Sunday 27th June 2021
Link to video sermon address:
Change - It comes to us all:
Sometimes when you explore a text,
...you can’t afford to cut the narrative in tiny chunks -
…….LOSES CONTEXT to events surrounding it.
This is one case -
PETER'S DREAM - needs to be heard in relation to what comes next..
In order to give you an easier hearing -
...and so as not to torture our reader
= split in half
Acts 10: 1-24 (me) and Acts 10:24-48 (emma)
Before we go into the sermon -
….I have been asked to run something by you.
Unfortunately all attempts to remove the mould on the walls have failed -
IT LOOKS CLEAN TO THE NAKED EYE
…it’s a new Welsh nonconformist variant of mould that will keep coming back no matter how many times it’s washed off
So we have to get the whole sanctuary redecorated -
…and to keep costs down we’ve gone for ‘end of range’ clearance sale paint colour lines
But don’t worry - you get to vote
OPTION 1 - chocolate walls, with peach highlights (on the cornices, skirting boards etc)
OPTION 2 - lilac walls with dark purple highlights (i’m told its a Cadburys purple)
Q - initial thoughts???
Don’t worry -
…. Only joking - WE’RE NOT HAVING THOSE COLOURS
……...we’re going for the LOCAL AUTHORITY GREY
= that silly announcement is to Introduce the TRUTH IN TODAY'S TEXT -
…...NOBODY LIKES CHANGE!
IT’S been said,
(where change is concerned)
= that the only people who like change is WET BABIES -
And even they kick up a fuss in the middle of it!
There's a story in the biography of HENRY FORD
(the man who started the FORD motor car company)
….about his response to proposed changes to his BELOVED FORD MODEL T
BRILLIANT SUCCESS - but it was beginning to look a bit dated.
Time and again = UPDATE = NO!!!!!
William Knudsen - production manager (“words won’t convince him”)
= in own time - PROTOTYPE (much more streamlined and sporty red - model T ONLY black)
HENRY FORD - taking a large spanner,
….flew into a rage,
…... and proceeded to SMASH IT UP,
……….and RIP OFF DOORS
Ford was an innovative man -
….but he reached a point in his life - when he closed his mind to change
We Christians aren’t like that…..!
Broadhaven Chapel no longer has PEWS in it’s Chapel -
...they were taken out about 11 years or so ago for extra flexibility of useage (midweek activities)
PHIL VICKERY from BROADHAVEN,
...told me that it was mooted YEARS B4 (but took many years to get through)
‘We couldn’t have gone ahead = would have broken one of the great commandments”
What - the law of love?
…..No - do not kill
= So many people said ‘not over my dead
body’ - when idea was first suggested
….that it would have been BODIES LEFT RIGHT AND CENTRE,
…….if we’d gone ahead!
GOOD OLD CHANGE EY!
….And I’m not standing here pretending I always love it either…
And LOOKING AT OUR TEXT TODAY -
...shows us that it isn’t a new problem:
BIG CHANGES WERE AFOOT >
But to be fair to them -
...we’re not talking about a few pews here -
…...THESE ARE REALLY FUNDAMENTAL, EARTH SHAKING CHANGES
It’s SO BIG -
….we see this from how God goes about preparing PETER:
Peter has a dream/trance:
...a large sheet unfurled releasing all kinds of mammals, birds and reptiles
“Get up peter - kill and eat”
“Surely not Lord! I have NEVER eaten anything impure or unclean”
“Do not call anything impure that God has made clean!
This happen 3 times,
….and while PETER was scratching his head in confusion afterwards
= representatives from a man called CORNELIUS -
-.a NON-JEW (Jews were not allowed to associate with non-jews - considered spiritually unclean)
……..came asking PETER to come and visit him
PETER WASN’T A FOOL -
….he could put 2 and 2 together
GENTILES are unclean - just as certain ANIMALS are unclean
And so God was preparing PETER to accept the invitation to see Cornelius
BUT THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT ANY EASIER FOR PETER!!
I’M sure most of you learnt your TIMES TABLE - by rote - DRUMMED INTO YOU
The laws of moses (and what constituted CLEAN and UNCLEAN were drummed into jews)
I don’t have the time or the inclination to read it tonight,
….but DEUTERONOMY 14 is packed full of what animals,
……………….. are to be considered CLEAN or UNCLEAN
In other words: CAN OR CANNOT be eaten
Peter - as a good Jewish boy -would have been almost PROGRAMMED,
….to view life (ANIMALS AND PEOPLE)
…….THROUGH THIS LENSE
NOW BY ACTS 10 (our passage) -
….the CHURCH was still NEW (only a few years old)
…….and ALL THE MEMBERS were Jewish
The only JEWISH TRADITIONS they didn’t keep was 1) ANIMAL SACRIFICE -
… = (because they recognised that JESUS was now the PERFECT SACRIFICE)
And 2) they changed the time of the SABBATH to a Sunday
= (to remember Jesus rising from the dead)
But in EVERY OTHER WAY -
...these 1st Christians were still - very much, ALL GOOD JEWS
SHAPED by their culture and upbringing
= avoiding UNCLEAN FOODS
= and UNCIRCUMCISED (and thus unclean) MEN!
Peter was actually told off for going into Cornelius’ house after this passage -
...in ACTS 11:2-3
“You went into uncircumcised men and ATE with them!” (sound ANGRY and SHOCKED)
B4 we get too judgemental - (and all pc and 21st century about it)
...let's quickly reflect on WHY they kept so apart in the 1st place -
Their HISTORiES LOWEST MOMENTS -
….came about through copying other cultures around them (and their dif’ moral codes)
Burning babies alive to appease the God Molek
LEGALISED PAEDOPHILIA -Sleeping with boy and girl child prostitutes in pagan temples
= these were ORDINARY PRACTICES IN NATIONS AROUND THEM in the centuries past….
= GODS HARSHEST PRONOUNCEMENTS IN WHOLE -
……..BIBLE BECAUSE OF THESE PRACTICES
….and it led to some strict laws about not intermarrying with the peoples around them
(because it was usually through INTER-MARRIAGE,
…..that these CULTURAL-QUIRKS slipped in by the back door)
But while MIXING WITH FOREIGNERS - was seen as pollutive ---
...the ISRAELITE PROPHETS looked forward to a time,
…………….. when GOD would reach out the whole world
The ISRAELITE MESSIAH would be = a light to the gentiles (saviour of the WHOLE world)
= REMINDER = god still cared for the whole world and its peoples MATTERED to him
Something that had been COMMONLY overlooked -
...as a kind of elitist attitude took hold over time
(the idea of UNCLEAN -
...had become misunderstood as LACKING WORTH)
An example of this at the time ACTS was written -
= if a Jew brought produce from a gentile merchant,
….they’d spend a long time washing the item thoroughly b4 using it.
= some WEALTHY JEWS - even had POOLS called Mikvehs -
...designed to was larger items such as furniture.
There is ONE exception -
= if a gentile CONVERTS and submits to circumcision = JEW
(this is the point where we cross our legs chaps,
….. and reflect uncomfortably on the lack of effective anesthesia available in the 1st century)
WHY did GOD change this requirement/
= in effect,
….BAPTISM replaces CIRCUMCISION in the New Covenant between God and Man
I suppose the problem with old system (aside from the obvious!)
….was that it was all OUTWARD -
…...all about appearances (which we know can be deceptive)
But baptism (when it’s approached sincerely)
….represents a HEART CHANGE
Paul describes it as a SPIRITUAL CIRCUMCISION - or circumcision of the heart
SO - GOD’S MESSIAH HAS COME -
…..this ‘opening of the gates’ TO ALL PEOPLES is GOD’S new plan -
= but the difficult bit is that it requires changes -
…...AND PEOPLE HATE CHANGE!
This is how GOD did it:
….He chose a man called Cornelius (a test case if you like)
A respectable man - liked by the jews,
…..but still very much a GENTILE
If I were GOD (haha) - and I wanted to find someone to introduce this change to
…...would lead me to start with a nice liberal, easy going, moderate Jew
GOD - in contrast,
….chose perhaps the most obstinate, stubborn, hard headed man in the Church - Peter!!
Perhaps I’m being unfair -
...but one clue as to the innate stubborness of Peter (apart from descriptions of him in scripture)
= is the fact that God had to repeat his dream 3 TIMES!
This is LITERALLY the only time GOD has had to this in scripture.
So GOD softened up Peter to go to see Cornelius (to get him through the door)
...but he hadn’t told him about the ‘gentiles don’t need to be circumcised bit yet!’
As one commentary puts it: PETER HAD TO SEE TO BELIEVE -
So Peter turns up with his 6 CIRCUMCISED friends -
….tells CORNELIUS all about JESUS (lived, died, resurrected etc…)
But then the SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT happened -
...the whole household (all those GENTILES) receive the HOLY SPIRIT -
= spoke in tongues in this instance - a REALLY CLEAR SIGN (impossible to miss)
“Can anyone keep these people from being baptised in water?”
This is significant because until this point IN THE SHORT CHURCH HISTORY -
….you’d get circumcised 1st,
……….THEN get Baptised
But if God had poured his spirit onto them already….
(it hit him that God had already accepted the Gentiles BEFORE circumcision -
…. = meaning it wasn’t necessary
I wonder if Peter turned to his jewish companions ( who’d accompanied him)
...and said - PUT AWAY THE KNIVES CHAPS! - CHANGE OF PLAN!!
This didn’t change things overnight in the Church -
...but it got the ball rolling
We see Later in ACTS,
...is arguing in a CHURCH CONFERENCE for the abolition of circumcision in the Church
…….and he uses CORNELIUS as proof:
“God who knows the heart, showed that he accepted (Cornelius and his household) by giving the holy spirit to them as he did to us” (Acts 15:8)
I’d like to suggest that this passage is recorded in scripture for 2 reasons -
To show us that GOD sent Jesus to the WHOLE WORLD
(so we can sit here in the assurance that we can be a part of his family too)
2) CHANGE remains a part of our discipleship experience.
Are we, modern Gentile CHRISTIANS,
….any less aversive to Change than the JEWS were?
Is there nothing in your life that God doesn’t want to change?
(a behaviour, habit, attitude perhaps??? -
...or are we so perfect already?)
Is there nothing in our Church life that God doesn’t want to change?
(or are we so perfect already?)
I have no inside line or prophetic word that God has given me -
….BUT I KNOW THAT GOD IS REALLY GOOD AT PUTTING OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE
How would we respond - in Christian love and Godly obedience,
If God sends a gay couple join the congregation next week
Or God tells us to take all the pews out and completely remodel our Chapel
Or God tells us to give all of our Church finances to the poor and trust him entirely for our future material security
Or - or - or……..
I have pulled all of those example out of the air -
….but - FOR E.G - I never imagined for a second that I’d be standing here even 15 years ago
I DON’T KNOW WHAT GOD will ask us to do,
...or what attitude, custom or preference he’ll ask us to change
But whatever it is -
Let me finish by asking you this:
...ARE WE READY TO OBEY HIM?
Sunday 20th June 2021
Link to video sermon address:
Last week, in the final part of our mini series on legalism,
I suggested that many of us seem to have the impression that while God may technically LOVE us,
...he doesn’t really LIKE us very much-
Like the teacher who has to put up with some of his pupils -
... he’s disappointed with their ‘could try harder’ results,
= but has to keep them around because it’s his job to
DOES GOD HAVE A LUKEWARM ATTITUDE TOWARDS US?
DOES HE MERELY PUT UP WITH US?
Let me ask this -
Would a Lukewarm attitude,
...really have propelled Jesus towards his extravagant suffering he faced at Calvary??
We concluded last week by looking at grace -
…= God's love towards us is not based on our moral performance (or lack of)
It’s a fundamental aspect of of his fatherhood -
... an appropriate theme for Father’s Day!
WERE LOOKING AT JOHN 15: 9-17 this morning,
..it shows us that the love Jesus has for us flows from the fathers heart -
A fathers love
WHICH IS WHY WE ARE NOT SIMPLY SERVANTS OR FOLLOWERS -
...but rather, according to Jesus,
………..worthy of the title FRIEND
READ TEXT - John 15:9-17
I was listening to a comedianonce,
...who was speaking of the many things that confused and left him a bit baffled -
‘Like why it’s such a compliment to tell a woman that she reminds him of springs 1st breath -
….but he’s not allowed to tell her that she’s like the end of a hard winter’
(ISN’T IT THE SAME THING????)
Why does it please a lady to say that time stands still when he looks into her face,
….but not say that her face could stop a clock!
I could add one of my own - (and I’m sure I’m guilty of this myself!)
= ‘why does a preacher often say -
“‘and in closing…. “ AND THEN DOESN’T, but go on to make a few more points!
OK - those ‘baffling observations’,
…...are deliberately light and silly,
…………..but some things are INFINITELY MORE PROFOUND and BAFFLING
Have you ever looked up at the night sky,
...and just felt tremendously small?
…...SO SMALL that you even feel a bit intimidated by the sheer SCALE OF THE UNIVERSE
= a few years back,
...we went on holiday to a Calvert trust centre in Northumberland
These are places around the country,
... that offer accessible outward bound activities for people of all abilities -
So SAM and MICHAEL ,
... found themselves zooming down zip wires,
… and paddling in kayaks
= alongside their able bodied siblings.
The setting was beautiful -
...very close to the border with Scotland.
And 2 natural things struck us about the setting-
how unexpectedly tormenting midges can be
How drop jaw beautiful the night sky is when you are completely free from light pollution.
According to the international Dark sky association,
it’s one of the the best places to watch the sky at night
Cresswell Quay is great -
...but this was something else again
And it was incredible to discover how many stars are hidden,
... by even the lowest levels of light pollution.
I remember gazing at the sky outside our cabin one evening -
Were I a poet I would might have found words to do it a little justice,
….the only word I initially had was - WOW!
……. And I compounded my eloquence with a muttered - THATS REALLY BIG!!
How many billions of my fellow creatures -
...have stood and gaped as my family and I did?
The Psalmist certainly did,
...when he wrote psalm 8:
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you visit him?”
I KNOW EXACTLY HOW HE FELT - ‘how can God be mindful of something as TINY and insignificant as me?
I think the great writer and pastor Dr RT KENDALL gets where the psalmist is coming from too -
….in his book ‘did you think to pray’,
“I cannot imagine a greater motivation to pray than that God enjoys having me in presence. He enjoys my company. He delights in listening to me… it is such a dazzling thought, that the same God who has countless billions of angels worshipping him sixty seconds a minute, day and night, to whom the nations are but a drop in the bucket, and who knows all about every leaf on every tree in the world, also welcomes my company - because I am very important to him”
And to add WONDER upon WONDER -
= I find it striking that JESUS describes us a FRIENDS
In our text today Jesus said:
“You are my friends if you do what I command”
He goes on to say -
“I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you”
Jesus calls us FRIENDS -
...I WONDER at that-
no less than i do
…..AS I LOOK UP AT THE NIGHT SKY
It's not just SCALE that causes me to wonder
(tiny me in SUCH A BIG UNIVERSE)
...but how little I feel that I deserve it…
PAUL encapsulates this in ROMANS 5:6-8
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might dare to die. But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”
In Ephesians the word SINNER is replaced by the word ENEMY
..I have often thought quite a lot about what a strange and controversial symbol the CROSS is
I read a critique of Christianity once that pointed out all the wrongs committed in the name of Christ in the last 2 thousand years -
And then went on to say;
‘What do you expect from a religion that uses an instrument of torture and execution,
as an emblem’
And yet -
...our TEXT SUGGESTS - it is the highest ‘SYMBOL OF FRIENDSHIP’’
Back to our text -
Vs 13 “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”
If you were to run across the road,
….and push a child out of the way of an oncoming bus - dieing yourself in the process
= I would call that an act of extreme love - NOT barbarism
JESUS declared his FRIENDSHIP TO US in today's text -
…...more than that = he declared HIS LOVE
But in so much more than words….
‘Words are cheap’ (i don’t know who coined that phrase)
….but JESUS demonstrated on the cross that ‘actions speak louder than words’
When Emma and I were taking it in turns to stay with Michael in the BMT bubble in newcastle,
….I met a MUM and DAD with shaved heads. (making a cup of coffee in the parents room)
They told me that their daughter,
….was struggling to come to terms with her CHEMO HAIR LOSS,
So they (along with other members of the family)
… = SHAVED OFF THEIR HAIR TOO.
I IMAGINE this SACRIFICIAL ACT OF LOVE communicated their love MORE FULLY,
…..than any words possibly could.
So - 1st point (from our John 15 text)
= Cross is a symbol of friendship
……….2nd point = CROSS is a symbol of life
(and in God’s friendship we have life)
And going back to the beginning and all those ‘im so baffled by’ statements -
… = I still struggle to get past the fact,
……...that GOD chose to befriend me -
………...to give life to me.
My Isaac is a bit of a duck fanatic -
...we are currently planning a new duck enclosure in our garden,
..,in which he hopes to rehome a few unwanted ducks.
He showed me an article he had read that exposed the practice of cage reared ducks -
Ducks that never get to go even for a short walk.
This expose the other day,
reminded me of another poultry related expose,
….. that I encountered a few years ago
One that has relevance for the spiritual point I’m making today
The video was a secretly filmed in an AMERICAN FACTORY FARM
…...that sent little chicks out by couriers in special cute CHICK BOXES,
……...for back garden poultry keepers to receive
(the packaging was CUTE, BRIGHT and ATTRACTIVE -
….in the shape of a tiny cardboard 1950’s styled ‘chicken coop’)
…...Then the video went on to show the inner workings of the factory -
There was a long conveyor belt,
….full of these yellow chicks bobbing slowly along past a group of ‘selectors’
The criteria for the SELECTION was:
Size, sex and general appearance.
Each little cutie SELECTED
= gently popped into it’s nice little pretend cardboard house….
Then it showed the end of the conveyor belt -
...where the UNSELECTED CHICKS (who didn’t meet the customers high expectations)
= fell into a big heap in a large metal REJECT BOX,
…..where they were left to die
I tell this story because those of us who sometimes feel like spiritual rejects -
NEED TO APPRECIATE THIS TRUTH=
THE CROSS declares that this IS NOT the way GOD TREATS US -
He doesn’t choose us because we fit into a nice neat little box,
….he CHOOSES US because he loves us
He doesn't love us because we’ve EARNED it
Remember the good old days when we regularly took communion?
(Actually watch this space as we have a cunning plan to resume it)
But one of the communion openings in the Baptist ‘gathering for Worship’ book
= remind us of the ‘unconditional nature’,
…... of our being selected to receive his love
**read from page 14 of ‘gathering for worship’**
1 John 4;10 tells us -
“This is love - not that WE loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”
SO - our text has helped us to see that the cross is
a symbol of friendship
………. a symbol of life
3rdly = an example to us,
…... of what he expects from us
(this is where the love/friendship thing can get a bit uncomfortable)
In vs’s 12 and 17 JESUS INSTRUCTED US:
“My command is this - love one another as I have loved you”
This is emphasised further later in 1 John 3:16-18 - THIS IS WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE:
“This is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother or sister in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with word or tongue but with actions and with truth”
Excuse my excessive use of texts tonight (I don’t usually get this texty) -
….but on the issue of LOVE the bible really IS the best possible guide -
And in JOHN 13:35,
Jesus himself says:
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”
And the CROSS SYMBOLISES THE HIGHEST FORM OF FRIENDSHIP…
lets gasp in praise in wonder at how such a great and vast God,
………..can befriend such tiny, flawed creatures such as us.
It’s the ultimate Father’s Day present.
But let's not neglect to respond to HIS EXAMPLE
...by picking up OUR crosses and following him -
= It’s literally the only way to please him