down their SOUP KITCHEN because the homeless users were making their carpets smell.

 

Not so different perhaps to that BLIND MAN,

…... excluded from synagogue today

 

Take away the GOOD SHEPHERD -

 and all you are left with is RELIGION -

….cold and empty

 

The good shepherd isn’t in that religious situation -

...he’s out looking for the LOST and MARGINALISED sheep.

 

I don’t know if it’s true,

...but I heard once that unlike most FARM ANIMALS,

…..sheep don’t sense their impending doom when they approach the slaughter house,

 

But if it is TRUE -

...then sheep are a particularly apt illustration for human beings.

 

How often in the past,

... have I rushed headlong into stupid, dangerous situations?

 

How often do we let ourselves get swayed,

….. by persuasive sounding arguments and self-rationilisations?

 

We really need a shepherd then!

 

2: LIFE 

 

Ill:  ewe loses its mother

…...another lamb needs suckling but would be rejected ordinarily

….. = so dead lamb is skinned and it’s skin put on suckling lamb

 

The good shepherd - JESUS,

...allowed himself to die = to cover us

 

‘Covers us in his righteousness’

...so we too can LIVE

 

HIS GOODNESS HIDING OUR GUILT - 

 

Back to theme of LIFE

...let’s examine what it means

 

JESUS promises life -

...but he doesn’t try to persuade us with slick promises

 

He’s being real

 

‘I AM THE LIFE’ - yes,

….also: ‘PICK UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME’

 

Not a slogan you would imagine SATCHI and SATCHI coming up with

 

I couldn’t imagine mrJOHNSTON, mr STARMER or ms STURGEON ,

…. urging us to pick up our cross and follow them!

 

it’s too painful to be a vote winner

 

JESUS is in effect saying that it will be hard, (taking up our crosses)

….but it will be worth it.

…….it will be LIFE for us

 

LIFE:  JOHN'S GOSPEL IS LITTERED WITH DESCRIPTIONS

           (other than the obvious eternal forever and ever bit)

 

  1. Absence of darkness - swap word darkness for despair

1:4 “In him was life, and the life was the light of the world”

 

2) false shepherd offer superficial/quick fixes - like a dodgy knock-off wrist watch that soon conks out.  

The Good shepherd offers the real deal - but it doesn’t come easily - 

...his road is harder, 

…...but leads to a sure and permanent destination

3:1 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life”

 

3) life will be hard but it is filled with hope

11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life - those who believe in me, even though they die, will live”

 

4) and Life is having an assurance - something to hang onto.

17:3 “and this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”

20:31 “But these are written so that you may believe and that through believing you may have life in his name”

 

Life isn’t just ‘when we die’

...it starts now.

3: RELATIONSHIP

 

In today’s story it’s described as the SHEEP knowing the shepherds voice

(they may be a bit daft but you have to give them that)

 

I’ve been blessed by hearing that voice in my life -

..on occasions in remarkable and miraculous fashion.

 

But sometimes I realise that I have become so distracted,

….. that i’ve hardly heard it.

 

There are so many distracting noises -

TV  radio   social media   worries   concerns   stuff and more stuff

 

Ill: me = boy - lost my 1st proper wind up watch

  • Panicked, turned my room upside down

  • Looked over whole house

  • Family helped

  • = lay in bed - slowly my anxious brain began to calm as sleep started to creep up

  • HOUSE COMPLETELY QUIET

  • A soft noise began to intrude on the fading remnants of my consciousness -

         …..’tick, tick, tick, tick (from behind my bedside drawers) 

CONCLUSION

 

There are lots of voices,

...lots of shepherds 

 

‘Listen to me, over here -

I’m just what you need’

 

Can you hear the GOOD SHEPHERD?

 

Samuel in the OT was once advised to pray 

‘speak Lord, you servant is listening’

 

I’m going to invite us to bow our heads for a few quiet moments as we end -

...perhaps you want to pray something similar?

Sunday 18th April 2021

Link to video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/iWyVwWkjSss

Sunday Reflection - Sleep Tight: Psalm 4

Short talk for the 18th April

 

I’m not in Pisgah today,

…but I’ve written a short reflection for those of you that aren’t able to go asking to Pisgah today to hear our guest preacher. 

 

I didn’t want to take either of the main lectionary readings,

…. so as not to repeat what they might be saying (in case any attendees listen to this later)

 

So I’ve chosen the lectionary psalm instead -

 

It’s Psalm 4,

….. Let’s read it together now

 

1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!

         You have relieved me in my distress; 

         Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. 

         

 2 How long, O you sons of men,

         Will you turn my glory to shame? 

         How long will you love worthlessness 

         And seek falsehood?  Selah  

 3 But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly;

         The LORD will hear when I call to Him. 

         

 4 Be angry, and do not sin.

         Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.  Selah  

 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,

         And put your trust in the LORD. 

         

 6 There are many who say,

         “Who will show us any good?” 

         LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.

 7 You have put gladness in my heart,

         More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.

 8 I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;

         For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. 

(Psalm 4, New King James Version)

 

Do you ever have trouble sleeping at night?

 

I never did in my 20’s or 30’s,

But found once I reached my 40’s that it was something I would have to learn to deal with from time to time. 

 

Guilty conscience now that I had reached my ‘naughty 40’s’?!

….no worse than in my earlier decades!!

 

I always go off like the proverbial log,

...but one of two things tend to wake me up -

 

The need to use the loo’

….or a dream. 

 

 I woke up last last Saturday night following a dream that I can only describe as an ‘anxiety dream’ -

 

I have that from time to time,

...and the anxiety (as expressed in the dream)

 

Either focuses on a family issue,

...or something occupational. 

 

Saturday was church related. 

 

In real life I was preaching virtually the next day at mount pleasant baptist church in Pembroke -

 

But In my dream I was preaching at some huge,

...yet unknown,

……. church. 

 

The pandemic restrictions clearly didn’t impinge on this dream cathedral sized venue ,

...as it was literally full to the rafters with people -

 

I’ve had variations on this dream before,

...but this night I was sitting in some small cupboard off the main sanctuary preparing myself to lead the service. 

 

As a sat there listening to the ominous rumble of many voices,

 

It suddenly dawned on me that I was still wearing my pj’s -

... fortunately it wasn’t my supermen onesie,

…...but they were hardly fitting church wear all the same!

 

In my dream I remember trying to think of ways that I could explain my attire when I opened the service-

...a visual illustration for my sermon perhaps?

 

And then a cold dread washed over me,

,,,as I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to prepare a sermon!!

 

I woke with mild symptoms of panic!

 

As I mentioned I’ve had a dream similar to this on various occasions -

 

I guess they must be fed by unconscious concerns -

…. often nothing to do with church,

…….,but they seem to have expressed themselves through a ‘church’ dream. 

 

Once I awoke It was quite a relief to realise that it had all been a dream -

….but instead of going back to sleep, 

……..I began to worry about other things. 

 

Some were quite important -

…. most were trivial and silly 

 

-How high would the electric bill be this month? -Had I offended so and so with a slightly flip Comment I made last week?

-how can we keep the dogs from raiding the duck coop and nicking the eggs??!   

 

-and there were a few others that I won’t bore you with

 

 I could describe some - if not all,

….of these issues trite,

…….but they were sleep inhibiting all the same

 

And then it dawned on me (AGAIN) -

... that I was wasting my time -

 

rather than simply ‘unproductively raking them over in my mind’ -

.,,,,I might as well pray about them. 

 

Let’s get God’s perspective?

 Look at Psalm 4 -

 

“How long, O you sons of men, 

..,,How long will you love worthlessness”

 

(Many of my concerns were worthless and trivial - I may not ‘love’ them -

...but I clearly prioritise then because I  let them take centre stage in my life)

 

Then the psalmists assures:

“The LORD will hear when I call to Him”.

 

There I was laying in my bed- 

...Stewing in worthless worry -

 

When I KNEW that God was just a prayer away

 

And listen to verse 4-

“Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.”

 

Wow -

Talk about the Bible being relevant to our current circumstances!!

 

These words apply to Christians today just as much as they did to David, their writer,

... thousands of years ago.

 

Experience has taught me that the Lord will hear when we call out to him -

SO WHY WAS I WASTING TIME WITH WORTHLESS, peace sapping worry?!

 

I guess I’m a slow learner!

 

So, 

.,,,I prayed for peace from God, 

……..knowing that He is always there to help, 

 

I didn’t drop straight off like a log -

….but the more I shared,

….,, the more I felt ‘peaceful’

 

Slowly the lids became a little heavier -

 

And then I woke up to the dawn chorus -

...I don’t think I had even reached the AMEN stage before falling off!

 

David had a similar experience,

...and wrote that God put gladness in his heart, 

 

= more than in the season that grain and wine increased. 

 

That's almost like the ancient equivalent  of winning the lottery -

Yes, David suggests,

…..God's peace is better than winning the lottery.

 

Hear the first and last verse of the palm again:

 

1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!

         You have relieved me in my distress; 

         Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. 

 8 I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;

         For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. 

 

Gods our Dad -

...he loves us,

…..he hates to see us anxious and stressed

 

Imagine how frustrating it must be to watch over us -

... ready and eager to listen and help

 

= while we just keep it all in -

Refuse to share. 

 

Pray to your father God today, that He will help you to remember to take all of your difficulties to Him. 

Then - tonight, go to sleep in peace, 

….because they are now in the hands of God. 

 

Sleep tight -

….AMEN!

Sunday 11th April 2021

Link to video sermon address:

https://youtu.be/kzGYiX8MPVY

Sunday Reflection - The Emmaus Walk: 

Visiting virtual preach for Mount Pleasant Baptist Church - 11/4/21

 

Intro:

 

Post Easter text - Emmaus; Luke 24:13-35

 

There are 3 things that I typically do when I first sit down with a text when I prepare a talk

 

First of all I try to empathise where possible -

Not just observe like some dispassionate historian 

(I think we’re supposed to relate to the incredibly honest ‘warts and all’ character descriptions)

 

And I’ll be inviting you to do the same -

...try to use the text combined with the power of your imagination to walk alongside this pair of glum disciples. 

 

The 2nd thing I do when I first read a text is jot down on my sermon pad Words or phrases that jump in my head -

 

...I’ve actually used these words as a bit of a framework for today’s talk -

... and I’ll introduce you to them as we journey towards Emmaus together. 

 

The other thing I do is Pray -

Let’s do that together now

 

READ Luke TEXT -

 

**The dreaded D words**

 

I said I often write down random words as I first read a text I intend to preach on -

 

I noticed the first words in the gloomy beginning part of the text all had something in common -

 

These sad words

…..all began with D 

 

Disappointment  --  Doubt  --  disillusionment  --  defeat  --  discouragement  --  despondency

                    Depression                              despair                                       death

 

WOODY ALLEN -

“Our civilisations stands at the CROSSROADS -

...one way = DESPONDENCY AND DEATH,

……the other = TOTAL ANNIHILATION

…………I hope I take the right path!

 

He was TRYING TO BE FUNNY -

..but statement reflects how some people DO feel

 

SORRY - not bubbly start,

………… - but then the EMMAUS ROAD walk doesn’t start with a jaunty skip and a whistle!

 

  • D WORDS - summed up Cleopas + companion trudge

  • Afraid and bewildered = ‘what happened to Jesus’ on Good Friday

  • BEST FRIEND - killed/spat at/laughed at

  • WORSE = really excited few days ago (HOSANNAS)


 

Jesus = SEALED TOMB

…..HOPES DASHED        ---        DREAM OVER

 

WOMEN'S REPORT (=not dead)

Felt worse …’not only is he dead but now everybody is going bonkers!!!’

 

TRUDGE  --  TRUDGE   --  TRUDGE   -=  along the old Emmaus road….

“We had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free!”

 

Let’s move on from the D words -

Here’s another word I wrote on my pad…

 

**HOPE**

 

HUMAN HOPE = fragile ---------

……… hard to REVIVE when it starts to wither

 

I’ve spoken to people who are AFRAID to hope

…...in case they feel LET DOWN

 

Once bitten, twice shy...

 

“We had hoped” (Cleopas and his friend told the stranger)

 

What they meant =

 “we HAD high hopes, now they are gone.  We have no more hope for the future”

 

Q - identify with them?    (different causes)

= rare person NEVER affected by any of those D words

 

Doubt - disappointment - disillusionment - defeat - discouragement - depression - despondency - despair

 

Let’s have the next word on my pad -

 

Q - do you recognize this tune? -      HUM ‘get by with a little help from my friends’

…...it brings us to the next 2 WORD’S

 

**Friend - Companion **

 

“The two men trudged along - speaking sadly about what had happened to Jesus,

….and then a STRANGER suddenly joined them”

 

THIS STRANGER asks them what they’re talking about-

 

“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that happened there in these days?

 

Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people and how our chief priests and rulers  delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him - but we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,  yes and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened happened…”

 

They tell this STRANGER all their problems (HOPES and DISAPPOINTMENTS)

 

LISTENING EAR = precious (not = pull yer socks up)

 

WONDERFUL IMAGE = 

walking alongside JESUS,

…..sharing and listening = TO ALL THEIR TROUBLES

 

This is where the 2000 year old story becomes REALLY RELEVANT to the present

 

When disappointment - Doubt - Disillusionment - Despondency - Depression - and Despair

….fill our lives

 

= the unseen STRANGER walks alongside us

                                           Listens to us

                                           Even reveals himself to us (if we are willing to hear HIS voice)

 

They poured their hearts out about JESUS and CROSS -

        = JESUS REASSURED THEM and HELPED

               = HOW?

 

LUKE TELLS US - he showed them what GOD said in the BIBLE

 

(Good resource this - hold up Bible)

 

“Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets”

 

BEST BIBLE STUDY IN HISTORY!

 

  • HOW SIN CAME INTO WORLD - represented in disobedience story of Adam and Eve

  • How prophets promised a SAVIOUR would come = obedient to point of death

  • Possibly about ISAAC (how he was willing to sacrifice HIS son if GOD wanted it

           (which God didn’t)

 

  • No doubt = ISAIAH'S SUFFERING SERVANT description

            “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities”

 

They HAD read their bibles  -  BUT -

….’got confused and expected an ACTION HERO’ (Arnold Schwarzenegger with a halo)

 

Like Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King after him -

JESUS CAME TO CONQUER HATE,

….. WITH THE WEAPONS OF PEACE AND SELF-SACRIFICE

 

We’d been fighting VIOLENCE with VIOLENCE for years -

….where had it got us?

 

2 HOUR WALK -

….probably felt like 5 MINUTES

 

As the DEPRESSION/DESPONDENCY  --  turned into UNDERSTANDING/HOPE,

…..as the ‘stranger’ explained,

……..that Jesus’ death was a part of God’s BIG PLAN

 

**Our Journey **

 

  • When the D-WORDS get us down in life

  • Jesus walks OUR Emmaus road with us (won’t always recognize him)

  • Point to Bible Promise - GOD’S BELOVED CHILDREN (DESPAIR didn’t have to be the final word - He turns it TO HOPE)

 

  • ‘PICK UP BREAD’  

 

THE 2 disciples asked the ‘stranger’ to stop with them for the night

……have a meal

 

At the meal the stranger

“Took the bread, and said the blessing; then he broke the bread and gave it to them”

 

= AND THEN THEY REALISED (not a stranger   ---   their master back from the dead)

 

  • No wonder they felt better when the man spoke and listened to them!

  • No wonder they were full of HOPE rather than DESPONDENCY

 

REVEALED -

Scripture      -----      Breaking of the bread

 

WHEN JESUS FIRST LEFT (dead on cross) - they felt alone

BUT WHEN STRANGER ‘VANISHES’          - no longer feel alone

 

= He is VISIBLE to those who have the eyes of FAITH

 

EMMAUS =

….symbol of the CHRISTIAN LIFE

 

Story about:

  • Ordinary despair/      ordinary Monday morning drudgery

  • It’s a story about meeting someone on our LIFE JOURNEY (being comforted)

  • It’s the EASTER OF EASTER FOR US

 

= enabling us to see world NOT as place of death and decay

 

= but as a place WAITING

………GROANING towards God’s final victory

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

If your path is full of those DREADED D’s -

don’t forget that the unseen stranger walks with you

 

  • Christ is risen from the dead!

  • Christ is the saviour and hope of the whole world

Amen