Sunday 28th February 2021
Link to David’s Sunday 28th February video sermon address:
Sunday Reflection- 28th February
‘Minor Surgery leads to a Heart Transplant’ -
In today’s old Testament text we encounter that minor and rather intimate piece of surgery that causes the most of us modern male readers to wince slightly and thank God for Anaesthetics!
In our talk today,
…. I’m going to try and explain how that ‘mark’ of commitment to God, CIRCUMCISION -
….Relates directly to our hearts.
As Christian Gentiles,
We are not under command to undergo a physical circumcision…
But circumcised we must still be –
… In HEART
PART 1 - Physical Circumcision
There’s a story of a chap who tried to juggle two jobs in order to pay for his Barbados holiday. He was a data analyst during the day and worked in a Nightclub in the evenings/early hours.
He enjoyed both jobs but when combined found them exhausting. One day his boss walked into his cubicle at his day job and after taking one look at him put him on a warning for slacking.
“ don’t sleep on the job!” -
Yelled his boss
He’d only taken a short nap couldn’t see how his boss could possibly have known –
Until he popped to the toilet and saw the chequered pattern of his mouse pad engraved on one side of his face where he laid his head on the desk
… The tell-tale pattern ‘marked’ him out!
Marks are huge in our world –
Emma spent a whole module in her design degree,
…. learning about creating memorable logos and trademarks.
The best trade logos and marks,
…. quickly identify who the product, or person belongs to.
The Apple symbol on my phone,
... instantly tells you who designed and produced my phone.
Whereas if I wear this around my neck (show wooden cross),
… People have a clue to my sense of spiritual identity.
But there is a much older identifying ‘trade Mark or logo’ -
….in our Faith family tradition.
God unveils it to Abraham in today’s text.
You may wish to read the whole text,
… Which is in Genesis 17:1–14
(If so press pause now and read it)
Here’s the two verses in that reading that describe the ancient trademark unveiling moment:
“This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be THE SIGN of the covenant between me and you.” (10-11)
Circumcision is the sign that will identify Abraham’s people -
...later to be called the ISRAELITES
= as Gods people
In verse 14,
We see that having this mark is essential –
… Otherwise you are ‘cut off’
Emma told me that one of the indications that a trademark is a good one,
…= Is that it stands the test of time.
It remains easily identifiable,
…. despite changes in the society around it
Well this sign lasted thousands of years –
… If we flip forward through the generations in our Bible,
We come to the new Testament and see that Jesus no less in Luke 2:21,
… As per Gods instruction,
… Is circumcised on the eighth day after birth.
If we continue to flick through our new Testament,
… We see the issue of circumcision becoming a hot topic -
… A POINT OF SERIOUS DEBATE
now that the Gentiles have been grafted onto the Israelite family vine
(As was gods intention from the start he was reaching out to the whole world through the Israelites)
Do these new followers of Yahweh,
.,.have to be ‘marked’ too?
(The spiritual equivalent of receiving the company logo)
If you want to look into it further,
… You’ll see the whole issue of -
‘To circumcise or not to circumcise’
...Played out in the early church.
The conclusion was unequivocal -
= Physical circumcision was not required among Christians.
SO WHY HAVE CIRCUMCISION IN THE FIRST PLACE??
Humans find symbols hugely significant.
Emma and I have been reading through the Bible again this year,
…. in our annual tour
We are currently in those early old Testament books where you see lots of complicated ceremonies and symbolism.
On one level it looks alien to us modern western believers.
… So very arcane.
If you take a good hard look at it culture,
…. you’ll see that symbols are just as important to us.
We understand OUR symbols,
... because they are of our time.
– We know the trademarks and what they identify
-we know who wears which uniform.
I know the dark blue uniform and odd tall helmet, ...conveys upon its wearer the authority of a higher power.
In an ancient world where people routinely and unquestioningly slept with temple child prostitutes,
Or sacrificed their children to pagan deities
= God knew it was important to set his people apart in a distinct way.
Identify with his distinctively different moral ‘brand’
THEY Needed reminding – physically,
… That they were god's people,
….And his ways are now their ways
= IF they were to resist the pull of the wider, majority peer pressure
So, trademarks – or symbols,
… And very powerful
= but they’re not an end in themselves.
…..It’s what they point to and represent that counts.
An ancient follower of Yahweh,
… Was no better than one of the pagan baby sacrificing neighbours,
… If the mark was an end in itself
This is made clear at an early point:
In the book of Deuteronomy 10:16,
… God says;
“Circumcise your ……. hearts.”
Hundreds of years later,
… The prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 9:25 said;
“Behold, the days are coming… when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh”
This is repeated a number of times in the Bible –
… Physical circumcision is a reminder of and a pointer to the REAL circumcising -
….,. Of the HEART.
So we reach a crucial question –
= what does it mean to have our hearts circumcised?
Part 2 - Heart Circumcision
We are obviously using the heart as a spiritual metaphor here,
– – – but what does an ‘unhealthy or uncircumcised’ heart look like?
= well, Jesus used the term CALLOUSED
This was his advice to some of his listeners –
“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.”
Paul takes up the metaphor later in scripture and writes in Ephesians 4:18-19;
“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”
As an off and on runner,
… I know that calluses deaden feeling.
If I stop running for six months,
… And then start again I’ll get sore and have blisters on my feet.
But as calluses – or dead skin, builds up,
… I can run further and faster without foot pain.
I know that guitar players – bass players especially,
… Describe a similar thing with their fingers,
= playing is easier (less painful),
... when they have practised enough to form calluses.
this is great for running and strumming,
… But not spiritually.
= when your heart becomes deadened to The pain of other people's need -
…. the pain of compassion is numbed
= or deadened to the pain of sin
= THEN YOU KNOW YOU HAVE BECOME CALLOUSED.
I guess it might be hard to spot it in yourself,
… Because calluses grow over time.
There are signs of course -
...Not caring much for other people is a classic one of course,
But here is a big indication that calluses are growing -
...Too much Self justification.
EVEN THE BEST OF US make mistakes –
… We all do wrong things,
………. because we are imperfect
but if your heart is in a reasonable state
(NOT over hardened by calluses)
= You’ll feel bad about it
= do something about it
= admit you were wrong
= try to learn from your mistake.
But speaking for myself –
… I know one warning sign that perhaps I’m not in a great place –
… My heart is perhaps harder than it should be
= when I start self justifying
“They were too sensitive”
“I was only joking, can’t they take a joke”
“It was a silly rule anyway, everyone breaks it”
“It wasn’t really that bad.”
The bigger the callouses get,
… The more we begin to believe that our behaviour is okay
Perhaps a definition of a calloused or hard heart is:
one that has become so used to justifying itself that it doesn’t feel the pain of it’s sin,
…. or the pain of others
On the few occasions (not recently I’ll hasten to add!)
That I have been pulled over for speeding,
= I’ve known instinctively but it would be a bad idea trying to justify myself to the traffic officer
More times than not I have been let off with a warning for humbly admitting that “I’m in the wrong officer”
This is a wisdom that we need to apply to God –
We will all stand before him one day;
Will we try to face him with self justifications,
… or will we face him with a humble, circumcised heart?
Part 3 - How can we be (heart) circumcised?
You wouldn’t try to circumcise yourself physically,
… For a start he wouldn’t be able to hold a scalpel firmly.
= you would have to get somebody to, erm, ‘perform’ it for you
IT'S THE SAME WITH THE HEART
we need God to cut away,
... the bad attitudes and justifications that have prevented us from feeling the pain of other people and of our own sin
In a clinic you sign a consent form for surgical procedures
In relationship with Jesus this ‘consent procedure’ for heart surgery is called REPENTANCE
And it’s described in Deuteronomy 30:6
“And THE LORD YOUR GOD will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
David pleaded with God for this heart circumcision,
... which he describes in ps 51:10-12
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.”
David couldn’t do it by himself –
… Nor can we.
we believe that baptism plays a huge part in the heart circumcision process
Baptism itself is a symbol of what is going on at heart level -
But not an end in itself.
Some traditions use confirmation (oil) as the outward symbol,
… Others a right hand of fellowship
We go overfull Splish splash in our baptismal pool with a total immersion dunking!
But it’s what goes on here (point to heart)
… That counts.
Which is why if I am baptising somebody,
… I’ll need to clarify if they believe in Jesus,
… acKnowledge they need to repent (turn their back on old attitudes et cetera)
… Confess Jesus as Lord (declare it publicly in other words)
… And then be baptised for the forgiveness of sins –
= circumcised in heart if you like.
So – we’ve clarified that circumcision as a ritual is no longer required for non-Jewish believers in God,
But circumcision in the deeper, heart sense = remains.
Jesus stands waiting to assist –
… Waiting to remove our callouses –
= the hardness of attitude and behaviour that deafened us to the voice of love.
To place his indelible mark on our lives –
the mark of life
I’ll close with these words from Colossians 2:11 to 12;
“In (Christ) also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him IN BAPTISM, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
Sunday 21st February 2021
Link to David’s Sunday 21st February video sermon address:
Sunday Reflection- 21st February
‘Remembrances of Jesus: The family Album’
Had we have met in person this Sunday,
We would have been sharing a special monthly family occasion…
Communion (also known as the lord's supper)
I use the word family deliberately -
Because it’s at the heart of our theology
So much so that we put it on our bicentenary wording
‘A family of faith for 200 years’
Family is more personal -
And more profound than a mere ‘member’ or ‘attender’ or even believer -
The term family implies ‘BELONGING’
(Which is why Jesus used it) -
I believe this strikes at the heart of our need -
…a need to ‘belong’ -
…...to treasure and be treasured
Not just a little family in Creswell Quay,
…but a family that spans people every culture and church tradition.
Bound together in a love for him and one another.
Families have all sorts of ways of remembering and celebrating special moments -
My children used ‘remember me presents’ when I first started my studies at Cardiff uni and the Baptist college in 2009-
On the nights I stayed over they spontaneously gave me little gifts ‘to remember them by’ -
Like this little ‘remember me by’ from Isaac that still sits in my ministry satchel to this day and makes me smile nostalgically whenever I see it -
…. our family of faith is no different.
…….we have ways of remembering and reassuring special moments too -
We’re going to flick through a photo album of faith together today-
…images from the Gospels that help us to celebrate and appreciate our faith -
And Jesus it’s head,
…..All the more clearly.
Once we’ve done that I will invite us to share communion (the ultimate act of remembrance) together...
You don’t need wine (the bread and wine are symbolic) -
All you need is a drink (whatever you have)
And a corner of a slice of bread.
Perhaps you'd like to press pause while you gather what you need,
… so we can share together later.
**picture of cup and bread
Some people visualise Jesus as the man with the timotei wavy hair, groomed beard and impeccable movie star good looks
Others have an image of an aloof stained glass window Jesus.
They are all false images -
We have much better pictures than that to remember Jesus by -
Gospel photo 1-
MATTHEW 5-7 (sermon on the Mount)
In this image we see him sitting cross legged -
But not just any old teaching –
… Teaching that caused bystanders to remark in awe;
The Greek word used for Authority in this sense isn’t referring to rank,
… Even personal charisma –
It literally refers to its originality.
Rabbis learned from other rabbis,
… They passed their learning down the line.
If they wanted to speak with ‘authority’ -
(Demonstrate to the listeners but they are worth listening to)
= they would traditionally invoke the name of a greater rabbi than themselves.
…like me quoting a great theologian to back up my point in a sermon -
Rev David Gooding may not carry much weight,
…but you’ll respect my point more if you realise that the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it first!
But Jesus never referred to other teachers traditional interpretations of scripture -
…HE SPOKE FROM HIS OWN AUTHORITY
which was an attention grabber in its own right –
… But what’s more
… His teaching really hit a nerve
It caused some to follow him,
… And others to hate him
IT STILL DOES TODAY -
= but nobody ignored him
… And they didn’t stop listening to him either.
= his teachings affirmed the humble –
= and gave hope to the weak and despised
= his teachings shook the foundations of the proud and self important
= to the fury of the ancient lawyers -
…. His teachings ignored the letter of the law
…… And instead went straight to the heart
Down with the minutia,
Up with love
His three year teaching ministry literally redefined and turned upside down,
… Humankind’s understanding of god's priorities and laws
= understandings that had been taken as normative for millennia.
Gospel photo 2
JOHN 4:1-42 ‘The Woman by the Well’
The 2nd picture is one of Jesus,
Chatting to a woman as they stand by are well.
On the surface it looks everyday and pretty nondescript,
… Except it wasn’t
Jesus, the male Jew = talking to a non related woman (this was a NO NO)
A foreign woman (double no no)
With different spiritual beliefs (triple no no)
And are complicated relationship history
-it’s with pointing out that most historians feel she probably wasn’t the scarlet woman that folks have betrayed her as,
… Women didn’t generally get to divorce multiple husbands in that day –
Men did the divorcing,
Most scholars feel she was probably barren, …hence the reason for being divorced so many times for failing to produce an heir.
And yet the rejected (for whatever reason) were still shunned-
…still person non grata
In speaking to her AND showing kindness,
Jesus was being shockingly controversial,
… Tramping on every taboo
On the surface this was a scandal
But look a little deeper,
…. and you see a wonderful snapshot,
……. of a loving father reaching out to tend his precious, stricken child.
She probably Had little to no social or self respect
Jesus was demonstrating her intrinsic value –
… By showing a fathers unconditional love for her.
This gospel memory picture helps us to see Jesus more clearly,
= but just as importantly it helps us to see the worth of each individual in today’s world,
… No matter how soiled or stained they might seem to themselves or others.
Gospel photo 3
Mark 4:38-40 ‘Jesus Asleep in the boat’
Here we see an image of Jesus lying asleep in the boat
All around Jesus are wide eyed panicking disciples
Perhaps we can look at this picture,
… And find ourselves relating to them;
As we anxiously lie awake in the early hours, hunting for solutions that elude us
Fretting during the day, struggling to concentrate on the task in hand
Feel swamped by some fearful circumstance, perhaps a fearful circumstance that doesn't even exist yet, if ever
And yet the Christ who sits in the middle of the panicked disciples,
… Is the same Christ who stands by us as we face our real or imagined storms
The same Christ who reminds us of our faith,
… The calm and peaceful stability at the centre of our lives.
Gospel photo 4
John 2 ‘the Good Shepherd’
Our fourth photo predates even the gospels.
John digs it up from an even older album –
… And reminds us that the old image from psalm 23,
…has now become flesh and walks among us
This ancient picture of the Shepherd,
… Reminds us that Jesus loves and Leads and provides for his sheep
Protects them and calls them by name
He gives the eternal life and the security,
… That can only come from the safety of dwelling in god's presence
We don’t simply hold the shepherd's hand -
…He holds ours
…… that’s an important distinction
Think about it
Here’s A photo to keep by your bedside,
… Ready at hand for life some more difficult days and challenges:
Gospel photo 5
John 11:35 ‘Jesus Wept’
Grief can seem such a lonely business,
… But this photo reminds us that Jesus is not indifferent to our grief.
Just as our stomach tightens and heart melts when somebody we love begins to cry,
… So Jesus responds to us
Jesus was standing with the sisters Mary and Martha,
As they mourned their loved one.
As they were choked by that terrible knot of grief.
And - ‘Jesus wept’
I think this is one of the most eloquent statements in the Bible
Jesus Is the same yesterday - today – and tomorrow –
…. he continues to weep with us in our sorrow.
And now we come to our LAST photo -
Gospel photo 6
Luke 22:7-20 ‘The Cross’
This photo memory is handed to us personally by Jesus,
… And he instructs us to keep it safe,
……. And refer to it regularly.
Of all the memories that we might retain,
… One one he specifically requested that we remember was that of his death on the cross
He instituted what we know as the Lord’s supper,
… In order that his memory might be perpetrated
He Took some elements from the Passover supper he shared with his disciples,
= And gave them new significance.
He did this in order that the minds and our hearts,
Of his disciples
… Might be reminded again and again,
…… Of the primary purpose for his coming into the world
To die for the wayward, lost, hopeless human race
You and I
He wanted this memory preserved,
… Because this memory – more than the other,
= reveals the scale of the compassionate heart of the father God
Evidently we need to be reminded of this over and over –
Or he wouldn’t have specifically made plans for us to remember this again and again
“Do this whenever - in remembrance of me”
And it’s this picture of Christ’s death on the cross,
… That reveals to us in the most dramatic manner,
The immense worth of the individual human soul- ...EVERY individual soul,
……... in the eyes of God
We are going to finish our time now by reading the account of the last supper -
Let it help us to focus on his death -
I pray that it will draw us closer,
... and help us to love him more.
I’ll read these verses -
And they can lead us to eat and drink together
First let’s ask him to prepare our hearts -
“ Lord, we come before you, broken, imperfect people. We come not in our own strength, or because we deserve to, but because you invited us to be members of your family.
And we recognise your cool on our lives, and our need for you. Please accept us at your table, prepare our hearts and attitudes, and help us to honour you.
We also give thanks for the bread and the wine, symbols of our world and signs of your healing transforming love and friendship. As we share it please bind us closer together in love and unity – with you, each of us here, and our brothers and sisters around the world. Please renew us into the likeness of Jesus and form us into his body, amen
**Read Luke text and eat and drink where Jesus did
“Through bread and wine we have remembered him,
Now may our hands be the hands of Christ in the world,
May they do no violence,
May these eyes see those who are overlooked,
Maybe is ears listen to those who are unheard,
May these voices be raised for the voiceless,
Lest our song of praise be empty.
May these feet take us where Christ leads,
And may our hearts and minds be open to your spirit, Amen”
Sunday 14th February 2021
Link to David’s Sunday 14th February video sermon address:
Written text for David's 14th February Sermon
‘testing times’ -
Coping with the trials of life,
Part 5: REVENGE
Welcome to the final part of our testing times series -
A mini series of talks taking some of the ‘testing issues’ that James, half brother of Jesus –
…Identifies in his letter.
We have then been taking those issues and seeing how Jesus dealt with them through the accounts of his life in the gospels.
We started with the topic of pain,
Then moved on to temptation, favouritism, words – and now we finish with the thorny issue of revenge
= A desire that even the best of us feels from time to time,
…. when we are hurt by another.
INTRODUCTION TO THEME
My eldest son Sam sums up the revenge desire best –
… He has limited speech (he uses BSL sign language)
and when his cochlea's are off he is completely deaf.
So sometimes he struggles to fully express what he feels.
But a year or so ago –
When consumed with rage over some domestic irritation or other,
He was able to point to his iPad screen,
… And indicate that he felt like one of his favourite Marvel comic heroes =
THE INCREDIBLE HULK!
This is the big green grumpy guy whose catchphrase is:
“Don’t make me angry – you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!!!’
***show picture of hulk in video***
Sam might be small in stature –
And yes, he is generally very laid-back:
But boy, don’t make him angry!!
On the subject of movies,
There are certain themes that producers know are more likely to succeed at the box office.
Love stories for instance never go out of fashion
….Especially when portrayed through the lens of a rom com,
… or a period drama.
Another successful theme is that of revenge movie -
Type revenge movie into Google,
And you will have a huge list of best sellers.
Everything from death wish to the outlaw Josie Wales,
Carrie to Braveheart
There are some actors who probably wouldn’t have had the stellar careers they enjoyed,
…. were it not for the revenge genre
Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson –
Just to name a few.
Stories of people driven to revenge,
Touch something deep within us;
= we all want to see justice done for past wrongs
= haven’t we all fantasised at some point about someone who hurt us getting what’s coming to them?
A popular saying declares –
“Revenge is a dish best served cold”
(One that is patiently brooded over and waited for)
But the question I’m asking today –
= “is revenge really a dish best served cold,
… Or is it best not served at all?”
I’m also not convinced that this is just good advice for Christian’s alone -
(although I’ll be approaching it from the perspective of a Christian disciple today)
= I believe revenge is as corrosive a desire to hold onto for the would-be revenger,
…. as it is their intended target.
As someone who believes in the power of love as the only hope for the human heart,
… I believe revenge/hate (however seemingly justified)
– can have the effect of reducing the healing power of love in the bearers heart.
Let’s look together at what Jesus said about revenge in our first text,
.… Paragraph and then later will look at what he did when he was betrayed, wrongly arrested and put on trial.
MATTHEW 5:38-42 (***put on screen before reading together)
1 - WHY THE RULE CHANGE?
Jesus' teaching here about turning the other cheek,
… is the fifth of six times in the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus took traditional interpretations of the law ("You have heard it said") and gave a radical reinterpretation for His followers ("But I say to you).
In this case,
….the issue was the limits of retaliation.
The Old Testament teaching of "an eye for an eye" was intended to set a ceiling on how much someone could retaliate.
When Moses gave the Israelites this standard (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deut. 19:21), keep in mind that previously there had not been any limits to revenge.
Someone puts out your eye in a fight?
….You put out both of theirs.
You lose a tooth in a pub fight?
You Burn their house down.
"An eye for an eye" wasn't the minimum. It was the maximum of what was acceptable.
it brought into justice for the first time,
.., a sense of proportionality
= SO WHY DID JESUS CHANGE IT??
While it was fair –
In affect the ‘eye for an eye’ rule hurt everyone -
AND JESUS HAD COME TO HEAL THE SICK,
…NOT BEAT THEM UP.
You’ll see in a moment that the ‘eye for an eye’ rule,
.. Was only ever meant to be a provisional rule.
Imagine if every bad thing you had ever done was written down on an old fashioned scroll –
**pick up toilet roll and show to camera
I don’t have any scrolls to hand,
But if I did have one with every wrong behaviour, attitude or word written on it –
= then it would be at least as long as this
**unfurl toilet roll for a bit
So if Jesus had kept the eye for an eye rule in place –
… And then applied it completely –
= he knew that none of us would survive.
Which is why he came to change the provisional limit of justice
(As the ancient prophecies had said he would)
In willingly and lovingly dying for us –
… He took this scroll,
= and cast it away from his sight.
**pick up toilet roll and throw it across room
Every bad thing written on the scroll that would have rebounded on us in the ‘eye for an eye’ rule of justice –
… Is now completely forgiven and forgotten.
THIS WAS THE GIFT THAT JESUS BROUGHT WITH HIM
It sounds great,
… But there is a catch.
= if we are to benefit from god's gift –
… Then he makes it clear that we have to apply it in our turn
The kingdom of heaven is like a lifelong game of PASS THE PARCEL -
Except in this game we all get to keep part of the prize!
-Jesus passes on the love – and so do we
-Jesus passes on the forgiveness – and so do we
If we try to hold on to the gift -
…….. then we lose it completely.
If we give it we get it
He chose to waive the eye for an eye rule for our benefit –
If we waive it for others benefit
As a quick aside,
… I’d like to mention That none of this means we have to be voiceless, passive doormats.
It doesn’t mean that we can’t use our reasonable legal protections,
and neither does it mean that we have to be somebody’s punch bag –
= This is not an abusers charter.
WHAT IT DOES MEAN IS -
-we have to put aside our notions of revenge
– getting one up on somebody
– seeing them suffer
– getting others to dislike them as much as you do
Why should we (perhaps they deserve all this)
= We do it because Jesus showed us undeserved mercy when we hurt him and those he loves
= and if we want to receive it then we must pass it on
2 - RESPOND WITH GRACE
in our text Jesus gave us three examples of grace:
turn the other cheek (***put on screen)
My little Greek language book points out that the verb applied here implies that it was an insult slap rather than a violent attack.
This was apparently quite common in the Hellenistic world:
… The insult slap was seen as tokenistic as opposed to a violent assault
So Jesus seems to be suggesting that it is better to allow yourself to be insulted twice,
…. than to ESCALATE THE CONFLICT
(bite your tongue, don’t try for a bigger and better put down)
As I said earlier -
This TURN YOUR CHEEK example -
… isn’t an abusers charter
It’s not about letting someone beat you up
(It’s not in my opinion ungodly to run away or, where absolutely necessary using proportionate force to try and stay safe)
It’s Not about abused people – women or men,
… Having to stay in an abusive relationship.
Give then the tunic AND the cloak
Go the second mile (**put on screen)
I’ve lumped these in together because the act of having a garment taken and being made to go a mile were things that people sometimes had to endure in their society –
… They were passive victims of Roman law.
In Jesus’s day for example,
… A Roman soldier had the right to press any Israelite into carrying his heavy pack for him -
… up to a maximum of 1 mile.
You HAD to passively accept such requests.
But the act of giving the cloak as well as a tunic,
… Or walking an extra mile,
= were in affect acts of free will.
They were quite shocking to say the least!
As a writer and Christian radical, Shane Claiborne, asserts -
= They were statements of proactive grace, echoing the Proactive grace of Jesus on the cross.
You And I will not encounter Roman soldiers pressing us into a mile long march –
= But we will encounter people who don’t deserve our forgiveness.
Another writer put it this way;
“ every time we respond with grace instead of revenge, we remind ourselves what Christ did on our behalf – and, we also show Christ to a watching world.“
3 - REMEMBER CHRIST’S EXAMPLES
Jesus didn’t just present an abstract idea to his followers –
… It would have been empty and unrealistic if he hadn’t followed up his words with actions.
What did Jesus do when he found himself in a situation when he would’ve been justified lashing out and taking revenge?
Let’s read our second text together:
MATTHEW 26:50-54, 65-68. **put on screen
Let’s just put aside any interpretation of Jesus as a week pacifist,
….. who let people walk all over him
His words in verse 53 are an incredible picture of strength under control.
Jesus did not seek revenge or retaliation,
… Because he knew there was a greater purpose to what he was going through.
Had he called 10,000 angels to assist him,
… Scripture would not of been fulfilled,
… And we would Have that toilet roll sized scroll of charges against us to account for.
Let’s be honest –
Speaking for myself,
… The reason there is pressure to retaliate in the first place,
Is because we don’t want to see ourselves (or others to see us) as being weak.
But when we pay attention to Jesus’ example,
= We understand that refusal to retaliate,
…shows more strength than lashing out against someone does.
Are you holding a grudge against someone,
… perhaps for a long time?
Maybe you’re waiting for your time to get even,… Or even just hoping they get taken down a peg or two at some point by somebody else?
I completely understand.
I believe the God who took on our weakness and relates to all of our vulnerabilities,
…,completely understands too.
And if we ask him,
…he promises to help us forgive and resist revenge in our turn.
Sunday 7th February 2021
Link to David’s Sunday 7th February video sermon address:
Written text for David's 7th February Sermon
‘testing times’ -
Coping with the trials of life,
Welcome to part four of our testing times series,
…A short series based on some of the challenges we face as outlined by James, early church leader
In this series I have used six of the big themes that James raises in his letter,
… and then go on to look at how his half brother Jesus coped with each trial.
We have looked at Pain, temptation and favouritism so far –
…today we are looking at words.
Unlike previous weeks we are not looking at one main specific Gospel text,
… but instead a number from the gospels that help us to see how Jesus responded to tongue related issues:
TODAYS THEME INTRODUCTION
When I was a little boy I remember hearing in a science lesson that the buttocks were the biggest muscles in the body –
For some bizarre reason I was rather proud to possess this nugget of information and I remember passing it on with the enthusiasm of an evangelist to all who would listen to me!
Well I’m much more grown-up and sensible now,
… But I was still childishly impressed when I read recently that, proportionately speaking,
…The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body!
In fact a website called livescience.com
…Said some expert or other had estimated that the average person spends 1/5 of their life talking.
If all of our spoken words were written down,
The average person would fill 10,560 large books.
That’s the average person mind you,
I suppose the preachers like myself,
… could double that with books that are at least twice as boring as everybody else’s!
If all my words were written down,
I could live with the boring ones being publicly viewed,
But how about the unkind, gossipy, intolerant or cutting ones?
The ones that contradict the decent bloke or woman image,
… that we try hard to portray to the world?
Q - if a day in my life were recorded and the words collated into three sections –
Constructive, destructive and wasted,
… I wonder what the ratio would be?
How about your ratio?
James obviously gave this some thought,
And concluded that the tongue could be:
“a restless evil, full of deadly poison “.
In another analogy,
… he described it as ‘a spark that can set an entire forest a blaze’ –
Haven’t we seen this very truth,
… played out in global politics in recent times?
The power of words to inflame
Jesus – brother of James,
Was one of the most quoted figures in history
One of his biographers, John –
Wrote at the end of his account
“and there are also many things that Jesus did, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world Itself could contain the books that would be written “.
That’s another illusion to books –
We don’t have all of his words written down for us,
= But we can learn from the ones that are
Words formed by the only perfect tongue,
….. in human history
PART 1 - JESUS KNEW THE POWER OF HIS WORDS (AND USED THEM ACCORDINGLY)
The old wartime posters warned us but ‘loose lips sink ships’
It’s probably true but most of our destructive words are ‘careless’
…Rather than Cruelly targeted and deliberate.
– Perhaps we have let our guard down?
– Become less mindful of what we are saying in a moment of stress, tiredness or preoccupation?
I think Jesus, by contrast –
Was incredibly aware and mindful of what he said and the effect that it would have.
This makes sense because in John 1:1,
We are told that Jesus is basically what God wanted to say to us –
….He is god's expression
“The word made flesh”
And what words!
“ with a word he calmed the storm”
We read elsewhere through scripture that he spoke and:
– the sick were healed
– dead raised
– Demons cast out
– people forgiven
In Matthew 7:29,
Crowds exclaimed that, unlike other really just teachers, “Jesus spoke with authority”
Like the best orators,
…We also see that Jesus didn’t always give answers,
= He asked questions almost as often as he made statements
When asked by Pharisees who were trying to trap him if it’s right to pay taxes or not,
“Whose image is on the coin?”
Or in Luke 10:37’s tale of the Good Samaritan, he asked –
“which of these proved to be the good neighbour?”
and in Matthew 16:13;
“Who do people say that I am?”
Jesus also told stories – or parables,
These enabled people to engage with and remember heavy theological truths.
Jesus knew the power of his words –
...And he used them carefully
HOW ABOUT US?
Are we aware of the power that even a single word can have on others?
Do we need to ask Jesus to help us to be more mindful of our words?
Perhaps you can remember offhand words that have stayed with you for years after they were spoken by somebody else?
Like the lady I met some years ago who told me she hadn’t sung out loud in her adult life because when she was little a visiting aunt who happened to be tired and was suffering with a headache had described her nieces joyful singing as sounding like a FOGHORN.
PART 2 - JESUS DIDN’T USE HIS WORDS LIKE A CLUB
Jesus could have spent His entire three year ministry on earth correcting and rebuking people.
Some preachers seem determined to do this on his behalf!
Because He was the truth, (John 14:6),
He would have been in his right to spend all day, every day,
….simply telling people they were wrong.
= But He did not come to build a wall between who was right and who was wrong.
He came to build a bridge,
between what was spiritually dead and spiritually alive.
He didn't come to make a point.
…..He came to make a difference.
Think about all the tax gatherers and sinners who came to Matthew's house shortly after Matthew became a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13).
= Jesus was in a room full of wrong people.
…But He didn't rebuke any of them.
Or somebody with a different religious view to him by the well in John 4
(He treated her with respect, not scorn)
= We can learn a lot,
… about how to approach and chat to people of different beliefs
(Religious, Atheist or political)
The only people you see Jesus rebuking are the RELIGIOUS REBUKERS
There were times He said nothing at all.
When a woman was caught in the act of adultery in John 8,
her accusers demanded from Jesus what He thought they should do with her.
Jesus said nothing.
He just stooped and wrote in the dirt.
When He finally did speak, what He said ("Let he who is without sin cast the first stone") convicted them so deeply that Jesus didn't need to say anything else.
In John 11:35, Jesus was confronted with Mary's grief over the death of her brother Lazarus.
Mary was almost rebuking Jesus when she said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
Jesus didn't argue with her.
He wept with her.
That might be with remembering when we next worry about what to say to a believed person.
And then there was the BIGGEST EXAMPLE of Jesus keeping silent -
= When he was on trial before His accusers
-P A U S E-
Do we ever use our words like clubs?
..Pushing our point of view on others?
….Dominating, demeaning or defending our pride?
Somebody once wrote:
“We are called to win souls, not win arguments”
I said at the start that if my words today were transcribed into a book,
= I might not enjoy the read.
Here’s some good news – tomorrow is a new day.
A new book.
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
He’s literally inviting us to turn over a new leaf-
A new page, chapter - book.
And if we let him,
…. he’ll help us to write it.